There are a lot of great guitar bridges to choose from, but one of the more CLASSIC ones is the Tune-O-Matic. Is it any good?
Tune-o-matic is a fixed bridge for electric guitars, designed by Ted McCarty at Gibson and introduced in the Gibson Super 400 in 1953 and the Les Paul Custom the following year. It became standard on almost all Gibson fixed-bridge guitars, replacing previous wrap-around bridge design, except on budget series.
There’s a lot of history in this design so let’s look at everything that makes this still a widely used bridge.
What’s the Difference Between Tune-O-Matic and Wrap-Around Bridges?
When it comes to electric guitars, there are two main types of bridges: Tune-O-Matic and Wrap-Around. Both bridges have their own pros and cons, so let’s take a look at what sets them apart.
Tune-O-Matic bridges have a separate tail-piece, which makes it easier to intonate the guitar. This type of bridge is also very common, and is used on most Les Paul guitars such as the Standard, Modern, and Classic. Additionally, a tremolo arm can be added to a Tune-O-Matic bridge for extra effects.
Unlike Tune-O-Matic bridges, Wrap-Around bridges combine the bridge and tail-piece into a single unit. This makes it easier to re-string the guitar, and can help to increase sustain and attack. Wrap-Around bridges are also more comfortable for palm-muting, and usually sound warmer. However, this type of bridge is less common and is only seen on some Les Paul guitars such as the Tribute and Special.
Pros and Cons of Each Bridge
- Tune-O-Matic: Easier to intonate, can add a tremolo arm, very common
- Wrap-Around: Easier to re-string, more comfortable for palm-muting, can help to increase sustain and attack, usually sounds warmer
Understanding the Tune-O-Matic Bridge
The Tune-O-Matic bridge is a popular design seen on many Les Paul guitars. It consists of two parts: the bridge and the stop-tail. The stop-tail holds the strings in place and keeps tension on them, and the bridge is located closer to the pickup.
Adjusting the Intonation
The bridge has 6 individual saddles, one for each string. Each saddle has a screw that slides it either backwards or forwards to adjust the intonation. On either side of the bridge, you’ll find a thumbwheel that allows you to adjust the height, which in turn adjusts the action of the strings.
Making it Fun
Tuning your guitar can be a bit of a chore, but it doesn’t have to be! With the Tune-O-Matic bridge, you can make it a fun and creative experience. Here are some tips to make it more enjoyable:
- Experiment with different intonations and heights to find the sound you like best.
- Take your time and don’t rush the process.
- Have fun with it!
The History of the Tune-O-Matic Bridge
The Invention of the Tune-O-Matic Bridge
Before the invention of the Tune-O-Matic (TOM) bridge, guitars were limited to wood bridges, trapeze tailpieces, or simple wraparound screws. These were okay for keeping the strings in place, but they weren’t enough to get a perfect intonation.
Enter Ted McCarty, the President of Gibson, who in 1953 created the TOM bridge for the Gibson Super 400 and in 1954 for the Les Paul Custom. It was quickly realized that this piece of hardware was a must-have for all guitars, and now a high percentage of electric guitars have a TOM bridge, often paired with a separate stopbar tailpiece.
The Benefits of the Tune-O-Matic Bridge
The TOM bridge has been a game-changer for guitarists. Here are some of the benefits it offers:
- Perfect intonation: You can choose the perfect distance from the saddle to the nut for each string.
- Increased sustain: The TOM bridge increases the sustain of the guitar, making it sound fuller and richer.
- Easier string changes: Changing strings is a breeze with the TOM bridge, as it’s designed to make the process easier and faster.
- Improved tuning stability: The TOM bridge is designed to keep the strings in tune, even when you’re playing hard.
The Legacy of the Tune-O-Matic Bridge
The TOM bridge has been a staple of the guitar world for over 60 years, and it’s still going strong. It’s been used on countless guitars, from the Gibson Les Paul to the Fender Stratocaster, and it’s become the go-to bridge for guitarists who want perfect intonation and improved tuning stability.
The TOM bridge has been a major part of the guitar world for decades, and it’s sure to remain a key part of the guitar landscape for years to come.
Understanding Different Varieties of Tune-o-Matic Bridges
Tune-o-Matic bridges have been around since their invention in 1954, and since then, different versions have been produced by Gibson and other companies. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced guitarist, understanding the different varieties of Tune-o-Matic bridges is essential for getting the most out of your instrument.
ABR-1 Without Retainer Wire (1954-1962)
The ABR-1 bridge was the first Tune-o-Matic bridge produced by Gibson, and it was used from 1954 to 1962. This bridge was notable for its lack of a retainer wire, which was a feature that was added to later models.
Schaller Wide Travel Tune-o-Matic (1970-1980)
The Schaller Wide Travel Tune-o-Matic bridge, also known as the “Harmonica bridge,” was used from 1970 to 1980. This bridge was used primarily on Gibson SGs made in the Kalamazoo plant.
Modern TOM (1975-)
The Modern TOM bridge, also known as the “Nashville” bridge, was first introduced when Gibson moved the Les Paul production from Kalamazoo to the new Nashville plant. This bridge is still a signature feature found on guitars from the Gibson USA product line.
Measurements of a Typical Tune-o-Matic Bridge
When comparing different Tune-o-Matic bridges, there are several measurements that should be taken into account:
- 1st-to-6th distance, mm
- Post, diameter × length, mm
- Thumbwheel diameter, mm
- Saddles, mm
Notable Tune-o-Matic Models
There are several widely known Tune-o-Matic models that differ in the measurements listed above. These include the Gibson BR-010 ABR-1 (“Vintage”), the Gotoh GE-103B and GEP-103B, and the Gibson BR-030 (“Nashville”).
No matter what type of Tune-o-Matic bridge you’re looking for, understanding the different varieties is key to getting the most out of your instrument. With a little research and knowledge, you’ll be able to find the right bridge for your needs.
The Wrap-Around Bridge: A Classic Design
The wrap-around bridge is an older design compared to the tune-o-matic bridge and has a simpler construction. You can still find this classic bridge being used on some Les Paul models today such as the Junior and Special.
What is a Wrap-Around Bridge?
A wrap-around bridge combines the tail-piece and bridge into a single piece. There are two main types of wrap-around bridge:
- Where the tailpiece is a plate and does not have individual saddles.
- Where the tailpiece also has individual saddles.
The first design is more common and makes intonation adjustment difficult compared to the second design where you have individual saddles to adjust the intonation of each string.
The Benefits of a Wrap-Around Bridge
The wrap-around bridge has some major advantages over other bridge designs. Here are a few of them:
- It’s easy to install and adjust.
- It’s lightweight and doesn’t add much weight to the guitar.
- It’s a great choice for beginners who don’t want to mess with complicated setups.
- It’s great for players who want to change strings quickly.
The Drawbacks of a Wrap-Around Bridge
Unfortunately, the wrap-around bridge also has some drawbacks. Here are a few of them:
- Intonation is difficult to adjust.
- It doesn’t provide as much sustain as other bridge designs.
- It’s not as good at transferring string vibrations to the body of the guitar.
- It can be difficult to keep in tune.
The Tone Difference Between Tune-O-Matic and Wrap-Around Bridges
What’s the Difference?
When it comes to electric guitars, there are two main types of bridges: Tune-O-Matic and Wrap-Around. Both of these bridges have their own unique sound, so let’s take a look at what makes them different.
Tune-O-Matic bridges are made up of several separate parts which allow the strings to vibrate freely. This gives the guitar a warmer sound with less attack and sustain.
Wrap-Around bridges, on the other hand, are made from a single piece of metal. This transfers the energy from the strings more efficiently, resulting in a brighter sound with more attack and sustain.
What Do They Sound Like?
It’s hard to describe the exact sound of each bridge without hearing them side by side. But generally speaking, Tune-O-Matic bridges have a warmer, mellower sound while Wrap-Around bridges have a brighter, more aggressive sound.
Which One Should I Choose?
That’s up to you! Ultimately, the choice of bridge comes down to personal preference. Some players find the difference in tone between the two bridges to be huge, while others can barely tell the difference.
If you’re still unsure, why not check out some YouTube videos to hear the two bridges side by side? That way you can make an informed decision and choose the bridge that best suits your playing style.
Getting the Perfect Intonation with a Tune-O-Matic Bridge
Can You Get Perfect Intonation with Other Bridges?
Yes, you can get perfect intonation with other types of bridges too. For example, some modern wrap-around bridges also have individual saddles located on the tail-piece, so the intonation process is very similar to the T-O-M.
Tips for Getting Perfect Intonation
Getting the perfect intonation isn’t always easy, but here are a few tips to help you out:
- Start by tuning your guitar to the desired pitch.
- Check the intonation of each string and adjust the saddle accordingly.
- Make sure to use the right tools when adjusting the saddle.
- If you’re having trouble, consider getting a professional to help you out.
Understanding Top Wrapping on a Tune-O-Matic Bridge
What is Top Wrapping?
Top wrapping is a technique used on a tune-o-matic bridge, where the strings are brought through the front of the tailpiece and wrapped over the top. This is different from the traditional way of running strings through the back of the tailpiece.
Why Top Wrap?
Top wrapping is done to reduce string tension, which helps to improve sustain. This is because the strings can vibrate more freely, making it a good compromise between a traditional tune-o-matic bridge and a wrap-around bridge.
When deciding between different bridge designs, there are a few other things to consider:
- Fixed vs Floating Bridges
- 2 vs 6 Point Tremolo Bridges
Tune-O-Matic Vs String Through
Tune-O-Matic bridges and string-through bridges are two different types of guitar bridges that have been around for decades. While they both serve the same purpose – to anchor the strings to the body of the guitar – they have some distinct differences. Tune-O-Matic bridges have adjustable saddles, which allow you to adjust the intonation and action of your strings. On the other hand, string-through bridges are fixed, so you can’t adjust the intonation or action.
When it comes to sound, Tune-O-Matic bridges tend to give a brighter, more articulate tone, while string-through bridges provide a warmer, more mellow tone. If you’re looking for a more vintage sound, string-through bridges are the way to go. But if you’re looking for a more modern sound, Tune-O-Matic bridges are the way to go.
When it comes to looks, Tune-O-Matic bridges are usually the more aesthetically pleasing option. They come in a variety of colors and finishes, so you can customize your guitar to your own personal style. String-through bridges, on the other hand, are usually plain and unassuming.
So, if you’re looking for a classic vintage sound, go with a string-through bridge. But if you’re looking for a modern sound with more adjustability and style, go with a Tune-O-Matic bridge. It’s really up to you and your own personal preference.
When it comes to choosing between Tune-O-Matic and string-through bridges, it’s really all about personal preference. If you want a classic vintage sound, go with a string-through bridge. But if you’re looking for a modern sound with more adjustability and style, go with a Tune-O-Matic bridge. It’s really up to you and your own individual style. So pick the one that best suits your needs and rock on!
Tune-O-Matic Vs Abr-1
Are you looking for a new bridge for your guitar? If so, you may be wondering what the difference is between the Nashville Tune-O-Matic and the ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic. Well, the short answer is that the Nashville Tune-O-Matic is a more modern bridge, while the ABR-1 is a classic bridge. But, let’s dive a bit deeper and take a look at the differences between these two bridges.
The Nashville Tune-O-Matic is a modern bridge that was designed to give guitarists more control over their sound. It has two adjustable saddles that allow you to adjust the intonation and the string height. This bridge also has a stopbar tailpiece that helps to keep the strings in place and reduces the amount of string buzz.
The ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic, on the other hand, is a classic bridge that was designed in the 1950s. It has one adjustable saddle that allows you to adjust the intonation and the string height. This bridge also has a stopbar tailpiece, but it doesn’t have the same level of adjustability as the Nashville Tune-O-Matic.
So, if you’re looking for a bridge that gives you more control over your sound, then the Nashville Tune-O-Matic is the way to go. But, if you’re looking for a classic bridge with a vintage vibe, then the ABR-1 Tune-O-Matic is the right choice for you. Both bridges have their own unique sound and feel, so it’s really up to you to decide which one is best for your guitar.
Tune-O-Matic Vs Hipshot
When it comes to guitar bridges, there are two main contenders: Tune-O-Matic and Hipshot. Both bridges have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to know the difference between the two before making a decision.
The Tune-O-Matic bridge is the classic choice for electric guitars. It has been around since the 1950s and is still widely used today. This bridge is known for its adjustable intonation, which allows you to fine-tune the sound of your guitar. It also has a unique look, with two posts on either side of the bridge that hold the strings in place. The Tune-O-Matic bridge is a great choice for players who want a classic look and sound.
The Hipshot bridge is a more modern option. It was designed in the 1990s and has become increasingly popular in recent years. This bridge is known for its adjustable string spacing, which allows you to customize the sound of your guitar. It also has a sleek, modern look, with a single post in the center of the bridge. The Hipshot bridge is a great choice for players who want a modern look and sound.
When it comes to choosing between Tune-O-Matic and Hipshot bridges, it really comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for a classic look and sound, the Tune-O-Matic is the way to go. If you’re looking for a modern look and sound, the Hipshot is the way to go. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which bridge is right for you and your guitar.
If you’re looking for a bridge that’s as unique as your playing style, you can’t go wrong with either Tune-O-Matic or Hipshot. Both bridges offer great sound and style, so it really comes down to personal preference. Whether you’re a classic rocker or a modern shredder, you’ll find a bridge that suits your needs. So, if you’re looking to give your guitar a fresh look and sound, consider trying out a Tune-O-Matic or Hipshot bridge.
Which Way Do You Tune An O Matic Bridge?
Tuning an O Matic bridge is easy – just make sure the intonation adjustment screws face the neck and pickups, not the tailpiece. If you get it wrong, the adjustment screw heads can interfere with the strings coming off the saddles, which can cause rattling or other problems. So don’t be a fool – face the screws towards the neck and pickups for a smooth and sweet sound!
How High Should My Tuneomatic Bridge Be?
If you want your Tune-o-matic bridge to be just right, you’ll need to get it to the perfect height. The ideal height for a Tune-o-matic bridge is 1/2″ above the top of the guitar, with the other half of the inch-long post screwed into the body. To get it there, you’ll need to thread the tool onto the post until it’s flush against the thumbwheel. It’s not rocket science, but it’s important to get it just right, or you’ll be strumming out of tune!
Are All Tune-O-Matic Bridges The Same?
No, not all Tune-o-matic bridges are the same! Depending on the guitar, there are several styles and shapes of Tune-o-matic bridges. Some have a retaining wire, like the vintage ABR-1, while others have self-contained saddles like the Nashville Tune-o-matic. The ABR-1 style has thumbwheel adjustment and a stopbar, while the Nashville style has “strings through the body” construction (without a stopbar) and screw slots. Plus, the Tune-o-matic bridge is not flat, and standard Gibson Tune-o-matic bridges have a 12″ radius. So, if you’re looking for a unique sound, you’ll need to find the right Tune-o-matic bridge for your guitar.
Is A Roller Bridge Better Than Tune-O-Matic?
The answer to the question of whether a roller bridge is better than a Tune-o-matic bridge really depends on the individual player’s needs. Generally speaking, roller bridges offer better tuning stability and less friction than a Tune-o-matic bridge, making them ideal for players who use tremolo tailpieces such as Bigsby or Maestro. They also provide less resting pressure, which can be beneficial for some players. However, if you don’t use a tremolo tailpiece, then a Tune-o-matic bridge may be the better option for you. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which bridge is right for your guitar and playing style.
Tune-O-Matic bridges are great for guitars because they’re easy to use and provide IDEAL tuning stability. Plus, they’re perfect for both strumming and picking styles.
I hope you’ve learned something new about them today in this guide.
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.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe