Gypsy Guitars Bridge - Vintage Gypsy Guitars - Busato- Favino-Di Mauro-Castelluccia

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Gypsy Guitars Bridge

Technical Info

Gypsy guitar bridge:

This short presentation explains the role of a guitar bridge and helps deciding on the following:

1. Two feet or full length?
2. Bridge design (dimensions)
3. Material for the bridge
4. Saddle or no saddle.

It is impossible for a player to change the bracing of his guitar, but he has the choice to have some work done on the bridge. These adjustments are usually not expensive and are worth doing as they often are the best bang for the buck.
What is the difference between a bridge with a full base and a bridge that has two individual feet?  It is impossible to say that one bridge is better than the other.  After defining how each bridge works we can see that under the right condition they can both be good solutions.  Many well-known guitar makers choose one or the other with wonderful results. They tend to pick a bridge design that works well and compliments their guitar design. For the everyday player finding or choosing a bridge is a complicated choice.
The bridge is one of the most important parts of the guitar.  It is responsible for transmitting all of the strings energy into the body of the guitar.  Only five percent of the strings energy is transmitted into audible sound so any negative influence greatly affects the voice of your guitar.  Extra weight or a bad fit between the base of the bridge and the top surface will result in a great loss of volume and resonance.
The bridge function on a violin and cello is similar to that of a guitar, it has a tremendous affect on tone, playability, and response.  Carving a new bridge can transform a bad sounding instrument into one that works very well.  The second Busato I owned, a superb Moyen Model with back and sides in birdseye maple, sounded great with the non-original bridge that the previous owner had picked. However, one of my favorite luthier, Sylvain Courcelles, proposed to install a bridge of his own design, in a super old brazilian rosewood piece of wood (80 years of age), and made with the minimum weight possible, very arched, with two carefully adjusted feet and a great design for string compensation. The result was simply stunning! Volume and projection were greatly improved. There are two luthiers, both of them making superb sounding instruments, who have a radically opposite concept for the bridge saddles. Stefan Hahl uses a bone saddle, while Ari of AJL, is opposed to it and claims that there should be no saddles, only the wood of the bridge itself.
This task is an art; you are in control of refining and bringing the voice of an instrument to a good place.   Some controlling factors that are usually altered are the thickness of the base, the thickness of the top of the bridge, the size and shape of the inner openings, and the width of the feet.  Although violins and cellos are considered to be more specific instruments, the same aspects apply to the guitar and are therefore just as important.
I feel that I get more response out of the guitar when I ask my luthier to carve a bridge with two feet.  With a strong well-designed arch between the feet the bridge has the same strength as the full-footed bridge but with half of the mass.  This guitar is easier to set in motion with the lateral vibrations of the strings and top.  With less mass the bridge is more efficient at transferring energy instead of absorbing it.
Some arch top guitars makers and gypsy guitars luthiers, D’Aquisto, Benedetto, and countless other wonderful guitar makers have had great success with the full footprint bridge.  I have seen some Sonoras with full footprint also. Having the whole surface planted makes the bridge stiffer.  The same result happens with the voice of the instrument.  Jazz guitar players sometimes want a stiffer and faster response that is quick and short.  This bridge design complemented their guitars in a balanced and successful way. Personally I do not like full footprint bridge. I feel a harsh response in the sound. There are complicated impedance calculations between bridge and guitar top, which show what is best though. One could use either of these two bridges to bring a guitar’s voice into focus.  For instance, if I had a guitar that was too lively and a bit scattered I might consider putting on a full footprint bridge to calm things down.  One could do the opposite to make a dull sounding guitar a little more vibrant.  Remember though, that the fit between the bottom of the bridge feet and the top of the guitar is probably the most crucial factor in transmitting energy from the bridge into the body of the guitar.
The guitar functions as a complete system and every thing that exists on the instrument must have purpose. Neither of these bridges is better than the other.  The truth in making an efficient working bridge is its design and fit to the guitar to transfer the most amount of energy with the minimal amount of absorption.  Each bridge has a different resulting characteristic and they supply a maker with another palette of sound manipulation.
Like many of you, I use a tuner to tune my guitar. When I play a guitar, which is not mine, I tune it and I check the pitch at the 12th frets for each string. Almost always, it is wrong and uneven for each string. If your luthier did not tune your bridge, your guitar will never be in tune and this is bothering when playing as I assume you have a good ear. We all have our idiosyncracies or, more precisely, points on which we do not compromise. I have at least two: a perfectly tuned bridge and frets, which do not cut fingers. You’d be surprised how many luthiers do not pay attention to these essential “details”.
The impedance between the bridge and the guitar top depends also on many factors, one of which is the wood used for the bridge. I did very many tests with different bridges for the same guitar, and recorded the sound to plot spectral curves. The sound quality definitely varies. Some matches are better, and you can hear it. It is worth investing in an old brazilian rosewood bridge (60 years plus).

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