Multiscale bridges

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Dave M
Blackwood
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Multiscale bridges

Post by Dave M » Fri Oct 19, 2018 2:46 am

I was watching a couple of players on multiscale guitars recently (one of whom was Tony Mcmanus - great player if you don't know him) and the builders had just tilted a standard bridge round. I thought this really didn't look very good. And of course once you've seen it you can't help looking at it.

I don't suppose it matters structurally but there ought be better ways to shape them. I seem to remember you doing something more elegant Martin, on your epic build a while back...?
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Mark McLean
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Re: Multiscale bridges

Post by Mark McLean » Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:24 am

Good topic Dave.
I am working through a multiscate build at the moment and wrestling with the same problem.
Our human brains are very attuned to the appearance of symmetry, and our notions of beauty versus "doesn't look right" are really hung up on this attribute. For example, when humans rank the subjective beauty of a group of photos of human faces - the ranking is highly correlated to the degree of symmetry in the features of each face.

The bridge of a multiscale instrument will always defy our conditioned expectation of symmetry. I think the challenge is to make it look planned and part of the overall layout. Here are two approaches to solving the problem - the top one is a Lowden, the bottom one is from Michael Bashkin (whose work is always very elegant).
lowden-fanfret-02__large.jpg
bashkin.jpg
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The Lowden design tries to keep a sense of symmetry - but the price is that it is massive, which is a different type of ugly. I played one of these recently and just couldn't like the look of the bridge, although I did like everything else about the guitar. The Bashkin one "goes with the flow" and uses an asymmetrical bridge shape to help us get over the fact that it is not perpendicular to the midline. I think the fact that the Bashkin guitar has a cutaway also helps because it further breaks down the symmetry. I recall Martin's fan-fret which you alluded to had a bridge design a bit like the Bashkin one. IMHO this is the most elegant way to pull this off, but I will be interested to hear other's views. Many ways to achieve the same result, but interesting differences in the eye (and brain) of the beholder.

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Mark McLean
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Re: Multiscale bridges

Post by Mark McLean » Fri Oct 19, 2018 3:02 pm

Thinking about this a bit more I realized another reason why Lowden probably do that shape for their multiscale bridge - it keeps the bridge wings in the usual location so that there is no change in the relationship of the bridge wings to the underlying braces. Martin showed us in his build that he altered the layout of his falcate braces to accommodate for the fact that the bridge wing on one side is at a different point on the soundboard, compared to the other one. When I had that Lowden in my hands I didn't think to check out the bracing, but my bet is that it is identical to a standard Lowden of the same size. But sloping the bridge, like in the Bashkin guitar, means you need to move the bracing around too. That is not hard to do for a hand-building luthier but a factory operation like Lowden would proably prefer to keep things standardized.

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kiwigeo
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Re: Multiscale bridges

Post by kiwigeo » Fri Oct 19, 2018 6:16 pm

Dave M wrote:
Fri Oct 19, 2018 2:46 am

I don't suppose it matters structurally but there ought be better ways to shape them. I seem to remember you doing something more elegant Martin, on your epic build a while back...?
I agonized for weeks on the bridge design for the multiscale Gore OM I built for Kym, another of our members. In the end the shape of the headstock dictated the bridge design to a large degree.
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Martin

Jim
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Re: Multiscale bridges

Post by Jim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:05 pm

I've got a multiscale on the go too, and have been going through the same bridge dilemmas as you. And ended with virtually the same result- a Michael Bashkin inspired look. I haven't made it the bridge yet but the box is together. The fan I'm going with isn't that drastic (654.05 -Treble 635) and it's an x braced 12 fretter so the only adjustments I made to the bracing were to slant the bridge plate to adjust for saddle position. Whether this proves to be an error remains to be seen! Good luck with yours- post photos.
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Jim

Dave M
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Re: Multiscale bridges

Post by Dave M » Sat Oct 20, 2018 7:22 am

Mark I agree that the Lowden looks huge. As a builder I would also be concerned about the large mass. I think the point about the cutaway is also important since we have already broken the symmetry and that can be used to suggest a bridge shape. Martin's point about the headstock is also right in that we have to look at the design overall - each component feeds into the whole. It gets really quite hard with this great slant on the multiscale.

Of course these things are true for any guitar.
I have decided as an amateur builder to stay with a 12 fret neck join. This means that I have to do cutaways. These can look really bad if not done well. For my eyes there seems to be a height of the 'horn' in relation to the top of the guitar that if too low just doesn't work. But shape is everything.

As usual Trevor seems to get this aesthetic just right, but when trying to develop his shape ideas for your own builds it doesn't always work so well.
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