The bridge is a vital part of the violin but like the rest of the instrument, it needs special care for it to do its job 100%. As with the soundpost, the bridge is not glued in place but held down by pressure; in the case of the violin it is roughly 40 pounds of downward force! If you’ve ever heard a bridge fall over, you know just how much power there is.
The bridge is constantly in motion in one direction or another so it’s important for the player to keep careful watch over it and put it back where it belongs. The most common motion is for the top of the bridge to lean towards the fingerboard. This happens because as you tune the instrument, the strings are being pulled towards the pegs and the bridge will go right along with them. Luthiers put in graphite on the bridge notes to help minimize this, but it cannot be fully prevented. At least once a week, it is a good idea to look at the bridge from the side and ensure its standing up straight, at 90 degrees on the tailpiece side. If you need to lean it back, or forward, anchor you pinky and thumb on the fingerboard and use your 3 middle fingers to gently nudge it in the direction you want to go. Move slowly and check often, you don’t want to overdo it.
If the bridge is allowed to go off 90 degrees for long, that 40 pounds of force will warp the bridge, and if that happens the bridge must be replaced. With proper care, it’s possible to get well over a decade of service out of your bridge.
Part of a yearly maintenance schedule at a reputable violin shop will be to reapply the graphite to your bridge, helping keep it in place. Also, a trained Luthier will make sure the feet of the bridge are where they need to be for the best sound production.
Winter is coming - Violin edition
Winter is here and that means your string instrument is going through many big changes. Here’s what you need to know and how to protect it.
With cold weather come heaters being turned on and consequently, moisture being removed from the air. For a string instrument used to the Florida climate, this is a major change. The wood of a violin will shrink as the moisture level goes down and grow as it goes up. One of the reasons organic “hide” glue is used on instruments is so that when expansion or contraction takes place, the glue will shatter so as to prevent damage to the wood. This is completely normal and desired. Normally, when this happens, your instrument will develop a hollow sound or a buzz. If you find an open seam, remove all string tension and have it repaired as soon as possible.
Pegs popping loose is another common problem in winter. This happens because the pegs, normally made of ebony, do not shrink at the same rate as the maple scroll does. Since the pegs are conically shaped, the shrinking maple forces them loose. Simply tighten the strings back up, taking care to make sure all is in its proper place. One issue that could arise from this however, is that the soundpost has fallen over because of the drop in tension. If this happens, remove all string tension and have it professionally put back up.
The soundpost is not glued in place, and when winter comes and the top and back of the instrument start to move around, so does the soundpost. It may not move much, but it doesn’t take much for the sound to be thrown off. If your violin starts to sound weaker, hollow, brighter, or uneven, chances are the soundpost has moved. Nothing to worry about; simply bring it to a Luthier and we will be happy to put it back in place.
Cracks will sometimes form in winter, particularly around the side of the neck or the saddle at the base. This is because the ebony saddle and the maple neck do not shrink nearly as much as the spruce top and given enough pressure, a crack will form. This type of crack can be found on nearly all old violins and if properly repaired, does not harm the sound of the instrument in any way.
The best way you can protect your instrument during these cold months is to keep the climate as stable as possible.
If ever you have a question, call your local Luthier and we will help you protect your instrument for the long term.