Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Wopperjonged Viola Bridge

A few days ago a long-time customer walked in with a viola that he had deemed as an online bargain viola. Purchased for just a few dollars, including shipping, this viola had served him over the past 3 years. With just a glance, it was impossible for Alex to miss something extremely wrong:

Yes, that is what the bridge looked like... warped, tilted, twisted, any of the above applied to the appearance and stance. The customer did not realize that all of these descriptions made the viola dysfunctional.

As a purchaser, online shopping may appear convenient, especially in possibly
meeting budget constraints; however, it has a great potential to turn into a costly investment that may not have any real retail value. The bridge incident is a prime example! It costs about $100 to get a bridge made for the viola between labor and materials... luckily, we dug into our 'Bridge Graveyard' for this customer, simply placing on a 'functional enough' bridge for his needs.

Helpful Bridge Maintenance Tips
(violin, viola, cello, & bass)
  • The side closest to the tailpiece should be perpendicular to the top
  • The side closest to the fingerboard should be curved, with a small "pot belly"
  • Generally, the bridge should be placed so the strings are centered on the fingerboard with the inner notches of the f-holes pointing towards the center of the bridge.
  • The top edge of the bridge should look straight when viewed from above.
  • Over time, due to tuning, a bridge will usually tilt or lean towards the fingerboard. The key is to monitor the position and straighten it according to the angle of the side closest to the tailpiece.
  • If a bridge is not kept straight, it will warp, creating problems with tuning and tone
  • Once a bridge is warped, there is no other solution besides having a new one made
  • Adjustments on the bridge tilt should always be made by gently grasping the top of the bridge between strings 1-2 and 3-4.
  • The placement of the bridge feet should always be done by grasping the feet. Often, tension on the strings must be partially relieved before moving the bridge.
  • Never grab the bridge by the middle or you may break it!
In the end, be aware of your bridge. If you are uncomfortable adjusting the bridge, take it to a good violin shop, there should be no or little charge for this service. Also, be a smart consumer when finding online bargains.

Here's to straight bridges!
You will play in tune more easily, and the fiddle should sing!

1 comment:

Eric B. Hill said...

This is why i'll never buy a violin online


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