View Full Version : Bouzoukis.....floating bridge vs. pin bridge
On bouzoukis, what are some of the advantages/disadvantages of floating bridges with tailpiece vs. a guitar style pin bridge?
(mainly with regards to sound and playability)
Just my thoughts and opinion. With the correct bracing inside, I am sure it would sound and play just fine. #As a builder,#I personally, have never been fond of 12 string guitars because the enormous string tension can wreak havoc. #I have seen ones that have held help up well and ones that have needed severe attention. #I don't see why a fixed bridge with bridge pins would be a problem if braced correctly. #It might even sound better due to the larger string vibration area being transmitted to the sound board from a larger bridge. #I know some have tried this. #Getting the correct intonation is a big concern.
Although I have been building for awhile, The mandolin family is still fairly new and I am still learning (as I always will be) but a flatop instument would be more condusive to a fixed bridge than an carved top. #
One of the biggest advantages to a floating bridge - anything, is the ease of adjustments to intonation and string height. That is also one of its limitations. The bridge can move in string changes, cleaning, even in transit. The "typical" sound of a floating bridge compared to a fixed bridge takes in a ton of variables: type of top, type of back and sides, depth of top, neck set angle, even (maybe especially) type of strings.
Fixed bridge instruments have a different set of rules for the builder / player. It needs to be set up very carefully by the builder with the intonation angle for the saddle done correctly the first time. It is a bit more difficult to reset the string height on a fixed bridge as the strings need to be removed to adjust the saddle. Re playability - either style can be all over the spectrum for sound and playability. I have currently three fixed bridge instruments ... after a little tinkering they each became reliable favorites with a unique sound - that I like. I don't recall off hand how many floating bridge types I have but again, after tinkering and setting the string height - I normally liked the sound.
My favorite instrument to play - now, is a remarkable Jack Spira # (http://www.jackspiraguitars.com/Bouzoukis.htm), fixed bridge Mandola. This is effectively out of the realm of any other Mandola I've been privileged to play as its sound and playablity is politely, HUGE, full voiced and yet delicate when played with a lighter attack. I've even played it like a mini slap bass and surprised the bananas out of me and people I was playing with.
It seems the variables in sound are a little more than just in the type of bridge which came on the instrument. The care and thoughtfulness of the luthier who built it is a large part of the final product.
Carved top instruments usually have a floating bridge. I think part of the reason is for "Settling in". Over time, a carved top instrument's top will settle (go down) a little bit.. on a lot of the old Gibsons you'll see a bridge scar, or indentations in the lacquer where the bridge feet used to be a bit further forward.
Intonation is more adjustible (as Dolamon says above) on a floating bridge instrument, of course, though I suppose it lets you set it wrong as well.
I think, beside the questions of adjustment of intonation and string height, the biggest difference between the bridge-constructions is the sound. Both are working in very different ways. The floating bridge moves only up and down in one direction and transfers string-pressure to the top, while the fixed bridge works like a lever.
I owned a zouk with fixed bridge for longer time and I felt that it had a more complex tone, with many overtones and very much sustain (like a flattop-guitar), than a floating bridge flattop-zouk. It sounded very warm and really nice.
But the floating bridge has more attack and bite. It cuts through an ensemble much better, I think, and the sound is overall more "bouzouki-like". It is more related to traditional bouzoukis and mandolins, like also the Maccaferri-guitars are.
I moved from the fixed bridge to the floating bridge and now to the reso-tenor (thanks to Dan Beimborn for the idea), because I like this more "dirty" voice very much.
All the Best
Here are some of my experiences...
I have a Stevens fixed bridge mando, and I love the sustain! #It really rings....on the other hand it has absolutely no bark....I consider it ideal for slow melodies and "backing" with a mando. #
I recorded with a friend of mine last year, he was on his Steven's fixed bridge Zouk. #The sound is very close to a guitar to my ear. .#Full Sounding with a light attack. #
The negative side is the bridge adjustment. #I have to bring my Stevens mando to the shop *again* for a saddle / bridge adjustment. #Good thing I'm only an hour from Munich.
Overall I prefer the sound of an archtop floating bridge. (on Zouks and Mandos). #To me the arch top allows for a more rhythmic/percussive side to the music (Irish Trad-melody) that I like. #I find the touch too light on a Fixed bridge.
steve V. johnson
I had a Fylde Octavius, which is mahogany with a cedar top and a fixed, guitar-type pin-bridge. I wanted a more mando-like sound, a bit more 'dry' with fewer overtones, but the Fylde recorded beautifully and when I got it set up in a way I liked, I could pick it right back at the bridge and get some bark from the cedar top that I really enjoyed.
Changing strings was easier than on the Crump B-II that I have now, but mainly because I'm still getting used to handling (or NOT! <G>) the floating bridge.
The Crump does have a more pronounced attack and transient response is much cleaner. It too has a cedar top, but of a much different grade, and it is much deeper, so the overtones are there, but come much later, after the transient attack. I do love this Crump!!
For physical ease, I think the pin bridge wins, but that's cuz I'm a guitar player (see above).
David Webber the guitar maker in Vancouver, B.C., is making a pin bridge Celtic-shaped zouk for just around $1000, and it has a small body. I think the pin bridge will help to bring a full tone from that one.
But for me, the zouk sound I'm after needs a floating bridge and the extra attack that the increased string angle across the saddle gives.