Impact of the bridge design in a nutshell
The impact of the bridge design on the sound of a classical guitar is often underestimated, or at least not treated extensively. The procedures necessary to improve the bridge design quickly clash with aesthetic expectations and customs. In the past, guitar makers have significantly changed the top bracing but for some reason very few acknowledged the bridge as a top brace as well. The variation of the bridge design may yield much more significant changes to the acoustics of the guitar than the ever-changing types of fan bracing (if such a significant change is desired at all). The modification of the bridge, as for example the floating bridge found in some Vorreiter guitars, makes it possible to change a variety of acoustic parameters, which will be further described and listed below.
Currently the strings on a classical guitar are tied to the tie block. Today the bridge omitting the tie block and leading the strings into the inside of the guitar body is found in instruments of the Schneider/Kasha type. Meyer suggests a bridge without the wings in order to improve the acoustic properties of the guitar (see Meyer, J.: Akustik der Gitarre in Einzeldarstellungen, Frankfurt/M, 1994, p.100). There have also been attempts in the past to reduce the weight of the bridge (scalloped design) or redesign it entirely (Kasha design).
The following bridge designs can be custom ordered for a Vorreiter guitar: The traditional bridge, the scalloped bridge and the floating bridge (the floating bridge does not need to be glued to the top, but it is useful for the string changing process to have it glued).
The advantages a floating bridge has to offer:
The radical modification of the bridge design enables the luthier to work outside of the current boundaries of aesthetic customs. The acoustic properties of the bridge therefore weigh more heavily than its appearance, and it is possible to modify and maybe improve the sound of an instrument (if such a fundamental change is desired). It also makes the voicing process much easier. The following topics are the cornerstones of the floating bridge:
– The bridge as a transversal brace: Since the floating bridge has little or no stabilizing effect on the guitar top, additional bracing on the inside of the guitar top becomes necessary. The result is a reduction of weight, since the lightweight spruce wood can be used for these braces. These interior transversal braces can also be shaped and positioned according only to acoustic guidelines, since they are out of sight and mind of the player.
– The weight of the bridge: In comparison to the traditional bridge, the floating bridge (and all necessary interior bracing included!) weighs only about 75% as much. This improves the response of the top and lowers the impedance of the bridge. In order to maintain a good sustain, the entire top can be worked a little stiffer to compensate for the loss of impedance.
– The break angle of the strings: The positioning of the string channels (the strings run over the saddle through these channels into the interior of the instrument) defines the break angle of the strings. This makes it possible to adjust the direction of string pressure on the saddle. The standard orientation of this vector in Vorreiter instruments is currently comparable to traditional bridge designs.