Can you help me set up a guitar with a bridge held in place only by tension?
March 23, 2009 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I have a Vox Student Prince hollow-body electric with a broken tailpiece and I am hoping to do the replacement myself, but I am worried about setup after the new piece is installed.

I did not realize that the bridge is not actually fixed to the guitar and in removing the tailpiece, I did not note the exact location of the bridge. I have a new tailpiece, but is there any good way to get this back together at home? I actually have a software scope I could use, but I am more worried about the actual movement of the bridge - I feel like I am going to have to tighten it all the way to in tune, check the intonation, and then loosen all the strings prior to moving the bridge. Or is there a clever trick? Because the tailpiece is not an exact match, I don't think I can use the existing crimps in the strings as a guide, though I guess I can measure from the nut to the indentations and then, after the tailpiece is installed and the strings are close to tension, measure it again? Anyone have experience setting up guitars with bridges held in place only by tension?
posted by mzurer to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Best answer: Line up the bridge with the inside points of the F holes, as in the picture here.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:23 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just did this on a mandolin... I did what you don't want to do, trial and error. I loosened the strings moved it and brought back to pitch... To speed it up I'd only tighten the highest and lowest strings, and with those the only ones tightened I could move the bridge fairly easy and accurately with a little force from my thumbs. Once the high and low strings were right I brought the whole instrument to pitch and checked the intonation. Low and behold all the strings were right.
posted by magikker at 12:24 PM on March 23, 2009

Best answer: Just measure the distance from the nut to the XII fret.
The bridge has to be as far from the XII fret as the XII fret is from the nut.
For fine intonation setting, pick the harmonic at the XII fret and fret the same note.
They have to be the same pitch. If the harmonic is sharp in relation to the fretted note, lenghten the string (move the bridge towards the tailpiece), and vice versa. You won't be able to correctly intonate all six strings, but try to get as close as possible.
posted by _dario at 5:43 PM on March 23, 2009

Best answer: _dario has it right. Even when all the strings are tuned to pitch, you can move the bridge small amounts by (carefully!) pushing it with your thumbs right next to the body.

And yeah, getting the intonation right with these kind of bridges is a matter of compromises. The rest of the guitar can be a mess, but it drives me absolutely nuts when the B string is out of tune as I play up the neck, so I always make sure that string's intonation is spot-on and fudge the others as necessary. Yeah, I'm weird, but it works for me... ;)
posted by fracas at 7:18 PM on March 23, 2009

Best answer: What everyone else said - this is totally doable, but it takes some patience. It'll be worth it though. You're going to feel much cooler after you're done.
posted by smartyboots at 8:27 PM on March 23, 2009

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