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BRIDGE EVOLUTION

(INCLUDING SERIAL NUMBER DESCRIPTION AND LOCATION)

A rough outline subject to amendment.


INDEX

Pre-EB BASSES (1976 to 1984):
Sting Ray, Sabre, Cutlass 1, Cutlass 11.

EB BASSES (1984 - current):
Sting Ray (including 20th Anniversary, 30th Anniversary and 2001 NAMM Basses),
Sterling, Sabre, SR5, Silhouette, SUB 4, SUB 5, Bongo 4, Bongo 5.


Pre-EB BASSES (1976 - 1984)


STING RAY (1976 - 1984)

1976 to 1978

1) Strings through body.
2) Adjustable string mutes.
3) Hollow saddles with hex screw adjustment. Adjustment screws unable to exit via saddle tops.
4) String grove centred on the saddle.
5) Mute thumb screws centred under strings.
6) Patent pending stamp.

Bridge from B001013 Bass dated June 1976. Production
commenced in June 1976 with B001000. This
bridge is number 13. "Cutlass 1"


Bridge B001013 (June 76) compared with bridge B010851 (Jan 1979).

The bridge of Bass (above left) is positioned further back towards the end of the body when compared to the bridge position on Bass above right. It would seem that forward intonation saddle adjustment was taken to its very limit. Consequently the bridge was moved slightly forward to compensate. Bridge-repositioning appears to have taken place very early. Pics examined of two October 1976 Basses show their respective bridges moved forwards. On the other hand, examples of the earlier bridge position have been observed on Basses well after Oct 1976.

Bridge from a very early fretlessBass. Neck 1976 and body 1977.
"Aussie Mark". Mute pads removed. Bridge re-assembled
to reduce risk of hand injury.


Bridge from a 1977 Bass.


Bridge from a 1978 Bass "chuck 3 river".

String-through holes are centred directly behind the saddles resulting in strings resting against the intonation screws.

String mutes were originally designed to allow for a Double Bass sound by adjusting the degree of string sustain.

Serial numbers, consisting of 6 digits prefixed with a "B", are located on the neck plate and not the bridge.

1979 to 1983

It would seem generally accepted that this style bridge was introduced in 1979. However, examples of it can be found on Basses with both their respective necks and bodies dating from the latter part of 1978. Either this bridge was actually introduced during that 1978 period or was fitted to Basses assembled in 1979 utilizing necks and bodies made during the latter 1978 period.

As the position is unclear, they are classified as 1979 to 1983 bridges for the purpose of this discussion.

Due to the fact that the top-load bridge was introduced late 1979 (see below), it is unclear whether the present style bridge was still being manufactured from late 1979 onwards. It may be the case that manufacture was during 1979 only, and that excess stocks were utilized from late 1979 untill depletion in 1983.

Same as for 1976 to 1978 but:

1) Serial number now deleted from the neck plate and relocated to the bridge between the saddles and bridge tail. Serials retain the “B” prefix.
2) "MUSIC MAN" is now stamped on the tail of the bridge.
3) String through holes offset to the left.


Bridge from a 1979 Bass. Note string-through holes now
off-centred to the left to prevent strings resting
against intonation screws.


1979 to 1983 style bridge (mute assembly removed) placed on a
earlier body showing the different position of the string-through
holes. ("todd 4ta").

Circa late 1979 to 1984

Same as for 1979 to 1983 but:

1) Strings now top-loaded as opposed to strings through the body.
2) Three anchor bolts added to rear of bridge


Bridge from a 1983 Bass. B025740. ("Grahambass").

Due to the string anchor holes being located to the left of the intonation screws and the string grooves remaining centred on the saddles, the strings form an angle from their anchor point to the saddles.

The top-load bridge ran concurrently with the string-through-body bridge untill circa 1983. After 1983 the string-through-body bridge was deleted. The top-load ridge continued by itself into 1984. In March of 1984, MM was sold to Ernie Ball.

(Stock of the top load bridges were subsequently used on early EB Sting Ray and Sabre Basses. Consequently, some early EB 'Rays and Sabres both have "B" prefixed serials originally intended only for the Pre-EB Sting Ray).


A string-through bridge from a circa 1980 - 1981 Pre-EB Bass.
Serial B021512 "Grahambass"


A post 1979 Bass with the string-through bridge and
a 4 bolt neck (introduced late 1979).


"oldbluebassman" Serial B021439. Neck
13 March 1980.

Believed to be a special order for Tom Hamilton of "Aerosmith". Not only a gold plated bridge, but ALL hardware is gold plated with string-through-body bridge and 3 bolt neck. Although the 4 bolt neck was introduced late 1979, three bolt neck manufacture possibly extended into 1981 or, at least, earlier manufactured stocks continued into 1981.

All serial#s for Sting Rays, during this Pre-EB period, consist of 6 digits prefixed with a "B" whether located on the 3 bolt neck plate or bridge.

String saddles during the Pre-EB period are hollow. Depicted is
a top-load bridge from a 1982 Bass. Solid saddles
appear latter (circa 1988) on the
Ernie Ball Basses.



SABRE (1979 - 1984)

1) Strings top-loaded.
2) Hollow saddles with centred string grooves.
3) Mute thumb screws centred under strings.
4) Three anchor bolts added to rear of bridge.
5) “MUSICMAN” stamped on bridge tail.
6) Serial located on the bridge between saddles and bridge tail. Serials have a “C” prefix.


Sabre bridge. It is believed this is the only style
bridge used during the Pre-EB period.

All serial numbers for Sabres, during this Pre-EB period, consist of 6 digits prefixed with a "C".

CUTLASS 1 BASS [Sting Ray with graphite neck] (1983 - 1984)

There exists some early string-through bridges but, in the main, the top load style MM Sting Ray bridge (introduced circa late 1979) was used. Although the necks are dated either 1983 or 84 the bodies can date back to 1979. Serial numbers are the same as used for the Pre-EB Sting Ray.

CUTLASS 11 BASS [Sabre with graphite neck] (1983 - 1984)

It appears these Basses used the normal MM Sabre bridge as above. Serial numbers are the same as used for the Pre-EB Sabre. As with the Cutlass 1 Basses, bodies can be dated earlier than the necks.



EB BASSES (1984 - Current)



STING
RAY (1984 - Current)

ERNIE BALL both acquired MUSIC MAN and continued making instruments in 1984.

1984 to 1988

Three styles of bridges were used during this period:

Type 1 (1984 to 1988)


Pre-EB bridge used on a circa 1986 EB Bass with
the Pre-EB serial number B023586.


Pre-EB bridge Circa 1986-87. Serial B023556.
Hollow saddle can be seen on the G String.

Stocks of Pre-EB 1980-style topload bridges ( with 6 digits prefixed with a "B") were used on early Ernie Ball Basses up to (and including) 1988.

String saddles are hollow.

Type 2 (circa 1986 to 1988)

Ernie Ball also manufactured their own bridge, styled on the Type 1 (directly above).

This bridge introduced an unprefixed 5 digit serial number.

As with Type 1, the string saddles remain hollow and thumbscrew diameter remains the same.


Circa 1987 EB style bridge. Serial 25359.

Type 3 (circa 1987 to 1988)

New mute thumb screws were introduced and down-sized in diameter. These measure 3/8" The larger thumb screws above measure 7/16" diameter.

Note that during this 1 year period either the larger or smaller thumb screws can be found on either the 5 digit serial number bridge or the Bxxxxxx serial number bridge.

As with Type 1, and Type 2, the string saddles remain hollow.


Smaller thumb screws. Serial 25830 from bass with
Neck and Body both dated Aug 1987 ("Hugo").
The hollow saddle can be seen on the G string.



Larger thumb screws. 1987 Bass. Serial 25345.


Smaller thumb screws. Serial B027673 from bass with

1987 Neck and 1988 Body ("Andy"). Although can't
be seen, the string saddles are hollow on this bridge.

As Pre-EB bridges are found on some Basses up to (and including) 1988, serial numbers from 1985 to 1988 consist of both 6 digit serials prefixed with a "B" (Pre-EB) and unprefixed 5 digit (EB) serials.

Circa 2nd half of 1988 (or early 1989) to circa 1992

Same as for the Type 3 bridge (directley above) but:

1) Saddles become solid allowing adjustment screws to pass through both saddle holes top and bottom. (The previous hollow saddles only allow adjustment screws to exit from underneath).
2) The smaller diameter thumb screws are now standard (even on 1988 Basses with Pre-EB bridges).

As this bridge now appears exclusively, the Pre-EB "B" prefixed serials cease to exist by the end of 1988.



Front and side view of Bass serial 28305 (date of birth
22 March 1989). The solid saddle can be seen on

the E string in pic directly above.




Another unprefixed serial bridge from 1991. Front
and side view (solid saddles).


A "re-assembled" bridge from a 1992 Bass.

During the circa 1988 to circa 1992 period, it was common to see re-assembled bridges as in the above pic. This perhaps was partly due to the ability for saddle screws to be extracted and re-inserted from either above or beneath the saddle.

Due to the top-load bridge design, the strings formed an acute angle from their anchor point to the saddles. Consequently, the above bridge appears to have been reassembled by the owner (?) in an apparent attempt to perhaps give the bridge a more symmetrical (to use a term) look. This appears to have been done by swapping the string anchor holes with intonation screw holes, on both the E and A strings. The two respective saddles were then, either replaced upside down with the adjustment screws fed from the other side or, rotated 180 degrees on a horizontal plane.

Similar modifications have been observed where the D and G saddles have been reassembled (as opposed to the E and A); resulting in the E and A strings AND the D and G sweeping out towards the ends of the bridge (as opposed towards the centre of the bridge as in the above example).


Strings and intonation screws in wrong feed-through holes.


An unprefixed serial bridge from a 4 Feb 1988 Bass.
Serial 26030. ("mario 1").

This bridge appears to be yet another attempt to overcome the acute string angle from the bridge tail to the saddles. Non-standard saddles (Fender?) have been fitted to allow the strings to be shifted to the left. However, this modification would have resulted in the strings not being correctly centred over the pickup pole pieces!


Circa 1992 to circa 1994 ("Flea" Bridge)

Same as for Circa 2nd half of 1988 (or early 1989) to circa 1992 but:

1) Although the saddles remain solid, the string grooves are now offset to the left of centre (similar to the SR5 Bass at that time which never had grooves centred on the saddles). The result is that the strings move to the left of the mute thumb screws. Accordingly, the acute string from the bridge tail to the saddles ceases to exist.

2) Saddle grooves cease to be uniform and are cut for string gauge.

"This bridge arrangement was originally designed specifically for "Flea", for the purpose of ensuring straight string pull across the bridge saddle, rather than the "bend" that is present on the earlier models. Also the groove in the saddles is sized for each individual string, and is deeper, to make sure the string could not be pulled out with his aggressive style of playing." (Per EB).





Both pics from a 1994 Bass.

Due to the string grooves on the saddles being offset to the left of centre, the bridge was offset and moved to the right of the pickup (closer to the control plate) to allow the strings to remain centred over the pickup pole pieces. If the bridge remained in its former position, the strings would have been offset to the left of the pole pieces. This style bridge was common during the period 1992 to 1994 (or perhaps longer depending on depletion of stock).


This Flea bridge was incorrectly fitted with centre-grooved saddles
(from earlier model bridge) resulting in the strings being centred
over the thumb screws but offset to the right of the pickup
pole pieces due to the positioning of the bridge. The pic
graphically demonstrates how Flea bridges are offset
to the right of the pickup. With correct saddles
refitted, the strings will move to the left of the
thumb screws and be correctly centred
over the pole pieces (as in the pic
directly above).

From this point of bridge evolution, all bridges (with saddle grooves offset to the left of centre) are offset to the right of the pickups ie "trans bridges" and "down-sized" discussed below.


Circa 1993 to 1996 ("Trans" Bridge)

Two styles exist:

Type 1:

Same as for Circa 1992 to circa 1994 ("Flea" Bridge) but:

Mute assembly removed completely and 4 hex bolts placed in the holes previously occupied by the mute thumb screws.

It was decided to remove the mute assembly to prevent hand injury.


From a 1995 Bass. Commonly referred to as a
transitional bridge “Trans Bridge”.

From a 1996 Bass ("Bovinehost").

Ernie Ball offered after market kit sets for those wishing to install the mute assembly to the Trans Bridge. The kits included hex bolts and a hex wrench (allen key) to use specifically for adjustment of the mutes. This would explain why some bridges have the mute assembly along with hex bolts.

Ernie Ball offered after market kit sets for those wishing to install the mute assembly to the Trans Bridge. The kits included hex bolts and a hex wrench (allen key) to use specifically for adjustment of the mutes. This would explain why some bridges have the mute assembly along with hex bolts.


An old mute assembly kit with fitting instructions

(EB part number "M05114"). Kits are no
longer stocked by Ernie Ball. The
assembly also fits Pre-EB
Sting Ray Basses.

Type 2:

Same as Type 1 but:

Hex bolts removed altogether and holes for the hex bolts disappear. (Pic not available at this time).

The "Flea" bridge ran concurrently with the "Trans" bridges to at least 1994 (and perhaps longer depending on depletion of "Flea" bridge stock). There after, the "Trans" bridges continued by themselves untill 1996 when, during that year, they ran concurrently with the "down-sized" bridge (mentioned below) which was introduced in that year. The "Trans" bridge ceases to exist after 1996.

1996 to early 1998 ("Down-sized" Bridge)

Same as for Circa 1993 to 1996 ("Trans" Bridge) but:

1) The area of the bridge previously occupied by the hex bolts is now completely removed.


2) The previous unprefixed five digit serial now becomes prefixed with an "A" (and latter "B" and "D"). The prefix "L" is also introduced for left handed Basses (1996 is the first year for Ernie Ball left handed Basses).






1996 bridge from a 20th Anniversary Bass. Bass body above.
Note that the "A" prefixed serial number
is still located on the bridge.

It was this model that introduced the commonly referred to “Down-Sized” bridge. In 1996 these bridges ran concurrently with the Circa 1993 to circa 1996 ("Trans" Bridge) above.

Putting aside serials consisting of 6 digits with a prefixed "B" (as found on Pre-EB bridges used on early EB Basses), all serial numbers up to this point (1996) have consisted of 5 unprefixed digits located on the bridge.

The down-sized bridge introduced prefixed 5 digit serial numbers still located on the bridge. The 20th Anniversary serials are prefixed with an "A". Left handed Basses are prefixed with an "L". Subsequent Basses (up to 1998) have "B" and then "D" prefixes. All serials are located on the bridge.

The "B" prefixed serials are not to be confused with the older "B" prefixed 6 digit serials used from 1985 to 1988 (as found on Pre-EB bridges used on early EB Basses).


A circa 1997 bridge. Unknown whether this particular serial
is prefixed with a "B" or a "D".

1998 to circa late 1998 (early 1999)

Same as for 1996 to early 1998 ("Down-sized" Bridge) but:

1) String grooves move closer to the intonation screws.
2) The three anchor screws at the tail of the bridge are shifted to the left (closer to the intonation screws) and are more centred on the bridge plate.
3) The serial number is deleted from the bridge and moved to the neck plate (including left handed Basses).

An early 1998 bridge. The serial is deleted from the bridge
and moved to the neck plate. The neck plate serial is now
prefixed with an "E" (and "L" for left handed Basses).
The relocation of the "E" serial appears to coincide
with the new neck plate logos. Saddle
grooves remain cut to string gauge.


A clearer example of above. E04246 Aug/Sep 1998.


The older bridge (left) compared with the 1998 bridge (right).

Note that the three anchor bolts are shifted to the left and become more centred on the bridge plate (closer to the intonation screws). The saddle length remains the same ie 3/4 inch end to end.

Also note the new position of the string grooves.

Although this bridge appears to have been featured for a limited time, examples may be found in 1999.

Circa late 1998 (early 1999) to circa May 2003

Same as for 1998 to circa late 1998 (early 1999) but:Saddle screw holes are counterbored at the top and are larger in diameter at point of screw entry (same or slightly larger in diameter to the holes on the anchor bolts at each side of the bridge). Saddle diameter and length remains the same: 3/4 inch).

Saddle grooves remain cut to string guage.


December 2000 or Jan 2001.


July/Aug 2002.

Circa May 2003 - current

Same as for Circa late 1998 (early 1999) to circa May 2003 but:

Saddle grooves are all the same size and are "V" cut. These saddles co-incide with the release of the Bongo Bass in mid 2003.


E36586 Apl/May 2003. "Davtran".


Other EB Sting Ray bridges


"Down-Sized" bridge with piezo saddles. Piezo
electronics located on body rear. "Achim11"
Serial E12306 (2000 Sting Ray). The piezo
option was introduced in 1999 for the
SR4, SR5 and
Sterling Basses.


A small run of the “Down-Sized” bridges
with the string-through body feature.
One of 20 Basses made for
"Station Music"
Germany.

Year 2000.


2001 NAMM 100th Anniversary Bass bridge.

Bass body above.

These bridges "appear" to be an EB reissue of the 1979 Pre-EB Sting Ray bridge design ie strings through body, adjustable mutes, hollow string saddles with hex screws and the Pre-EB serial numbering system of 6 digits prefixed with a "B", located on bridge. However, it has the smaller diameter thumb screws which was not a feature of the Pre-EB bridges.


30th Anniversary Bass 2006. Except for the strings passing
through the body, the bridge remains the same as the
current top-load bridge introduced circa
May 2003 (see above). "Davtran".


Bridge as used on Tony Levin's three-string Sting Ray
Bass circa 1994. (Ernie Ball Website Forum).


STERLING (1993 - Current)

Production commenced with the Circa 1992 to circa 1994 ("Flea" Bridge) as used on the Sting Ray and appears to have followed the Sting Ray bridge evolution i.e. the susequent use of the "TransBridge" and "Down Size" Bridge. Refer to Sting Ray bridges above for details.

Some bridge examples below:

Muted "Flea" bridge from a 1993 Sterling Bass.


Trans bridge from a 1995 Sterling Bass "Helmut".

Sterling serial numbers were initially featured as unprefixed 5 digit numbers but, as with the Sting Ray, they became prefixed in circa 1996 when the bridge was down-sized eg "B" and "D" prefixes (refer to Sting Ray above). The serial moved to the neck plate in 1998 and prefixed with an "F" ("L" for left handed Basses).


SABRE
(1984 - 1991)


Some very early Ernie Ball Sabres used this
Pre-EB style Sabre bridge.

Some very early Sabres used Pre-EB style Sabre bridges (as in pic directly above). Consequently, these early EB Basses still featured the Pre-EB Sabre serial numbers ("C00xxxx").

Mainly, the early EB Sabre used Pre-EB Sting Ray top-load bridges and followed the EB Sting Ray bridge evolution (discussed above). Consequently, EB Sabres featured both the old Pre-EB six digit serials prefixed with a "B" AND the new EB unprefixed 5 digit serials featured on the new EB bridges (fashioned on the Pre-EB style bridge). Both serial types were used concurrently untill circa 1988. There after, only the unprefixed 5 digit serials were featured exclusively. Refer to the Sting Ray evolution above for more info on both types of bridges. Production of the Sabre ceased in 1991.


A Pre-EB Sting Ray bridge used on a 1985 Sabre.


A Pre-EB bridge on a 1987 Sabre. Note hollow saddles.

SR5 (1987 - Current)

The SR5 commenced production with a down-sized bridge in 1987. The mute assembly was never a feature of the SR5. (The SR4 bridge was not down-sized untill 1996!)





The first 10 original 1987 SR5 bridges (which were set aside at that
time) are now used on the 10 (only) 2007 "Ball Family Reserve"
20th Anniversary SR5 Basses. First of the first is bridge
number 50001 (shown above). First pic from Ernie Ball
Website Forum and second pic courtesy "phatduckk".


An unprefixed five digit serial number is located on the

bridge from 1987 to 1998. However, in 1996
(introduction of the left handed Basses)
the five digit serial became prefixed
with an "L" (also located on bridge).
A 1989 SR5 bridge for illustration.



From a Nov 1994 SR5. Note that saddle grooves are now cut to string
guage (compare with previous picture). Unknown
exactly when this change took place.


The unprefixed 5 digit serial was removed from bridge and
added to the neck plate with an "E" prefix in 1998. The
pre-existing "L" serial for left handed Basses also
moved to the neck plate. Saddle grooves remain
cut to string guage. 2000 SR5 bridge
for illustration.



From circa mid 2003, the string grooves are "V" cut and
are now uniform in size on each saddle to co-incided
withthe Bongo Bass. See Sting Ray and Bongo
bridgesfor details. 2004 SR5 bridge shown
("Davtran").


SR5 bridge with piezo saddles. Piezo bridges

introduced in circa Jan 2000.

Note that outside anchor bolts on the SR5 bridges are offset to each other.

SILHOUETTE [6 String Bass] (1992 - Current)


1999 Silhouette bridge with roller saddles ("Norm").


Another view of same bridge above.

SUB 4 (2003 - 2006)


2003
SUB 4 bridge X00394. Note deletion of "Music Man"

logo from bridge tail.The string groves on the saddles
appear to be cut to string guage.



2004
SUB 4 bridge X05860.String grooves on the
saddles are now cut uniformly.

SUB 5 (2003 - 2006)


SUB
5 bridge X07344 (late 2003 early 2004). Note
deletion of "Music Man" logo from bridge tail

BONGO 4 [Design Code Name] (2003 - Current)


2003 Bongo 4 bridge. "Bovinehost".

Saddle grooves are the same size and are "V" cut. The Sting Ray Bass followed suit to co-incide with the release of the Bongo in mid 2003. However, note that some demonstration and early Bongos have bridges with saddle grooves cut to string guage.


Piezo bridge for Bongo 4.

BONGO 5 [Design Code Name] (2003 - Current)


2003 Bongo prototype bridge. Note strings run

through the body and saddles are
cut to string guage.


2003 Bongo 5 bridge.

Saddle grooves are the same size and are "V" cut. The SR5 Bass followed suit to co-incide with the release of the Bongo in mid 2003. However, note that some demonstration and early Bongos have bridges with saddle grooves cut to string guage.


2004 Piezo bridge for Bongo 5. "bassmonkeee".

Outside anchor bolts offset to each other.

CONTINUING.



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