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Wrap Around Bridge - Benefits?


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I've been thinking about Wrap around bridges and if there is any benefit over TOM bridge + tailpiece system as used on many Gibsons

A few years ago (2008) I was looking to buy a guitar and I was impressed with a PRS which had a wrap around bridge. But then I tried a Les Paul and preferred the tone, but also wasn't sure about the intonation flexibility of the PRS bridge

So I ended up buying a Les Paul but it stuck in my mind how much clarity the PRS had and always wondered if it had anything to do with the wraparound bridge. I thought it couldn't just be the extra scale length because its not that much longer

Any thoughts etc. on this topic?

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I'm building a copy of a Les Paul junior using one. Tbh it's more due to insistence of the future owner than any choice of mine. There again he believes in tone wood voodoo too :D

They can be a bit costly for decent ones (for what they are, especially if fixed, compensated intonation) and the cheaper ones can be a bit ropey on quality. I'm not fully convinced that I really want a twisting force on the bridge and would have probably used a separate bridge & anchor given a choice... and some intonation adjustment. Ho-hum :)

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9 hours ago, Norris said:

...I'm not fully convinced that I really want a twisting force on the bridge...:)

Yes that's something that occurred to me and is it something to be concerned about? Maybe, maybe not. But what I'm thinking is with this type of bridge there is no loss of string vibration into the wood, after all this is what acoustic bridges are like. (come to think of it, Teles and hard-tail Strats would be much the same)

As for intonation, the PRS I saw had quite a simple bridge with minimal adjustability but I know there are plenty of bridges out there to choose from now that seem to have plenty of adjustability. But does adjustability compromise any benefits?

Also -

With no string behind the bridge to flex, there is greater increase in pitch when bending a string. Which might be desirable while playing but it also comes into effect when simply just pressing the string to fretboard - and this will have an effect on intonation. So a wraparound bridge has a double-whammy effect on intonation

There is this guitar by Gibson, The Howard Roberts Fusion. You are able to adjust the string behind the bridge and the purpose for this has something to do with what I'm talking about (although I think some people get confused about its purpose)

https://goo.gl/images/8gXEQ6

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1 hour ago, Crusader said:

But what I'm thinking is with this type of bridge there is no loss of string vibration into the wood, after all this is what acoustic bridges are like. (come to think of it, Teles and hard-tail Strats would be much the same)

I'm not sure an acoustic or thru-body bridge is analogous to a wraparound tailpiece in terms of transfering string vibrations into the body. In the former the string ball end is anchored to the body at right angles to the strings' path, exerting a force that simultaneously pulls upward and towards the nut, which also creates downfoce on the saddle, pressing it back against the top of the guitar. The wraparound tailpiece only allows the tension of the string to pull towards the nut. All the levering action is at the point at which the wraparound studs enter the body. There is minimal downforce on the saddles. If anything I'd expect the wraparound to transfer the least amount of string energy into the body of the two.

 

1 hour ago, Crusader said:

With no string behind the bridge to flex, there is greater increase in pitch when bending a string.

There is string behind the saddle to flex; just less of it. It wraps around the outside of the bridge with the ball end facing 180 degrees to the string.

 

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Which might be desirable while playing but it also comes into effect when simply just pressing the string to fretboard - and this will have an effect on intonation. So a wraparound bridge has a double-whammy effect on intonation

 

I reckon you'd be hard pressed to detect any differences in intonation.

Feel might change a little. Less string behind the saddle to flex suggests that it should feel 'stiffer' to bend. But I'm not sure I could personally detect the difference in bendy-ness between a LP Tune-o-matic and a wraparound given exactly the same guitar. It'd be an interesting experiment to conduct if you could arrange it :)

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7 hours ago, curtisa said:

I reckon you'd be hard pressed to detect any differences in intonation.

Feel might change a little. Less string behind the saddle to flex suggests that it should feel 'stiffer' to bend. But I'm not sure I could personally detect the difference in bendy-ness between a LP Tune-o-matic and a wraparound given exactly the same guitar. It'd be an interesting experiment to conduct if you could arrange it :)

there is a sister experiment that might be easier to implement: take a double-locking FR guitar (optionally - lock the bridge in place with some wedges or whatever) and compare feel with the locking nut engaged and loosened.

Never tried it myself so I can't comment on how much of the difference can be felt. There's also talk about reverse headstock vs non-reverse in the context of string lengths behind the nut etc.

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To tell you the truth after thinking about all this my head is hurting. I agree there is some incorrectness about my statements, but there is always some amount of downward pressure on the saddles (there has to be) Looking around at images of wraparound bridges, some have more some have less. However what I think I'm getting at most is with a wraparound there is only one point of contact with the body, whereas a TOM bridge has two points of contact

Thinking about the comparison between an acoustic bridge and a wraparound, yes I can see how the acoustic is a little bit more like a TOM. On a wraparound perhaps the downward force is achieved through the "rotational force" - or is it like having a big fan on a sailing boat and expecting it to go?

Good points about the Floyd and the reverse headstock. I was going to mention the Floyd, if you are bending a string to reach a certain pitch you have to push it further than if you had a fixed bridge. This was pointed out to me by Rob Formentin several years ago, however I couldn't tell the difference LOL

Lets see - If you had a locking nut on a guitar with a wraparound bridge, then compared it with a Stratocaster (i.e. no locking nut) You might then notice some difference (I mean I might notice the difference LOL)

Edited by Crusader
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Well, just tried doing a locknut open vs locknut closed comparison and I can't feel the difference. There obviously is some stretching occuring behind then nut because if I bend a string, clamp the nut while holding the string bent and then release the string the resting pitch of the string is marginally flatter than when it started. If I then release the locknut, that pre-bent string then returns sharper to the correct pitch.

I made some measurements to see if there was a difference in distance it took to bend a string up with the lock nut engaged or disengaged. The 3rd string was fretted at the 9th position (E) and bent a full step up to F#. For each E and F# I used a Peterson strobe tuner to make sure I was nailing the pitch for both static and bent strings. Calipers were utilised to measure the deflection of the string using the edge of the fretboard as a reference:

  • Static distance of 3rd string from treble edge of fretboard at 9th position = 21.11mm
  • Distance from treble edge of fretboard, bending up to F#, locknut off = 34.27mm (deflection = 13.16mm)
  • Distance from treble edge of fretboard, bending up to F#, locknut on = 33.26mm (deflection = 12.15mm)

1mm difference is about 8% change in deflection required to raise the string pitch a full step, but in practice I personally can't tell the difference; It just gets absorbed into the mechanics of my playing. The deflection difference may be more pronounced if the Floyd wasn't fully floating and was blocked off.

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Yes I didn't notice the difference either but I understand the reasoning behind it. With a Floyd if you bend the strings the Floyd springs are going to give way a bit. Excellent that you went to the trouble of experimenting. Just thinking, normally with a Floyd you have the nut locked so that would perhaps counter-act the effect. A bit of flex from the bridge end rather than the headstock end

On the Howard Roberts Fusion I just googled it and realised I had it wrong, the Finger Tailpiece doesn't alter the string length it alters the string angle which increases/decreases the amount of downward pressure on the Bridge. Either way I think it must have a similar effect. I can't remember the reason that Howard Roberts wanted it on his guitars other than it changes the feel of the guitar. Apparently they also had this type of Tailpiece on Banjos too

Reading comments on forums, a lot of people don't notice any difference with their adjustment but obviously some people do

http://www.poshguitars.com/guitar-list/2010-gibson-howard-roberts-fusion-iii/

 

DSC_7847.jpg

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A quick research on the topic of the finger tailpiece on the HR Fusion III suggests that the idea was borrowed from banjos, which have used the same finger fine tuner mechanism for a lot longer than the Fusion III was in production. Interestingly there is no mention that these changed the tension or feel of the string; rather they were used to adjust the tonal balance across the strings.

My thinking is that tension would not change, as the flexible length of the string is not changing as the fingers are cranked up and down. Sound may change though, as the break angle behind the saddle increases and decreases, resulting in a corresponding change in downward pressure on the saddle and body.

 

4 hours ago, Crusader said:

Reading comments on forums, a lot of people don't notice any difference with their adjustment but obviously some people do

I'm just one guy who tried it out. I don't play anywhere nearly as regularly as I did 20 years ago, so there's every possibility other more seasoned players could easily feel the difference between locknut on vs off. As you say, the Floyd experiment probably isn't the best example of it either, as the whole system is designed to move and balance under countering forces and changing one factor results in other parts of the system moving to compensate.

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