Improve your Violin Sound by Adjusting the Bridge!
You can do much more than finding the best strings for your violin. Most violinists should learn to ADJUST the POSITION of the BRIDGE to find the best sound.
There are three things you can do to the bridge to improve your violin’s sound!
I. ROCK the TILTING BRIDGE back to make the FEET FLAT on the belly;
II. MOVE THE BRIDGE CLOSER TO THE SOUNDPOST;
III. MOVE THE BRIDGE CLOSER TO THE BASS BAR;
Here are some pictures of where the soundpost and bass bar are inside the violin:
Please follow the instructions below on an inexpensive $50 violin!
WARNING: DO NOT do the following with an EXPENSIVE VIOLIN!
Take expensive violins to a specialist at the violin repair section of a well know music store please.
I. TILT THE BRIDGE BACK TOWARDS YOU SO THAT THE FEET ARE FLAT ON THE BELLY (the front of the violin). This is by far the most common cause of a deteriorating sound from your violin. It is caused from the turning of the tuning pegs which pull the strings and the top of the bridge forward. As a result the bridge will tilt on its feet. The vibrations of the strings will not transfer fully to the violin. The remedy is very easy to execute and should be done at least once a month:
- Put the violin in your lap with the scroll facing away from you;
- Place your thumbs at the feet of the bridge and your middle fingers on the other side of the feet. You place your index fingers above the bridge: your left index finger on the bridge between the G and D string and your right index finger on the bridge between the A and E string.
- Now GENTLY ROCK THE BRIDGE BACK TOWARDS YOU as you press the bottom of the violin against you. The feet of the bridge will want to come back from a tilted position. When the feet are seated flat then they will not want to move any further back. Note that you will need to move against the pressure of the strings pressing on the bridge. However, to correct a tilted bridge does not need you to loosen the strings.
II. MOVE THE BRIDGE CLOSER TO THE SOUND-POST:
- Before you do anything, I recommend that you put a small strip of paper tape at the current position of the bridge so you can return it to its original position, if you want to.
- Look through the f-hole which is on the right side (E-string side) of the bridge and as you look behind the right foot of the bridge you will see a post which connects the front of the violin to the back of the violin. This is called the Sound-post.
- Check that the edge of the Sound-post is 2mm to 4mm behind the right foot of the bridge. The focus and volume of the sound varies according to this distance. A lot of Sound-posts are installed too far away from the bridge. As you cannot easily change the position of the Sound-post, I recommend that you change the position of the bridge.
- To change the position of the bridge, you must first loosen the strings slightly just enough to allow you to move the bridge. Do not loosen the strings too much as many soundposts are not fitted tightly inside the violin and may fall over. Only move the bridge 1mm closer to the soundpost and then retune the strings. As you try the violin you will notice that it is now more focused, louder and brighter. With trial and error you can find the perfect position of the bridge. You will know if you have moved the bridge too close to the soundpost when the sound starts to lose some of its resonance or ringing quality.
- If you don’t like the new sound, you can always move the bridge back to its original position to obtain your original sound.
III. MOVE THE BRIDGE to the left so it is CLOSER TO THE BASS BAR: This can improve the tone and balance of the strings.
Firstly, the TONE can be made warmer by moving the left foot of the bridge over the bass bar because the lower frequencies of each string are amplified by the bass bar. This is a very useful way to fix a violin which is too bright or shrill on the E and A strings.
Secondly, you can make each string’s volume the same by moving the bridge to the left or right to give what is called a BALANCED tone or sound.
- Before you do anything, I recommend that you put a small strip of paper tape at the current position of the bridge so you can return it to its original position.
- Look through the f-hole which is on the left side (G-string side) of the bridge and you will see the Bass-bar running to the right of the f-hole. The Bass-bar is a 277mm bar of wood attached under the front of the violin belly.
- The goal is to have some of the left foot of the bridge on top of the Bass-bar.
- Loosen the strings slightly just enough to allow you to move the bridge to the left. Only move the bridge 1mm closer to the Bass-bar and then retune the strings. As you try the violin you will notice that it is now more focused, louder and fuller on the G string and the D string in particular. With trial and error you can find the perfect position of the bridge.
- You will know if you have moved the bridge too far when the E string and the A string start to lose their volume and tone. A compromise is needed so that you can find what we called a “balanced” sound across all the strings. What this means is that all the strings are of equal volume, tone and quality.
- Re-position the strings on the bridge: if the bridge has moved only 1mm then you do not need to re-position the strings. However, be aware that the E string may now be too low and lose some of its ringing quality. A bridge protector can be placed over its groove to raise the E string height or you can place the string on the right of its groove to raise the E string. If necessary, you can do the same with the other strings. You may not need to put in new grooves as the strings themselves will do this over time as you constantly retune the strings. Just for your information, the distance between each string on the bridge should be 11.5mm.
- ENJOY your better sounding violin!
- Advanced warning! This can be highly addictive, so do practice all of this on several cheap violins. Try to resist the temptation to constantly adjust the bridge unless it is a cheap violin.