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It appears that violin bridges are typically designed asymmetrically to support the lower strings at a greater height from the fingerboard, as shown in this photo:

Photo of violin showing bridge and relationship to fingerboard

At the end of the fingerboard the G string is more than 1/4" higher than the E string.

Why is this done?

The downside of strings being further elevated from the fingerboard is greater difficulty in stopping them, especially at higher notes.


I do have two guesses as to the answer:

  1. The lower strings have a greater motion of vibration, and so they have to be held further from the fingerboard to avoid hitting it as they vibrate. But at the nut end of the fingerboard the difference in elevation between G and E is marginal – less than 1/16" – so that doesn't seem to explain why the elevation at the bridge would have to be so much greater.

  2. The bridge is skewed towards the fingering hand to make it slightly easier to reach the lower strings. But this doesn't make much sense because the entire instrument can be canted to achieve the same effect, without the drawback mentioned above.

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    I would go with your first guess. – Jomiddnz Jan 28 at 20:32
  • I agreed with Jomiddnz, but then I wonder: why isn't is so noticeable on a guitar? The sizes are different, but then again cello seems to have spacing similar to violin. – Michael Curtis Jan 28 at 21:56
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The amplitude of the string vibration is rather irrelevant for playing with the bow, since the string vibrates parallel to the fingerboard not perpendicular to it.

There are two factors which make this bridge shape desirable:

  1. The tension in the highest string is typically about 60% or 70% higher than in the lowest string. If the strings were at equal height above the finger board, the force to stop them would be higher for the highest strings. Since the high E string is often thin wire compared with the other three strings, this would not make the instrument pleasant to play!

  2. The reduced curvature of the bridge for the low strings makes bowing those strings more comfortable, since the elbow does not have to be raised so high.

The design of a guitar is quite different. The string tensions are more nearly equal (depending on the gauge of the individual strings that are used, of course) and in fact the highest tension strings tend to be in the middle of the set, with lower tension for both the high and low strings. The curvature of the fretboard (or more pedantically, of the frets themselves) may change from one end of the board to the other, and the fretboard is also curved slightly along its length (typically, from the 12th fret to the top of the board) which changes the height of the strings above the frets as your move along the fretboard.

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