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Jun 23, 2021 - 3:00:17 PM
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59 posts since 5/1/2010

My sound post has been driving me crazy for years, and I've finally decided to do something about it. Whenever I loosen the strings, the sound post will fall over no matter how careful I am.
I'm going to have a local pro fit a new sound post. What I'm wondering is what effect a tighter sound post will have on the tone and volume of the instrument, if any.
Any opinions?

Jun 23, 2021 - 6:20:21 PM
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5486 posts since 9/26/2008

Sounds like your sound post doesn't fit properly. Having a pro set it insures it will fit better and will make it easier to pull sounds from the strings. You will not regret it.

Jun 24, 2021 - 5:02:43 AM

2392 posts since 10/1/2008

I am curious how the luthiers members answer this question. I definitely can say that a proper setup includes a well fitted sound post. I am always amazed how much more tone I can pulled from an instrument that has been set up by a pro. I have never found it to not be worth the cost. Enjoy. R/

Jun 24, 2021 - 5:39:55 AM
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558 posts since 3/1/2020

A soundpost that’s too loose or not fitting exactly on the top or bottom surfaces will make the instrument sound anemic or washed out. Getting the fit and tension right will be like the difference between an electric guitar without power and with the power suddenly switched on. As the post gets tighter it can make the sound have more of a sharp edge (aka the New York setup), but at a certain point the sound begins to choke and the instrument becomes very difficult to play.

Fitting a soundpost well is crucial to a good setup. Wood choice can have some effect as well, but that’s secondary to the fit.

Jun 24, 2021 - 8:22:55 AM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

Agreed. If there is one critical factor in getting good sound out of a fiddle, it's getting the sound post to fit properly to the top and bottom. I call it being hooked up. You really can hear it; it's like flipping a switch or turning on a light. I've been called a genius for just taking off a tiny whisper of wood to correct the fit of a post; it can be that transformative. Anybody who actually knows how to fit a post has had the same experience with customers.

I've experimented with tighter and looser, and various locations, enough so that I can make predictable adjustments, but "standard" location with a good fit and moderate tension so it doesn't fall over too easily when you loosen the strings is a good starting place., both tonally and practically.

If the post doesn't fit, there's no point in pushing it around, trying to find a position that sounds good. Make it fit, and it will sound better, and you can then make predictable, purposeful adjustments to tonal balance from there, perhaps replacing the post or altering it to get the required tension in the new location. If you want to move the post a little toward the G string, or lengthen it for some reason, it doesn't take long, compared with making one from scratch.

Jun 24, 2021 - 8:36:09 AM

2004 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles

 If you want to move the post a little toward the G string, or lengthen it for some reason, it doesn't take long, compared with making one from scratch.


Agree with all of the above, except your last sentence is puzzling. How do you lengthen a post without making one from scratch? I always start with the post slightly long and work it down from there.

Jun 24, 2021 - 9:13:46 AM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles

 If you want to move the post a little toward the G string, or lengthen it for some reason, it doesn't take long, compared with making one from scratch.


Agree with all of the above, except your last sentence is puzzling. How do you lengthen a post without making one from scratch? I always start with the post slightly long and work it down from there.


I certainly could have made that clearer. If I decide I want a post a few mm further over toward the G string, or a longer/ tighter post, I can't usually use the post I've already cut; it'll be too loose. So I use the one I've already cut as a model and cut one just a mere fraction longer, with the same end angles, and trim it fo fit. Compared to starting from scratch with a new post, it takes hardly any time at all; all I have to do is the final trimming.  When I cut a new post there's a LOT more successive approximations to go through to get the length and fit right. When I already have a post that I know fits, it's almost trivial to use that as a model to make one a few tenths of a mm longer, and just get it to final fit. I will add that I don;t often do that, because I always start out long and successively shorten the post until I simultaneously arrive at the fit and location I want. Often, as a new instrument settles over time, it needs a longer post, or I go too far "east" and have to make a longer post. Either way, it's a far cry from making a post from scratch on an instrument you haven't worked on before.

Jun 24, 2021 - 9:23:35 AM
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558 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
How do you lengthen a post without making one from scratch? I always start with the post slightly long and work it down from there.

A sound post could be lengthened by gluing a wafer of soundpost stock to the bottom. I'm not crazy about this method because I don't like having a glue joint in a soundpost.

The practice of adding wood to a sound post is similar to that of adding it to the feet of a bridge. 

Jun 24, 2021 - 10:11:53 AM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

Doesn't every luthier have a sound post stretcher? ;P

My choice of words was really unfortunate, because if one gives it just a little thought, the very idea of literally lengthening a violin sound post is utterly impractical both from a time stand point (quicker to make new), and from simple look at the materials characteristics, mainly grain direction, durability, etc.

Jun 24, 2021 - 1:16:24 PM

46davis

USA

47 posts since 3/16/2021

I wouldn't use glue on a soundpost. Too often wood comes off when a glue join is broken.

I have had trouble with a soundpost falling over when the instrument has a relatively flat top and back arch. In that case, a slightly longer soundpost is in order. It should stay in by itself with no string tension, without having to be jammed in position.

What I have done is dissolve a little rosin in alcohol and slightly wet each end of the soundpost. That makes it stick in with a little more friction and there's no problem with moving it around to the best position.

Jun 24, 2021 - 8:22:08 PM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

At the shop where I used to work long ago, we used a dab of powdered rosin on the ends of the sound post to help it keep from falling. Boss liked them a little snugger, too. Didn't like comebacks. Took good care of them, but didn't like it when customers came back with problems.

Jun 25, 2021 - 5:23:17 AM
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2392 posts since 10/1/2008

A dab or rosin on the ends of the sound post. Michael Richwine, tidbits of education and ideas are why I keep reading posts. Thanks. R/

Jun 25, 2021 - 4:33:56 PM

59 posts since 5/1/2010

Okay, update! Today I went to the Violin Shop up in Sarasota and the luthier gave me a choice between ordinary dowel for $20 or a hand-carved post split out of a block of aged spruce from the Carpathian Mountains for $50. I went with the more expensive choice since it's a pretty good fiddle and I might as well go First Class.
Oh, and the luthier told me my fiddle is an old French Mirecourt. I had no idea where it came from.
What type of post material do you guys go with?

Jun 25, 2021 - 7:00:35 PM

2004 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddleharp

Okay, update! Today I went to the Violin Shop up in Sarasota and the luthier gave me a choice between ordinary dowel for $20 or a hand-carved post split out of a block of aged spruce from the Carpathian Mountains for $50. I went with the more expensive choice since it's a pretty good fiddle and I might as well go First Class.
Oh, and the luthier told me my fiddle is an old French Mirecourt. I had no idea where it came from.
What type of post material do you guys go with?


You mean an ordinary dowel from the hardware store, or a very small piece of spruce from his shop?* Not sure I understand. The material is almost not worth charging for, it's such a small amount. And it should be spruce. If that is the installed price he quoted you're doing fine, but still don't understand the price difference in wood.

*(maybe $ .10 for the dowel and not much more for spruce)

Edited by - Brian Wood on 06/25/2021 19:03:03

Jun 25, 2021 - 10:16:27 PM

5620 posts since 7/1/2007

Whether I split it out of scrap aged violin top material or buy top grade manufactured post stock, the material for a sound post costs less than a dollar. All of the cost is in fitting it skillfully. Of course spruce should be used, not a hardware store dowel for a number of reasons. But IMHO there is no discernible benefit to justify charging 2.5 times as much for different material. IMHO, an "ordinary dowel" would be harder to fit, therefore more costly.

I charge more for a pro setup, because I set the post, let it settle, play it, let it settle, adjust it again, and may go through the process several times. With a student setup, I set it, and only check it a couple of times and don't do nearly as much adjustment.

Jun 26, 2021 - 12:45:02 AM

59 posts since 5/1/2010

Well, I suppose I should have been more specific in that last post to avoid confusion. The prices quoted were, of course, for the labor he put into it. He showed me the block of wood he was going to use and it seemed like a lot of cutting, shaping, and fitting would be required to produce my post. And since the spruce was so aged and dry, I'm guessing I won't have much trouble with it shrinking in the future.
And the "dowel" he showed me was, of course, lengths of generic sound post material.
Hope that helped.

Jun 26, 2021 - 6:45:55 AM

5620 posts since 7/1/2007

$50 for a well-fit post isn't out of line. For $20, one can't afford to do much. Exclusive violin shops get up in the $150 range and more, but that involves a lot of time with the customer, beyond the purview of a fiddle shop.

So - The most important question: Are you pleased with the results? What was the outcome?

Jun 26, 2021 - 8:11:51 AM

450 posts since 7/18/2014

My fiddles are extra cranky so this probably would not apply to others. But I have made sound post for my fiddles out of some unique pieces of pine kindling. Each one that I have made has yielded an improvement over what I took out. I also found red bud to make a better sounding sound post over what I took out. How that would compare with others I don’t know. Also hop hornbeam. Any of these three, I would prefer over dowel, and most likely spruce is what I took out, but pine kindling would be my top choice. The little pine pieces I’m using are old, saturated with rosin, and very tight grained. Got to be good with a knife though.

Jun 26, 2021 - 8:25:24 AM

59 posts since 5/1/2010

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles


So - The most important question: Are you pleased with the results? What was the outcome?


Apparently it will take a little while longer to answer your question. My fiddle seems to be "settling in." I played it when I got home yesterday, and again when I woke up this morning. I could hear some difference today. Not bad, just different. However, I do believe that no matter how much "settling in" it does, it'll be an improvement over the old sound post. I told the luthier I wanted a brighter and louder tone, or at least whatever was in his power to change by merely fitting a new sound post. He said he'd try to acommodate me.

Jun 26, 2021 - 12:15:55 PM
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16 posts since 3/8/2018

The gluing of a shim to the post, on the end that articulates with the back, comes to us from the shop of Carl Becker, Sr. It works.

As for tension and such, stronger players can handle a tighter post. Fiddlers seem to like the playability of a looser post.

If it is a flat arched fiddle, you have more "room" and can move in or out a bit more before having to cut another post or shim the old one. Highly arched instruments don't leave you much room. A little movement in or out is the difference between too tight or too loose.

Also, many people ascribe mystical properties to the sound post. The first thing I have to determine, when a customer wants me to move their post, is if what they are trying to accomplish, sonically or otherwise, is mediated by the sound post. Most of the time, it isn't, and often, the post and bridge, along with the rest of the set-up, is such a mess that we can't really make a judgement until things are brought to a state of a basic, proper set-up in which things basically fit. As was mentioned above, no sense in banging a post around that doesn't fit well. It won't really help.

Edited by - luthier65 on 06/26/2021 12:16:13

Jun 26, 2021 - 2:09:30 PM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddleharp
quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles


So - The most important question: Are you pleased with the results? What was the outcome?


Apparently it will take a little while longer to answer your question. My fiddle seems to be "settling in." I played it when I got home yesterday, and again when I woke up this morning. I could hear some difference today. Not bad, just different. However, I do believe that no matter how much "settling in" it does, it'll be an improvement over the old sound post. I told the luthier I wanted a brighter and louder tone, or at least whatever was in his power to change by merely fitting a new sound post. He said he'd try to acommodate me.


Well, we'll see. You can only get what the instrument has to give. I looked up the shop in Sarasota, and they look like they'd know what they are doing. Player technique,   string choice and other factors all add up. For example, I take some pride in my ability to get sound out of a fiddle, but for the life of me, I've never been able to make a Lark violin sound better than "awful". I've got one well-made fiddle I've had hanging on the wall for years, and I've still not gotten it to sound like I think it could.

At least, you have one variable reduced or eliminated. Have you had a strong player play your fiddle so you could hear what it's capable of? I do that a lot. I can pull an OK sound, but it helps a lot to have my friends play my setups so I can hear them more objectively, and I get varying opinions.

Jun 26, 2021 - 2:35:22 PM
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2004 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles Have you had a strong player play your fiddle so you could hear what it's capable of? I do that a lot. I can pull an OK sound, but it helps a lot to have my friends play my setups so I can hear them more objectively, and I get varying opinions.

Just hearing your fiddle played by someone else can be helpful. What you hear under your ear is important but I have been surprised sometimes by a fiddle sounding better than I thought when someone else played it. That said, what you hear is important too because you're playing off that sound. Another thing to try is to play it along with another instrument or a group because it can be the opposite, too. I've had fiddles I thought were good under my ear that just didn't perform well with other instruments. It's complex sometimes.

Jun 26, 2021 - 8:32:20 PM

558 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by luthier65

As for tension and such, stronger players can handle a tighter post. Fiddlers seem to like the playability of a looser post.


I have never found this to be the case. We get some really strong players in the shop, and without fail, their violins sound better if a tight sound post is replaced with one with a little less tension.

Just this week we got a fine violin in that had a post that was just a bit too tight. A customer came in and played it. He liked it but felt it needed something. After simply putting a shorter post in, he instantly fell in love with it. Unfortunately for him, he had just sold all his investments to buy a violin and bow, but he said he HAD to have this violin now--it had the sizzle of a violin from the golden age of playing. That day he started calling friends to sell another fine bow and violin to get the cash for it. He was so desperate to have it he was willing to pull money out of his kids' college fund. This player has a huge sound--when he tries out fractionals for young students, he can make them sound like full size solo violins.

That's the kind of difference a sound post makes. 

Jun 27, 2021 - 4:28:57 AM

59 posts since 5/1/2010

While I'd love to follow your suggestions about standing back and letting somebody play my fiddle, that's pretty much impossible. You see, I was born under a curse with a heartbreaking handicap... I'm left-handed!
It's strung "backwards" and the bass bar is on the wrong side! The one and only person I've ever met who could pick up my fiddle and play it was a guy I met in Pensacola named Jerry. And that was back in 1985!

Jun 27, 2021 - 7:05:19 AM
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5486 posts since 9/26/2008

I think I could play a lefty string fiddle well enough right handed that you could get an impression of the sound. One string at a time..

Jun 27, 2021 - 8:00:56 AM
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5620 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddleharp

While I'd love to follow your suggestions about standing back and letting somebody play my fiddle, that's pretty much impossible. You see, I was born under a curse with a heartbreaking handicap... I'm left-handed!
It's strung "backwards" and the bass bar is on the wrong side! The one and only person I've ever met who could pick up my fiddle and play it was a guy I met in Pensacola named Jerry. And that was back in 1985!


Have you ever considered playing a normally strung fiddle "over the bass"?  Many of Missouri's most notable fiddlers did, including my personal favorites Cyril Stinnett and Jake Hockemeyer. Dwight Lamb still does. One even converted to lefty after shooting his  left hand off in an accident. Here's an article by Charlie Walden: Southpaw Fiddlers

For that matter, A good player can pull tone on a single string, no matter how the fiddle is strung, up to a point.

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