Violins, Violas and Cellos: Straightening the Bridge

September 23, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Entertainment

In time, as violins, violas and cellos are used, tuning the strings on the instrument eventually cause the bridge to become slightly angled, leaning upwards towards the top of the instrument and the fingerboard. It can affect the sound of the instrument, warp over time, and may eventually break.

This happens to almost all violins, violas and cellos as they are used, and it is the player’s responsibility to learn how to maintain their bridge by straightening it. Between once a week and once a month, depending on the frequency of tuning, the instrumentalist should check their bridge for proper positioning. A poorly-attended bridge can be ruined, turning crooked, in as short a time as several months. A well-attended bridge can last for decades.

The first step is to place the violin (or other instrument) on a cloth so that it doesn’t get scratches or other damage in the process. Next, the musician places two fingers of one hand against the fingerboard at the strings, then two fingers from the other hand against the tail piece at the strings, fingers pointing. The thumbs are then used for gradually moving the bridge. Slowly and carefully, the bridge is adjusted to stand in the most upright position.

The bridge should be at a right angle with the violin face on the tailpiece-side. An object with a 90-degree angle such as a business card can be placed to check for a perfect angle. The front of the bridge toward the fingerboard should be at a slightly obtuse angle going toward the tailpiece.

If a bridge is permanently bent, it can possibly be straightened. First it will need to be softened with warm steam. The bridge is placed on a clean metal screen over boiling water to absorb the steam. Next, the bridge is clamped between two blocks of wood, or put under several heavy books, until it dries over the course of a day or two.

If a bridge on a violin, cello or viola breaks or is damaged, it is best to take the instrument in to an experienced luthier or violinmaker at a local violin shop.

Studio City Music was the vision of Paul Toenniges, born in De Kalb, Illinois in 1908. Paul began his studies of instrument making under the promptings of Carl Becker Sr., his brother-in-law. He worked alongside some of the greatest names in American violinmakers and restorers while working at William Lewis & Son in Chicago from 1926 to 1940. While there, Paul established himself as an excellent repairman and fine bass maker. He moved to Los Angeles in 1945, where he worked at the Rudolf Wurlitzer branch from 1946 to 1950. Finally, in 1950, Paul opened his own shop, which he named Studio City Music.

Paul ran a simple family-owned and operated business along with his wife, Ruth, and two daughters, Nancy and Jane. Nancy Toenniges showed a remarkable talent in restoration at an early age and it was decided that she should attend the Violinmaking School in Mittenwald, Germany to further her education.

While in Mittenwald, Nancy met her future husband, Hans Benning, also a student in the violinmaking school. Together they returned to Studio City Music in 1964 to continue the legacy of their shop.

Hans Benning continued his studies working for a time with Carl Becker Sr. in Chicago and with others in the California area, such as Raymond Del Prado and Frank Kovanda.

Eventually, in 1978, Hans and Nancy Benning took over Studio City Music when Paul retired. The longevity of Studio City Music seems very much intact now that Hans’ and Nancy’s son, Eric Benning, has come to work for them and intends on running the shop for the third generation.

Eric Benning began making his first violin when he was 9-years-old and completed it when he was only 11, working only Saturdays and holidays. Studying under his father Hans until he was 25, Eric began studying with renowned violinmaker Carl Becker Jr., of Chicago.

View Finding Bespoke: “The Violinmaker” A film by Michael Bernard, featuring Benning Violins.

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Please contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment. From the beginner to the professional, our knowledgeable staff, comprised of skilled luthiers and professional string players, is efficient and quality-conscious and offers warm and personalized attention.

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Located in Studio City, Benning Violins is the premiere violin shop in Los Angeles, offering a selection of fine and master crafted violins, violas, cellos and bows for the beginner, student and professional, as well as bow rehairs, rental, instrument rep.

This author has published 24 articles so far.

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