Questions on correct bridge placement

Edited: June 18, 2019, 6:11 AM · Hi. I'd like to know which is the best bridge placement for a violin.

I'm playing on a €400 yamaha student instrument (supposedly 'modeled' after a strad) and want to make it sound the best possible way, but unfortunately, I can't reach a luthier at the moment and I'm not sure it would be worth to do so with such an instrument. On my first class, my teacher placed the bridge exactly where the 'f hole nicks' are. It's been there since. The instrument holds some sentimental value to me since I got it as a gift.

So I'll ask you:

(1) Does the bridge have to be always where the 'f hole nicks' are located?

(2) If not, where should it be?

(3) What are the effects of a 'perfect' bridge placement? A more brilliant/tamed sound? More harmonics? More/less volume?

(4) What could you recommend me to make this violin sound better? (Better = slightly less harsh + slightly more tamed + slightly more rich).

Thank you.

Replies (17)

Edited: June 18, 2019, 7:07 AM · On a "perfectly" made violin the bridge will be best located between the nicks in the f-holes and the soundpost will be located in a specific location relative to the treble bridge foot.

However not all violins are "perfectly" made and so there is "wiggle room" for that perfect placement. To get the best out of a specific instrument you will probably have to wiggle the locations of both bridge and soundpost. If you visit a luthier to position these two items on your violin you will probably get them placed in their standard locations. It can take a while to find the optimum locations on any instrument - and while some instruments are very sensitive to those locations some are not. Position changes of the order of 1 mm can make a real difference on some instruments.

A proper violin bridge should weigh no more than about 2.1 grams. Anything heavier will reduce the sound from and responsiveness of your instrument. At least that has been my experience with my own instruments.

Your instrument is inexpensive enough to bear some owner experimenting. If you choose to do that, you should have proper soundpost adjusting tools. And try to not scratch the edges of your f-holes.

Edited: June 18, 2019, 11:59 AM · "perfect" translated to standardized means that the ratio between body stop and bridge stop is 2:3. As Andrew mentioned, sometimes this notches are not where they are supposed to be. For a sample if body stop is 130 mm, bridge stop (position of notches) should be at 195mm.
June 18, 2019, 7:33 AM · 1. No.

2. Usually, on violin, this is done to a standard set of measurements and proportions, the primary reason being to have all the notes in the same place from one violin to the next. This will often place the bridge at the notches, but not always.

Edited: June 18, 2019, 10:18 AM · Rocky your figures make no sense, for a neck length (edge of top to nut) of 13cm, and body stop to the notches of 19.5 cm (edge of top to notches) is standard
June 18, 2019, 11:37 AM · For a 4/4 violin built to "standard" measurements, placing the bridge between the f-hole nicks will give a playable string length between 326mm to 330mm.

Take a ruler and measure the length of the A string from the nut to the bridge. If this is between 326mm to 330mm, then the bridge placement is good.

June 18, 2019, 11:59 AM · Lyndon, yes of course. corrected. Thanks!
June 18, 2019, 12:55 PM · A Yamaha commercial student instrument will be made to exact standardized dimensions, so you can safely assume that the position between the f-hole notches will be the correct bridge placement. Stop second guessing your teacher and carry on with your studies. Though I guess it didn't hurt to ask.
June 18, 2019, 1:48 PM · Andrew, Rocky, David, Lyndon and Carmen: Thank you for taking your time to write your explanations and correct any mistake (that I wouldn't have noticed).

Mark Bouquet: I ask my teacher everything I ask here. But I usually ask here before since I'm not patient enough to satisfy my curiosity on my next lesson day. As you said my violin f nicks are at 330mm, which following Carmen's measures, it's standard.

Everyone: Just out of curiosity and for the sake of learning: what would be hypothetical the effect of taking the bridge to the tailpiece or taking it far from it... and why?

June 18, 2019, 5:06 PM · The vibration of the strings feeds to the body of the violin mainly through the bridge feet. To maximize the potential vibration of the violin body the "central" bridge placement does that, anything else will not.

That is the "hypothetical" effect of any other placement.

I'm not going to try it.

June 18, 2019, 5:57 PM · I met once a luthier that said was "specialized" in sound adjustments. You give him a violin and he will spend time finding out the best possible fit for the bridge and post. Of course, I guess he will set the violins to a standard, and from there, the owner of the violin should go and tell him what they want: more treble, darker sound, louder, sweet sound, etc... Not really a beginner thing.

Violinists have different tastes in sound, and I guess there is no "right" place for the bridge or sound post, but an area for these 2 pieces, and is the owner the one that choose how they want the violin to sound, so the "perfect" fit for one violinist is probably not the perfect fit for another one. You can go to a luthier, request a sound adjustment and ask him you want the brightest sound possible. The luthier should move the bridge and sound post based in your preferences, without exceeding limits. I've read moving the sound post closer to the bridge foot, up, down, left, right... gives you different changes in sound.

So, in example, if you love your violin but find it a little bit harsh, a luthier should know how to move these 2 pieces to make it sound a little bit more dark, with more bass.

I'm not a luthier so it would be nice if one could check if what I said is true.

June 18, 2019, 7:12 PM · To a small extent, soundpost position can act as the tone controls on the violin, but its limited in its effect, and not necessarily the best thing to let the customer dictate what kind of tone a violin should produce, there's a lot to be said for adjusting for the optimal placement and leaving it at that.
June 18, 2019, 8:57 PM · "(4) What could you recommend me to make this violin sound better? (Better = slightly less harsh + slightly more tamed + slightly more rich)."

Different strings might do that - e.g.

June 19, 2019, 6:12 AM · I'm not touching anything. And I would never dare to move the soundpost myself, anyways. I'd mess everything up. But I like to learn the reason for things being as they are. Why is the soundpost where it is, and why is the bridge where it is. So thanks again Andrew, Lyndon and Paul.

J. Ray: I'm currently using a full set of Tziganes. At the same time they've tamed a bit the harshness of the violin and have given it more clarity, which is good, but they've also made it slightly louder, which is not a desired effect in my case. I may try some Warchal strings next time. Their 50% trial price is a good idea.

Edited: June 19, 2019, 6:34 AM · General soundpost position was arrived at by centuries of trial and error, and some of that is still necessary when finding exactly where in that general area the soundpost should go.

Bridge position probably came from a set of construction rules and proportions, thought to have special, magical, or divine properties in the 16th and 17th centuries. This can't be certain, since there is very little documentation from the makers of that era.

June 19, 2019, 7:53 AM · Over the centuries, the dimensions of the violin, which includes bridge placement, evolved as a series of compromises among tone, power and ability for a human to play comfortably. You can research articles on the changes Stradivari made to the dimensions of his violins over the many years he lived.

To give you a contrast, pickup a 16" or larger viola and observe just the physical challenges many people would have to playing it.

The sound post location allows the violin top to vibrate in a series of complex and asymmetric patterns which define its tonal range and power. It also resists the deflection of the top inward at the point of highest load from the strings.

Edited: June 19, 2019, 11:05 AM · When it comes to bridge position, any change affects the relationship between the post and the tailpiece. Move the bridge, and you may have to correct both the sound post position and tailpiece (i.e. string afterlength) to achieve optimum balance and sound. Not a trivial thing to do. Before moving the bridge, you should check the string afterlength resonance frequencies and ascertain if it isn't optimal already.
June 19, 2019, 11:29 AM · But Lyndon, if a customer comes to your shop asking for a sound adjustment, I hope you ask them what they want, or what are they disappointed about the current sound. Based on their opinions and request, I guess you will check if everything is in place, and then you should move things around to meet the requirements of the customer.

Imagine you say "no, let me do it, I know the 'exact' place", and you give them a violin that is brighter than before, while the customer was looking for a darker less harsh sound.

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