Adjustments of the Electric Bridge

In Archtop, Gears on March 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

Function of the Bridge

  • Sets string length at bridge for proper intonation.
  • Spaces strings at body.
  • Places strings at playing height off fingerboard.

Indication of Problems with the Bridge

  • Instrument won’t stay in tune.
  • Buzzing of strings on frets.
  • Strings breaking at bridge.
  • Poor intonation.

What to look for?

Because the hand often rest on the bridge, it is very pron to getting gunked-up from acidy sweat. This can cause adjusting screws to freeze up and plating to wear off. Keep the bridge wiped off to prevent problems.

Also look for signs of the bridge leaning or moving. If it seems to be out of place you may want your local repairperson to take a look.

Adjustments

Adjusting the OVERALL action of the instrument is done at the bridge. This is done by raising individual saddle pieces or by raising the whole bridge. Study the diagrams that show the different parts of the typical electric guitar bridges. (See Fig. #1) Some electrics have individual saddle pieces that adjust up and down. Some just have adjusters that raise and lower the whole bridge, but not the individual strings, and some have both. This applies to guitars with tremolo bars as well as those without.

In the case of the individual adjusters, do each string individually until the action of that string feels right. (See Fig. #2) Typically there is a small screw slot or allen screw that adjust the individual saddles. On some models this may vary, particularly on some of the new wang bar assembles. Consult your manual or your local guitar store if there is a question here.

You can leave all the strings on and tuned to pitch when doing this adjustment. As you do each string, be sure to retune and check that string before moving on to the next. If the instrument has the two adjusting screws on each side of the bridge, then turn these up and down to set action. (See Fig. #3)

If your bridge has both individual and outside adjusters; first set the individuals to the center of their range. Then roughly adjust the over all action of the guitar with the outside adjusters, then come back to the individuals and make your final adjustments.

Remember: We are only adjusting for up and down movement for getting the playability right. We are not adjusting the back and fourth movement which is discussed in the Intonation section.

Keep the individual saddle pieces clean and regularly check them for excessive wear. Left unattended, you will have intonation problems and string breakage. If you keep breaking strings at the saddles, then they may have sharp edges caused by wear. Have your local repairperson look at this for you.

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