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Thread: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

  1. #1

    Default Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Hey guys, I am looking for opinions here on using a Brekke Bridge vs a Traditional Loar style bridge.

    I purchased a Weber Bitterroot a little over a year ago, and it came with a Brekke bridge installed. It's an older Bruce Weber signed model (2006 if I remember correctly). I love how complex the sound is, and how much character it has musically, but I've always felt like it lacks volume, and tonally it sounds a bit muted to my ear.

    Like it has the potential to be incredible, but something is holding it back. So my question is: will swapping the bridge add volume? And how will a different bridge affect the overall tone of the mandolin?

    I know that every instrument is different, so we are talking in generalities here. I'd just like to get some input before I go to the time and trouble of swapping the bridge.

    I should probably also mention that I have tried different strings, but I haven't found anything that sounded drastically better so I'm currently using the standard EJ74's.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    i personally found a tonegard made all the difference in my volume - and tone. but not on all my mandolins. Lucky it was the one that was too trebly that it benefitted most
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I am pretty sure there are detailed discussions on exactly your question in older threads. But my thoughts, having had instruments with both models of the Brekke bridge (and various others too).

    I believe that the older Brekke model may dampen the tone a bit in at least some mandolins. I am pretty sure others feel the same way. Some folks even prefer that tone, but it does appear to be something that various people have observed. The newer Brekke bridge has not produced similar observations, at least not that I am aware of. The newer design looks very similar to the familiar Gibson-style adjustable bridge; the older design does not have thumbwheels - it needs a long allen wrench to adjust the wedges that raise and lower the saddle.

    Verne Brekke is a member here and maybe he will chime in, as well as others with experience with Brekke's designs.

    I personally like the newer design Brekke bridge.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I would talk to Steve at Cumberland Acoustic......https://cumberlandacoustic.com/product/mandolin-bridge/

    His bridges are very high quality and many people here use them. I have put them on all the mandolins I have had (past and present) with good results.

    It is very important to make sure you get a good fit of the base to the top of the mandolin.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  6. #5
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Brekke's traditional has a metal spine..

    to be louder, pick harder.. or use a Mic.
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  8. #6
    Registered User Eldon Dennis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Here's my experience:

    I tried an original style Brekke bridge on my 1992 Flatiron F5 Master model and was very disappointed with the sound. To my ears it really muted the volume and reduced the clarity of the E and A strings. My Weber A style Fern came with a Brekke bridge with the metal bar and it was plenty loud but rather harsh sounding. I had a Cumberland Loar style bridge installed and I still had the volume and clarity on the E and A strings but it was also a bit warmer and open sounding. I don't regret trying the different bridges as I now know the difference and can stop wondering "what if".
    1992 Flatiron F5 Master model
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  10. #7

    Smile Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I once sold an F5 Mandolin and years later bought it back after the owner had died. Initially I was so disappointed in the loss of volume and then I realised he had put on a Brekke bridge. This was due to him seeing a Brekke bridge on an old F4 I had at the time. As soon as I put on a normal quality traditional style bridge on that F5, the mandolin came alive again.

    I thought the Brekke was a great design but just too thick. Perhaps drilling a few holes through it to lighten it may well be worth considering, providing it is done with care and not affecting stability.

    I have also found that when trying to analise all the reasons why my BNorthfield Big Mon sounds so fantastic, I realised that the bridge on it has just a tiny gap underneath about 15mm wide x 1.5mm high. i.e. Nearly all of the base is sitting on top of the mandolin and the bridge is a PERFECT FIT. So I now feel that as far as bridges go, that would be the style I reckon is best. Just how I feel about bridges.

    Hope this helps.

  11. #8

    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldon Dennis View Post
    Here's my experience:

    I tried an original style Brekke bridge on my 1992 Flatiron F5 Master model and was very disappointed with the sound. To my ears it really muted the volume and reduced the clarity of the E and A strings.
    This is exactly what I am experiencing on my mandolin. I feel like it sounds muted, and especially the high E string on mine seems to lack clarity and definition.

    I actually did some sanding on the Brekke to make sure that it is perfectly mated to the top, and it seems to be as close as I could ever hope for. I improved the fit a little, the ends had gaps before I adjusted it, but it didn't improve the tone like I had hoped it would.

    I think I'm going to go ahead and get a traditional style bridge (Probably from Cumberland Acoustics) and see how it sounds with that.

    Thanks for all of the advice everyone! I really appreciate it!

  12. #9
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    It is easy enough to get the original Brekke bridge to have more volume and zing in the treble. Just drill some holes in the saddle. I have been doing just that since 2003 with great success. The latest version Vern Brekke is making does sound better than the older version IMHO. Vern can do the modification to the saddle for you if you order a new bridge. See - http://petercoombe.com/publications/jaamim4.htm
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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    Registered User Mike Romkey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Me, I'd try a Cumberland. It's kinda the go-to option for a reason.
    '20 Ellis A5 Tradition, '09 Gilchrist Model 1, “July 9” Red Diamond F-5, '12 Duff F-5, '19 Collings MT2, ’24 A2-Z, ’24 F-2, '13 Collings mandola, '82 D-35, Gibson Keb Mo. http://www.bucktownrevue.com

  14. #11

    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I'm no expert on Gibson mandolins, but didn't early A-models come with solid ebony bridges? Which brings up the question - has anyone here who has one made the swap to an adjustable bridge and noticed a big change in tone?

  15. #12
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    My '07 Weber Fern came with such a bridge that included a steel saddle with an ebony cap over it, concealing it. After several years I had it changed out for a Loar-style bridge by Roger Siminoff. Everything jumped way up - tone, volume, response, it was night and day.

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I have two mandolins with the metal bar Brekke bridges. They are both rich, loud, fully responsive, lush.
    If they get louder, that might not be desirable...
    Will I be blown away by a Cumberland...?
    I guess that’s the next rabbit hole for me to jump in!
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I get a bit confused on what is being referred to here - Brekke bridge (older, newer) vs. Weber traditional bridge. I purchased 3 of the pictured one below from Bruce Weber (it has the brass insert in the saddle) and had them fitted and installed by Skip Kelley on a 1984 Flatiron A-5, a 1998 Gilchrist Model 5 and a 2015 Gibson F-9. I couldn't be happier with them.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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  21. #15
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Hi AlanN,

    The confusion comes from the early years of Weber, Sound To Earth. For a period of time, they referred to all the bridge designs that I developed and they sold as "Brekke" bridges. That included the two-part bridges that were used on the flat instruments, the original "Brekke Bridge" that adjusted using wooden wedges and the "Traditional Brekke Bridge" that had the Loar bridge look but a brass bar under the saddle. After a few years, to make their branding more consistent, they changed their advertising for the "Traditional Brekke Bridge" to be the "Weber Traditional Bridge". So, the traditional bridge has been sold with both names and they are used somewhat interchangeably.

    Vern Brekke
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Vern, on the bridge pictured above, that design allows one to adjust the height of the saddle while up to tension, correct?
    Charley

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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Vern, on the bridge pictured above, that design allows one to adjust the height of the saddle while up to tension, correct?
    It does indeed. Tho I adjust all my bridges under tension and have for decades. If I fit the saddle really precise to the thumb wheel, I can raise it with just my fingers. I know I am not strong enough to strip the threads with my fingers, so I don't feel I am hurting anything. If on the pickguard side, where there is little room to grip the wheel, I make a tool that I carry in each case to slightly lift the saddle so the wheel turns easier. Never had a problem doing this in 30+ years.
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  25. #18
    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    JFMando;1793467] " Hey guys, I am looking for opinions here on using a Brekke Bridge vs a Traditional Loar style bridge.

    I purchased a Weber Bitterroot a little over a year ago, and it came with a Brekke bridge installed."

    JF, back in the day before i got my Heiden, I had a Bruce Weber Yellowstone varnish. I tried the Brekke, then the Weber traditional with the brass bar, and ultimately the Cumberland Acoustics bridge. The Cumberland gave me the best results and i thought was also aesthetically a better fit on the mandolin than the rather bulky "traditional".... I ended up with lots of volume and clarity. The base fit, by the way, is critically important.

  26. #19
    Registered User Dan Cole's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Quote Originally Posted by doc holiday View Post
    JFMando;1793467] " Hey guys, I am looking for opinions here on using a Brekke Bridge vs a Traditional Loar style bridge.

    I purchased a Weber Bitterroot a little over a year ago, and it came with a Brekke bridge installed."

    JF, back in the day before i got my Heiden, I had a Bruce Weber Yellowstone varnish. I tried the Brekke, then the Weber traditional with the brass bar, and ultimately the Cumberland Acoustics bridge. The Cumberland gave me the best results and i thought was also aesthetically a better fit on the mandolin than the rather bulky "traditional".... I ended up with lots of volume and clarity. The base fit, by the way, is critically important.
    My X-Braced Big Sky I bought new in 2002 came with a Brekke Bridge. I changed it up to the Traditional Brekke and then to a Cumberland Acoustic. I think the Cumberland made it into a canon far as volume. I love that mandolin. The Traditional Brekke is nice, but i prefer the Cumberland.
    Go Vandals!

  27. #20

    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Just to clarify, I have the "original Brekke Bridge". Mine has the 2 wooden wedges with the Allen screws that you use to adjust the bridge height. I do really love how easy it is to adjust that bridge, but I'm thinking it may not be the best fit for my taste sound wise on this particular mandolin.

    I'm ordering a CA bridge. I can't wait to get it fitted to see how my mandolin sounds with that. Everyone seems to agree that they love these CA bridges, so now I'm anxious to try one for myself!

  28. #21
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Thanks for the elucidation, Vern.

    What I like about the Weber trad one pictured above is its full-foot (no gap in middle), plus the low mass aspect.

    Like many things mandolin, bridge preference is a somewhat subjective matter.
    Last edited by AlanN; Nov-01-2020 at 1:44pm.

  29. #22
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I switched to a traditional Vern Brekke bridge on my gibson A after the thump wheel adjustable bridge snapped down on the top when I was adjusting the intonation and put a nasty ding in the top. I can't say I noticed any difference in the volume, but that may be due to my style of playing. I really like the effortless way it can be adjusted under full string tension. That is especially true on the couple of bouzouki's I have installed them on since they tend to need action adjustment with every season change.
    Thanks a lot
    Bob Schmidt

  30. #23
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I bought a 1999 Big Sky new. It was then, and to this day is about the best Weber I every played. It's outlasted a few other more expensive mandolin, and it's still my #1. As good as it was with the original Brekke bridge, I was curious when they introduced the Traditional Bridge. When Bruce was the Guest of the Month on here (or was it week?) I asked him a question about the then new bridge. He generously offered to send me one, or install it for me if I shipped the mandolin. I'm fairly handy, so I had them send the bridge. I fitted it to the mandolin and it took a strong mandolin up a notch. Seemed to add both a bit more volume and clarity without making the tone harsh. It's still on the mandolin today.
    Todd Yates

  31. #24
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    Depending upon who you talk to....changing any of the fittings can have a strong change to the instrument, or you could cover the entire top with recycled brocks and they won't hear any difference...the "whole lotta' nuthin" crowd....

    I've installed hundreds of bridges, including the above mentioned. My take is that the Cumberland Acoustics along with traditional fittings like a basic stamped steel tailpiece will get you the closest to a traditional Gibson sound on a well executed mandolin. Those are the base model that offer on most of my mandolins and then they go into custom territory that I make for the specific instrument for more options.

    The older Brekke with wedges and cast tailpieces will get you the more modern sound that is well represented in the 1000s of Webers that are well liked by many here. The newer Brekke with adjusters fall in the middle. None of them will work the same on every mandolin, but it is great to be able to have several different models so we can all fine tune our individual preferences.

    They are all very affordable, so it is nice to be able to spend a few $$ experimenting and know that even if it does not work out for your needs, you can usually recoup all of your $$$ and pass it on to another cafe member in the classifieds. 'Much easier to obsess about $50 bridges and fittings than about needing a new mandolin every month!

  32. #25
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    Default Re: Brekke vs Traditional Bridge

    I’ll throw in my two cents worth here. I have two Weber’s, an A style Bitterroot and an F style Bitterroot. The A style is fitted with the original Brekke bridge, the one with the wood wedges. The F style is fitted with the traditional Brekke bridge, the one that looks more like a normal bridge but has the metal bar across the saddle and is adjusted with the tiny open end wrench. The two mandolins sound quite different. The A style to my ears has more “thunk”, you really hear the wood. The F style sounds more “chimey” and modern. They both sound good, but if push comes to shove I prefer the sound of the A. How much of that is attributed to the bridge is impossible to tell. Too many other variables at work. That said, I do like the idea that the original Brekke bridge has nothing but wood contact from the strings to the top. I really think that has something to do with the “woody” tone.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
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