The guitar bridge is one of the most significant parts of the tone producing network on the acoustic guitar or the classical guitar.
If the guitar bridge is not constructed properly, installed properly or not constructed of the proper materials, it can cause the luthier a considerable amount of grief and the result is a guitar that has reduced volume and tone production qualities.
What is the Role of the Guitar Bridge?
The guitar bridge is one of the most significant members in the chain of sound producing elements of our acoustic guitars.
Primary Role of the Bridge: The primary role of the bridge is to provide a secure attachment of the strings to the guitar at the end opposite the guitar tuners. Obviously this attachment needs to be very secure to resist the nearly constant tension of 200 lbs. that the normal medium gage strings place on the average acoustic guitar.
Secondary Role of the Bridge: The secondary role of the bridge is to transmit the vibrations produced by strumming the guitar strings, directly and efficiently to the guitar top plate.
Last Role of the Bridge: The last role of the guitar bridge is merely a cosmetic one. The guitar bridge should be designed to ‘fit-in’ with the design of the guitar, both in size, shape, wood and color. It should also be comfortable to rest your hand on the bridge while playing the instrument.
Types of Guitar Bridges:
There are many types of bridges that are made for the acoustic guitar and subset versions of each of these. The classical guitar, having a lot more history has gravitated toward one primarily type of bridge, and you will see that bridge used on viturally every modern and vintage classical guitar.
The classical bridge consists of a saddle area, a tie block and the bridge wings, which transmit the vibrations very efficiently to the classical guitar top plate. The bridge is glued directly to the top of the guitar top plate, without any additional attachment.
Acoustic Guitar Belly Bridge:
This is probably the most often used bridge, and the one with the most significance. It was introduced by the C.F. Martin Co. in the early 1930’s with their introduction of the Dreadnought Guitar. It is very elegant and efficient and truly follows the axiom ‘form follows function’. This bridge features a bellied plan-form, a captured saddle slot, and curved bridge ramps. This guitar bridge is most commonly attached to the guitar top plate using glue only.
Acoustic Guitar Prism Bridge:
Again, this was introduced by C.F. Martin and is now used on their Vintage re-issue guitars. Differences from the belly bridge are numerous, such as a rectangular plan-form, prism-shaped ramps and a through saddle. This guitar bridge is most commonly attached to the guitar top plate using glue only.
Acoustic Guitar Moustache Bridge:
This was introduced by The Gibson Guitar Co. in many of their acoustic guitars introduced during what is know as the ‘pre-war series’, which means prior to WWII. This is similar to the belly bridge in that it utilizes a captured saddle, but the plan-form is very different and moustache-shaped, where it gets its name. The bridge pin configuration is usually fan-shaped or in an arc. Gibson often used supplemental mechanical fasteners to secure the guitar bridge to the guitar top plate.
There you have it. These are the most commonly used bridges you will see on a classical or acoustic guitar. Each has its dedicated followers and reasons for using them.