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New vs old bridge

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Bassalova, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Bassalova


    Nov 16, 2008
    I have a Grunert 1978 gamba bass. I guess the bridge has got the same age as the bass. It is a littlebit warped towards the fingerboard. Though I have used a hot pan to soften the wood and the heavy kitchen table to bend it straight, it warps back to its "worn-out" shape after a while. So I'm considering a new bridge.

    Would a new bridge sound better than an old one? Does an old bridge absorb vibrations because of the 30-year-old "dead"
    wood fibres? Will a new bridge sound fuller? Any ideas?
  2. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    If that were the case, everyone would be getting rid of their old string instruments full of old "dead" wood fibers.
  3. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    Just request the best bridge blank stock your luthier has on hand when you go for a new one. Also be sure to regularly check to see that the bridge is straight. The string tension pulls it towards the fingerboard over time and if left this way will eventually warp the bridge. A little thumb pressure can push it back down straight again. Also periodically loosen the strings one at a time and pull them out of the groove. Get a pencil and color in the groove where the strings sits. This will lubricate it and keep the string tension from pulling on it too much..

    Keep this up and you'll be able to age your bridge nicely over many years..
  4. the wood may have been "dead" for a 100yrs. before it was fashioned into a bridge...
    old is good,particulary when qualified with the word venerable ;)
  5. Sounds like you need a new bridge. I wouldn't think bending the warping back is a long term solution.

    All I would say there is be sure to get a bridge blank of the best tonewood you can. I got a Despiau*** from Bob G for my Gruenert 1993 (also gamba form). For a bridge you need tonewood with the right density. There are other brands equally good out there. And when you fit it or have it fitted, consider having it fitted with a slight tilt down towards the tailpiece, like about 3°, to prevent the warping in the future.

    On the other question, there are those who say young wood sounds better because more responsive, springier, brighter. Traeger takes that view. Others do not, as you saw Arnold say above. It might be that warping itself deforms the ability of the bridge to transmit vibrations optimally. But age? I had a 15 year old bridge that had been sanded and filed away at, and had adjusters put in, etc., and when I put on the new Despiau it was like a wonderfully new, full sound. But I can't say it was the age that made the difference...
  6. " And when you fit it or have it fitted, consider having it fitted with a slight tilt down towards the tailpiece, like about 3°, to prevent the warping in the future."

    that's policy where i labor...not so much on basses/cellos but all violins/violas. rear edge of feet at ff nicks, 3 degree +/- lean to bring the cap back and centered over nicks.(no change to SL), reposition SP accordingly....it is not the purist approach..but a very effective combo for longevity. ofcourse this offers little hope for a bridge that has been thinned toooo much.
  7. Bassalova


    Nov 16, 2008
    Speaking of thinned bridge.....that´s one of the reasons I think a new bridge will sound better. I look at the bridges one the other basses in the orchestra, and they are thicker in every direction. thicker blank, thicker cut feet etc. My bridge is kind of "slim and sexy". Seems like I need a "Big Mama" bridge :)
  8. Yes, my going with a warp-resistant bridge (a 3° tilt towards the TP) resulted in a longer string length, like 3/8 inch. Which does not bother me at all, it now matches my other bass exactly...

    And it stands to reason that this might not work well if the top of the bridge is thinned "too much", meaning loss of stability under string tension.

    I guess that's sort of a size thing. :D

    But get ready for a change in sound with the bigger, thicker bridge. A thinner bridge top is supposed to give a brighter tone, with more string articulation, than a bridge with thicker feet that is not thinned as much at the top.
  9. I have replaced a new staight French 'Despiaux' bridge with my old Graham Wright slightly warpped bridge and the sound just opened up like magic. I had been slogging away wondering what could be wrong for over a year til I thought it might be the bridge.
    The lesson here? Try bridges out and go with whatever gets the result you want.

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