January 4, 2006 at 04:35 AM · Is it possible to get a quality bridge off the internet from a good luthier without having it custom fitted to my violin?

Replies (19)

January 4, 2006 at 04:40 AM · Nope, but you can send your violin off to have a bridge fitted. Why don't you think your shop has any good bridges?

January 5, 2006 at 02:16 AM · I've never really liked their stuff or trusted their luthiers. I got the problem covered though but thanks for the help

January 5, 2006 at 02:23 AM · Drive and drive until you get to the right bridge. Certainly, you can get to a luthier somewhere that can fit you a decent bridge, can't you?

Anything within a couple hundred miles?

January 14, 2006 at 09:22 PM · Where are you located? Are you willing to ship your violin? There are many good shops to choose from. and no. one size does not fit all. and yes someone will sell you such a thing but you are unlikely to be happy with it.

January 15, 2006 at 01:25 AM · *cough* Shar *cough*

January 16, 2006 at 06:24 PM · Yes, you can get a mail-order bridge, but a self-installed bridge for your violin will probably work as well as a self-installed bridge in your dental work.

January 16, 2006 at 09:17 PM · Would someone explain what distinguishes a good bridge from a bad one and how the bridge neeeds to be fitted to the violin? I suppose I've been spoiled. I've gone to a very good luthier for years and years, and I've never had a problem with a bridge.

January 16, 2006 at 11:13 PM · Gee Wiz, where to start!

I decided to try to figure out that problem this year and, well, I think I have a little while yet before I can call myself accomplished with that task!

1. You buy a bridge from the store. It is called a "blank." It is not ready to use quite yet.

2. You carve (using a variety of techniques) the feet to match the camber of the top of the violin. You want a perfect fit. No gaps. Make sure that the bridge is standing perpendicular when you are finished. Otherwise you've got to keep carving.

3. You cut the arch at the breakover. It needs to have the "right" curve.

4. You whittle down the thickness of the bridge, and taper it so that it is thinner at the top than at the bottom. And you make curved in section.

5. You play it in and say, "god, that sounds bad!"

6. You scratch your head.

7. You do yoga for 2 hours.

8. You carve the bridge a little more.

9. You try it again and say, "that's a bit better!"

January 16, 2006 at 11:05 PM · or, you buy a bridge blank, and take it and your violin to the shop so it can be fitted. (Though, fitting it yourself is kinda fun...)

January 16, 2006 at 11:10 PM · Thank you, Bill. I had no idea that it was so complicated. I can do yoga but not the other things you discussed.

January 19, 2006 at 04:20 AM · On a related topic, what would be a good thing to use to shim the bridge? The upper (small) side is a bit too low, and the neck has a dead spot around the F# - G on the 1st string. I can "fix" the problem by moving the bridge forward (which makes the strings higher) but that seems to me like a pretty kludgy solution, especially since the intonation (string length) would be a bit shorter than it's supposed to be.

Maybe a few layers of masking tape under the "feet" of the bridge, if that doesn't affect the sound too much - and doesn't break the violin?

January 19, 2006 at 06:14 AM · tape is a bad idea i think for several reasons

it is not stable

it may mar the finish

it will transmit vibrations poorly

so why is the height low now? assuming it had been good in the past. is the string eating into the bridge? a little parchment may fix. or an insert if more height is needed. is the table sagging as in the sound post begining to punch through the top or back (would need immediate attention). is the neck joint failing... best to have this looked at by one who knows

January 19, 2006 at 01:45 PM · It doesn't look like the string is eating through the bridge.... there's a small piece of plastic tube on the E string to prevent that. As for the violin surface, it also seems fine, except for the fact that the bridge left a very slight indentation in the finish. Looks like it's just a small malformation in the fingerboard.

About shimming only the E or G (or both) strings - wouldn't that make it more difficult for the bow to reach the 2 middle strings?

January 21, 2006 at 12:08 AM · The bridge is a very serious piece of the violin. Other than looking at the violin as a whole and/or its individual ergonomic utilization (and considering strings as subjective - just considering), it's the bridge, the soundpost, and the bassbar that affect the sound of the violin the most.

I work on many more things with a bridge than thinning and curving -- or yoga :). There are at minimum 10 procedures that must be done to make a bridge work at maximum potential (this is considering you have a good bridge or blank to begin with, which is a whole other story, and a very important one). There are a number of scientific articles written on these techniques and they are used by all good makers/repairers. Some who specialize in bridge making and fitting can charge from $250 - $1,000 to fit a bridge, and concert violinists with Cremona or other quality instruments consider this a bargain.

On numerous violins I've heard the result of, just mentioning one thing among many for example, a very slight bevelling of the waist produce 'dramatic' changes. It is the bridge which sets up the rocking motion that, with the soundpost and bassbar, produce the sound we hear.

The use of a 'shim' is simply a bad idea. Since, such a minute change to a bridge as I've just mentioned can cause such a dramatic change in the sound, ebony inserts or any other kind of inserts, adjustable bridges, or anything that could interfere with a direct physical relation to sound is going to result in a serious problem.

This being said, if I was doing a bluegrass or jazz jam heck I'd just grab my violin with the lowered bridge, steel strings, and pickup and go have a ball.

January 21, 2006 at 12:03 AM · > Some who specialize in bridge making and fitting can charge from $250 - $1,000 to fit a

> bridge, and concert violinists with Cremona or other quality instruments consider this a bargain.

Holy sh:t ...... i'd pay maybe $15-30 for someone to -show- me how to setup a violin, but certainly not to do it for me.

"Give a fish to a man, and he will feed himself once.

Teach him to catch fish, and he will feed himself all his life."

(dunno the exact english translation of that saying)

... btw, that piece of plastic tube around the E string, doesn't that affect the sound in any way either? If a shim under one of the strings does, i don't see how a piece of plastic tube would give better results.

January 21, 2006 at 12:30 AM · The e-string produces the most narrow of the vibrational waves of sound from a violin. Usually that piece of plastic that is sometimes used to prevent damage to the bridge is very soft and since the e-string is so narrow, it will cut through that plastic to a point where it would (or at least should, if used) take a microscope to see the space between the string and the bridge.

This being said I still don't recommend it. A better bridge is the answer. For a good instrument I'll go through dozens of bridges (using such tests as the drop/bounce test, testing of the hardness of the bridge -- which will make the plastic insert unnecessary, and other more practical tests -- such as trying it) before I start to work further on one. Buying an Aubert Deluxe bridge, treated or untreated, or others of a higher price isn't a simple answer either. They are not all of the same quality.

Yes, definitely learn to do it yourself. I've taught several how to do at least the basics and it can be done rather inexpensively. On the other hand, if you want the best job, with the best materials, done with the best tools, the best fishing rod in the world isn't going to help you. See an experienced maker/repairer and talk to them openly about what you know and what you're after. Any maker that isn't willing to impart their experience and knowledge openly in return wouldn't get my business, no matter how much somebody (or several somebodies) recommend them.

January 21, 2006 at 01:17 AM · Rick - were someone bold enough to try and hack at a few on their own, can you recommend a book or books to pick up on the topic or is it something where you've really got to learn by watching?

January 21, 2006 at 04:52 AM · 'Es', that depends on what you mean by hack? Do you mean hack on the making of 'a' bridge (the basics of making one) or on 'the' bridge (your own unique bridge for your own unique violin)?

For the former try and get a hold of Brown and Campell's 'The Chimney's Violin Maker's Workshop'. It has some excellent generic instructions on both bridge building and bridge tuning and gives very logical details along with tools easily made (with instructions and templates for tools needed: the bridge holding fixture, the string height gauge) and/or usually at hand in a typical workshop (a drill press, sanding drum, bevel knife, scraper, sandpaper, a few kinds of files). Of course you are able to use substitutions to the degree you can. There are some fairly inexpensive tools you can buy out there that will help, like a bridge cutting tool, but the process can be done other ways. I used to be quite inventive before I started buying specialized tools. :)

For both understanding the importance of the bridge and the techniques involved scientifically (which will also help you design your own unique bridge) the 'Catgut Acoust. Soc. Journal' has numerous excellent articles on bridge work. In particular I would recommend the article by Erik V. Jansson, F. Fryden, and G. Mattsson "On Tuning of the violin bridge" (Vol. 1, No. 6 -- Series II -- 1990). Jansson has written numerous articles on violins, all well received which you will find in various acoustics journals. There even used to be a copy of one of his books on the net: deals with the violin and has an interesting dicussion of the bridge (Sect. 7.7). Try the link, if it doesn't work I can send you the pdf if you email me as he's made it public domain. Numerous older books, such as the Heron-Allen "Violin Making as it was, and is" have been reissued and have lots of useful, though sometimes dated, information. Many of these will be available through your library. Just read the section(s) on bridges if that's all you're after.

When and if you get into fabricating your unique bridge you have to start studying wood, so this is the longer process. The good thing is that there are lots of books on wood out there. If you haven't already I'd start by getting any wood-working books from your local library that have information on various kinds of wood, their properties, comparisons, and ways to tool them. Then I'd go back to the journals and take that learned information and use the scientific principles in the journals to make your 'dream' bridge. You'll have to learn about such things as hardness tests on wood via special (but you can make one) calibrated punches (i.e., the Brinell hardness test) since you can't use metal hardness testing equipment. And you'll have to learn about violin physics. The best book I can recommend available now is James Beament's "The Violin Explained: Components, Mechanism, and Sound" (Oxford, 1997). He's married to Julie Barker, one of England's best makers and currently one of the most sought after teachers of violin making. Her book is quite good too, btw. His book is very well laid out and has an excellent chapter on the Bridge and Soundpost (which is worthwhile reading which ever way you decide to go). There are many other books on violin physics but some demand a PhD in Acoustics, so be warned.

As for watching and/or reading, I've found both are good and have been fortunate to have worked with, and helped by some competent people. But pictures and, especially when it comes to bridges, testing, will have to be done.

Anything else just email me.

January 31, 2006 at 11:46 AM · Dear Rick Barker,

Regarding your comments on the E-string plastic piece, I've recently bought a violin from Bulgaria which didn't had the plastic piece under the E-string.

I wonder if with the playing, the E-string will cut the bridge, damaging it..

Right now it's still on the top, regardless the original carved aligments for the strings.

What kind of plastic do you recommend to place there? And where can I get it?

Thank you & Best Regards,

João Gaspar (Lisbon/Portugal)

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