There is a big debate in the guitar world over the best Telecaster bridge design. The 3-saddle bridge is the most vintage looking and sounding, but the 6-saddle bridge offers a more modern take to help solve some of the drawbacks associated with the 3-saddle design.
In this article, I’ll be directly comparing the 3-saddle and 6-saddle Telecaster bridges and highlighting all their pros and cons.
The Quick Answer
The 3-saddle Telecaster bridge produces a more twangy tone and helps to increase sustain compared to the 6-saddle bridge which results in a smoother tone. The main advantage of the 6-saddle bridge is that it makes it easier to intonate the guitar because each saddle is associated with a single string.
|3-Saddle Bridge||6-Saddle Bridge|
|Intonation adjustment is less accurate because there are two strings per saddle||Intonation adjustment is easier because there is a saddle for each string|
|Sounds more twangy||Results in a smoother tone|
|Better sustain||Less sustain|
|Found on more vintage-style Telecasters||Found on more modern-style Telecasters|
Adjusting the Intonation and Action
The main advantage of the 6-saddle Telecaster bridge is that it allows you to intonate each strings and adjust the action individually. On the 3-saddle bridge, all the strings are in-pairs which makes it harder to get the intonation completely accurate. Whilst it is possible to get intonation spot on with either bridge design, the 6-saddle bridge makes the process much easier.
There are a couple of variants of the 3-saddle bridge design though. The original bridge is not compensated and creates the biggest challenge in terms of intonating the guitar. The more modern 3-saddle bridge with compensated saddles does make adjusting the intonation easier compared to the original design, but it still isn’t as easy as with the 6-saddle bridge.
Tone and Sustain
The main advantages of the 3-saddle bridge are that it results in better sustain and a more twangy tone compared to the 6-saddle bridge. Whilst 6-saddle Tele’s still sound unmistakably like a Telecaster, the vintage 3-saddle bridge produces that iconic twangy and cleaner sound.
This isn’t just to do with the number of saddles though. On the 3-saddle design, you’ll often find brass saddle which help to produce this twang. On 6-saddle bridges you’ll often find steel saddles, although you can find steel saddles on the 3-saddle bridge as well.
With regards to sustain, there is a bit more debate here. The theory is that there are fewer moving parts in with the 3-saddle bridge, which means less energy is lost and the string can vibrate for longer. The differences aren’t huge though and some players will not be bothered by this subtle difference.
Check out this YouTube video to hear a tone comparison between the two bridge designs.
The 3-saddle bridge is without a doubt the most iconic looking. Many Tele purists won’t go near a 6-saddle bridge due to both it’s tone and the way it looks. The 6-saddle bridge looks a bit busier and more modern.
On most Fender and Squier models which pay tribute to the original ’50s and ’60s Telecaster designs, you’ll find a 3-saddle bridge. Whereas more modern and ’70s tribute Teles tend to have 6-saddle bridge instead.
Which Tele Bridge Design is Used More?
Here is a list of currently available (at the time of writing) Telecaster models and their bridge designs.
Telecaster Models with 3-Saddle Bridges:
- Fender Vintera ’70s Custom
- Fender Vintera ’50s/ Modified ’50s
- Fender Vintera ’60s/ Modified ’60s
- Fender American Performer
- Fender American Professional II
- Fender JV Modified ’50s
- Fender JV Modified ’60s Custom
- Fender American Original ’50s
- Fender American Original ’60s
- Fender American Original ’70s
- Fender George Harrison
- Fender J Mascis
- Fender Brad Paisley
- Fender Jason Isbell Custom
- Fender Jimmy Page
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s
- Squier Classic Vibe ’60s
- Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Custom
Telecaster Models with 6-Saddle Bridges:
- Fender Player
- Fender Player Plus
- Fender Vintera ’70s Deluxe
- Fender American Ultra
- Fender American Ultra Luxe
- Fender Chris Shiflett
- Fender Chrissie Hynde
- Fender Richie Kotzen
- Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Deluxe
- Squier Affinity
- Squier Bullet
In the market for a new guitar? I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.