Making Matters: Beauty and the bridge

BridgePhoto

The acoustic role of the violin bridge is well known, but what about the aesthetic choices that luthiers make when carving them? John Beames gives a detailed analysis of a favourite bridge to elucidate the process

A beautifully cut and shaped bridge is a microcosm of fine violin making. Its multitude of small curves and facets all work together visually, expressing the design and aesthetic values of the maker, or the shop where they work.

We know only too well that the structure of the bridge also has acoustical significance. The research has been extensive and much documentation has been produced to help us measure, tune and adjust bridges for optimum performance. The valuable work by Joseph Curtin, for example, and the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop are some who have contributed here (see The Strad, November 2019). But there is more to consider than just the matter of acoustics. In accordance with the principle of ‘form follows function’, the bridge’s various design elements also reveal their importance, as we shall see.

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