Have you ever sat back and wondered whether the acoustic guitar saddles on your own guitar would fit on those of your fellow guitarist? Are acoustic guitar saddles universal? If not, why not? If so, why? Life is entombed in questions, so why not answer them?
This is precisely what we aim to do today as we take the minutiae of acoustic guitar saddles universal underneath our collective microscope.
No, all acoustic guitar saddles are not universal, though most saddles are between 3/32″ or 1/8″ wide, so there is some universality there.
What is a Guitar Saddle?
Guitar saddles sit at the top of your acoustic guitar bridge as part of the design and construction of an acoustic guitar, their job being to transfer your guitar’s strings sound vibration to the bridge. The sound vibration is then transferred to the guitar’s body and forth to the world.
When Do You Need to Replace Your Saddle(s)?
There are a number of instances in which you might need to replace the saddle on your acoustic guitar, such as:
- Broken saddles, which are rare but can happen when a saddle breaks in half.
- String grooves – the top of the saddle should be smooth with no grooves or slots. If there are grooves, it means that over time the vibration of the strings has worn into the saddle material, meaning these grooves are likely going to cause intonation issues down the line.
- Adjusting the action on your guitar, perhaps when your action is too low and causing buzzing. In this case, you may want to install a new saddle to resolve this issue.
- Upgrading the material, for sometimes a guitar will come with plastic saddles that are later deemed inferior and in want of replacement. A quick upgrade to bone or brass, for example, can improve your guitar’s tone.
What Kinds of Materials are Saddles Made From?
Guitar saddles are made from a number of different materials, ranging from inexpensive to laughably dear.
- Plastic – these are probably the least desirable and something best replaced because they can sometimes cause less clarity in your guitar tone.
- Bone – many higher-end acoustics feature bone saddles. Bone will last far longer than plastic, but still might need replacing over time if the material grooves are worn in. They also transfer the vibrations more efficiently making the tone better. The only real con to this material is that sometimes it is not consistent across the market.
- Tusq – this material is known for providing more clarity and brightness to your tone.
- Brass – transfers the vibration very well, it is hard enough to not get grooves from the strings but still softer than the strings.
A Word About Saddle Height
You might want to know how to raise or lower the height of your current saddle instead of buying a new one, saving you money and precious effort in the long run.
Acoustic guitar saddle height is measured from the top of your acoustic guitar bridge to the top of the saddle.
The easiest way to adjust the saddle height down is by sanding the bottom down to the desired height. To increase height, you may need to add a shim or two under the bridge of your guitar.
Replacing Your Acoustic Guitar Saddle
If you feel it entirely necessary to replace your acoustic guitar saddle, then this tried and tested will get you through it.
- Remove the acoustic guitar strings.
- Pull the saddle out of the bridge. You may need a pair of needle nose pliers to do this. It should pop right out.
- Adjust the height of the saddle using sandpaper on the bottom of the saddle. How much you sad will depend on the action of your guitar. But, if your current action with the old saddle is good, you may be able to get away with just sanding down to the same height as the old saddle.
- Push the new saddle firmly into the bridge.
- Restring and tune the guitar.
Selecting the Right Saddle for You
There are a couple of things to consider here:
In selecting a saddle, first ensure that you have the correct length, thickness, and height.
However, you also need to have the correct radius, or you may encounter buzzing, or find that your guitar is more difficult to play. You also need to ensure that you have the correct compensation pattern or you may notice intonation issues.
Additionally, even though you might find the correct saddle size, each guitar is slightly different and so your saddle may need adjustments.
Even fresh from the factory, no two guitars are exactly alike. You’ll find subtle differences in neck angle, neck relief, and final setup specs, which result in slightly differing saddle specs once installed. Your guitar may have been adjusted for playing style preferences as well. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to adjust a saddle (see above).
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to enter back into the world with a full knowledge of how acoustic guitar saddles work and why they are not all universally the same.
FAQs Are Acoustic Guitar Saddles Universal?
Many saddles are made of either two things; bone or hard-formed plastic. You can get a nice and perfectly decent sound from a plastic one, but a bone saddle provides a tone and sound that is just that little bit nicer. Bone saddles are just that little bit more expensive though. The choice, however, is ultimately yours to make.
In general, the ‘ideal’ is a 11/32″ bridge and 5/32″ saddle, resulting in a 1/2″ string height above the top.
There isn’t one generic size to which bridge pins are made. As a result, most pins will vary in their thickness from one brand to another, however, the differences in sizing is fairly small and usually only between 0.10 – 0.20mm.
Simply put, your saddle should be snug, but loose enough that you can easily remove it with your fingers. A snug fit allows for the saddle to properly transmit string energy to the top, ultimately resulting in better tone.