On most of the guitars from Gibson Les Paul, Firebird and SG models Tune-o-Matic bridges are quite common. This type of bridge is available in various types of styles and shapes. There are some types of Tune-o-Matic bridge that have a retaining wire and others have self-contained saddles like Nashville and no matter what type of Tune-o-Matic bridge your guitar has it is very essential to inspect the bridge. It is because wear and tear can cause many issues with the bridge. It will be important to replace the bridge and let’s see why it is so.
When it comes to installing the Tune-o-Matic-style bridge many think that it is a challenging thing to do, but actually, it is not so difficult. You need to know what you require and simply avoid a few things. A few points are discussed below on how to do it on the 1960 Gibson Les Paul guitar. Though the techniques used here can be implemented on any guitar that has a Tune-o-Matic-style bridge.
First step of repair:
First you need to analyze the guitar for repairing or upgrading it. Then it is important to measure the action of the 12th fret and the neck relief. It is important to check the intonation. You need to see that the bridge should not warp between the adjustment posts. To correct this issue you must go for bridge replacement.
Install the new tune-o matic bridge:
You can think of choosing the Schaller Nashville Tune-o-Matic which is a bridge of supreme quality and it will last for a long time. It works better than the typical replacement units and there are many kinds of variables, which need to be considered when it comes to replacing the tune o matic bridge. You need to check the string angle, slot width and string spacing when you are thinking to replace the bridge.
What is string spacing? It is the space between the strings and you need to check the distance of strings from the fretboard. It is a very crucial aspect because strings need to be aligned in a proper manner. In most of the other cases, the E string slips off the fretboard and sometimes the pickup produces uneven sound. The sound is actually uneven and the playability of the guitar is affected.
The string angle on the other hand is the path, which every string follows from the tailpiece to the top of bridge saddles. The angle has to be carved in a proper way in the backside of the saddle. If this is not done then strings can break and tuning the guitar won’t be easy.
The width of slots in each saddle is important to consider as well. The slot carved should match with the gauge of its string in an accurate way. If the slot is narrow the string will bind and it can cause issues. The strings will break. If the slot is wide then strings can rattle or buzz. If the slot is very wide the strings will also slide sideways when one will bend the notes.
Determining proper spacing and angle and slot width:
First, you should take out the old bridge and then install a new one. Now you must tune the guitar and adjust the height of the string at the 12th fret.
Now measure the distance from the edge of the last fret to the edge located outside. The first and sixth string should be located at the same distance from the fretboard edge which should be nearly 1/8”. The guitars will differ on this aspect as per the neck width and the thing is equal spacing from the outside edge of the string to the fretboard edge. This needs to apply to both strings.
For seating the first and sixth string you have to carve the shallow slot in the saddles. Once you have set the outside strings then you need to position the four things over the saddles that are not slotted. It should be done till the strings are spaced at an equal distance that must measure from the outside edge of every adjacent string. There are 5 gaps and should be nearly 25/64″. Measuring from the center of each string is not going to be helpful because this will cause treble strings and bass strings to come closer.
Once you have measured the space and checked it properly with the help of a ruler, cut a shallow slot on each saddle with the nut files so it matches the gauge of each string. If you are not able to deal with the Guitar Bridge on your own then consulting a qualified technician is a better thing to do.