The Tune-O-Matic Bridge
This mod brought to you by Joey P.
(Joey in the [discussion forums])
Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of the Tune-o-matic. Kurt’s guitar tech installed it on just about all his guitars after 91’. Kurt probally fell in love with the Tune-o-matic around 91’ right after he bought his 65’ Fender Jaguar. He used the Gotoch Standard Tune-o-matic availble thru StewMac. Gotoh is a company that reproduces the Gibson Standard Tune-o-matic.
History of the Tune-o-matic
- Gibson first started using the Tune-o-matic bridge in 1954 in their Les Paul Custom and the following year it was used on the Gibson Gold Top. Since then a variety of Tune-o-matic style bridges have been used on many other guitars. There are 3 main different sytles of Tune-o-matics.
- The first version of the Tune-o-matic, the Standard Tune-o-matic appeared in 1954, it did not have an adjustable slothead height adjustment. It was just a skinny post that was only adjustable by turning the thumbwheel. Which required you to slacken the strings a great deal then lift the bridge upward to turn the thumbwheel to your desire height.
The second version of the Tune-o-matic, the Modern Tune-o-matic featured a much larger post with a threaded pot. The post was too large to be used in Fender guitars, because they required drilling. The best feature about the Modern Tune-o-matic was the adjustable slothead height adjustment. Players could now easily adjust the bridge height using a flathead screwer, instead of the old method of loosen the strings and lifting the bridge.
How to install the Standard Tune-o-matic in the Jagstang, Mustang, Jaguar & Jazzmaster
- Step #1: Remove the strings and simply pull up the stock bridge.
- Step #2: Wrap electrical tape around the Standard Tune-o-matic post. Wrap just enough electrical tape around the post so that the post can just barely fit into the pot. Do not cover the very bottom of the post with electrical tape, or it may block the post from making contact with the metal pot casing. If you should accidentally block the connection the guitar will not be grounded correctly and will be noisy. A quick way to tell if it’s grounded correctly is to just simply turn on the amp and touch the strings. If the hum stops when you touch the strings then it’s grounded correctly. If the humming does not stop, then go back and make sure the post is making contact with the pot so it ensures it’s grounded properly.
- Step #3: Drop the bridge onto the post, restring, set the action and intonation.
How to install the Modern Tune-o-matic in the Mustang & Jagstang
- Step #1: Remove the strings and simply pull up the stock bridge. Unscrew the 5 screws that hold the “Dynamic Fender Vibrato” tail plate down. Lift it up and put it aside.
- Step #2: Remove the two metal pots left over in the bridge post hole. The metal pot that is directly next to the control plate cavity will have a wire solder to the bottom of it. Unsolder the wire and push it back thru the hole into the control cavity for now.
- Step #3: Using a drill press, drill out new bridge post holes. You may want to use one large drill bit or two (large and medium) drills bits. The Modern Tune-o-matic has a lip at the top of the pot that is larger then the shaft of the pot. You want to inbed the lip right below the surface of the guitar so the tail will fit flat on the body. This will ensure that you can get the lowest action possible.
- Step #4: Once you get the bridge in position then you may drop some wood filler into the hole and screw down the new bridge and tail plate. Don’t forget to reattach the ground wire that you unsolder in Step #2. Screw the tail plate and bridge down all the way for a nice tight fit. Restring the guitar and test the ground wire right away before the wood filler hardens. Turn on the amp and touch the strings. If the noise goes away then ground wire is connected correctly. If the noise does not go away when you touch the strings then take the tail apart and reattach the ground wire. Let it sit for 24 hours so the wood filler can harden. Then set the action and intonation.
How to install the Modern Tune-o-matic Jaguar & Jazzmaster
- Step #1: Remove the strings and simply pull up the stock bridge. Unscrew the pickguard and put it aside.**
- Step #2: Remove the two metal pots left over in the bridge post hole.
- Step #3: Using a drill press, drill out new bridge post holes. You may want to use one large drill bit or two (large and medium) drills bits. The Modern Tune-o-matic has a lip at the top of the pot that is larger then the shaft of the pot. You want to inbed the lip right below the surface of the guitar so the lip will be flush against the body.
- Step #4: Once you get the bridge in position then you may drop some wood filler into the hole and screw down the new bridge and tail plate. Reattach the pickguard. Let the guitar sit for 24 hours so the wood filler can harden. Then set the action and intonation.
Pro and Cons of the Standard & Modern Tune-o-matic
- The Tune-o-matic has a 12" radius that does not match the Jagstang, Mustang, Jaguar and Jazzmaster 7 1/4" neck radius. This means that some strings will be higher off the fretboard and others will be lower. The only remedy is to file the saddle to match the 7 1/4" radius which is next to impossible to match.
- The Modern Tune-o-matic makes adjusting the action easy and extremely fast. It requires the twist of a flathead screwdriver to set the action. The flip side is that it requires drilling the body for it’s larger bridge pot.
- The Standard Tune-o-matic doesn’t have an adjustable head. It requires you to life the bridge upward after slacken the strings to adjust the action. The flip side is that it can be easily installed on your guitar with little modification.
- The Tune-o-matics require a straight humbucker route in order to acheive 100% accurate string and pickup polepeice alignment. This means replacing the stock pickguard, routing the body slightly and only using SH (standard spaced humbuckers/Gibson spaced humbuckers).
- The Tune-o-matics are capable of finer intonation then the stock bridge.
- The Tune-o-matics have shallow string slots on the saddles. Abusive and hard hitting players may occasionally knock the strings out of the string slot but very rarely. This can be remedy by filing the saddle slot grooves deeper.
- Most people report that they like the Tune-o-matics over the stock bridge, while other’s prefer the stock bridge.
- Due to the Tune-o-matic’s flat 12" bridge radius it’s harder to palm mute. The stock bridge has a 7 1/4" bridge radius that makes palm muting easier.
Where to buy tune-o-matic bridges online