String height question (yes, another thread)

August 6, 2019, 9:18 PM · Is there a good reason why string height on a viola must be higher than on a violin? I have a 15 1/2" viola, and a violin. The action on the viola is not high for a viola, but its higher than I'd like for my finger's sakes. If I get the action lowered by luthier trimming the bridge, assuming no buzzing results, 1. what is the likely consequence soundwise, if any and 2. is there any good reason why the action should be higher on the viola? thanks

Replies (7)

Edited: August 7, 2019, 7:30 AM · Typical (standard) string height at the top of viola fingerboard is 3.5 mm for the A string and 5 mm for the C string.

Virtually all the viola music I have played is within the first 6 positions. Higher than that is really hard to reach around the bout to play. It could be that the nut is too high (rather than the bridge), there should be just about one business cart distance from strings at the lowest notes to the fingerboard. If the nut grooves are too high it will be uncomfortable to play in the low positions.

If my bridge needed to be lowered, I would probably have a pro cut me a new one - just so the old one is still around if it was a mistake. There might be a slight change in tone with a new (or lowered) bridge. I do have several bridges for each of my instruments. (I keep the old ones after getting new ones.)

In the cello world it is not unheard of for players to have summer and winter bridges (different heights).

August 6, 2019, 10:52 PM · A lower bridge will give you a more subdued sound.
August 6, 2019, 10:57 PM · A lower bridge will give you more resonance. But watch out for the buzzing because it also depends on the string tension.
August 7, 2019, 7:29 AM · A lower bridge results in lower downward force of the strings on the bridge and into the top. As Cotton says this can subdue the sound of some instruments - BUT it can release increased sound for some instruments. I have instruments that go both ways.

You can do a preliminary check of this by detuning all the strings on your instrument about a 1/2 step.

Edited: August 7, 2019, 8:16 AM · I don't understand it, but violas tend to be set up with (what seems to me) extremely high clearance at the nut. That has the most effect on fingering, particularly in the low positions. I'd look there first. A lot of scoop in the fingerboard (or warped neck) would also give problems.

Lowering the bridge would reduce low and midrange power, but likely increase the high frequency response, and make it sound more like a violin.

Edited: August 7, 2019, 5:50 PM · I set violas up at 4mm-6mm A-C. Smaller violas with lower tension will buzz with lower action unless you put more scoop into the fingerboard. I can see lower action with steel strings, and I always go for less than 1/2 the diameter of the string at the nut. More scoop in the fingerboard is no different than higher action in a practical sense.

Lower actions, a set of Spirocores, that will work. Lower action, Vision/Dominant sort of strings probably won't work well, but that depends on how hard you play and how much power you want.

August 7, 2019, 5:57 PM · Duanes right, 3.5mm and 5mm is a bit too low for a viola, even on the low side for a violin.


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