How Tight Should an Acoustic Guitar Saddle Be?

Wondering how tight your acoustic guitar saddle should be? Simply put, your saddle should be snug, but loose enough that you can easily remove it with your fingers. A snug fit allows for the saddle to properly transmit string energy to the top, resulting in better tone. Read on for more information about adjusting your saddle.

Tight Fitting Saddle on an Acoustic Guitar
Bone Guitar Saddle on a Recording King Parlor

Saddle Too Loose

A loose-fitting saddle will not make good contact with the bridge and will thus produce poor tone. Additionally, this can negatively affect intonation because the saddle will lean subtly forward resulting in a shorter scale length. You can temporarily correct a loose-fitting saddle, you can insert a piece of wood or cardboard to get the saddle snug. However, this will produce poor tone and you should get a new saddle that is the correct thickness.

A common problem for many guitars is that the saddle is a 3.0 mm thickness whereas the saddle slot is 1/8 inch, which translates to 3.2 mm. If you eyeball 3.0 and 1/8” they appear to be the same, and that 0.2 mm may not seem like much. However, it’s enough to cause a subtle lean forward.

Also, your guitar bridge slot may be wider than the factory specification. This can occur for a variety of reasons. First, if you are not the original owner, then someone else may have widened the slot at some point. Second, wood will shift with humidity, which can result in a subtle change in the saddle slot thickness. If this is the case with your guitar’s slot, then you may need to get a custom saddle.

Saddle Too Tight

If your saddle is too tight then you can use sandpaper to reduce the thickness. Please view our video for tips. If you cannot remove your saddle because it is too tight to remove from the bridge slot, then see our tips for removing a tight-fitting saddle.

Saddle Too Tall

Similar to the above, if your guitar’s saddle is too tall, then you can use sandpaper to adjust. Go slowly and check your action height frequently to ensure that you don’t go too low. It may seem as though this would require several sets of strings and full restringing for each time you check the saddle height. However, you can do this without completely removing the strings. See our article on How to Remove a Guitar Saddle without Restringing for tips.

Saddle Too Short

You can temporarily fix a too-short saddle by using a shim underneath the saddle. However, this will likely negatively affect tone since the shim material is unlikely to effectively transfer string energy to the bridge. Instead, you should obtain a new saddle for a permanent solution. Wondering what saddle material to get? View our article on What Is the Best Acoustic Guitar Saddle Material? for more information.