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How many people match the tops of the strings to a particular curve? I have always simply cut the bridge using a template then put notches for the strings 1/3 of the diameter deep and called it good. I don’t recall anyone ever having a problem with my bridges including some really first rate players. However following a discussion here about matching the bridge curve to the fingerboard I have started checking the tops of the strings with my fingerboard gauge and have discovered they really don’t match perfectly.
 

First question; should they?

Second question; do players really care?

I can see a possibility that having particular strings slightly higher or lower in relation to others may actually be helpful and as said have simply used the templates which I used  at Francais without questioning the reasons for them.

Using the finger board template to determine the heights adds another step to making the bridge as the only way I can think of doing it would be to leave the center of the bridge slightly high until the last minute then adjust the strings and take the top of the bridge  down until the notches are the right depth. This is quite the pain in the rear but if it mattered…..

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Slightly related, when using a plain gut D, I use a bridge in which the notch is a little deeper, to bring the thick D string down a bit. People might scoff, but to me that extra thickness is noticeable in terms of curvature.

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I used to use a 42mm template over the top of the strings, but lately have been dropping the G slightly in order to get more bow swinging room on the D.  The D/A/E are all aligned to the 42mm template, and the fingerboard clearance is still set to the G and E.

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Except for the first few years I've been doing this work I have always used a gauge on top of the  strings to set the height of the middle two after finalizing that of the top and bottom strings, as directed by Mr. Burgess.  This will take into account the possible variation in gauge as mentioned by deans above.  I don't leave the groove any deeper for thicker strings though.  Very occasionally if a person is using a plain gut string that feels like it will deflect under bow pressure more readily than the adjacent strings, I'll leave that one very slightly higher and make sure the player is comfortable with it.

Rarely a player will ask about relative string clearances, but on instruments I regularly maintain I usually see or feel it before they do and correct it.  Some can tell, others don't notice as it usually happens slowly and they simply get used to dealing with it.

I suppose doing it this way adds a step, but I've been doing it for a fairly long time and feel like it's the right thing to do.

I only use this method for instruments with 4-5 stings.  With more than that, it's a different story.

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I set the clearance of the bottom of the E and G strings to the fingerboard, then use a 42mm radius template to set the heights of the D and A strings.

Occasionally, I might encounter the odd E or G string whose stiffness is significantly  different from the other strings. Using a finger position that is in-tune for the other strings may be noticeably out-of-tune on that string. I may adjust the height slightly to keep the finger positions "consistent" across all the strings. I use the third finger in first position as a reference. 

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6 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

...I don’t recall anyone ever having a problem with my bridges including some really first rate players...do players really care?...

Apparently the players you have dealt with don’t care.  But perhaps you don’t know about the ones who do care because they never came back.

I have always done my bridges the way you describe.

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8 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

However following a discussion here about matching the bridge curve to the fingerboard I have started checking the tops of the strings with my fingerboard gauge and have discovered they really don’t match perfectly.
 

First question; should they?

Second question; do players really care?

I think it depends on the player. Some might want to keep guessing to a minimum here :

 

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15 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

First question; should they?

Second question; do players really care?

My standard bridge in the repair price list has a standard roundness at the top. (For this price we need to work as fast as possible)

However sometimes in the process of making the roundness ends up to be a bit rounder and if I make it for an amateur player,I just leave it especially if the fingerboard is rounder than my standard template. 

For a bridge with special requirements there is another price tag and we do (almost) anything the customer wants.

The correct roundness combined with string distance to the bridge becomes only important if a player is able to play in high positions. Basically the bigger the distance between strin and bridge the more roundness you need. (Supposedly I don’t need to tell you)

 

 

 

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19 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Using the finger board template to determine the heights adds another step to making the bridge as the only way I can think of doing it would be to leave the center of the bridge slightly high until the last minute then adjust the strings and take the top of the bridge  down until the notches are the right depth. This is quite the pain in the rear but if it mattered…..

 

11 hours ago, Peter K-G said:

My view is that the player should tell you. The problem is, if you gone too far/extreme you can't add wood

It matters to me, and it actually takes longer to do string height this way, but the work allows for more flexibility and potentially more accuracy. I hope it matters to some players as well...:) However, instead of the fingerboard template, I use radiused templates with half a millimeter difference between one radius and the other to have greater precision if the radius above the strings is different from 42. In any case I prefer not to use the radius 42 or flatter in the first instance, but only on specific request. My "standard" setup has a radius above the strings of 41mm for E-A-D and 40mm for A-D-G, to get the D string up with a little more bow clearence than the others. It seems that many are happy with this curve, no complaints and very rare requests for changes, and in case someone wants it flatter there is enough wood to modify the bridge without having to make a new one.

As for using the notched stick instead of the radius templates, I think they work equally well, but the stick is constrained to a fixed string's width, if you change this width there is no more reliability of the radius you get. In fact, with the same stick measurement, with a wider string spacing it will give a flatter radius and with a narrower spacing a tighter radius, but when you consider this factor it is as accurate as the radius templates, and easier to make.

 

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3 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

 

It matters to me, and it actually takes longer to do string height this way, but the work allows for more flexibility and potentially more accuracy. I hope it matters to some players as well...:) However, instead of the fingerboard template, I use radiused templates with half a millimeter difference between one radius and the other to have greater precision if the radius above the strings is different from 42. In any case I prefer not to use the radius 42 or flatter in the first instance, but only on specific request. My "standard" setup has a radius above the strings of 41mm for E-A-D and 40mm for A-D-G, to get the D string up with a little more bow clearence than the others. It seems that many are happy with this curve, no complaints and very rare requests for changes, and in case someone wants it flatter there is enough wood to modify the bridge without having to make a new one.

As for using the notched stick instead of the radius templates, I think they work equally well, but the stick is constrained to a fixed string's width, if you change this width there is no more reliability of the radius you get. In fact, with the same stick measurement, with a wider string spacing it will give a flatter radius and with a narrower spacing a tighter radius, but when you consider this factor it is as accurate as the radius templates, and easier to make.

 

Yes my template leaves the D a tiny bit higher than the fingerboard template would. Is there a reason from the players point that this would be more comfortable?

When and why do you use a different string spacing? That is something I am particular about using Morel’s method of having equal distance between the strings and 34 mm between the centers of the G and E strings.

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9 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

 Is there a reason from the players point that this would be more comfortable?

Not necessarily comfortable, just a little assurance that the A string and to a lessor extant the G string won't be in the way when stopping notes above the belly opn the D string.

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31 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Yes my template leaves the D a tiny bit higher than the fingerboard template would. Is there a reason from the players point that this would be more comfortable?

I think what matters most to the player is the bow angle from one string to the next, which is determined by the string spacing and the radius template used (assuming a radius template is used).

With some simplifications, I calculate that for a 42mm radius and  11.67mm between strings, a player would have 8.0 degrees clearance from the A string to either the E or D.  For a 40mm radius, the clearance angle would increase to 8.4 degrees.

The D string is at lower tension than the E and A, and therefore will deflect more under bow pressure, effectively reducing the bow clearance angle from the adjacent G and A... so it make sense to increase the starting clearance angle for the D.  Perhaps there is also some playing practicalities too... where there is more of a "digging in" with higher bow pressure on the D as compared to the upper strings. 

In any case, what matters it what the player preferrs... and more D clearance seems slighty preferred.

I have been just eyeballing a little more D clearance, but (as always) Davide has the more precise approach.  I will be making more radius templates and doing it his way. 

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3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

Yes my template leaves the D a tiny bit higher than the fingerboard template would. Is there a reason from the players point that this would be more comfortable?

I fully endorse the previous answers, and thanks Don for pointing out and calculating the clearance angle, that's actually what matters.

3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

When and why do you use a different string spacing? That is something I am particular about using Morel’s method of having equal distance between the strings and 34 mm between the centers of the G and E strings.

34 is the spacing that I'm using too, but for example Weisshaar indicates 33 as preferential (written 33-34 on the book) and I happened to see spacing from 32.5 up to 35 on violins in use (not mine). I think the important thing is to be aware of the relationship between spacing and radius, to avoid making mistakes, but in the making practice if you always adopt the same measures you could also use a fixed bridge curve template to speed up the work. In fact this is what I do in part, in the sense that I use the Weisshaar bridge template as a reference to start the work, knowing from experience where and how much I have to leave more wood to have the sufficient margin to fine-tune the radiuses, but I am already fairly close to the final shape.

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6 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

I use a 41.5 mm template to rough out the top of the bridge and for the final curve of the top of the violin strings but the D area is slightly worn away so as to slightly raise the D string as recommended by Hans Weisshaar in his book. I have a second unmodified 41.5 mm template for the fingerboard.

Strad O,

Thanks very much for pointing me to the discussion of this in Weisshaar/Shipman. The variance from a radius which they recommend is exactly what my templates do and I guess came from the Wurlitzer shop to me via Hans Nebel  and Rene Morel. I am still interested in hearing from other knowledgeable technicians as to their practice but am glad that this is not some thing I have been doing wrong for so many years!

Also interested in hearing from professional players about their experience with this.

 

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