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There are four basic types of bridge and tailpiece systems on electric guitars. Within these four types are many variants. A hard-tail guitar bridge anchors the strings at or directly behind the bridge and is fastened securely to the top of the instrument. A floating or trapeze tailpiece similar to a violin's fastens to the body at the base of the guitar.

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These appear on Rickenbackers , Gretsches , Epiphones , a wide variety of archtop guitars , particularly Jazz guitars , and the Gibson Les Paul. Pictured is a tremolo arm or vibrato tailpiece style bridge and tailpiece system, often called a whammy bar or trem. It uses a lever "vibrato arm" attached to the bridge that can temporarily slacken or tighten the strings to alter the pitch.

A player can use this to create a vibrato or a portamento effect. Early vibrato systems were often unreliable and made the guitar go out of tune easily. They also had a limited pitch range. Later Fender designs were better, but Fender held the patent on these, so other companies used older designs for many years.

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With expiration of the Fender patent on the Stratocaster -style vibrato, various improvements on this type of internal, multi-spring vibrato system are now available. Floyd Rose introduced one of the first improvements on the vibrato system in many years when, in the late s, he experimented with "locking" nuts and bridges that prevent the guitar from losing tuning, even under heavy vibrato bar use. The fourth type of system employs string-through body anchoring.

The strings pass over the bridge saddles, then through holes through the top of the guitar body to the back. The strings are typically anchored in place at the back of the guitar by metal ferrules. Many believe this design improves a guitar's sustain and timbre. Compared to an acoustic guitar, which has a hollow body, electric guitars make much less audible sound when their strings are plucked, so electric guitars are normally plugged into a guitar amplifier and speaker.

When an electric guitar is played, string movement produces a signal by generating i. The signal passes through the tone and volume circuits to the output jack, and through a cable to an amplifier. Because of their natural inductive qualities, magnetic pickups tend to pick up ambient, usually unwanted electromagnetic interference or EMI. The resulting hum is particularly strong with single-coil pickups. Double-coil or " humbucker " pickups were invented as a way to reduce or counter the sound.

The high combined inductance of the two coils also leads to the richer, "fatter" tone associated with humbucking pickups. Electric guitar necks vary in composition and shape. The primary metric of guitar necks is the scale length , which is the vibrating length of the strings from nut to bridge.

A typical Fender guitar uses a While the scale length of the Les Paul is often described as Frets are positioned proportionally to scale length—the shorter the scale length, the closer the fret spacing. Opinions vary regarding the effect of scale length on tone and feel. Popular opinion holds that longer scale length contributes to greater amplitude. Reports of playing feel are greatly complicated by the many factors involved in this perception. String gauge and design, neck construction and relief, guitar setup, playing style and other factors contribute to the subjective impression of playability or feel.

Necks are described as bolt-on , set-in , or neck-through , depending on how they attach to the body. Set-in necks are glued to the body in the factory. This is the traditional type of joint.

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Leo Fender pioneered bolt-on necks on electric guitars to facilitate easy adjustment and replacement. Neck-through instruments extend the neck the length of the instrument, so that it forms the center of the body. While a set-in neck can be carefully unglued by a skilled luthier , and a bolt-on neck can simply be unscrewed, a neck-through design is difficult or even impossible to repair, depending on the damage.

Historically, the bolt-on style has been more popular for ease of installation and adjustment. Since bolt-on necks can be easily removed, there is an after-market in replacement bolt-on necks from companies such as Warmoth and Mighty Mite. Some instruments—notably most Gibson models—continue to use set-in glued necks. Neck-through bodies are somewhat more common in bass guitars.

Materials for necks are selected for dimensional stability and rigidity, and some allege that they influence tone. Hardwoods are preferred, with maple , mahogany , and ash topping the list. The neck and fingerboard can be made from different materials; for example, a guitar may have a maple neck with a rosewood or ebony fingerboard.

In the s, designers began to use exotic man-made materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum , carbon fiber , and ebonol. Aside from possible engineering advantages, some feel that in relation to the rising cost of rare tonewoods , man-made materials may be economically preferable and more ecologically sensitive. However, wood remains popular in production instruments, though sometimes in conjunction with new materials.

Vigier guitars , for example, use a wooden neck reinforced by embedding a light, carbon fiber rod in place of the usual heavier steel bar or adjustable steel truss rod. After-market necks made entirely from carbon fiber fit existing bolt-on instruments. Few, if any, extensive formal investigations have been widely published that confirm or refute claims over the effects of different woods or materials on electric guitar sound. Several neck shapes appear on guitars, including shapes known as C necks, U necks, and V necks.

These refer to the cross-sectional shape of the neck especially near the nut. Several sizes of fret wire are available, with traditional players often preferring thin frets, and metal shredders liking thick frets. Thin frets are considered better for playing chords, while thick frets allow lead guitarists to bend notes with less effort.

An electric guitar with a folding neck called the "Foldaxe" was designed and built for Chet Atkins by Roger C. Fingerboards vary as much as necks. The fingerboard surface usually has a cross-sectional radius that is optimized to accommodate finger movement for different playing techniques. Fingerboard radius typically ranges from nearly flat a very large radius to radically arched a small radius. The vintage Fender Telecaster , for example, has a typical small radius of approximately 7. Some manufacturers have experimented with fret profile and material, fret layout, number of frets, and modifications of the fingerboard surface for various reasons.

Some innovations were intended to improve playability by ergonomic means, such as Warmoth Guitars' compound radius fingerboard.

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Scalloped fingerboards added enhanced microtonality during fast legato runs. Fanned frets intend to provide each string with an optimal playing tension and enhanced musicality.

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Some guitars have no frets—and others, like the Gittler guitar , have no neck in the traditional sense. While an acoustic guitar 's sound depends largely on the vibration of the guitar's body and the air inside it, the sound of an electric guitar depends largely on the signal from the pickups.

The signal can be " shaped " on its path to the amplifier via a range of effect devices or circuits that modify the tone and characteristics of the signal. Amplifiers and speakers also add coloration to the final sound. Modern electric guitars most commonly have two or three magnetic pickups. Identical pickups produce different tones depending on location between the neck and bridge. Bridge pickups produce a bright or trebly timbre i. The type of pickup also affects tone. The sound of dual-coil pickups is often described as warm and thick [38] ; conversely, single-coil pickups are often described as sounding clear and bright [38].

Where there is more than one pickup, a switch selects between the outputs of individual pickups or some combination; two-pickup guitars have three-way switches, and three-pickup guitars have five-way switches. Further circuitry sometimes combines pickups in different ways. For instance, phase switching places one pickup out of phase with the other s , resulting in destructive interference of lower-frequency harmonics a sound often described as "thin" or "hollow" [39].

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A pickup's timbre can be altered by making changes to the individual pickup's circuit. One such alteration is coil splitting, in which one coil of a humbucker pickup is removed from the circuit in order to produce a tone similar to a single-coil pickup [40] this switching is often accomplished using push-pull potentiometers. The final stages of on-board sound-shaping circuitry are the volume control potentiometer and tone control a low-pass filter which "rolls off" the treble frequencies.

Where there are individual volume controls for different pickups, and where pickup signals can be combined, they would affect the timbre of the final sound by adjusting the balance between pickups from a straight The solid-body electric guitar does not produce enough sound for an audience to hear it in a performance setting unless it's electronically amplified—plugged into an amplifier , mixing console , or PA.

Guitar amplifier design uses a different approach than sound reinforcement system power amplifiers and home "hi-fi" stereo systems.