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Bridge height and playability
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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RockingLR33
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August 29, 2017 - 4:29 pm
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So I have a few questions/discussion for those experienced in violin repair/advanced violin playing (or at least more advanced then me) .

I bought a Maggini style violin from Fiddlerman. With the string set up it came with it's the proper height and such for tone as well as standard string placement for the classical violin (at least to my knowledge which is very limited in this department but what google has told me lol.)  I love the way it currently sounds! It's deeper but with a odd combination of brightness and projection under the ear that I love hearing. 

Now I got a new old fiddle. It's a strad copy but I noticed that due to it's age the nut is a bit worn down and the bridge appears to be set quite a bit lower then the Maggini. I'm assuming this is because it's appears to have been played for fiddling, though the bridge has the same arch as the maggini, and isn't flatter like a lot of fiddlers seem to use (again according to google). It does make the violin much easier to play right off the bat. I also love how this violin sounds. A bit mellower and bit darker and a tad more boxy then the maggini under ear. 

Now my delima.... I tend to use a lot less tension in my hand as I learn new songs with the old fiddle. I've debated lowering the bridge on the Maggini to somewhat match the older fiddle but i'm also worried it'll change the tone of the violin and as I progress and (hopefully) someday learn how to vibrate and other more classical type things a lower action may impede some of those learnings.

Would it be good to leave it higher so I can learn how to play with a "normal" set up and then use the fiddle for learning new pieces or when my hand gets tired? Does changing bridge height affect the sound of a violin? Does the sound post need to be moved if the bridge height is changed? 

As a side note: I know I need to build up the strength in my hands so the getting tired part doesn't bother me much right now.  It's never painful to play unless I let my alignment slump.  One is just easier to play then the other so i'm debating if it's just my lazy side enjoying the easier way to play hahaha. 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Mark
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August 29, 2017 - 9:23 pm
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Rocklinglr33, 

Don't think the tone will change much but you may lose some power lowering the strings. Check out Nathan Cole's MVP video if your fingers are getting tired it may help, made me think about finger pressure.    

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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Mark
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August 30, 2017 - 12:41 am
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Might also check out "violin lessons by William Fitzpatrick" the video how much pressure to use with your left hand.

Was in lighting for me having a death grip that I had.

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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RockingLR33
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August 31, 2017 - 11:50 am
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Thanks mark for those videos! I'll go check them out here in a bit 😀 I'm not worried about loosing power since i really just play for me. Someday maybe when/if I branch out to play with other people or other instruments i'd worry about the projection and power but for now I'm ok with less. 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Charles
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August 31, 2017 - 3:43 pm
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rockinglr33 said

Now my delima.... I tend to use a lot less tension in my hand as I learn new songs with the old fiddle. I've debated lowering the bridge on the Maggini to somewhat match the older fiddle but i'm also worried it'll change the tone of the violin and as I progress and (hopefully) someday learn how to vibrate and other more classical type things a lower action may impede some of those learnings.

Would it be good to leave it higher so I can learn how to play with a "normal" set up and then use the fiddle for learning new pieces or when my hand gets tired? Does changing bridge height affect the sound of a violin? Does the sound post need to be moved if the bridge height is changed? 

As a side note: I know I need to build up the strength in my hands so the getting tired part doesn't bother me much right now.  It's never painful to play unless I let my alignment slump.  One is just easier to play then the other so i'm debating if it's just my lazy side enjoying the easier way to play hahaha.   

I'm going to address these a little out of order:

Lowering the action will reduce your projection (how loud the violin sounds at a distance) some, but will not appreciably change the tone. You don't need to change the position of the soundpost.

To some degree, there is no "normal" action for a violin, or height for the strings, bridge, etc.  There is a standard (MENC) that specifies certain parameters, but a violin set up that way doesn't play very well. Among other things, it was designed in the early 1950s, when most people were using gut strings. The heights are rather much for modern strings.

If you want to overpower an orchestra and fill a large concert hall, or really honk down HARD on the strings to play as loud as you possibly can, you want a high action. Otherwise, there's not much need for it, and as you noted, it wears your hand out faster and promotes more tension.

You can't just lower the height of the bridge, though. The height of the nut, the height of the bridge, and the curvature of the fingerboard all interplay, and if you want very light action, with the strings very close to the fingerboard, you need someone who knows what they're doing to set it up that way. Otherwise you may get light action, but you also get buzzing.

You could probably lower the height of the bridge a little without having to mess with everything else, but I'd recommend doing it with a second bridge, so that if it turns out to not work, you can put the old one back on.

There's another thing, called projection (which is confusing, because it's not the projection I spoke of earlier that was related to sound).  It's an imaginary line that the fingerboard makes out to the bridge. You generally want that to be as high as possible.  You obviously wouldn't want the top of the bridge to be below that (they'd be touching the end of the fingerboard.)

Finally, as regards strength - what you need to play for a long time is not strength, it's endurance.  It's a combination of training the muscles to do the job right, so you don't waste a lot of your strength fighting yourself, and building up slow-twitch muscles. The only way to do that is time. Play lots for a long period of time (months, years) and you will build up the endurance to be able to play for long periods without fatigue.  Your body will try to adapt to whatever you ask it to do. Play until you're tired, but not in pain, then take a break. Over a few weeks, the time that you can play before getting that tired will get longer and longer. Or, if your goal is an hour a day, a few days after you've built up to that, an hour will no longer be very fatiguing - it's "normal". If you tried to suddenly go to two hours, though, you'd be hurting.

For what it's worth, I like a very light action. I'm not planning to sonically fill any concert halls, I don't have any orchestras that I have a burning need to beat down, nor do I want to test the strength of my violin, strings, and/or bow by really cranking down hard on the strings. So something that lets me have a very light (and therefore fast) touch, with no fatigue worth speaking of beyond what it takes to move my fingers (and I've spent 60 years building up endurance for that, so they do pretty good there) is a Good Thing, as far as I'm concerned.

I'd recommend having a luthier you trust make the adjustment if you haven't had a lot of luthing experience yourself. Like I said, the interplay of the three elements requires some know-how to do it right.

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RockingLR33
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August 31, 2017 - 6:55 pm
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Lowering the action will reduce your projection (how loud the violin sounds at a distance) some, but will not appreciably change the tone. You don't need to change the position of the soundpost.

I was hoping that was the case but I had read an article where they had said it "completely ruined the sound" lol. I figured lowing it should not change tone except that maybe due to having less loudness they'd hear other aspects of the sound they may not have heard under their ears before so therefore it sounded different to them.

 

 as regards strength - what you need to play for a long time is not strength, it's endurance.  It's a combination of training the muscles to do the job right, so you don't waste a lot of your strength fighting yourself, and building up slow-twitch muscles. The only way to do that is time.

I've actually begun to notice that myself as I've began finally sitting down and truly practicing with goals in mind and not just plinking on the strings. I'm slowly playing longer and longer without feeling fatigue and playing scales to finally get that muscle memory down pat.  I agree that the high action truly fatigues my hand a lot faster then my low action fiddle.

For what it's worth, I like a very light action. I'm not planning to sonically fill any concert halls, I don't have any orchestras that I have a burning need to beat down, nor do I want to test the strength of my violin, strings, and/or bow by really cranking down hard on the strings.

I'd recommend having a luthier you trust make the adjustment if you haven't had a lot of luthing experience yourself. Like I said, the interplay of the three elements requires some know-how to do it right.

I agree with you and I'm glad that I'm not the only one. So many of the other sites I was reading really kind of looked down on the lowered or light action violins as if it were taboo somehow but I couldn't understand why for just a regular player.

I think I'm going to go to one of the shops here that has a fantastic luthier and have them adjust it for me with a new bridge so I can play longer and more easily. and worse comes to worse I have a back up bridge just in case.

This was a decision I was leaning towards already but It really helped that someone on here has a lot more experience then I do and you seem to think along the same lines as I do as far as comfort and playing with the violin. I mostly just play for myself and maybe some friends and family so I doubt I'll ever need to worry about a concert hall or playing over other instruments as I do this for fun.  Im just amazed at how many people on the other violin sites are so against it but with anything so steeped in tradition it does make a bit of sense.

@Charles Thank you so much for taking the time to explain and really give me some good points to think about. I truly appreciate it.

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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MrYikes
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September 3, 2017 - 8:47 am
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Rockin, if you PM your address, I'll send you a couple of blank bridges so you can make your own.

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Fiddlerman
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September 6, 2017 - 12:34 pm
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So, I wouldn't worry too much about lowering the bridge. Just do it a fraction at a time. We set up the Maggini's the way most professionals want them set up. Some of the pros want real high bridges whereas some want it very low. The problem with us setting bridges up too low is that we cannot add wood. Wood can easily be taken off. Correspond directly with our head luthier if you like. Felix@fiddlershop.com
That instrument is so powerful that a bit off the bridge won't be any trouble IMAO.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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RockingLR33
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September 6, 2017 - 11:56 pm
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@Fiddlerman  Thank you so much! I'm so worried about changing the sound of the Maggini because like how it is now 😀  I completely understand sending violins off with the standard or slightly higher bridges. I've also read that many professionals/soloists like the higher set up to help with some passages and some types of playing plus it does seem to add more projection which i'm sure is very much needed in those types of settings and I think the Maggini would shine so well in that setting too! it such natural projection and power but also deep on the G, D but sweet on the A and E...if that makes sense. It makes me work and practice to feel worthy to play it for sure! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Fiddlerman
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September 13, 2017 - 9:52 am
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And remember that we can always make a new bridge if necessary, or someone else in your vicinity. I wouldn't hesitate if I were you. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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RockingLR33
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September 22, 2017 - 2:05 pm
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So unexpectedly the verdict is in 😀

 I had to take my fiddle (the horse head scroll) in to get some work done on it. The fingerboard needed to be planed and while I was there the luthier mentioned that the bridge that was on it was slightly warped so I opted to have a new one made. I was surprised to see that the luthier had actually made it a tad bit shorter then my previous ones. I was a bit peeved that he didn't tell me this when i picked it up and I only noticed it when I began playing it and it sounded a tad different. 

Well he put my old bridge in my case as a solid back up so  I popped it back on and began to play.  I found while the projection of this fiddle increased with the old bridge the new bridge actually made it sound a bit mellower and a tad bit darker so I kept the new bridge on and decided my new luthier knew what he was doing and I wouldn't find a another one yet lol.

Well low and behold I have a bridge that was a good bit shorter then the one on my maggini and after looking at it the feet were close enough in shape to give her a try so off came the tall bridge and on went the shorter bridge. While it made it slightly easier to play I realized that I missed the previous sound under my ear. So on went the original bridge and I've been playing happily ever since!  So I think like anything else with the violinit's player preference but also instrument preferance. 

My old fiddle sound better with a shorter bridge my new violin sounds better with a taller bridge. Also the taller bridge lets me practice a more articulate way of playing by making me lift my fingers off the finger board a bit higher and "dropping" it onto the note for a clearer tone. I find playing with both styles is actually a lot of fun! 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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BillyG
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September 22, 2017 - 3:40 pm
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LOL - yup - take NOTHING for granted !

The "precise height / width / thickness / position" - nah - there is no "precise or fixed" set of values that makes everything perfect - it's a balance of everything, including, and, most importantly - what YOU want it to sound like and behave to YOUR style and genre of playing....

Congrats on the "upgrade" LOL - nah  - not laughing - it's all good experience, and I can well understand !!!!

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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RockingLR33
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September 22, 2017 - 6:54 pm
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Thanks @BillyG  I think that's half of why I love this instrument. there is so much personalization you can/have to do to make it work for you and no two seem to be alike. I enjoy the 'puzzle' to finding the perfect fit. I had so much fun with my maggini I was laughing while I played and just feeling giddy. That moment makes all the "what ifs/should I trys this" worth it 😀

 

Though I find people so caught up in "traditional" that sometimes they miss out on the most fun or comfortable things. Like my chin rest I use know is an Ohrenform (also called a berber)  chinrest essentially shaped like a B or an Ear like shape and is center mounted. I bought it because I find I naturally play that way and it makes it way more comfortable so that I'm now able to play without a sholder rest. When I was picking it out at the store I had a person scoff at it since it "looked weird and non traditional". Well it makes me play better so I'm gonna use it. Who cares what it looks like ( and it doesn't look bad at all in my opinion) it's under my chin anyways and it's the way I sound that matter hahahaha.

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Charles
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September 27, 2017 - 2:35 pm
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@RockingLR33, you may not have given a short bridge on the Maggini a fair trial. The fit between the feet of a bridge and the violin top has to be perfect for the bridge to do its job right. Taking the bridge off one violin and putting it on another is very unlikely to have been a perfect match, even if it looked like a good match to the naked eye.

If there was a mismatch (the most likely scenario), you would have areas of high pressure/stress and other areas where there was pressure way below what there should have been, which means the sound (which is alternating waves of high and low pressure) would not have been passed through cleanly, but distorted.

It's entirely possible that your Maggini does sound poorer to your ear (which is the one that matters) with a shorter bridge, but that wasn't a fair test. When you have a few bucks to spare, have the luthier make one specifically for the Maggini, and judge it from that.  You might get the same results, but I'm betting it'd sound at least somewhat better. You might even like it. 🙂

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RockingLR33
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@Charles  I actually completely agree with you and I was debating that fact this week as I played my fiddle with the  new lowered bridge. That bridge fit much better to that particular violin then the one that had been on it...I think the bridge that came with the old beauty was homemade.

After my next paycheck (damn those bills)  I think I'm gonna splurge and go have my Luthier make a new shorter one for me just to try it out. Worse comes to worse I'm only out a little bit of money but it'll give me a better idea of how it sounds with a lower bridge that truly fits it well.  then I can decide from there and as a bonus i'll have the taller one too so if I don't like it i'll just pop it back on and away I go 😀

I think sometimes just the change in sound and the change in projection that comes with a taller bridge can be quite a shock to the ears when they are expecting one thing and hear another. lol. I know that happened when I got my fiddle back with a lower bridge then it originally had but it ended up sounding so much better once I was used to it. 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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