Leaning bridge

December 14, 2015 at 05:20 AM · Hello,

a few weeks ago, I swapped from Obligato, high tension strings to Warchal Karnoel, lower string tension.

After the change, I noticed that the bridge is leaning towards the fingerboard side, so I pulled it towards tailpiece slightly, then I adjusted the pegs a little bit then snap! Tailpiece kissed the top of the instrument and my luthier inspected and applied some spirit varnish on the exposed wood. Thankfully only superficial damage.

The tuning instability with this Karnoel set is lasting unusually long, 2 weeks and counting. I have noticed last night that the bridge is leaning once again. This time I pulled it back carefully after I put a thick piece of cloth under the tailpiece and I successfully brought it straight.

I'm noticing slight leaning on bridge again today. Not to mention that I need to retune it everytime. It is also always leaning towards fingerboard side.

Is this because the violin prefers a higher tension string or would this be an issue with something else?

I should also mention that the Karnoel strings are thinner than the Obligato strings.


December 14, 2015 at 09:35 AM · Steven, have your luthier check whether something in the tail adjuster region is failing, causing that length to increase. For example, the threads slipping on a plastic tail adjuster, or a crack on the underside of the tailpiece, allowing the adjuster to pull through.

December 14, 2015 at 12:43 PM · Hello Steven,

I am a huge fan of Warchal strings and they are my favorite and consider their pricing a great value. I have just replaced Karneols with Brilliants. This was my first time using Karneols and enjoyed playing on them. The Karneols stabilized after two days on my instrument and lasted quite a long time and always am very happy with their standard E string. I do prefer the Brilliants, and have yet to try the Ambers.

When changing strings I have learned from others on this site to take a pencil and rub it on the nut notches and bridge notches to help let the string slide and not bind at these locations. When tuning up new string I do so very slowly so I can watch what the bridge is doing and try to equalize the tension on each side of it. Also when straightening a tilting bridge I put my thumbs in the center behind it and fingers in the front and and pull a tiny amount at a time ever so gently.

December 14, 2015 at 01:24 PM · A few weeks ago I also switched from Obligatos to Warchal Karneols (and I absolutely love them). After two days they new strings were stable, no problems whatsoever. I cannot imagine that your violin cannot cope with the lower tension strings (mine was totally unimpressed) and would go with @David Burgess's professional advice.

December 14, 2015 at 02:04 PM · David, try Lemuel Violins in Mt.Elgin, Ont. They have a quick on-line service and I recently bought a set of Warchal Ambers from them.

December 14, 2015 at 02:07 PM · another, less likely, possibility is that strings are moving around the peg as they stretch.

December 14, 2015 at 02:56 PM · Very well, I shall contact my luthier after my exams. It seems that I've been going to her once a month at least since I met her. I think my violin sees her physician a lot more than I see a doctor.

As for Warchal strings, I've ordered them directly from their website, I ordered sample sets from them because it's most economical for me. I have dealt with Lemuel violin before, their website is violins.ca I bought a shoulder rest from them over a year ago.

February 6, 2016 at 09:42 PM · Quick question.

Should there be a certain standard on how far the string goes into the string "grooves" on the bridge?

Since Warchal Karnoel strings are thinner than Obligato, and the bridge I think was set up for the Obligato, the Karnoel strings seem to have a little bit of extra room.

I haven't seen my luthier yet about it because my schedule has been destroying recreation time. I have to admit that I only touched my violin twice in January.

February 7, 2016 at 05:35 PM · As far as penetration of the strings into the bridge, my first reaction is "as little as possible to hold them well in place while you play." Your strings are supposed to go *over* your bridge, not through it. And remember to lubricate the bridge grooves and the nut liberally with a soft pencil. I'm told that from time to time you should loosen one string just enough to re-lubricate the bridge groove, and do one maybe every month or so. Probably less of an issue with E-string groove that has parchment.

February 7, 2016 at 07:55 PM · like Rocky guessed, my guess is that you did not securely wind the string around the peg; failing to cross over in the right way so that the string fixes itself, and it will every time unwind slightly again.

February 8, 2016 at 12:43 AM · If the string is being unwinded from the peg side, shouldn't the bridge lean towards the tailpiece rather than fingerboard side?

February 8, 2016 at 04:29 AM · I'm assuming the bridge lean is after tuning up to pitch.


February 8, 2016 at 10:39 AM · Every time you replace strings or do a major tune up, the bridge often pulls forward, you HAVE to correct this, the number one cause of bridges warping and becoming useless is people not keeping their bridge standing up straight, I fit my bridges so the back edge forms a right angle with the violin sides, other makers sometimes adjust the bridge so the centre of the bridge stands straight up, not the back edge. In any case be aware of how your luthier intends the bridge to stand up, and check it frequently to make sure it isn't leaning forward or even backward, not only is it important for your bridges health, it is important for tone, as the bridge feet only make 100% full contact with the top when the bridge is standing straight as the luthier who fit it intended.

February 9, 2016 at 03:46 AM · Thanks Lyndon, Seraphim, before and after is what I mean. It's stopped leaning or I've been paying much less attention lately. Considering I've touched the violin 5 times this year, I think it's the latter.

February 19, 2016 at 04:50 AM · I think it's time for me to visit my luthier. One thing is for sure, the soundpost is now at an angle. I heard a small creaking sound on the sound belly while I was cleaning the violin yesterday, I couldn't figure out what that sound was until I looked through the f holes.

I think the weather got to it. I did drive through a snowstorm for 9 hours earlier this week. I helped some people stuck in ditches on the highway. I kept my car on with heat on, but I kept a window open(because I am paranoid about locking myself out of with keys inside).

My violin has lost her voice lately, hopefully next visit to her doctor will make her better. Ironic because I've just gotten over pneumonia and my voice is just coming back.

February 19, 2016 at 06:07 AM · Fickle little wooden boxes, aren't they? The dry air here and weird weather has been annoying mine too.

Glad to hear you at least are recovering!

February 19, 2016 at 06:33 AM · Would be worth taking the tension off the strings if your sound post is leaning.

February 19, 2016 at 10:55 PM · Fox, they sure are. She sounds a little louder I think, and sympathetic vibration is a LOT more pronounced.

Stefan, I'm not so sure, I only just read your post now after seeing her doctor.

I asked my luthier about the "groove size" on the bridge as well, she adjusted it a little bit on the D string for me, and I'm getting a much better clearance for sure. I wish to return to regular practice routine before I make any marginal adjustments, to make sure that it's not my playing, that's making things "off".

August 6, 2016 at 11:42 PM · I picked up my violin Yesterday, from having its varnish touched up, bridge groove on A adjusted, and saddle adjusted. My luthier noticed that the bridge was out of angle when she showed me the violin. She adjusted it for me at the time. I was in a rush, so I didn't think of asking her some of the questions I had.

After swapping out some strings today, I noticed that the bridge is again leaning. After a bit of reading, I decided to loosen individual string and lubricated individual string groove with pencil lead to make sure the strings stretching isn't causing this issue. The bridge seems to stay straight now.

My violin has quite a bit of curvature on its top, and the 90 degrees from the tailpiece side to bridge seems like they are going to cause the bridge to fall(again). What is the exact reference surface should I be referring to?

There are a lot of curvatures and angles involved, and it's almost as if I were looking at optical illusions because one of these is happening.

1.Even at the "happy spot" where my bridge has always been, one corner of the foot on the bass side seem to be not in contact with the violin. Now, there are parts of the violin where its varnish had been scratched off by some previous owner, or the original maker, This corner is on varnish, and rest of this foot is on wood, it "looks" to be not in contact, but it may be.

2. The bridge itself "seem" crooked, or warped toward the fingerboard, but looking at its tailpiece side being flat, I think it's an optical illusion. Also, the curvature of the belly is deeper than, say an average trade German violin. So, the top itself is at a down-slope angle toward the tailpiece.

August 7, 2016 at 12:13 AM · Technically, belly-to-bridge is 90 deg(paper is cornered at bridge-belly intersection, there is no spacing between the paper and the bridge, it's just my bad one-hand photography):

 photo IMG_0364_zpskfd8glm9.jpg

But it depends on how far I look from the belly-to-bridge. This time, the paper is on average "parallel" to the belly, you can see the belly and top are not at normal angle. This is because the belly is curved.

 photo IMG_0365_zpsqkg2agza.jpg

Overall, the Bridge seems "leaning", at the happy spot:

 photo IMG_0366_zpsytj4vdvx.jpg

August 7, 2016 at 02:22 AM · What you generally want (and your luthier may have a refinement on this) is for the bridge to be 90 degrees from the strings, on average. Take the paper and balance it on the bridge so it is perpendicular to the bridge. Then look at the angles formed between paper and string on each side of the bridge. The angles should be about equal. In this case they are not. So get that fixed.

Another tweak is that when the bridge is standing up about correctly, you'll probably want the side near the tailpiece to be a bit more vertical and straight than the other side, which can have a bit of a curve as it reaches the top.

Anyway, have your luthier get it correct and pay attention to those details while in the shop. He/she may also have another way of gauging the correct posture.

August 7, 2016 at 02:29 AM · Stephen, if I read your suggestion correctly, are you suggesting that the string should be 'flat' across the bridge?

Or are you suggesting the perpendicular-ness from the top-down view? I am asking about angle viewed from left or right. It's the angle of the camera that makes it look like the bridge is at an angle, if seen from the top

August 7, 2016 at 07:08 AM · If the bridge has its tailpiece side absolutely flat, the practice is to have the tailpiece side of the bridge to form a 90-degree angle with the violin belly. Your picture clearly shows an angle larger than that.

If the bridge is finished like a clam shell, then it should look straight up looking from the side. The angles on both sides of the bridge should be the same in this case.

August 7, 2016 at 08:05 AM · If you look from the side as in the last photo, the angle formed by the vertical surface of the bridge and the string should be the same on both sides. That is often easier to see if you balance a card on top of the bridge, either making the angle between card and string the same on both sides, or putting it perpendicular to the bridge and trying to estimate the angles on each side.

August 7, 2016 at 10:44 AM ·

August 7, 2016 at 11:16 AM · I was taught that the back of the bridge should be perpendicular to the belly of the violin. That would be at quite a different angle than Steven's third picture. Can anyone clear this up?

August 7, 2016 at 02:08 PM · Well the point is, that there are a lot of 'optical illusions'

The bridge-to-belly from tailpiece side IS 90 degrees. The bridge IS straight and perpendicular to all strings, but if I am not using a piece of paper to absolutely confirm or measure it, it doesn't "look" that way.

August 7, 2016 at 03:34 PM · So is it leaning or not? If not, you have nothing to worry about.

August 7, 2016 at 06:38 PM · Kevin, the problem is that, it "technically" is not leaning, if I measure the angles, but it "seems" to be leaning.

If technical angles are all that matters, then I'm happy, but if these are non-standard for specific curvature of my specific violin, then I am worried.

August 7, 2016 at 11:13 PM · Did you measure the string playing length? Nut2-bridge? Is your bridge aligned with the f hole marks? Maybe your antique was made without the notches lining up like factory made ones so the playing length isn't quite right and thus your bridge leans.

I don't have a chance to measure my own violin right now but I'm curious what your bridge height is. It's looks so tall compared but that could just be the picture.

the luthier I use also says the bridge should form 90 on the tailpiece side. His business card has a measurement tool on the back side. it's so handy!

August 8, 2016 at 11:41 PM · I'll be honest, I do have high precision apparatus to measure these, but I would never put them near my violin. I would at most use pieces of paper and a pencil to make measurements. This was made by an amateur luthier in 1958, and I personally notice a few quirky things about it, for example treble C rib is slightly length-wise shorter than bass C rib. Also, the corners are very well defined to the extent, I sometimes hit my knuckles, or catch the bow head if I play closer to fingerboard.

I could ask the dimensions from my luthier, the next time I visit her.

I don't think my bridge is high, but higher than any of my previous violins.

August 9, 2016 at 02:10 AM · You can easily measure the height of your bridge, I think it should be about 33mm+-1mm

August 10, 2016 at 12:28 AM · Looking at the bridge from the side as in your last picture it LOOKS like it's leaning too far toward the fingerboard, I would push it back. I can't speak to the optical illusion of the picture, but try pushing it back and see if it sounds better. Best solution, a luthier could fix it in probably less than 3 seconds...

August 10, 2016 at 08:11 AM · "I was taught that the back of the bridge should be perpendicular to the belly of the violin. That would be at quite a different angle than Steven's third picture. Can anyone clear this up?"


This angle will be set by the luthier when fitting the feet and trimming the bridge, and can vary, so I can't give you any sort of universal rule. Best thing is to ask the technician who made the bridge how it is supposed to sit, and take some measurements or make a gauge or template. Or have the technician do that for you.

August 10, 2016 at 05:53 PM · Thank you Mr. Burgess,

I asked a colleague who plays in quartets to try my violin, he did pull back the bridge a little bit, but then agreed that it still "looks" like it's leaning, and that the bridge is a little high for him, and he's not used to the curvature of the bridge.

I guess each luthier, with their education and personal style will have different things here and there. As far as there is no absolute standard, and something is definitely "wrong". I think I can live with it.

As far as the bridge won't fall again, I don't have an objection. I will be visiting my luthier in Fall/Winter to adjust the soundpost seasonally for sound optimization.

August 10, 2016 at 07:37 PM · When I had a new bridge fitted onto my daughter's violin, first I discussed with her teacher to see what he was looking for. He wanted just a little less space between the A and E strings, otherwise he wasn't super particular. We're talking about a very minor change there. Then I discussed with the luthier the other aspects of the fit. He did a great job and it sounds and feels really good. The luthier is Patrick Toole in Roanoke VA.

August 20, 2016 at 03:35 AM · Paul, here's something I do, whenever I have the opportunity, I log everything about the violin, if the bridge ever comes off, I actually trace it with a pencil on the log book and put the luthier's name, and what I liked/disliked about the bridge.

I also ask the luthiers to adjust the bridge for me slightly.

There is one small issue though.

I am still experimenting with strings. Which means the thickness of the strings change also.

For example, with Warchal Brilliant Vintage, I wanted the D higher, then with Pirastro Chromcor, I wanted A higher, and I am back at Brilliant Vintage after disliking Chromcor, and now I want A lowered. It's not to the extent I cannot play with the modifications, I just feel so much better with the tiny adjustments.

If I ever find and stay with a happy medium, I think I would probably ask my luthier to make me a new bridge/or wait until the fingerboard gets replaced, it's getting pretty thin.

One question for the luthiers.

I understand nut can be raised fairly evenly with fingerboard planing/replacement. I understand that the bridge can be lowered, but how do you raise a whole bridge? My luthier raises individual string with with something in the string groove.

August 20, 2016 at 01:38 PM · I have (temporarily!) glued dense slvers of visiting-card under the bridge feet.

August 20, 2016 at 01:48 PM · "I understand nut can be raised fairly evenly with fingerboard planing/replacement. I understand that the bridge can be lowered, but how do you raise a whole bridge? My luthier raises individual string with with something in the string groove."


If you want to raise the strings more than the depth of the string grooves, you're generally looking at a new bridge. There can be other options, such as adding wood to the bottom of the bridge feet, but they are seldom used, unless there's some overriding and very compelling reason to continue using the old bridge.

August 20, 2016 at 04:22 PM · on cheaper instruments the nut can be easily raised by gluing a strip of veneer or even business card paper under the nut between the neck and the nut to raise it up slightly, this can save the cost and labour of fitting a whole new nut. lowering the fingerboard so the nut is effectively higher is not a normal operation as this can mess with the set up of the fingerboard.

August 20, 2016 at 05:06 PM · I see, I am just looking at the prospects of replacing the fingerboard eventually. It sounds like I will need the nut raised, and a new bridge entirely.

When I ask her to make adjustments to the individual string height, I am essentially asking for around 0.2mm raise.

August 23, 2016 at 02:40 AM · a bit off topic, again for the luthiers. How thin would you say is the "safe" thickness of the fingerboard? Given that I frequent upper positions for scale. I don't really "press hard", but whence I miss a shift, I do press hard in attempt to put the finger in the right place fast. The fingerboard does flex a little bit when I press it while I'm cleaning the fingerboard.

August 23, 2016 at 03:01 AM · Certainly by the time the edges get down to 3mm, its time to think about a replacement.

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