Let's talk about "Floating Bridges"

marg
@marg
4 years ago
538 posts

("free standing bridge" similar to that of a banjo??) (probably not a good idea)

Yes.

I don't use a wrist rest but someone from my group was asking and after I looked & thought about it couldn't see a way.  Therefore the question, just in case anyone knew of anything.

thanks, I didn't think so either

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,836 posts

marg:

With a floating bridge & no fret board anywhere near it, where or how could you put a wrist rest for the dulcimer

Do you mean the kind of dulcimer which does not have a full length fretboard, but does have a "free standing bridge" similar to that of a banjo??  If that is the case I don't see how you could put on a wrist rest.

marg
@marg
4 years ago
538 posts

With a floating bridge & no fret board anywhere near it, where or how could you put a wrist rest for the dulcimer

IRENE
IRENE
@irene
5 years ago
175 posts

I'm so glad for this post as I've wanted to write about it.  (someday I'll learn how to put photos up, I lost the post that someone told me how to do it and so it's late at night and I'll just write about it now without photos.).............ha, that was a long sentence, sorry. Okay, soooooooo I found this kit type of dulcimer ($50.00) that must have been made in the 70's, but it looked pretty good and played sorta in tune and I knew I could fix it. no name or date and the carving for the sound hole was not so good. I covered it up with an abalone heart and made another sound hole that I used to make for my bowed psalteries. It looked good. yep, had a fixed bridge and WAS NOT IN TUNE....so put a piece of wood in that slot, sanded it down and made my own floating bridge.  That slot was wayyyyyyyyy off.  It might have been in tune when first made, but time and air and other factors change wood.  I LOVE A FLOATING BRIDGE....and it's sooooooo easy to tune it.  I use these "fix up dulcimers" for loaners as some of the folks that live in Nauvoo, Illinois are missionaries and are only here for one year or two.  Follow the video above and that's the way to tune just right.  For the builders out there, you don't KNOW where your dulcimers age going to live....wet, dry, humid or whatever.......but all wood moves and it's a blessing to the owner of a dulcimer to be able to tune it with the movable bridge down the road of wood and instruments moving.  aloha, irene

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,836 posts

I buy 12 packs of bulk strings from www.juststrings.com for $3.62 per package.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,455 posts

One lesson here, Dana, is to have extra strings on hand.  Just splurge and buy a dozen each loop end strings for each of your three strings.  Then you won't have to fight a ball end string anytime in the foreseeable future.whew




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 11/01/16 06:04:07PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
5 years ago
139 posts

Well, I finally got that gosh-darn ball to give up the ghost. I first squeezed on it with some jewelry pliars. It was tougher than all get out. Then, I used two hands, squeezed my eyes shut and made a face and it still wouldn't squoosh!  

THEN, I went out to my husband's hefty man pliars (heh, heh, I'll show YOU) and gave a hard squeeze (face, mouth, eyes...all engaged). Do you know that little booger wouldn't budge!?

I then decided I was pulling out all the stops and threw some weight into it and finally, FINALLY it dented, I worked another five minutes and it finally succumbed. Seriously, somebody needs to put NASA in touch with this particular string maker.

That done, I spent the next 15 sweaty minutes, tuning. ding, ding, ding, ding, ding  DING...DING...DING...I have a B!!!  Honestly, it it just me?? blush   The bridge was NO problem. It was tuned beautifully open and also on the 7 fret. The subtle smudge was enough of a guideline.

My least favorite part of owning a stringed instrument. Finally got the thing to DAD and after playing four songs, said, "Nah, CGC", and down it went. 

 


updated by @d-chitwood: 11/01/16 05:19:31PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,836 posts

You might be able to just put the tip of the string through the hole in the brass and pull it up like a lasso.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,455 posts

D. Chitwood:

Well, the GOOD news is that there appears to be a remnant of some sort of 'stuff' on the wood. I can clearly see where it was. I'll start from there but for now, only have bass strings with that darn little brass nut and I've gone and forgotten how to remove it. Twisting the wire is not helping at all.

 

I think what you mean is that you have a ball end string but you need a loop end string.  If so, gently squeexe the ball with some pliers. Once it has lost its shape it should be easy to remove it, leaving you with a ball end string!

If you have a mark on the wood where the bridge was, you are in good shape. Start there and just fine tune things the way Pristine2 suggests in the video I link to above.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 11/01/16 02:24:44PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
5 years ago
139 posts

Well, the GOOD news is that there appears to be a remnant of some sort of 'stuff' on the wood. I can clearly see where it was. I'll start from there but for now, only have bass strings with that darn little brass nut and I've gone and forgotten how to remove it. Twisting the wire is not helping at all. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,455 posts

Yes, Blue Lions have floating bridges unless you request otherwise when you place your order.

It's really not that hard to position the bridge, but it does take some practice.  Pristine2 has posted a demo of how to do it.  Start by putting the bridge where you think it should go.  Then tune the middle string and check it at the 7th fret.  That should be one octave.  If it's off, you have to move the bridge.  Keep adjusting the bridge, retuning the string, and checking at the octave until the middle string is correct.  Once the middle string is correct, you will adjust the bridge by making it slightly slanted, pointing to the north-east, like a slash on your keyboard.  Start working on your bass and melody strings the same way you did with the middle string. Keep in mind that now when you adjust the bridge, you want the middle to stay where it is; you are only adjusting the slant.  Perhaps this is better understood in Pristine2's video.

Once you've found the spot for the bridge, you might want to make small pencil marks there to help yourself out the next time you have to do this.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
5 years ago
244 posts

There is probably a mark or faint indentation  somewhere where the bridge sat. Hey it could be worse. Imagine a fiddle where the bridge and bridge post falls away. Resetting intonation is real easy don't worry... Robert.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,836 posts

D..D..D..D....  How many times have we told people never take of all the strings at once? dismay    I'll bet you dusted the fretboard as soon as that last string was off, too  -- didn't you? doh   Instantly removing almost all hope that there was a mark where the bridge had been.... tmi   Now yer gonna haft do things the hard way.

One thing that might work would be to call Blue Lion and humbly beg them, on bended knee, sniffcry  to tell you how far it is between the inside edge of the nut and the inside edge of the bridge -- in millimeters would be best -- not many measuring sticks are marked in 10th of an inch.  Then get out your millimeter stick and measure down the distance twice -- once on each side -- and draw a line between them with a pencil.

Then, just to check how accurately you measured the first time, measure the distance from the inside edge of the nut to the top of the 7th fret.  Now go exactly that far from the top edge of the 7th fret towards the virtual bridge.  Hopefully the two measurement lines will be really, really close.  Set the inside edge of the bridge at the line Blue Lion told you and start stringing -- Bass and outer Melody strings.  With your tuner on, play a scale on both strings and check their accuracy against the tuner.  If both strings both look and sound good,  then add the inner two strings and tighten them.

I believe all Blue Lions have floating bridges.

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
5 years ago
139 posts

Well, I'm bringing up this old thread. Today, I put on my big girl britches and sat down to restring my blue lion. Without knowing the bridge was floating, I decided to start with a nekkid dulcimer, and removed all the strings. Off goes the bridge!  Rut-Ro.  think

So now, it's bad enough I suffer from string-changing-smack-me-in-the-face-phobia, but now....I've got a bridge in my hand saying,"Whatcha gonna do now girlie?!"

Do all blue lions have this? 

 

sanstew
@sanstew
5 years ago
0 posts

I knew when I purchased my Modern Mountain dulcimer that it had a floating bridge. Did not bother me until it got bumped and skewed. Then I went into panic mode. However, I discovered that it was not really a big deal. I had marked where it needed to go and although I was very tempted to have it glued down, my good friend Paul Sykes, who also leads the dulcimer group I play with, encouraged me not to because having it float made for a dulcimer with more tuning options. Now I never even think about the bridge. 

marg
@marg
5 years ago
538 posts

ken,

For What It's Worth....  millimeter

Thanks, sorry I don't know all the short cuts for text. Millimeter, wow - you are right, such a small amount. Not sure I could go such a short distance, could end up making things worst.  

Think will more back to my mark I made, try first the john's chime sound and the video posted than leave things be. I will have enough with the pegs for awhile but do want to learn this, just so I will know.

;)

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,836 posts

For What It's Worth....  Yes, we're talking moveing the bridge on the order of a millimeter forward at the melody side or back on the bass side.  Such fiddly littl bit, which is why I mostly just leave things alone.


updated by @ken-hulme: 01/19/16 10:48:30PM
marg
@marg
5 years ago
538 posts

ken,

What is FWlW?

1/8" isn't very far, we are talking very slight adjustments?

Everyones explanations have been great but I wish someone was sitting next to me while I do this. Until I change the strings and get the pegs to set, much less adjusting the bridge - I am a bit hesitant but like Lexie, when I do it, it will be another great step I am taking with the dulcimer.

Yes, john great explanation.

thanks all


updated by @marg: 01/19/16 09:42:32PM
David Pedersen
David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
5 years ago
32 posts

Thank you for that detailed explanation. Now I understand.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 years ago
1,836 posts

First thing would have been to mark a pencil line on the fretboard to show the position that Warren placed the bridge in... then go messing about.  That gives you a baseline (all puns inteneded) to go back to when you go too far.  How far is too far.  FWIW 1/8" back on the bass side is probably too far, as is 1/8" on the melody side.

Personally, over time I've found that messing about with intonation wasn't worth the effort, as I really could not heard any difference.  Dulcimers weren't intonated until into the late 1960s or early 70s.  Straight across was good enough for the original builders.  If your ears are particularly sensitive, though, it probably is worthwhile.

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
5 years ago
120 posts

marg:  john, if I would go to far and can't get it in tune, do I just go back the other way? How do you know you need to still go a bit more in one direction before going back the other way? But this is only if I am in tune to start and new to pegs, can't say I'm right on but just close.

Marg, here's the trick to putting the bridge in the right spot. First, tune the melody string up to pitch. Close is OK. Next, with a left-hand finger, touch the string lightly directly over the seventh fret. Play the string and take the finger away quickly. You should get a "chime" sound, called a harmonic. It may take a little practice to get that chime every time. But be sure you are over the fret and not over the fingerboard between the frets. The chime won't work.

Now press the string down normally at the seventh fret and play the string. That note should be the same pitch as the chime. If the fretted note is higher than the chime, slide the bridge back towards the end where the strings are attached. Then check the chime and fretted note again. If the fretted note is lower than the chime, slide the bridge forward towards the fretboard a little and check the two again. You may or may not have to loosen the string(s) to slide the bridge. When the chime and fretted note match, the bridge is in the right place. 

If you are fretting the low string when you play, you may have to adjust the bridge so the low string is in tune, too. After you have the melody string set, check the low string with the chime and the string fretted at the seventh fret. If the fretted note is high, slant the bridge some towards the end where the strings are fastened. You don't want to move the end where the melody string is, just where the low string is. 

If you look carefully at a steel-string guitar, you'll see the bridge saddle where the strings sit is slanted. If the "crooked" appearence bothers you, have a guitar or string repair person reshape your bridge or make a new intonated bridge for you. 

I hope I explained this clearly and that it helps.

robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
5 years ago
244 posts

You can set the bridge at an angle too. Usually angle it toward the nut on the high d and towards the tailpiece on the low D. Once you get it set it should work in any tuning. Robert...

marg
@marg
5 years ago
538 posts

Well thank you Dusty for posting Pristine2's video. I had gone looking for it and couldn't find it on his site. 

john, if I would go to far and can't get it in tune, do I just go back the other way? How do you know you need to still go a bit more in one direction before going back the other way? But this is only if I am in tune to start and new to pegs, can't say I'm right on but just close.

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
5 years ago
120 posts

marg:

QUESTION: How far back or forward can you go? Can you ever go so far back, it's too far?

Too far in either direction will simply put it out of tune again. There's no significant risk of any damage, though. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 years ago
1,455 posts

For the record, the video I posted above is not by me but by FOTMD member Pristine2.  Some stuff I deserve credit for, but not that.wasntme




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
marg
@marg
5 years ago
538 posts

The Warren May '81 short 'groundhog' dulcimer I just picked up in KY has a floating bridge. I was worried about having pegs for the first time and didn't even know it had a movable bridge till today. Up till watching Dusty's video I was thinking I wouldn't touch it but knew Warren probably set up the dulcimer to DAA so having it tuned to DAd thought I would follow the video's guide. I got things close after a few small adjustments.

QUESTION: How far back or forward can you go? Can you ever go so far back, it's too far?


updated by @marg: 01/19/16 09:59:26PM
Joe Robison
Joe Robison
@joe-robison
6 years ago
25 posts

I like the video on floating bridges.  It validates what I have learned having made eighty some dulcimers.  I started making them with fixed bridges until I discovered the advantages of the movable bridge.  Now I make all with movable.  So as to not lose sight of bridge placement, I cut a slot with a fretsaw exactly where the unison string point is and tap the base end toward the tailpiece until it is in tune.  If the bridge comes loose when changing strings, I just line up the high point on the bridge with the sawcut and tap the other end until the base string is in tune.  Works for me.  To another point, I do not cut notches in my bridges.  I use the hardest wood I can find and the strings will mark where they go by pressing slightly into the wood.

Jane Williams
Jane Williams
@jane-williams
6 years ago
4 posts

really clear, really helpful - thanks!

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Thanks for your help Ken, to let you all know I took all the strings off, but replaced them one at a time, I began with bass, then outer melody so the bridge would be held in place on either side, then I added the other melody and middle string.

It all worked out and I mark it to something wonderful about this dulcimer, new to learn and I will get used to it. 

Thanks to all who helped me work it out, it is terrific that it helped others also. That's what we are hear for.sun

Monica
Monica
@monica
6 years ago
64 posts

Thanks Ken.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,836 posts

I do the same -- use a knife to cut a thin line on either side of the bridge.  Biggest thing to remember is never take all the strings off at once.  Replace them one string at a time and you won't lose the bridge or mess up the intonation.

Monica
Monica
@monica
6 years ago
64 posts

robert schuler:
Monica, if it sounds and plays great. I would mark the bridge with a knife edge... Best of luck with your new dulcimer... Robert.

Haha..a knife !!

 

Thank you

robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
6 years ago
244 posts

Monica, if it sounds and plays great. I would mark the bridge with a knife edge... Best of luck with your new dulcimer... Robert.

Monica
Monica
@monica
6 years ago
64 posts

robert schuler:
Monica. I inlay a wood stripe where the bridge is centered, so the owner can always start off right. I'm sure your dulcimer has something similar... Robert.

It is a blue lion..the store clerk recommended that i mark the spot with a pencil...I guess i will find out in a couple of days,hasn't shipped yet

robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
6 years ago
244 posts

Monica. I inlay a wood stripe where the bridge is centered, so the owner can always start off right. I'm sure your dulcimer has something similar... Robert.

Monica
Monica
@monica
6 years ago
64 posts

Dusty Turtle:
Here is the video Dan refers to above: [jrEmbed module="jrYouTube" youtube_id="5chZvlP0fNE"]

Thanks for posting the video Dusty..I am a bit nervous about the floating bridge, though I am sure it won't be half as complicated as I imagine..or that I might lost it!!

robert schuler
robert schuler
@robert-schuler
6 years ago
244 posts

Some folks thought it too complicated to adjust the bridge, so now I  only use fixed bridges unless requested movable. I cut a 5/16" saddle slot and install a 5/16" rosewood bridge. Then I have 5/32" north or south to carve in compensation if any is needed. The bridge is still removable so it can be changed out or raised for N/D playing... Robert.

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Thanks I really don't intend on glueing my bridge down, just will learn about it.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,836 posts

Depends on how and with what he glued that bridge down; you might be able to un-glue it.  Slack the strings -- all of them.  Run your hairdryer on high at the junction of the bridgeand the fretboard (both sides), to warm things up and hopefully soften the glue.  Use a short length of 1/4" or 3/8" dowel or other stick (as a punch) and a hammer, and tap on the end of the bridge (not on the front or back).  A good sharp RAP will probably knock it loose without hurting anything.

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Hi! Actually, I'm not suggesting it...haha, just mentioning that one who sees an unglued bridge, may think it was in error. Now I have a glued in bridge when it was intended to be a floating bridge. 


updated by @d-chitwood: 07/31/15 11:46:14AM
Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Hi D-Chitwood, I think I am going to learn about just having a floating bridge, when I know where I want it to tune and adjust it I think it will work fine and make the instrument flexable to maybe add heavier strings to change the sound. I am not ready to do anything crazy so I am keeping to similar strings for adjustment and tuning.

Thank you for the suggestion, gluing it down is one suggestion that I may consider some day.

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

I have a 35 year old handmade tear drop that I undusted and took to a guitar center for strings, when I first became interested in learning to play. The guitar center guy didn't have dulimer strings and just measured mine and replaced them with similar size strings. As he was working with it, he said, "Well looky here, the bridge isn't glued in place! I can fix that!" and he glued it down. Ah, to have known. 

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
6 years ago
120 posts

One of the advantages of a floating bridge is for the maker. He or she simply sets the bridge on the fingerboard, strings up and tunes, then slides the bridge forward or back to set the intonation. The two disadvantages are the bridge can be knocked out of position and perhaps the transfer of energy from the strings to the instrument isn't as good. A fixed bridge, usually set in a slot in the fingerboard, isn't going anyplace. And it is firmly attached to the instrument. But the maker has to have the measurements right for proper intonation and resetting intonation for a new string gauge is a major job. 

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Hey Patty, Dan, Prestine 2, Dusty and Bob R.; I knew ya'll would come through for me and help me lean about my new discovery of a floating bridge on my Robert Schuler dulcimer.....You guys are the  Best! beerworthy

Well Robert Schuler has a saw marking where he placed the bridge that I can use, I am happy you offered me the video, thanks Dusty. Robert told me to loosen the strings when adjusting the bridge, but will see how this works when I tune and may use Prestine2's suggestions also.

I now have a clear picture why people use a floating bridge, mine is unnotched, but with it I can be flexable about using different gaged strings if I want and experiment some with it.

I will be puting on 0.18 for bass and middle strings and 0.11 for the melody strings and see how I like this. I will let you all know how I like this and how I do with adjusting and all....Thanks to all you great Friends for your suggestions and help.dancecool

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,455 posts

Here is the video Dan refers to above:




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Bob Reinsel
Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
6 years ago
81 posts

Lexie, floating bridges can be either notched or un-notched.  The important thing about them is that they can be moved.  It is also the tricky thing about them. 

The primary advantage of a floating bridge is that it can be moved, the primary disadvantage of a floating bridge is that it can be moved. Laugh

To compensate for intonation issues on the instrument you can slide a floating  bridge a little closer to or farther from the nut. If, for example, you install a different guage of strings, you might need to adjust the bridge, or you might not. It can also be used to compensate for a high action. Sometimes you will see them angled across the strings to compensate for intonation differences between the melody and bass strings.

A fixed bridge requires slightly (very slightly) more precision on the part of the builder, but it is often easier on the player, because she doesn't have to worry about getting the bridge misaligned and throwing the instrument out of tune.  This is especially true of an instrument built with a low action.

Once I get a floating bridge set where I like it I mark the location with a pencil line at the base.  That way I can reset it in close to the same spot if I need to.




--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake

updated by @bob-reinsel: 07/28/15 09:26:50PM
Patty from Virginia
Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
6 years ago
233 posts

Thanks for the comment (avatar). Lisa helped me with that. When I change strings on Big Red I plan on replacing them one at a time to keep the bridge in place. I like the gauge strings it has so I'm not planning on doing any big changes. Also, I believe that one can only go so far with string guage sizes because of vsl. I understand Big Red was a baritone but I plan to keep it the way it is because I like the sound.  I know some who inquired about changing to a baritone with their current duclimers but I would ask a builder first as to possible modifications needed. 

Dan Goad
Dan Goad
@dan-goad
6 years ago
156 posts

Lexie, I have several dulcimers with floating bridges.  You should watch Pristine2's video on how to adjust the fb for more accurate tuning.  I checked, it transferred here from the old site.

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Nice picture (Avitar) of you Patty. Thanks for the information about your floating bridge.

I was surprised when changing my strings, that my bridge came off. It is kinda trinangular shaped made of wood and has a saw mark where it is to sit that I need to line it up before I tighten strings. The Dulcimer was made by Robert Schuler and he also told me that I can use heavier strings and adjust the bridge to get the sound I want or to change my tunings.

Apparently, the floating bridge makes my dulcimer more versitile.

Patty from Virginia
Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
6 years ago
233 posts

Lexie, Big Red, which I purchased from Dan Cox, has a floating bridge. It is notched (picture embedded) but it's a floater. I'm guessing the floating bridge helps in getting the notes just right on each fret up the scale. I could be wrong but that's my guess. I'm sure Dan and all those wonderful dulcimer builders/makers can give you a better answer that I can. I'm sure those experienced dulcimer players can too.

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

What is the purpose of floating bridges?

Are floating bridges notched or not?

I would just like to have knowledgable people tell me all they know about having floating bridges, the advantages or disadvantages of having them.

Thanks for all your help.


updated by @lexie-r-oakley: 07/09/18 10:19:54PM