Wednesday, 29 July 2009


While I was working for Guitarist magazine, we coined the expression 'Guitar Voodoo' for when we thought a manufacturer was, shall we say, trying to push things a little with his claims for a particular product. These would include certain products which, when retro-fitted to either an electric or acoustic instrument would apparently have some sort of beneficial effect on its tone…

…And most of it was complete bull****!

So, working in that environment kinda encourages a cynical overview of the music manufacturing industry in some respects. You're certainly not taken in too easily, anyway.

So when it came time for me to think about changing the bridge pins (the plastic 'plugs' on an acoustic guitar bridge that wedge the strings in place) for purely cosmetic reasons, I was a little bit wary when I began to read the claims made for different types of pin. There are, for instance, ebony pins and ones made from brass, synthetic bone, real bone, mammoth bone (I'm not kidding) and various other stuff, too. In virtually all cases, there are claims about what this change will do to your sound. In fact, the claims are usually directly proportionate to the cost of the product – the more expensive they are, the better they sound. Allegedly.

So I bought a set of Tusq bridge pins for around ten quid; like I say, my reasoning here was that they would improve the looks of the guitar, rather than its sound – and for ten quid, if they did have a positive effect as a by-product, then I would be happy.

When I installed them, I found a distinct difference. Instead of the wildness you normally get when putting a new set of strings on an acoustic (I replaced the bridge pins as part of a string change) everything was suddenly uniform. It's difficult to describe, but whatever was happening was for the good of the instrument's tone and certainly not to its detriment.

But sometimes I don't believe my own ears and so I bought another set for my other acoustic guitar and went through the same procedure again – with the same effect. Nice, uniform tones across all of the open strings and a kind of warmth from fretted notes which I'm sure wasn't there before.


I've read postings on guitar forums where people say that replacing bridge pins doesn't make any difference, or that it does – the debate rages on. But all I can say is that from my own personal experience, backed up by years of reviewing instruments for magazines and sifting out the truth from various manufacturers' hyperbole, I can notice a difference.

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