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Sunday, December 2, 2012

THE ELECTRIC GUITAR BRIDGES: TREMOLO (PART 1/2)


Hello and welcome to this week's Article!
Today we're going to talk about Tremolo, a classic guitar bridge often seen on Fender Stratocasters, but also featured on a wide variety of other guitars.
Let's start off by clearing what it is: the tremolo bridge is a particular guitar bridge that allows the player to use a lever (called Whammy Bar) to alter the string tension, thus altering temporarily the pitch and producing an effect called "Vibrato", which, according to the particular type of bridge, may be softer or stronger.

The first attempt of building a Tremolo bridge was the Kaufmann Vibrola, built around the '30s and mounted on some Epiphone and Rickenbacker guitar, and thoughout its evolutions the bridge managed to survive until the late '50s, also thanks to an unique invention: an automatic vibrato effect generated by the bridge itself, rhythmically moved by an electric powered circuit.

The Tremolo bridge that became the first to be mainstream though was the Bigsby, created at the beginning of the '50s by Paul Bigsby. This type of bridge was completely outside the body of the guitar and solved the notorious problem of the Kaufmann bridges: it didn't throw the guitar out of tune so easily.
This bridge was featured on many Gibson guitars, and still today it can be found on the most high end hollow body and semi-hollow body guitars on the market, due to its vintage look and classic sound.

To this day, the most famous Tremolo bridge on the market is the Fender Synchronized Tremolo, created by Fender towards the half of the '50s (Click here to see an original picture of the 1954 patent application).
This bridge was revolutionary and it required holes on the guitar body, in order to mount on the back of the guitar three-to-five coil springs, to bring the string tension back to normality once the whammy bar is released.
The bridge is formed by six bridge saddles held against a plate by string tension, and individually adjustable both for height and intonation, and it is anchored to the guitar by six screws, although the most famous bridge version is the "Fender two-point synchronized tremolo", which featured only the two most external ones.
The "Fender two-point synchronized tremolo" is still today the most used (and copied) tremolo bridge on the market, and it has been used by Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend, among the others.

The Floating Tremolo was an evolution of the Sinchronized tremolo featured on the Fender Jazzmaster model, it was presented in 1958 and it was much more complex.
The particularity of this kind of Tremolo system is that its mechanics allows the player to retain the strings tuning even better than the other types of bridge, and that it's blockable, so if a string is broken, the player can still keep the other ones in tune.
Unfortunately this bridge didn't have too much success due to some string resonance on some frets, that at higher volumes can cause some problem, and due to its complexity today is featured only on some custom shop model.

Around the half of the '60s Fender presented also another Tremolo bridge: the Dynamic Vibrato, featured on the Mustang model. This kind of bridge combined elements from the previous ones, and it's still today mounted on the Fender Mustang, for its look and because some player still consider it the best Tremolo bridge ever created.
The tremolo system is integrated with the bridge, unlike the Floating Tremolo which is composed by two separated parts, and became popular worldwide because it was mounted on the Jag-Stang (a custom hybrid between a Fender Jaguar and a Mustang) used by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2/2

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