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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Bridge modifications


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/54233

WyoBob - Posted - 11/03/2020:  17:13:31


In my searching of the archives of all things fiddle, I don't think I've run across many discussions of fiddle bridge modifications.   Yes, I've read about changing the curvature of the bridge -- flatter, for instance, lower, and string spacing but never much else.   And, maybe, there is nothing else to consider.



On banjo's (I've been a clawhammer banjo player for 8 years), there's a vast array of different design's, weights, heights, woods, spacing, etc. used to achieve desired results.   I started experimenting with bridges soon after I started the banjo by making my own bridges to see what I wanted when I ordered my first "real" bridge.  I never made it to where I ordered a "custom" bridge.  I made two foot, three foot, topped, untopped bridges out of maple, purple topped, Ebony topped, plain topped, different woods, weights and spacings and never got around to ordering a bridge.   I made bridges for myself and others and gave them away and found bridges that I made that now reside on my banjos that work so well that I never got around to buying one.   I made bridges for steel strings and for Nylgut strings and found that some of them worked quite well.



On my fiddles, I've lowered and flattened and changed string spacing on a couple of bridges but have relied mostly on finding the right strings that sound best on my two, main players.   I've lowered the action at the nut and bridges on both fiddles, removed the height of the strings at the "scoop" (relief?)  on one fiddle and I have Helicore on one fiddle and Prims on the other and have the fiddles sounding the best they've ever sounded.



So, is there nothing to be done with the actual design of fiddle bridges?  I understand there's a lot of tradition in what is acceptable regarding anything "violin" but, perhaps some "fiddler's" have experimented with something "not standard".   Is there no other alternative in wood, weight, design that might change the tone produced by the fiddle?  Can a "too bright" or "too mellow" fiddle be changed with a different type of bridge design?

farmerjones - Posted - 11/03/2020:  18:14:15


It will be interesting to read what the experts have to say. My two pennies: Much of violin bridge optimization happened a couple hundred years ago. As even blank bridges have the central heart and side kidney cut-aways. Blank bridges are also of a certain wood. You can try other materials. You can try other shapes. Lot's of stuff sort of works. One day i may build a fiddle out of a soup can, with a broom handle ran through it. Like a gourd banjer. Some say, why reinvent the wheel? I'm not that guy.

Fiddlemaker5224 - Posted - 11/03/2020:  18:36:53


I have found that curving the sides of the bridge in toward the center 1mm increases the tones timber. Increasing the depth of the heart, serves two purposes. First, the removed material reduces the mass, thus allowing more energy to flow to the top. Second the reshaping ( decreasing the width of the leg on each side of the heart) of the leg act as a filter to redirect the vibrations traveling from the strings to the top of the instrument with out reducing the energy. Experiment with this and listen to your results.


Edited by - Fiddlemaker5224 on 11/03/2020 18:38:34

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 11/03/2020:  20:12:00


The Violin Society of America did extensive analysis of bridges at the Acoustics workshop at Oberlin some years ago. Over the week, some of the most skilled luthiers all compared bridges. Joseph Curtin came up with a special experimental lightweight bridge that was cut down to only what was necessary for the instrument to still sound like a violin. You can see it on his latest ultralight violin model:

josephcurtinstudios.com/instru...tralight/

Over the years, luthiers have tried out some different woods, but nothing performs quite the same way as maple. The molecular structure, density, tonal response, and plenitude of available sources make it impractical to attempt to surpass it.

Experiments aside, there are some basic parameters that are expected of a proper bridge to ensure structural integrity, tonal response, and bow clearance. Some of the “detail cuts” are more aesthetic and showcase the individuality of the workman, but there are so many important details to execute. Bridge blanks are designed with plenty room for the luthier to fit them to the instruments.

For classical playing, the bridge needs to have a specific type of curvature to allow for proper string crossings and for the player to easily play on one string in all positions without clearance issues. Fiddlers tend to like a flatter curve to make double stops easier and they aren’t worried about bow clearance in upper positions. This is only one aspect of the bridge; there are many others, all of which should be carefully considered.

A good bridge shouldn’t need to be tinkered with after it’s cut. Some players will try to make adjustments by filing or carving their bridges, but that approach does more harm than good, as the issue is often one that should be corrected in another way. It’s important to get to the root of the problem when doing setup. When the string heights at the end of the fingerboard are set, it should be done after assessing the fingerboard’s longitudinal curvature—too much scoop in the board will make the strings feel too high even when they’re too low at the nut and end of the fingerboard.

Setup is not so much a to-do list as an interdependent system in which each aspect serves an important purpose.

carlb - Posted - 11/04/2020:  04:14:55


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Fiddlers tend to like a flatter curve to make double stops easier ......






I disagree with this statement. The flatter bridge makes string crossings easier, not double stops. The flatter bridge allows for less bow motion when doing string crossings.

ChickenMan - Posted - 11/04/2020:  05:02:53


What Carl said.

Brian Wood - Posted - 11/04/2020:  07:19:24


Agree with Carl.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 11/04/2020:  07:34:21


quote:

Originally posted by carlb

quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Fiddlers tend to like a flatter curve to make double stops easier ......






I disagree with this statement. The flatter bridge makes string crossings easier, not double stops. The flatter bridge allows for less bow motion when 




Here is a discussion about the topic from a while back:



violinist.com/discussion/archive/12158/



Here is another:



google.com/amp/s/thesession.or.../4147/amp



And another:



fiddleforum.com/fiddleforum/in...pic=314.0



No one can surpass Johnny Gimble in playing double and triple stops in fiddling, and he was known for using an especially flat bridge to facilitate his playing of them. 


Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 11/04/2020 07:59:40

Brian Wood - Posted - 11/04/2020:  09:02:20


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

No one can surpass Johnny Gimble in playing double and triple stops in fiddling, and he was known for using an especially flat bridge to facilitate his playing of them. 






Triple stops yes. Double stops (which most bluegrass and old time players are satisfied with) no. Triple stops require a flatter bridge and looser bow but most of us don't do them. Doesn't matter what the arch of your bridge is for double stops, any 2 adjacent strings are in a level plane.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 11/04/2020:  12:48:55


quote:

Originally posted by Brian Wood

quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

No one can surpass Johnny Gimble in playing double and triple stops in fiddling, and he was known for using an especially flat bridge to facilitate his playing of them. 






Triple stops yes. Double stops (which most bluegrass and old time players are satisfied with) no. Triple stops require a flatter bridge and looser bow but most of us don't do them. Doesn't matter what the arch of your bridge is for double stops, any 2 adjacent strings are in a level plane.






Yes, you can make a straight line between any two points, but the curvature of the bridge has to take much more into account than the plane of two strings. Flattening the curve makes it easier for fiddlers to play pieces that are in double stops. Keep in mind that most tunes use more than two strings, so once you have to play on the next string, the curvature becomes even more important. The idea that bridge curvature is arbitrary is ridiculous; it's one of the aspects of a setup that players of all levels notice right away, something that can make or break an instrument sale. 

 



It is simply not true that the bridge has to be flatter or that the bow hair has to be looser for playing triple stops. However, since fiddlers often play with dropped bow arms and use less of the bow, they will often appreciate a different bridge shape to make it easier for their playing style.



String crossings tend to require less movement than many players realize. Making the bridge flatter is usually not as good a solution to issues in that area as some attention to bow arm technique. 

boxbow - Posted - 11/04/2020:  13:44:25


I was reminded while reading comments on bridge curvature of other comments on another thread about how fiddling styles and techniques within the old time genres have evolved and standardized. In particular there was some concern with contest style. Anyway, it seemed that possibly some of the more technically demanding fiddle styles might now call for a more classically curved bridge. Myself, I tried the flatter bridge, but, like so many other things I tried, it was no substitute for practice. Still working on that, but I do so with a little more curve now. Why, just the other day I had that very bridge lying on the floor. Seems the air in the music room finally dried out. I should have measured the radius while I had the chance.

Brian Wood - Posted - 11/04/2020:  13:50:43


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

...It is simply not true that the bridge has to be flatter or that the bow hair has to be looser for playing triple stops.






I'll bite. How can you play 3 simultaneous notes with tight hair and highly arched bridge?

Loup - Posted - 11/04/2020:  14:46:19


 



The great jazz violinist Joe Venuti was supposed to play three stringed chords. I've tried,but it's darn impossible.However the Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw,played with very loose bowhairs, but soon wore out the bow.



One thing that I found out is that by playing with a loose bow, I have better control ,and overcomes bouncing of the bow. I'd like to hear from anyone who has experimented  in a similar fation.



 



                                                                                                              Mike Pace (Loup)

Brian Wood - Posted - 11/04/2020:  14:57:15


quote:

Originally posted by Loup

 



The great jazz violinist Joe Venuti was supposed to play three stringed chords. I've tried,but it's darn impossible.However the Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw,played with very loose bowhairs, but soon wore out the bow.



One thing that I found out is that by playing with a loose bow, I have better control ,and overcomes bouncing of the bow. I'd like to hear from anyone who has experimented  in a similar fation.



 



                                                                                                              Mike Pace (Loup)






Doug Kershaw had a bit where he played with all 4 strings at once (might have been on Orange Blossom Special, but I'm not sure) by loosening his bow and putting the stick under the violin with the hairs wrapped over the strings on top. He was a showman and when I saw him he went through at least 2 or 3 bows during the show.



Any other way of playing triple or quad stops as far as I understand, is creating an illusion of 3 simultaneous notes by making a quick arpeggio of first the upper notes together then the lower notes together. Whether Bobby Hicks actually plays 3 notes together or not I don't know, but he's a hell of a fiddle player. First time I saw him I could close my eyes and swear I was hearing 2 fiddles his double stops were so clean and expressive.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 11/04/2020:  16:05:01


quote:

Originally posted by Loup

 



The great jazz violinist Joe Venuti was supposed to play three stringed chords. I've tried,but it's darn impossible.However the Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw,played with very loose bowhairs, but soon wore out the bow.



One thing that I found out is that by playing with a loose bow, I have better control ,and overcomes bouncing of the bow. I'd like to hear from anyone who has experimented  in a similar fation.



 



                                                                                                              Mike Pace (Loup)






Joe Venuti used his own technique of playing with the frog off the stick with the hair covering all four strings and the stick under the back. It gives a pipe organ-like effect. 

 



Watch at 5:30 here and you can see how he did it:



youtu.be/W3gAypnheyo



Here's someone else making use of the Venuti technique to play the U.S. National Anthem (almost):



youtu.be/hlIeAP51jOE



 


Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 11/04/2020 16:11:10

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 11/04/2020:  16:26:44


quote:

 
I'll bite. How can you play 3 simultaneous notes with tight hair and highly arched bridge?





Here's a perfect example of Heifetz. Listen at 3:25:



youtu.be/pCqv5vm2iz4



And here's Maxim Vengerov explaining how to do it:



youtu.be/4jYOo1CZn4o

BR5-49 - Posted - 11/07/2020:  16:38:53


I've seen fiddles/violins with a baroque style bridge.  I've seen them customized as well. 


Edited by - BR5-49 on 11/07/2020 16:39:46



 

WyoBob - Posted - 11/07/2020:  16:43:12


Thanks to all that posted in this thread.  It strayed a bit from the origninal intent and I enjoyed it all!



I had fun making bridges for my banjo and seeing the effects of different combinations in design and composition and how they changed the sound and playability on the banjo and wondered if there were mods that could be done on the fiddle.   I don't want to go down the "rabbit hole" in messing with fiddle bridges as I've found that changing setup and strings on my two "good" fiddles pretty much accomplished the desired results for me.  I like to tinker but, at age 73, I realize the best thing I can do is just --- play and learn the doggone fiddle!



Thanks to the FiddleHangout, I'm at a place I never really envisioned 14 months ago when I bought my first fiddle.  And, I bought my first fiddle after having been given a free, 70 year old, crudely made fiddle (by my friends' grandpa)  that didn't sound very good.  But, it sparked my interest in fiddle playing and now, surprisingly, that fiddle is now sounding a lot better than I ever thought it would (but it needs to be muted before I can enjoy playing it). 



Thanks, Hangout folks.  I now have a hobby that keeps me busy and happy in my "retirement" years.  I'll never be as good as I want to be but, I'm way better than I ever thought I'd be.

podland - Posted - 12/06/2020:  16:29:05


Very interesting

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