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Thread: Break angle question

  1. #1
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    Default Break angle question

    I had the opportunity recently for a professional ukulele player to spend some time with one of my instruments. He was quite complimentary, but suggested that I might want to consider reducing the break angle at the bridge for better playability.

    What do you consider to be the optimal break angle, and how does increasing it or decreasing it affect tone and playability?

  2. #2
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    Hmmm...The greater the string angle over the saddle, the more downward pressure is exerted on the bridge which usually results in more volume. Could he have been talking about lowering the saddle, which would decrease the break angle over it but improve playability with the resulting lowered action? If action is not an issue, a saddle that is too tall can lean and cause intonation problems, but more seriously it can cause top deformation (or even bridge failure) due to the lever/fulcrum principle. A saddle that is seriously low can cause a loss of volume (as well as having run out of room for any further action-lowering possibilities.)
    Chuck Moore
    Moore Bettah Ukuleles
    http://www.moorebettahukes.com

  3. #3
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    Is it me? I never worry about stuff like this because these things just seem to turn out right on my instruments. OK so they are no ground breaking designs or anything but it has never been a problem.

  4. #4
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    Default

    I'm left wondering what he's actually referring to as well. Is the action a bit too high for easy playability? Then reducing the saddle hight would reduce the break angle, but that is an odd way of saying that the action is a bit high.

    With the action being set in an acceptable range, changing break angle over the saddle from a shallow one to a steep one by modifying the bridge design has an effect on how the instrument sounds, but as far as playability goes I'm pretty skeptical on that point.
    Allen R. McFarlen
    Cairns, Australia

    Email allen@brguitars.com
    Website Barron River Guitars & Ukuleles

  5. #5
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    Default

    Maybe he's saying different bridge styles have different break angles...

  6. #6
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    Ummm,

    Break angle will affect the pressure vector on the saddle, but not necessarily on the bridge itself. That is a torquing force and is related to the height of the top of the saddle above the top itself. So you're dealing with a couple of different effects: torque and pressure.

    Side note: We angle our saddle...and saddle slot...back about 7 degrees to get better down pressure on the saddle and to reduce the forward pressure on the front wall of the saddle slot. This does several things: it improves the strength of the bridge itself; it makes for better down pressure on an undersaddle pickup if installed, and it tends to automatically compensate for overall (global) string intonation...as you raise the action, the witness point moves "aft"; as you lower it, the witness point moves "forward". These shifts are appropriate to compensate for string stretch...or the lessening of it.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the replies. This player was remarking that he would prefer a stiffer feel to the strings, but not necessarily a lower action. He described the feel as "slightly mushy" and suggested that a less severe break angle might increase the tension. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me as I thought higher tension would produce a higher pitch. That's why I thought to ask here; it could just be a blind alley. The uke was strung with Aquila Nylguts, by the way, which also could be part of the equation.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mzuch View Post
    This player was remarking that he would prefer a stiffer feel to the strings, but not necessarily a lower action. He described the feel as "slightly mushy" and suggested that a less severe break angle might increase the tension. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me as I thought higher tension would produce a higher pitch. That's why I thought to ask here; it could just be a blind alley. The uke was strung with Aquila Nylguts, by the way, which also could be part of the equation.
    I wasn't really confused after Chuck responded. Now, I'm really confused. Higher tension would increase pitch only if you tune it up. Higher break angle will affect torque on the bridge, as already stated. Break angle is usually the result of action adjustments at the saddle, not the cause of it, for me anyway. If the strings are "mushy", get some higher tension strings. Clear as mud?

    For me, once I applied what Rick does with the 7 degree angle, I end up like Pete - no issues, especially when installing pickups. As Paul Okami once described my pickup installation, "Without incident."

    Aaron

  9. #9
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    /me jots this stuff down... 7 degrees it is then. I was also thinking he might enjoy a different brand of strings. It could also be that he likes to ride the bridge with the heel of his palm for technique and feels more comfortable with a lower saddle... I dunno...
    It's my understanding that about 45 degrees is an optimal break, would that change with a 7 degree angle of the saddle? I'm thinking it might change slightly?...
    Last edited by Vic D; 06-17-2011 at 10:00 PM.

  10. #10
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    Break angle at either end of the string has NO effect on string tension, though it may affect string feel. This is the single most misunderstood factor in all of lutherie, and I've met an astounding number of luthiers who don't understand the relationships among string gauge, scale, and pitch.

    If he wants higher tension then he needs a longer scale length for a given string gauge and type.

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