There are various reasons you might want to measure your string spacing, but typically it's for a bridge or pickup replacement. As string spacing measurements vary across different guitar manufacturers, as well as different bridge types, learning how to measure it for yourself will save you a lot of time, effort, and potentially money. Knowing your string spacing is a necessity when upgrading your bridge or bridge components, and it also affects your pickup selection! Confused? Read on to learn more…
What is String Spacing?
Simply put string spacing, as you might imagine, is the space between your strings. It is usually measured at the bridge and as the strings on a lot of guitars tend to taper in as you get closer to the headstock, you will often find the measurement differs at different points of the guitar's length.
Guitar manufacturers have different spacings and these are usually related to the pickups used (more of which later). On a traditional Gibson-style bridge you’ll often find that the string spacing is around 50mm whereas Fender-style bridges can come in anywhere between 52 to 55mm.
How do I measure my string spacing?
Annoyingly the majority of guitar manufacturers do not got to any great lengths to display string spacing on their specifications so to find out this information you will have to measure it yourself! Luckily all you need is a ruler and little knowledge. There are two different ways to measure your string spacing, both of which you’ll find in various places across the World Wide Web of guitar parts. It’s good to know both as retailers may have one measurement and not the other.
The first is to measure between the middle points of two individual bridge saddles. This will give you the space between the saddles themselves, which when multiplied by one less than the amount of strings you have, will give you the total string spacing.
The second is to measure the entire distance from your low e to your high e. Remember to measure from the centre point of the saddle where the string sits, rather than the edge of the saddle and you’ll be away! It's important to note that string spacing measurements may vary slightly from guitar to guitar so you may not get an exact measurement of 52mm for example, but a part made to this measurement should still work.
Why do I need to know this?
If you’d like to replace your guitar bridge, bridge saddles, or pickups then it’s crucial to know the string spacing before you purchase any parts. It also applies if you’re looking to replace your guitar nut, although you will need to measure at the nut itself to determine this.
Replacing your bridge, bridge saddles, and pickups can have a marked effect on your guitar’s playability and sound. It’s one of the things we’d always recommend to players looking for quick and low cost upgrades. Fit a set of (correctly fitting) brass saddles and you might be surprised at how much better your guitar sounds for it!
How does it affect my pickup choice?
When choosing your guitar pickups, the correct spacing ensures that the pole pieces of the pickup are aligned to your strings, so that they sit well within their magnetic field to pick up string vibrations. They don’t have to be completely in line, some variance is still fine and you likely won’t hear the difference, however if they’re completely off then even an untrained ear will notice a drop off in volume and lack of response. It’s also crucial to measure both pickups, as it’s very common for them to differ from the bridge to the neck.
What about tremolo equipped guitars?
If you have a Floyd Rose style locking tremolo, then you’ve most likely got a string spacing of 52mm, as the increased space in the string is preferred to allow the pole pieces of the pickups to pick up string vibrations more accurately. This is why you’ll often see ‘F-spaced’ or with Seymour Duncan pickups, the term ‘Trembucker’. These pickups have wider pole pieces for use with tremolo equipped guitars.
Although this is a simple measurement, we often find a lot of guitarists overlook this when looking to purchase new bridge parts and pickups. We heartily recommend going by your own measurements with this sort of thing, as the waters are often muddied by confusion between string spacing at the bridge and nut width at the headstock.
If you’re still unsure of your string spacing, or have any other questions, feel free to get in touch.
Critical to further understanding of string spacing is knowing all about your Guitar Nuts.
Your bridge is one of the most important components of your guitar, so make sure it’s set up right with our Guitar Setup Guide.
Learn more about pickups with our Telecaster Pickup Guide.