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What makes a good bridge

bluetrainbluetrain Finland✭✭✭ Cach, Epiphone Triumph, Gibson ES-300

After upgrading the bridge to my guitar the sound improved considerably. I'm just curious what are the tiny little factors that contribute to the sound differences between bridges. The wood is obvious factor but what about other factors.

For example: Should the bridge be as light as possible? What about the contact with the top, should it be in contact only there where are these braces (this would make the contact area quite small)?


  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    To make a long story short - the bridge that matches the top is the best one... OK, that's kind of a cop-out I guess - but there's a lot to it. I'm way pressed for time right now so instead of writing a big tome on it (I'm often guilty of that and am tempted here as bridge design is something I enjoy geeking-out on) but... in absence of time ... I'll point you where I learned about these issues... namely violin building. There has been a whole lot of study regarding bridges and how they match their instruments in the violin world and much if not all of it applies in some way to Gypsy & Archtop guitars. Look for papers on the subject of "Bridge Hill" and you'll quickly fall into the abyss of bridge design...

    It's not rocket science, but there's more to it than you'd think and it's interesting at any rate. To directly answer your question - all of the things you mentioned are variables... the weight of the bridge, the modulus of the bridge, the contact with the top... and other interesting things.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • bluetrainbluetrain Finland✭✭✭ Cach, Epiphone Triumph, Gibson ES-300
    Posts: 156
    Thanks for the "Bridge Hill" advice. It would be also fascinating to hear more about your thoughts and experience on this subject. The bottom line I'm asking these questions are simple: How could I fine tune or modify my bridge to get the most out of my guitar...? :D
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,665
    Bob Holo wrote:
    ... namely violin building. There has been a whole lot of study regarding bridges and how they match their instruments in the violin world and much if not all of it applies in some way to Gypsy & Archtop guitars.

    My luthier is making a new bridge for his archtop. He's replacing the standard adjustable bridge with a lightweight solid one. As noted in other posts, the adjustable bridge, while offering convenience, is comparatively heavy and restricts the production of sound, much as overly heavy Selmer style bridges (as in Sagas) can kill a guitar's sound.

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • HCQHCQ Northeast NJ✭✭✭
    Posts: 222

    I use 4 different bridges for my Dell Arte. Each has its own sound quality. I had 1 made by Josh Hegg and 3 made by Dell Arte. All give the same string heights measured at the 12th fret.

    3 are made from rosewood and one is ebony. All meet the guitar's top very well except that I believe that there is some small enhancement regarding better projection if the ends off the bridge feet are slightly flared up starting roughly 3 millimeters inwards from the bridges' edges, ( adjacent to each of the moustaches), so bridge contact doesn't extend beyond the cross braces underneath the top. The difference is slight but this was eventually done on all my bridges.

    As to which gives the best sound, well that's debatable. I really like the sound of 3 of my bridges.

    The rosewood bridge Josh Hegg made me is the loudest and most penetrating of the three. Its also the brightest. On the wound strings this bridge also produces a tight and focused sound. When playing acoustically and with other players, I opt for this bridge as it allows my guitar to produce the most bark and cutting power. In attenuating the low end and letting the highs translate so quickly, I get more dynamic control, Since the dynamics are the least compressed with Josh's bridge I have to be careful just to stave off some harshness if I attack the strings too aggressively or wildly. Additionally, any upper register notes that correspond to notes E, A, D & B can trigger a very loud Sympathetic harmonic riding together with a note I pick. So, I have to remember to rest my picking hand on the strings to mute this on these notes. That said Josh made me the best bridge that nudges my guitar into something I'll call the "soulful Beast".

    My next favorite bridges and close seconds were made by Dell Arte. One is ebony and the other is rosewood. The rosewood I use with a K&K pickup. Both basically sound the same and are built a little bit heavier than Josh's bridge. These have a more even sound. More high fidelity sounding with more "chest". They provide a more modern sound. The volume seems less but that may be an illusion. These bridges diminish the harmonic that generated when picking E, A D & B notes. The rosewood with the K&K even less so which is a good thing when plugged into an amp. Playing with aggressive guitarists at Django in June left me wanting for nothing regarding sound and volume with my K&K pickup/bridge.

    To me the least favorite is a rosewood I just had made as it accentuates whatever midrange my guitar produces. Fast played runs just don't have the fidelity and balance as the other bridges.

    So in the end, it just comes down to what like to hear and how notes and chords physically respond. I think all the bridges are made really well. Its nice to able to change the character of a guitar by swapping out bridges. Generally speaking, rosewood sounds brighter and a bit louder than ebony. Ebony seems to sound, for lack of a better word, "stately"

  • bluetrainbluetrain Finland✭✭✭ Cach, Epiphone Triumph, Gibson ES-300
    Posts: 156
    I did some google search about "bridge hill" on violins and I found this interesting article: ... geHill.pdf

    This is how I understood the article: The violin body has it's own frequency response with all these complex resonances. What the bridge does is that it works basically as a filter by adding a resonance peak which characteristics change as a function of bridge foot spacing, stiffness (hardness of the material) and mass. This is what the article says about how these three variables affect:

    Keeping the bridge stiffness constant and increasing the mass (figure 14):
    -The resonance peak gets smaller and to lower frequencies.
    -Low frequencies are not affected much at all.

    Keeping the bridge mass constant and increasing the stiffness (figure 15):
    -The resonance peak gets smaller and to higher frequencies.
    -Low frequencies are not affected much at all.

    Foot spacing is increased (figure 16):
    -The resonance peak is first decreased but after certain foot spacing value it starts to increase again. The frequency is increased.
    -Lower frequencies are damped more with bigger foot spacing values.

    I don't know how this relates to gypsy guitar bridges but if it works somewhat similar way then by carving the bridge more hollow would make the bridge mass smaller which means more treble. Changing an ebony bridge to a rosewood bridge and keeping the mass constant would mean that the stiffness is changed. Ebony is harder than rosewood so this means that with the rosewood bridge there is a higher resonance peak but at lower frequency. Increasing the foot spacing would make the bass response lower. Something like that..

    Does anyone have any practical observations about how these three variables affect the sound?
  • Posts: 1

    Great thread.

    I’m particularly interested in Bridge design, although I am new to the subject, and can’t add much to the topic.

    I need new bridges for both of my gypsy guitars.

    One of them has a big tone fitted. The current bridge is a solid piece of ebony i.e. not hollowed out. The big tone sits inside the bridge, along with an ebony shim and a compensated ebony saddle. So in essence there is 4 pieces to the bridge (the bridge, the big tone, the shim and the saddle). I’m certain this many components affects the transfer of sound from the strings to the soundboard. The guitar doesn’t sound good when played acoustically (low volume and not great tonally). It is fine when plugged in, but still doesn’t have the bark and bite I’m looking for. It is good intonation wise. I’m convinced a traditional hollowed out, one piece bridge (no big tone, shim or saddle) will improve its overall tone and volume. Any thoughts?

    My other guitar has a decent bridge, but I attempted to alter it myself and have butchered it somewhat. I compensated the B string as it played sharp and really bugged me. In doing so the B string is lower than the other strings; only slightly and I don’t really notice it. I attempted to level things out, which means the orverall action dropped slightly. So I’ve had to shim the bridge to raise the action. Overall this guitar sounds fantastic, apart from intonation issues. I’d like a compensated bridge for this guitar, similar to it’s current bridge.

    Why is it that Gypsy guitars typically don’t have a compensated bridge? I don’t understand this? Surely it affects intonation?

    Gadjo Gadgy
    Gan canny.
  • chazzchazz New
    Posts: 8

    Hello guitarists,

    Bridge subject comes after my first points.

    I read many, many reviews and did research about floating bridge pickups.

    I have owned a Schatten and a Fishman archtop piezo bridge. Neither really work well in a gypsy style. Both are made with a taller profile and do not fit properly unless you eliminate the bottom base.

    I did get both to work enough to listen by using a long shim underneath. But the tone was not what I wanted. I used them both on an archtop previously and they are way to "pingy" and bright, almost brittle, (think Telecaster bridge pu sound) on archtops or the gypsy.

    The Schatten was poorly made, sound was mid range the Fishman was well made, but the natural sound of the Archtops or Gypsy did not come through.

    So tried and I love the natural sound the K&K pickups strive to capture. I can get what I want using two models of external archtop pickups.

    But I have to make a bridge a with wider base. The wider feet or base of the bridge I have almost finished can accommodate all of the piezo.

    I am almost finished with a one piece ebony bridge. I made one purposely to use two K&K types of under-bridge pickups That is three under foot and one piezo is supposed to go on the guitar top.

    I can use volume, tone, effects and playing styles to get diverse sounds from these two.

    This is one K&K Archtop underfoot model I use in my gypsy. It is natural, mellow and rich and easy to install (entirely external).

    Th Pure Maccaferri, also an external, has more highs and mids. But still has a natural sound.

    I'm a variety guitarist who recently purchased a D Hole 14 Fret Manouche Drom Altamira.

    I play a swath of intermediate guitar music from various Blues styles to smooth Jazz to Pop Standards to Bossa Nova to Calypso to Reggae to Gaelic/Celtic to Gypsy-ish, To Country Rock and Bluegrass sounding fusion.

    So my goals are certainly different than most people who read or post here.

    I dont like the bright punchy sound of the usual Gypsy Guitar set up. I like listening to it and respect the greats who use a pick and go for that sound.

    But, for me, it lacks some of the warmth and lows I desire. And I prefer using my fingers and flat wounds.

    So I go for Thimasek Infield light flat wounds.

    This combination of pickups and bridge does the trick to make my guitar versatile.

    I can't really get a Martin Flat Picking bluegrass sound or a Selmer Django sound, but can get many more sounds than those offer.

    "We dont have laws that govern what type of music we can play on what guitar".

    If you want to play smooth Jazz on a copper resonator, DO IT! If you want to play Gypsy on a Tele, DO IT.


    Just my take.

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