Buyers Guide Part 2 – Basic Electric Guitar Features

Bridge. The bridge is the place where the strings are connected the body of the guitar. There are two main kinds of electric guitar bridges: ‘fixed bridge’ (also called ‘hardtail’) which is the standard, and a ‘floating’ bridge which has a tremolo bar attached to it that can loosen or stretch the strings during play to get the vibrato or ‘whammy’ effects. Of the floating bridge there are two main kinds: the classic one where strings could be loosened a step or two, but stretched only a little bit, and the ‘Floyd Rose’ bridge which can go more significantly in either direction. Floating bridges are cool, and many people and children like them. The main drawback of floating bridges is that it is more difficult to tune a guitar with a floating bridge, and they are less stable in the sense that the guitar can get more easily out of tune when they are being used. A related drawback for more advanced players is that it is difficult to move quickly to alternate tuning, because de-tuning one string will move the bridge and effect the tuning of all other strings (which is not the case with the hardtail bridge). A similar problem can arise when you bend a string – it will have some effect on the pitch of all the other strings because it will shit the bridge slightly. However, a tremolo bridge could be relatively easily ‘locked’ so that it would feel like a fixed bridge.

Pickups. There are two main kinds of pickups: single coil, and humbucker. A humbucker pickup is essentially a pair of single coiled pickups wired together in a particular way. The single coil pickup usually has a sharper, more treble-y, bell like sound. The humbucker sound is usually warmer and deeper ‘jazz’ like sound. The humbucker have generally more quiet operation – less problems with humming noise when the strings are not touched. The best choice of pickups depend on the player preferences and the style they like playing (hard rock, metal, and jazz, usually prefer humbuckers, whereas country, rock, and folk often prefer single coil). Some guitars have a combination of single coil and humbucker pickups, with the humbucker usually in the near-bridge position.

Scale. The shorter the scale is, the easier and more payable the guitar is, and the more bendable the strings are. The reason is that on a shorter scale the strings need to be looser to get the same pitch. A longer scale would usually result in a ‘tighter’ sound (the same effect could be achieved by using thicker strings). The two most common scales lengths for standard size electric guitar is the Gibson scale of 24 & 3/4 inches, and the Fender scale of 25 & 1/2 inches. Smaller guitars would usually, though not necessarily, have shorter scales. Please bear in mind that electric guitars with scales shorter than 21″ usually would need to be tuned up in ordered to get stable pitch and intonation. This is because when the strings get too loose their pitch changes noticeably with the slightest change in tension (which happens every time you press a fret). Tuning up a fourth (A-D-G-C-E-A instead of the standard E-A-D-G-B-E) is one option. An alternative solution would be so use heavier gauge strings (such as 0.11). Please refer also to the section below that deals with tuning issues.

Fretboard. The most commonly used wood for the fretboard is (unfinished) rosewood which has a dark brown color. Some people prefer a finished maple wood fretboard, which has a smoother feel to it.

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Originally Posted at Small Guitars Buyers Guide

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