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Changing Saddles on a Classical or Flamenco Guitar

hanika-he-doubletop-n-bridge

Most Hanika guitars come with more than one saddle. Changing them is quite straightforward but a little extra care is needed on guitars fitted with under-saddle pickups.

The saddle is this piece of bone, set into a slot in the bridge, over which the strings pass before being secured in the tie holes in the bridge.

The saddle has important functions –

  • it sets the vibrating length of each string, and to do so has to be positioned quite accurately
  • it transmits the sound from the strings to the soundboard
  • it sets the string action

Typically you change the saddle in order to change the string action and many Hanika guitars are supplied with 2 saddles (“high” action, “medium” action) and occasionally with three (high and medium and “low”).

The saddle is a loose fit in its slot in the bridge; it is not glued in but is held in place by the downward force of the strings when they are tuned.

To remove a saddle

  • loosen all the strings – loose enough that you can lift them easily near the saddle, but no looser
  • using your finger, put gentle pressure on the treble end of the saddle and slide it out toward the bass side

If it does not slide out easily, use the spare saddle you have to apply the pressure to the treble end. Having done this it is a good idea to rub a flat side of the saddle on some medium grit sandpaper to reduce its width slightly; it should then slide in and out more easily next time.

If you have a pick up with a transducer in the bridge slot under the saddle then you need to take special care not to damage the transducer – this is easily done and expensive to replace! What you need to do is loosen the strings to such an extent that you can easily lift them up off the saddle. Then remove the saddle by gently lifting as well as sliding. Try to lift upwards and not at an angle to avoid any chance of dragging a corner of the saddle along the transducer as it slides out.

Refitting a saddle is simply the reverse procedure. If the saddle does not slide into the slot with gentle pressure then sand it for 30 seconds or so to reduce its width, repeating as necessary. Don’t sand too much as you want the saddle to be a good snug fit in the bridge slot; if it is too loose it can tip forward when the strings are tightened and

  • possibly cause intonation problems
  • possibly reduce the contact with a transducer pickup if fitted.