Here is some information
for Tele Lovers-- Enjoy!
How would an aluminum bridge plate compare with other Tele bridge
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
“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
© 1996-2007 Bill Lawrence®. All Rights Reserved.
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
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
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.