Choosing The Right Electric Guitar Bridge Type For Your Guitar

The Electric Guitar Bridge

When you are starting to think about getting a new guitar, then one of the most important things that you ought to be considering is what type of bridge you will be looking for on your new guitar. There are essentially two types of bridges that you will have to choose from, and those are the non-tremolo bridges and the tremolo bridges. The bridge is the part of the guitar on the main body where the strings are attached. The difference between the two options is really just a matter of taste, and how much control you are looking for over the sound. The non-tremolo bridges don’t offer any control over the tension of the string, and thus don’t have the option of a whammy bar. For the tremolo bridge, which has a lot more variants, you get the control over the tension of the strings, which allows for some very interesting effects to utilize in your playing.

Guitars with Non-Tremolo Bridges

There are a number of benefits which you will find with using guitars with non-tremolo bridges, and some of these are:

  • Better for staying in tune – Because there is less movement at the bridge end, these guitars generally tend to stay in tune longer and require less re-tuning once they have been done.
  • It is also suggested that these guitars tend to be easier to restring, because the fixing points aren’t movable to allow for the tremolo effects.
  • If you play in a number of different genres with different tuning setups, these bridges can be tuned in easily without because they are fixed.
  • As a rule, the sound transfer from the strings to the body of the guitar is better than those which have tremolo bridges.

It is for these reasons that those looking to use their guitars in different genres and tunings, or beginners who are looking for a less fiddly guitar are often recommended to consider the non-tremolo bridge guitars as being suitable.

Tremolo Bridge Guitars

These are the guitars which give the player more control over the pitch of the strings on the guitar, and tend to be used to provide a much more varied repertoire of sound effects which can be used.

When looking at the tremolo guitars historically, the one that most people will have used up until recently will have been those which have a non-locking tremolo bridge, and anything before the late 1970s will all have been tremolo bridges of this sort.

Since the invention of the Floyd Rose locking bridge then there have been a number of locking tremolo bridges which have been introduced. Looking at both types of tremolo guitar will give you a better idea of the differences between what each one can offer.

The Non-Locking Tremolo Bridge

This is the type of bridge which was used for many years during the growth in popularity of the electric guitar to give effects similar to bending a string. It has been used by many of the twentieth century’s great guitarists and is still a popular option today, although as a rule, tends to be included on the less expensive guitars produced these days.

In terms of the mechanics of how it works, the strings of the guitar are attached to the bridge which can be moved using the springed tremolo arm to increase or reduce the tension of the strings, and thus the pitch that is produced when that string is played.

There are however problems that may occur with the non-locking
tremolo bridge, such as:

  1. Strings can lose their tune quite quickly when using this type of guitar, because the stretching and releasing of the string will cause a tiny amount of stretching in their length which take it out of tune.
  2. Retuning this kind of guitar to a different tuning can often be a much longer process, and will usually be a little more fiddly.
  3. Equally with these, restringing the guitar can also take longer as it is more difficult to attach the strings.

Despite these drawbacks, there are still some fantastic guitars which will utilize this type of bridge, and also a number of sensational guitarists such as Keith Richards, Mark Knopfler and Paul McCartney who have used these types of guitar bridges to great effect.

Locking Tremolo Bridge Guitars

What the locking tremolo bridge guitars look to deliver is the balance that has the best of both worlds. Guitars with this type of bridge tend to be among the most common that you will see being played in bands over recent years, because they will generally hold the tuning more consistently and for a longer period of time than the guitar with a non locking tremolo, but still allow the control over the pitch and tension of the strings that are key in so many guitar effects.

This type of bridge works by clamping the strings into place, reducing the loss of tune that can happen with the older-style bridges. Guitarist Floyd Rose, who also worked as a jeweller was the man who started the innovation for this type of bridge at the end of the 1970s, and led to a very different way of guitar playing that was used throughout much of the 1980s, utilising the ability to dramatically change the pitch without going out of tune.

Guitarists who used this bridge included:

  • Steve Vai
  • Frank Zappa
  • Joe Satriani
  • Eddie Van Halen

Once the locking bridge had been created and was being used successfully, a number of other similar systems were developed, and have been widely used ever since.

For most guitarists who are considering to purchase a new guitar, a lot of what will inspire your choice will be down to your own preference and your playing style. Make sure you play whichever guitar you are considering buying and see to it that you feel comfortable with it.

Unless you have specific reasons to choose either a ‘hardtail’ non-tremolo bridge guitar, or the traditional non-locking tremolo bridge, then the locking tremolo bridge does usually offer a balanced product that gives you the best of both worlds.


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