6 vs 12 Hole Bridges and Tension
12-hole bridges have been around for a while now (I even had one with an 18-hole system). It seems that lately more and more luthiers make their bridges with 12 holes, but I’ve noticed that a lot of players don’t quite understand that using the 12-hole method changes more than just the appearance of the guitar.
In the photos below I strung the 6th string of my guitar using the 12-hole method and the rest using the traditional 6-hole method. What you should notice right away is that the angle of the string from the hole to the saddle – what we call the break angle – is much steeper on the 6th string. This directly affects the tension of the string.
All other things being equal, a greater break angle will raise the pulsación (this is a great Spanish word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent, and it means the resistance the strings give to the right hand). In other words, you will raise the tension of your strings when you use the 12-hole method.
Of course if you find a string tension that works with your guitar and the 12-hole system then you’re all good and you don’t need to worry about it. But it’s handy to know that you can lower the pulsación by switching from the 12-hole to the 6-hole system, which simply involves ignoring 6 of the holes on your bridge. The only trick is making sure you use the correct hole, which is always the one closer to the 6th (lowest) string of each pair or closer to your head as you hold the guitar.
The guitar in the photos – my new Stephen Hill has a 12-bridge system. I find that I like the pulsación much better with the strings I’m currently using – in this case the Pepe Romero Jr. Vintage & Flamenco set – if I string it traditionally. With another set of strings this might not be the case.
Bottom line is that you can now adjust your string tension simply by choosing how you string your guitar, so if you like a string but the tension is a hair too high or low you can adjust accordingly, which will also affect the sound of your guitar.