violin bridge

November 29, 2021, 4:33 PM · Can the bridge be not perpendicular to the middle axis of the violin? This way, the working part of G string is a bit longer than that of E string?

Replies (41)

November 29, 2021, 4:39 PM · My guess. No. Unless a special bridge is cut. The feet must contour to the belly and the string spacing and height must be very precise. By angling the bridge I would think these fittings would be thrown off. Why would you want to do make the G measure longer?
November 29, 2021, 6:15 PM · Guitar Bridges are often staggered or offset a little to compensate for the fact that a thicker/stiffer string has a shorter vibrating length than a thinner/more flexible string. They're only offset at one end though, which seems to make limited sense since neither the frets nor the top nut are similarly adjusted. I suppose violins have the advantage of not having frets, so we place our fingers with intonation in mind... rather than conspiring with evenly spaced frets in some relatively clunky arbitrary compromise.

So in theory you could do whatever you want with your bridge, and even your tuning....and you could just as easily learn to make the little compromises necessary to learn to play your uniquely bridged, tuned and 'set-up' instrument instrument. I remember reading about a teenager who had a cool party trick....he would let anyone randomly detune his violin which he would then immediately play perfectly in tune...I think his name was Itzhak somebody...I wonder what became of him.

November 29, 2021, 6:20 PM · Perfect fifth would be very difficult to play, if strings have different vibrating length.
November 29, 2021, 6:46 PM · I read that the bridge needs to be on the line that connects "inner" notches on f holes. in my case this line is not perpendicular to the middle axis of violin
November 29, 2021, 7:03 PM · Mich, I suspect if your violin's notches are as you say then all bets are off. I have long suspected that using the F-hole notches to locate the bridge depends on the maker having put the notches in just the right places. Also, I have long suspected one can compensate for non-optimal soundpost location by moving the bridge slightly and vice versa.

However I recently had 3 of my violins checked over by a new (to me) luthier - she cut me two new soundposts and relocated the bridges just as you have said they should be and all 3 of the violins sound better than they have for a long time (in fact, 2 of the 3 are better than ever - 20 and 50 years, respectively).

November 29, 2021, 7:17 PM · you don't follow the notches if they're crooked or giving the wrong scale
November 29, 2021, 8:22 PM · I thought the bridge placement had more to do with the ratio between the vibrating string length and the after string length between the bridge and tailpiece.
Edited: November 29, 2021, 8:27 PM · John - some might look on what you say as a variation on the "Chicken-Egg" problem (i.e., which came first). The VB/Al (i.e., vibrating string/afterlength ratio) is usually solved by adjusting the combined length of the tailpiece and tailcord.
November 29, 2021, 8:49 PM · Mr. Victor, thank you for the explanation. That makes sense.
November 29, 2021, 9:07 PM · thank you!!! f holes have different sizes because of some warping, so notches may be affected. I guess I need to stay away from the violin and leave everything as it is. than you very much for advice!!!
November 30, 2021, 1:34 PM · I don't know of any high-end fiddle-fixer who determines the ideal bridge placement via some sort of alignment with the ff hole notches.
Edited: November 30, 2021, 8:36 PM · If it helps, the scale length of a "normal" full size violin is exactly 328mm, measured from the end of the nut (fingerboard side) to the top of the bridge. Should be equal on both E and G strings. The "afterlength" between bridge and tailpiece should be 1/6th of that measurement, so 55mm.

November 30, 2021, 8:41 PM · super! thank you! We are almost at 328+-1mm if I am measuring correctly
one more question: do fingerboards range in length?
November 30, 2021, 8:47 PM · In my opinion, beyond some value, the length of the fingerboard is immaterial because you will not be able to push any of the strings down enough to contact it. Furthermore, you will not have to push it down that far to stop the string and produce "your sound."
Edited: November 30, 2021, 8:49 PM · Hi Mich: 270mm. Although historically, they were subject to some variation. This would have no effect on bridge placement though.
November 30, 2021, 9:45 PM · this is just interesting to know :) in my case it is 265mm.

I actually did tried to move the bridge so it is on ff hole notches line. but my son said that in this position he needs to press his bow more to extract the right sound... I am not sure how this works, but I moved the bridge back...

Edited: November 30, 2021, 11:07 PM · Well, the position of the bridge relative to the soundpost is quite critical to tone production. Generally speaking, the soundpost should be positioned back from the treble bridge foot by about the thickness of the top of the instrument as a starting point. Even a very insignificant departure from this (as little as 1mm) can have a substantial effect on sound and balance across the strings.

Would be easiest at this point to take it to your local violin maker or, failing that, a local music shop that has repair people who can make the adjustments and are familiar with string instruments. It should be a quick job and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.

That said, it's not wise to go moving the soundpost around without having some experience on how to do it properly. It is possible to damage the instrument (it can chew up the inside of the spruce top pretty badly or possibly even cause a crack).

December 1, 2021, 7:38 AM · We may (or may not) have noticed that the thicker and stiffer the string, the closer the notes along the string. This is particuarly noticeable on the E string where we have to open the hand a little.

I have noticed that guitar bridges are slightly crooked so that the frets can be straight(!) even though the stiffness effect is less on a longer string.

Perhaps we too should have a slightly crooked bridge, but in the opposite sense from that of the OP...

December 1, 2021, 8:08 AM · Guitar saddles mostly only offer compensation on the G string - some offer it on the B string too. Bass strings don't need it - it only affects solid strings - the thicker the string, the worse the intonation. If you compare the harmonic at the 12th fret with the fretted 12th fret, you'll find that the fretted note is sharp, so the saddle needs to be further from the nut to compensate.
December 1, 2021, 9:32 AM · Violin strings are designed to achieve a working tension, tune and tone at a vibrating length of around 328mm. Measure from where the string exits the nut and first touches the bridge.

As a general observation, vibrating string lengths from 326mm to 330mm should all be OK for achieving the design conditions of the string.

If placing the bridge near the ff notches achieves this range of vibrating string length, then the bridge placement is OK.

When you move the bridge, you also change the distance between the treble foot (E string side) and the soundpost. Depending on the quality of the violin, and how much you change the distance, you may or may not notice a difference in response. Student violins with thick plates tend to be forgiving of modest sound post adjustments.

Setting the sound post the thickness of the top from the treble foot is just a starting point for determining a good position. Some luthiers start further away, like 5mm or so. Best to leave this adjustment to someone who has experience doing so as it is easy to wedge the sound post tightly into the top and cause the top or bottom to deform or crack.

Setting the string afterlength to 1/6th the length of the vibrating string length is a red herring. There have been numerous discussions on this forum about the physics of this. The "ideal" after length, whatever that means to a particular player, can vary among violins, tailpieces, and strings, to name just a few things that can affect it.

The 1/6th rule for string afterlength is usually a good starting position.

December 1, 2021, 9:42 AM · I agree. The frequency of the after-lengths can only be checked by plucking, not by measuring lengths: the silk windings will distort calculations.
And anyway, the after-lengths will only resonate on certain notes and even create parasitical vibrations which can reinforce (if in phase) or partially cancel (if out of phase) those notes.
December 1, 2021, 10:24 AM · Adrian, measuring the afterlength can work too. I suspect that this is because longitudinal frequency matters as much as transverse vibration, when it comes to this adjustment.
December 1, 2021, 11:22 AM · Of course, I'm no expert, but when replacing my tail guts I always did it by matching the vibrating frequency of the afterlength of one of my two lower strings to the 2nd octave harmonic of the next higher string. That approximates the 1:6 "rule" depending on how the string windings interfere with the vibrations.

You are unlikely to get an exact match with more than one string, so I tried to chose the lowest string (G for violin and C for violas and cellos) but in the end I would settle to the closer one.

The job became a lot tougher with Kevlar tailcord because I had to account for the inevitable stretching after the strings were tightened. It was definitely a learning process.

I wonder if the "harp-tapered" or adjustable tailpieces are worth considering. ??

December 1, 2021, 12:06 PM · As I like to remind people of my discovery, you can take a razor or knife to the silk threads on the string to change the frequency at which its afterlength vibrates.

Still, some of the best string sets I've used (Rondo, Tricolore with gut A-String) don't seem to need much help in making all the strings resonate properly down there.

Edited: December 2, 2021, 2:26 AM · You can also bow the afterlengths (@Adrian): mutes change their resonating frequencies - I put two of them on the G and A strings when I didn't like the sound of my C# and both those afterlengths resonated at C#.
December 2, 2021, 2:38 AM · Whatever the theory says, in practice the equation relating bridge position and soundpost position to afterlength lacks a perfect solution because the violin is not a symmetrical machine that obeys mathematical rules. Adding another variable such as a skew bridge placement or a harp-tapered tailpiece just makes things worse, and as for silk windings... My mantra is, let the luthier worry about the setup and then just leave it.

Good morning Gordon, how are you feeling today?

December 2, 2021, 3:00 AM · I'm feeling fine, thanks, Steve. And you?
December 2, 2021, 4:02 AM · Great! Just trying to understand your post - what kind of mutes? Sounds like another unwanted complication to me. C# on the A string has been a dodgy note for me too but I didn't think of attributing it to afterlength resonance.
December 2, 2021, 5:39 AM · Rubber mutes with one teadrop-shaped hole.
Don't ask if it worked. I just did it. That was a longtime ago. My bowing has probably changed since then. At least I have a spare mute.
December 2, 2021, 6:22 AM · So the slot that's supposed to go over the bridge between D and A, you put over the G and A string afterlengths? That's worth at least three out of ten for ingenuity.
December 2, 2021, 6:41 AM · No, when they are merely sitting on the afterlengths waiting for one of them to be placed over the bridge, they are altering the pitch of the afterlengths by dint of their weight.
December 2, 2021, 6:48 AM · Why I prefer leaving it in the case, unless I know there's an orchestral or chamber part that requires it. You can also use the sort that doesn't slide up and down the strings. Those also sound better when on, but are more accident-prone in performance.
December 2, 2021, 7:40 AM · Like the Tourte mute, when not properly on the bridge it might be inclined to rattle against it. I'm sure we'd all agree the effect on the resonance of the afterlength is likely to be too random to be a viable way of tuning it.
December 2, 2021, 8:40 AM · Completely random. But if the tuning of the afterlengths is that critical, then mute designs need to be totally different.
December 2, 2021, 10:03 AM · Shouldn’t there be a relationship between the position of the bridge and the “peak” of the bass bar?
December 2, 2021, 11:08 AM · As far as afterlengths go, once you're in a section with 15 other players, the precise quality of your instrument won't matter quite so much. Obviously, it's worth getting as good as possible, especially when you're practicing. But if you have a Brand X fiddle that isn't at its best (say, X-1.4), then the odds are good that the guy next you you has an X/2, and is still making a decent contribution.
December 3, 2021, 7:40 AM · @Regit Young: Observing the violin as a static structure or a vibrating one, small changes in bass bar peak position have no noticeable effect on the stiffness or vibrational performance of the body.
December 4, 2021, 3:34 AM · Anyone here own an endoscope?
My Gewa has weak bass, and I wonder if the bassbar is just too big and heavy.
Edited: December 4, 2021, 6:37 AM · Are you contemplating soundhole surgery?
Edited: December 4, 2021, 6:46 AM · Presumably if the bassbar were too heavy, I'd get my luthier to take the top off and shave it down, but that would probably mean I've spent well over twice what the violin is worth - I've already had him shave down the fingerboard and bridge to match the action on my Breton. But curiosity and all that...
Edited: December 7, 2021, 2:35 AM · Placement of a bridge, and how that interacts with the placement of the sound post, can make a huge difference in the violin tone. I thought that the bridge on my current violin was geometrically a bit off center. So I moved it maybe a mm towards the g-string end.

Bad idea, it negatively affected the tone. I tried playing with this adjustment for a few days, and then moved it back. Thank goodness, the violin returned to it's previous voice.

In the future, any adjustment to either the bridge or the sound post will be made by my luthier.

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