correct bridge placement

February 19, 2021, 10:12 AM · Dear all, this is my first post.
I'm trying to learn violin but I'm over 60 so its not easy. I just upgraded from a super cheap VSO to a 2nd hand Yamaha V5.

It sounds a lot better than the VSO but I noticed the bridge was not parallel with the nut (not perpendicular to the strings). It was however, exactly between the f hole notches. I thought I should move it so that it was perpendicular to the strings (keeping the 90 degree rear edge obviously).
I did this but it sounds worse to me and the G string now makes a horrible, pulsating, resonance . Obviously I'm going to move it back but my question is: aren't all f hole notches supposed to be manufactured so they are perpendicular to the strings? And I can't believe such a miniscule move caused this pulsating resonance, what normaly causes this noise?
thanks

Replies (34)

February 19, 2021, 10:28 AM · In some cases the f-hole notches won't work. Certain Guarneri instruments have lopsided f-holes and violins modeled on those patterns strive for that asymmetry. The stop length is probably the best way to position it. You can google stop length and neck length, that that will give you a good indicator of where to place it. For most violins, the neck distance is 130 mm and the stop length is 195 mm, giving a 2-1 ratio.

From Lashof Violin's site:
1. Measure the distance from the end of the nut closest to the fingerboard to the edge of the violin top next to the neck.
2. Divide the total by two. (13 cm / 2=6.5 cm on most 4/4 violins)
3. Multiply that number by three. (6.5cm x 3= 19.5cm on most 4/4 violins)
4. The resulting measurement (from the edge by the neck, to the center of the bridge foot) is the proper location of the bridge for the violin/viola, thus a 2:3 ratio.

February 19, 2021, 5:35 PM · Dimitri's post piqued my curiosity so I made the measurements and found that all 4 of my violins agree with his numbers as closely as I could tell. Aye! There's the rub, because a silly millimeter here or there may make all the difference to what we hear.

So if a bridge or soundpost is set to the "standard" there is still some wiggle room for finding optimum placement. At least that is what I have found to be so - more so for some instruments than others.

February 19, 2021, 9:44 PM · When the two notches aren't aligned, the one on the bass side takes priority.
February 19, 2021, 10:17 PM · If you live near a violin shop you could take it there and they could have a look at it for you. They might find some other issues that need attention as well.
February 19, 2021, 10:20 PM · David, I disagree. It’s all down to the 2:1 ratio. If you have a source to cite, I’d love to read it because it goes against everything I’ve read—but I could be wrong.
Edited: February 20, 2021, 1:56 AM · No you set the bridge by the notches on the treble side and ignore the bass side notch. that is if the sounding length is correct.

Dmitri its not a 2 to 1 ration where do you get that from, show us the math??

February 19, 2021, 11:00 PM · i think its a 2/5th and 3/5th ration
Edited: February 20, 2021, 1:49 AM · As I see it the notches are just a rough historical guide, cut pretty much at the centre of the f-holes largely for aesthetic reasons. F-holes actually vary quite considerably in their location vis-a-vis the body of the instrument; there's a full centimetre difference between two of my violins. The bridge position in relation to that of the sound post (which itself is able to float to a certain degree) is the critical determinant of sound quality.

Two of my violins were set up by the same excellent luthier who was for many years with J&A Beare; one has its bridge just below the f-hole notches, the other a couple of millimetres above.

February 20, 2021, 5:32 AM · Nut-to-shoulder/shoulder-to-bridge/bridge-to-tail "should" be 4/6/5.
But they often aint! (Specially on violas..)
Edited: February 20, 2021, 5:58 AM · While aligning the bridge with the ff hole notches is a "rule" I often hear, that's not really how it's done. But in an emergency situation, maybe it's better than nothin'. ;-)
February 20, 2021, 7:28 AM · So you're saying even on your own violins, the f hole notches don't indicate the correct position for the Bridge???
February 21, 2021, 3:24 AM · On my own instruments, they generally do. But on a lot of instruments, they don't, perhaps because the maker wasn't very invested in that, or because they weren't working to what are considered to be standard measurements.

Most pro luthiers these days will use the standard measurements (not the ff hole notches) to determine the bridge position, unless there is a compelling reason not to. The main reason for doing so is so that when a violinist picks up a different violin, the notes will be in the same place.

Edited: February 21, 2021, 6:33 AM · We are almost always told to position the bridge where the outer f-hole notches are, but the question of how luthiers like Stradivari might have put the f-holes in the right place to begin with is more complicated than I realised.
February 21, 2021, 7:30 AM · Moving the bridge may require an adjustment of the sound post.
February 21, 2021, 9:06 AM · My suggestion is to bring your instrument to a luthier and have him or her adjust the bridge and then play the instrument (or have someone else play it) so you can judge the sound (before and after the change in position).
February 21, 2021, 9:38 AM · I strongly agree with Raymond.
February 21, 2021, 10:20 AM · I’ve read that the ratio between stop length and neck length is 2:1, I think in “The violin explained” but I would need to get back to my office to check. The f hole nicks are not standardized, and David’s point about standardization is well taken.
February 21, 2021, 11:39 AM · The correct neck length to stop length ratio is 2:3, not 2:1.
With today's considered standard stop length of 195mm it comes out: 195:3 = 65 x2 = 130 neck length.
This "standard" is only an unwritten convention, in ancient violins for example the stop lenght can vary from 190mm up to 200 and more, and even today different lengths can be found especially in the case of bench copies or on request to obtain shorter vibrating string lengths for smaller hands.
Hence the suggestion by David Burgess on the need not consider the f-holes nicks as an absolute reference, but check the other parameters as well.
February 21, 2021, 1:35 PM · Professional violin setup involves a careful consideration of many measurements and relationships. It’s never as simple as just letting one number dictate everything.

Notches in the ffs give a suggestion of bridge placement, but there’s no certainty that the notches will be correctly placed or that everything else will be in line.

Instruments that are proportionally different will work out to different measurements, but most instruments of “full size” will be set up to be consistent for players. Fingers and ears are extremely sensitive, and they detect departures from the norm. One of the fastest ways for a violin to be rejected in a trial is for the scale length to be a little different from the other violins.

February 21, 2021, 3:58 PM · Davide, thank you for the correction (and Lyndon). A week in the ice has frozen my brain. But the 195/130 lengths are a better guide than the notches, as I said.
February 23, 2021, 9:09 AM · On an existing violin, I use vibrating string length (VSL) as the main method to locate the bridge, because most users of 4/4 violins learned on instruments with a VSL of between 327mm to 330mm. Bridges located outside this range will make the notes occur at unfamiliar locations of the
fingers.

Get a ruler and measure the distance from where the E string enters the nut, to the point where it first touches the bridge. Adjust the bridge until this VSL is 328mm. Now repeat for the G string so both the E and G string have the same VSL.

If the violin has tonal problems after doing this, the issue is most likely the sound post. Take a peek inside the treble f hole and make sure the sound post is located away form the treble foot, more towards the chinrest end.

If the sound post appears right under the treble foot or more towards the fingerboard side of the the bridge, you are probably going to need a luthier to relocate the sound post for you.

Otherwise, you can carefully slide the bridge slightly away or towards the sound post to see if it improves the tone, but in general you want to keep the VSL of the G and E strings as close to each other, and 328mm, as possible.

Edited: February 23, 2021, 1:42 PM · I was always taught that the bridge should be aligned with the f-hole notches unless it shouldn't.
Edited: February 24, 2021, 8:42 AM · Correct bridge position is where it works. Likewise for the post. Anything that works is fair game.

I often find violins that prefer one foot slightly ahead of the other, or a slightly different string length, for instance.

Theory is interesting but real life takes precedence. If the person who works on your violin doesn't agree, find someone better.

Edited: February 24, 2021, 5:55 PM · Between the notches, giving preference to the bass side, but at the end of the day you want the string length you are used to playing (normally 328mm), because 1mm less or more will make a noticeable difference in intonation, so that's probably the most important thing. The sound doesn't change that much, and if does, you can always counter it with different strings.
Edited: February 24, 2021, 6:11 PM · Why do you keep posting BS, everyone goes by the treble side f hole notch
Edited: February 25, 2021, 4:08 PM · Dimitri Pappas, here's one source. I could get more, I've always heard this, including here in this forum:

Edited: February 25, 2021, 5:20 PM · Who the hell is this idiot?? Painfully obvious facts mixed with willful misinformation.
Edited: February 26, 2021, 3:58 AM · For instance you don't centre the bridge between the eyes of the f holes if this places the strings off centre on the fingerboard. When fitting a bridge you are supposed to place the grooves on the bridge so that the bridge is both centred between the eyes and centred on the fingerboard, but with crooked fingerboards this is not always possible 100%, I would place centreing the strings on the fingerboard as more important than centreing between the eyes, if a bridge is slightly off centre the soundpost position can be adjusted for slightly off centre bridge its not the end of the world, but on higher quality instruments this problem should come up much less often.
February 26, 2021, 4:23 AM · Mr. Duarte, I wish you would be a little more stingy with your advice, until you've had a chance to learn more, and learn it from better sources.
Edited: February 26, 2021, 1:14 PM · What's wrong with my advice? If you don't play the violin it's normal that you don't value string length.
Bridge placement isn't that extremely complicated, it's not about one mathematical precision, it differs from different violinists with different preferences. Like Micael sad, if it works, it works. You make it seem like rocket science.

I wonder why is the luthier on the video so bad, I've heard similar information from several other sources. "The left side takes priority" is basically common knowledge. You just all disagree with each other, as usual, and he isn't even here.

Edited: February 27, 2021, 4:42 PM · Mr. Duarte, you can take part in reducing the spread of erroneous "common knowledge", or not. You can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. It's up to you.
March 3, 2021, 2:47 AM · wow, thanks for all the advice. Seems it somehow generated a bit of vitriol, sorry about that.

What about the pulsating sound on open G? I have two bows, it only makes the sound with one of them, could it be a rosin problem?

Edited: March 3, 2021, 4:30 AM · To me the video was a mixture of slime and glucose syrup.

Is there a point to centralising the bridge precisely? After a minute's bowing won't it have found its own centre?

March 3, 2021, 5:13 AM · the downward pressure of the strings usually stops the bridge feet from moving from there set position, but this doesn't mean their set position is always optimally centred between the f holes,


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