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  • Writer's picturemarcoosioliutaio

The Bassbar: the Sound Engine of Stringed Instruments

Its Importance in Luthiery and the Choice of the Right Wood


Directly from Cremona, the Italian city famous for its luthiery tradition, today I will talk about one of the most important parts in the construction of a quality stringed instrument: the bassbar. This thin strip of wood, positioned inside the instrument's soundboard, under the foot of the bridge, has the task of reinforcing the soundboard and distributing vibrations evenly over its entire surface.

The experience passed down to us over the centuries by the fathers of Cremona's luthiery, who built some of the most famous stringed instruments in the world, has taught us that choosing the right wood for the bassbar is of fundamental importance. Red spruce with a narrow grain is the most common material used for its construction. What matters is the wood's ability to be resilient yet flexible.

During the Baroque period, bassbars were shorter than those used today, as they had to bear less weight from the strings. Over the years, however, technology and knowledge of luthiery have progressed, and the needs of musicians have changed, so modern bassbars are longer and glued with a slight tension to give the soundboard greater resistance to the bridge's compression.

Personally, for my bassbars, I always choose a red spruce split cut with a specific weight that comes as close as possible to that of the soundboard I'm using.

The position of the bassbar is just as important as its construction. It must be placed under the foot of the bridge, slightly outward, in correspondence with the low strings. This allows vibrations to be evenly distributed over the entire soundboard, producing a clear and powerful sound.

For a luthier, creating the bassbar is a crucial part of the stringed instrument building process. This delicate work requires precision and careful evaluation of the wood's properties to ensure the creation of an instrument with excellent acoustics. In fact, the correct construction of the bassbar can significantly influence the instrument's sound, while incorrect construction will damage the sound in an almost irreversible way.

I can therefore state that the bassbar is one of the most important parts of a stringed instrument and when building a high-quality stringed instrument, the bassbar must be evaluated with the utmost attention to guarantee excellent and lasting sound.


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