Electric Violin and Viola Bridges
Bought an electric violin or viola and the bridge isn't quite right for you or your playing style? Don't panic!
In recent years there has been a revival in stringed instruments with the introduction of modern electric models.These models are based on the traditional scale but are available in 5,6 and even 7 string versions of violin,5 string versions of viola,cello and D-bass.Standard to all models is the fitting of a high quality underbridge transducer pickup,with tone and volume adjustment and some models have built in headphone sockets.
The difference in bridges between the electric family and the acoustic traditional instruments is that all bridges sit in a tray which contains the pickup.This means the position on the body has been set.On acoustic instruments this position is usually between the nick detail in the F holes.
It is a myth that all bridge heights are the same.This is not so.There are many variations between instruments and also differences in neck angles.Usually the bridge is higher on the lower strings,but today because of the nature of music and the way stringed instruments are used in modern music, it really is down to the individual to set his or her own preference.
As long as the strings clear the fingerboard right up the neck so as not to vibrate the height could be adjusted for a low action.
If you decide to fit your own bridge,a good starting point is to,with the string out of the way of the fingerboard,place the uncut bridge in the tray horizontal,use a sharpened pencil and lay it on the fingerboard so the lead touches the bridge.Move the pencil over the contour of the fingerboard so you have gone from G thru to E on a violin,you will have then marked the contour of the bridge to suit the fingerboard curve.
With coarse sand paper you can then gently sand the bridge to the pencil line.leaving a couple of mm to try it out,then if happy finish with a finer paper to give a good finish.
Electric instrument bridge feet are flat as they fit in the tray so there is no messing about with contours of the belly!(best left to pros)
Violin and Viola bridges can cost as little as £1.50 so you're not going to break the bank if you make a mistake.Obviously cello and bass bridges are more.
So in conclusion don't be put off if you have bought an electric instrument which has a bridge that is not fitted correctly or needs more height,it is not difficult to rectify.
(professional musician and TV composer)