I’m going to say right up front that when it comes to comparing one type of metal to another concerning whether your bass guitar bridge is made out of brass or aluminum, one is not better than the other – but – it does matter concerning what type of sustain and tone you’re going for.
Advantages and disadvantages of ALUMINUM bridges
An advantage of having an aluminum bridge is that you will be heard better in a mix, and this is due to an aluminum bridge having a more “punchy” sound. “Punch” is defined as having more initial amplitude at the beginning of the note, which in other words means a note is louder at the initial moment the sound is produced.
In addition, aluminum bridges are very light in weight, so if you were looking to lighten up your bass guitar, using an aluminum bridge is an easy way to do that.
The disadvantage to aluminum is that notes decay faster, commonly described as “having less sustain”.
Advantages and disadvantages of BRASS bridges
You’ve probably heard many times from many people that brass bridges have great sustain. Do they? Yes, they do. You can get nice long note decays when using a brass bridge, however there are a few tradeoffs to this.
Brass is a dense and heavy metal as it is made of copper and zinc (and possibly a small amount of tin depending on brass type). As such, most of the string vibration stays within the bridge and is not transferred out to the body because of its high mass content. The advantage is that you’ll get great sustain for your notes, but the disadvantage is that your tone won’t have as much punch in a mix.
You’ve been told over and over again that it’s all about SUSTAIN! SUSTAIN! SUSTAIN! with bass guitar. And yeah, brass bridges do promote sustain. Big time. But ask yourself this: Do you really need a note to sustain for 13 full seconds? Probably not.
If the goal is to be heard above all else, aluminum is the better choice. If on the other hand the goal is to have long sustaining notes, brass is better.
Another factor to take into consideration is the tonewood your bass guitar body uses. Generally speaking, it’s true that lighter woods such as alder, swamp ash, basswood and poplar are already “punchy” concerning the tone they produce and might be better suited for a brass bridge. Denser woods such as walnut, bubinga (commonly referred to as African rosewood), bocote (commonly referred to as Mexican rosewood) and maple could be better suited for aluminum bridges because the bridge can add in the desired punch.
It’s also important to note that there neither bridge metal type will be a cure-all for giving you both monster punch and monster sustain. Your choice of bridge metal type is determined by whether you prefer more punch in a mix or more sustain for longer note decays.
Check out some of our brass and aluminum bass bridges here for options and styles to choose from.