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Standard bridge radius?


polkat
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Roman, your method is the same I use, but I leave E height over the end of the fingerboard 3.5 mm.

You right,Nicolas, 3.5mm is a more "standartized" measure. However most players come to me to make it lower and I noticed that 3mm in most cases is what actually works for them. So, unless I see that player has a solistic playing style, has big fingers or just tell me he wants higher bridge (I always ask), I have decided to do 3/5.5 as a "medium standart".

If you look at my bridge template you will see there are wings that I use to measure string clearance. The middles of the wings are 3mm and 5.5 mm, when I want higher bridge I use the highest point of the wing as a reference. I use the lower side of the wing to show customers that they cannot go below that point if they want extremely low bridge - the visual demonstration with the template in most cases convinces them much better than words :).

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What is the standard curvature or string radius for a viola bridge, is it also 42 mm?

Without digging through 35 year old notes, my pattern appears to be a little tighter than violin, maybe a 39 or 40 radius. That's using a 37 mm center-to-center A-C string spacing, which is worth mentioning, because the "bow arc" as well as string clearance will change with different string spacings. This seems to be a good compromise, accommodating the much greater variation in string tensions found on different sized violas (versus violins), and that on most violas, the strings will deflect more under the bow than with violins.

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Original poster here. After reading all the posts, I'm convinced that I'm still cutting bridges correctly. But as a maker and (mostly) repairer who also plays, it bothers me a bit. I'm certainly not the youngest dog in the pack, and I fear my playing technique is beginning to suffer. Maybe I should try something like David mentioned...perhaps a slightly smaller radius (rounder arch).

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Original poster here. After reading all the posts, I'm convinced that I'm still cutting bridges correctly. But as a maker and (mostly) repairer who also plays, it bothers me a bit. I'm certainly not the youngest dog in the pack, and I fear my playing technique is beginning to suffer. Maybe I should try something like David mentioned...perhaps a slightly smaller radius (rounder arch).

Well, ths is a subject I had to school myself in. After playing several violins, some good, some bad, some in between, I came to the conclusion that there is the "standard", what most will have, give or take a mil or two. And that it works and feels "standard" . Now I have a friend girl who is pretty darn good player, she sits next to Jeremy Constant, so thats pretty darn good, and she has been very helpful with my development. Her teacher is the now retired Stanford resident violinist, he is quite familiar with the 3 predominat bowing styles, and prefers "Russian"{ as he is one :) } at any rate the gist of "Russian" is right arm movement conservation. So as time went by, and making things such as bridges became easier and I learned more I came to think of Pagganini, as we know he liked a very flat bridge, I came to ask myself why? So I made some flater bridges to test the water. At first ,it was a joke, shifting from string to string was not happening without sounding other strings I was not trying to play. But then I started to analyze why this was. It was my right arm movement being "muscle memoried" to "standard" bridges. So by just working on shifting contact I was able to eventually get it. It really is much better once you get used to it{for me} because it allows for very conservitive motion. Once you get used to a flat bridge and then play a standard, it feels like a lot more moving about has to happen, and I can definitley see how fast playing would be improved or made easier once one gets used to the smaller movement. I really feel that neck thickness, bridge shape, action hieght, and nut height are very personal adjustments that should be left to be sorted out by the individual player in conjunction with their luthier. I personally leave my necks a bit fat so I can custom tailor them to peoples liking.

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  • 3 months later...

Digging up this old thread via the search engine.

I have another factor to add in, if I may be so bold:

There are two more factors that surely determine, at least to some degree, the best bridge radius:

----------------------------

Type of string:

We all know that pure-gut is quite flexible (low tension) and steel is on the other end of the spectrum. Many (most? all?) country & cajun players like a flatter curve. As mentioned above, that makes "double double stops" easier. - but it should be noted that the steel strings typically used by these players don't deflect nearly as much as gut.

So, the flat curve that works fine for Daroll Anger would probably be catastrophic for Heifetz, when he still used gut.

------

Overall string height:

I like a super-low string height, personally. 4.2 at the G and maybe 2.6 at the E. (I use a super-stiff G so it doesn't buzz when plucked) I find this lets me play faster, and it makes the space between notes a hair longer (less pitch shift from fingering in higher positions, so the finger must move further towards the bridge) - which is good for my big hands.

SO, when I play a note in 4th or 5th position, under the bow that string dips below the adjacent strings LESS than if I had a high action. Thus, I can get away with a flatter bridge, if I want to.

- This may be why a lot of country players also prefer a super-low string height.

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I don't recall offhand what the standard bridge radius is, but I believe that setting up the instrument so that it it works the best for whoever is playing it is more important than adhering to any standards. I recommend that you experiment with it and figure out what works best for you.

I am far from being an expert but this is what I have found works for me. Starting with whatever bridge radius exists I try to make the angles necessary to sound the strings consistent.

With the instrument(I have used this technique on violin, viola and cello) strung and ready to play check the string relationship visually. On violin looking from the bass side at the end of the fingerboard line the G and A strings up so they superimpose and note how far the D string protrudes above the plane of the G..A reference. Then rotate the violin so the D and E are superimposed and note the protrusion of the A string. The distances of protrusions should be equal.

Trim the bridge to make them so and most of the problems caused by inadvertant touching of the adjacent string when playing will be resolved.

I found that the relationships between strings can be flatter or more arched and I seem to compensate automatically after a few minutes playing if the arching is consistent and the bow angles equivalent.

I am not a musician, rather I am a desperate composer and I find it necessary to inflict my works (developed on piano) on innocent stringed instruments to verify them. Difficult but necessary.

Rick Draganowski

(Soli Deo Gloria)

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  • 3 years later...

I dug up this old thread since I'm about to make a new template. This template should be for a soloist with a strong bowing technique. Which radius would you consider suitable? I usually set the strings to 33mm between G and E as I learnt from Andrew Ryan. I'm considering 41,5mm radius.

Hi Torbjörn,

 

When you start, with your old 42mm radius, you could leave the radius slightly rocking on the A string in relation to the E and D and again slightly rocking on the D in relation to the A and G. This would be equlvalent to a slightly smaller radius.

 

I usually do three strings instead of all four at once. For example in your post #22 the GDA are true on the radius and the DAE would be rocking on the A. This means that the A protrudes to a greater extent than the D. As David said before these measurements are not absolute but have only to be within a tolerance for playability. I'm continually amazed at the lousy string curves some musicians have and yet are still able to play. Most however admit, after an adjustment to the curve by this method, of greater ease and comfort in playing.

 

Bruce

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I'm more familiar with violas and the one point mentioned previously is that tension on the G is less than the D and to sink the D a little to allow more bow pressure on the G if needed. fred

On a viola you can use a smaller radius (rounder curve) starting at about 38.5mm. To do this you can make the GDA true to your template and leave the template slightly rocking on the CGD (the G ends up relatively higher than the overall curve). You can even prepare a whole series of templates with different radii. Generally beginning students are going to have the least bow control so the bowing curve has to be rounder whereas the professional, can still play comfortably on a much flatter bowing curve. The absolute flattest I ever saw was Ruggiero Ricci.

 

Bruce

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Bruce, I will try rocking the template as you suggested and see what I end up with.

 

Addie, The complex bridge curve comes from the thickness and tension of the strings. For example, a low tension gut D-string would need a higher elevation than the A string which is most likely higher tension and thinner. Modern strings has less of this unequality, I'm guessing, so the modern bridge radius could be rounder. 

 

Thanks for your input.

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Bruce, I will try rocking the template as you suggested and see what I end up with.

 

Addie, The complex bridge curve comes from the thickness and tension of the strings. For example, a low tension gut D-string would need a higher elevation than the A string which is most likely higher tension and thinner. Modern strings has less of this unequality, I'm guessing, so the modern bridge radius could be rounder. 

 

Thanks for your input.

As a rule of thumb, start out with the bowing curve slightly too round, you can always make it flatter if necessary by removing wood after you deepen the grooves, what's hard is adding wood!!!

 

Bruce

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Addie, The complex bridge curve comes from the thickness and tension of the strings. For example, a low tension gut D-string would need a higher elevation than the A string which is most likely higher tension and thinner. Modern strings has less of this unequality, I'm guessing, so the modern bridge radius could be rounder. 

 

 

 

That's an interesting point. I very much like David Burgess approach that  '' It's the upper surface which matters to players. When they need a string, most of them want to know exactly where to find it and when it will start making noise. biggrin.gif ''

I was wondering if an adjustment needs to be made for the relative tension of the strings as well? ...especially for the feeling for the player David nicely sums up above  when bowing further away from the bridge?...

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Heres an individual comparison of the four commercial templates against a 42mm radius curve.  Three fit the 42mm radius at some point, so they aren’t using a vastly different radius.  All four are shown “upright,” or un-tilted, with reference to the base line of the template (not shown).

 

The two bottom templates have the ends raised.

 

One has the G end raised.

 

One uses a smaller radius, with the E end raised.

post-35343-0-98609800-1383853586_thumb.jpg

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Heres an individual comparison of the four commercial templates against a 42mm radius curve.  Three fit the 42mm radius at some point, so they aren’t using a vastly different radius.  All four are shown “upright,” or un-tilted, with reference to the base line of the template (not shown).

 

The two bottom templates have the ends raised.

 

One has the G end raised.

 

One uses a smaller radius, with the E end raised.

I think other factors have to be included in your calculation Addie.

 

If you have a full set of gut strings and you set your 42mm curve to touch exactly all four strings. The strings you are using are: Steel E, aluminum wound A, aluminum wound D and a silver wound G. Adjustment to the string grooves in the crest of the bridge will force me to shape the crest of the bridge in a certain way. In other words, once the string curve is adjusted I modify the bridge crest to fit it. Now the strings are setting properly in their respective grooves. If I want to be able to adjust my string bowing curve the way I want it there can be NO FIXED BRIDGE CREST CURVE. The bridge crest is adapted to how I position the outward side of the strings on my radius.

 

If I use instead the following set: Steel E, aluminum wound A, silver wound D and a silver wound G the bridge crest curve will necessarily be different because I will have to compensate for the much thinner D string by leaving more wood under the D to keep it in contact with my 42mm radius. I must adapt the curve of the crest so that all strings touch the radius.

 

Bruce

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One problem that arises, how to interpret what the player wants or needs, and is that player at all well informed ?

I mean, it's ok to make an ultra flat bridge for Ruggerio Ricci coz he's Ruggerio Ricci....but even then...what's wrong with a standard radius ?

 

Some players can't tell the difference. Or they might say for example that the A is weak when sometimes it is only a too flat bowing curve. This keeps the musician from getting "into" the string because subconsciously he's trying to avoid touching the E and or the D. The four strings are totally interrelated. 

 

If I don't know the player I start with the standard curve.

 

If you really want to know what a player needs out of a string curve you'll find you often have to walk them through it.  It is well worth it however to take the extra time when you get a phone call or an e-mail about how happy they are about the work on the bridge.

 

Ruggiero Ricci didn't start with a flat bridge that someone pushed on him because he had great bow control. He came to this through trial and error and likely sacrificed a few bridges along the way. He thought about what he was doing and got about trimming away excess string curve and also reducing string height off the fingerboard. Both of these factors, high strings and a too round bowing radius slowed him down when playing the more pyrotechnic pieces, such as Paganini. Lost time getting the string down to the fingerboard and lost time changing from string to string. For many musicians the standard curve is just fine. Ricci wanted more..... thought about it and did something about it. He took it to the limit.

 

Bruce

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