What is the bridge on a guitar? (explained)
A piece that anchors strings to the body of the guitar.
The bridge is a piece that fixes the strings to the body of the guitar, thus responsible for setting and adjusting the height of the strings. It's also part of how vibrations are transmitted to the guitar's body, especially on an acoustic guitar.
A guitar cannot function without a bridge, since the bridge is responsible for anchoring and adjusting the strings while also playing a part in transferring string vibrations to the guitar's body.
This is especially true in the case of an acoustic guitar.
The bridge is placed on the lower part of a guitar's body (the lower bout) where the strings are connected.
There are several different types of guitar bridges, some of which fix strings in place with different methods. Fixed bridges and floating tremolos are the most common bridge types.
We'll cover the four most common bridge types.
Most Common Guitar Bridge Types
There are several types of bridges used in guitars, but the most common ones are fixed, tremolo, and locking. We'll give a brief overview of all three.
Fixed bridges are always used on acoustic guitars and often on electric guitars.
Fixed bridges are straightforward and require little maintenance, making them popular among players who prefer a stable tuning and simple setup. They're also more popular among rhythm focused guitar players.
Note that there are several variations of a fixed bridge depending on the brand and model of the guitar. A few of the most common include:
- String-thru body design
- Stopbar tailpiece
Tremolo Bridge (floating and non-floating)
This might also be called a whammy or vibrato bridge, since it allows guitar players to manipulate the pitch of the notes by moving the bridge back and forth with a handle. This creates a variation of the tremolo effect. Tremolo bridges are good fits for lead guitar players, and those who enjoy adding expressive pitch variations to their playing.
Tremolo bridges can be either floating or non-floating. A floating bridge uses a suspension system which allows you to pitch shift by pushing the bar either back or forward, so the pitch goes up or down.
The locking systems we'll discuss below are a sub-category of floating tremolos.
Locking Tremolos (Floyd Rose and Edge Zero systems)
The last bridge type we'll discuss is called a locking tremolo system.
This is a type of floating tremolo that locks the strings at both the bridge and the headstock, and allows for more significant fluctuations in pitch without coming out of a tune.
In fact, these systems can be pulled so low by the trem bar that the strings sort of collapse as though they haven't been wound.
When the bar is let back up, tuning hasn't been effected at all.
Floyd Rose is the most popular type of locking tremolo, but Ibanez has created several of their own variations.
- Floyd Rose
- Ibanez Edge Zero
Wrap Up and Questions
The bridge is an important part of both electric and acoustic guitars. You'll find more variations on electrics, since they're made with a solid body and can support more intricate bridge designs.
But in either case, it's important to have a handle on the different types and how they function and what kind you want on your guitar.
If you have questions about bridges, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.