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Are the holes in bridges really necessary?
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Ferret
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March 10, 2014 - 5:21 pm
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Are the holes in bridges really necessary?

I 'Googled' this question and couldn't find an answer.

So, does anyone here know?

Just curious :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Oliver
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March 10, 2014 - 6:02 pm
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I think your Google might be broken.

There are countless treatises about  the sacred shape, etc. of bridges.  (Assuming that is what you mean.)

Everyonce in a while someone announces a new breakthrough in bridge design but nothing that has kept the attention of serious performers.

 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Fiddlerman
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March 10, 2014 - 6:06 pm
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The holes are not necessary but the sound seems to be better if you reduce the amount of wood on the bridge. As Oliver said, there are a lot of ideas and theories about the carvings of bridges.

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

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Oliver
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March 10, 2014 - 6:08 pm
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Here is a starting place to survey bride shapes.

http://www.violinbridges.co.uk.....rch=search

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Ferret
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March 10, 2014 - 6:38 pm
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Oliver said
I think your Google might be broken.

There are countless treatises about  the sacred shape, etc. of bridges.  (Assuming that is what you mean.)

Everyonce in a while someone announces a new breakthrough in bridge design but nothing that has kept the attention of serious performers.

 

 @Oliver  I Googled', "Are the holes in violin bridges really necessary?".

And got heaps pages on fitting bridges, violin F holes, violin care. So I asked here. :)

Since posting the question I have found things like,

 

"Now as far as the goofy lookin holes in the bridge.   They are there for several reasons.  One is that they make the bridge lighter and how you make those holes (as well has how you make the overall shape of the bridge) can have a significant effect on the sound.  We are really talking about modifying the filtering of the vibrations and simply put, different shapes will transmit or filter different vibrations.  This is where the knowledge and skill of your luthier really comes in here.   By changing the holes holes in the bridge, the luthier changes what is transmitted to the violin and that can have a dramatic difference in the sound.  What look like VERY small changes in hole size and shape can have large changes in the sound."

 

I also found this and it's rather interesting,

 

"Here is a strange story: Believe it or not, one of my many experiments led me to the conclusion that if the pores are filled in the worst of bridge material, it not only strengthens the bridge overall for a very long period of time, but improves the tone, equalizing the highs and lows, respectively. I do this by completely submerging the newly cut bridge in india ink for about 1 minute and slowly drying it over a candle flame. One can see the bridge "bleed" and dry as this is done. I learned this strange technique from an old country fiddler, after I asked why his bridge was black. I thought it was made of ebony! He claimed the bridge was on the instrument for 20 years, and it was hard in texture straight as an arrow! The sound produced from the instrument he played was a mixture of both rich and sweet. I have yet to meet a luthier who has heard of this technique, most claim it would only be decorative in nature, and I seem to be the only violinist who uses it . It works for me, but I cannot explain the physics, although the recordings are my only concrete analysis of the phenomonon. I still use the technique today on some of my violins and a comparable difference can be heard. Stranger things have happened, I'm sure."

 

My reason for asking in the first place was that I'm a competent woodworker, have plenty of time, wood is cheap, and was wondering if the usual wood for bridge making is the only timber that can be used. We do have some beautiful timbers here in Australia and thought that I may 'experiment'.

I will most likely fail to make anything at all usable, but it can't hurt to give it a go :)

My biggest problem so far has been finding a 'wire saw' fine enough for the purpose

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Oliver
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March 10, 2014 - 8:52 pm
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Well, I see that you are really curious so I can tell you (unless you know) that the guru of bridges (and all else) is named Michael Darton

http://www.darntonviolins.com/...../setup.pdf

On his site on Articles is a dandy section about bridges,etc.  (starts on pg. 17)

Hope that helps.

 

 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Fiddlerman
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March 10, 2014 - 11:15 pm
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I for one am interested in hearing everything that you find out in your research John. There would never be innovations if we didn't have curious people pursuing their ideas. My guess is that the best violins may be slightly different, have strings made of entirely new materials, different bridges, etc ......  in the future. :-)

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

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Ferret
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March 11, 2014 - 4:45 am
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Fiddlerman said
I for one am interested in hearing everything that you find out in your research John. There would never be innovations if we didn't have curious people pursuing their ideas. My guess is that the best violins may be slightly different, have strings made of entirely new materials, different bridges, etc ......  in the future. :-)

@Fiddlerman

Pierre

This could be a good lead for Australian timber.

http://australiantonewoods.com.....p?cPath=57

I've sent them an email and will let you know the result.

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Mozart
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March 11, 2014 - 7:36 am
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I recently made a bridge out of brazilian bloodwood.

Looks great, but sounds like crap (muffles the sound).

Mind you it was not for a violin, but another bowed instrument called a byzantine lyre.

I had no maple, so I replaced it with a spruce bridge, which absolutely sings.

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DanielB
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@Ferret:  Well, as you've figured out by now, the holes do stuff.  Are they "absolutely necessary", though?  

Here's a pic of one of Paganini's bridges..

http://www.peter-sheppard-skae.....-copia.jpg

 

Notice it is missing the "heart" shaped hole we usually see near the middle of most modern violin bridges?  

 

So I'd say it wouldn't hurt to experiment with leaving one or more of the holes off, or even all of them. Won't know what it sounds like until you try it.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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March 11, 2014 - 8:52 am
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@Ferret

 

You say you are equipped and here is a modification I would love to try but I could never drill the holes without damaging at least one finger.

Maybe you could try it.

I can not imagine that it works at all !

 

 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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dionysia
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The most sublime bridge ever made has been lost to history.

 

I heard tell it was carved from the bill of a newly-fledged cygnet that was shot through the heart with a silver arrow on its first flight as it crossed a rising full moon seven days after the summer solstice. The exact shape of the holes and other details of its carving died with its unknown maker. The bridge, however, is rumored to have made its way to a fiddle in Georgia, where it was involved with an infamous fiddle showdown.

 

[Wow, the lack of sleep from the time change is getting to me - sorry to hijack your thread, Ferret!duncecap ]

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Fiddlerman
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March 11, 2014 - 10:17 am
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Don't know if that would help anything but he sure isn't very accurate with his line drawing. LOL
And how deep does he make the bridge foot holes? Also, how many different bridges did he drill to derive the perfect solution in which to spread to the whole world. LOL

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

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Uzi
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March 11, 2014 - 10:09 pm
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Very excellent question Ferret.  My guess is that most of the holes in the bridge can be explained by a single word ("queue the Fiddler on the Roof") -- Tradition.

 

However, I would love to hear the results of your experiments, and who knows you might even develop an industry from it. One thing to keep in mind for a bridge is that it must be able to transmit the strings vibrations to the body of the instrument. Not all types of wood do that well. That's why violins are typically made from certain types of wood. Those woods are called tonewoods -- because of their ability to resonate better than other types of wood.  For Australian tonewoods, people such as these guys might have some woods that would be suitable for your experiments. I'm sure there are many others as well.

 

http://www.australiantonewoods.com/

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Oliver
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March 12, 2014 - 6:22 pm
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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Ferret
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@Oliver 

Thanks for the resources mate.

Have downloaded and printed the e-books

There is timber on the way from Western Australia. As soon as it arrives I get into it :)

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Oliver
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March 13, 2014 - 4:42 pm
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I do not intend to overwhelm you with references but some of these are really great.

This is about giving a violin more of a bass "presence" .  I think I have to try some of this :)  

 

Back to the bridge:
Try filing the following parts iteratively but roughly in this order:
1) File the arc between the bridge feet but file more under the A/E strings. (Listen)
2) Increase the size of the (big) hole in the ear under the E string. The channel between the heart A side and the E side is thinned but file the hole to keep the hole pleasant to look at. Most important again:listen to changes in tone color.
3) If needed file the heart under the A string to balance (increase) the D string volume compared to the other strings. File the heart under the D string to adjust the A string volume. Warning: If you make the heart to big the sound becomes "nasal" and unpleasant.
4) If the bass side gets too nice and round and uninteresting then file the G side ear side and opening which adds "some sting" to the bass. If you over do it the bass gets dry.
Go back to step 1 and start a new round.

It is usually a good idea to do one round and then play the instrument for one or two weeks before the next round to allow the bridge response to be stable. You can hear that the filed bridge to some extent goes back to the state before filing (which is fortunate!).

The key is to do only small steps and to learn to listen. As a general rule you get more volume by filing the openings in the arc, the ears and the heart. Overdoing it gives you an unpleasant nasal sound so you have to experiment and you have to learn to listen.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Ferret
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March 14, 2014 - 10:04 pm
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@Oliver 

I don't feel 'overwhelmed' at all. It's all great stuff thumbs-up

Its all being printed and put in binders

I'm still waiting for the wood crossedfingers

Thanks for the help

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Ferret
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March 18, 2014 - 6:11 pm
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DanielB said
@Ferret:  Well, as you've figured out by now, the holes do stuff.  Are they "absolutely necessary", though?  

Here's a pic of one of Paganini's bridges..

http://www.peter-sheppard-skae.....-copia.jpg

 

Notice it is missing the "heart" shaped hole we usually see near the middle of most modern violin bridges?  

 

So I'd say it wouldn't hurt to experiment with leaving one or more of the holes off, or even all of them. Won't know what it sounds like until you try it.

@DanielB 

Dan, what suprised me about Paganini's bridge was the curve, or lack of curve. It looks like it belonged to a 'fiddle' player lol

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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DanielB
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If you look close, right next to the G notch, there seems to be a smaller notch.  If he took a second before a song to pop the G string up to that smaller notch and touch up the tuning, it would make that bridge work real nice for doublestops on the lower 3 strings or even full 3 note chords. 

At the risk of getting some rotten tomatoes tossed, I personally think you're right and the old time maestros had a bit more fiddler to them than maybe modern symphony players.  First off, they did *not* write everything they did down.  Most of them had little or no interest in helping anybody else to play *their* solos and masterpieces.  So they intentionally left things out of any scores they did write down.  A lot of the passages played today with single notes might have been played with doublestops or chords back when Paganini did it live.  We'll never know.

The string placement and curve has changed a bit in the past century or so, from what I've seen in pics. 

But back to that "heartless" bridge.  The heart and kidney shaped holes act, as other folks have pointed out, as a sort of filter, blocking some of the sound from the strings from getting to the top to probably reduce the possibility of harsh tones.  Paganini though, he was playing back in the days before amplification and such.  And he was playing to some pretty big crowds.  One of the things he really loved about his main violin, the one he nicknamed "the canon" is that it was very loud.  That bridge would probably make it even louder, but it might also have taken a more skilled player to make it sound *good* as well.  Like a lead guitar player in a "star" level rock band today, he'd have known how to use some sounds that likely wouldn't sound so good if other players tried to use them, and he had his tricks for putting on a good show.

It's an interesting bridge pic to look at and wonder a bit, though.  I'm kinda surprised that the music instrument factories and shops don't sell copies of that bridge for players that want to see how it affects sound and how the instrument plays. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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