Guitar bridges play an important role in the overall sound of a guitar.
They affect both the tone and the sustain of a guitar, so it’s important to find the right bridge for your instrument.
There are many different types of guitar bridges available on the market and you should look into them before you head out and buy a guitar.
Depending on the type of music you play, you might want a different bridge that can offer you more sustain or a brighter tone.
Acoustic guitars have wooden bridges whereas electric guitars have metal bridges. The type of bridge you choose will affect the sound of your guitar because each type of bridge has its own sonic characteristics.
The most important thing to consider when choosing a guitar bridge for acoustic guitars is the wood material and size.
For electric guitars, you can choose between a fixed or floating bridge.
Fixed bridges are most commonly seen on Les Paul-style guitars, whereas floating bridges are more common on Stratocasters.
In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a good guitar bridge and some of the different types that are available.
How to choose a guitar bridge based on budget
But first, I’ll talk about what you need to look for in a quick summary so you can get the info you need right away!
Acoustic & classical guitars
As a general rule, acoustic guitars and classical guitars have wooden bridges.
Cheap saddles are made of plastic. Mid-ranged saddles are made of synthetic materials like Micarta, Nubone, and TUSQ.
The most expensive saddles are made of bone and very rarely ivory (this is more common for old vintage guitars).
Electric & bass guitars
The electric and bass guitar bridges are generally made of metal. The most common ones are made of steel, brass, or aluminum.
Cheap guitar bridges are made of zinc or pot metal. These bridges are usually found on lower-end guitars and can cause tuning problems because they are not very sturdy.
The more expensive bridges are made of titanium, which is said to offer better sustain.
The cheapest bridges are the Wilkinson/Gotoh style bridge, which is an adjustable steel bridge with six individual saddles. These bridges are often seen on Squier guitars.
The most expensive electric guitar bridges are made of titanium and are found on high-end guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul. Nickel is also common for Floyd Rose tremolos.
Here are the cheap to mid-range brands to consider when buying a guitar bridge:
- Gibson Tune-O-Matic
Here are the expensive guitar bridges that are worth the money:
- Callaham Vintage
- Floyd Rose
What is a guitar bridge?
A guitar bridge is a device that helps to support the strings of a guitar. It also transfers the vibration of the strings to the body of the guitar, which helps to create the sound.
So basically, it’s an anchoring point for the strings and it also helps to create the sound of the guitar. This bridge holds the strings under tension and ensures they don’t snap off.
Also, the bridge transmits the string vibration to the top of the guitar. This is why the quality of the bridge can affect both the tone and the sustain of a guitar.
The guitar bridge is made of the saddle, the bridge plate, and the bridge pins.
The guitar body’s resonance is very much affected by the bridge. Different bridges can create different tones.
Therefore, a high-quality bridge and tailpiece (if separate), can make a big difference to the overall sound of a guitar.
Some bridges will help the guitar produces those iconic sounds their known for.
For example, Fender Jazzmasters have vibrato units that create low string tension over the so-called “rocker bridges” which are “moving bridges”.
This provides a very distinct warbly sound that is associated with the Jazzmaster.
There are different types of bridges available for different types of guitars.
The most common type of bridge is the fixed bridge, which is found on most acoustic and electric guitars.
Most acoustic guitar bridges are made of wood, while electric guitar bridges can be made of metal, wood, or plastic.
The bridge is attached to the body of the guitar with screws, nails, or adhesive.
Does guitar bridge affect sound?
The answer is yes, the guitar bridge affects both the tone and the sustain of a guitar. The type of bridge you choose will have a significant impact on the sound of your guitar.
Fixed bridges provide good support for the strings and allow the player to achieve a wide range of tones.
Floating or tremolo bridges, on the other hand, are typically used for electric guitars and allow the player to create a vibrato effect.
Tune o Matic bridges are some of the most popular types of bridges for electric guitars. They offer good sustain and tone, while also providing easy string changes.
When choosing a guitar bridge, it’s important to consider the type of sound you’re looking for.
The material, size, and weight of the bridge will all play a role in shaping the tone of your guitar.
Take the time to experiment with different types of bridges to find the one that best suits your needs.
Why is guitar bridge so important?
Let’s just say that the guitar bridge is more important than it would seem at first.
It’s important because it sets the intonation and scale length of the instrument. Without it, the guitar can’t work!
Also, the bridge influences how hard or easy it is to change the guitar string.
But here are the 4 main reasons you should pay attention to the guitar bridge:
- The bridge allows you to fine-tune the strings by adjusting the saddle. Therefore, you can really fine-tune your instrument’s intonation, elevate the fret buzz and eliminate any dead frets.
- You can also control the fretboard action. The bridge allows you to position the strings at the perfect height from the fretboard and thus control the action. If you have the right distance between the fretboard and the strings, the guitar sounds better.
- The role of the bridge is to align the strings properly over your pickups or the sound hole and thus you can control the string alignment. It’s possible to adjust the height and gradient of the bridge to find the perfect sound.
- Finally, you can create the tremolo effect using the floating bridge. This allows you to alter pitch and create a vibrato sound with the whammy bar.
Buying guide: what to look for in a guitar bridge
When you buy a guitar, it comes built with a bridge.
So, when you buy a guitar, you should also consider the bridge – this is one guitar component that people tend to overlook.
What they don’t realize is that the bridge is a significant part of the instrument’s tone chain. The bridge can make a big difference in the way an instrument sounds.
Also, if you’re looking to upgrade your guitar’s bridge, or replace a damaged or broken one, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.
What makes a good guitar bridge?
There are several factors to consider when choosing a guitar bridge. These include the type of guitar, the style of music you play, and your personal preferences.
The type of guitar you have will determine the type of bridge you need.
Acoustic guitars typically have fixed bridges, while electric guitars can have either fixed or tremolo bridges.
The style of music you play will also influence the type of bridge you need.
If you play a lot of lead guitar, for example, you’ll want a bridge that provides good sustain.
If you’re looking for a brighter sound, however, you’ll want to choose a bridge with less mass.
The best material for a lead guitar bridge is typically brass or steel. For a brighter sound, you might want to try an aluminum bridge.
Do you prefer a vintage sound? If so, you’ll want to look for a bridge with more mass made of brass or steel. It has more sustain but can cost more than an aluminum bridge.
Do you prefer a modern sound? If so, you’ll want to look for a bridge with less mass made of aluminum.
Steel bridges are great for lead guitarists too because they provide more sustain than other materials. However, they’re also the most expensive type of bridge.
But don’t be fooled by price – some cheaper bridges can be excellent whereas for some pricier brands you’re just paying for price and the chrome plating quality.
Finally, personal preferences will also play a role in your decision. Some guitarists prefer the look of a certain type of bridge, while others prefer the sound.
Take the time to experiment with different types of bridges to find the one that best suits your needs.
Components of guitar bridge
An guitar bridge is made up of 3 parts:
- the saddle: this is the part that the strings rest on;
- the bridge pins: these are what hold the strings in place;
- the bridge plate: this is the piece that the saddle and bridge pins attach to.
The bridge plate is usually made of either wood or metal and the saddle is usually made of bone, plastic, or metal.
Usually, an acoustic guitar has a bridge that is made of wood.
Many electric guitars have metal bridges, like the Fender Telecaster. The metal can be steel, brass, or aluminum.
Expensive guitars often have titanium bridges.
The choice of material for the bridge affects the sound of the guitar. Wood gives a warmer sound, while metal gives a brighter sound.
When it comes to electric guitar bridges, there are a few more parts to consider: the tremolo bar, and the string ferrules.
The tremolo bar is used to create a vibrato effect by moving the bridge up and down.
The string ferrules are small metal collars that fit over the end of the strings and keep them from slipping out of the bridge.
When choosing a guitar bridge, there are several things to consider. The first is the material from which the bridge is made.
Common materials used for guitar bridges include wood and metal.
Each material has its own unique sonic properties, so it’s important to choose the right material for your needs.
For example, if you’re looking for a warm, vintage tone, a wooden bridge would be a good choice. If you want a brighter, more modern sound, then a metal or plastic bridge would be better.
I also want to discuss the bridge pins as these can become a source of problems if they’re cheap.
Ideally, the bridge pins aren’t made of plastic – this material breaks easily.
But here are the most popular materials used for bridge pins:
- Plastic – this is the worst type of pin because it wears down and breaks and doesn’t add any value when it comes to tone
- Wood – this material is a bit pricier but can improve the instrument’s tone and sustain
- Ivory – this is best if you want a warm tone and improved sustain but this is very expensive and hard to find (it’s easier to find on vintage instruments)
- Bone – this produces a warm tone and increases the sustain but can be costly
- Brass – if you want pins to last a lifetime, this is the material to choose. It also creates a bright tone
Wooden bridge: for acoustic guitars
Wooden bridges are the most common type of bridge found on acoustic guitars.
Hardwoods are used to make bridges because they’re strong and durable. The most common hardwoods used for bridges are ebony, maple, and rosewood.
In contrast to the metal bridges on electric guitars, acoustic guitar bridges are almost always made of wood.
It is customary on most high-end instruments to use the same wood for both bridge and fingerboard for the sake of aesthetics.
Ebony is a very popular wood used to construct the bridge. Nevertheless, it is only available on the most expensive acoustic guitars.
Rosewood’s tone isn’t as bright as ebony’s because it’s softer. Only a few of the best-known acoustic guitar manufacturers prefer rosewood bridges more than the rest.
For classical guitars, a rosewood bridge is the best option because ebony is considered harsh-sounding.
Ebonized walnut or other hardwoods are often used in mid-range instruments of this price range.
Metal bridge: for electric guitars
Electric guitars have a metal bridge.
Usually, the metals used include stainless steel, brass, zinc, and aluminum.
But brass and steel are the most popular because they improve the tone and sustain. Zinc is used on less expensive instruments because it’s not as durable as steel or brass.
Aluminum is used on vintage guitars because it’s lightweight. But it doesn’t offer the same tone and sustain as brass or steel.
Nickel is also popular for pricier instruments because it gives the guitar a warm tone.
Finally, titanium is used on high-end guitars because it’s extremely durable and has a bright tone.
The bridge saddles are the small pieces of metal (or plastic) that sit in the slots on the bridge.
They hold the strings in place and determine the string’s intonation.
The most common materials used for bridge saddles are steel, brass, and zinc.
Size and weight
The next thing to consider is the size and weight of the bridge.
The size of the bridge will affect both the tone and the sustain of your guitar. If you want a warm, full sound with plenty of sustain, then you’ll need a large bridge.
However, if you’re looking for a brighter, more articulate sound, then you’ll need a smaller bridge.
If you have a smaller bridge, the strings will be closer to the body and this can give you a warmer sound.
If you have a larger bridge, the strings will be further away from the body and this can give you a brighter sound.
The distance between the strings is important for both playability and tone. If the strings are too close together, it will be difficult to play chords cleanly.
On the other hand, if the strings are too far apart, it will be difficult to bend the strings. You’ll need to experiment to find the right string spacing for your needs.
Finally, you’ll need to consider how easy the bridge is to install.
Most bridges come with all the necessary hardware and instructions, but some may be more difficult to install than others.
If you’re not sure how to install a particular bridge, it’s always a good idea to consult a guitar technician or luthier.
Usually, the bridge can be installed in a drop-in fashion without having to do any modification to the guitar.
However, some bridges may require drilling or other forms of modification.
Type of bridge: fixed bridge vs floating bridge (tremolo)
A fixed bridge is attached to the body of the guitar and doesn’t move. This type of bridge is simple to use and provides good support for the strings.
The fixed bridges on electric guitars are also called hardtails.
The hardtail bridge is screwed into the guitar’s body. It keeps the strings in place as they rest on the saddle and the ends run all the way from the body of the guitar to the headstock.
Modern guitars have 6 saddles – one for each of the strings. The original Fender Telecaster only had 3 but then the guitar design evolved over time.
The fixed bridge is a good choice for beginners as it’s easy to use and doesn’t require any special maintenance.
It has the shape of an arch and is made of either wood or metal. The height of the bridge can be adjusted to change the action of the strings.
Another common type of guitar bridge is a floating bridge, also called a tremolo bridge, which is found on most electric guitars.
A floating bridge is not attached to the body of the guitar and can move up and down. This type of bridge is used on electric guitars with tremolo bars.
A tremolo bridge allows the player to add vibrato to the sound of the guitar by moving the bridge up and down or raised or lowered.
This allows the player to create a vibrato effect by changing the tension of the strings.
Here are the types of fixed bridges:
This is the most common type of fixed bridge. It’s found on both acoustic and electric guitars.
A hardtail bridge provides good support for the strings and gives the guitar a clear, bright sound.
In this design, the strings go through the back of the guitar.
Here’s what to know:
- This model holds the tune very well
- It’s easy to install these bridges and replace the strings
- Great for beginners
- There’s no whammy bar here so you can’t do those tremolo effects
- If you want to convert this to a tremolo bridge, there’s a lot of modification required.
This type of bridge is found on most Gibson-style electric guitars, like the Les Paul.
It consists of a metal plate that is attached to the body of the guitar and two adjustable posts that the strings go through.
The tune-o-Matic bridge is easy to use and provides good intonation.
There are two screw pillars so you can adjust the height of action.
Here’s what you should know about this type of bridge:
- You can fine-tune so it’s the most precise bridge when it comes to tuning
- Restringing is easy and it’s easy to adjust the action
- It offers solid sustain and tone stability
- This model is easy to switch out to a floating bridge
- Can only use this type of bridge on 12″ radius fretboards
- Can’t adjust the height of each string separately
This type of bridge is found on many Fender-style electric guitars, like the Stratocaster.
It consists of a metal plate that is attached to the body of the guitar and a metal bar that the strings wrap around.
The wrap-around bridge is easy to use and provides good intonation. The string is threaded to the front side of the bridge.
In this next section, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of fixed and floating bridges for electric guitars. The acoustic guitars have fixed bridges so this doesn’t apply to them.
Here’s what else to know:
- This is the best bridge for beginners because it’s the easiest to restring among all
- Simply put the strings through the bottom of the bridge and then pull and wrap it at the top
- You can’t fine-tune the intonation
- It’s hard to convert to floating bridge because you need to drill holes and make modifications
Pros of a fixed bridge
The reason why people really enjoy fixed bridge guitars is that they are easy to restring.
Thus the main pro of this bridge is that restringing is easier. Any beginner can do it because all you have to do is put the string through the hole and take it up to the tuner.
Also, you can adjust the instrument’s intonation by adjusting the position of the saddle with a basic screwdriver.
This type of bridge also keeps the string stable so they don’t move too much while you perform bends and vibrato.
Thus, a fixed bridge can help keep your guitar in tune to a certain degree.
Cons of a fixed bridge
Even if your bridge is excellent, if the nut and tuners are poor quality, the bridge won’t compensate when it comes to sound.
If the other guitar components aren’t as good as the bridge, the strings can still slip.
Also, most electric guitars with fixed bridges can have locking tuners and these can help keep your strings tightly in place on the headstock.
But if those tuners are cheap or worn out, the guitar still won’t stay in tune too long.
Another disadvantage of fixed bridges is that they can be uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, these can be hit or miss because some bridges have a different shape (like the Telecaster ashtray bridge shape) which can actually dig into your hand as you play.
Some bridges are even too high on the body which makes the guitar uncomfortable to play on for an extended period.
And also I want to mention that a fixed bridge is different because you don’t have all the same tremolo options compared to a floating bridge. Therefore, you can’t be as creative with your playing.
The Fender Stratocaster is probably the best example of a guitar with a floating bridge.
However, this bridge system is actually older than the Strat.
The floating bridge was invented in the 1920s for archtop guitars. Bigsby was one of the first companies to produce a working model of the vibrato system.
However, it took decades until the Strat popularized this design in the 1950s.
But this type of bridge is preferred by many guitarists because it gives you the ability to perform all sorts of creative techniques like vibrato and bending.
The floating bridge is not attached to the body of the guitar, as I’ve said, and it is usually made of metal. The bridge rests on springs that allow it to move up and down.
Here are the types of floating bridges you’ll come across:
Synchronized tremolo bridge
These were introduced by Fender in 1954 on the Stratocaster.
The synchronized tremolo has a bar that you can push down or pull up to change the tension of all the strings at once.
This system gives movement to both the tailpiece as well as the bridge. There are 6 saddles that you can adjust.
Here’s what else to know:
- The Fender tremolo is the best because it’s stable and thus you’re instrument is less likely to go out of tone or have intonation problems
- There’s a greater pitch range so it’s easier to up-bend
- It’s easier to control string tension and alter the pitch so it’s preferred by lead guitarists
- Unfortunately, you can’t dive bomb without potentially breaking the bridge.
Floyd Rose bridge
The Floyd Rose is a locking tremolo that was introduced in 1977. It uses a locking nut and locking saddles to keep the strings in place.
This is a great option if you want to be able to perform all sorts of techniques without having to worry about the strings coming loose.
This tremolo bridge eliminates extra movement that can cause your guitar to go out of tune randomly.
Here’s some other useful info:
- This system is best for dive bombs because there are no springs so there’s enough room for movement
- The locking system helps make the tuning more stable – after all, tuning stability is very important
- This system is complex and the bridge is hard to change, so it’s not ideal for beginners
- It’s hard to adjust action and change the tuning
The Bigsby unit is the oldest tremolo system and it was invented in the 1920s. It uses a simple lever that you can push down or pull up to change the tension of the strings.
The Bigsby bridge is popular on hollow and semi-hollow body guitars like the Les Paul archtop.
There’s a spring-loaded arm that you can use to add vibrato to your playing.
There are two separate bars – the first allows you to maintain string tension and the second roller bar that goes up and down.
Some things to keep in mind:
- This bridge system looks very classic and sleek. It’s popular for vintage guitars
- This is best for those players looking for a subtle vibrato instead of the aggressiveness of the Floyd Rose
- Great for retro and old-school rock music
- Limited vibratos so it’s not as versatile
- Bigsby is more likely to go out of tune compared to the others
The Wilkinson is a more recent tremolo system that was introduced in the 1990s. It uses two pivot points and a knife-edge to keep the strings in place.
This system is known for its smooth performance and stability. The Wilkinson tremolo is also very easy to set up.
Here are some other things to consider:
- The Wilkinson tremolo is very similar to the Fender synchronized tremolo so it offers the same benefits
- It’s affordable and easy to find
The Stetsbar is a tremolo system that was introduced in the 2000s. It uses a simple cam to keep the strings in place.
It’s known as a roller bridge because it’s used to convert the Tune-o-Matic into a tremolo bridge setup.
So basically, it’s a conversion system.
The Duesenberg tremolo is a locking tremolo system that was introduced in the 2010s. It uses a locking nut and locking saddles to keep the strings in place.
Again, this is a conversion system. You can turn your Les Paul with a fixed bridge into one with a tremolo system.
Let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of floating bridges!
Pros of a floating bridge
So, why is this floating bridge special?
Well, you can achieve the vibrato effect by pushing down on the bridge. The springs will push the bridge back up to its original position when you release the pressure.
Therefore, you don’t have to bend strings through your fingers.
Another advantage is that you can achieve even large pitch changes (up to a whole step) by using the vibrato as you press the tremolo arm or raise it.
This is a kind of convenient bonus you just don’t have with a fixed bridge.
When you use a floating bridge you can be more creative with your playing by adding accents and having a smoother vibrato.
Let’s not forget about double-locking systems (like the Floyd Rose) too which were developed in the 80s for players like Eddie Van Halen who really needed that aggressive and extreme sound-altering mechanism for rock and metal music.
Having these systems let you take full advantage of an aggressive vibrato as you perform divebombs.
To do that, press the arm down all the way. When you hit the tremolo arm you can produce sudden, sharp pitch changes or flutters.
This bridge also keeps the strings locked into place there as well as at the nut and prevents slippage.
Another pro is that the floating bridge is comfy while you play because it doesn’t hurt your picking hand since you can rest the side of your palm on the flat surface.
Finally, the best part of this bridge type is that the guitar strings mostly stay in tune, and even if they go out of tune, there are some tiny wheel tuners on the bridge and you can make tuning adjustments right there.
Cons of a floating bridge
There aren’t too many disadvantages of tremolo bridges but there are certain players who avoid them and I’ll tell you why.
This type of bridge has more components and is overall more fragile and prone to damage.
Also, this system doesn’t work well on cheap or low-quality guitars. The floating bridge might be good but if the other parts aren’t your instrument will go out of tune.
When you do big bends, for example, the springs in the bridge might not be able to handle too much tension and they can break. Also, the strings will likely slip out of tune and that’s annoying!
Another problem is that the strings are much harder to change compared to fixed bridges. Beginners will find the process to be a hard challenge!
Most Fender-style floating bridges and tremolo systems have suspension springs so you’ll have to change strings only one at a time and this takes up time.
The strings can also fall out from the hole as you pull them towards the tuner.
Popular guitar bridge brands
Some brands are more popular than others and for a good reason.
Here are a few bridges to look out for because they are well-built and reliable.
Fender is one of the most popular guitar brands in the world and their bridges are some of the best.
The company offers a wide variety of bridges, so there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for your needs.
Fender also offers a wide variety of colors and finishes, so you can match your bridge to the rest of your guitar.
Schaller is a German company that’s been making guitar bridges since the 1950s.
The company is best known for its locking tremolo systems, which are used by some of the biggest names in the guitar world, including Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai.
If you’re looking for a high-quality tremolo system, then Schaller is the way to go.
Gotoh is a Japanese company that’s been making guitar parts since the 1960s.
The company is best known for its tuning keys, but they also make some of the best guitar bridges on the market.
Gotoh bridges are known for their precision and quality, so you can rest assured that your guitar will stay in tune.
If you’re unhappy with your Fender, Les Paul, or Gibson bridge, you might be surprised at how good the Gotoh is.
The saddles are excellently adjusted and the chrome finish makes them a true winner.
Hipshot is an American company that’s been making guitar parts since the 1980s.
The company is best known for its locking tremolo systems, but they also make a wide variety of other guitar parts, including bridges.
Hipshot bridges are known for their quality and attention to detail. These are considered good value for your money because they’re affordable, yet sturdy.
Also, Hipshot bridges are pretty easy to install.
Fishman is an American company that’s been making guitar parts since the 1970s.
The company is best known for its pickups, but they also make a wide variety of other guitar parts, including bridges.
Fishman guitar bridges are made for both acoustic and electric guitars.
Evertune is a Swedish company that’s been making guitar parts since the early 2000s.
The company is best known for its self-tuning bridges, which are used by some of the biggest names in the guitar world, including Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
These bridges have a sleek appearance and they’re very easy to install. Many people like the Evertune bridge because it’s practically maintenance-free.
Now that you know what to look for in a guitar bridge you should have no issue picking out the good bridges from the bad.
There are a lot of different brands and types of bridges, so it’s important to do your research and find the one that’s right for you and your guitar.
The fixed bridge and floating bridge are the two types of bridges that are most commonly used on electric guitars.
If you have an acoustic guitar, then a fixed bridge is what you have and need but then you need to consider the type of wood it’s made from.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to guitar bridges is that they are important for both playability and tone.
If you’re still not sure which bridge to get, then it’s always a good idea to consult a guitar technician or luthier for some professional advice.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
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