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Fiddle Lovers Online


Dec 4, 2021 - 3:45:41 PM
68 posts since 5/1/2010

Over a lifetime of fiddling and hanging around with fiddlers, I've seen every size and shape of violin bridge imaginable. Some are tall and arched, some are flat, thin, and barely there! They all depend on the whims of their owners.
What is the optimum size and shape of a bridge to bring out the best tone/power that most violins have to offer?
Also, if price were no object, where would you get your next violin bridge?

Dec 4, 2021 - 5:43:02 PM

5648 posts since 9/26/2008

I'd have my luthier, Randy Hoshaw, carve it for me. He's brilliant.

Dec 4, 2021 - 7:16:25 PM
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869 posts since 1/25/2008

The bridge measurements aren't just up to the "whims of the owner". All bridges are sold as blanks. They are all too high and too thick, and must be fitted to the individual instrument. The feet have to be carefully fitted to the curve of the instrument top. The height has to be carefully fitted to the instrument to provide the correct clearance between the strings and fingerboard. If it's too low, the strings will buzz against the fingerboard. If it's too high, the instrument gets harder to play, and looses proper intonation. The thickness is mass. I usually take off about 1/2 to 1mm of thickness, and carefully trim the bridge parts.
Where to get your next bridge? From an experienced luthier!

Dec 4, 2021 - 7:43:27 PM

2512 posts since 10/22/2007

My Luthier showed me how to fit/cut a bridge. Blanks are relatively cheap. I have experimented a bit. Don't forget it is but one factor in many. Then, at the end of the day, the fiddle & bow are but 1 or 2 percent of how a fiddler sounds.

BTW one can also make a fiddle easier or more difficult to play depending upon the setup. I would consider myself quite lazy. But what I consider easy to play in a setup, would be the opposite to another.

Dec 5, 2021 - 3:30:47 AM

RichJ

USA

600 posts since 8/6/2013

Given the wide variety of bridge brands, shapes, fit etc. I remember asking how all this affects the sound of a fiddle several months ago.   Here's what I got back. 

https://www.fiddlehangout.com/topic/55391

Dec 5, 2021 - 4:43:06 AM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2397 posts since 2/2/2008

Whatever you do to the bridge, i.e. after thinning the blank, carving, not sandpapering, the feet to fit the top. carving out extra wood from the curved inner sections (all recommended by my luthier), you should carve the top of the bridge so that the strings, at the end of the finger board, are 3 mm for the E string and 5 for the G string. The curvature of the top can be classical or slightly flattened, depending on what you're comfortable with.

Dec 6, 2021 - 1:39:18 AM

68 posts since 5/1/2010

Why carving and not sanding?

Dec 6, 2021 - 3:54 AM
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kjb

USA

740 posts since 6/8/2013

when you move the bridge over the top to sand fit, it makes an inaccurate fit

Dec 6, 2021 - 6:01:11 AM

2512 posts since 10/22/2007

Similar to blue-printing engine parts: I FINISH my bridge feet with 800-1000 grit sandpaper held across the top plate (grit-side up). I apply graphite to the feet and sand off the high points. I can control the surface down to 0.001". I reduce bulk with a knife or plane.

Dec 7, 2021 - 3:51:34 PM
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633 posts since 3/1/2020

To cut a good bridge, the feet need to be fitted without sandpaper. The sandpaper method requires either the bridge or the sandpaper to be moved around to remove wood. That means the contour of the top is only roughly approximated and the exact position of the feet will not be a perfect fit.

Sandpaper leaves dust that clogs the pores of the wood, which is not a good thing for sound transmission. In addition, the process of fitting the bridge with sandpaper can damage the varnish surface of the top.

Using a knife with the right curvature for the task, a luthier can make fine and precise cuts to remove wood until the feet fit exactly—no gaps and no hollow spots in the middle. A chisel is great for removing more wood initially and for getting close to a good fit.

The shape and size of the bridge are determined by the instrument. There are some basic dimensions that most luthiers follow to get a good sound. The height is related to the projection of the neck and the desired string heights. Too thin a bridge makes a violin harsh and too thick a bridge makes it dull.

A well-cut bridge shows the skill of the luthier and can really make a huge difference in the sound and playability of the instrument. A good setup is the best investment one can make in one’s instrument for sound.

Dec 7, 2021 - 4:06:22 PM

9651 posts since 3/19/2009

This makes me think (ouch)... Us OT fiddlers tend to like lower bridges because we can get low finger action on the strings... But I realize that a higher bridge has advantages.. So, my question is...Are there fiddles that have had the neck angle increased so that the bridge can be Higher, while still offering low finger/finger-board action?

Dec 7, 2021 - 4:28:07 PM

2054 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Similar to blue-printing engine parts: I FINISH my bridge feet with 800-1000 grit sandpaper held across the top plate (grit-side up). I apply graphite to the feet and sand off the high points. I can control the surface down to 0.001". I reduce bulk with a knife or plane.


You're right. A bridge can be fitted very accurately with sandpaper and a jig that holds it perpendicular to the top. Very small movements can be made, and very fine paper used to achieve excellent results. And if one wants to fit the bridge the more traditionional (and honorable) way, sanding will get you reliably to where you can finish with a knife or chisel. The mere mention of sandpaper throws some luthiers into howling protest so that's all I'll say about it. 

Dec 7, 2021 - 6:31:41 PM
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18 posts since 3/8/2018

Brian,

There are some shapes of tops that can not be fit with sandpaper. Low, flat arches might come closest to being OK, but either old instruments with deformation to the top can not be, and highly arched instruments can not be.

We use knives for a reason. Sandpaper might work on your mandolin or banjo, but many shapes of top of the violin family instruments simply make it not possible. It isn't a cylinder or a radius, it's a much more complicated shape in many cases.

Dec 7, 2021 - 8:01:30 PM

2512 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
 The mere mention of sandpaper throws some luthiers into howling protest so that's all I'll say about it. 

I see that.  Working with wood compared to a toolmakers mindset, it's pointless to argue. 

Like I danced around it before, you could have the best fitted bridge, with a poorly placed pin, or, crap strings, or, or, or.  It's just the fiddle, not the fiddler. 

Dec 8, 2021 - 12:23:39 AM
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633 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

This makes me think (ouch)... Us OT fiddlers tend to like lower bridges because we can get low finger action on the strings... But I realize that a higher bridge has advantages.. So, my question is...Are there fiddles that have had the neck angle increased so that the bridge can be Higher, while still offering low finger/finger-board action?


Yes. Raising the projection on violins with necks that have either dropped over the years or were set too low originally is an everyday shop task.

When the projection is too low the instrument will just choke up and the bridge will be too stubby to function well. Once the projection is right you can cut a bridge and set the string heights to suit the player's preferences.

The feeling of low action does not come from string height at the bridge end alone, though. The heights at the nut and the amount of scoop in the fingerboard have a lot to do with it as well. 

Dec 10, 2021 - 11:34:19 AM
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633 posts since 3/1/2020

An oldie but goodie:

youtu.be/v1XXuo3hv6U

For those who don’t know, the luthier in the video is David Burgess, one of the world’s most acclaimed violin makers.

Dec 10, 2021 - 2:09:33 PM

68 posts since 5/1/2010

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

An oldie but goodie:

youtu.be/v1XXuo3hv6U

For those who don’t know, the luthier in the video is David Burgess, one of the world’s most acclaimed violin makers.

Good God!  That made my sphincter slam shut!


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