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Nearly every part of a guitar will impact the tone it produces. This holds for both electric and acoustic guitars. From the type of wood, the shape of the guitar, the pickups used, or strings, anything changed to a guitar can influence its sound. This is also true for the bridge.
The overall quality (and associated price) will often contribute to the initial tone of the guitar, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave the guitar as it came. Guitars are highly customizable, from the tuners to the pickups, to the bridge (and many other parts); you have many options to tweak and adjust your guitar to get the exact tone and playability you are looking for.
Just how important is the bridge? Will it really make a difference in tone? To answer that question, we must know the difference between cheap and expensive guitar bridges.
So, what is the difference?
Expensive guitar bridges tend to be made of higher quality, more durable material. Expensive bridges are also often made by well-known brands with a long history of producing quality and reliable products. Lastly, you can expect a high-functioning bridge with fantastic playability with more expensive bridges.
Below we will look in more detail at what these differences are and how they might impact the tone and playability of the guitar.
Why Is The Guitar Bridge So Important?
Without the bridge, you wouldn’t really be able to play the guitar. Even shovel (and other novelty guitars) have a bridge.
A quick note: The bridge is where the strings cross before being attached, whereas the saddle is where the strings come to rest. If you want to learn more about this important distinction, check out this article here.
The guitar bridge is vital, as it is the primary support for the strings until they reach the nut. Further, the bridge is essential for transmitting the vibration of the plucked strings, which is how sound is produced on the guitar, as stated by B.E. Richardson . In acoustic guitars, this vibration is transmitted to the soundboard. With electric guitars, the vibrations are transmitted to the pickups.
Since the bridge is so important for securing the strings in place and for transmitting string vibration, we can begin to understand the immense importance of this piece of the guitar. The guitar bridge can absolutely affect the overall tone of your guitar, so ensuring you have a good bridge is essential.
However, if you have been involved in playing guitar for a while, you might have noticed there are many different types of bridges on cheap and expensive guitars. So if there isn’t one particular style of guitar bridge used for specific price ranges, what makes a guitar bridge cheap or expensive?
What Is The Difference Between A Cheap And Expensive Guitar Bridge?
Like the difference between cheap and expensive basses or guitars, the reasons why a particular bridge is cheap or expensive are nuanced. For example, as I mentioned earlier, a $5,000 Custom Shop Gibson Les Paul might have the same style of bridge as a $100 Epiphone Les Paul. However, just because a bridge looks similar doesn’t necessarily mean it is similar.
So what is going on here? How can two seemingly similar bridges have vastly different price points and ultimately vastly different tonal qualities? Below we will explore four that contribute to a guitar bridge being cheap or expensive.
Reason #1: The Materials Used To Make The Bridge
Much like many other components of guitars and other instruments, cheap and expensive guitar bridges will be made from the same materials, mostly some type of metal on electric guitars and either wood, plastic, or bone on acoustics.
A good example of the same type of material but of a different quality/combination would be regarding cymbals. As I wrote in the article on why cymbals are so expensive, both high-priced and cheap cymbals are made of some combination of bronze, brass, and nickel (for the most part). The different amounts of each metal make a difference. For example, B20 (80% bronze) cymbals tend to be more expensive than B12 or B8 cymbals.
A similar idea holds for guitar bridges. To some degree, the type of material used can influence the price of a guitar bridge, but less than cymbals. In fact, overall, the actual materials used to make the bridge won’t determine its price nearly as much as the other reasons listed below.
An inevitable question that arises when discussing different materials for guitar bridges or any other component on a guitar is whether or not the material will influence the tone. The video below showcases a few different bridges of different materials so you can better understand the differences in materials and their impact on the tone.
However, the manufacturing quality of the guitar bridge does matter. Especially if you need to screw it into the guitar, the quality of the screws and everything else that comes with those more expansive guitar bridge kits can make a big difference in overall quality and, thus, the price.
Further, when considering acoustic bridges and the difference between plastic, wood, and bone, the type of material can sometimes affect the price and quality of the bridge and its longevity. This idea leads us to reason number two; durability.
Reason #2: Durability
While it is not guaranteed, the more expensive the guitar bridge is, the better durability you can expect. There will always be chances of quality control issues, but it is less likely with the more expensive models.
There is a good chance that the more expensive and durable a bridge is, the higher quality of material used to build it as well.
Reason #3: Brand Name
While the brand name of the guitar bridge has a smaller impact on the cost than it does for guitars, drum sets, basses, and even things like guitar pickups, it also makes a difference for guitar bridges.
For example, a Floyd Rose setup can cost upwards of $360, and a full Bigsby setup can cost over $400. Even a simple Gibson bridge can cost upwards of $80. While these prices can seem relatively high, it is often a good idea to opt for a reliable, reputable brand when purchasing a new guitar component.
This isn’t to say that lesser-known brands can’t produce high-quality products; they often do. However, choosing a brand that has stood the test of time is not a bad way to go when in doubt. This is true whether you are looking to upgrade an already expensive guitar or if you are working on a project guitar and looking to upgrade to a lower-quality guitar.
Reason #4: Function & Playability
The last reason on our list closely relates to the third reason, as buying brand-name bridges often means you can expect a high-functioning component and great playability. However, at the end of the day, playability is the most important factor. I know several fantastic guitar players that play off-brand or cheaper guitars, but they are set up in a way that suits their playing style, and as a result, they sound fantastic.
Function and playability are extremely important for any bridge, but when it comes to tremolo systems like the Floyd Rose, it is vital that the playing experience is flawless. This is why Floyd Rose setups tend to be expensive, but you will be assured that you will get the ultimate playing experience from it.
There you have it! Four reasons that help to explain the difference between cheap and expensive guitar bridges.
I hope you have learned something from this article and that it has helped you make an informed purchase decision.
Until next time, stay creative and keep on playing!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.