The Telecaster in its traditional design, with the voluminous bridge with raised edges above its metal plate and the three saddles, has an undeniable charm, but the limits are obvious: how to replace the bridge with a modern one, with six saddles and without borders?
To tune the Telecaster
The guitar is an imperfect instrument, with a preconceived intonation, in which the more the sound is clear and defined, the more imperfections are noticed. When Leo Fender begins working on the project of what would become the Telecaster, he realizes that he will have to overcome an obstacle: deprived of most of the harmonics that make the acoustics sound complex, the solid body electric guitar would have highlighted dramatic way the imperfections of intonation, much more than on acoustics. A fortiori with a very powerful pickup, stuck right next to the bridge, to detect the finer nuances.
For this reason, his solid body guitar is born with a bridge equipped with three saddles (beautiful, brass) separated and adjustable, each for a pair of strings, which although not achieving perfect pitching still allows a good approximation, thanks to the greater caliber of the strings (the more the string is thin, the more it is altered when pressed) and the more sustained materials (the stiffer and tense string is more tiring, but less altered) used at the time. Over time someone begins to realize that – especially on SI and MI optimal regulation is a dream, often compromise is not enough. As always, the pragmatic Leo does not waste time modifying the existing one: he leaves the Telecaster as he is and invents another guitar, the Stratocaster, on whose bridge it is possible to regulate the intonation of the individual strings.
As always, even with the Telecaster Bridge, the need sharpens the ingenuity. So here are some solutions devised over the years to remedy a problem that has troubled guitarists for over twenty years, with Telecaster bridges whose saddles change shape and material.
- They are born in steel…
- Then they become brass…
- They come back in steel, and then in the late 50s they become thread…
- In the mid 60s they are again in steel with a groove on each side…
- But they always remain three and carry their intonation problems.
Fender Style Bridges
In 1973, Fender modifies the recent – at the time – Custom (the one with a humbucker in the neck) proposing it with a new bridge similar to the standard Telecaster, but with six saddles. The pitch is perfect, although some claim that the set is much less stable than the three saddles and lose twang and sustain. This bridge lasted as long as the Custom, until around 1979, but reappeared three years later as a gadget in the housing of the original Telecaster ’52 series produced at Fullerton.
In 1981 the Gold-Gold series was born, guitars with gold-plated hardware that follow the Strat and cost the producer more than they cost the purchaser. These include a Telecaster that looks like a black pimp of New Orleans, the Black and Gold, with a bridge with six saddles so massive and kitsch to become almost beautiful. But it lasts a moment and disappears.
With the adventure of Bill Schultz the American Standard lines are born. The Telecaster has a new American Standard bridge without raised edges, longer, with the ropes crossing the body again, even if the holes are in front of the fixing screws instead of behind. But that’s okay, aesthetically; the new bridge fits well with the new models and disturbs those who play less. Obviously it remains the classic three-saddle bridge on all the reissues Vintage, in series production and Custom Shop (this from 1989 onwards). A final scene shot (perhaps) many years later, in 2008, when the American Standard Telecaster appeared with a renewed bridge, always including the pickup, but equipped with six Stratocaster type steel saddles.
Wilkinson proposes a very ingenious bridge, with three central pivoted saddles that can be tilted around the pivot. The central screw blocks everything at the level reached. Joe Barden produced Danny Gatton’s pickups that had gone down in history for the absurd cost they came up with when Joe stopped producing them (pickups from the first series, those that used Danny, paid over $2.000 each). Obviously these figures have been so convincing that it has led Joe back to work, with a Gatton-type bridge with a lot of side scaling.
Jay Montrose is one of the most discussed characters in the American guitar microcosm. He was Danny’s friend. The Net teems with stories of guitars promised and never delivered despite the lavish advances, but its Vintique Bridge – similar to the Barden – is splendid. This too has the Gatton slanted saddles. The Hipshot Bridge follows another criterion. Instead of tilting the saddles, it creates different points of support for the individual strings. The system is great and the bridge is a magnificent mix of vintage and modern. The Callaham Bridge with steel saddles is also beautiful. The Glendale, last but not least, is just as beautiful.
Are you looking for a new bridge for your American Vintage Telecaster? Here it is, with its characteristic ashtray shape, with three adjustable brass saddles and the “Fender Pat. Pend” engraving. This is a chromed steel bridge, compatible with all vintage style canvases with string-through-body construction. The bridge is delivered complete with four screws for fixing with a “vintage head” slot head.
- The high power bridge originally released on the Hot Rod ’52 Telecaster with three intonatable special brass saddles with possibility of micro compensation for each string;
- Package also includes vintage style screws with head slot head, springs, slot-head bridge mounting screws and saddle height adjustment wrench.
Classic in this type of bridge are three unique brass saddles that adjust the strings in pairs in height and intonation (sometimes having to make compromises to reach an equitable adjustment), and that only make “support” for the strings, since they are not crossed by them. But the most striking feature of this model is, undoubtedly, the metal plate that embraces the saddles and the bridge pickup, and that gives the Telecaster its unmistakable appearance and sound.
In short, this Bridge is a meeting of features designed to please those who seek certain purism, but without entering the relic grounds or the exact replicas, enjoying an aspect of newly purchased and with some appropriate concessions. With this type of fixed bridge we will have stability in the tuning at low cost, since this bridge does not incorporate any type of mechanism, such as a Vibrato system. This does not mean that high-end guitars can carry this type of bridge, but that the same guitar with a fixed bridge will be cheaper than riding another type of bridge, especially when compared to a floating bridge.
This bridge consists of only three saddles, each saddle supporting the pressure of two strings, to cross the body later and be fixed in an interior piece. This is beneficial for the sustain, as the saddles have a greater contact against the bridge, but the intonation is less precise than in bridges with individual saddles for each string, being able to notice misfit in the tuning, especially when we play in the lower part of the fretboard, and mostly with powerful distortion effects.
To intonation a Telecaster with Vintage Bridge, we can only intone the first, the sixth and the fourth string, or compensate the intonation of both strings of the same saddle, all the strings having a very slight deviation. To give the curvature to the strings on vintage-style Telecaster bridges, we will have to slightly unlevel the saddles on the sides so that the strings take curvature and do not remain staggered.
One of the symptoms that we take most seriously when testing an instrument is Pickup. Of course, the output level it delivers is moderate, so making a good tandem between the correct amplifier sound and the selected pickup is key. The pickup uses Alnico II magnets and a vintage coil wrapping technique.
A chromed bridge with six saddles is for use on the Standard Series Telecaster manufactured from 2004. It includes string-thru-body plate, six adjustable block-style saddles and height adjustment screws.
The mission of the saddles is to be able to configure some aspects of the strings. If you happen to try a Tele with a bridge with three saddles and evaluate yourself, consider that normally for those who often use the palm muting the bridge to three harnesses is a handicap. If you think that your Tele at intonation level is good keep your bridge six saddles, surely it is more comfortable. Assuming there are differences in sound you will not notice it if not in a professional recording studio, so the two unknowns to be evaluated can be intonation and comfort.
The fixed bridge presents a much better tuning seal, even with non-excellent mechanics. Another fundamental feature of fixed bridges is represented by the maintenance of the pitch during the bending of the five strings that we are not playing.
What may be the defect of these bridges is easily understood. Being fixed can be a limit with regard to the expressiveness of the guitar. In fact, with the whammy bar you can get a lot more sounds than with a fixed bridge. This feature is certainly not to be underestimated, especially for those who are beginners: practicing the pitch of bending will be much easier.
The Telecaster bridge plate designed by Babicz allows you to mount the strings on both the top and the body and has six saddles designed for a more extended contact point in all conditions. It uses ECAM technology to mount the strings by passing them through the body, either top-mount or secured directly to the bridge. The Full Contact Hardware direct coupling system is designed to remain always adherent to the deck plate and transmit it to all the vibrations of the string improving tone and sustain. Height adjustments are allowed through a proprietary system based on a small cylinder with a groove on which the string rests.
It is one of the simplest, but that does not make it less practical. It consists of a metal piece fixed to the body of the guitar, equipped with six saddles (one per string), through which the strings will pass. It is a bridge that we will often find in the Telecasters and Stratocasters Hardtail, but that, in fact, we can find applied to almost any guitar on the market, even the most economical ones.
With the modern or vintage bridge with six saddles, it does not even need to be said, it is normally adjusted, better a few hours after a change of strings. First adjust the height, then adjust, then check that the relief (curvature of the neck) is in place and only at this point occurs the octave (this procedure is valid for all bridges of course). If it is waning it is necessary to bring the harness closer to the nut, unscrewing the adjusting screw, if it is growing it goes away by screwing it.