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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Fiddles with a 'petite' neck size at the nut


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/57866

JonD - Posted - 04/14/2023:  14:02:47


A couple years in to my fiddle adventure, I've acquired a few instruments (well, to be perfectly honest, three so far! I'm a piker, I'm sure, compared to many of you!). But I recently grabbed my 'starter' fiddle, which I hadn't touched in quite awhile, tuned it up and started playing it.

That's when I noticed it has a considerably narrower neck than my other two fiddles. The other thing I noticed was that I really loved playing it! That slim neck seems to suit my style somehow and gives me a great, confident intonation and also great ease of stopping and rocking between two strings. I can still keep clear of open strings for double stops so no problems there. My fingers, I think, are just normal 'guy' fingers, not particularly small.

In terms of dimensions, while my other fiddles measure 24.5 mm at the nut (which I have read is fairly standard), this one is barely 21.5 mm. String gap (4 - 4.8 mm between) is also slightly smaller than the 5 to 5.5 mm of the other fiddles' strings at the nut. Bridge string gaps, total body length and vibrating string length are quite similar for all three.

All of this came as a surprise, as I'd never noticed the difference before (as a rank beginner at the time I was playing it, I had other problems to wrestle with). Coming from the fretted instrument world, I was used to running into a wide range of neck sizes, but I thought 4/4 violins would all be pretty much the same in this important dimension. And frankly, this revelation also has me giving my other instruments the side-eye, wishing they could go on a slimming diet (no just kidding Michael R.!).

So my questions are :

is this kind of neck variation common? Are there disadvantages to the narrow neck that make it less favored?

What is the history behind various size standards in the violin neck?

And finally, if any of you own or have tried fiddles with narrower dimensions, you prefer one over the other and why?

farmerjones - Posted - 04/14/2023:  18:45:12


If fact I also own a violin with a thinner neck. It is a Harwood brand. Traded by the Jenkins music company of Kansas city. Harwood's are locally popular. I've played a few other Harwoods. None had the thinner neck. This model, I own, also has a one piece back.

Anyway, it had a sweet tone. But there came a point where I wished to use a pinky finger octave double stop. I couldn't do this cleanly with said thin neck.
Most fiddle players have a fine callus at the base of their left index finger. The thinner neck was more comfortable. All violins after, I had to round off the nut, to be less painful.

Y'know, time passes on. When I think about it, I don't use that pinky technique enough to matter anymore. I really should dig the Harwood out again.

fiddler135 - Posted - 04/14/2023:  19:19:40


quote:

Originally posted by JonD

A couple years in to my fiddle adventure, I've acquired a few instruments (well, to be perfectly honest, three so far! I'm a piker, I'm sure, compared to many of you!). But I recently grabbed my 'starter' fiddle, which I hadn't touched in quite awhile, tuned it up and started playing it.



That's when I noticed it has a considerably narrower neck than my other two fiddles. The other thing I noticed was that I really loved playing it! That slim neck seems to suit my style somehow and gives me a great, confident intonation and also great ease of stopping and rocking between two strings. I can still keep clear of open strings for double stops so no problems there. My fingers, I think, are just normal 'guy' fingers, not particularly small.



In terms of dimensions, while my other fiddles measure 24.5 mm at the nut (which I have read is fairly standard), this one is barely 21.5 mm. String gap (4 - 4.8 mm between) is also slightly smaller than the 5 to 5.5 mm of the other fiddles' strings at the nut. Bridge string gaps, total body length and vibrating string length are quite similar for all three.



All of this came as a surprise, as I'd never noticed the difference before (as a rank beginner at the time I was playing it, I had other problems to wrestle with). Coming from the fretted instrument world, I was used to running into a wide range of neck sizes, but I thought 4/4 violins would all be pretty much the same in this important dimension. And frankly, this revelation also has me giving my other instruments the side-eye, wishing they could go on a slimming diet (no just kidding Michael R.!).



So my questions are :



is this kind of neck variation common? Are there disadvantages to the narrow neck that make it less favored?



What is the history behind various size standards in the violin neck?



And finally, if any of you own or have tried fiddles with narrower dimensions, you prefer one over the other and why?






I would say that the neck size variation is common. I also prefer a smaller neck, and the one I just made (I just measured) is 22.5 mm wide. I leave the thickness full for strength but carve it into a tear drop shape vs a semi-circle as this fits my hand better and my hands are not particularly large. The disadvantages to a lesser wide neck are of course more difficulty in playing runs on single strings, and the before mentioned droning and playing double stops without fingers interfering. So I am careful to not get the neck to narrow. 

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/14/2023:  22:48:35


quote:

Originally posted by JonD

So my questions are :



is this kind of neck variation common? Are there disadvantages to the narrow neck that make it less favored?



What is the history behind various size standards in the violin neck?



And finally, if any of you own or have tried fiddles with narrower dimensions, you prefer one over the other and why?






24-24.5 is a pretty good benchmark for most players. It's important to distinguish neck width from neck thickness. I don't recommend going much narrower than the standard width because then you run into issues with string spacing at the nut--either the strings then have to be set closer together or the outer strings end up too close the edges of the board and you feel like your fingers are constantly hanging over the edge. Both of those scenarios are bad for playability.



The thickness (measured from the handle of the neck through the fingerboard) is where there's a little more room to adjust. Some players like a little thinner neck and some want a bit more meat. If you go too thin, the neck will feel awkward because the hand will be more cramped and it will feel like there's nothing to rest the thumb against as you shift into higher positions. If it's too thick, it will just feel like a baseball bat and it'll be hard to get around. Players don't tend to notice a slightly smaller neck, but they very quickly recognize one that's a little beefy.



Something else to keep in mind is the shape of the neck. It can be semicircular, elliptical, or v-shaped. The shape can really influence how a neck feels. This includes the shape at the chin and heel. 



One of my customers is in the process of buying a fine violin currently and he's been trying violins from all over the country for months. He seems to have found the violin he wants to buy now, but he fell in love with the neck on an instrument he decided not to buy, so he brought the latter violin to me and asked me to take measurements so that I could reproduce the feel of that neck on his new violin. It's not an unusual request.


Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 04/14/2023 22:50:17

TuneWeaver - Posted - 04/15/2023:  12:25:15


Had the pleasure of jamming with Steve Dickey, Lotus Dickey's son... At some point he handed me a fiddle and said that it belonged to his dad, Lotus and asked me to play a tune on it.... I felt honored.. As soon as I put my hand on the neck I knew it was different.. It had the narrowest nut with of any fiddle I'd ever played.. This isn't a complaint.. Lotus played it well and I was able to play it, but is felt ODD in my hand..

JonD - Posted - 04/15/2023:  14:49:09


The neck shape is somewhat elliptical or ‘teardrop’ but standard thickness I think. I’m still liking it! The other thing I did this time was to move the bridge about 1.5 mm and it really opened up the sound. Decently built ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’ model.

JonD - Posted - 04/15/2023:  15:14:53


quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



One of my customers is in the process of buying a fine violin currently and he's been trying violins from all over the country for months. He seems to have found the violin he wants to buy now, but he fell in love with the neck on an instrument he decided not to buy, so he brought the latter violin to me and asked me to take measurements so that I could reproduce the feel of that neck on his new violin. It's not an unusual request.





By that Rich do you mean reshape the neck? It's a tempting thought for me on another of my fiddles but I guess it would be a non-reversible modification...! Also would the neck relief change with less cross sectional rigidity  to counteract the string tension?

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 04/15/2023:  18:53:33


quote:

Originally posted by JonD

quote:

Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



One of my customers is in the process of buying a fine violin currently and he's been trying violins from all over the country for months. He seems to have found the violin he wants to buy now, but he fell in love with the neck on an instrument he decided not to buy, so he brought the latter violin to me and asked me to take measurements so that I could reproduce the feel of that neck on his new violin. It's not an unusual request.





By that Rich do you mean reshape the neck? It's a tempting thought for me on another of my fiddles but I guess it would be a non-reversible modification...! Also would the neck relief change with less cross sectional rigidity  to counteract the string tension?






Yes, reshaping the neck is a fairly common thing. It is a permanent change in that the wood can't be put back on once it's gone, but that's just reason to have it done professionally. The neck should remain flat on the gluing surface--if it starts flexing, something is very wrong. 

KCFiddles - Posted - 04/17/2023:  07:17:19


quote:

Originally posted by JonD

A couple years in to my fiddle adventure, I've acquired a few instruments (well, to be perfectly honest, three so far! I'm a piker, I'm sure, compared to many of you!). But I recently grabbed my 'starter' fiddle, which I hadn't touched in quite awhile, tuned it up and started playing it.



That's when I noticed it has a considerably narrower neck than my other two fiddles. The other thing I noticed was that I really loved playing it! That slim neck seems to suit my style somehow and gives me a great, confident intonation and also great ease of stopping and rocking between two strings. I can still keep clear of open strings for double stops so no problems there. My fingers, I think, are just normal 'guy' fingers, not particularly small.



In terms of dimensions, while my other fiddles measure 24.5 mm at the nut (which I have read is fairly standard), this one is barely 21.5 mm. String gap (4 - 4.8 mm between) is also slightly smaller than the 5 to 5.5 mm of the other fiddles' strings at the nut. Bridge string gaps, total body length and vibrating string length are quite similar for all three.



All of this came as a surprise, as I'd never noticed the difference before (as a rank beginner at the time I was playing it, I had other problems to wrestle with). Coming from the fretted instrument world, I was used to running into a wide range of neck sizes, but I thought 4/4 violins would all be pretty much the same in this important dimension. And frankly, this revelation also has me giving my other instruments the side-eye, wishing they could go on a slimming diet (no just kidding Michael R.!).



So my questions are :



is this kind of neck variation common? Are there disadvantages to the narrow neck that make it less favored?



What is the history behind various size standards in the violin neck?



And finally, if any of you own or have tried fiddles with narrower dimensions, you prefer one over the other and why?






I just spent the day with one of my most discriminating pro customers, working on fiddles. He;d brought one up that was 23.6 mm at the nut, and was complaining about it being too narrow!  There are plenty of old trade violins around with skinny necks, down to 22mm. 



To me, it's a matter of taste or choice, but the modern standard is right around 24mm, and if you are making violins and want to sell them through stores, it's probably wisest to stick to standard dimensions. Necks can always be made narrower, but few buyers find it worth the cost. I did offer five-string fiddles in two neck widths, but found my standard width outsold the wide ones by 10:1.



 

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