Flat bridge versus regular bridge

September 15, 2007 at 11:11 PM · Hi everyone, I had a chance to play a violin set up for fiddle playing (the bridge was nearly flat) when I was in Tennessee earlier this summer, and found myself wondering something....does flattening the bridge change the tone of the strings? Just curious.

Replies (11)

September 15, 2007 at 11:19 PM · I'm not sure about changing the tone, but I always thought the flatter bridge made it easier to play on two or more strings at once, which seems more common in fiddling? I could be wrong though.

September 16, 2007 at 01:25 AM · I can't really see that it would have a major impact on string tone. Obviously, it'll have some effect on it, since the vibrations would essentially travel through the bridge at slightly different angles before reaching the feet/belly contact points. This would cause the belly to vibrate a bit differently, but I think we're talking such a minor change that I can't really see most if any humans being able to tell the difference.

And, yes, decreasing the arch of the bridge makes it easier to hit three or more strings. It doesn't, however, make it any easier to hit two adjacent strings, since it's still a straight line between any two adjacent strings, no matter how arched or flat the bridge is. Flattening the arch of the bridge will, however, make it harder to hit only one string without hitting other strings on either side of it, but this might be a good thing, since it'll cause you to have to learn to be much more precise with your bowing. :)

September 16, 2007 at 01:31 AM · I'd like a flatter bridge to learn to be more precise.

It's like running with a weighted vest on, sort of. Makes you work harder.

September 16, 2007 at 01:15 PM · I'm not sure the flatter bridge for precision would be a good idea. The range of vertical motion of the elbow in string changes is 'very' small.

And gliding into a well setup bridge's double stops is very important as well to clean string crossings.

The point being: it's easy enough to create bad habits without having to graduate up through a training-wheel type bridge. Why just not work on the string changes correctly from the start?

This does not even consider the actual playing of double-stops, and how important it is to be on the right plane--or chords as in getting the feeling for gliding across double-stop planes..

September 16, 2007 at 11:52 AM · my wild guess is that when taking into considertion of many other changes that can affect the sound on a violin, which is to say, anything and everything, changing the height of a bridge, by itself or as a factor of many, may be a big deal to sound. whether the player can appreciate the sound difference is another thing or the question. if the pre-conceived notion is that it is probably ok, then, it is probably ok.

changing the bridge height will lead to changing string angle which leads to changing force exerted upon the upper plate from the bridge which leads to a different acoustic animal when taking the violin as a whole...

also, the change may not be immediately noticeable to the player's ears in some setting because of acoustics. it may be glaringly different in other settings, to the same player.

September 16, 2007 at 12:00 PM · Good comments, Al.

I also agree that a non-standard curvature could induce bad habits and make it difficult to move from one violin to another.

Too flat a curvature also won't allow one to play hard without contacting adjacent strings.

September 16, 2007 at 02:46 PM · "Old-time" fiddlers pretty commonly have the bridge flattened, meaning lowered in the center. When they say it makes it easier to play two strings at once, I think they actually mean it is easier/quicker to change from middle two strings to top two strings. String changes between A to E (where most melodies are played) seem faster,too. Probably because there is a difference in how small a change of plane can be had with a flatter bridge. Fiddlers often "rock" the bow between strings/prs. of strings, and don't worry about catching an extra string now and then. For some tunes and styles, it's part of the technique. Sue

September 16, 2007 at 03:04 PM · Also, in the past, fiddlers would use a stiffer string than violinists, so the string wouldn't sink as much under pressure, lessening the need for clearance. I don't think that applies as much now, though, now that I see more fiddlers not using straight steel (Super-Sensitive, etc.) strings.

As Al intuits, EVERYTHING changes the way a violin sounds.

September 17, 2007 at 03:55 AM · In THE WAY THEY PLAY book 5 Applebaum notes that Ricci often strikes three strings simultaneously in the Bach Chaconne and asks him if his bridge is flatter than normal. The exchange goes on for half a page but in a nut shell Ricci recommends a set up with the arch of the bridge kept to a bare minimum, the strings as close as possible to the fingerboard and that the fingerboard be raised so that one does not end up with a lower bridge and thus sacrifice the brilliance of the instrument.

September 17, 2007 at 04:53 AM · Thanks Gary. That was good info. Thinking of intonation, and how awfully brutal it has come to because of some things I could not control immediately, your quote made really good sense.

Struggling with f3/f4 until more recently, often without even really being aware of it, those close to fingerboard strings sound like a 'really' good thing.

I noted at the same time that proportions are still in tact, rather than a "flatter bridge". I played on a high sitting bridge recently, and my fingers felt somewhat like they were on a trampoline. It wasn't bad though.

September 17, 2007 at 12:07 PM · In my experience, many professional player prefer higher strings, at both the nut and the bridge, saying that it gives additional "snap" and precision to their playing. I haven't listened to Ricci in years, but and the reason I haven't is that I remember his playing as smeary and indistinct.

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