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Guitar Bridge Pins and their effect on tone

Most guitars come equipped with standard plastic bridge pins.  The job of the bridge pin is to hold the string in place at the bridge, and while plastic pins get the job done, there are several other materials that can greatly improve your guitar's tone.  Bone, Ebony, Fossilized Walrus Ivory (FWI), Mammoth Ivory, Walrus Jawbone, and Buffalo Horn are just some of the better pins on the market today.  Some of the improvements you can expect from a bridge pin upgrade are increased sustain, more clarity,  and overall volume.  Depending on which material you choose, you can also steer your guitar towards more bass or more treble.  When using plastic as a reference, I would describe the different bridge pins like this:

  • Tusq can add a moderate amount of treble, sustain, clarity & volume to your Martin.
  • Bone offers everything Tusq provides, but in bigger doses.
  • Ebony can add bass and warmth to your Martin, along with a significant increase in sustain & volume.
  • Buffalo Horn sounds almost identical to bone, and is a great choice if you want a dark looking pin with bone tone.
  • Walrus Jawbone offers the fundamental tone of bone but with better overtones & fatter harmonics.
  • Mammoth Ivory can add sustain, volume, and a transparent richness to your guitar, with an increase in harmonics & overtones!
  • Walrus Ivory provides the greatest increase in volume, sustain & clarity among all the pin choices.  Some high end guitars actually ship with FWI as standard equipment!
  • Persimmon brings out much more detail from the guitar's tonal pallet and harmonic voice than either ebony or plastic, plus high harmonics are promoted with astonishing clarity.
  • Martin Luxe offer an increase in volume and sustain without sacrificing the low end, or rich-ness of the guitar's tone. In addition, they are extremely durable and will last significantly longer than most bridge pins on the market today.

Changing your bridge pins can be a fun experiment, and with the exception of FWI, its a relatively inexpensive one.  The only modification that changes your sound more dramatically is a change in saddle material, which can also be a good idea. Tusq, Bone, Buffalo Horn, Mammoth Ivory, and FWI are also excellent saddle materials, and the above tonal descriptions are also true for saddles when compared to plastic & micarta.  Whether you're looking for that extra bit of tone, or just plain curious - take the plunge and see what you come up with.  Your guitar just might surprise you!

Maury Rutch

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