The importance of bridge pins on an acoustic guitar is often overlooked, especially if you’re only a casual strummer. However, choosing the right material can not only improve your guitar’s aesthetics, but also it’s tone. In this article we’ll compare the different types of bridge pin materials and how each one uniquely affects your guitar’s tone. But first, let’s look at what bridge pins actually do.
What Exactly Do Bridge Pins Do?
Besides serving the functional purpose of securing the ball ends of the strings to the bridge plate hidden inside the body of your acoustic guitar, bridge pins also carry the vibration (sound) of the strings into the guitar’s body. The most common types of bridge pins are slotted and unslotted, with the latter being the most common of the two. Slotted pins have a groove cut into the shank to accommodate the string in an unslotted bridge and puts pressure against the string to hold it in place. Unslotted pins have no groove and are meant to be used with a slotted bridge. With this type of bridge, a notch is cut in the front of the bridge pin hole and the pin prevents the string from slipping out of the notch. Since these tiny pins play such an important role in your guitar’s performance, it’s crucial that you choose the right bridge pin material for your desired tone. Let's compare.
Plastic pins are what usually ships with your guitar due to the fact that they’re inexpensive and won’t crack the bridge as temperatures fluctuate during shipping. However, plastic pins are known to bend and wear out easily, can look plain, and won’t enhance your guitar’s tone, making them a less than ideal choice.
Brass pins are the most durable of all the options, but unless your guitar is really bassy, they can make it sound too bright and brittle. Brass pins can also be expensive and sometimes require reaming out the bridge to fit properly. For most players, brass pins won’t produce a desirable sound.
Although wood pins look nice aesthetically and can improve your guitar’s tone, they’re sometimes prone to swelling in moist conditions. Depending on the age of your guitar and tightness of the fit, they can crack your bridge. Because of this, we don’t recommend using wood pins on antique guitars.
Ivory Bridge Pins
Ivory pins can increase sustain, produce a warm tone, and look beautiful. However, not only are they very expensive, but they’re difficult to obtain legally and are marred by all kinds of ethical issues. We recommend you stay away from these.
Bone pins can increase sustain, produce a brighter, fuller tone, and are more durable than some of the other materials. Compared to plastic, bone can be a bit more expensive, but overall we feel that it's a superior choice for most players.
If you find that bone or wood pins are a bit too big for your guitar, instead of reaming out your bridge pin holes, you can use #200 to #400 grit sandpaper to gently sand them down until they fit.
Whether you’re replacing your bridge pins because they’ve broken or you’re looking to improve your guitar’s tone or aesthetics, choosing the right type of pin is just as important as any other aspect of your acoustic guitar. Some guitars will sound better or worse depending on the material you choose, so try different types, experiment and overall have fun!
If you think that bone or ebony sound like the perfect fit for your guitar, why not check out our Pure Bone Bridge Pins or Pure Ebony Bridge Pins. Made from genuine ox bone and African Blackwood with abalone inlay, our bridge pins offer an easy and affordable way to improve your guitar’s tone and aesthetics.
Still not convinced? Check out these comparison videos between our Pure Bone & Pure Ebony Bridge Pins vs. plastic pins.