What is the Most Important Part of an Electric Guitar or Bass?
Not many people give this much thought, but like many other guitar techs, I have given this much thought. Why do some players change out their tuning keys and pickups in the quest for perfection but completely disregard their bridge?
Let’s look at the tuning keys. Sure they are very important, but they do one job and that is to loosen and tighten the string. And yes, they better do it well or the instrument is going to go out of tune. The bridge is also responsible for the tuning of the instrument and the bridge provides intonation that is critical for that tuning.
Now let’s look at the pickups. A pickup can alter your sound from thin and tinny to fat and distorted and anywhere in between on the sound spectrum. But without a good solid anchor that attaches the strings to the body, that sound is going to be degraded. Energy from that vibrating string is going to be sucked into the vibrating parts on a bad bridge and not picked up by your pickup.
What about the nut? Players often change those out to bone or graphite. The nut is the other anchor for your strings and is very important, but it just sits there. The nut holds your strings up to the proper height and separates the strings by the proper distances from each other as well as the edges of the fretboard. A bridge must do all of those things, but it should also adjust to the proper positions and hold them in place solidly.
And think about all of those strings that are breaking at your bridge. How many break at the nut? Almost all string breaks occur at the bridge, so the angle at which the strings lay over the bridge saddle is very important. The saddle should not create kinks both for string health and sound health.
Body materials can be thought of as important parts, and many variations have been used; from the fine, beautiful Honduran mahogany of a Les Paul to the slabs of Masonite used on a Danelectro. Every instrument body has its own sound, but that sound can’t come through strongly unless the strings are attached through a rock-solid connection at the bridge.
So I argue and contend that of all the important components of an electric guitar and bass, the bridge holds them all together. What do you think?