Welcome friend! You may have asked yourself “what is a guitar bridge?” Right now, since you landed on a site called Guitar Strings, you may be questioning how the two are related. Fear not my fellow musical explorer, for I will now guide you through the topic of the guitar bridge and how it is important to your strings.
A Guitar Bridge – What is it helping me To cross?
While it isn’t the type of bridge to help you cross anything as a human, it is still a very vital component of your guitar. Your strings are (or should be at least) the only things to cross over this bridge. When you stand your guitar up vertically, the bridge can be seen close to the base of your guitar and it holds the pins and saddle of your guitar
The bridge serves many functions on your guitar, these roles include:
- Being the place where you insert your guitar strings into your guitar.
- Holding your saddle in place
- Transmitting the vibrations from your strings down to the guitar body
The bridge is usually made out of wood on acoustic guitars and metal on electric guitars. The bridge allows the vibrations or simply the fast movements of your strings to travel down the guitar body because any object in contact with an oscillating object will usually also oscillate to varying degrees provided that it is not a vibration dampener.
What is This Saddle You Mentioned?
The saddle is a single piece which can be made of a variety of materials such as bone, plastic or metal. They are usually seen on classical guitars and some acoustic guitars. Electric guitars and electric bass guitars sometimes have smaller saddles for each string, and these are generally made out of metal.
The saddle or saddles help the strings remain in their respective “lanes” on your guitar (similar to the way a horse saddle helps you stay on a horse). This help to make sure that your strings don’t fight with each other for space, hindering their individual singing ability.
The saddle also raises every one of your strings above the guitar body allowing them to vibrate at the correct frequency and make the right sound. The vibrations also travel from the string, down the saddle to the bridge and ultimately into the body for amplification. This is what we hear as the final sound.
Electric guitars make use of pickups to convert vibration into an electrical signal. Hollow body electrical guitars will have a combination of these are they include properties of hollow and solid body guitars. Pickups are a topic on their own.
A Short Talk About The Pins
The pins, mentioned above, are what actually hold your guitar strings in place on your guitar bridge. They also direct the vibration from the strings to the bridge. The pins are usually round on top and look like golf ball tee pins, but with a groove cut out for the string.
Electric guitars generally do not use pins as the strings feed directly into the guitar. Taking a look at the end of your guitar strings you may see tiny little metal objects that look like tiny pulleys or wheels. These may be colour coded or plain and are called the ball end of the string.
The ball end is basically a better design alternative to simply tying a knot on your guitar string to try to keep it in place. The importance of the ball end is that it helps you secure the string in place, as well as achieve a solid seal when you tune your guitar. The ball end is secured by the guitar pins or act as a stopper when you feed the string through the string hole
How Does my bridge relate to my guitar strings
As you may have noticed, this site is called guitar strings. Naturally, this means that the strings are the hero of the story. That is why I felt it necessary to explain how exactly the bridge is related to and affects your strings. Your guitar strings each have their own groove or channel on the bridge.
Without the bridge to hold the saddle, and the saddle raising your guitar strings up, they would sit flush against the body of your guitar effectively muffling or muting them (this is guitar talk for stopping them from singing freely, like putting your hand over your mouth). This would probably make your strings very sad as they wouldn’t be able to sing a single note for you.
Without the bridge to hold the pins the string would also not be anchored down safely. Remember when you tune or tension a guitar string you are placing a metal string under a force. If both ends of the string are not secured in place and stable, they could slip or snap at any point in time causing unnecessary injury to you.
Without your bridge, the vibrations from your strings would not be effectively transported down to the guitar body where they are amplified or simply increased in volume. This is a reason for the quietness of an unplugged solid body electric guitar. The bridge carries the vibration but there is no sound chamber to amplify the sound like an acoustic guitar.
What do I do with the bridge?
The bridge is most likely a fixed part of your guitar. I say most likely because I know of electric guitars which have what is called a floating bridge or you may have heard of the Floyd Rose bridge. This type of bridge is not fixed on the guitar body and has the ability to move up and down in the guitar thanks to a cut out on the guitar body.
While it was quite fun to make funny noises, I personally never had much success with my floating bridge. Whenever I tried tuning it (no matter how careful I was), I would snap the high E string, every single time. If it is something you’re interested in I would recommend doing thorough research to see if it is for you.
Someone who changes the tuning of their guitar frequently (anything other than standard tuning), or who changes their strings regularly, would probably be better suited to a guitar with a fixed bridge. If you are interested in challenging yourself every time you tune your guitar, or if you would like to get a wider variety of pitch from your strings, a floating bridge may be for you.
I Know What a Bridge is, Now What?
Apart from being able to confidently answer questions about your bridge, if anyone were to ask you that is, how does this benefit me? Now that you are aware of your bridge and its function, you will be more confident in you playing as there will be one less foreign or strange part on your guitar.
Usually, guitarist play close to the sound hole or close to the pickups because this is where the richest or fullest sound comes from. Playing close to the bridge can make the notes sound like you are tapping on the guitar body itself or even slightly muted (this just means that the strings vibration is partially blocked. This sound may not be desirable for every song you play, however in certain instances, it may be the exact sound you are looking for.
The best way to know is to try it for yourself! See you in the next article.