From the Factory | November 15, 2023

What does the Bridge on a Guitar do?

Pic of guitar body with bridge visible

We all know what a guitar looks like, but when it comes to the specific parts on a guitar, it can be hard for beginners to know what they all do. All the parts are important, from tuning machines to frets and pickguards. But one of the most important parts of a guitar is its bridge, which can have a huge impact on things like tone, sustain, intonation, and more. So how does a guitar bridge work?

In this blog post we’ll dive into what that piece of wood or metal is for, how it influences your sound, and why it’s more important than you might think—you know, helping you bridge the gap between novice and expert... Sorry, had to do it.

Man with tattoos playing an acoustic guitar

What is a guitar bridge?

First things first, what is a guitar bridge? A guitar bridge acts as an anchor for the strings, holding them in place on the body and allowing them to run over the soundhole on an acoustic or pickups on an electric, then up the neck and through the nut to the tuning machines.

It’s located on top of the body and is usually made of either wood or metal—wood for acoustic guitars and metal for electric guitars—but some bridges can also be made of plastic, bone, and sustainable composite materials like Richlite®. Traditional acoustic guitar bridges are glued to the top of the guitar, support a saddle that lifts the strings to a desired height, and use bridge pins to hold the strings in place. Electric guitar bridges are generally screwed into the guitar’s body and allow you to adjust individual strings.

All of these things together help produce the sound you hear from your guitar.

What does a guitar bridge do?

A guitar bridge isn’t only essential to giving your strings a place to go, but it also influences how your guitar feels and sounds. The bridge helps transmit the vibrations from the strings to the top of the guitar—also known as the soundboard on an acoustic—or to the pickups on an electric. That’s how you get a guitar to make sound.

The bridge also affects things like action (how high the strings are from the fretboard) and intonation (the accuracy of a string’s pitch up the length of the fretboard), which can all be adjusted at the bridge. That’s why it’s important to find a certified Martin dealer or service center to help keep your bridge, and the rest of your guitar, in shape and in tune.

Person strumming a 12-string guitar

Why is the guitar bridge important?

In most cases, the quality of a guitar’s bridge is just as important as the quality of the wood the guitar is made of. If a guitar is made of exotic, top-shelf tonewoods, but the bridge is poorly made, the guitar won’t sound nearly as good as it should. That’s the balance you need to try and find when searching for your next guitar. 

As we know by now, the bridge and what it’s made of has a big impact on the guitar’s playability and tone. Using quality tonewoods can help with sustain, volume and tone—and experimenting with different woods can color your tone in unique ways. Things like action, intonation, and alignment of the strings can also make or break your sound. If the guitar’s strings are inches off the fretboard and impossible to tune, that’s a problem. And it all starts at the bridge.

Luckily, Martin knows the importance of a guitar’s bridge, and uses the finest materials to craft bridges that provide reliable, timeless tone and playability.

Person with tattoos playing an acoustic guitar

Browse Martin guitars and their bridges

It’s no secret that Martin has been making quality acoustic guitars and ukuleles for nearly 200 years. And a bridge has been on every single one of them. 

Browse Martin’s iconic and innovative lineup of instruments and shop for other accessories that’ll help improve your sound, like LUXE BY MARTIN® bridge pins, here.