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Violin Bridge String Notches Missing?

My brother in law was given a violin. He knows nothing about the instrument so having been a student once I decided to tune it for him. In doing so I noticed that the bridge appeared to have no notches for proper placement of the strings. There were indentations where the strings themselves had made a slight imprint on the wood. I am looking for exact string placement on the bridge. I thought they came pre-notched.

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Response from Marie:

Congratulations to your brother-in-law!

It sounds like someone put a brand new bridge onto the violin without having it professionally fitted. If you look at the feet of the bridge, they may seem more straight than the curve of the violin where they rest.

I strongly encourage you to bring the instrument to a luthier (or music shop...they'll know where to find a violin luthier).

However, if the feet of the bridge seem to be ok, you can notch the top. The correct string spacing is 12mm apart, centered on the bridge itself. Don't remove the bridge entirely or completely slack the strings, since this may cause the sound post inside the instrument to fall. Lubricate the notches you create lightly with pencil graphite.

Have fun!

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