Here is some information for Tele Lovers-- Enjoy!

How would an aluminum bridge plate compare with other Tele bridge plates?

To address this in detail would require some twenty pages of information ranging from classical to quantum mechanical functions! First, we must understand that the Tele bridge plate serves two totally different functions:

A: The mechanical functions

B: The electrodynamic functions

“A” deals with the behavior of compressed waves in a medium. Most -- but not all -- bodies are more or less elastic. The greater the elastic properties and the lesser the density of the medium the faster a pulse propogates throughout the medium. Some aluminum alloys, cast Bell bronze and some steel alloys hardened to Rockwell C60 would be an excellent choice for the bridge saddles. The steel guitar makers are aware of this and use for their bridge saddles either Dur aluminum or hardened steel.

As you can see, we have quite a few options for the bridge saddles, but when it comes to the bridge plate, we are confronted with some different problems that cannot be solved without causing other problems that change the performance of our beloved Telecaster. This leads us right to B -- the electrodynamic functions of the tele bridge plate.

“B” deals with magnetism, eddy currents and the permeability of different alloys. Any metal close to the coil of a pickup will interfere with the signal that is generated by the vibrations of the strings. Cold roll steel has a high permeability which will increase the output of the pickup, but due to its high eddy current potential, reduces the highs and output. 440 magnetic stainless steel hardened to Rockwell C60 has about the same permeability as Cold roll and a much lower eddy current potential. 440 stainless, as well as Cold roll, can cause at high volume levels microphonic squealing. 301 spring tempered stainless steel has a hardness of Brinell 382, not quite as hard as 440 but hard enough for the bridge plate. 301 has the advantage that it has neither a positive nor a negative permeability, and therefore, does not interfere with the tone and the output of the pickup. 301 stainless will not cause microphonics. Some brass alloys have excellent acoustical properties. Due to their eddy current potential, it will have some losses in output and highs. Brass will not cause microphonics. Titanium Grade 5 ( GAL-4V) seems to have excellent acoustical properties. I’ve not yet had the chance to measure its electrodynamical function , and therefore, I have no information available. If somebody can send me for a few days a titanium bridge plate, I will measure the electrodynamic properties and will post the result right here on the tdpri.

Now let’s talk about aluminum. While aluminum has some of the best acoustical properties it has, by far, the worst properties to use for the bridge plate. It’s like salt in a soup -- small quantities can perform miracles but too much will ruin your dinner. Aluminum has an extremely high eddy current potential and when placed under a pickup ( grounded or not grounded) can make a hum bucker hum like a single coil, or make a single coil as quiet as a hum bucker. This all depends on the thickness of the plate. At about ½” thickness your single coil will be as quiet as a hum bucker, but you also lose about 60% output and about the same amount of highs. Leo used a .015 aluminum plate under the pick guard of his 54 Strat to reduce some of the hum and the buzz and take a little bit of the edge from the pickup, resulting in a very musical, sweet tone.

Aluminum has some strange properties, and it’s the only commercially available metal I know of that can eliminate the buzz caused by light dimmers. An inch thick copper or brass shield cannot reduce the buzz caused by light dimmers but .003 thick aluminum foil can! This is known some thirty years and the reason why Belden introduced double shielded cable ( Copper braid plus aluminum foil). There is one problem for guitar cords -- the double shielding makes the cable too stiff . It helps quite a bit when you shield your guitar with copper and aluminum foil.

Try this test-- wire a single coil to a jack and plug it into your amp. Put the pickup on a table next to your amp. Take an aluminum pan from your kitchen and put it slowly on top of your single coil and watch the hum disappear!

Copyright © 1996-2007 Bill Lawrence®. All Rights Reserved.


Dear Friends,

Thousands of customers have used various types of bridges with our noisefree pickups over the years, including the old-style ashtray bridge, but... that particular combination of the "vintage" bridge and a modern noisefree pickup occasionally requires some extra attention to setup or some minor modifications like adding extra mounting holes and screws to the front of the bridge plate -- and, even with a traditional single-coil, those ferrous bridges aren't ideal for high gain and/or distorted playing. Historically, that's one the chief reasons brass Tele bridges became such a frequent mod as that sort of playing started to become more popular.

The Telecaster is a wonderful, historic instrument and many love it so much they want to keep theirs much like the original from the '50s which is just fine, but it's also a lot like going into a Chevy dealership and insisting on a car built just like the Chevys of 1952 -- then expecting it to perform under 2007 driving conditions! Can you imagine thousands of heavy, awkward '52 Chevys, however gorgeous, on the California freeways trying to keep up with all the cars designed and built fifty years later?

The original Tele design is an enduring classic and will always have its respected place in music history, but the improvements made over the years to bring the Tele into our "modern, high-volume, effects-heavy stage environment" are also worth serious consideration. The Tele simply wasn't designed with those factors in mind -- they didn't even exist back in 1952!

When you make the move to noisefree pickups, you've taken the first step toward modernization of your Tele. Going back to the Chevy analogy, putting a modern engine in a '52 Chevy is problematic because a transmission designed a 50 years ago isn't going to just bolt up to the new powerplant and give you all the performance that engine can deliver -- the modification process has to be completed to get that sort of result. The same goes for "dropping" noisefrees into an otherwise "vintage" guitar -- depending on your playing habits and requirements, other changes may very well be needed. (Our Keystone Singles bridge pickup for Teles is a less radical "engine swap" and offers considerably lower hum levels than standard single coils.)

That brings up another issue: our industry's guitar techs. There are many knowledgeable people who work on guitars -- after all, Bill's initial American reputation was largely based on the meticulous setup and modification work he did back in his New York days. Our best techs do a great service, really helping players get the most from their instruments. Unfortunately, unlike the building and automotive trades, the guitar industry has not established any real criteria for the title "guitar tech" -- in fact, anyone can simply buy a bunch of tools and declare himself a guitar tech. Even a sushi chef has to meet rigorous knowledge and experience requirements before he can assume the title of “master” sushi chef! I wish our industry could offer that level of assurance to guitar players too, but for now that is simply not the case. In practical terms, that means that the knowledge and skill levels of those who call themselves "guitar techs" are pretty much all over the map -- some are genuinely great, some perfectly adequate, and others are just glorified string changers.


Copyright © 1996-2007 Bill Lawrence®. All Rights Reserved.