Bridge Types and Neck Angle

There is some confusion out there about neck angles and what type of bridge should be used when building a guitar.  This article attempts to clear up some of the confusion.   In general, there are 2 types of bridges, flat, or Strat type bridges, and Gibson or Tune-O-Matic type bridges.  It is possible to put the wrong bridge on a guitar and make it work, but that usually requires routing the body or shimming the bridge.


Most of the necks I build are made for Tune-O-Matic type bridges.  Even though they are height adjustable, these bridges are a bit taller than Strat type bridges(approx. 5/8” and 3/8” respectively).  On most Strat type guitars the strings run parallel to the top of the body, and the fretboard is about 3/8 higher than the top of the body to match the bridge height.   For a guitar with a Tune-O-Matic bridge, the strings do not run parallel to the top of the body, and the neck angle takes care of clearance for the bridge. 


Here is a side view of a Strat showing the stings running parallel to the top of the body:


Here is a side view of an SG with a Tune-O-Matic bridge, notice that the bridge is taller than the Stratbridge, and that the strings are closer to the body near the neck joint. 



Next, I will outline the 2 main types of bridges, Strat and Tune-O-Matic.


Strat type bridges:


Hardtail Strat type bridges mount on a flat surface, and generally only need holes drilled through the body for the strings.  Although, there are a few Strat type bridges, like the one I sell on my web site, where the strings can be run through the back of the bridge instead.


Most Strat type tremolo bridges mount to a flat surface or need routing done to the body because the springs for the tremolo are generally on the underside of the body.  Kahler does make a flat mount tremolo, but does require some routing.  Floyd Rose tremolos also require routing, and are generally about the same height as a Strat type bridge, but can be adjusted to replace a Tune-O-Maticbridge(see below).  On almost all Strat type bridges the string height can be adjusted individually.   


Tune-O-Matic type bridges:


One disadvantage to Tune-O-Matic bridges is that most of them do not have individual string height adjustment.  The string height is based on the curvature of the bridge, which should match the neck radius.  One exception is the Quad bridge found on some early B.C. Rich guitars.  It’s no longer manufactured, and can only fit guitars that have large studs going into the guitar next to the bridge.  If the guitar has a tailpiece, the Quad bridge won’t work.


Some Tune-O-Matic type bridges include the tailpiece and bridge as one unit.  This was common on Les Paul Juniors and older B. C. Rich guitars.  These bridges mount on 2 large studs.  Most of the Tune-O-Matic bridges, however use a separate tailpiece.  The bridge attaches to the guitar using smaller studs for the bridge, and larger studs for the tailpiece.  This is a Schaller Bridge/Tailpiece.  Notice there are only 2 large studs:



And here is a typical Tune-O-Matic bridge with a stop tailpiece.  Notice the 2 small studs for the bridge, and the 2 larger studs for the tailpiece: 



To replace a Tune-O-Matic with a Floyd Rose requires a lot of routing, and the holes for the bridge and tailpiece posts will probably need to be filled in and holes drilled for the new posts.  But, since the posts are height adjustable, all you need to do is turn the posts until the bridge is the height you want.  Since Floyds pivot on 2 posts connected to the body, just raising the posts up will give you the correct height.


When choosing a bridge, play some guitars with different bridges on them and go with what feels best.  If you need a tremolo, take that into consideration.  I found that I can get by without a tremolo for most gigs, but I don’t play heavy metal, or do lots of Van Halen type tricks. 


One trick to building a neck, is to make sure the neck angle matches the bridge.  I can build necks for either type of bridge, but most of the Strat type necks I build will still have a slight angle because I use the same process for building all my necks.  I can build them straight, but I do charge extra for building a straight neck.


I hope this helps clear up any confusion about bridge types and neck angles.

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