Finding the perfect guitar that can give you great sound and playability can be daunting. You must consider many factors, such as body shape and size, number of strings, construction material, neck profile, and pickups. You must also decide whether you want a hardtail or tremolo guitar.
But what is a hardtail guitar? If you’re unsure what that means, don’t worry! We’ll look at a hardtail guitar, its merit, and its drawbacks so you can decide which one is right for you.
So, What Is It?
A hardtail guitar is basically a guitar with a fixed bridge, that combines classic design and modern features to provide players with both vintage and modern sounds. It’s a fixed bridge without the possibility of a tremolo arm, or whammy bar, that has increased tuning stability. Some say it also allows for greater sustain.
The term ‘hardtail’ is derived from its design that lacks a bridge-mounted whammy bar, which are featured on tremolo guitars. The hardtail bridge has no moving parts apart from the individually-adjustable saddles. It is firmly in place with screws, allowing users to get the exact intonation they need without worrying too much about slipping out of tune while playing.
The guitar body is solid or semi hollow and usually comes with humbucker pickups, although most pickup configurations can be found. They are popular among rock, country, punk, metal, and blues players who want to achieve a better sustain and tuning stability.
How do hardtail guitars work?
Hardtail guitars are simple instruments from a user’s perspective. The fixed bridge is bolted to the body, and each saddle has two mounting screws that allow users to adjust the string height and intonation easily.
The saddles hold the string firmly in place, allowing players to use alternate tunings without worrying about going out of tune. Some people say the tone of a hardtail guitar is rich and warm, with deep low-end and bright highs compared to tremolo guitars. Personally I don’t hear a bit of difference. And when I do, I’m not so sure it has to do with the bridge. But that’s just me.
Benefits And Drawbacks Of Hardtail Guitars
Hardtail guitars are a popular among those looking for such benefits as affordability and stability. They boast many advantages over trem guitars (in my opinion), though there are also some drawbacks.
Before deciding on what you want, here are the pros and cons of hardtail guitars:
Benefits of hardtail guitars
Hardtail guitars offer many benefits that make playing guitar easy. They include:
Guitar strings lose their pitch for several different reasons, one of which is a moving bridge.
Because hardtail guitars don’t have mobile, or floating bridges, they are less likely to require tuning frequently. This can be a great advantage if you seek stability in a guitar and for people who play for long hours. There are some hardtails with notorious tuning problems (the G string on a Les Paul anyone?), but on a more general note they are very stable, and great for all kinds of different tunings.
Hardtail guitars have a more straightforward construction than others, with fewer moving parts. As a result, they are highly durable and less likely to break.
This makes them excellent for beginners and those seeking a long-term investment that offers great value for your money.
The simplicity of the hardtail guitar design makes it less expensive than their counterparts. This can be a great benefit for budget-conscious buyers or those just starting on their journey in music. Checking a few specs before purchasing a hardtail guitar for the best value is important and can make your guitar lessons worth it.
Sustain refers to the length of time that a note on a guitar resonates audibly, and is highly dependent on the guitar’s structure and build.
Die hard fans of hardtail guitars often claim they have an improved sustain since they have fewer pieces, and that this offers better sustain and a more precise, louder, and continuous sound. I’m pretty much a die hard fan of hardtails myself, but I’m still not entirely convinced I can tell that much of a difference. Perhaps it would take a more scientific approach than my hearing abilities to settle that issue, but I digress.
Easier to change strings
The simple construction of a hardtail guitar makes it much easier to change your strings.
When it’s time for a string change, you can simply feed them through the fixed bridge from the front of the guitar, or sometimes through holes in the back and wind them around the tuning peg. Easy as pie!
With a floating bridge things tend to get a little more complicated, and they’e also very sensitive to changes in string gauge, and might require intonation if you experiment a little with different strings. And for those trem guitars that come with a locking nut, well, that just adds to the list of things you need to traverse when changing strings on a tremolo guitar.
This makes the hardtail a preferable model for beginners and those seeking a more straightforward solution.
Unison bends is a technique that involves playing two notes, on two adjacent strings which are slightly dissonant to the ear. The note on the lower pitched string is then bent up in pitch while the other note is held in place. Although one could argue that bends feel a bit slinkier (and maybe easier) on a trem bridge, unison bends tend to be a bit more tricky.
When you bend on a floating bridge, the other strings go flat, so you need a slightly different technique. For unison bends for instance, you have to bend the B string along with the G string, though not as much, if you want it to stay in pitch.
On a hardtail guitar you just bend the one string. Nice and easy.
Disadvantages of hardtail guitars
Although hardtails boast many valuable features, they do have some drawbacks. They include:
Less cool-sounding vibratos
With a whammy bar you can experiment a LOT with vibrato, and do it with ease. With a hardtail guitar you simply have to do it the old fashioned way, and rock the string back and forth with your finger. This can be a minus for players who want a more expressive sound.
Limited range of sounds
The hardtail bridge allows for limited tonal possibilities, compared to tremolo guitar, especially one with a floating bridge. So, they are less versatile in producing different sounds. No dive bombs or pig squeals on this baby!
Frequently Asked Questions
Music can be a complex and overwhelming topic. Here are some common questions about hardtail guitars to help you better understand them:
Hardtail Guitars vs. Tremolo Guitars: Which Should You Pick?
It all depends on your preferences and what type of sound you’re looking for. Hardtail guitars are a great choice for those who want a dependable instrument that won’t require frequent tuning, while tremolo guitars offer more tonal variety and expressive capabilities.
When choosing, it is crucial to consider the pros and cons of each to decide which model best fits your playing style and needs. For instance, the hardtail might be better if you need an instrument that can stay in tune during long performances. Conversely, if you’re looking for sound versatility and are willing to spend time adjusting the tuning regularly, then a tremolo guitar might be more suitable. That said, trem guitars with a locking nut tend to stay in tune just fine, even after yanking the whammy bar all night long. At the cost of messier string changes though.
Are Hardtail Guitars Suitable for Beginners?
Yes, hardtails are great instruments for beginners. They are typically less expensive and usually come with fewer parts needing maintenance or repair. The lack of whammy bars makes them relatively easy to use and play. Moreover, the stable tuning permits users to concentrate on playing and developing techniques without frequently adjusting the strings.
Hardtail guitars are great instruments for those looking for a dependable, affordable way to learn how to play the guitar. They have fewer parts than other models, making them more durable and less expensive. However, they also have some drawbacks, such as the limited range of sounds.
Before choosing a guitar, it is essential to consider what type of sound you’re looking for and how often you will need to tune the instrument. If you’re starting out or playing long sets without tuning your instrument frequently, a hardtail guitar might be the perfect choice.