Bridges

I recommend the 3-footed Grover style bridge (maple with ebony top). Try to avoid the bone insert style. These inserts are usually ill-fitted and can dampen the volume. The bridge should be at least 5/8” tall or higher. Any shorter will bring strings too close to the head, which could cause pick noise on the head, as well as a noticeable loss in volume. Some custom-made bridges, such as the Snuffy Smith Bridge, are available in several heights up to 3/4”. A taller bridge can increase the volume significantly, but it does change the feel of the picking hand. This will have a lot to do with the size of your hand, so it’s a good idea to try a few to find the right one for you. The taller bridge will raise the action, so an adjustment will have to be made if you want to maintain the same action. The spacing between the strings is critical. They should be evenly spaced.

Standard spacing from the 1st to 5th strings is 1-11/16”. Some players prefer a slightly wider spacing of 1-3/4”. This is sometimes referred to as “Crowe” spacing. The wider spacing has certain advantages: more room for “inside rolls” (middle finger on 2nd string) and it feels less cramped for players with larger hands. There is usually a good bit of ebony on most bridges. The existing slots can be sanded away, and you can experiment with some different spacings. Regular bridges only run $3 or $4, so it’s a relatively inexpensive test. This can help a very young child who is learning to play. String spacing can be narrowed to make it easier to play.

Bridges and Tone

The thickness of a bridge can have a major effect on the tone of your instrument. A thicker than standard bridge can increase the volume and give a fuller, bassier tone. However, too thick will start having a muting effect, possibly dulling the sound somewhat. Thinner bridges have the opposite effect. The tone will be much brighter and sharper, but too thin will make the tone harsher. Also, a very thin bridge will sag much sooner under string pressure.