I am very happy with my violin. It has still its original bridge which is getting to be near 50 years old.
I understand that violins are made to last, but what about the bridges? they are not varnished and I don't know if the wood is seasoned as good violins' often are.
I have not been tempted to ask a luthier to make another bridge for any projection or tone issue, but I was thinking of asking to make a clone of this one in prevention of any accident. That led me to think if bridges have limited years of use.
This is interesting for me too. I have already brought back home my violin from luthier. I have violin made in 1920 and bridge is very very old too. He has cut it to have a better string profile (height), and now (after few more adjustments) my violin sounds sooooo perfect :) I want home to play not sit at work :)
It'll last until it snaps, warps beyond repair, or other parts of the violin deform making it too short/narrow/etc.
If the E or A has cut too deeply into the bridge, many people will fill the grooves with superglue and file new notches therein.
I once talked to a Belgian luthier of some repute who claimed that a bridge can be likened to the membrane of a drum. The quality of the membrane deteriorates from use and must be regularly renewed. Similarly he said that a bridge should be regularly renewed, something like every few years of intense playing. I am not saying this is not nonsense, just reporting what I heard back then.
A new bridge every few years? That seems like a suggestion designed to line the pockets of luthiers. I don't know any violinist who does this. What I have seen more than anything is the strings eventually cutting in too deeply.
I had a bridge on a violin that I had purchased that apparently dated back to the 1950s. It lasted more than 60 years before it warped and needed to be replaced.
The bridge on one of my violins (made in 1970) has the maker's name on it and is still in great shape. I purchased the violin in 1974. about 15 years ago I had all my instruments "serviced" by my luthier who made new bridges for most of them and new sound posts for some of them - but not for this one. All he did was clean it up and remove rosin accumulation that had occurred before I bought it.
I often say that hands, collarbones etc are as varied as noses.
When I bought my 19th-century violin back in 1994, it had a bridge that was installed by the shop I got it from. That bridge lasted until 2014, when it warped and had to be replaced by my local luthier, who always does excellent work. I live in a climate where it seems like we can go through 3 seasons in a single day, but I've always been careful about protecting my instruments from changes in humidity. I think mileage varies with that sort of thing.
to be honest maybe he didn't say "every few years", indeed that sounds crazy, and he wasn't, indeed he was talking about a French antique violin he had restored. probably he was trying to say that it is standard to fit a new bridge when restoring an old instrument, even if the original bridge is not warped. anyway, not so important, apologies for my post!
The bridge is maple, the same type of wood as most of the violin. It could last as long as the violin-centuries. But if it is ever slanted past 90 o vertical, then the stress and damage starts. It can also be replaced to improve the fit, after the first year break-in period, or after a big change in the type of strings. A "fiddler" using all steel strings will want a slightly lower bridge with less of a curve, compared to a classical player using gut strings.
I'd say that a bridge can last indefinitely, if it was excellent quality to begin with, and is properly cared for.
For a few years I maintained a Strad cello that had a bridg cut around 1910. The string heights were not optimum, and over the years I tried various new bridge blanks and was never able to make a bridge equal to the old one. A few years after the cello was sold again, I finally found some blanks that I felt were similar to the one on the cello, but the cello was gone, so I won't know. The original bridge was unusually light, and unusually hard, and this was obvious when you held it off the cello--nothing like a modern bridge blank.
I have read in previous discussions over the years that luthiers were complaining about the deteriorating quality of a few brands of bridge blanks that were their preferred choice for many years but then changed to other bridge brands.
I agree about the quality of the wood in blanks. I've seen many where minimal wood is taken out of the bottom of the kidneys and the e-string side ends up touching the bottom! I use mainly Stamm bridges now, but have a small stash of Auberts from the 70's and 80's. Although I am told that you can go the to Aubert factory and choose blanks and still get excellent products, I don't see much of them here.
A poster (here, or on Maestronet) with a del Gesu once said that he was still using the bridge cut by Vuillaume. So that's at least 150 years, more than likely. I couldn't say if it is still any good, of course.
Does anyone know the reasons behind the necessity of maple for bridges? Even carbon fiber or violins made with experimental materials don't deviate from that wood for the bridges.
Counterfeit bridges made of poor quality maple, but stamped with premium bridge-makers' brands are something to be wary of.
I recently had the c. 1570 Andrea Amati "Charles IX" in my hands, an instrument which is played with some regularity. It has a bridge made by Sacconi when he was working for Wurlitzer in NY; since Sacconi died in 1973, the bridge is at least 45 years old.
I believe the bridge is the most continuously stressed part of the violin. It supports a set of strings that have 50lb or more tension between them. Obviously, that doesn't mean that the bridge itself is supporting 50lb - not near it - but the bridge is always under compression nevertheless. It also transmits vibrations, and therefore energy of varying levels according to how the violin is being played, from the strings to the body of the violin. There is also the extra loading imposed by player's bow on the strings, a component of which will increase the compression on the bridge. And lastly, the possibly corrosive effect of pervasive rosin dust on the wood of the bridge over a period of time should be considered.
How about using a saphire or diamond inlay under the e string - like a record player needle? Then you could have a whole orchestra using them and maybe in a large space the stratospherically high notes as eg in a passionate moment of Mahler won't be lost at the back of the hall ??
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