How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge

Written by hugh patterson
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How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge
Bridge adjustment is crucial to a properly set-up guitar. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Archtop guitars are hollow-bodied instruments that employ a floating bridge that is not permanently mounted to the guitar's body. The Tune-O-Matic bridge is designed for easy string height and intonation adjustments. A repair shop can make the adjustments, but the labour charge can be steep. Use a few simple techniques to adjust a floating archtop bridge to save the cost of a professional intervention.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Grease pencil
  • Guitar tuner
  • Standard screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Loosen the strings. Floating bridges are not physically attached to the guitar's body but are held in place by the strings. To position the bridge correctly, loosen the strings until they are touching the frets.

    How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge
    Always loosen the strings to adjust the bridge's position. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Position the bridge. The bridge must sit on a specific location on the guitar's face. Locate the "f" holes. These are the "f"-shaped holes that are cut into the guitar's top. Within the cutout holes are notches that represent the middle of each "f." Align the bridge between the notches closest to the bridge. The bridge will be positioned in a straight line with the start and end points of that line being the two notches closest to the bridge.

    How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge
    The notches are at the centre of the "f" hole. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Tighten the strings. Tune the guitar by ear, rather than with a tuner, using the tuning configuration normally used for that instrument.

  4. 4

    Trace the bridge's position with a grease pencil. Keep the drawn line as close to the bridge's base as possible. This allows you to quickly reposition the bridge should it become loose during the string height adjustment phase.

    How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge
    Only use a grease pencil because its mark can be easily wiped off. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)
  5. 5

    Adjust the string height to your personal preference. Raise or lower the two thumb-wheels, depending on which direction the bridge is being adjusted. The Tune-O-Matic bridge uses wider thumb-wheels that make adjustments easier. Adjust the bridge equally on both sides.

  6. 6

    Test the string height. Play a few chords up and down the fretboard. Listen for fret buzzing. Fret buzzing occurs when the strings are too close to the frets. Play single notes as well. Make any necessary adjustments by turning the thumb-wheels either up or down.

    How to Adjust a Tune-O-Matic Archtop Bridge
    Play the guitar to test for fret buzzing. (Polka Dot RF/Polka Dot/Getty Images)
  7. 7

    Tune the guitar with a guitar tuner. Check the intonation by fingering each string at the 12th fret. Press down on the low E string's 12th fret. Read the tuner again. If the intonation is correctly set, the tuner will be identical to the first reading. If the note is sharp or flat, adjust the intonation. Repeat this step for each string, noting whether the string is sharp or flat.

  8. 8

    Adjust the intonation. If the note is sharp, move the saddle away from the fretboard. If flat, move the saddle toward the fretboard. Adjust the individual saddles by turning the saddle screws on the side of the bridge. The Tune-O-Matic bridge uses wedge shaped saddles and a slightly curved cut in the saddle to reduce string breakage. Adjust the saddles with a small standard screwdriver.

Tips and warnings

  • The floating Tune-O-Matic bridge is nearly identical to the standard Les Paul-type bridge, so components from similarly designed bridges can be used for replacement parts.

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