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Thread: Why do we tie the strings to the bridge on a ukulele?

  1. #1
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    Default Why do we tie the strings to the bridge on a ukulele?

    When we pluck a uke string, the vibration is transferred via the saddle and bridge to the soundboard which then vibrates and amplifies the sound.

    To make this process efficient, we try to make the soundboard and bridge as light as possible. However, this is compromised by the need of the soundboard to be capable of withstanding the forces exerted by the strings. Depending on the means of attaching the strings to the bridge, they either want to rip the bridge off the soundboard or else pull up under the bridge, in both cases distorting the top.

    If the strings were not attached to the bridge as in a mandolin, a violin, a dulcimer etc the soundboard on a uke could be so much lighter.

    Can anyone offer an explanation? Are there disadvantages acoustically of not fastening the strings to the bridge? Why is it that instruments such as the guitar, lute, uke normally attach the strings to the bridge unless an archtop is used, then a tailpiece comes into play?

  2. #2
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    The shallower string break angle afforded by a tail piece will cause less downward force applied to the saddle, so won't drive the top as well. Less of an issue with things like mandolins as they've got bags of string tension regardless. Ukes are low string tension instruments, probably need an arch top to get near to the requisite tension for decent transference. A lot of complaints about arch top ukes are around soft sound and poor volume regardless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pirate Jim View Post
    The shallower string break angle afforded by a tail piece will cause less downward force applied to the saddle, so won't drive the top as well. Less of an issue with things like mandolins as they've got bags of string tension regardless. Ukes are low string tension instruments, probably need an arch top to get near to the requisite tension for decent transference. A lot of complaints about arch top ukes are around soft sound and poor volume regardless.
    Thanks for that reply, although it's one that I expected. I use a classical guitar style tie on bridge. I could anchor the strings on the end of the box (no tail piece), feed them through the holes on this bridge and still have the same break angle as before ie same downward force at the saddle/bridge but there would be no force trying to pull off the bridge. So its the same question, why isnt this a common arrangement?

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    I've also wondered if a string-through design sounds different than a traditional tie-bar design. I haven't heard much difference after converting a tie-bar uke to string through (after the bridge ripped off), but that's just my ears. It seems that a string-through design will eliminate the stress that tries to rip the bridge off the top, but does it sound different?

    Some folks believe that anything behind the nut or saddle has no difference on tone or volume (string angles, methods of anchoring strings, etc). I'm not sure, but interesting questions.
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 05-19-2020 at 04:37 AM.
    John

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    As I understand it, with the strings attached at the bridge just behind the saddle, the string vibration causes a rocking/twisting motion of the bridge on the top. Whereas attatching further back, as with a mandolin or archtop guitar, causes an up and down, pumping action on the top. Each results in a different mode of vibration (dipolic in the case of ukes and acoustic guitars, vs monopolic on archtops). The dipole gets nicer overtones and mixture of frequencies that we associate with instruments with a round sound hole. Monopole accentuates the fundamental frequency more and punchy mid range sound more suited to f-hole instruments.

    At least that's my simplified interpretation.. I'm sure there is much more to it.

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    I did string through once with the idea that it doesn't put as much pressure on the bridge and that it might even put more downforce on the saddle. I did a tailpiece only for the look on a mandolele. I also used beads instead of tie. In every case, I don't hear any difference.


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    Last edited by kohanmike; 05-19-2020 at 10:28 AM.

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    [QUOTE=kohanmike;2227563]I've did string through once with the idea that it doesn't put as much pressure on the bridge and that it might even put more downforce on the saddle. I did a tailpiece only for the look on a mandolele. I also used beads instead of tie. In every case, I don't hear any difference.

    Thanks for your reply. However you didnt design the soundboard with lighter bracing specifically for this arrangement. If you had maybe there would have been a noticeable difference. Thats the root of my question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hoji View Post
    As I understand it, with the strings attached at the bridge just behind the saddle, the string vibration causes a rocking/twisting motion of the bridge on the top. Whereas attatching further back, as with a mandolin or archtop guitar, causes an up and down, pumping action on the top. Each results in a different mode of vibration (dipolic in the case of ukes and acoustic guitars, vs monopolic on archtops). The dipole gets nicer overtones and mixture of frequencies that we associate with instruments with a round sound hole. Monopole accentuates the fundamental frequency more and punchy mid range sound more suited to f-hole instruments.

    At least that's my simplified interpretation.. I'm sure there is much more to it.
    Thanks for that! This is the sort of answer I am seeking. Can anyone expand on this?

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    I use a string through bridge for the reasons you say-
    They are better in every way (technically) - The worst place to put all the tension on a bridge is right at the back. Sure there isn't much tension on a uke but uke bridges still pull up/off. The other "best" technical way is to use bridge pins, like on a steel string guitar.

    My string through bridges have a permanent gem stone (which is what the store calls them) glued on the inside, which is just like using a bead, but it can't be lost.

    Making a traditional tie bridge is far easier (just two rips on the table saw and 4 holes)-


  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beau Hannam Ukuleles View Post
    I use a string through bridge for the reasons you say-
    They are better in every way (technically) - The worst place to put all the tension on a bridge is right at the back. Sure there isn't much tension on a uke but uke bridges still pull up/off. The other "best" technical way is to use bridge pins, like on a steel string guitar.

    My string through bridges have a permanent gem stone (which is what the store calls them) glued on the inside, which is just like using a bead, but it can't be lost.

    Making a traditional tie bridge is far easier (just two rips on the table saw and 4 holes)-

    Beau, you misunderstand what I am saying. I am asking why we don't attach the strings to the end of the box and then run them over the saddle/bridge so that the soundboard only takes the downward force and not the pull of the strings. I mention using a classical guitar type bridge only so that we still get the correct break angle (strings through but not tied to this): it was suggested that using a tail piece would mean an insufficient break angle.

    I mentioned mandolins, violins, etc where the strings arent tied to the bridge in any way. Not attaching the strings to the bridge would result in a soundboard which would be much lighter braced and therefore sound differently presumably.

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