Straight versus Top Curved Bridges

Edited: November 22, 2022, 8:33 AM · In the thread about Bridge Height I began to wonder about the shaping of bridges. The bridge on my instrument is perfectly flat on the back (the side facing the violinist) and the top third of the front (the side facing the fingerboard) is sanded down to make a curve into a thinner top.

Many bridges I've seen are flat on both sides. Making the top the same width as the bottom.

Does this really have an effect on the sound quality? If so, why and if not why again?

Replies (10)

November 22, 2022, 1:05 PM · My guess is that they can be cut either way and made to sound and respond properly for your violin. It's a bit like asking whether octagaonal or round bow sticks are better. Good octagonal sticks are better than crappy round ones, etc.
November 22, 2022, 4:10 PM · Somewhere I heard that fiddlers use straighter bridges. Not sure if that's correct.
November 22, 2022, 6:11 PM · Seems you're talking about electric violin bridges; they don't need tapered bridges because sound is transmitted electronically. The acoustic violin needs tapered bridge to vibrate in sympathy with the strings and thus transmit sound to the violin body.
Fiddlers use a 'flattener' bridge...
November 22, 2022, 6:15 PM · The quality of the wood and the mass of the bridge have an effect on the sound. Curving the upper region of one part of the bridge is a way to adjust the total mass to some extent.

I have always heard that the flat side should face the endpin. However the bridge on one of my cellos was set up (after it had some serious repair) in 1990 with the curved surface facing the fingerboard and provides a better (more characteristic) vibrating string length while mounting the bridge in between the ff-hole scorings the maker had cut 113 years earlier - and it plays better than ever. I think the luthier who mounted that bridge also made it to replace an earlier one (I actually can't remember).

November 22, 2022, 6:47 PM · The way I see it, classical bridge cutting leaves the center area thicker to prevent warping and add stiffness in this vulnerable area, and the top area is thinned to "unmute" the sound. So normally there would be not only a curve (looking in sideways), but also looking down from the top (slightly).
November 22, 2022, 9:54 PM · Speaking of bridges, I just found these two dated (expert) inputs on the "STRAD Playing Hub"

Effect of bridge shape on tone:

One major aim should be to make the bridge as light as possible, without it collapsing or distorting. But there are two schools of thought on how to achieve this. One dictates that you excavate as much as possible from under the bridge, making the lower arch high and round, and the ankles rather tall, and concentrate the mass in the higher breast of the bridge. From this comes a brilliant, cutting tone that can compensate for a dull, unresponsive instrument. The other way has the bottom sweep cut as low as possible, the ankles short and thin, and the centre of gravity of the bridge close to the table. It may sometimes lack the brilliance of the high-cut bridge, but it makes up for that with richness and depth.

John Dilworth, The Strad, September 2013

Bridge position:

To produce proper vibration, the centre of the foot of the bridge must be over the bass bar. In many instances the end of the foot only is over the bar, and as the ends are commonly thinned down in fitting, rendering them elastic and non-rigid, there is no real vibration given to the bar from the strings. The position of the bar can easily be ascertained by inserting a piece of card under the sound hole opposite the bridge and marking the distance to the edge of the hole.

C.P.T., The Strad, April 1895

November 29, 2022, 7:30 AM · I once lightened two bridge blanks to the same extent, but in two ways:
- thinning the whole bridge, and
- increasing the cutouts on the other.
The difference in tone was remarkable: lighter and brighter on one hand, and snarly or honky on the other.
In both cases the violin was easier to play.
I practice, we mix both methods
November 30, 2022, 4:52 AM · Re flat bridges - some fiddlers like a flatter top curve for ease of double stopping.

The Hungarian viola/ bratsche (?) has 3 strings and a completely flat and somewhat solid bridge for playing chords - there's also a viola shaped instrument with a flat bridge that's hit percussively rather than bowed, which I assume has a cello like bridge.

November 30, 2022, 3:28 PM · Anish, please read the original post. Despite the confusing subject heading,it is not referring to the top surface of the bridge, but rather the upper portion of the surface that faces the fingerboard.
November 30, 2022, 5:27 PM · That is why I posted my last remarks on the other bridge discussion too!

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