Three-Saddle Bridges: A Love Story

afterdarkmusic

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What is it about three-saddle bridges?

I’ve had a Classic Series ‘60’s Tele as my only electric for 16 years. It was a love/hate relationship. I set it up properly with an adjusted neck angle and it became a dream to play.

I purchased a Player Series earlier this year to have a maple neck, a different set of pickups, and a ‘modern’ version of the tele rather than something with vintage specs. I loved it, too. Sounds great, satin neck feels fantastic. No complaints, only joy.

Someone recently suggested I toss a 3-saddle bridge on the Player Series. I kind of laughed that off, as the ‘modern’ bridge was initially part of the appeal. But the seed of curiosity had been planted.

I got my stamped Fender bridge and cheap, brass, compensated saddles today. I spent about an hour replacing the bridge, setting the guitar up, new strings, etc.

The look. It just looks the part. I love it. I thought I liked the six-saddle well enough, but this just looks ‘right.’ I’m baffled at my reaction.

Finally I plugged in. There was something not quite apparent, yet quite different—in a very pleasing way—about the sound. But most surprisingly was the feel. I absolutely did not expect the bridge to impact the playing feel beyond palm muting or resting my hand on it, but it feels better.

I honestly expected there not to be anything more than an aesthetic difference, so I’m kind of aghast here. Just wanted to share.

Curious to hear everyone else’s bridge-related experiences, misadventures, and preferences if you care to share.

*edit to add before/after photos*

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rze99

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I’ve built many T types now.

I prefer traditional three way but compensated and the saddle screws replaced (if needed) to stop them protruding. Then it is perfect.

Whether brass or steel saddles, for me, depends on the rest of the Tele and what I think will look and sound right. Simply stated I find a bright Tele is more balanced with brass a warmer one gets steel for the best balance.

The brass or steel can make a noticeable difference to a particular Tele. I think this is more noticable on the wound strings and why some have steel on the bottom A and E but brass on the others. Some Teles seem more affected by brass or steel more than others.
 

Twang Deluxe

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Since 21 years I own a Mexican Standard Telecaster. For almost two decades it had the original modern style 6-saddle-bridge and I broke at least one string per gig, because of the sparpedged saddles. Than in 2018 I put a vintage style 3-saddle-bridge on it and never broke a string again.

The guitar also looks much better
 

Worblehat

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I am new to Telecasters and Fender guitars in general. I tried a current Player Tele and liked that it had the 6 block saddles as it seems like an obvious improvement over the original bridge when it comes to intonation and looks (in my opinion). But then I tried a Vintera with 3 barrel saddles and ashtray and I immediately noticed how I liked the feel of it. I like how there is more tactile feedback of where my hand is as it not only touches the the saddles but also the edge of the ashtray.

So as long as the intonation is ok (which is true for my new Vintera) I indeed prefer the three saddle bridge just because of how it feels.
 

yegbert

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I can play with six, but I prefer three. The looks, feel, - and in my possibly flawed perception, the tone. Give me some that are brass and some that are steel, some that are compensated and some that are not.

It seems futile to try and convince other passionate Tele players from three to six. So you can go ahead and try, but why not just let it be? :)

When the Best is gone - I know that other things are not of consequence - The Heart wants what it wants - or else it does not care ” - Emily Dickinson.
 

IrishBread69

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Anyone have any before/after conversion photos?

I always prefer the look aesthetically. The only Tele I have with the modern 6 is my Ultra and I'm not going to tinker with that. It seems to have some fancy saddles anyway.
 

yegbert

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Several years before I was old enough to get my driver’s license, I learned how to drive on [a real] one like this, an International Harvester Farmall Cub. I learned how to back a two-wheeled tobacco trailer, use independent left and right rear wheel brakes to aid in making sharp turns, and catch and torture big hornworms on its’ exhaust manifold while waiting for the croppers to catch up to the trailer. :D

5497C177-D368-47F8-8E4F-FF844ED7A577.jpeg
 

TeleBrew

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I prefer three saddle bridges on a Tele. They look right, but aside from that I don't really know why. Tradition, I guess.
 

Slacker G

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Three saddle bridge brings to mind a conversation I had with a Martin rep. I told him most of the Martin guitars that I ever tried to play had slightly warped necks. I asked him why Martin didn't use truss rods. He told me that they wanted to stick with "tradition". Then I asked him if he still rode a horse and buggy to work.

I guess that's how I feel about the 3 saddle system.
 

afterdarkmusic

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Three saddle bridge brings to mind a conversation I had with a Martin rep. I told him most of the Martin guitars that I ever tried to play had slightly warped necks. I asked him why Martin didn't use truss rods. He told me that they wanted to stick with "tradition". Then I asked him if he still rode a horse and buggy to work.

I guess that's how I feel about the 3 saddle system.

Lots to unpack there. Martins have long had some kind of reinforcement in the neck—whether a piece of ebony in the 40s or a square tube in the 60s—and they've been adjustable since 1985.

I'd also argue that a horse and buggy isn't "tradition" as much as it's the extent of technology that was available prior to cars and a widespread network of paved roads. By and large they're completely antiquated.

Tele bridges, on the other hand, are simply a preference, whether that preference is based in aesthetics, sound, feel, etc, it comes down to a personal decision as both 6- and 3-saddle variations certainly function and function well.

I get where you're coming from, though. It was my initial impression that I wanted to try the modern version with 'improved intonation,' more granular control over action height, etc.
 

SixStringSlinger

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I also prefer a three (compensated) saddle bridge for both looks and sound. My theory is that your typical three-saddle bridge has more mass across fewer separate parts. A six-saddle bridge has 33 parts (saddles, springs, intonation screws, saddle screws and base plate) while a 3-saddle has 16.

That said, a six-saddle bridge does me fine. I think more of a difference is made by a Tele bridge's being securely fastened to the body (vs, say, your typical Strat bridge) and pickup design.
 

nojazzhere

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My preferred bridge design is the single stop-bar wrap-around lightning bolt bridge, like found on many PRS and Les Paul Jr's. (retrofitted) It can play in tune, and has nothing to rattle or kill resonance. I would love to build a Tele-style guitar with that bridge, but until I do, I'm happy with three intonated saddles on my Teles. I've had both three and six saddles (on the same guitar) and can't tell any difference in intonation, which would be the ONLY reason to prefer six saddles.
 

ChicknPickn

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The low-down fact is . . . . . . I like 'em both. I own examples of both. Recently went to Gotoh compensated brass saddles on one of my "classic" Teles, really like them a lot both aesthetically and sonically. I know, I know, some will say there should be no difference when you change saddles. Let me believe what I want to believe in my little world.

On the other hand, I like the precision afforded in more modern instruments. I like the truss rod adjustment at the head MUCH better than at the heel, for example. I love split-post Klusons, but they're a bit stiff compared to most sealed tuners I've used. The modern bridge does what it was meant to do, very well.

So it's all good. Hey, this is supposed to be about what makes you happy. I guarantee you, they can all sound good.
 




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