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String Thru Or Stop Tailpiece?


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I can't decide on whether to use a string thru design or a standard stop tailpiece on my Dean Cadillac I'm building. It's going to have a TOM bridge. I'm wondering what the pros and cons are to help me decide. The only string thru guitar I've ever owned was an Ibanez Flying V copy made in 1976. I don't really remember how it affected the string tension or anything else. What is the general consensus on this?

Thanks for any info and opinions. :D

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I suspect a few other people will agree with me here-- do whichever one you think LOOKS better. In the huge equation of your guitar's tone, it won't make a shred of tangible difference.

I think a stop tailpiece is less "fiddly" because you don't have grommets or perfectly-aligned string-through holes to worry about. I DO like the look of a string-through with TOM, though.

Greg

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For me the main conceern is FEEL!

I don't like the feel of the angled neck with the strings far away from the body. I love the look of a tom and the ease of instalation with the stop piece., but that's all. tone wise like Grg mentioned, I don't hear any difference and sustain wise I think they are the same.

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Yeah, this strings through the body thing just strikes me as more voodoo than anything else. And it just doesn't make sense that running strings through holes in the guitar should have any real effect on the tone or sustain --maybe on a hollowbody, but on a solidbody? I can't see it. Wasn't it Fender that started the string-through thing? If so, then it was surely done as a means of cutting their production costs, not for any other reason :D

But there's a huge difference in look, like Greg says. So go with the one that you like most.

Of course, getting those string through ferrules perfectly lined up isn't easy.

Personally, I prefer a wraparound compensated, only two holes to worry about. And you don't have to worry about downward pressure on the saddles either.

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marksound I think that's a reasonable assumption seeing as old style tele bridges are strung through the back wheras later fender guitars are through body or through the trem block.

:D my vote for stop tail piece because they're a hell of a lot less fiddly! I don't see how anyone can say that it will affect the tone seeing as the strings aren't vibrating once they're reached the tailpiece/body. The BRIDGE is what will affect the tone if anything! :D so don't by an aluminuim stop tail its a waist of money!

Robert

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in contrast to what many of you have said i belive it may slightly increase sustain as the presure on the tom would be increased due to the greater break angle of the strings comming through the body rather than a stop tail peice, but for looks a tom just has to go with a stop tail peice then again i dont like toms that much. hope all goes well with the project

Edited by George Brown
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Godin guitars did a great job with the non-tailpiece TOM, strictly in terms of looks. Their LG series would look wonky with anything other than what it has. :D BUT, for the most part I prefer with tailpiece, or as suggested, with a one-piece wraparound.

Greg

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in contrast to what many of you have said i belive it may slightly increase sustain as the presure on the tom would be increased due to the greater break angle of the strings comming through the body rather than a stop tail peice

You don't necessarily get a greater angle with a string-through - depends on the neck angle and bridge height. Too much break angle and the strings will rub on the back of the TOM.

I'd like to think that my chambered string-through will resonate better than if I had used a stop bar, but it's purely conjecture on my part... I went string-through for the looks. I prefer not to cover pretty wood with extra hardware... or pickguards! :D

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Great feedback so far, I appreciate the input. BUT, what about the effect on STRING TENSION due to the longer overall length of strings with a string thru?? I'm just as concerned about string bending and ease of wide vibrato as anything else.

Edited by Stolysmaster
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The string tension will be completely unaffected, with one caveat and a brief explanation:

brief explanation:

- to tune to pitch with the same string guage on 2 guitars with the same scale but totally different bridge or headstock styles, the actual tension of the strings is absolutely identical. Physics doesn't care what's happening before or after the bridge, but the tension must be the same for the same pitch.

caveat:

- the illusion of different string tensions and the FACT of different sensation and size of bend needed for vibrato/pitch bend comes down to how much extra string is left before your tuning posts or "tailpiece" (calling even a string-through style a "tailpiece"). When you bend, there's more string to "stretch out" and the CHANGE in tension is distributed across either more or less string length depending on your setup.

Now, due to other things like friction, you don't always end up distributing throughout the entire string. On a TOM with string-through, a lot of the distribution will stop at the bridge itself because there's a fairly solid connection with a lot of friction there. And then another "bunching up" point at the grommets where the string passes through the body. So you're not necessarily and literally stretching the entire string, no matter WHAT method you use.

conclusion:

The actual method of attachment will still be largely irrelevant. You MAY find that with a string-through you require a slightly wider bend or wiggle to change the pitch noticeably, but I really honestly doubt it. The TOM bridge itself (and the way its steel saddles work) will effectively still maintain the bridge as the "end" point even for bends and vibrato. The headstock/nut has less friction to "stop" the string in its place, so THAT's where any "stretching" is more likely to occur.

I still think that it's so miniscule a factor that you should choose based on which you prefer the look of.

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  • 10 months later...
Hey Mick, you got me thinking (that's always scary),

Apparently I'm not supposed to do that anymore. :D Hard to control myself...Anyway, I've been wondering about this question again, since I'm planning an Esquire-type guitar and since at least some versions of those were top-mounted, I'm thinking I'll just go with that. Besides, I already have the bridge for that.

so here's one for the experts/historians. Is it possible that Leo decided to go string-through because he was having trouble with not enough down angle on the toploaders? Don't know, just asking.

I'm wondering about the string-tension on the saddles problem, especially since this bridge has the loading holes at the top of the plate.

The Fender top-loaders I've seen have the holes at the bottom of the plate --so the string angle is pretty much the same as a string through, just slightly wider. Unless the original Esquire bridges had the holes at the top of the plate?

But with the bridge I have, the downward pressure on the saddles will be pretty minimal --this is the same bridge I used on the Bocaster back before I took it apart. I don't recall having troubles with the strings bouncing out of the saddles. The guitar sounded pretty good.

I'm coming back to the top-load idea because of a conversation I had with my guitar teacher--he started talking about how much he loves Les Pauls, especially when he's playing something that needs a lot of sustain.

It got me thinking, since Les Pauls are top-loaded. And I started wondering what the point is of sending the strings through all that wood. It's not like they actually touch the wood, and even if they did, you'd think the wood would kill the vibration more than anything else. Maybe that's the point?

Or does it make more sense that you'd want the strings to be fixed to the metal bridge or tailpiece.

Which comes back to why Fender designed the string through idea--maybe it's just like Marksound says, it's to keep those flimsy saddles from bouncing around?

In which case, doesn't it make more sense to find a way to fix the saddles down?

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I'm certainly not a luthier of many guitar experience. But for my part I think the string through is a much nicer look. As previously mentioned less hardware is nice. Especially in some guitars where there isn't that much space in the bout. My first build was with a hand made tail piece and my second build is with string through using my own ferrul design. I'm in the process of making a lapsteel with string through because of a shortened length.

It's all in the eye of the beholder. I like the string through look. :D

Edited by MCH
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The string tension will be completely unaffected, with one caveat and a brief explanation:

brief explanation:

- to tune to pitch with the same string guage on 2 guitars with the same scale but totally different bridge or headstock styles, the actual tension of the strings is absolutely identical. Physics doesn't care what's happening before or after the bridge, but the tension must be the same for the same pitch.

caveat:

- the illusion of different string tensions and the FACT of different sensation and size of bend needed for vibrato/pitch bend comes down to how much extra string is left before your tuning posts or "tailpiece" (calling even a string-through style a "tailpiece"). When you bend, there's more string to "stretch out" and the CHANGE in tension is distributed across either more or less string length depending on your setup.

Now, due to other things like friction, you don't always end up distributing throughout the entire string. On a TOM with string-through, a lot of the distribution will stop at the bridge itself because there's a fairly solid connection with a lot of friction there. And then another "bunching up" point at the grommets where the string passes through the body. So you're not necessarily and literally stretching the entire string, no matter WHAT method you use.

conclusion:

The actual method of attachment will still be largely irrelevant. You MAY find that with a string-through you require a slightly wider bend or wiggle to change the pitch noticeably, but I really honestly doubt it. The TOM bridge itself (and the way its steel saddles work) will effectively still maintain the bridge as the "end" point even for bends and vibrato. The headstock/nut has less friction to "stop" the string in its place, so THAT's where any "stretching" is more likely to occur.

I still think that it's so miniscule a factor that you should choose based on which you prefer the look of.

+1000. Thanks for this post Greg. This myth about string length and tension has propagated more than probably any other guitar myth.

And I vote for string-through too, because I think it looks a huge amount better. But pick the one you like better.

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