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Er...Backwards Bridge?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Jeremy Allen, May 18, 2005.

  1. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    So I rented a bass from I.U. today to play in the summer orchestra so I wouldn't have to screw up my jazz set-up on my one bass. I was excited about having two basses finally, one each dedicated to jazz and to orchestra playing, but the school bass is predictably craptastic (the label says "Baxter and Northup Orchestra and Band Instruments, Los Angeles, CA," so I have no idea who/what made it).
    Here's the thing: I noticed that the (new-looking) bridge was bowing way forward, toward the nut, so I loosened the strings to adjust it, and much to my surprise the bridge seems to have been installed backwards! The flattish end is facing the fingerboard, and the curved-ish end is facing the tailpiece. So the slight natural curve of the bridge is, well, going the wrong way.
    I toyed with the idea of turning it around, but of course the curve didn't match the fingerboard, the string slots were arranged backwards, and the feet didn't sit flat on the table. It was cut backwards from the beginning. So I left it as-is, and it looks ridiculous. My question: does it matter? I imagine it does, and I'll take it back the school's shop for a number of reasons (the student who screwed it up needs to see it, plus there's daylight coming in through the seam in the back, plus the summertime action on the non-adjustable bridge gave me sharp pains from twenty minutes of playing, plus the end-pin is too short, plus it sounds like it has a sack of wet mortar inside it, plus I just plain don't like the looks of it; the neck and tuners are good, though...).
  2. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    I saw a band new hybrid Strunal like that in the local music store. I thought it was funny they put the bridge on backwards.
  3. If it sounds OK, and plays OK - then why fix something which ain't broke? The problem can be corrected next time it needs a new bridge. To try and turn the bridge around is just… well, silly - wrong curve on the top of the bridge, wrong size grooves on the top of the bridge, wrong profile on the feet… yes, silly

    - Wil
  4. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Yes, I'm a silly boy, but I'm not as dense as you may think. I tried turning it around to see if it had been cut properly but installed backwards (this bass is a mess to begin with), but no, it had indeed been cut backwards and installed backwards. The point is: you want your bridge at 90 degrees to the top or leaning back (toward the tailpiece) slightly, and when the bridge is backwards it leans forward slightly because of its natural shape. I had always thought of the bridge as a straight object, but when you have it on backwards you really see how that is not the case--when "straight," this bridge appears to be warped toward the fingerboard. Try it sometime if you don't believe me--it's like those pictures of people with their eyes Photoshop'd to be upside down, used in psychology experiments, that just look SO WRONG but you can't immediately figure out why.
    But the sound: the bass sounds and plays like it sounds and plays, which may or may not be to the best of its potential (and I certainly hope it isn't--ugh); I can't say, but I would imagine there's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to put a bridge on, and reasons for the rightness or wrongness thereof. Hence my question.
  5. Despite the fact that most bridges should be set up with the 90 degree side (vertical) toward the tailpiece, not all basses are like that. The Lidl bass I have (curiously form the same city and country as Strunals) has the bridge "backward" as well. The worst thing that can happen because of this is that the bridge might warp toward the fingerboard. Bridges can actually be set up at least 3 ways;- with the flat face going either way or the bridge being made symmetrical front and back. Despite the popularity of the flat face toward the tailpiece, there is no absolute correct way here, while one way may be better in the majority of cases.

    If it really bothers you, take it back to the rental place and swap it out. I don't think it's a big deal though. As long as the bridge doesn't curl toward the fingerboard you are OK.
  6. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Aha--that's what I was waiting to hear. Thanks for the information! I suspected that might be the case, but couldn't be certain since I've only ever seen it done one way.
    I may use the bridge thing and some Jedi mind trickery to get a better bass from the school, though...when I was here as an undergrad lo those many years ago, they rented me a $15,000 Pollmann, so I know they've got much better stuff on hand.
  7. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    Really? I knew about the symetrical way, but not the 'backwards' way.
  8. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    A friend of mine recently bought a new Englehardt and had it shipped to a music store for setup. Not a bass shop. The bridge was a slab sawn piece of crap, and they cut it backwards and installed it backwards. I have seen a few others installed that way over the last 50 years too. I don't think it will affect the sound, but apparantley there are some people out there working on basses that need to do some research before picking up the knife.
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Bridges usually have a front and back indicated by the grain of the quarter-sawn blank. The layers made by the anular rings can be seen on the side of the bridge to be not quite exactly perpendicular with respect to the vertical. The 90 degree face is chosen so that the bias in the rings will tend to resist forward warping to the fingerboard.

    The bridge blank manufacturer has usually indicated the 90 degree face in some manner.

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