How much are lowered bridges popular?

How much are lowered bridges popular?

Good time of a day for everyone🙂

Having read a terrific bunch of topics on tuning a fiddle bridge I couldn’t still get the idea of what bridges does the majority use or maybe, to put it closer, what bridges are said to be more suitable for Irish fiddling. I have two friends who recently started learning Irish-style, one with classical background, another from blank. As soon as the ornamentaion was faced, the problem of the strings height arose. Well, I’ve got the idea of bridge height importance when comparing two violins of my friend: her old one (4/4 instrument), that she actually learned on, had *really* low 3/4 bridges as spare ones with 1/2 (!!!) bridge installed, her new one has a normal 3/4 bridge that seems to be not modified at all, simply as it came with that shop-instrument. I can’t quite get it how she managed to re-learn so easily without even noticing the difference =) But she never tried playing rolls so far! It’s understandable that higher the strings, tougher to press them down and hence use any finger ornamentation. Now we’re going to experiment with different bridge heights with another friend of mine, lowering them to different extent. So far, as I got it, lowered bridge has following (+)es and (-)es:

(+): a *really* lowered one increases the opportunity for fingers’ speed-up incredibly, as the strings then require little action and also don’t wear out fingers at all. This seems to be essential for finger ornamentation. Unluckily, it’s impossible to adjust the bridge the same way on my cello ;(
(-): lowering the bridge alters tembre a great deal, it becomes sharper loosing those nice features of different sets of strings. It’s a matter of taste of course but anyway the sound gets completely different with the change of bridge height.

These’re the observations, but here’re the questions…
1). Most say, that the height is adjusted according to instrument and personal wishes - and, as well, to some certain measures that craftsman finds suitable. As I couldn’t find any agreement about classical or whatever standarts, but came across some division "high/medium/low" in one of the topics, are there really any defined heights *in mm* for 4/4 and 3/4 bridges to try?
2). I’ve been advised to use 3/4 bridge if it’s to be lowered that much for 4/4 may break, while 3/4 are usually stronger/thicker/lower-in-size themselves. Is there any opinion about using bridges that’re not the same size as the fiddle + do *thin* variants transmit sound noticeably better, than thicker?
3). Finally, the main one… Surely we’ll consult specialist soon, but obviously he would be the one who’s never heard of ITM =) That’s why I’m wondering, what bridges do personally YOU *and* Godfathers of Irish fiddling use? (measures and photos are veery welcome as well) How do you find those (+)es and (-)es of lowering the bridge from your experience? Any logical drawbacks affecting ornamentation clarity? (as it’s been supposed as well!)

Yeah, that might sound too pedantic, but in my opinion it’s better to define your path before starting walking on it, as future re-learning is always tough. Thanks a lot in advance, Good Luck! 😀

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I am just a humble beginner with a little over 3 years of playing, but for what it’s worth, I use a normally set up bridge, and I don’t envision that changing.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

good topic, though I’m afraid your "it’s better to define your path before starting" may be wishful thinking. How can you know what’s best for you or your fiddle unless you try?

Me? I play with a pretty standard classical height (not that I ever played classical). I get a much snappier rolls out of it. There’s a kind of spring that you get from a higher action that sounds really percussive. Also, with my fiddle anyway, it has a much richer tone. Sure it’s harder to play with a higher action, but that shouldn’t put you off.

But what do I know? Frankie Gavin plays with the most ridiculously low action I’ve ever seen.

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Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I used to use a standard classical set-up, but I recently had the action lowered on my main fiddle. I love it. I haven’t found much of a downside, other than some loss in volume.

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I have thought about having a lowered bridge put on my second fiddle to give it a go. I am not willing to put one on my good one without trying it first, simply because of familiarity with the height and the unusual width between the strings. It costs $145 to get a bridge fitted by my luthier of choice. Given the amount of tweaking I need to do (nil) it’s worth it.

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Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

Bridges are fairly cheap… get a couple (some sand paper and basic tools) and experiment. Forget all the classical stuff. it has NOTHING to do with fiddling. Classical players do everything wrong. The way they hold the fiddle is atrocious, the way they attack it, the way they vibrato everything, the way they butcher the bowing… its hideous.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

"Forget all the classical stuff. it has NOTHING to do with fiddling. Classical players do everything wrong. The way they hold the fiddle is atrocious, the way they attack it, the way they vibrato everything, the way they butcher the bowing… its hideous."
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I have to disagree. I’m prejudiced considering that I started out classical, but classical technique evolved over centuries and there are very practical reasons for everything that classical players do.

Some of those things don’t apply to fiddling and some are actually a detriment to fiddling, but there is a good reason for every rule in classical playing.

How is the classical violin hold atrocious? There are good reasons not to use it if you’re singing or calling dances, but that hold came about for some very good reasons, and I think that’s it’s a pretty good hold for fiddling in most cases.

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I have to disagree too, I know solely classical players also view folk and ITM as lower life forms. Apples and pears to me and many others. I like playing and I like music.

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Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

But …….. I thought that Maryland Highlander was only joking…..

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

The first sentence from Maryland Highlander - absolutely right.
Couldn’t comment on the rest.
But, yes, do experiment with bridge settings, just remember the basic position of the bridge on soundboard IS important, relative to the soundpost underneath, but experiment with heights, flattening of bridge to facilitate multi-string playing, etc., it’s your instrument not the property of some cabal of master-luthiers.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

If you misunderstood what I said previously, I am not willing to mess with the bridge on a fiddle worth more than my car, I am willing to mess with the bridge on a skylark which has a suprisingly good voice.

I am insulted by anyone who denigrates and puts down any method they are unfamiliar with or do not understand, thats bigoted and the surest way to discourage people to learn to play any instrument in any genre.

I do have a problem with people who should take their instruments to a professional being given advice to do it themselves. Its not that simple, you have to have the right tools and a minimal basic knowledge on what you are doing. I know of guitar makers who set up violins on the side that wont touch bridges, they generally give the advice, "go to a luthier, get it done properly".

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Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I surely hope that Mary was just kidding … having solid classical technique doesn’t interfere with good fiddling at all (unless you’re a snob and, in that case, you probably wouldn’t be fiddling anyway!)

In my experience, lowering the bridge only accomplishes one thing and that’s to reduce arm movement when doing string crossings because the "angle" is lowered. It can make them faster/easier, but it also make it much easier to play double-stops when you don’t want them.

The action of a fiddle should be comfortable for the fingers of the player, and lowering the bridge is just one way to adjust the action.

Also, on some fiddles, lowering the bridge sacrifices some of the volume and tone clarity. I’m not sure whether it has to do with lessened pressure down through the bridge or lowering the mass of the bridge itself. There’s a LOT of things that can be done just to the cut of the bridge itself to improve or modify the tone of a fiddle….

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I wasn’t joking. But let me illustrate:

I strongly believe that the art of fiddling has nothing to do with classical violin technique. And yes when I see/hear classically trained vioinists play fiddle music it is hideous to my ears.

However… I love listening to classical violinists play classical music. It is then that their technique, vibrato, etc is beautiful to my ears.

I truly believe that if one is classically trained and then moves on to fiddling, there is a lot of unlearning to do.

Bridges: as long as you have common sense about your instrument and know where to place the bridge then experimenting with bridge height and shape is no big deal. Fiddlers have been doing their own set up work for centuries.

…I also suggest that the original stradivarius violins should have larger f-holes. A Barlow Knife and some duct tape for any accidental cracks should suffice for tools….

(thats a joke)

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

Maryland Highlander wrote: ‘I truly believe that if one is classically trained and then moves on to fiddling, there is a lot of unlearning to do’.

I agree with that, but do you also think that that the way you hold the fiddle (see your earlier post) is of any importance for being a good fiddler? And if yes, why?

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

How to hold the fiddle is the individual’s choice along with holding the bow… theres no right or wrong way in fiddling.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

Thanks for all your replies, they’re being very helpful.

2 Maryland Highlander: Oh, please, that question has *nothing* to do with "classical way vs folk way" struggle. That’s not the matter how you play, the matter is how it sounds and how much rational you use your instrument - and therefore it would be logical to learn how do masters of Irish fiddling play. It’s simply impossible to distinguish strictly classical and strictly folk elements in holding the fiddle: say, Charlie Lennon, Martin Hayes play without shoulder rest, Tommy Peoples and Sean Keane play with shoulder rest - does it make their performance more classical?.. Clearly not.

Among all the comments, llig leahcim mentioned Frankie Gavin playing with the lowest action possible (thanks!). And, yes, I agree with the fact that the rolls get clearly bouncier with a higher action. Still, any more examples of well-known fiddlers’ use of the bridge?
What I mean is, it’s not really the question of authority, but the possibility to listen HOW their fiddles/embellishments sound via records and compare, say, those who use higher action and whose who use the lower one.

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I think you are agreeing with me? I use a bow… classical players use a bow…. I use rosin… classical players use rosin…. I dont think what I wrote is out of line or controversial at all. Its all about the music and what comes out… thats my point… classical music is its own thing and its worlds apart from fiddling and when it comes right down to it any good classical teacher will tell their students to stay away from fiddling because it is a different world altogether. I just happened to have a conversation with a new employee here at work whose classical instructor told him that very thing recently.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

"any good classical teacher will tell their students to stay away from fiddling because it is a different world altogether. I just happened to have a conversation with a new employee here at work whose classical instructor told him that very thing recently."
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That certainly hasn’t been my experience. Are you basing this solely on a second-hand story about one violin teacher? Maybe things are different in the South, but my violin teachers did dabble in fiddling and had a lot of respect for it. One gave me a fiddle tune to use as an audition piece.

Do you truly believe that classical violin and fiddling are diametrically opposed art forms? Have you completely missed the fact that that the styles evolved together and have influenced one another? Surely you know that many top Irish fiddlers have some classical training.

I’m still baffled about your distain for the classical violin hold. It’s pretty common for professional fiddlers to use it. It’s designed to let you hold and play the instrument easily for long periods of time without fatigue. Holding it that way doesn’t make you sound "classical."

I have seen classical players with a snobbish attitude towards fiddling. This is the first time that I’ve seen snobbery in the other direction.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

No Im not basing it on one second hand story. Ive heard numerous accounts that are similar. Ive considered taking lessons from a classically trained person to learn classical music, but I opted not to do it because I dont want to ruin my trad. fiddling.

I dont believe that Ive missed any facts about the two styles… Bowed instruments go back centuries… The rebec goes back to 9 AD, In Norway the fiddle may go back almost 500 years… The fact remains to me that the two are worlds apart. There is no comparing any classical violin piece to a traditional jig or reel. Technique-wise and ryhtmically they are like mixing oil and water. (both valuable substances!)

I am aware that alot of fiddlers have had classical training and I believe that its very few who can overcome it and be good fiddlers.

I dont disdain any way of holding the fiddle. Classical instructors will tell you the right way… in fiddling, the music will tell you the right way… if the music is inside you.

I dont think I have a snobby attitude towards classical players at all. I love to hear classical music played by classically trained people. I can listen to it for hours. I respect it. On the other hand, fiddling is also something that is very important to me personally. I love good fiddling, I love good fiddlers and have a lot of respect for them and if that comes across as snobbery then thats ok with me….. if Im the only one youve seen this from then maybe we are on the right track to balance out all the snobbery from the classical side. (But weve got a long way to go.)

More power to the fiddlers! Come on… youve heard it… the violinist sitting in front of sheet music playing Drowsy Maggie and poor Maggie is dying a slow tortuous death due to the misplaced vibrato, MIDI like groove (thats being kind), and zombie eyed lifeless bowing that ends after 2 rounds with the player staring about the room and blurting out… "That was fun… whats next!" And then there are the neo=trad classically trained players who put out the "celtic" music CDs that make me picture in my mind a bottle of syrup being poured out onto Danny Boy’s head.

Thats no way to treat traditional music.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I wanted to put this to lighten my rhetoric…. ; -)

Oh yea and bridge height? I use the standard classical set up.

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Well ROFL Sean - that’s a genious conclusion to your speech, one may use it as summary scrolling down the whole thing)) 😀
Anyway, the main problem is… do you play Irish or Highland style? There’s truly much difference for fingers so as for the bridge as it seems to be… Would you mind describing that ‘classical set up’ in detail (bridge size? strings height? whatever) and why do you think the-music-told-you-that-way-is-right-and-not-another 😉?

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

Im glad we all have a sense of humor here on the session because It is hard to convey that sometimes on line.

My cousin makes fiddles and he sets up the bridges much like classical violin setups ive played here and there. Im not sure of the measurements but I like my action low. Just above "buzzing" probably.

When I play Irish tunes I find my self bowing a lof of the notes so there is very little slurring. I lean towards Donegal type playing.

My personal pursuit in fiddling is the Mid Atlantic Appalchian tradition which has basically died out. You can see my profile for more info on that. Much of that style is seems to be a mix of Irish, Scottish, English and Southern Appalachian styles. In northern WV a jig was just as common as a reel but go to a southern fiddle fest and jigs are non existant.

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"why do you think the-music-told-you-that-way-is-right-and-not-another." So many great fiddlers learned the aural way or just by doing it and thats what brought about "style." I have many realtives in my family going back to my Great great grandfather who learned music this way… just by doing it because it was in them. Sure there was probably knowledge gained from other players or standard techniques, but to me that is the mystique of fiddling… Thats why there are so many stories and legends about the fiddle being the devils and people learning to play from fairies and little men who lived in water falls. Where did these common people get this knowledge? They didnt have time for classical training… they went out in the barn late at night etc.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I have two violins. One is a good quality violin set up in the normal way with a normal bridge. The problem with it is the height of the strings above the fingerboard makes it harder to play quickly. My other fiddle is of much lesser quality and has a normal bridge too, but unlike the better fiddle, the fingerboard has been built up at some point in its history, so that it is closer to the strings and therefore easier to play at speed. Unfortunately because of the difference in instrument quality I couldn’t tell you if the tone of the instrument is better or worse due to this difference, I just know that the one with the higher fingerboard is much easier to play the jigs and reels on.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

I’m told that the proper way to reduce the action on the fiddle is to raise the fingerboard, leaving the bridge untouched. This isn’t a job that can be done by most fiddle owners but apparently it’s not a particularly difficult job for the luthier.

For the record, I have, at times in the past, lowered the bridges on my two fiddles and cello. A low action is particularly important on the cello because of the tension and weight of the strings, especially if there is a lot of playing in high positions, and, as on the fiddle, it also makes for a more efficient and faster finger action.

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

lazyhound, thanks for an interesting suggestion!
the only problem is, you can experiment with cheap bridges as much as you like, but raising the fingerboard is costy and you’ll have to make all your fiddles you play tuned that way while bridges you can even carry with you =) anyway… that sounds rather compromising!

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

"I’m told that the proper way to reduce the action on the fiddle is to raise the fingerboard, leaving the bridge untouched."

That would certainly be the way to do it with probably negligible effect on the sound. Maybe fiddles should be made with the neck on a hinge joint, with a big wing nut to tighten it in the right position. 🙂

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

It’s not just the bridge, to lower the action properly you have to lower the nut too (unless it’s already low). So I’m not sure that experimenting with do-it-yourself bridge cutting is a good way to try out a lower action, unless you’re willing to take a file to the nut. Otherwise, you probably won’t really get the feel of a low action in first position.

I really didn’t notice much of a difference in tone after having my action lowered, I mainly just noticed a bit of a loss in volume. The violin originally had a much lower bridge anyway; they were raised to increase volume and projection. But this brings up another point: the soundpost may need adjustment as well, since lowering the action does affect the sound.

I guess my point is, best to have this done by a pro who can adjust the entire set-up for a low action, than to just shave down your bridge. But your fiddle is your fiddle and experimenting with bridges won’t do any permanent harm, so go for it if you like.

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If you’re gonna lower the nut action too, be sure to do the bridge first. Otherwise, you could wind up with the nut too low and then you’re scrood. Unless you want to make a new nut or shim it up.

If you’re accustomed to fine-scale woodworking or carving, working on bridges and nuts can be an interesting learning experience. You’re not likely to do any real harm, though you might wind up paying some luthier’s grocery bill.

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But how low does count as low, my experience is that the bridge, nut on many ‘violins’ is much higher than is recommended in violin repair books that i’ve read. ie 3mm E string to 5mm G string above the finger board at the bridge end. Does anyone have measurements of what they regard as normal , high , low.
(I’ll have a look the string heights at the nut) if people are interested

Re: How much are lowered bridges popular?

Lowered bridges are not very popular with ships - they tend to crash into them.