Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

Did you know there are many different guitar bridge types? This is important to grasp as the different bridge types aid your flair in your playing to match music genre and style you wish to play.

What are the different bridge types? The different bridge types include fixed bridge types such as the Hard-tail fixed bridge, Bigsby bridge and Tune-o-matic bridge. Whilst there are also Tremolo bridges (Aka Floating Bridges) such as the Wammy tremolos and Floyde rose.

In this article, I will go through the different bridge types in more detail.

1. What Is a Guitar Bridge?

What is a guitar bridge? A guitar bridge attaches to the body of the guitar with its purpose to anchor the guitar strings to the body of the guitar. The bridge is found on the lower bout of the guitar body and places the string over either by pickups (for electric guitars) or a sound hole (on an acoustic guitar) before it reaches the fretboard.

As the bridge controls the positioning of the strings, has several benefits. These benefits include:

  1. Accurately positioning the strings, a relative height to the fretboard. This controls the gap between the fretboard and the string, also known as the action
  2. Aligning the strings accurately over the pick-ups and sound hole. The bridge is position on the body of the guitar, but height can be adjusted to adjust the action of the fretboard.
  3. The bridge increase comfortability. Believe it or not but some bridges are more comfortable than other depending on your playing style, and what guitars your generally used to.  
  4. Amplify the sound as the vibrations can flow freely when picked or strummed. This means the strings must be anchored and positioned without obstructions, and the bridge helps achieve this.

Bridges can be somewhat puzzling, especially if you come across a guitar bridge that looks to be an angle. However, this is normal to find and most likely necessary. The bridge may be at a slight angle to achieve a more perfect gradient. This basically that all string is symmetrical to the fretboard. This is common because as the string are all different thicknesses the lower strings need more space to vibrate than the higher strings and therefore, they need a higher action.

2. The Two Guitar Bridge Types (Fixed Bridge & Floating Bridge)

There are many different types of guitar bridges out there. However, their construction fits into two anatomies.

The first, guitar bridge construction type is the fixed bridge, whilst the second type is floating bridge type (also known to be the tremolo bridges).

To Note: they are called tremolo bridges because a tremolo is an effect where the pitch bends in and out of key as the effect the tremolo bridges give.

Fixed Bridges Include:

  • Hardtail Bridges
  • Tune-O-Matic Bridges
  • Wrap-Around Bridges
  • Bigsby

Tremolos/Floating Bridges Include:

  • Synchronized Tremolos
  • Locking Tremolos
  • Stetsbar Tremolo

Some of these bridges are widely used by many brands such as, tune-o-matic and the synchronised tremolos. Whilst others may not be seen as much such as the Bigsby. However, each has their purpose, having their advantages and disadvantages depending what you are trying to achieve.

We will talk about all the bridge types in more detail below.

3. Parts of the Guitar Bridge?

Before, I can tell you about the different bridge types, there is some important terminology you must understand. If you are already familiar with the terminology then go to the next section, otherwise keep reading…

Okay, so what are the parts of the guitar bridge? Or more so, sometimes referred to the anatomy of the guitar bridge.  There are many parts of a guitar bridge. The main pieces of a bridge include a Saddle, Bridge Pin Peg, Bridge Fixture, Springs, Whammy Bar, Fine Tuning Screw and a bridge tail piece.

I will discuss these in more detail below…

Saddle

The saddle is a very important part of the bridge anatomy as it where the strings sit. Saddles can take many forms, each having there advantages and disadvantages. Types of saddles include:

  • Strip of plastic
  • Polished bone
  • Six individual (depending on the amount of strings) pieces of metal with grooves
  • Six individual (depending on the amount of strings) pieces of metal without grooves
  • A singular metal tube such as for the Bigsby

Adjustments to the height of the acoustic saddle are possible by shaving (lowering) the saddle though this job is best left to a luthier since any changes will be permanent.

Bridge/Tremolo Springs

Tremolo springs, also known as vibrato springs are used to counter-balance the pull of the strings. These only apply for floating bridges, and they are an internal mounted system that is located inside a body cavity in the back of the guitar.

You will find these commonly on the standard Stratocaster tremolo or a locking tremolo system, such as a Floyd Rose.

Whammy Bar

Whammy bars are also known to be called tremolo bars and these are devices that alter the tension of the tremolo springs that make a vibrato/tremolo effect. This is because the whole bridge moves with the whammy bar.

These work by pushing the whammy bar towards the body of the guitar that results in lowering the pitch. When you do this, you will begin to see the strings loosen. You can also push the bar away from the body of the guitar that has the opposite effect. As you are pushing away you will notice the strings tighten which will result in making the pitch higher.

Bridge Tail Piece

Bridge tailpiece can sometime attach to the right ride of bridge and other times be a separate part of the bridge altogether, but still always located to the right side of the bridge.

The tailpiece basically, is a piece of metal that anchors the strings and is where the whammy bar usually attaches.

Bridge Plate

The bridge plate is a flat piece of timber or in some cases a laminated piece of timber that is glued to the underside of the sound board of the body directly under the bridge.

Its primary function is to provide a strong anchor point for the guitar strings gain the required tension. In other words, it holds the guitar from the underside of the soundboard. Without the bridge plate the bridge would simply come away from the guitar and no amount of re-gluing would keep it on.

Tie Block

For some classical acoustics and Spanish flamenco guitars have a tie block on the bridge. This is located is glued to the lower bout and acts as a string terminator.

Fine Tuning Screw

Fine tuning screw are only specific to Floyd Rose or Similar bridges such as Ibanez Floyd rose equivalent.

The fine tuners do a fine-tuning adjustment located on the bridge instead of using tuning nuts located on the head stock. The idea is that you get your moderate tune using the tuning nuts and then fine tune your guitar using the fine-tuning screw located on the bridge.

Bridge Pin Peg

Bridge pin pegs are only relevant for acoustic guitars by which Bridge pin peg hook the strings’ ball ends to the bridge plate (located under the bridge).

The pins hold each string’s ball end against the bridge plate. The bridge plate and Pin Pegs work together to secure guitar string into the hole. It does this by causing the string to curve around and press the string nuts under the bridge plate.

If a string’s ball end isn’t firmly anchored to the bridge plate, the string will slip and cause the pin to launch out of the bridge. There are 5 main types of materials used for bridge pin pegs. These include the following…

Types of bridge pins include:

  • Plastic Pin Pegs: Wears out easily and won’t enhance a guitar’s tone.
  • Wood: Improves sustain and tone. However, can be expensive and often requires reaming out the bridge to fit properly.
  • Ivory: Increases sustain, produces a warm tone. Very expensive, and often requires reaming out the bridge to fit properly. In addition, difficult to obtain legally.
  • Bone: Increases sustain, produces a brighter tone. These a hard to get your hands on, and often requires reaming out the bridge to fit properly.
  • Brass: Lasts forever, produces a very bright tone (good for guitars with excessive bass). However, they are also difficult to find, and often requires reaming out the bridge to fit properly. Can be too bright for most guitars.

4. What is a Hard Tail Bridge?

Hard Tail bridges are also known as hard-tails and they are a type of fixed bridge. A hardtail bridge consists of a sole unit rather than a disjoined bridge and tailpiece.

This means the bridge is attached solid to the body of the guitar whereby the bridge doesn’t move. The hard tail bridge is attached to the body of the guitar using two metal screws.

This type of bridge has six individual saddles that rest on the bridge body, which can be adjusted for fine tuning.  

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

This is an example of a Fender and you can see the hard tail bridge.

In this type of hard tail bridge, the strings go in through the back of the guitar. By which the guitar string ball ends (bullets) are anchored by the bridge and helf into place. The ball ends remain anchored by a small hole only wide enough for the string to pass through, where the ball is trapped. From there, they loop over the saddle, across the fretboard and up to the machine heads.

What are the Advantages of the Hard Tail Fixed Bridge?  

Hard-tail bridges take less effort to tune, restring and adjust actions. Furthermore, they tend to hold tuning really well compared to the floating bridge types. 

This also means the set-up is very simpler because there is no need for springs at the back of the guitar to keep the bridge balanced.

This is very beneficial for unexperienced players because restringing is not complicated, as sliding a string through the holes on the back plate and up to the tuner is difficult to performed improperly by newbies.

Some reputable bridge from brands such as Hipshot, Fender, Fishman, Gotoh or Evertune, there is no chance of being out of tune that can happened to guitars. Also, the bridge is limited to broad intonation without the ability to intonate each string individually. 

Which guitar use the hard tail fixed bridge?

5. What Is the Tune-o-matic Bridge?

The Tune-o-matic is also known as the ABR-1 bridge is another example of a fixed bridge. The Tune-o-matic bridge is the Les Paul Standard, whereby it was first used on 1954 Les Paul Custom.

In detail, each saddle is adjustable by turning a small screw, which brings the intonation of guitars to near perfection (to near perfect as possible). It becomes more transparent that this piece of instrumental hardware did not represent only a more innovative custom but a more standardized feature that every guitar should have.

In general, a high proportion of fixed bridge electric guitars use a Tun-O-Matic bridge with a disjointed stop bar tailpiece, as seen in the below image.

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

Furthermore, there are two types of tune-o-matic bridge including standard and roller. There is the standard tune-o-matic which is just known as the tune-o-matic, as well as the tune-o-matic roller.

The standard tune-o-matic there is screw fixtures that move the positions of the saddles which cannot be found in roller bridges. However, over time the standard version can wear down string as the saddle is positioned as a ‘V’ shape and it cuts into the strings, thus reducing the resonance. Whereby, roller bridges don’t have this problem.

Tune-o-matics are designed for fretboards with a radius of 12” or flatter. The bridge which takes on the appearance of TOMs at Fender’s can be the so-called ‘adjust-o-matic’, which can only be applied for 9.5” radius fretboards and has little dissimilar string spacing and post spacing to the original ones.

What are the advantages of using the tune-o-matic bridge?

In short, tune-o-matics are easier to tune, restring and adjust action. Also, with a sharp string break it offers exceptional stability and solid sustain.

Furthermore, and why these are my favourite is that because of their stability offer comfort ability when playing and resting your picking hand.

What are the disadvantages of using the tune-o-matic bridge?

You might hear a slight difference in tone if the saddles are made from a different material. Also, tone-o-matic bridge that can intonate each string individually, but can only adjust the height of the strings universally. 

Which guitar use the tune-o-matic  bridge?

Gibson Les Pauls Models

Fender Jaguar

6. What is the Synchronised Tremolo Bridge?

A synchronised tremolo is a floating bridge most commonly seen on fenders.

A synchronised tremolo is one of the common tremolo systems that set motion for both the bridge and the tailpiece, rather than a Bigsby, that only give movement to the tailpiece.

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

The strings are designed to loop over the bridge and through the part called ‘tailpiece block’ which extends through the guitar, and in a bay on the underside of the guitar the block is held straight by usually 3 or 5 springs.

The synchronised tremolo worked by having an integrated bridge and tailpiece. This had a bevelled pivot edge on the top metal plate, which sat against top of the guitar. When the whammy bar is shifted, the whole unit of the tailpiece block will follow respectively, therefore altering the tension and length of the strings. The bridge is a solid piece of metal, with 6 individually adjustable saddles.

What are the advantages of the synchronised tremolos bridge?

In many likes of guitar, in term of the interaction between the tailpiece and the bridge, Fender is considered to be more experienced. Because the tailpiece moved with the bridge, the Fender design was significantly more stable in use, and less prone to tuning and intonation issues.

Moreover, because a synchronised tremolo moves the bridge and the tailpiece, not only can it exert impact on the string tension but also the actual string length. Thus, a greater range of pitch changes is provided, and it is more effortless to ‘up-bend’ than on a standard Bigsby.

With the control of the tremolo arm one can increase or decrease the string tension, altering the pitch of the tone with a simple push or pull. The pitch-altering capabilities of a synchronised tremolo system are quite appealing to lead guitarists and those looking to diversify their sound. 

What are the disadvantages of using the synchronised tremolos bridge?

The first drawback is that its range was still fairly limited. Also, it is undeniable that the possibility of being wary of their tendency to go out of tune more regularly as a consequence of extra string tension at the nut and bridge saddles. 

Which guitar use the synchronised tremolos bridge?

7. What is the floyd rose bridge?

The Floyd Rose is a floating bridge, Double-Locking Tremolo was developed in the late ‘70s in response to a lack of tuning stability caused by tremolo systems. Often the end of the strings is cut off (circular end) and attached onto the bridge. As such it’s the choice of bridge for metal guitarists and devoted shredders. 

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

Like your standard tremolo bridge the string tension is changed by a set of springs located within the guitar body, manipulated with the use of a pivot fulcrum. Where we start to see a significant difference is in the design of the nut, which is a locking nut rather than standard nut. The position of the strings is fixed in these three clamps, eradicating the movement and friction that can often lead to the state of going out of tune.

In addition, Floyd Rose enclosed strings with locking nuts, which keep the string in their right position at the headstock.

What are the advantages of the Floyd Rose bridge?

Floyd Roses don’t go out of tune as easy as the whammy tremolo.

Floyd Rose allows you to do dive boms and this is due to the tremolo system having springs allowing the movement of the bridge.

What are the disadvantages of using the Floyd Rose bridge?

Floyd Rose are complex, the complex nature of the system itself and the substantial knowledge and time it takes to setup, or even change a string, ensure that a Floyd Rose isn’t for everyone.

However when properly setup it’s a valuable tool for an experienced, metal or hard rock-enthused guitarist. Moreover, according to many “gosu” in guitar worlds, they are a bitch to change tunings, change strings and adjusting action. You also have to worry about springs and such with a Floyd Rose.   

Which guitar use the Floyde Rose?

What is a Bigsby Bridge?

The Bigsby is an add-on vibrato for electric guitar designed by mechanical engineer Paul Bigsby in the late 1940s, and is now produced by Bigsby Electric Guitar Company – which is currently a subsidiary of Fender. This type of bridge is usually seen on hollow and semi hollow-bodied guitars, as well as arch top models like the Les Paul. When put on a guitar, this device serves to make the instrument sound differently from original by stretching and shrinking the guitar strings – just like how a vibrato works: changing the length of the strings more or less to create multiple sounding effects. Concerning its physical structure, the Bigsby vibrato has a spring-loaded arm and 2 bars – the first is designed to keep tension on the strings, and the second is called “roller bar”, which rolls with the movement of the arm and is the part to which the guitar strings are anchored.  

Guitar Bridge Types? EVERYTHING You Need To Know!

And here’s how it works: When the player pushes down the arm towards the top of the guitar, the roller bridge will cause the strings to loosen, thus reduce the tension and produce a lowered pitch. As soon as the arm is released, the roller bar will also be back to its position, and the strings will also return to the normal tune. To raise the pitch, the player simply has to lift the arm of the Bigsby.

Advantages

The first thing makes Bigsby desirable to many guitar players is its appearance. You really can’t go wrong in terms of the look with a Bigsby installed – it’s classy and carries that 1950s vibes that simply makes your guitar look more awesome than usual.

Secondly, the Bigsby is a good choice to go for any musicians looking for a very subtle vibrato. It is widely known to offer a smooth, even feel with very little abruptness that many players take to and therefore, is one of the most ideally suitable add-on devices for retro playing styles or surf rock tones.

Disadvantages

One of the most well-known shortcomings of Bigsby is its tuning stability. A lot of people have complained about how their guitars cannot stay in tune very well with a Bigsby unit installed, and this issue requires them to install other devices on their instrument to remedy the problem, i.e roller bridge or locking tunes. Beside this, changing strings on a Bigsby is not very easy and actually will cause people who are learning to change strings a lot of suffering at first.

One last con about Bigsby is that it has a relatively limited range compared to vibratos using longer springs, such as the Floyd Rose and the Fender synchronized tremolo system. Bigsby vibrato, with its subtle character, therefore, cannot be used for rock and heavy metal genre.

Guitars that use Bigsby bridge:

  • 1959 Les Paul Standard
  • Epiphone Casino
  • Gretsch Triple Jet 
  • Eastwood’s Airline 59 3P DLX
  • Gibson SG Deluxe
  • Gretsch G5191TMS Tim Armstrong Electromatic Hollow Body
  • ESP Eclipse-I CTM Vibrato
  • PRS SE Custom Semi-Hollow
  • Gretsch G6128T-GH George Harrison Signature Duo Jet
  • Hofner Verythin Singlecut

Conclusion

Hopefully you have a better understanding of the different types of electric guitar bridges and what they can do for you and your sound. If you are still unsure of which bridge is best suited for your style and experience here are a few more pointers.

If you are a beginner, there is nothing wrong with a fixed bridge. You may feel like you need the flexibility of a whammy bar, but really stop and consider if the extra hassle is worth it.

If you plan on using several alternative tunings, consider skipping a locking tremolo. You’ll need to grab a wrench and unlock the strings every time you want to change your tuning.

A fixed or Fender-style bridge will likely be more useful to you. Also, remember that fixed bridges, particularly those with string-through bodies, tend to have better sustain than floating bridges.

Finally, don’t fear the whammy. If you really want a Floyd Rose or other complex system, or even if you think you want to learn to set up a Fender bridge so it doesn’t go out of tune when you go all Hendrix on it, go for it.

Good luck choosing the best bridge for your electric guitar!

2 Comments

  1. Nethan Paul September 21, 2020
    • Richard Wilde September 24, 2020

Leave a Reply