Better sound after a fallen bridge

December 26, 2020, 7:15 PM · I am wondering if anyone could explain this phenomenon. I was trying to correct the angle of my violin’s bridge which was leaning forward slightly. As I tilted it towards the tailpiece, it fell. Luckily the sound post remained in position and my thumbs were under the strings and the tailpiece didn’t damage the plate. I applied graphite to the GDA grooves, loosened all the strings, carefully positioned the bridge and gradually brought the strings to tune.
Once I began practicing, I noticed the sound was vastly more resonant than before the bridge came down. I did not expect the sound to be any different, so I don’t think I imagined the change.
When I thought about it, I realized that for the 48 years since I received this instrument new, the structure has been under constant tension.

Could relaxing the tension of the action have a beneficial effect on the sound like this?

Replies (22)

December 26, 2020, 7:19 PM · No, something else happened, ranging from the bridge is now in a better location, or its really flush to the top after not being so for a while, or some other change although I'll be good and not speculate about what that might've been.
December 26, 2020, 7:23 PM · Relaxing tension generally does result in more resonance... for a few days. It then starts to calm down.
I've observed this phenomena many times following repairs, and after receiving trial violins in the mail.

In fact, I believe it to be somewhat of a trick employed by violin shops, especially if they keep their stock tuned down. Sure, you tune it up to pitch and it sounds very resonant. But it that sound rarely lasts, which is why one should NEVER buy a violin without playing it for a week, or even two. You will not get the truly representative sound until things settle down.

December 26, 2020, 7:24 PM · Andres, go ahead, speculate. I can take it.
December 26, 2020, 7:27 PM · Thanks, Scott. This happened yesterday so I will enjoy while it lasts. Good advice about purchasing.
December 26, 2020, 7:53 PM · "or its really flush to the top after not being so for a while"

That sounds reasonable, but Jerry might have noticed had his bridge been so poorly seated for so long? I mean, you can see the gaps long before you can fit a bank note into them.

Edited: December 26, 2020, 11:19 PM · My experience has been that fractions of a mm in the distance between bridge and soundpost (by moving either) can make really big differences in the sound and playability of a violin.

Enjoy it while it lasts - my latest soundpost move (by a professional luthier 2 months ago) still lasts.

Edited: December 26, 2020, 9:20 PM · I am very strongly with Andrew Victor:
i saw many many times that very trascurable changes in the position of the bridge, be they left-right or back-forth, can alter the way the whole violin sounds and especially the balance of lower and upper strings.

It surely is related to the different modes of vibration of the top plate and how the distance (in 2 dimensions) of bridge foot from the soundpost top head has changed.

It is very unlikely that one can set back up the bridge in the exact, 1000 on 1000, position where it was before.
If now the violin is more resonant, leave it where it is !

December 26, 2020, 10:56 PM ·
December 27, 2020, 12:30 AM · It's a bit of a stretch as I don't know whether or not this could happen for certain, but perhaps when there was no pressure on the top plate the sound post moved every so slightly whilst you were putting the strings back on. I doubt this is the case though and it's likely more so that the bridge is merely in a different position than before. Although I remember when I got a Wittner tailpiece put on my old violin by the repair guy on campus that the sound changed to be tinnier than before and thought that my sound post shifted. I took it to the luthier I usually go to while I'm at school and I think in addition to changing the tailpiece back he did adjust the sound post as well. He did end up seeing that the sound post was too short as well a couple of months later since the violin was still new and was opening up and cut me a new sound post.
December 27, 2020, 6:54 AM · hi Scott nice to see you back on the forum!
December 27, 2020, 7:51 AM · Edgar Russ has a nice video about bridge placement and improving a violin’s sound on Youtube.
December 27, 2020, 11:48 AM · Thanks to all for your responses.
I will make sure I record the position of the bridge in case it moves again.
December 27, 2020, 12:20 PM · Jean, thanks--I've been trying to limit my responses to things I actually know about. Of course this quite limits me...
December 27, 2020, 1:13 PM · Jerry, you were on your way to improved sound before the bridge fell - by noticing that the bridge was leaning and doing something about it. It's generally well-known that the angle of the bridge can make a significant difference to the sound, as it affects the transmission of vibration from the strings to the instrument, which of course is the primary means of sound production.

"i saw many many times that very trascurable changes in the position of the bridge [...] can alter the way the whole violin sounds"

I suppose this is how we get new words into English.

December 27, 2020, 1:23 PM · Cuttitta,

no pproblems, but I had the same problem - that you know that is not the reason, it is just a fake bridge, and it will go on anyway - the termination of the sound suddenly is for different reasons, but you were not listening.
Also, the horsehair... of the bow is important. More important than a whole family of violins resonanceing in a different way. I was holding my back for this, and now not only my violin sounds ok, so I have something to lose, but also all the horsehair in the world.

I think you have 20, maybe 25 percent chance of repairing it, but I absolutely cannot help you, because like I said, I am also responsible for making a horrible sound, if the horsehair is faulty... bye

December 28, 2020, 9:19 AM · Bridge position is very important. If your bridge was leaning forward, it wasn’t really in the optimal position for structure or sound. As already mentioned, the feet may not have been seated properly on the top anymore. If it moved out of line, too, getting it back to the right alignment would help. Its position relative to the soundpost is extremely influential on the sound, so a small shift can translate to considerable changes.

Sometimes the feet become stuck in the varnish. Simply freeing them can make a noticeable difference.

December 30, 2020, 7:17 PM · Gabris, I cannot make sense of your post but am curious about what you were trying to say.
Thanks to all for your replies, I will keep the bridge where it is now and be sure to keep it straight.
January 4, 2021, 7:05 PM · I believe there's a poem about a fallen bridge by Scotland's greatest poet ...
January 4, 2021, 7:33 PM · To reiterate that tiny changes can make huge differences in sound. Jerry, as you get a sense of where the bridge is located, use an index card to see where the feet are pointing, relative to the notches on the sound holes. Also, if you can, take the same card and mark distances to each one from the outer edge of each foot. With luck, it will be the same distance!

Even so, you could set it up next time with the same apparent position and get different results. Another way to find out how it fits on your violin today is to rap on the top around the bridge to see if there are differences in pitch. I am not going to suggest that there is a magic answer, but your result is something to remember if you have to adjust the bridge again.

January 5, 2021, 1:15 PM · Stephen, thanks for the suggestion, it’s one I plan to follow.
Edited: January 5, 2021, 4:15 PM · While I agree that tiny changes in bridge (and soundpost) position can make large changes, I will also note that ff holes and their notches are not always symmetrically or "correctly" placed, including on the golden age Cremonese instruments.

There are numerous strategies from the world's best violin experts and restorers regarding how to determine the centerline of an instrument, and how the bridge should be placed. Yes, an index card is better than nothing.

Edited: January 7, 2021, 3:15 PM · The poem John referred to was by William McGonagall, and was about the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1878 in Scotland. The bridge of the poem was an important railway bridge over the River Tay, and at the time was considered a major feat of Victorian engineering. It was destroyed by a force 10 gale just as a passenger train was passing along it. All 75 persons on board perished.

The bridge was later rebuilt to a better design to cope with the high winds in the Tay Estuary.

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