Looking for a new electric guitar? There are about 100 things to consider. Add deciding between a String Through body and a Stop Tailpiece Bridge to your list.
For most of us, the sound of our guitar is all that matters. Thus, it is really important to understand how each type of bridge varies in terms of tone, pitch, sustain and value.
In this article we dive deep into what both String through and Stop Tailpieces are, the differences, and the benefits of each!
What is a String Through Body Guitar?
A string through body guitar is a type of solid-body electric guitar where the strings run through the instrument body and are attached and secured in place by ferrules. This allows for longer strings while also giving the guitar a stronger sound.
String-through body guitars are often used for jazz and blues music, but in the last 10 years or so they have started to make their way into more genres. Ibanez makes what is probably the most popular string through bridge design, but there are plenty to choose from.
String-through body guitars provide the player with a lot of variety, as different types of sound can be achieved depending on what type of bridge is in use.
A string thru body design is a popular way to promote sustain and resonance in electric guitar. This, in turn, allows the notes to ring out longer than they would on instruments with less sustain.
Benefits of the String Through Design
So, why would you choose a string through body? Glad you asked!
Sustain and Resonance
The biggest benefit of the string through bridge design is improved resonance and sustain. The string is able to vibrate longer, which may give a richer, warmer sound.
I should say that there are many ways to get sustain on a guitar, having a string through body is just one of them!
Things like the material, shape and the thickness of the body are the biggest factors, but the neck, pickups, string gauge and other hardware pieces all play a role!
In addition to this, the string through design lets you use lighter gauge strings. The extra tension on a regular guitar can actually make it sound duller compared to the same guitar with lighter gauge strings.
Strings that are too light will easily shake off of their saddles during heavy strumming, and guitars with low-quality hardware might not be able to take the extra pressure. Best case scenerio for super light strings is that you’ll need to tune your guitar before any gigs or practice sessions.
What is a Stop Tailpiece Bridge?
Stop Tailpiece Bridges are much more common and you’ve likely seen them on many guitars already. These are the bridge type that most players think of first, as they are the most popular and most frequently used.
A stop tailpiece is a bridge where the string stops at a point just after the strings cross the bridge. The idea behind this is to hold the strings in place and prevent them from vibrating off during play.
To secure these strings you typically use small nuts called saddles which screw onto bolts that go through holes in the guitar body. This design makes changing strings quick and easy in addition to other benefits.
Benefits of the Stop Tailpiece
You have to assume that the Stop Tailpiece bridge style has some benefits since it is more popular than string through. Guess what… you’re right! Most people feel that the stop tailpiece is a more adjustable, and thus has better playability than it’s counterpart.
Top Wrap Your Strings
Many Gibson and Epiphone guitars use a ‘Top Wrap’ tie-off method for their strings. This means that the strings actually run over the tailpiece and a ended underneath. This makes strings more flexible for bends, vibrato and easier to change.
Gibson and Epiphone players swear that the ‘top wrap’ gives them more sustain than the tailpiece you’d find on many other brands.
Changing Strings is Easy
Changing strings on your Stop Tailpiece bridge design is quick and easy. It’s one of the reasons that this design is so popular!
This makes string changing a breeze, since it usually takes less than a minute, compared to the 10 minutes or so it can take with the String Through design. Of course this doesn’t count the time it takes to tune a new set of strings, but that is going to be similar on both styles.
With a stop tailpiece in combination with the bridge, you can adjust the height that the strings sit at. This allows you to get a great, solid and balanced tone regardless of how the bridge sits.
Some players like to have the strings sit as low as possible for a thicker tone, while others prefer to have them higher for more acoustic feeling.
The tension is different on the strings depending on the height they are mounted at as well. Not only can this make strings easier to fret on the neck, but can effect how long your strings last.
More Choices for Tailpieces
When you use a string through body, you are pretty much stuck with one style of bridge and ferrules.
With a stop tailpiece there are numerous styles, configurations, and stop piece construction materials that you can experiment with to suit the sound and feel you are going for.
The Final Note
To summarize, there are several variations of bridges for guitars that can affect tone and playability in various ways.
The String Through design is more resonant than other designs and will often produce a warmer sound. The Stop Tailpiece bridge is good for quick string changes, but generally will have less sustain (all other things being equal!).
Both have their benefits, so the choice comes down to personal preference as well as cost and availability. And if you want a super cool guitar with strings that never need changing? You’re out of luck!