Listen to the sound crossing the bridge
Authentic maple bridges carry music through stringed instruments. Despiau bridges are made in France by a family business where passion for music and love of wood are combined with know-how and understanding.
Despiau Chevalets is a family business located in the heart of the Gascony countryside. It is in the historic town of Gimont, in the French region of Occitanie, that Despiau designs and manufactures top-quality bridges for every type of bowed string instrument: violin, viola, cello, doublebass, viola de gamba, viola d'amore. Sought-after and respected by stringed instrument makers the world over, Despiau bridges are shipped out from the south-west of France to all four corners of the earth.
A tradition of ‘man and wood' going back three generations, it was our passion for music that set us off on such a demanding and yet thrilling adventure into the world of bridges. This has led us to the point where we have now established ourselves as one of the global leaders in a market without borders.
In 1984, Jean-Louis Despiau, both art lover and musician, inherited the family sawmill business. At that time, he had the novel idea of working on this small piece of wood, the bridge. As a viola player himself, he immediately saw its true musical potential and interest.
He was the first one to appreciate that the selection of quality wood and the perfection of the shape could really help the violin maker, who handles such highly complex instruments, to enhance the instrument's acoustics. He designed a wide range of bridges that could be fitted to various instrument morphologies.
Still based in Gimont in the Gers, the company has reached out far beyond its country of origin to conquer the hearts, minds and ears of instrument makers and musicians all over the planet.
At Despiau, it all starts with the tree: we go and select 300-hundred-year-old maples in the forests of Bosnia-Herzegovina. An essential choice, a combination of pure intuition and skill that leads us to the wood that will carry the sound; because music is already in the wood for those who care to listen.
The design of the bridge is determined by the hands of the violin maker: the right blueprint must be relatively easy to carve out, allowing for a smooth and fluid movement, with no break in the cut. It must be the right height and the right width.
Lastly, the cutting of the wood is a key moment in the manufacturing process. Skilled hands draw out the final line of the bridge, seeking to optimize the wood's original structure.
It is not widely known, but the bridge provides 20% of the instrument's acoustic output. Discretely and with humility, this little piece of wood can both glorify the genius of a beautiful instrument or indeed enhance the musicality of the most ordinary of instruments. In every case, it will play its part and write its own musical score in harmony with the instrument. Therefore, at Despiau, our motivation is to produce top quality bridges which will satisfy the demands of instrument makers and musicians alike.
Despiau offers four standards of wood quality bringing together different instruments and musicians. Always remembering to respect both the sound and the emotion.
The most prestigious bridges carry the three-tree stamp of authenticity.