Does the height of the bridge affect sound?

October 3, 2016 at 03:48 PM · So there are violin bridge heights. (40mm, 41mm, etc.)

I was wondering if there is a difference in sound? I know the higher probably increases tension in the strings, but is that good? Or do you want a low tension? Are there specific sound qualities that come from taller bridges (higher tension) or lower bridges (lower tension)?

Also what is a low hear and high heart in a bridge?

Replies (11)

October 3, 2016 at 05:19 PM · Depends ...

October 3, 2016 at 05:48 PM · It definitely makes a difference. My last bridge I started to play very high, then adjust it down to a good compromise of enough height and playability. The sound gets more powerful if the bridge is higher, but the downside is the playability. So it also depends on what can the instrument offer you with a good playable bridge. Unfortunately with my bridge some violinmaker made the grooves for the strings too deep so I had to go to another to get the whole bridge a little bit lower again. I really don't know what goes on with violinmakers around my area. Even with small adjustments one has to be so careful.

October 3, 2016 at 06:58 PM · Still waiting to hear about your encounter with Itzhak Perlman, David!

October 3, 2016 at 07:12 PM · The tension in the string depends on the vibrating length only, which will be increased a little by a higher bridge. But the higher bridge will also decrease its angles with the strings (fore and aft) and thus increase the downward pressure through the bridge to the violin body. This will sound louder, but cramp thr finer vibrations.

October 4, 2016 at 02:28 AM · My perception upon adjusting my own bridge lower (it was probably 45mm+; a vso bridge) was that the violin sounded a bit mellower/darker. Good for the harsh vso-and my fingers-but I don't know that I would want the same effect to happen on my nicer violin.

October 4, 2016 at 06:47 AM · I believe you. "Harshness" is lower, frequency-wise than "brilliance". Even decent VSO's are often honky and harsh, rarely brilliant.

However, lowering the top edge of the bridge (as opposed to thinning its feet) may be similar to removing a mute.

And yes, I have found improving a sturdy student violin ("built to withstand a school environment"..) is different from a higher grade fiddle with thinner plates and well seasoned wood.

October 4, 2016 at 11:00 AM · The angle of the string over the bridge is important.

In the violas I make the bridge is high, but the projection of the neck root over the table and the lower sadle are high too, resulting in a "normal" angle of the strings over the bridge.

Some viola models are wide in the middle bouts (for good basses) and this may require a high bridge to allow a good bow clearance.

October 4, 2016 at 01:07 PM · Tension "in the string" is a function of the distance between the nut and bridge (called the VSL or vibrating string length) and the note it is tuned to.

If you do not shift the position of the bridge, but instead replace it with a higher bridge, then it will lengthen the VSL slightly, so you will need a tiny bit more tension to tune it to the same note.

A higher bridge will direct more static string tension into the top. Theoretically, this can affect the timbre of the violin, perhaps making it sound brighter or harsher.

It will also allow the vibrating string to create a larger pumping action, or more responsive to the bow. Conversely, it also causes a bigger feedback of the top back to the strings which can result in nasty things like wolfing or growling.

It will also affect the "feel" of the strings under the fingers, since you will need to press harder to get the strings to the fingerboard.

Luthiers experienced in high end modifications might be able to shed more light on this, but my understanding is that many players are fussy about the clearance between the strings and the fingerboard.

I know I can detect small changes in string clearance and I have been playing for only 3 years. Although it is doubtful such changes affect what MY playing sounds like >grin<, a seasoned professional might take issue when executing demanding passages.

So raising a bridge would result in an unacceptable feel to the strings under the fingers. The neck might have to be adjusted to project the fingerboard higher up on the raised bridge to bring the string clearances back to acceptable values.

October 9, 2016 at 05:37 PM · Luis' description of his violas reminds me of the work done on my wife's 19th century 'cello. The neck was raised (extra wood between neck-base and button, so a lesser string angle over the bridge without the tonal inconvenience of a lower bridge etc.

I wonder if this is to accept the higher tension of steel or composite strings, without crushing the instrument. A sharper angle over the bridge seems common in photos of the gut-cored string era.

Both on this 'cello, on violins of Heifetz etc, on Primrose's and on Luis' violas, there is more wood in the top half of the bridge than is common nowadays. Less nasality, more nobility?

October 10, 2016 at 06:56 PM · And Carmen, I have found that extra tension often gives a more powerful but duller tone, perhaps because the faster, finer vibrations are cramped. Also wolves or near-wolves sometimes stand out more.

October 11, 2016 at 03:35 PM · My luthier lowering my bridge by 2mm removed a wolf note at the 1st position c# on the a string (the bridge had been cut far too high by whoever had previously fitted it).

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