# bridge question

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by JAS, Dec 16, 2001.

1. ### JAS

Jul 3, 2001
California
i have my bridge tilted downward a little bit to reduce the tension on my strings. The bass sounds nice, but is this dangerous for the bridge? the adjusters are pretty straight (not bent down too much with the bridge) and the feet are pretty flat on the body. Is this o.k. or can it hurt anything?

2. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
Over time this can warp the bridge. I view a bass bridge like brakes on a car. They wear out. I tend to play pretty thin bridges, and on my old Juzek I used the angle trick to reduce tension as well. I got a couple of years out of a bridge on that and had pushed the string length from 42 1/2 up to 43.

Now, as to how far you can tilt the bridge and get away with it, I don't have a measurement rule-of-thumb that I can share. Give a call to your luthier.

3. ### Don Higdon

Dec 11, 1999
Princeton Junction, NJ
To me, the key is maintaining full, balanced contact between the bridge feet and the top.

4. ### JAS

Jul 3, 2001
California
when you say string length of 43 does this mean the length from the nut to the point where the strings touch the bridge?

5. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
Yup. The business part of the string.

6. ### Jeff BollbachJeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

Dec 12, 2001
freeport, ny
Hello all-happy to be making my first post! Conventional viol wisdom tells us that the back of the bridge should be at a right angle to the flat plane of the top plate[if you can visualize the joint between the top and the ribs-this should be flat]. The face of the bridge should be slightly crowned in order to more resist the pull of the strings. This is the optimal posture of the bridge which will be most resistant to warpage. Push the bridge back and the action will lower[this is not a reduction in tension]; pull the bridge forward and it will raise the action. Unfortunately, this adjustment can only be minute . As your esteemed moderator suggested
too much movement will angle the feet away from their fit position. Very bad. In addition, if the bridge is not properly aligned warpage will occur. Bridges are not meant to wear out-go to any major symphonic bass section and you'll see bridges so oxidized with age that they are approaching chocolate in color. Finally, if you push or pull your bridge and the feet stay fit, it means that you have put the bridge out of alignment with its adjusters. This can impact the tone and it is a leading cause of cracked bridges. If you need lower action and the adjusters are cranked down I would recommend a trip to a luthier to lower the bridge height. Good luck!

7. ### JAS

Jul 3, 2001
California
The bass sounds really good with the feet were they are, but doesn't angling the bridge downward create longer string length, which creates less tension, not just lower strings? I am worried about the bridge's health in this weird looking possition, but it sounds really good. with the bridge straight up and down with the feet were they are there is more tension.

8. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
I have to disagree that tilting the bridge simply lowers the strings. I've done side-by-side comparisons and am certain the as the bridge is tilted toward the fingerboard the perceived tension increases and tipping toward the tailpiece lowers the perceived tension, with string height being compensated for the adjustment.

I like the direct sound that a lighter bridge gets you, and a lighter bridge will warp after time. No biggie, have another bridge cut. I've seen ancient bridges on basses as well and they're generally thicker than hell. A thick bridge will dampen the sound, and there are those that prefer this sound.

9. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
Longer strings lengths have higher tension. Perceived tension anyhow. I suspect it might have something to do with mass, as the mass of the moving strings increases with string length. Given that, I don't know why percieved tension would decrease with the bridge-tilting trick, but my experience says 'it do'.

10. ### Don Higdon

Dec 11, 1999
Princeton Junction, NJ
Well, folks, we got us a first rate luthier in the room. Welcome, Jeff. And since you won't, for starters I'll tell everybody you've attracted members of the New York Philharmonic as clients. And if you remember supplying Arnold Schnitzer with a 1/8 bridge last year, it was for my bass. You also figured in another bass of mine, but I'll cover that when I start another thread to introduce you.

11. ### Jeff BollbachJeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

Dec 12, 2001
freeport, ny
Thank you for the warm welcome, Don. Actually you are wrong though. I had planned for my next post to list all the big name people who came to me in order to demonstrate how cool I was. Thanks for saving me the trouble. [do I need to put in a lol?] But seriously folks, this seems like a really great forum. 99 percent of the time I am chained to the bench but I love to talk about basses-so this should be a wonderful place to hang.
I did wish to further address the bridge issue. Ray, if you can definatively tell the difference in tension with, let's say a 1/4in increase, I applaud you. Personally, I don't think I could. I never claim to be an expert on tone or the personal playability of an instrument. Those areas can be very gray. Of course I have to have some opinions-after all my real passion is making new basses. But its just opinions- occasionally one is
right. However, one thing I do claim expertise in is "what breaks basses". I've quite possibly spent more time working on basses over the last 18 years than anyone alive. Simply put, if you are significantly tilting a bridge fore or aft and thereby putting it out of its proper alignment, you are putting the bridge at risk. Even a thin bridge stands a better chance of health if it is in proper alignment. If you feel a bass needs less tension or a change in string length there are other ways to skin that cat.
JAS's last post worries me. I've seen players come in with their bridges about to fall and they weren't nervous. For all I know he could be readying himself for a really unpleasant noise. I'm not trying to drum up business here-It's just my opinion that unless a player has significant lutherie experience, adjustments ie. fingerboard, soundpost, bridge, etc. are best done by or with the direction of someone who has that experience.

12. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
With the angles that I had on my Juzek, the almost 1/2" didn't cause too severe an angle on the bridge, and I had my luthier(s) keeping an eye on what I was doing so as not to cause any damage to the Bass.

The bass I had was an odd-duck Juzek that played like the Manhattan bridge. The luthier that I had restore it, although he did pristine work, was a violinist himself and had set up the bass more like a violin (fingerboard relief, soundpost placement, etc.), and generally made his repairs based on book-specs. He has great technique and ability as far as repair goes, but not a real affinity for the instrument.

After moving to New York and having my wrist blow up, I took it to Mike Shank, who after playing about three notes on the thing said, 'That's the stiffest playing thing I've ever touched. You don't even have to tell me what you want -- just come back in a week." I came back a week later to a bass that felt about half the size and sounded even better. It still had a wierd, unlying stiffness to it, though. Months later, when the bridge that I had on it was starting to get warped (it had been on for a year and a half or two), I went back to Shank to have him make a bridge. As an experiment we 'uncheated' the bridge. Some time in antiquity someone had changed to bridge placement toward the neck about the width of the feet of the bridge. After this adjustment a nice, loose feel came to the bass and I ended up playing the 42 1/2" length that it was supposed to have -- and the sound was greatly improved as well. No more bridge tipping. The only ill effect that I experienced from the whole tipping experiment was having to replace a bridge now and then, and I did have general consesus of those around that the tipping trick did seem to relieve tension.

I wouldn't recommend fooling around with this without a luthier standing by, though.

13. ### Jeff BollbachJeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

Dec 12, 2001
freeport, ny
Ray- I'm glad to hear you went to Mike Shank-he is one of the best luthiers I've seen-I am glad he is not that close to NY- I've got enough competition from guys like Schnitzer[who I hear puts his bridges on with crazy glue].Big LOL! No really it's a great time for basses with luthiers in the area like Mike, Robbie MacIntosh, and Arnold who are focusing on great work, and not fast profit, being the bottom line.

I looked at my previous post and it seemed a bit arrogant. I am sorry, I didn't mean it that way. The line about working more time on basses than anyone else was probably not the most intelligent statement. In defense, though while there are certainly luthiers who are bigger and more known than myself, they have surely spent a lot of time doing other things. I, however, don't have a life. All I do is work on basses. Of course this does'nt neccessarily mean I know what I'm doing. In theory I could have been working on the same Kay the whole time. Not true though- I worked on a Thoma back in '87.

14. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
I've sensed no arrogance. All is well

Where are you located? (or, in Ohio-English, Where are you located at?)

15. ### Jeff BollbachJeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

Dec 12, 2001
freeport, ny
Freeport, NY. There's a high concentration of internationally known luthiers in this area.[mid south shore, LI]

16. ### anonymous0726Guest

Nov 4, 2001
Send me or post your address. I'll have to stop out sometime.

17. ### Don Higdon

Dec 11, 1999
Princeton Junction, NJ
Jeff:
You are introduced on the Miscellaneous DB thread. I also have a question there which does not belong here.

18. ### Billdog

Feb 27, 2003
Austin, Texas
I'm currently playing BG. I'm going to take up DB this summer, so I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about, but having a load bearing piece like your bridge tilted is asking for trouble. If it's a minute adjustment, it's probably not a problem, as it should naturally want to slip back to vertical. But if tilted too far forward or backward the strings will force it's feet to slip, causing your bridge to fall violently. Just because it doesn't fall when you set it doesn't mean it won't fall under the stresses of playing(the top will be vibrating and the strings will put more force on the bridge from pluckage, bowing not so much). As for tension, if you tune to the same pitch with the same strings, longer scale length means more tension. Of course, the less dangerous way to decrease/increase tension is to buy lighter/heavier gauge strings respectively. Or, if you want less tension, you could detune the bass to D G C F maybe? Or even B E A D depending on the extremity of your tension problem. Then you wouldn't need a fretboard extension, or a fifth string either. Just my two cents.

19. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY

You get what you pay for. Tuning a DB down to BEAD would save you the trouble of adding an extension, it's true. It would also save you the trouble of having to add a GIG, since any noise a bass tuned that low would make would at best resemble a half-speed recording of James Earl Jones snoring.

20. ### bullmoose

Jun 15, 2001
Edinburgh, UK
Am I missing something really obvious or will lengthening the strings not knock out the overall intonation? i.e. you'd need to shift your left hand fingering (assuming your right handed of course) minutely further down the finger board - which may confuse your finger memory for when you go back to a 'properly' set up bass with perpendicular bridge positioned correctly for the scale length.