If you’re interested in the comparison of ebony vs bone bridge pins, you’ve come to the right post!
Bridge Pins Explained
Back in the old days, guitars had gut strings. Even with nylon strings, it was possible to tie them in a knot at the bridge. However, steel-string guitars changed the overall design of the instrument. This also included the bridge.
Almost all steel-string guitars come with very similar bridges. The main principle here involves specially designed bridge pins. Their main purpose is to hold strings locked in the bridge.
An acoustic guitar comes with six holes in the bridge. They go directly into the body and are right behind the saddle. The string breaks over the saddle and right into the body. On the inner side of the soundboard, there’s an additional wooden plate.
Pins serve their purpose in securing the ball-end of a steel string in the hole. Pins are designed to curve the strings and push ball ends away from the hole. Then the ball end rests directly on the bridge plate.
Bridge pins are long enough to sit perfectly in the bridge. They usually have a furrow where the string rests. On the top, we have a wider head. And the bottom is just designed to push the ball end.
They’re made from harder materials. Cheaper guitars use plastic pins. But you can always replace them with something else. This can be bone, ivory, metal, wood, or other materials.
Ebony Bridge Pins
Ebony wood bridge pins are dark brown. For the most part, they’re present on dark-colored instruments. So we can argue that the purpose of different pin materials is often for aesthetics.
As far as the tone goes, it’s just slightly darker and mellower. This can take the edge off a single note’s attack, making it feel smoother.
Although it’s hardwood, ebony is slightly softer than bone and plastic. This is what makes the tone slightly mellower. However, it also makes it last not as long compared to bone or plastic. But we could say this about any type of wooden bridge pin.
Bone Bridge Pins
Bone is, obviously, a harder material. But, most importantly, it’s also white. This is why you’ll commonly see them on light-colored guitars.
Other than that, bone is a much harder material compared to wood. This comes with a few practical differences. Its impact on the tone is a bit specific. It usually brings a slightly brighter tone. Additionally, it can sharpen the attack a little bit.
Since it’s harder, it can also potentially increase sustain. But this may also depend on other factors so it doesn’t always do that.
Contrary to softer materials, like wood, bone can last longer. However, this also comes with potential risks. In the longer run, your guitar may get some minor damage. The holes and the bridge plate can wear out.
It’s not like bone pins are super harmful or anything. But if you’re using them for decades, you may need to repair your guitar.
Ebony vs Bone Bridge Pins
Honestly, there isn’t a way to say which one is better here. As it usually goes with materials, it’s just what you prefer. However, it’s crucial to know how it all impacts your tone and performance.
There’s also one thing that I should add to this. Although bridge pins have an impact on your tone, it’s not the most important factor. Differences are nuanced. And, in all honesty, this is something that only highly experienced players will notice with ease. You’ll hear some guitar players even claiming that practical differences are only aesthetic.
You also need to bear in mind that there are so many factors to include here. One guitar might react to wooden or bone pins a certain way. Another one might get completely different results.
However, they do make an impact on string vibrations. From my experience, this will affect the sustain more than the color of the tone.
Generally, I’m inclined to use non-wooden pins. This brings a slightly sharper tone and can potentially increase sustain. Additionally, I feel safer about them as they usually hold the strings a bit better. As a result, the intonation should be more stable. So between these two, I’d go with bone pins.
One downside of bone pins over ebony ones is that they may do more damage to your guitar. After all, we’re talking about a wooden instrument. And it’s only a matter of time when the bridge and bridge plate will wear out.
It’s not like you’ll ruin your guitar. But from my experience, wooden pins make less damage in the long run.
Additionally, ebony pins can make the tone slightly mellower. So have that in mind if you prefer that. They’re also dark so you’ll have to think of the visual aspect as well.
I hope this post has helped you think through this comparison a bit more.
And if you want to read more about guitar materials on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!