Instruments: When a bridge is too high
From Jessica Smith
Posted March 24, 2005 at 10:27 PM
I have a quick question regarding bridge height. The violin I use is still the same one that I learned on (though I have used other violins in that time). And, according to "everyone" I have talked to it has an extremely high bridge... They keep telling me my life would be much easier if I have the bridge adjusted.
Anyway, my questions are:
Would it take a while for me to get used to the lower action?
Would lowering the action really help all that much?
About how long would something like that take? (I know, I know, it depends on who is doing the work, and how busy they are, but still...)
On what basis were you told that your bridge was too high? Did anyone take any measurements? The main way to determine optimal bridge height is by measuring fingerboard projection. This is determined by running a straight edge down the fingerboard and measuring down to the top at which point it intersects the bridge. For a full size violin, this should be about 27mm. If it's higher than this, the bridge might need to be made higher. The height has more to do with the pressure that the bridge places on the top (and therefore soundpost) than just merely determining action. If this is not correct, it can effect sound.
However, given the correct height, the arch shape of top of bridge can be adjusted to accomodate either classical or fiddle style playing (fiddle style usually has less arch for double stops etc.).
I'm sorry for being thick, but 27 mm from where to where? I don't quite follow; if you could try to explain that again. By the way, what should I be measuring the mm with? A ruler? I am afraid my eyes aren't that good.
If you measure from the fingerboard to the bottom of the G string, at the very end of the fingerboard, how many mms do you read?
Jim, my violin is currently in the shop, I can let you know tomorrow.
Sorry to confuse, but the point I was making is that sometimes a bridge might "appear" unusually high if the fingerboard projection height is high (in order to get the necessary string clearance over the board).
4 mm at the e
9 mm at the g
YEOWWWW! That's really bad--it's approaching cello-string height, and over viola height on the G string. You're in physical self-injury territory. Your shop didn't notice that, and suggest a fix????? Maybe you need a new shop.
There are two ways to fix it: lower the bridge, or raise the board. I suspect that your violin might need a combination of the two, but it's not possible to analyze this without seeing the violin--standard numbers get you close, but they won't do what's best for the violin, necessarily. You would notice a *great* improvement in the way your violin feels, and possibly an improvement in tone also, if the right people do the job (that is, someone who really understands the dynamics of bridge/fingerboard height and sound, which is not everyone in every shop.)
Yes, the people at the shop noticed. They suggested that I have the bridge lowered. But I have been resisting having it fixed, mostly because I am nervous about having to get uesd to everything again. How much will adjusting the bridge effect they way I have to play my violin (this is probably one of those things that is personal opinion, but your experiences could be helpful)
You will be glad you had it done. The adjustment period could be as long as four seconds, maybe, unless there's something strange about your violin that might cause bowing problems. A "normal" bridge is about 32mm in height at the center, measured off the top of the violin. 30mm is about the minimum you want there, for bow clearance.
From Daniel Aum
Posted on March 26, 2005 at 10:52 PM
Yeah i had mine lowered. It took the luthier about minutes to lower and instantly, it feels softer to play on for the left hand. However, i did notice a little bit loss of tone.
On the flip side, if the bridge really is too high, rather than the board too low, the tone should improve. . . which is why I said it's an individual judgement call which way to lower the action.
I think you'd adjust to it quickly, as in one day. But even if you didn't you've got to fix it anyway. It would be interesting to see it, just to know where the problem is. If it's only the bridge, let them make a whole new one, or at least tell them to fix the other problems the bridge has if they see any. Thinking about what Michael said about bowing, I hope the fiddle middle isn't that wide or the arching that low. Still, anything can be fixed though.
From Ed Barreto
Posted on March 27, 2005 at 06:54 AM
I have 7 and 5. Is that too high...
Michael - What is your opinion of the adjustable Aubert bridges? Do the adjustable feet lose transmitting some sound frequencies?
I use one as a test bridge sometimes. It's not horrible, and the price is right. I don't think it's much or any worse than a poorly-cut regular bridge in some respects. People who want to fit their own bridge, but because they're trying to save money, not learn how to do it right, would probably be better off with the self-fitting type. But it's still not close to ideal. My main problem with them is since they're made for people who potentially will be abusing them, they're too thick at the bottom.
From Simon Hsu
Posted on March 30, 2005 at 03:16 PM
Mine measures 34 mm highest on the bridge. The distances between bottom of strings to top of fingerboard are 2.5 mm on E and 4 mm on G. Does this mean that the neck angle is too high?
In theory it does, however the way it sounds is the final word on if things are right or not.
From Simon Hsu
Posted on March 30, 2005 at 05:20 PM
It sounds great and has a higher arch than average.
Then it's right. :-) Highly arched violins don't always play by the same rules as low ones.
About the adjustable Aubert bridge: every violinist should have one for emergencies. It does indeed lose some power in terms of sound but I don't think this is so much because of the adjustable legs but because it is very very fat. And it is also not cut exactly for your particular instrument. But the two luthiers who saw it on my violin seemed a bit surprised that it was not worse than it was. They were also slightly disgruntled because they have to spend hours cutting a bridge to get it exactly right.
I have more than one violin, and I just put my favorite aside for a while to play my second favorite. Boy, was I surprised. On fiddle #2, I can cross strings more quickly and make changes in dynamics much more easily. I looked at the bridges on the two violins and was shocked at the difference. Fiddle #2 has a much higher bridge than fiddle #1 (34 mm vs 30 mm -- the difference looks enormous). Of course the action of the strings is totally different on the two violins. I wonder how I ever played fiddle #1. The strings almost touch the fingerboard near the nut, in the area where you'd play in the first position. If I'm taking measurements correctly -- and I'm not sure I am -- the measurements are 2 mm (E string) and 7 mm (G string) for fiddle #2 and 0.5 mm (E string) and 6 mm (G string) for fiddle #2. Both bridges are Aubert and both have about the same curvature to my (uneducated) eye. I play both classical and fiddle music, so the curvature is important to me. I find playing with the high bridge on violin #2 so much better than playing with the low bridge on violin #1, that I'm thinking of getting a bridge for violin #1 that's the same as the bridge on violin #2. Any comments or advice?
Don't forget the hight of the lower saddle! When you want a 'high bridge sound' it is sometimes just enough to make the lower saddle lower (if there is enough space, ofcourse).
Finn, pardon my ignorance, but what is the saddle? Also, is the degree of curvature of the fingerboard a factor?
make your own bridge--start with a higher one--if you are not satisfied then gradually decrease the height of the bridge by sanding it down until the sound matches your expectations thereof...
OR make several bridges--save them all--and utilize the best sounding bridge...
with some patience--bridges can become easy to make on your own----you WILL know when your bridge is correct for your instrument because the sound will speak to you...
make sure there are NO spaces under the feet of the bridge..
bridges are inexpensive to purchase---buy 4 or 5 and become your own luthier------its great fun,and not really too difficult--------try it !!
Pauline, the saddle is the 'bridge' where the tailgut rests on. In my experience the curvature of the fingerboard is not very strict binding. For example, when the E and A string have (more or less) the same height and the D and G string are gradually coming higher, the string curve is flatter then the Fingerboard curve. And vice versa, when the G and D have the same height and the A and E are gradually coming lower, then the string curve is stronger then the fingerboard. The only difference between this is the feeling of a low A string or a high D string. In my opinion you can just choose the best suiting curve for your style of bowing, independed of the curve of your fingerboard.
Finn, I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the phrase "the bridge where the tailgut rests on." Can you explain that some more or direct me to a picture?
The saddle is the piece of ebony at the bottom of the violin, just above the endpin. The tail gut comes out of the end of the tailpiece, runs over it and loops around the endpin.
Hope this helps!