How To Install Electric Guitar Saddles

You've moved beyond basic electric guitar maintenance, and now you're ready to learn how to install electric guitar saddles. The good news is that you can install bridge saddles fairly easily. The bad news is that you can do nothing without parts that match the make and model of your instrument.

To start with, you need to buy matching parts. If your guitar is a Gibson SG Special, try to find parts that match this make and model precisely. Most electric guitars have six saddles to a bridge, although some more old-fashioned ones have three and modern seven-strings have seven.

1. The first thing to do is remove the old bridge saddles. Almost always, they will be attached to the bridge with bolts that either go all the way through the framework or are kept in place with a tension spring. Take the strings off your electric guitar.

  • For Gibson style: remove the bridge after taking careful note of its position and which side is toward the tailpiece ( in the case of a "Tune-O-Matic" style bridge, take note of which side the bolts heads are on). Note the positions of the saddles; they will have to remain the same in order to retain the intonation. Remove the first saddle by unscrewing the bolt with a Phillips head screwdriver until the saddle comes off. Set the saddle aside.
  • For Fender style: remove each saddle with a Phillips head screwdriver, Take careful note of the shape and position of the tension spring. Many are wider at the bolt end and narrower at the saddle end, but not all. Set the saddles, bolts and springs aside.

2. The next step is to install the new bridge saddles. Arrange and/or prepare the saddles.

  • For Gibson style saddles: arrange by notch size if they are notched. Match them to the old saddles or to the width of the nut notches. If none are available, a good rule of thumb is that the wider the notch, the thicker and deeper the string. Take the new saddle and thread it by hand onto the end of the bolt. Tighten the bolt until the saddle is in the proper position.
  • For Fender style: remove the bolt from its saddle, taking care that the spring does not pop out of your hand. Push the bolt through the hole in the raised part of the bridge, place the spring on the bolt, and finally the saddle. Tighten the bolt until the saddle is in the proper position.

Repeat this step with the other five saddles.

3. The last thing is to decide the string height that suits you. Normally, on an electric guitar, it will be low to the fretboard, but players have different needs. As the Taylor Guitars web site tells us, "A hard strummer might like the action relatively high…many rock and jazz players prefer low action."

  • For Gibson-style guitars: chances are that the height is set with the adjustable bolts that hold the entire bridge. If you have not changed the setting, the action should be the same. Checking the height of these bolts before you remove the bridge is a good idea.
  • For Fender-style guitars: the height in this case comes from two tiny Allyn bolts on the saddle itself. Check the height of the previous bridge saddles and compare or, if none are available, experiment with the height using an Allyn wrench.

4. Finally, re-string the instrument, tune it, and check to see whether the intonation and string height are satisfactory. If so, you are ready to go; if not, experiment with adjustments until the feel and intonation suits you. You now know how to install bridge saddles on an electric guitar!

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