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directional string tension across the bridge

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Sep 15, 2019 - 8:11:05 AM
8097 posts since 3/19/2009

I was Taught to bring the string tension UP to where you want it... However I often 'tweak' down....Now I realize that some people with good ears..can tell if the slightest thing is OFF on their fiddle.. So here is my question... If for example two strings have been tweaked Down allowing one way tension on the bridge, and two strings are tweaked UP..putting different directional tension on the bridge... Does it make a noticable difference in sound to any of you?

Sep 15, 2019 - 12:00:25 PM
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259 posts since 9/1/2019

I was taught to tune up to notes, with the reasoning being that if your nut is slightly tight, the extra tension above the nut will help counteract your finger pressure, but if you tune down and your nut holds the string, then your finger pressure will loosen the string and go out of tune. That's all mandolin (or guitar or banjo) theory. I'm not entirely sure of terminology on fiddle, but the "nut" that I refer to is what the string goes across opposite the bridge. I'm not sure how that would differ if you use fine tuners. With my fine tuners I do tweak down, and I haven't noticed any Ill effects

Sep 15, 2019 - 2:42:43 PM

1500 posts since 12/11/2008

I don't think it. I just twist the pegs where I want them to go and then blithely fine-tune with the tailpiece tuners. Yeah, I get a trifle paranoid whenever I tune a fiddle's G and D strings to cross A but I've only busted a string a couple of times.

And yes, the bridge can sometimes go out of vertical when you are playing these games, but if the angle bothers me too much I put the fiddle on my lap or another soft surface and carefully ooch the bridge back to the spot where the feet are planted flatly on the top. I don't lower the tension when I do this because, when I'd put the tension back to pitch, the bridge would probably be crooked again.

As for the notion that the bridge's middle must be perfectly aligned with the points on the f-holes, as I mentioned in a previous post, I place my bridge just slightly on the neck side of the continuum. It suits my hands better to shorten the scale a little and I'd rather take a slight, theoretical tonal hit than endlessly put my fingers to the torture rack when I stretch to reach those unisons.

Finally, I got to say that the only time one of my fiddle's necks detached itself from the body, it was weather related...or so my luthier told me. In his German accent he said, "Ja, that sometimes happens."

In short, trust the fiddle. They've been being made for five hundred years. They got it down.

Sep 16, 2019 - 10:15:57 AM

848 posts since 1/25/2008

If you're doing things correctly, there shouldn't be any "directional" pressure on the bridge, there should only be down pressure.. With properly lubricated string slots, and an occasional tweak, to straighten the bridge, there shouldn't be any forces trying to tip the bridge over. Tuning up to a note, or tweaking back down to the note doesn't make any difference, as long as the final note is correct. If you "think" that you can hear a difference, I would challenge you to prove that there is a difference.

Sep 16, 2019 - 3:00:46 PM
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2506 posts since 2/3/2011

I've got the habit of always tuning up. It's easier. I don't think that's statistically significant, but at this point I'd be uncomfortable learning any different. So that's what I'll stick with unless I get a contrary urge.

Sep 16, 2019 - 3:37:14 PM



706 posts since 6/8/2013

if you use composite tailpiece with the fine tuners , I fell that you get less bridge movement, but the #2 pencil trick works really well also.

Sep 16, 2019 - 3:41:05 PM
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2455 posts since 9/13/2009

You tune a string to pitch, the goal so it stays there.

The reason for tuning UP to a note, is to take any slack out of the string, as well as the string around the friction peg or tuning post; which helps lock the string in; (on gear tuners, gears can be slight slack as well).  Tuning down can initially leave a little uneven tension, releasing later. One trick I was taught, after initial tuning, give the strings a little tug to make sure you got out any uneven slack.

I don't think slightly fine tuning down from tailpiece fine tuners is as much of an issue though.

Sep 18, 2019 - 3:35:04 PM

8097 posts since 3/19/2009

All good points.. I DO give my strings a 'tug' before final tuning.. Don't know where I learned that but it seems important.

Sep 18, 2019 - 8:24:30 PM
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2506 posts since 2/3/2011

I play steel strings, so they settle in quickly. When I install a new set I give a tug. If a peg slips and I go way out of tune, I'll give a tug when I get up to pitch. Not for regular tuning.

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