So I'm a bit confused about the break angle of the strings over the saddle. I'm sure like most things it will be a trade off. I thought that having a sharp or steep angle where the strings meet the saddle would give the best transfer of string vibration to the bridge and top and provide maximum volume/tone. It would also eliminate buzzing or sliding of the strings on the saddle. But, my best sounding CBG and my commercially made resonator guitar both have a very shallow break angle over the saddle and they both are very loud and clear (CBG is not a resonator but does have a nice Punch Chateau box) I see many builds here that have very shallow break angles but are said to sound good as well.

What do you folks think about break angle at the saddle, steep, shallow, does it really matter?

I'm talking about acoustic guitars, not electric.

Thanks for your input!

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Well my immediate response would be the obvious answer. There is a balance somewhere that varies with and can either compliment or detract from other variables, generally including basic design and materials used.

In general, too much string pressure may mute a tops response just as too little might fail to harness its potential. I see some I would be sure had too little, yet sound quite good, and some designs I would suspect have far too much.

Therefore I dont think there is any set answer. The limitations set by box size on most of these designs should be a major limiting factor on acoustic response, yet on a regular basis people to prove me wrong.

My own acoustic efforts at this time are along the line of what I would describe as light, minimally braced and thin materials, but its all experimental, and again, it would appear that some people seem to consistently prove this approuch to be not necessarily on target. I tried a thin hardwood top that sounded harsh in my opinion, and now (when I get time to get back to it) am trying something in the other direction. And I am currently distracted from the acoustic thinking by some very electric ideas........

Ah what the heck, half the time the experiment is as great a pleasure as the result anyway.


Yeah, I think Mark has it right. It's very tempting to look at individual construction variables, and think any single one will provide the magic bullet in the search for tone. But time and again, this is proven not to be the case. There have been people hereabouts in the recent past who were sure that tall bridges (and thus greater string break angle at the saddle) were The Answer. And that does work, for certain boxes. But only if combined with some neck angle. Oops, now we got two variables to control. Others, myself included, have variations on trapeze tailpieces, with comparatively shallow string break angle at the saddle. And that also works. There are numerous commercial examples of violins, acoustic jazz boxes, banjos, dobros, etc., with similar features.

If you really wanted to see what only string break angle at the saddle would do, you'd have to set up a rather lengthy (and possibly expensive) experiment, involving boxes of different sizes, materials, wall, top, and bottom thicknesses, bridge heights, neck angles, neck thickness, neck material density, scale lengths, saddle materials, string gauges, soundhole dimensions, box shape, box internal volume, bracing, ad infinitum. You'd learn a lot, for sure. In the meantime, several thousand people around the world would have essentially conducted the experiment hundreds of thousands of times for you in a rather messy, unsophisticated fashion, by building their idiosyncratic takes on these simple instruments. The problem with this would then be gathering the data from all of these builds worldwide; very few builders are anal enough to give all the sorts of relevant measurements that might have an effect on the one variable you'd be trying to isolate. But this is an instance where, logically considered, crowdsourcing could give some important insights for builders.

And just about the time you maybe got it all figured out, some mechanical genius would prove it all wrong with a build that shouldn't work, but does.

Remember, from an aerodynamic standpoint, bumblebees can't fly. But don't let that stop you wondering about it and attempting to find an answer. Believe that you can fly.

Great advice from you both and thanks for taking the time to respond. I guess it is all part of the formula that combines to give whatever end result you come up with. Rather than spend all that time trying compile data, I think I'll just go build and see what happens!

I've changed my mind anyway mid -build as I often do and have just built a trapeze type tailpiece for it and ditched the bridge pin idea on this one, for now anyway!

Thanks again.


" I think I'll just go build and see what happens!"

That is what it is all about anyway.  I have only built 6 CBG so far, well 3 since 3 were from cookie, Snickers and MilkBone cans.  As to the break angle I agree with the above posters.  I think enough break to keep the strings from buzzing is all you need (low teens). 

I really do appreciate all of the insightful answers and the time and effort spent thinking about these things. Just one of the things I love about being part of this community.

Thank you all, Bluesheart

For what it's worth, some actual figures. 4 mm clearance at the 17th fret, 13~14mm height at the bridge, with maybe 2 degree of neck relief. That gives you a good break (but not too much) over the bridge and enough clearance over the body so you don't hit it when strumming (sounds bad with piezos) and an action that means you have to be pretty good but not factory good on your fret levelling. At the nut end, 0.5 mm clearance on the first fret so your low notes play in tune.

Im not too sure that the angle can be too great.  I understand what you're talking about Mr Bliss, and i cant fault your logic, but when I think about Les Jr type wraparound jobbies or string thru examples where the strings drop stright thru the body immediately behind a bridge, im not convinced it can be too great.

Similarly if we look at renaissance period stringed instruments and particularly the lute family theres some badarse angles in some heads happening back then.  Now im sure those extreme angle heads are not structurally as strong as they could be on a lesser angle, but in terms of tone or sustain im not convinced you can overdo the angles.

I certainly agree you can underdo em..

i do my best to make the most of these angles, pitching the neck for a taller bridge, slotting or scarfing heads etc.  angles are sexy

I also respect your input, but to clarify, I assumed we were talking about a typical bridge on top, strings over to a tail block or tailpiece. And the question pertained to the relationship of neck set, bridge height and pressure in the top.

The bridge designs you mention (Les Paul, common early Fender) are electric guitar designs, not acoustic-although there certainly are similar bridge designs on acoustics, generally where "tension" bridge arrangements are used, I made a generalization based on the assumption that we were not talking about those, but instead a typical "pressure" bridge arrangement.

As you said though, a lack of tension at the bridge will certainly be obvious, where the theory of too much tension may be less so....... And there are so many related factors that work together........

Hey its just a theory anyway! And seeing your builds I am open to any ideas you have to share!

One of my recent attempts has about a 3 deg set to the neck, about a 5/8" tall bridge and strings thru the tail. You would think this would have quite a bit of tension at a typical scale length and tuning, but in part because of the length of the string tail, I was a little surprised to find the strings want to wander around on the bridge more than expected when playing, so I need to rebuild or modify it to include some bridge notching, which I was hoping wouldnt be needed on this one. Just an experiment!

Have fun, and thanks for the input!


yeah mate all good :)  im a fan o urs too ..   by tension bridge do you mean one which the tension wants to rip off the soundboard like a flattop accoustic with pins rather than one which the tension wants to push thru the soundboard like mostly is done around here, with a sep tailpiece??

I am very interested in the differences between these two approaches. 

experimenting is GREAT!  again, im a fan

Heya, PK!

What angle ranges do you favor at head and at box? I have "eyeballed" to around 6 degrees at the head scarf.  I am thinking about scarfing my first box-to-neck.  After reading your comment, I'm wondering if 6 degrees is about right or maybe a waste of effort!  Maybe I should set my box-to-neck sights on 15 degrees or nothing!

ALSO... though I see the head and box angles affecting each other, I don't see making a big deal out of maintaining symmetry or assigning an arbitrary calculation.  Just a general range and go... yes?

Interesting topic and replies.  Some of us on the nation can engineer and create precise angles.  Most of us keep it simple.  I have tried for break angles and they made things a bit complex for my mediocre skills.  And I could not really notice an improvement in sound.

I think key things for acoustic sound are thin top,  box size - bigger is usually better, having the neck not touch the top in the saddle area, not having the saddle too close to the end of the box and getting the string action up above the box - not too shallow - (raise the fretboard above the box....)

And then there are sound holes..  Or maybe there are not sound holes....   Is getting the right size, and placement of sound holes a science?  Or an  art?  

Hi mr 2shoe..

I just eyeball my scarf joins at both head an body end. I don't do the trig or anything cos i make the bridge lastI promised mikey squires a cbg build blog a while back so I'll get on it and you'll see my method, it's really quite simple.

Unk hi. Ha I got my own conceited expert opinion on soundholes too. If you read up on the Amati school and all the cremonese guys there's a point to f holes that I think a lOt of guys around here don't quite cotton on to. Clue, I don't think it's really about letting air move in and out so much as its about changing the shape o the singing board (focusing on the bridge from whence the singing is sung) and the way it's anchored to the sides. Just my opinion. But it's mine, and therefore in my conceit of course it is of more value than any other :) dr arroganto


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