Bridges on electric guitars are far more than just a device that is often tied to one type of guitar or its manufacturer.
This element of the guitar can greatly change the sound you get, and the kind of details you can include in your music. That’s why there are several different types of bridges out there, each more inclined towards a certain genre, or a group of genres in music.
Figuring out which one is best for you depends on what you plan on playing the most, and whether or not being able to do things such as dive bombs and similar is important to you. In other words, there is no simple answer to this question.
Well take a look at different electric guitar bridge types, and go over what each one is used for, its pros and its cons. At the end of this article you should be able to come to a conclusion regarding which one is closest to your needs.
What Types Are Available?
There are four major types of electric guitar bridges: Fixed bridge, synchronized tremolos, Floyd Rose and Tune-O-Matic bridge. Let’s take a look at every individual type, and see how each performs. Here’s a quick table breakdown, with detailed sections on each of these further into the article.
Holds a tune
(Dive bombs, dime squeel, etc)
Ease of Maintenance
Easy to maintain, great for beginners
Get ready to do a lot of tuning
Great performance but not simple to understand & use
Basically a fixed bridge with better sustain
A fixed bridge, also called a hard-tail bridge, is the most simple type of electric guitar bridge found on modern electric guitars. First introduced by Fender, it has since grew in popularity and can be found on many different guitar models. It has no moving parts, and is basically a metal plate bolted onto the body of the guitar. On top of this plate you will usually find six adjustable string saddles which are used to properly setup the intonation and string height.
This type of bridge is easiest to maintain, and holds a tune pretty well since it is so simple in nature. Most new guitar players opt for this type of bridge because it’s easy to learn and doesn’t require much attention after you set everything up.
Aside from the fixed bridge, Fender also came up with the synchronized tremolo bridge system that first appeared with early model Stratocasters. It is very similar to the fixed bridge design meaning that it features the same six adjustable saddles, but with a very important difference. The whole mechanism can be operated using a tremolo bar, which increases and decreases the tension of the strings.
In order to get this done, synchronized tremolo bridges rely on a set of screws that act as a pivot point, while having a number of springs underneath that serve as counter for the increased tension created by pulling the tremolo bar. Lots of famous guitar players learned to use this system to its fullest extent, allowing them to create some pretty impressive effects at the time. A tremolo bridge is also sometimes known as a floating bridge, meaning it isn’t locked into place and can move up and down. This is what allows guitarists to create sounds effects like the dive bomb and such. However this feature also presents a unique challenge.
One of the main issues with the synchronized tremolo design is the way it holds a tune. No matter how much effort you put into tuning your guitar, and setting everything up perfectly, prolonged use of tremolo bar will eventually kick the instrument out of tune. Constant increase and decrease of string tension is just too much for the saddles to handle, and this system will require constant tune ups.
Floyd Rose is a more complex and upgraded version of synchronized tremolo design, and it solves some of the major issues the latter has. There are two main differences between the these designs, and those are the locking nut and the locking bridge mechanisms.
With these two devices in place, the constant change of tension in the strings no longer affects the tune so much, meaning that guitars featuring Floyd Rose system stay in tune for longer periods of time, even if you go hard on the tremolo bar, while also keeping the advantages of the floating bridge.
However this additional complexity often times makes it confusing for beginners who either have trouble learning how to use the system, or use it in a wrong way.
Tune-O-Matic Bridge Design
Tune-O-Matic bridge is by nature a fixed bridge but done differently compared to the Fenders hard-tail design. The main difference is that aside from six string saddles, Tune-O-Matic has two main adjustment posts which can change the height of the whole bridge. Simple by nature, Tune-O-Matic bridge design is loved for its ability to hold a tune and provide exceptional sustain. This design was made popular by Gibson’s Les Paul, and has since found its way to many other brands and models.
Choosing one of these electric guitar bridge types to fit your needs is a matter of personal taste. If you want something simple and easy to use, fixed bridges are a perfect match.
Floyd Rose and synchronized tremolo design require some time and effort to figure out, but they are worth it especially if you plan on using the tremolo bar often. Either way you can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for some great intermediate level electric guitars, check out this list!