String spacing at the bridge

September 16, 2015 at 01:55 AM · What is the "ideal" or "preferred" spacing of the strings at the bridge?

Replies

September 16, 2015 at 04:18 AM · About 33-35mm, e to G

September 16, 2015 at 04:36 AM · This is fun to look at:

September 16, 2015 at 11:24 AM · I was taught 33.5mm as the crow flies; sometimes I do a bit less, never more.

September 16, 2015 at 11:45 AM · Bud, that's a cool picture. I can't read the caption. Where is that displayed?

September 16, 2015 at 12:22 PM · "As the crow flies" suggests to me that the measurement is along a straight line, not along the arc of the bridge. Are the spacings even?

Looking at that picture, I bet a luthier could collect all the bridges they've replaced (the ones the player does not want back) and string them together into a cool X-mas tree decoration.

September 16, 2015 at 12:54 PM · Equal spacing, center to center, yes. Not everyone does it this way, but I could never get why you'd make the spaces equal when people play on the tops of the strings, not in the spaces between them.

September 16, 2015 at 02:08 PM · There is, but it is up to interpretation. I have long and thin fingers and a standard set up feels kind of constraining to me so I had a luthier move my strings over to the bass side and make the spacing of the strings closer to one another. It does look quite strange if you are used to a normal setup.

September 16, 2015 at 02:17 PM · In 1959, Scherl & Roth published "You Fix Them" for "home repairs" and included both French and Viennese full size "plan" maps of bridge tops for all four bowed string instruments. For violins, the chord measurement of 33.5 mm agrees with Michael's statement. The chord length between each string is 12 mm, as close as I can read it.

Andy

September 16, 2015 at 03:04 PM · I use 34 mm and all my customers are happy with that.

September 16, 2015 at 03:22 PM · Andrew -- 12 mm refers to what? Sorry I didn't understand that one.

Now to thicken the plot. Would anyone ever recommend a narrower spacing for a young student hoping to play fifths in the upper portion of the fingerboard?

September 16, 2015 at 03:49 PM · For the most consistent bowing angles and clearance to adjacent strings, cut the bridge so the tops of the strings all lie on arc of fixed radius. The "standard" is 42mm radius.

The straight line (chord) distance between adjacent strings is 12mm center-to-center measured at the top of the strings.

This will give you a straight line (chord distance) of 35 mm from G to E string measured center-to-center and on top of the strings.

I forget if there was a discussion here or on Maestronet about variations on this. Try a search here and on MN.

Some people use an equal distance between the edges of the strings rather than center-to-center to give a better look. I've tried a variety of suggested methods. The differences in bowing clearance to adjacent strings is very small among the various methods.

In general, if some part of each string lies on a circular arc, and the straight line distance between each string is the same within a couple of tenths of a mm, the strings will look good and give consistent bowing motion.

A smaller bridge radius and/or wider string-to-string spacing will make it easier to bow without nicking adjacent strings.

September 16, 2015 at 05:07 PM ·

Webpage for the pic above

Amazing site!

September 16, 2015 at 06:53 PM · The way I do it, it's about 11.3mm from string center to string center. I think 12mm, with the corresponding wider overall setting, is too wide, at least for what I'm after.

September 17, 2015 at 12:41 AM · 12 mm is too wide. I think for my daughter it's going to be 11 mm.

September 17, 2015 at 10:37 AM · As the spacing narrows, to maintain the same bow clearance you need to round the bridge a bit more. That's why I don't use a template over the strings as Carmen recommends, but rather a small rule with a slit in it of such depth that you can set each intermediate string's height a given distance above the ones on either side. I believe the slit in mine is about 1.62mm deep (drop that over the string, and the rule should almost or lightly touch the strings on either side.) You may or may not need to do this--there's nothing mandatory about maintaining the 15 degree bow clearance that the "normal" plan makes. Just the fact that it's exactly 15 degrees gives a clue to the arbitrary aspect of this setting.

With a narrower setting you may notice a slight increase in core in the sound--good or bad, depending.

September 17, 2015 at 12:03 PM · Bud, thank you. The bridge is so important, yet so often under-considered; this site looks like food for lots of thought.

September 17, 2015 at 12:03 PM · Bud, thank you. The bridge is so important, yet so often under-considered; this site looks like food for lots of thought.

September 17, 2015 at 12:22 PM · Then there's this:

September 17, 2015 at 12:39 PM · Yeah, that's the "more is better" school. More string width, more bridge foot width, more bridge height. Bigger bridge = bigger whatever. It's the American way! All I can say is that it doesn't work for me or my customers.

September 17, 2015 at 12:49 PM · So, the answer is there's no 'ideal' and plenty of 'preferred' :)

September 17, 2015 at 01:06 PM · That's right. Different violins and players require different things.

September 17, 2015 at 01:12 PM · Remember I'm talking about the bridge for a violin that's being played by a 13-year-old girl. She does not have Perlman-style sausage fingers. That drawing is amazing, but the crow-flies distance between the A and E strings would be *more* than 12 mm.

Michael wrote, "people play on the tops of the strings, not in the spaces between them," but that's not true if you are trying to play fifths.

As far as whether the spacing should be equal, one argument that I heard is that the A and E strings should be slightly closer together because you're more likely to need to play double stops (including fifths) higher on the fingerboard with those strings.

September 17, 2015 at 06:56 PM · I can't speak to this with any authority, but I have a couple of teachers, and many players, I consult with regularly, and almost any time I ask them about some dodge that violin makers came up with in the back room to make playing "easier", they inevitably tell me that there's no problem, and that they teach a method that the "cure" wouldn't improve. That's when they're being polite. I've heard this from so many teachers and players over the years about supposed back shop "cures" for theoretical problems that I'm now automatically skeptical of any such innovation.

September 18, 2015 at 12:29 AM · As one might surmise by comparing Michael Darnton's method to what I posted and Bud Scott's diagram, there is more than one workable method to skin a bridge.

What I do is decide how much clearance the player wants in the E string from both the side and top of the finger board. I then set the E string.

I have a 42mm radius arch template with markings for all the strings. I place one of the edge marks on the E string, then scribe an arc on the bridge by using a pencil placed at the other edge mark. This gives me a line along which the G string will be placed. I can then cut a groove along this line until I get the G string clearance the player wants.

After the G string is set, resting the template on the E and G strings gives the precise location of the A and D strings.

Technically, the template does not have to be an arc. It can be a straight edge with grooves of varying depths, similar to what Michael Darton describes.

Setting the strings only takes a few minutes. Most of my time is spent getting the feet fitted snug and holding the bridge upright at the correct angle to the table, tapering the bridge, and getting the whole thing looking pretty.

As far as a 13 year old double stopping fifths (pressing two strings with one finger), recall we are talking about less than 1 mm variation between adjacent strings AT THE BRIDGE. By the time that distance works its way down to 1st through 5th positions, you are talking about fractions of a mm. Basically, a non-issue IMO.

September 18, 2015 at 07:02 PM · Darnton wrote:

"I can't speak to this with any authority, but I have a couple of teachers, and many players, I consult with regularly, and almost any time I ask them about some dodge that violin makers came up with in the back room to make playing "easier", they inevitably tell me that there's no problem, and that they teach a method that the "cure" wouldn't improve. That's when they're being polite. I've heard this from so many teachers and players over the years about supposed back shop "cures" for theoretical problems that I'm now automatically skeptical of any such innovation."

____________________

If you "can't speak to this with any authority", why would you use such pejorative descriptions for other luthier's methods which may differ from your own, like "some dodge", or something that "violin makers came up with in the back room", or "back shop cures for theoretical problems"?

September 18, 2015 at 08:47 PM · Michael's language here may be somewhat colourful but it is hardly pejorative especially since no individuals are mentioned. I've found his discussion here very interesting and I've always been grateful to him for his willingness over the years to share his expertise. I also have great respect for David Burgess, but I am always saddened by the instantaneous hostile reaction he has to almost everything Michael says. If David has alternate views, it would be nice to hear them expressed in a respectful way. I think we can learn from both of these skilled gentlemen and I would be very happy if David would bury the sawsall, er, hatchet.

September 19, 2015 at 08:42 AM · Ron MacDonald wrote:

"Michael's language here may be somewhat colourful but it is hardly pejorative especially since no individuals are mentioned. I've found his discussion here very interesting and I've always been grateful to him for his willingness over the years to share his expertise. I also have great respect for David Burgess, but I am always saddened by the instantaneous hostile reaction he has to almost everything Michael says. If David has alternate views, it would be nice to hear them expressed in a respectful way. I think we can learn from both of these skilled gentlemen and I would be very happy if David would bury the sawsall, er, hatchet."

____________________

From Merriam-Webster:

"Definition of PEJORATIVE:

a word or phrase that has negative connotations or that is intended to disparage or belittle : a pejorative word or phrase"

DODGE

noun \'däj :

a clever or dishonest trick done in order to avoid something

Michael posted several times in this thread with no reaction at all from me. I finally posted after what might be considered to be a minor tirade, which contained nothing technical (as far as I could tell) about bridge spacing or curvature.

Maybe it's time for you to do a reality check?

September 20, 2015 at 03:12 AM · Paul, The 12 mm (with my failing eyesight) was the chord distance between strings (hopefully center to center) as best I could see on the drawings in the Scherl & Roth book. If Michael says it should be 11.3 mm (what can I say) that might have been what I wa looking at, especially since the total width I measured from E to G was the same as his).

Andy

September 20, 2015 at 03:13 AM · Paul, The 12 mm (with my failing eyesight) was the chord distance between strings (hopefully center to center) as best I could see on the drawings in the Scherl & Roth book. If Michael says it should be 11.3 mm (what can I say) that might have been what I wa looking at, especially since the total width I measured from E to G was the same as his).

Andy

September 30, 2015 at 10:25 AM · I have adjusted and chipped down my bridge myself. We should experiment ourselves about the distance. Narrow strings will help us playing two strings with one finger, especially for those having thin fingers. I have made my bridge a lot flatter than it was before and its good. I suggest all should experiment yourself whenever you adjust your bridge/ change strings or anything u might try something new for a change.

September 30, 2015 at 10:45 AM · I'd feel inclined to do this kind of experimentation if (1) I had more time and (2) I had a spare instrument of like kind and quality on which to experiment and (3) bridge blanks weren't $20 apiece.

September 30, 2015 at 01:02 PM · I use violin spacing in my violas: I don't suddenly grow thicker fingers when playing them!

Also, this makes the A a little further from the edge of the wider bridge, and so a little less strident.

True, I can make the open C & G buzz together in a very loud double-stop..

September 30, 2015 at 02:45 PM · String players of the world, adjust your spacing! You have nothing to lose but your discomfort!

September 30, 2015 at 08:52 PM · Wow Adrian, thanks for the tip. I was thinking of getting a viola and I'll ask for violin spacing on the bridge!!

September 30, 2015 at 11:49 PM · As a player with fairly thick fingers, I'm concerned with spacing at the fingerboard nut, where of course the spacing is most narrow. I don't want to compromise the right set up balance and I can't be sliding off the E string - but where a particular neck and fingerboard can accommodate it, I prefer a slightly wider than textbook spacing there.

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