Strings-through-Body Telecaster Bridge

By Dave Hunter

The strings-through-body bridge has multiple variations, but it’s best known as it appears on Fender’s Telecaster and similar guitars. When Leo Fender introduced his revolutionary solidbody guitar in 1950, it had strings anchored in ferules (small metal cups) inset into the back of the guitar and passing up through holes in the body and through the bridge plate, where they took a right-angle turn over three bridge saddles.

[Credit: Photograph by Dave Hunter]
Credit: Photograph by Dave Hunter

As such, this type of bridge has no tailpiece to accompany it; the ferules in the back of the body act as tailpiece.

This bridge design is one of the things that helps to give the Telecaster, and guitars built like it, its solid, clear, ringing tone. The solid anchoring of the strings in the body enhances sustain and resonance, and — along with the solid metal bridge saddles (traditionally made from brass or steel) — provides a firm coupling of string to body.

Traditional Telecaster-style bridges use just three saddles, with each pair of strings sharing a metal bar, so there are inherent drawbacks in the adjustment facilities of these units. Essentially, when setting the strings’ intonation, you need to find a compromise that works best for both strings, which may prove to be just a little off for either.

Even so, many players find this bridge design to have outstanding sound, and its intonation facilities are still better than many of the early electric guitar bridges afforded, so they learn to work with this compromise.

Later renditions of replacement parts for such bridges have been made with angled or notched saddles to more accurately balance the intonation settings of each string pair, and Fender came out with a six-saddle version of the Telecaster bridge in the ’70s, which many other parts makers offer today.

Other makers over the years have used very different variations of through-body stringing, with the strings anchored in the back of the guitar, but passing through the top and over an entirely different bridge design. In most cases, such setups are known for enhancing resonance and sustain.

Fender’s own hardtail Stratocaster, so called because it has a non-vibrato bridge rather than the traditional vibrato bridge that the model is known for, uses its own rendition of through-body stringing, with strings anchored in the back of the body as on a Telecaster but passing into a fixed rendition of the Strat bridge with six individual bent-steel saddles.

Another big part of a traditional Telecaster’s sound comes from the fact that the bridge pickup is suspended from the bridge’s metal base plate. The interaction of the bridge and plate together add a certain metallic honk that’s often heard in the upper-midrange response of these guitars and contributes to its classic thick, meaty twang tones.