Mandolin Bridges — Again!

Red HenryIf some of you are members of the Mandolin Cafe discussion site, you've seen that mandolin bridges have generated a couple of good discussions lately. One topic has to do with a subject of many experiments I've done, and that is mandolin bridge weight.

Most folks may never think much about the bridge that comes on their mandolin---it's only a bridge, right?---but finding the right bridge is possibly the easiest (and sometimes the cheapest) way to give your mandolin a big improvement in sound.

One well-proven possibility is to put a maple bridge on your mandolin. Maple bridges are easy to make, and the material is cheap. I also offer bridges that I make (check out my bridge page), but I recommend that you make your own, starting with designs that I've developed and going on to test your own ideas.

One of the most remarkable things about maple bridges is that they weigh so much less than conventional, two-piece ebony ones. For example, a maple bridge will typically weigh from 6 to 10 grams installed, and a two-piece ebony bridge might weigh from 13 to 22 grams! ---that's a lot of extra bridge-weight for the mandolin to try to overcome.

So how did I find this out? By making over a hundred experimental bridges. First, I tried to make lighter and lighter bridges. Here's a photo of Bridge #2:
Red Henry bridge #2

This bridge was fairly thin and weighed only 4/5 grams, which I soon found out was pushing the low end of the bridge-weight range. My next bridge, #3, was even thinner and lighter, coming in at about 4 grams:

Red Henry bridge #3

--and not only was the bridge thinner than the last one, but the sound was thinner too, with less volume as well. So now I had a lower limit on bridge weight. I made a much heavier bridge, almost 1/2" thick, and reduced the thickness gradually while playing it to see how the sound was changing. It turned out the best sound came into the bridge at about 10g., and then there was very little variation until the weight came down to 4g. or so. After another 15 or so bridges, experimenting with the design as well as the weight, I developed a standard model:

Red Bridge #18

This "winged" bridge was my standard for a couple of years. These have all weighed about 7g. to 10g. installed (on bluegrass mandolins), and their sound is very rich, clear, and consistent.

So that's how I found out the best weight for a mandolin bridge. Don't believe it? Try making one for yourself!

Posted in By Red, Mandolin Bridges and tagged , on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.

One thought on “Mandolin Bridges — Again!

  1. Steve (in Japan)

    Weight! I’m learning more about mandolin bridges than I’ve evah been destined to learn. Just recently Casey reminded that they’re availbale for purchase on your website. You keep writing about them and I’ll keep on reading. Let me tell you, even when you’re well in your mid 60’s there’s still that desire to learn more about the important things in life such as mandolin bridges. I’ll take your word for it, though, about the best weight. I don’t have the time to make one. I’ve got too much reading to catch up on.

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