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Old 05-12-2006, 03:52 PM
coyoteblue coyoteblue is offline
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Default Bridge Replacement/Mod for a Gibson J-50

I just bought a '67 J-50, the kind with an adjustable bridge. It sounds pretty good to me but I've heard that either replacing the saddle with an insert in the bridge, replacing the bridge, and /or replacing the plywood bridge plate all can improve the sound of this guitar. Has anyone out there done any of this to their Gibsons? How do these mods affect tone? I wouldn't want to sacrifice warmth and bass...would these be enhanced or diminished? What is a bridge plate as opposed to just the bridge? Thanks for any advice you can give.
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Old 05-12-2006, 04:15 PM
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cpmusic cpmusic is offline
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Converting an adjustable bridge to a traditional fixed one is possible, and chances are it will increase volume and change the tone, but how it will change the tone is difficult to predict.

It can be done by filling the wide saddle slot and routing a new one, or by replacing the entire bridge. Frank Ford shows how the latter is done on a Hummingbird, at Note that Frank replaced the bridge because the old one was lifting off the soundboard, and because he didn't like the design (pin holes too close to the back edge).

NOTE: Making such a radical change on a vintage guitar will probably decrease its value, no matter how lousy the bridge and saddle assembly may be. And even if that's not important to you, bear in mind that if you have the whole bridge and bridge plate replaced, it will be an expensive proposition, and you won't know what the guitar will sound like until it's done. I guess it will depend on how much you like the guitar as it is, whether it needs bridge work anyway, how much you paid for it, and probably some other factors that are harder to put your finger on.

I suspect I'd be sorely tempted to have the work done, especially since some J-50s were built with a traditional saddle. However, unless the bridge were lifting or the bridge plate were damaged, I think I'd go the simpler route and have the slot filled and re-routed. It would mean less disassembly, which I'd prefer if it's possible, and it would cost a lot less.

If you decide to do it, make sure you find a top-notch luthier to do the work. This is not a job to trust to just anyone.
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