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Review: Bart Veerman Bridge

Last month I mentioned ordering a new bridge for my banjo from Bart Veerman. After a thorough test drive of my revamped banjo, I'm here to deliver a thorough review.

What I ordered: Basic two-footed bridge, 5/8-inch tall, mystery wood, no top, 46-millimeter “clawhammer” string spacing. (Cost: $20, including shipping.)

My banjo specs: Short scale, walnut neck, 12-inch thin maple rim (Keller drum shell), Dobson tone ring, thin goatskin head, Chris Sands heavy strings. (See review here.)

Selection: Bart offers a wide variety of bridge styles with a long list of options to customize each bridge order. You can specify number of legs, height, wood, finish, string spacing, compensation and more.

Price: Bart’s bridges start at $15 and escalate in price depending on the myriad options available for customization. Your base option offers choice of height, wood and string spacing. Shipping is $3 within Canada, $5 to the United States and $7 elsewhere.

Availability: You can order Bart’s bridges directly from his website at banjobridge.com or from respected online retailers Elderly Instruments and Janet Davis Music.

Quality: The Bridge is attractive and sturdy. The craftsmanship appears top-notch.

Ordering: Bart’s order form asks a number of detailed questions about your banjo to ensure the bridge you order best matches your instrument. The ordering process is a bit clunky, as you have to submit the order form and PayPal payment separately. However, Bart’s response time is excellent. He responded the next day, asking additional questions about my banjo to ensure the bridge met my needs. I ordered on a Friday, and the bridge was shipped on the following Monday.

Bart is based in Canada, so mailing time to the United States takes some time due to customs, etc. Bart estimated seven to 12 days. My bridge arrived in seven days.

Service: Throughout it all, Bart was in constant communication, notifying me when he received my order, asking questions and following up to make sure the bridge arrived and met my expectations. His customer service is superb.

The bridge arrived in a padded envelope with a business card and invoice. The bridge was marked on the bottom with a “1” on one foot and a “5” on the other to indicate the proper orientation in relation to the strings. I just slipped the bridge under the strings with my old bridge in place and switched it out for the new one with a quick check on the intonation, and I was ready to play.

Bart Veerman bridge installed.
Playability and sound notes: My banjo immediately sounded louder and crisper upon installing the Bart Veerman bridge. The tone has more clarity, pop and warmth with a quick note decay. Although I have not played my banjo in a group setting as of this writing, my suspicion is that it will be able to cut through better than it was able to previously.

It took almost no time to adapt to the wider “clawhammer” spacing. The difference is so subtle that I didn’t even think about the additional space at first, but now I’m reveling in the ability to drop thumb more cleanly without catching on the other strings. The slots fit my strings perfectly thanks to Bart’s initial emails about my banjo.

I don’t know what Bart’s method is of matching a bridge to a banjo, but he does a masterful job. Part of the secret has to be in his ordering form, which asks for all the particulars of your banjo. I entered nylon strings on the form, and he followed up about which strings to get the exact gauge.

Comparison: Bridge prices vary widely, from $3.50 mass produced no-name products to $60 boutique handmade bridges. I’ve used cheap Grover bridges and more expensive Moon bridges and some in between. Bart’s bridge prices fall nicely in the median between cheap and boutique options, but he sets himself apart by offering such detailed customization and having a knack for pairing his bridges to the banjo you describe. I’ve never had a bridge that made such an immediate difference. I would not hesitate to order another bridge from Bart or recommend his bridges to other players. His prices are reasonable, and his product and service are exceptional.

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