Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Can a bridge deteriorate in use...?


A. C. Fairbanks
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello again,

I'm a bit perplexed by this...

I had been aware of what I experienced as a deterioration in the sound of one of my fiddles over the last many months.

It seemed to have lost a "woody" growl that I loved (I fiddle Celtic, Southeastern, some Texas stuff) and, in truth, I did wonder if it might be something about my ears rather than anything about the instrument.

I checked the seams with care, but all were solid.

Then, yesterday, I decided to fit a new bridge to the instrument. The old one had been in place for many years, but had developed a bit of a warp.

Today, I played the fiddle with its new bridge, and that wonderful sound is back.

I'm delighted of course, but would love to understand something more about what might have caused this experience.

It certainly seems as if the old bridge had somehow deteriorated over time but I don't know just what that would mean. Could the (slight) warping have had such a significant effect on the sound?

Sincere thanks for any thoughts,

A.C.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's possible to straighten a warped bridge if it isn't too badly warped but the process of heating it often weakens the wood. After straightening such bridges I soak them in a solution of thinned glue to give them additional strength. My method for straightening bridges (usually cello bridges) is to dampen the concave side and put it in the microwave for few seconds then clamp the still warm bridge to a flat surface.

Oded

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that it doesn't seem worth your time to unwarp an old bridge, unless it is of great sentimental/historical significance. In my mind, there is no need to determine if the sound being produced has been degraded by a warp; it's a given. It is difficult (or impossible) to return an organic thing back to it's original state without alteration. If it's fun for you... go for it. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would think that a warped bridge would lose its efficency in transmitting vibrations and perhaps straightening the old one to check why it warped would be worth the experiment - was it leaning due to the fit of the feet? or just warped over time with the string pressure.

Straightening a violin bridge is simple and unless over heated works fine, I use a clothing flat iron with a varible heat setting, slightly wet the bridge and clamp it flat to the iron surface, use a small block of wood across the feet to keep them referenced and them a felt pad to clamp the upper part flat, the felt conforms to the bridge shape while pushing it flat to the iron, a few minutes of moderate heat to warm the wood and dry the surface, I feel the surface and listen to the sizzle of the water, after I think it is hot enough, I turn off the heat and let it cool, the combination of moisture and heat allows the wood to return to it original shape, after an hour check the fit of the feet, correct any problems with string curve and groozes and its ready to go again. A word of caaution, don't get distracted and forget to turn the heat off, I have cooked a few by mistake.

Reese

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would think that a warped bridge would lose its efficency in transmitting vibrations

I think so too. A warped bridge will be "softer"... therefore the fundamental mode will be lower. This will shift the filtering frequency lower. The low notes will not lose their fundamentals, but the higer frequency overtones should disappear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think so too. A warped bridge will be "softer"... therefore the fundamental mode will be lower. This will shift the filtering frequency lower. The low notes will not lose their fundamentals, but the higer frequency overtones should disappear.

++++++++++++

I am thinking that the bridge may have lost some moisture during the time, to become more hardened, so producing brighter sound.

Why not varnish it? All my older bridges are harder and I like them harder.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So much work and worrying over a bridge. :)

I guess I am thick because I still don't get it. :)

Mike

Hi Micheal

I had a few cases where I would replace a horrid bridge on an instrument of equal quality and the finished job would sound either worse ( if possible), or different enough that the owner didn't like the fiddle anymore.

That's maybe one reason why it's sometimes a good idea to save even the dogs

Sometimes players just like the sound of what they're used to, and sometimes fiddles only sound "good" with bad bridges, or at least in their opinion.

Or it could be that me and my bridges are too thick also. Might be a family trait! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Micheal

I had a few cases where I would replace a horrid bridge on an instrument of equal quality and the finished job would sound either worse ( if possible), or different enough that the owner didn't like the fiddle anymore.

That's maybe one reason why it's sometimes a good idea to save even the dogs

Sometimes players just like the sound of what they're used to, and sometimes fiddles only sound "good" with bad bridges, or at least in their opinion.

Or it could be that me and my bridges are too thick also. Might be a family trait! :)

Now THIS I understand.

Thanks, Darren.

The Other Molnar :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still don't perceive any thoughts on bridges just degrading, with or without warpage. In the July 2008 SCAVM Bulletin, An excellent article was done featuring Jon Peterson, a very respected restorer of string instruments in which he stated: "Old instruments eventually play out, or the bridge fails..." and again in the feature is this: "Jon finds that the life of a bridge for best sound is only a year or two (for violin, 2-3 for cello, 3-4 for bass) after which they lose strength and response and a new one is required."

Any thoughts?

JB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would definitely take that pronouncement with a bucket of salt. I know a few expensive instruments that still have bridges on them that are decades old: in one case, over 100 years old, and in several others, 60 years or more. In some cases these bridges are still there because new ones have failed to measure up to them.

Bridges warp for two reasons: misuse, and bad cutting. If a bridge has been abused, straightening it will work and be permanent; if the cutting is bad, it will warp again unless that is corrected. I'm not too big on spending a couple of hours replacing a bridge that doesn't need replacing when 10 minutes on a hot plate will fix the problem forever.

I notice that many better shops heat bridges to "harden" or cure them, and no one complains then that heating has harmed the bridge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I take nothing that Jon Peterson says with a bucket of salt. This man is a world class luthier, owner of a large business in Long Beach, CA, is bass guru to most of the major symphonies in the western states, and instructor of restoration at Ed Campbell's Arizona workshops. Your observation about older existing bridges is the obvious one, of course. Nevertheless, the man stands behind the statement. Any other thoughts anybody?

JB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never been a fan of heating bridges but I think there may be a difference between a bridge that has already warped, perhaps distorting or damaging the cell structure and a virgin piece of wood. I also think that the addition of moisture in the process may make a difference in how the heat affects the wood. I agree with Stradofear, I've seen many old bridges, some as old as 75 years old, that were excellent. I don't see how Peterson's viewpoint can be reconciled with Strado's.

Oded

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I agree with Stradofear, I've seen many old bridges, some as old as 75 years old, that were excellent. I don't see how Peterson's viewpoint can be reconciled with Strado's."

And I don't see the problem - they can both be right depending on the bridge and the owner.

In my opinion, some bridges are too flexible right out of the box while others seem to be much stiffer.

I don't like to use weak bridges, even if they are new and are the brand I like. (Aubert) Does anyone else flex, tap and/or drop the bridge prior to using it?

Not long ago here on MN, I asked around about leaving the bridge a bit thicker than the "norm", but not too many people responded at all and I think I only got one PM agreeing. I have been cutting my bridges a bit thick for a while now, and am generally happier with the tonal results, just as I now generally put the sp closer to the bridge foot than used to be popular.

When I started the rule was "one sp diameter behind the treble foot", and now it seems to be "the thickness of the belly behind it" - for starters - not a huge difference but a measurable one.

I find that the violins I have and play still require my pulling the bridge back as (not too much) time goes by and the bridge doesn't ever seem to move back on its own, but it does seem to fall forward a bit more than I like...

Too far forward, for too long, and it's curtains - the bridge starts to fold. Once it starts to fold I always replace it, it seems like straight forward maintenence. The fibers in a bridge that has been flexed like a potato chip, I think, HAS to be weaker than the original wood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I take nothing that Jon Peterson says with a bucket of salt. This man is a world class luthier, owner of a large business in Long Beach, CA, is bass guru to most of the major symphonies in the western states, and instructor of restoration at Ed Campbell's Arizona workshops.

Don't know of the guy. What's his background and training?

I'm tending to agree more with MD, in that some danged old bridges, straightened numerous times, seem to serve very well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Jon Peterson is mainly a bass guy. That might have something to do with the apparent contradiction. The other possibility is that I know Ed Campbell used to preach hollowing out the feet's fit gave brighter response. The problem with that is that this won't last forever--either the feet are going to flatten out, or they're going to dig a box in the top. At that point, with contact normalized, the sparkle is probably gone. I envision feet that increasingly have to resemble (and act like) cookie cutters to maintain the hollow and the sparkle. That's why good shops don't do it that way. Is Ed still doing that?

If you want a real enlightening experience, wax the string grooves on the bridge rather than lubing with a pencil. Don't do it on a violin you care about. Someone once told me a similar story about someone he knew who made a bass bridge with rollers on the top, with the idea that this would help the bridge stay upright. I know how far a waxed violin bridge will squirt; I don't even want to think what a flying bass bridge would do. . .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm With Strado' and DB here.

I would rather resurect a nice bridge that I know works than cut a new one in most cases.... working on the if it ain't really broke don't fix it principal.

I would also be interested to hear the input from the violinbriges.co.uk guys. When I sent pics to Gerard from Violinbridges of a remarkable sounding and very long lasting unnamed bridge from a Cremonese cello he remarked on the absence of visible medullary rays to the effect ( if I recall correctly) that a lot of older bridges show this and I got the impression that the fixation on the medullaty ray display is quite recent...it seems to be incidental rather than compulsory on a a lot of old Hill bridges...mybe we are missing out on some great wood because of this????

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe a wood treatment used by modern bridge cutters preferentially darkens the rays? Since builders seem to have it in their mind that a good piece of bridge wood must have strong rays then it would be in their interest to make sure they are darkly colored and strongly contrasting with the rest of the bridge wood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...