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Thread: Guitar-like Bridge?

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    Default Guitar-like Bridge?

    Has anyone ever tried building a guitar-like bridge onto a flat top mandolin? If so, what were the results (changes in volume, tone, etc.)?

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    Registered User toddjoles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    One of the reasons it's rare to see a mando with a fixed bridge is that the intonation and placement of the bridge changes with the string diameter. The result is the mando being out of tune if you go from the original strings to any other diameter or type.
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    Mandolin Botherer Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Thomas Buchanan in the UK is one luthier making flat tops with a fixed guitar-type bridge. I've played one of his mandolas which sounded good but haven't tried one of his mandolins and would also be a bit worried about intonation issues on a short scale length instrument. Perhaps someone has experience of them and can comment? There are a few sound samples on his website:

    http://www.folkmandolin.co.uk/instruments/mandolin.htm
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Several companies build or have built them. A few are Ovation (and their lower lines such as Applause), Crafter, Tacoma (not sure if they still build mandolins).
    I have not played one, but I have read that they have different tonal characteristics than what most mandolin players are used to.
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    Luthier and Harpmaker shinerxl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    One of the main issues is that fixed guitar type bridges and movable mandolin bridges drive the sound-board in radically different ways. The traditional mandolin bridge pumps the centre of the soundboard like the magnate in the middle of a speaker cone while the guitar type "rocks" back and forth alternately "pumping" the areas either side. Different bracing patterns are required for each and as both work differently you get different sound characteristics. Therefore in acoustic-engineering terms a mandolin with a guitar style bridge could be said to be rather a small guitar with mandolin tuning. That's just a matter of semantics however. Anyway, as long as you address the different bracing issues (fan or X for guitar and cross beam or bass bars for traditional mandolin bridge) the intonation issues are not such a huge problem. After all, you can change the string guages on a guitar with no really ill effects. Stewmac make a guage for ascertaining and marking the position of a fixed bridge.
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Radom Z got a cedar flat-topped army-navy built to use nylon strings, and in keeping with the
    classical guitar theme the builder put a bridge that also has the strings tied onto it,
    glued on the soundboard.
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    Registered User PT66's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    I have built several mandolins with fixed bridges. I feel they have more sustain and less bark then the typical arch top. I am not a bluegrass player (old folky). I like the sweeter tone.
    Dave Schneider

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Dave, do you suppose the fixed bridges have less tension on the instrument than ones with floating bridges and that contributes to the difference or is the difference in tone just coming from a different bridge configuration?

    Jack Spira's Mandolas, OMs, Zouks, and Citterns use pin bridges too.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    My feeling (with no real proof) is that most of the differance comes from flat top versus arch top. You don't see many arch tops with pin bridges. An army/navy sounds a lot differant from an F5 and the both have floating bridges.
    Dave Schneider

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    Still learning Taylor and Tenor's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    I did a repair on an Aria double point that may be still on the Repair board that utilized a guitar-like bridge and separate saddle.

    If I can find the photos, I'll email them to you. But check repair board first

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    Fix-R-Up-R Jake Wildwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Jamie: I don't see why there'd be less tension on a pin/glued bridge style, but it's certainly more difficult tension to deal with in regards to bracing correctly.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Jake,

    In my opinion you have hit exactly on the head. It is suitable for the large top of a guitar, but the mandolin's top is much smaller, while the string tension is much higher. There would be tension from the strings trying to pull the back of the bridge up. We have probably all seen guitars that need the bridge re-glued, in a mandolin it would be worse.

    This is sort of like the recurring posts that ask about a sound post, with the idea that if it works in a violin, why not put one in a mandolin? Ergo a bridge from a guitar design should go in a mandolin.

    I would not buy a mandolin with a pin bridge, I don't think it works, but with correct bracing it may. However it would not be for me.

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    Registered User toddjoles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Remember too that guitar bridges drive the top differently than a floating bridge. A floating bridge pushes down into the top a guitar bridge would pull up on the top. This is why ovation's etc.... Have issues with the bridge pulling off. Some are even held on by screws
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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    8 mandolin strings exert a tremendous amount of tension, but one could engineer an instrument to accommodate either kind of bridge. The engineering alone would ensure they'd sound very different.

    Tacoma mandolins, which tend to be rather quiet, have always had tailpieces:



    Gibson did make a few carved top guitars with pin bridges. I suppose it'd also be possible with a mandolin.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hostetter View Post
    8 mandolin strings exert a tremendous amount of tension, but one could engineer an instrument to accommodate either kind of bridge. The engineering alone would ensure they'd sound very different.

    Tacoma mandolins, which tend to be rather quiet, have always had tailpieces:



    Gibson did make a few carved top guitars with pin bridges. I suppose it'd also be possible with a mandolin.

    I've always been curious about those guitars. Anyone know what they sound like? Or better yet have a clip? I've been wanting to hear one for years.
    James

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Clips wouldn't tell you much. I've played a few with pin bridges and they generally sounded better than the same guitars with tailpieces, which were far more common. These little archtop guitars were matched to the mandolins, but were incredibly overbuilt, so they tended to be rather subdued. Somehow that overbuilding in the mandolins seldom made them sound subdued, but did enable an amazing percentage of them to survive for decades, for which we are all grateful. I've seen a few of the little archtops with tailpieces that were taken apart and regraduated and they sounded fantastic. With their enormous necks slimmed, they were a lot more fun to play as well. I reckoned that Gibson was trying to float a steelstring guitar without really knowing what they were doing at first.

    Gibson didn't offer many of the little archtops with pin bridges, but rather developed them into flattops (the so-called "Robert Johnson" model uses the same body form) that seemed to work better, and were much cheaper to produce as well. Their larger archtops worked much better, as we well know.
    .
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    I have a 1908 Gibson style O in my shop now. They were made only two years with the glued on bridge, then changed to the trapeze tailpiece and floating bridge. This one sounds very nice and plays ell enough, but not the sort of instrument you would want for pumping rhythm in a big band.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    I am no luthier (though hope to venture into that abyss eventually) but I like to design (doodle...) theoretical mandolins. I was looking at the guitar bridges and why hadn't anyone tried this on a mandolin. I could not figure out the answer for the life of me. Thanks for the responses, you guys at the Cafe never fail to answer any mando-related questions that I have.

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    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    There are some luthiers here in Germany who are making fixed bridge mandos. These work very well and seem to have no of the problems mentioned above. They strive obviously for good sustain and a sweet tone, not for bark. I personally prefer the sound of floating bridge instruments (even in flattops) for their tone colour, but these fixed bridge mandos are nice and have their own quality.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hostetter View Post
    Clips wouldn't tell you much. I've played a few with pin bridges and they generally sounded better than the same guitars with tailpieces, which were far more common. These little archtop guitars were matched to the mandolins, but were incredibly overbuilt, so they tended to be rather subdued. Somehow that overbuilding in the mandolins seldom made them sound subdued, but did enable an amazing percentage of them to survive for decades, for which we are all grateful. I've seen a few of the little archtops with tailpieces that were taken apart and regraduated and they sounded fantastic. With their enormous necks slimmed, they were a lot more fun to play as well. I reckoned that Gibson was trying to float a steelstring guitar without really knowing what they were doing at first.

    Gibson didn't offer many of the little archtops with pin bridges, but rather developed them into flattops (the so-called "Robert Johnson" model uses the same body form) that seemed to work better, and were much cheaper to produce as well. Their larger archtops worked much better, as we well know.
    Thanks guys. Seems like someone should try building an archtop instrument with a pin bridge, but with more modern specs. Of course, I guess that would be a lot of time to invest in an experiment with completely unknown results. Alas, if only I had the money, or the talent to do it myself...
    James

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    Quote Originally Posted by shinerxl View Post
    One of the main issues is that fixed guitar type bridges and movable mandolin bridges drive the sound-board in radically different ways. The traditional mandolin bridge pumps the centre of the soundboard like the magnate in the middle of a speaker cone while the guitar type "rocks" back and forth alternately "pumping" the areas either side.
    Holographic studies show guitar and mandolin tops (as well as backs) behaving very similarly, moving in most of the same plate modes whether the bridge is fixed of floating. They are not "radically different" in how they drive a soundboard.

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    Default Re: Guitar-like Bridge?

    I've made a few, the bracing needs to beefier as the pull from a bridge is far greater than the push down from the strings from a tailpiece setup.

    the sound is different.

    if you want a regular flat top mando sound then you need a tailpiece.

    the guitar bridged ones sound nearer to a regular flat top than a flat-top sounds to an archtop.

    I buy strings in bulk from the net so the availability of ball ended sets isn't a problem for ME
    Quote Originally Posted by stout1
    Now, thanks to Martin and his guitar shaped mandola, I have been stricken with GBMAS, guitar body mandola acqusition syndrome
    hey!! I got my own Syndrome!!!!

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