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I have a Gibson ES-137 Classic with a tune-o-matic bridge and a stopbar tailpiece (the ES-137 has a mahogany centre block so the tailpiece attaches to that and doesn't require a trapeze tailpiece like a semi-acoustic without a centre block, like an ES-175).

I've only just noticed while cleaning it at the weekend (and by cleaning I just mean wiping off fingerprints etc after playing for a couple of hours - no string changes or anything else like that) that the tailpiece is not level when compared to the body - the low E string end is considerably higher (e.g. further away) from the body than the high E string end is.

I haven't done anything to the setup on this guitar since buying it new - is there a reason why a stopbar tailpiece would not be level, or is this an example of a poor setup from the factory?

The tune-o-matic bridge is set up very nicely and there is no fret buzz and the action is lovely, but I'm wondering whether I should correct the setup of the tailpiece.

Edit: I'd also be interested whether a poorly aligned stopbar tailpiece could cause any damage to the guitar, maybe if the tension on the posts that attach the tailpiece to the instrument is uneven it may cause the holes to wear more on one side or similarly.

Edit 2: As promised, here are some images of the bridge.

Bridge from body end

Low E string end

High E string end

  • Wear only occurs when there is friction. The two posts holding the tailpiece onto the body don't move, so no wear can happen. It does look like the bass side can be screwed down, though. – Tim May 8 '17 at 18:15
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This setup will not cause any damage or problems.

The stop bar just needs to be low enough to ensure the string has sufficient tension over the bridge that it doesn't slip or move. It is a little weird seeing it that high at the low end, so you could lower it if you want (do it with the strings removed in order to avoid friction or potential issues) but if it isn't causing you any obvious problems I'd just leave it where it is.

Unless it is at a very shallow angle, I guarantee you will not notice it feeling any different (no matter what that oddly worded page that Areel linked to says!)

  • I've accepted this answer as while the other ones provide some interesting information, this one does answer my question. I think I will level the tailpiece, at a height where the strings do not touch the tailpiece. Thanks! – Matt Jones May 11 '17 at 14:51
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The stop-bar might be set up like that as the low strings might have been hitting the rear of the tune-o-matic bridge, depending on how the saddles were set for intonation purposes? In some cases a string can pivot over a saddle and contact the rear of the tune-o-matic which can introduce rattles and other undesirable elements to your tone.

However, knowing current standards of Quality Control at Gibson it is hard to say with certainty that the bridge was setup like that on purpose.

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Perhaps the setter-upperer (technical term) was looking for a sweet spot between attack on the lower strings and bending on the higher strings:

http://www.frudua.com/guitar_strings_tension.htm

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