For the most part, guitar bridge pins are by no means universal. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, especially when they’ve been crafted out of different materials, including bone, ivory, rosewood, brass, or plastic.
Due to the fact they can be different sizes, you may have to take your guitar and the pins to a luthier to fit them properly into the bridge.
As I just mentioned, bridge pins come in many flavors, including bone, ebony, rosewood, or brass, with most people preferring the bone bridge pins, but it really depends on the person and their taste.
In the case of the bridge pins not being the proper size, the luthier will have to ream out the holes to make them fit.
In my personal experience, I bought bone bridge pins a few years back, and they were just a little bit too big for the guitar’s bridge. They work, and they fit in the holes, but they’re so tight that they often take pliers to remove. Obviously, this isn’t ideal.
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If you’re worried about getting the proper bridge pins, I would recommend choosing the type of pins that you want, depending on what you think would sound the best, and then taking it to a luthier who will then do the proper work on it.
What Do Bridge Pins Do?
Typically, most people believe that bridge pins hold the guitar strings in place in the bridge, however, what their primary function is, is holding the string’s ball end against the bridge plate inside of the guitar’s soundhole.
The string curves around it and goes through the bridge, then it runs through the bridge saddle.
In the case of the string’s ball-end not being totally anchored to the bridge plate, then what happens is that the string will slip out and the pin will eject from the bridge.
While it’s certainly possible to purchase bridge pins that are the right size right from the get-go, especially when they’re plastic, if you make the switch to a different material, you’ll most likely have to get them properly fitted.
There are pros and cons to each type of bridge pin, including the fact that some of them take reaming of the bridge hole to make them fit properly.
Pros And Cons Of Each Type Of Bridge Pin
Plastic Bridge Pins
In the case of them being made out of plastic, they’re usually inexpensive and available for purchase at nearly any music store, especially at a place where they sell guitar equipment and accessories primarily.
These are known for not only being inexpensive but also for not doing much fo the overall sound of the guitar.
Wooden Bridge Pins
Wooden bridge pins, on the other hand, are a little bit more money, and they tend to improve the sustain of the guitar. In some cases, it requires the reaming out of the bridge to make them fit the instrument accordingly, however.
Ivory Bridge Pins
Ivory bridge pins increase the sustain of the guitar and create more of a warm tone, and they also look really cool. However, they’re expensive, extremely expensive, and they’re hard to get your hands on.
Some people believe they’re unethical as well, due to the fact they’re made out of elephant’s tusk.
Bone Bridge Pins
Bone bridge pins have the same sonic quality as the ivory bridge pins. They tend to create a similar bright sound, and they also look really cool.
They’re harder to find and they’re relatively expensive as well, but they can usually be purchased online. They sometimes require the luthier to ream out the bridge as well.
Brass Bridge Pins
Brass bridge pins, on the other hand, are more different than the others, especially for the tone they’re known for, which tends to be much, much brighter. They are expensive and hard to find. Some people say they’re simply too bright for most players.
In terms of popularity, bone, ebony, and rosewood are probably the most preferred, whereas brass is often too bright for people as I just mentioned, and plastic is the cheapest and therefore the lowest quality and more likely to break.
What To Do When You Need New Pins
Assuming you’re reading this article, it means that you’ve probably noticed that the bridge pins have started to break or demonstrate some kind of wear and tear.
In the case of the bridge pin breaking, the string’s ball will travel up into the bridge, and it may actually cause the pins to eject from it. Moreover, a consequence of this may be the bridge plate as well as the top of the guitar will begin cracking.
If the bridge plate breaks or cracks, then the same thing can happen to the bridge as well. If the braces fail, then the guitar may be at risk of becoming even more damaged.
In the case of the bridge pin getting lodged inside of the bridge, it’s a common practice to remove it by simply pushing on the string inside of the bridge, toward the inside of the guitar, and then pulling out the pin.
If you’ve decided you do need new bridge pins, and you want to make the switch to a different material, take it to a luthier and have them show you what to do. A luthier might have to use a tapered reamer to fit them into the bridge.
It’s worth mentioning that you can actually get away with using improperly fitted bridge pins, but obviously, this isn’t actually optimal.
What will end up happening is that the bridge pins will stick out of the bridge just a little bit and tend to look kind of awkward, and the sound won’t be entirely optimal either. They can either be too tight, or too loose.
For instance, one user on Ultimate-Guitar.com, probably the biggest guitar website on the internet, said that he/she had to use pliers to remove them because they were too tight. This is the same problem I had all those years ago, and it isn’t supposed to happen.
In conclusion, bridge pins come in a variety of different sizes, but thankfully, most guitar manufacturers, including Martin and Taylor, will use the same sizes repeatedly on all of their instruments. Some of the smaller guitar makers use the same size of bridge pins and saddles as well.
According to Guitar Saddles, bridge pins from manufacturers such as Martin and Taylor can come in 3mm or 4mm.
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In conclusion, guitar bridge pins are by no means universal, because they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For the reason, it’s definitely worth choosing the bridge pin of choice, whether bone or brass and taking them to a proper guitar luthier who will then ream out the holes so they fit into the bridge 100% perfectly.
When it comes to things like this, it’s best to just go right to the person who can do it properly, rather than mess around without knowing what you’re doing, and not only end up wasting all of your time, but also putting yourself at risk of damaging the bridge plate as well as other parts of the instrument.
Just take the guitar to a luthier and have him use the proper size of the pin that you need.