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How to look after the Bridge on your String Instrument

The Bridge

This blog explains how to look after the bridge on your string instrument.

Looking after the bridge on your string instrument is vital for maintaining a good quality sound.

The bridge is the part of the instrument that supports the strings and that transmits the vibrations of the strings onto the belly of the instrument and into the bass bar inside the instrument. The better contact the feet of the bridges make with the belly of the instrument, the better the vibrations can be conducted into the instrument. It is therefore vital for maintaining a quality sound that you check from time to time that the bridge is still upright.

The bridge is not glued to the belly of the instrument and therefore the bridge may move due to the tension of the strings or because we tune the instrument. When we tune, either with the pegs or with the adjusters on the tailpiece, it is quite common for the bridge to move slightly forward or backward over time. The back of the bridge should be perpendicular to the belly of the instrument. The bridge should also be straight in between the f-holes, usually level with the little indents in the f-holes. Violin teachers are sometimes able to move the bridge back into place. If you have a go at altering the position of the bridge, be careful not to break it, or ask a violinmaker for guidance.

The bridge should be just low enough for the fingers to be able to press the strings down, yet the strings should be just high enough so that when we play an open string, the string does not vibrato against the fingerboard.

The spacing of the grooves on top of the bridge determines how far apart the strings will be held. This spacing may be adjusted slightly to accommodate those players with very wide or very narrow fingertips. The spacing is just right when we can press down the individual strings with the fingers of the left hand without touching unnecessarily the adjacent strings. Yet, the strings must be close enough together so that we can play double stops as well. Ask your violinmaker to alter the grooves of the bridge to adjust the string spacing if necessary.

From time to time is may be useful to check that the strings run smoothly through the grooves at the top of the bridge. Since the E-string is very thin, it may cut slowly into the bridge and you will find your string is getting lower towards the fingerboard over time. Violinmakers can put a bridge protector on the bridge if that happens.

If the bridge comes off the instrument, it will need to be placed back the right way round. Be aware that the right hand side of the bridge (E-string side) is lower than the G-string side. The curve at the top of the bridge allows for smooth string crossings to be made with the bow. Again, ask a qualified violinmaker to check the curve of the bridge if you are unsure.

The Bridge