Sign in to follow this  
MikeV

Bridge shape to suit music style?

Recommended Posts

My son visited with his Uncle this summer and he mentioned violin bridges are cut differently based on whether you fiddle (Irish Music) or play classical music.  Where the fiddlers prefer a step angle to the E string.

Any validity to this?  Do players or style of music end up preferring a particular bridge shape?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm pretty sure that a fiddle bridge is flatter across the top, and possibly shorter overall. Actually more akin to a Baroque bridge now that I think about it. 

To facilitate double and even triple stops, and having a lower action makes fast fingerings easier too I suppose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fiddler here.  I like a standard bridge arc, myself.  Certainly for Irish music you wouldn't want a flatter bridge, since making double-stops easier would not be desirable in that style.  In Appalachian and bluegrass playing, yeah, some players prefer a flatter bridge, but I have no trouble getting a triple-stop when I need one.  I think that some of this tradition of a flatter bridge is that fiddlers have historically used a wider range of quality than violinists, and many players have done their own work--or at least not-professionally-trained folks have done the work.  In any case, the flatter bridge thing is not at all a standard for fiddlers, in my experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I played bluegrass, old time and Irish music for a living for years, and now work in a shop that does work for predominantly straight ahead classical players. I see absolutely no reason to do a different setup for different musics styles.

 

I tried an experiment once where a friend who is a very serious old time player (wouldn’t do this to a customer) asked for a flat bridge. I laid out the bridge head with the regular curve under the strings, but swept the edges up so it appeared flatter. He loved it, said it was the best bridge shape he’d ever had. 

 

I suspect the “fiddle setup” the local butcher offers is often code for “I don’t have the woodworking chops to nail a good, consistent setup.” Sorry for the rant, just as someone who takes both traditional music and really good violin setup really seriously, this is a major pet peeve. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once cut a viola bridge for the violist in Sandor Lakatos‘ band, which was exactly flat. The viola Player spends all evening, holding his viola horizontaly, pumping out chords, so he doesn’t even want to play one string at a time. Given, an extreme example.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=sandor+lakatos&qpvt=sandor+lakatos&view=detail&mid=6C7F738E4F2E1DC7BFE06C7F738E4F2E1DC7BFE0&rvsmid=811171475F6BDD47869B811171475F6BDD47869B&FORM=VDQVAP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a fiddler for most of my music, but I have also trained in classical music for most of my life. 

I have discussed bridges with a number of predominant fiddlers here in Canada, and the general consensus was that a standard "classical" setup is best for fiddling (in the Canadian styles) - unless, like Vasser Clements you have a good reason to change (for him flatter to facilitate triple stops) and the skills to validate the change. 

1 hour ago, Jack Devereux said:

Sorry for the rant, just as someone who takes both traditional music and really good violin setup really seriously, this is a major pet peeve. 

Yes, yes, yes. 

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had country/western, Irish, old time, and bluegrass fiddlers try my last instrument with a traditional bridge and none of them suggested I flatten the crown.  Doesn't mean there aren't some out there who would.  Just my limited anecdotal experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses, they have all been interesting. 

Is there a recognized "standard" setup for bridges?  I'm ask since many of the violins I've seen have bridges with different appearances.  From symmetrical, to low, to sloping.

How can I tell if the bridge is technically "correctly" setup?  I had some concern with string height and potential damage to fingers.  I get varying answers on the subject.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, MikeV said:

 

Do players or style of music end up preferring a particular bridge shape?

Sometimes, but most of us have done quite well with standard setup parameters.

If you run into a fiddler who doesn't want to move his right arm enough to make anything other than lazy string crossings, or doesn't know how to move the bow toward the fingerboard to play three strings at a time, I would suggest physical therapy first, followed by education. ;)

If anyone wants to mess with me on the "education" thing,  I have not yet met a "fiddle" player who I thought was stupid. Sometimes, much smarter than the way more edumecated people. ;)

Good setup often involves individual player preference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

I'm pretty sure that a fiddle bridge is flatter across the top, and possibly shorter overall. Actually more akin to a Baroque bridge now that I think about it. 

To facilitate double and even triple stops, and having a lower action makes fast fingerings easier too I suppose.

Hmm. I guess I've been mislead for quite some time now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, a lower D&A on a bluegrass ("BG") bridge. Makes double-stops easy between adjacent pairs of strings. But as string slots wear, the D&A getting slightly lower is a pain.  These bridges are frowned upon by 'concert' and orchestra directors / teachers. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am with the consensus; if the instrument is set up well it works.  But I must say, if an “old time” player cannot play because of the set-up, I would consider it a gift to society.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

... But I must say, if an “old time” player cannot play because of the set-up, I would consider it a gift to society.

Harsh!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

I am with the consensus; if the instrument is set up well it works.  But I must say, if an “old time” player cannot play because of the set-up, I would consider it a gift to society.

Lol!  Jerry, you crack me up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

Lol!  Jerry, you crack me up.

Cracked me up too. But one kinda needs to know Jerry to "get" stuff like that. It was even funnier when I first met him, when he was about 13 years old, and had the curmudgeon act down pretty well even then. ;)

(OK, he might have actually been as old as his late 20's)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

I am with the consensus; if the instrument is set up well it works.  But I must say, if an “old time” player cannot play because of the set-up, I would consider it a gift to society.

Answer to the age-old question: What is the difference between a classical violin and an old-timey fiddle?

The old-timey fiddle is fun to listen to.

Bah-Bah-Boom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

I am with the consensus; if the instrument is set up well it works.  But I must say, if an “old time” player cannot play because of the set-up, I would consider it a gift to society.

Ohh well, there are "gifts to society" you don't see, if you're narrow minded.

hardanger-bridge.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Salve Håkedal said:

Ohh well, there are "gifts in society" you don't see, if you're narrow minded.

hardanger-bridge.jpg

Beautiful!

 

Also, let us not forget that we are in a customer service industry. If someone wants to pay us to cut a bridge that is low and flat, perhaps that is what we should do. I mean, when a violinist asks for a bit more scoop in the board and a higher bridge, do we send them away?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This bridge came off an American-made fiddle by a fiddle player and maker named Oscar Davis in Ohio. I bought this fiddle from a Pawn Shop in Missoula Montana. It was clearly well-loved and well-played. It came with a very well-worn Heddon metal bow, a hardly-used wood bow, and a 1-inch stack of Red-Label strings.

It is clearly an American fiddle made for American fiddle music by an American fiddle player. I replaced the bridge with a classical bridge, but saved the original bridge in case somebody wants to switch it back.

I have attached the as-found and before and after restoration pictures.

original_oscar_davis_bridge.jpg

10case.jpg

before_and_after.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
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...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.