Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

How Important Is a Loose Bridge?

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

How Important Is a Loose Bridge?

Article excerpt

Q: Over the last few months, the action on my older Yamaha dreadnought has gotten uncomfortably high up the neck. I brought it into the repair shop for what I expected to be a setup, but there was apparently an issue that I hadn't anticipated. I was told it could use some setup work, but more importantly, it needs a bridge reglue. My bill is a lot higher than I thought it would be and the turnaround time is longer. I just wanted the action to be lower! I'm feeling disillusioned and quite a bit poorer than I thought I would feel. What happened?

-Steven, New York City

A: From where I'm standing behind the bench, I see lots of clients go through something similar. They think all they need is a simple fix-a setup, a little truss rod tweak-only to hear a more complicated story when they get to the repair shop. Of course, unexpected repair bills are always a bitter pill to swallow, but there are some good reasons to take care of certain issues as they arise.

Let's talk about your bridge for a moment. Under the bridge is a glue joint that covers quite a bit of real estate-this big, strong joint is really working hard for your guitar. You can think about your bridge on the top, and your bridge plate inside the guitar, directly under it, as two slices of bread in a spruce sandwich. The bridge plate and the bridge do lots of jobs-stabilize and stiffen the area, strengthen around the bridgepin holes, spread the tensile load, and help direct vibration to the right places on the soundboard.

When a bridge pulls up in the face of 200 pounds of string tension over years, it's generally along the back edge or one of the back corners. This shrinks the size of the glue joint, and now the torque exerted on the guitar is uneven. Without the added support of a good bridge gluejoint, the top could be more likely to belly or yank upward, and distort or stretch like fabric. …

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