How To

Adjusting the Bridge

The bridge ( sometimes called the saddle ), is not only adjusted for height, but also to level the bridge with the neck.

But before we get into the differences in adjusting them, first let’s discuss what we are trying to achieve.

I will start by giving you the manufacturer’s suggestions on the height of the strings. One dimension is for the 6th string (or bass string) and the other is for the 1st string (or treble string).

Gibson Guitars:

Their measurement is taken at the 12th fret and is measured from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. You can use a ruler to measure it.

Bass String          5/64″                                         Treble String          3/64″

Fender Guitars:

Their measurement is taken at the 14th fret and is measured from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. You can use a ruler to measure it.

Neck Radius                              Bass String                              Treble String

7.25″                                            5/64″                                        4/64″ (or 1/16″)

9.5″ – 12″                                     4/64″ (or 1/16″)                   4/64″ (or 1/16″)

15″ – 17″                                      4/64″ (or 1/16″)                   3/64″

Remember that this is their recommendations and since all of us are different, I feel it is a good starting point, but don’t assume that this is the only place it can be. If you feel like you want it a little higher or lower, by all means, try it. How else are you going to know what feels best to you? However, they have that standard for a reason. I do feel you should start there and see before you just start trying something else.

There are a lot of different types of bridges. I am not going to discuss all the types, but I am going to discuss the basic types.

 Acoustic Guitars:

Almost all acoustic guitars have a fixed bridge. This being a thin piece of plastic. The reason that this style of bridge is so popular on acoustic guitars is because it is the vibration of the bridge against the body of the guitar that makes the sound. Unlike electric guitars that use pickups to relay the string’s vibrations.

These bridges may be straight or compensated. The difference being whether they are a straight piece or not. The reason that they aren’t straight is to try to compensate for intonation (which we will discuss in another lesson). This type of bridge is adjusted by taking them out of the guitar and sanding the bottom of the bridge to lower the action, or shimming it up (by placing a piece of paper or cardboard under it) to raise the action.

There is also this style of bridge which is adjusted with a thumb screw to adjust the height on both sides of the bridge. This makes adjusting the height easier, but by the nature of the mechanism, some of the vibration is lost and therefore tends to be a quieter guitar.

Electric Guitars:

Electric guitars incorporate all sorts of bridges. Different manufacturers patent their own style and many are unique and elaborate.

Others are more common.

The bridges are sometimes adjusted by thumb screws on each side (like the one directly above), and others use screws to adjust each individual saddle (like the one below).

When you adjust the individual saddles, you should adjust the height of the bass string and the treble string first. Then take the neck’s arch into consideration to connect the two. Some necks are very flat from bass to treble sides while others are domed. Follow the flow of the guitar and it will feel more natural as you play it.

Next, let’s go on to Adjusting the Intonation.

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I Started out in 1976 trying out to sing in bands but no bands were interested in me. In 1977 I started playing guitar. The individual that was teaching me (who for now will remain anonymous) told me that I would NEVER learn how to play guitar because I had no sense of rhythm. I joined my first band in 1978 called "Dead Center" in Jacksonville, Florida. I played an Aspen guitar, black; a Les Paul copy and in 1981. I gave that guitar to the teacher who said I'd never learn to play. I wrote my first song in 1979 or '80. Over the years I have been in many bands but my passion has been songwriting. I have written well over 100 songs and though the early ones were kind of rough around the edges, I think that most of them could be dusted off and given a new facelift. Today I am still working on my songs. Currently I can play guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, harmonica, and Native American flute. The flutes that I play are ones that I made myself. My guitars are the Epiphone G-400 faded, an Ibanez RG370 DX, an Epiphone G 1275 double neck guitar. My acoustic guitars are an Alvarez 12 string and an old Kay guitar. My drum set is a Peace drum set. I do my recording on a Zoom HD16.
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10 Comments
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  • August 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    No, basses can have 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, or more stgnris (7 s, 9 s and other expanded scale basses are very uncommon though, and 8 s and 12 s with smaller octave stgnris are also very uncommon less common than 12 string guitars, I’d say).Seriously though, this is the 6th time you’ve posted this same question, even though you’ve received a lot of good answers in your other topics = please, you don’t need to spam your question. Don’t mean to sound rude or anything, but it doesn’t really help you get an answer any faster.Look up these basses; they’re all very good instruments there is no best bass, it depends a lot on personal preference.Ibanez SR506, SR706, BTB576, BTB1306E (SR very nicely priced, BTB is more expensive)MusicMan Bongo 6 (VERY good bass, pretty pricey though)Warwick Thumb NT 6 (Another excellent bass, but fairly expensive)Schecter Custom 6, Stiletto Studio 6 (Like the Ibanez SR; good value, good price)Peavey Grind 6 (Another solid instrument that won’t cost too much)I hope that helps, and hope you find what you’re looking for. But you really don’t have to keep posting this question over and over, cuz you’ve already gotten a lot of good answers.Cheers!

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