Fixed bridges are some of the most popular types of bridges of all time, and for many, they are preferred over having a tremolo system. There are several benefits to having a fixed bridge, such as a hardtail, on your guitar, and this article will share some of the biggest reasons why you should consider having one on your guitar.
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1. Changing Strings On Them Is Painless
It takes nearly no effort to change the strings on a guitar with a fixed bridge, whereas it can be tedious to do so on locking tremolos, like the Floyd Rose or Ibanez Edges.
On those types of guitar bridges, you’ll often have to take out an Allen wrench and loosen up the locking nut and the clamps that hold the strings in place, and depending on the model, snip the ball-end beads off the string to get it to fit inside there.
Once you get the strings in, you’ll have to tighten everything back up and use both the tuning pegs and the fine tuners to get your guitar in tune.
If this sounds like a hassle to you, you’re not alone.
To contrast with this, you’ll simply slip the strings through fixed bridges like a hardtail or a Tune-O-Matic. Afterward, just tighten them up at the tuning pegs, stretch your strings out, tune the guitar, you’re good to go.
Overall, it’s less time-consuming, and if you’d rather play more than spend extra time changing strings, a guitar with a fixed bridge like a hardtail or a Tune-o-Matic bridge is the way to go.
Synchronized tremolos like the ones you see on many Fender Strats also don’t really have the issues mentioned above either, so if time is a concern, these can still be a viable option, and I haven’t heard of beginners having as many problems with these compared to Floyd Roses.
The ability to change your strings quickly is beneficial if you’re playing a gig and you only have one guitar. If a string snaps, it’ll be much easier to restring a fixed bridge and get on with the show.
In fact, if you snap a string with a Floyd Rose, more often than not, all of your strings will go out of tune, which brings us to the next section.
2. They Tend To Have Great Tuning Stability
In my personal experience, fixed bridges are able to stay in tune more reliably than floating tremolos overall. However, the quality of them can be an important factor here, so it can largely depend on what’s being used when comparing a fixed bridge vs. Floyd Rose.
Sure, a cheap bridge is a cheap bridge, and a junky fixed bridge that has bad saddles can create tuning issues, but in general, I’ve found them more reliable, especially when you compare them with lower quality tremolos, like some of the licensed Floyd Rose models or the synchronized tremolos seen on many beginner Stratocasters
Cheap tremolo systems like these cannot handle that much use without going out of tune, unfortunately, which is why many people prefer having a hardtail guitar, and many brands realize that.
A frequent complaint I heard was that if they couldn’t use the whammy bar and do dive-bombs and stuff without losing pitch, it simply wasn’t worth the inconvenience of having to tune it back up every time. I’ve personally experienced this as well with low-quality Floyd and Edge bridges.
Don’t get me wrong, floating bridges can certainly stay in tune, though, if they’re properly set up with a high-quality one, like an Original or Schaller Floyd Rose, but you won’t find those on any budget or even intermediate-level guitars unless you buy a replacement one and get it installed.
While it can be fun to play with tremolo arms from time to time, if you’re looking for a new guitar that’s on the cheaper side, you’ll probably get in more consistent enjoyment with a fixed bridge that will hold its tune better, especially if you have locking tuners.
Otherwise, if whammy bar tricks are an important part of your sound, I recommend that you save up a bit more and get a guitar that has a floating tremolo system that’s well-made so that you can get the most out of it.
3. It’s Easier To Switch Tunings
If you’re a guitarist who wants to play in different tunings, it can be complicated to switch between them on guitars with floating tremolo systems installed on them if you don’t know what you’re doing exactly.
This is because a specific amount of tension is placed on the strings and the springs holding the bridge in place, and improperly adjusting it can cause the entire bridge to move out of position.
For example, dropping your tuning can cause your bridge to sink due to less tension being placed if you don’t have something holding the bridge up while you’re making adjustments.
You’ll also probably run into intonation problems, meaning the accuracy of the pitches that are produced on your fretboard.
If you don’t know how to do guitar setups yourself, these problems can be frustrating and make playing unenjoyable.
However, if you have a fixed bridge, most of these issues are rectified, and it’s significantly easier to switch between tunings at will.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any adjustments that should be made, though. Depending on how significant the tuning change is and how frequently you’ll be switching, you’ll probably need to make some small truss rod and saddle adjustments because of the changes in string tension.
You can also check the guitar’s intonation by hitting the natural harmonics of the 12th fret on every string and seeing if the pitch is correct with your guitar tuner.
If you’re only making small jumps with your tuning, like going from E standard to half-step down or drop D, you more than likely won’t have anything to worry about with a fixed bridge, but it’s still good to check on these things.
The bridge certainly won’t move out of place, though, that’s for sure.
4. Guitar Setups & Repairs Will Typically Be Cheaper
Speaking of guitar setups and maintenance, even though fixed bridges are easier to deal with, it’s still a good idea to take your guitar to a professional to get your guitar performing optimally.
This is especially true if you plan on buying a new guitar with a hardtail or some other fixed bridge on it.
Usually, guitars don’t come nicely set up right out of the box, and the action will probably be either too low or too high, which can cause fret buzz or make the playability more difficult, respectively.
This can be solved by adjusting the saddles on the bridge. A professional will know how to find the right string height so that your guitar plays comfortably and sounds good by making sure the instrument is intonated. Keep in mind though, changes in temperature and humidity can affect these things too, so even after you get a setup, you’ll want to keep your guitar humidified and away from the heat and cold.
While this is another expense, it will be make playing your new guitar much more pleasant. Fortunately, if you have a fixed bridge, getting your setup will usually be less costly than if you had a Floyd Rose or some other tremolo on it.
It often costs less to adjust a guitar with a fixed bridge because it’s simply less work for the guitar tech to do – working on a tremolo system is more involved, and it takes more time, and therefore, it will be more expensive.
These benefits also apply to repairs, too, since there is a lot less that can go wrong on a fixed bridge. Most people who need repairs replace some saddles, but some people might opt to get a new fixed bridge entirely if it makes sense to do so.
Replacements aren’t nearly as complicated with fixed bridges, and you’ll learn more about why in the next section.
5. Upgrades Will Be Simpler
While the previous pros of fixed bridges are more centered around people looking to purchase a guitar with one of these bridges, if you’re already a proud owner of one, there are additional perks to having a fixed bridge installed on your guitar.
The primary benefit of fixed bridges for people who have one is that it’s much easier to upgrade to a better one if they need to.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Someone could be fortunate enough to have a vintage Stratocaster, but the original bridge on it might be broken and irreparable. This owner can easily swap it out for another Fender fixed bridge or get a brand new Hipshot or Wilkinson, which are excellent replacement bridges.
Another individual might have an entry-level Ibanez guitar with a hardtail bridge on it, and while it’s been mostly reliable, it still feels cheap. Instead, they can go for a Gotoh hardtail bridge, which is used on higher-end Ibanez guitars.
Many aftermarket bridges are direct replacements to stock ones, so some might go right in position, but others may require some drilling and measurements to install correctly.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to get it installed by a professional, but it’ll be significantly easier and cheaper to get these replaced than floating tremolos since there are fewer mechanical parts to deal with and no routing in the wood of the guitar.
However, tremolo systems can be “converted” into hardtails by blocking off the bridge, usually with a piece of hardwood or by decking, which involves adding more springs and tightening the screws inside the bridge cavity so that it can’t move.
It’s not quite the same as having a real fixed bridge, but if you don’t have the means to get a guitar with a hardtail, Tune-o-Matic, or something similar, this can still be a viable option.
6. They’re Often The More Affordable Option
In general, guitars equipped with a fixed bridge are cheaper than their tremolo counterparts, particularly if you’re comparing guitar models that are basically identical (i.e., from the same tier of production).
It’s not guaranteed, but from my experience, I’ve seen the guitars with hardtails being around $100 cheaper than the ones with a tremolo system in them.
This is because it’s easier to produce a guitar with a hardtail than one that requires a cavity routed for the tremolo. In addition, the hardware for a fixed bridge tends to be more affordable since there are fewer components on them, and consequently, it is easier to install and do a quick setup from the factory.
These price differences can be a big difference-maker and be very appealing for people who don’t necessarily care about having a whammy bar on their guitar, as it can leave some more breathing room in their budget.
To these individuals, the money they save on getting a guitar with a fixed bridge can mean being able to get a guitar set up right away, buy new guitar strings, picks, and other fun accessories.
Even if they don’t necessarily need new guitar-related stuff, it’s still extra money in their pockets that they can save and spend on other things they find important.
Are There Any Downsides To Fixed Bridges?
As you can see, there are many practical benefits to having a guitar with a fixed bridge, but are there any disadvantages to them?
Like everything out there, there are always pros and cons to anything, but honestly, there really aren’t any egregious problems with fixed bridges, and I’m trying to be as objective and unbiased as possible here.
The only obvious downside is that you won’t have a tremolo arm, and for a lot of people, that’s an integral part of their playstyle and sound.
However, if you don’t use them, there isn’t much of a point in having a tremolo system, particularly a Floyd Rose-style one, since it’s only more time-consuming and can require more maintenance.
Fixed bridges are convenient, reliable, and make life easier, and the benefits of having one are truly difficult to beat, especially if you’re a beginner guitar player.
Even after playing for so many years, I truly appreciate the quality of life that a fixed bridge gives me.
If you want some middle-ground, though, you can’t really go wrong with synchronized tremolos, as those seem to give you the best of both worlds.
Having a fixed bridge on your guitar can be amazing, and hopefully, this article has shown you why they can make playing guitar more enjoyable for you and potentially be a lifesaver for you if you get caught in a tough situation. If you’re a guitarist who likes to keep things simple and avoid potential headaches, fixed bridges, such as hardtails, are what you should be going for on your next instrument.