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Saturday, March 30, 2013

THE ELECTRIC GUITAR AND BASS BRIDGES: FIXED BRIDGES


Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we're going to talk about Guitar and Bass Non-Tremolo bridges, commonly knows as Fixed Bridges (Click Here for an article dedicated to Tremolo and Floyd Rose Bridges).
The general rule is that fixed bridges offers a better transmission of the sound from the strings to the body, due to the direct contact of the part to the wood, and this improves sustain and stability.
The fixed bridge is screwed directly to the guitar body, and it obviously blocks completely any longitudinal string movement, assuring the best tuning stability.
There are no springs on the body, therefore there is not even the cavity to accomodate them, and this also increases the sound resonance, if the Wood used is good.

Let's start off by saying that a fixed bridge is, especially on entry level guitars, the best way to ensure a proper tuning, even with non-exceptional machine heads, but it's also important its role in keeping stable the pitch of the strings while we are performing a bending, since on tremolo bridges, if we bend a string, the five remaining will slighly lower their tuning for the time of the bending (and this can be noticed if we accidentally play a second string while bending one).
The downside of fixed bridges is easy to spot: being fixed they are limiting to the expressivity of the guitar; with a Tremolo bridge are achievable many more sounds than the ones we can obtain with a fixed one.

Today there are many fixed bridge models on the market, since they are easier to create and produce, so many manufacturers through the years came out with their own interpretation of the subject. 
We will analize the six most common and distinctive models:

Gibson Tune o'Matic: this is probably the most common fixed bridge used, and was introduced by Gibson in 1954. The bridge (also known as Stoptail) consists in two parts: the Tune o'Matic itself, which is a metallic bar that contains a saddle for each string, which can be adjusted to reach the perfect octave intonation according to the guitar's tuning, and a second bar called Tailpiece, which is the headlong of the strings: strings are inserted here, passed through the saddles and then fasten to the guitar's headstock. It's important to say that on the original Tune o' Matic bridge the saddles were not adjustable, this feature appeared only on the bridge's second version: the Modern Tune o'Matic.

Ibanez Gibraltar: this is an interesting bridge that had many different models on its story: Gibraltar Standard, Gibraltar plus, Gibraltar III and so on, but basically it's not too different from a Gibson's Tune o'Matic: there are saddles adjustable for the intonation, but also for their height (affecting the height of the strings on the fretboard), and in some model this bridge also have the strings running through the body (see Strings through body bridge). Gibraltar bridges are also featured on Ibanez Basses.

Telecaster Ashtray: this very particular kind of bridge, featured on Fender Telecaster, consists in a large metallic square surrounding the bridge pickup, and on this square, that resembles an ashtray (therefore the name) are mounted the strings. This leads to a more metallic tone than the Stratocaster's one, since the string were resonating not only on the body but also on this metallic plate, and this tone is particularly appreciated by country music players, which loves to find a far resemblance of a banjo tone on their guitar sound.

Strings through body bridge: this kind of bridge is used by many manufacturers (such as Ibanez or Schecter) and basically consists into mounting the tailpiece into the BACK of the guitar's body: the strings are inserted into the back of the body and emerge before the Tune o'Matic; from there they get the right intonation and are sent to the headstock. This solution is very interesting because the guitar or bass will have even more sustain, since the strings will touch the body and resonate through it. In my opinion, when possible, this is the best choice as a fixed bridge. Notice: only long scale strings can be mounted on this kind of guitar, or the string tension will be higher.

Wraparound bridge: this type of bridge is similiar to a Stoptail one, but instead of having a Tune o'Matic piece and a separated Tailpiece, it features both parts on a single metallic bar. It is featured on Paul Reed Smith guitars, and some player believes that reducing the points of contact between strings and body can improve the tone, because more string energy is transferred to the guitar body.

Evertune bridge: mounted only on Vgs guitars at the moment, this bridge is much more complex than the others: each saddle is connected to a spring on the back of the body, so that once you set the bridge to the right tuning and the right intonation, it will never get out of tune (this means that even if you bend a string the pitch won't change!!), but you can lock or unlock individually the single strings, so that it's possible to have the lower strings with a fixed tuning, and the higher strings  free to be bent.


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