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Help setting up a fiddle over the internet

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Mar 13, 2022 - 12:15:15 PM
27 posts since 1/3/2021

I have two fiddles I love more than any of the other fiddles I have. Both are great in their own ways, but one is noticeably clearer than the other. If I emailed one of you sound bites of each of them, as well as photos of the bridges and sound posts in both, would you be able to tell me how to adjust the latter of the two to sound clearer?

Mar 13, 2022 - 12:55:03 PM

2188 posts since 8/27/2008

That would be unlikely, in my opinion. Better take them to a luthier, or at least an experienced player. But one thing to look at is the sound posts on each. A clearer harder sound might com from the post being closer to being directly under the bridge foot. That's not always desirable, but it depends on the fiddle. And further away, toward the tailpiece, might soften the tone, sometimes a good thing, or give less focus. I'm just wildly guessing, and I doubt a sound file would help.

Mar 13, 2022 - 1:47:49 PM

2428 posts since 10/1/2008

I have to agree with Brian.

Mar 13, 2022 - 2:58:12 PM
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742 posts since 3/1/2020

You can’t really get the sense of the instrument properly without having the instrument in person. Also, adjustment is not that simple—there are dozens of things that affect the sound. The tools and knowledge needed to adjust a violin are extremely specialized. A violin needs to be adjusted to suit a variety of standards, some for the player, some for the audience. 

However, I'm sure someone will be happy to take your money if you're eager to give it away. I know of someone who does "psychic sound post adjustments" over the phone. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 03/13/2022 15:10:26

Mar 13, 2022 - 4:33:18 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

This is all what I assumed, I just figured I'd ask anyway.

I usually do all of my setup work on banjos - both ones I build and buy - as well as bridge swapping on my fiddles. I've set sound posts before too, but I can't at all guarantee they're set correctly. To my untrained eyes, the sound post on the less-clear fiddle is set very similarly to the sound post in the more-clear fiddle.

Mar 13, 2022 - 6:04:30 PM

18 posts since 7/11/2018

Strings?

Mar 13, 2022 - 6:30:49 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

quote:
Originally posted by TPJ54

Strings?


D'Addario Helicore Heavy Gauge on both of them.

Mar 13, 2022 - 8:06:53 PM

wilford

USA

309 posts since 6/26/2007

I've learned that having the end of the tailpiece even with the inside edge of the saddle improves tone remarkably. Also a very thin bridge (able to handle the string pressure, though) and the center of the bridge at between 12 7/8 and 13 inches from the nut (on a standard 4/4 violin) also contributes to a better sounding instrument. The Helicore strings are great although the A can be a problem once in a while, requiring a change out. None of these suggestions may work on your fiddles but they work pretty reliably on mine. :) Best wishes.

Mar 13, 2022 - 8:52:57 PM
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5848 posts since 9/26/2008

No two fiddles are alike?

Same strings aren't always ideal for two different fiddles...

Edited by - ChickenMan on 03/13/2022 20:53:39

Mar 14, 2022 - 7:29:51 AM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

quote:
Originally posted by wilford

I've learned that having the end of the tailpiece even with the inside edge of the saddle improves tone remarkably. Also a very thin bridge (able to handle the string pressure, though) and the center of the bridge at between 12 7/8 and 13 inches from the nut (on a standard 4/4 violin) also contributes to a better sounding instrument. The Helicore strings are great although the A can be a problem once in a while, requiring a change out. None of these suggestions may work on your fiddles but they work pretty reliably on mine. :) Best wishes.


This fiddle was home-built by a friend of mine, and although I'm not completely sure, I don't think it's exactly 4/4. It's definitely not 3/4. The body looks to be 13-7/8" long, if that's of any help. 4/4 is 14", right?

Currently the bridge is at about 12-3/4 from the nut and the tailpiece is about 1/4" from the saddle. I can't pull the bridge back because the winding on the strings will be in the way. Should I shorten the tailgut (it's an adjustable one) to bring in closer to the saddle, then pull the bridge back slightly? 

Edited by - Lemon Banjos on 03/14/2022 07:32:26

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Mar 14, 2022 - 8:12:17 AM
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27 posts since 1/3/2021

Update: I shortened the tailgut, pulled the bridge back, and now...I gotta move the soundpost because it's now directly under the foot of the bridge. And last time I set it, I know it was a little snug, so I'm gonna have to shorten it slightly to get it to fit where it needs to go.

Mar 14, 2022 - 9:28:44 AM

wilford

USA

309 posts since 6/26/2007

I remember one time I was playing banjo with Bobby Hicks in North Carolina and just for kicks I brought two of my fiddles that just weren't sounding like I thought they should. Before we all began performing, I asked Bobby what he thought of one of the fiddles and handed him one and handed the other to Roger Howell (another gifted fiddler along with Bobby).

Within less than five minutes the two of those guys had those sound posts at the sweetest spot there was on each fiddle. One thing I remember them checking at each sound post setting was the balance across any two adjacent strings.,i.e. the E and A would sound at the same volume when bowed together and so would the A and D and the D and G. When they were comfortable with that balance, they were convinced the post was in the right place.

Mar 14, 2022 - 10:31:21 AM

742 posts since 3/1/2020

Getting the tailpiece close to the saddle is good, but only if it’s the correct length. It should not touch, as that will impede the instrument’s overtones. Afterlength is something that makes a difference, so getting it right is important.

14” is a common size, but anything from 352-360mm is considered full size. From 348-352 would be a 7/8. Standard vibrating string length is 328-330mm, but you have to have to get the other measurements right as well. Violins aren’t cookie-cutter products, so each one needs to be considered carefully to accomplish a good setup.

Mar 14, 2022 - 10:46:24 AM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

Adjusting the soundpost is something I really need to work on. Right now, it seems I can't adjust one without knocking it over multiple times and resetting it first. Maybe it's too tight or too loose?

Mar 14, 2022 - 12:52:25 PM
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5704 posts since 7/1/2007

Always, always, always: fit is first! If the post is hard to set, that's probably because it isn't cut right. When a post is cut right, it fairly "snicks" into place like a luxury car door closing. it "wants" to go right into the right place, and stands straight up without much urging. If you haven't done a few hundred posts, it's gonna be hard to get it right. You'll need a sound post gauge and a VERY sharp wide chisel. Also, a proper sound post setter, properly set up. IME those pliers types are worthless. On a new setup, I generally start out fitting the post ends with the post a bit too far inboard, and gradually shave the ends, improving the fit and taking a little material off, and adjusting the position and tension over a period of days until I have the sound I'm after. With an existing fiddle, I can replace a post with one based on the existing one, or maybe just adjust the fit of the existing one if there's enough material left, but at any rate, if it doesn't fit right, not much else matters.

For example, I have several new (to me ) fiddles that will eventually sell for a fair amount of money each, so they have to sound good. None of them came in  with anything like an acceptable post,  so i have to start from scratch. It takes about half an hour to put in an initial post, then I'll string the fiddle up and let it settle in for a day. Next day I'll play it, listen to the sound, pull the post, look at the pressure signs on the ends, then make some tiny adjustments to the shape of the ends, to improve the fit, maybe move the post a hair, put it back in , let it settle, and try it the next day. This may go on for a while. Doesn't take a whole lot of time, but takes place over a period of days, and I usually do it with cheap strings until I feel like I'm sure I'm real close, then I put good strings on. Of course, one can do adjustments quickly, but it works a lot better with instruments one owns (stock) or one regularly maintains.

Edited by - KCFiddles on 03/14/2022 13:14:56

Mar 14, 2022 - 3:16:19 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

Please, this is just a quick and dirty diagram, but it's accurate as to where my current sound post position is relative to the foot of the bridge. I'm assuming it should not be angled that heavily?


 

Mar 14, 2022 - 3:35:06 PM
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wilford

USA

309 posts since 6/26/2007

imho, the sound post should be placed back about 3/8 " from the center of the bridge foot to the center of the post and in about 1/4 " from the edge of the bridge boot to about even with the center of the E string. The bottom and top of the post should be carved to the exact contours of the back and top of the violin and positioned straight up and down with a minimum of any leaning. The more area of the top and bottom of the sound post that are touching the top and back of the fiddle, the more transfer of vibration occurs.
Another way of saying this is: locate the post 3/8" behind the bridge and 1 1/8" from the center of the F hole. This is a good starting place for most fiddles.
Lots of luthiers loosen the strings and remove the end pin and eye their work through the end pin hole to assure they are fitting the sound post to the proper contours.

Mar 14, 2022 - 3:40:29 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

I wanted y'all to see about where the sound post is located on the fiddle that does not need adjustment. The one I posted earlier is the one that needs adjustment badly.


 

Mar 14, 2022 - 3:41:30 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

quote:
Originally posted by wilford

imho, the sound post should be placed back about 3/8 " from the center of the bridge foot to the center of the post and in about 1/4 " from the edge of the bridge boot to about even with the center of the E string. The bottom and top of the post should be carved to the exact contours of the back and top of the violin and positioned straight up and down with a minimum of any leaning. The more area of the top and bottom of the sound post that are touching the top and back of the fiddle, the more transfer of vibration occurs.
Another way of saying this is: locate the post 3/8" behind the bridge and 1 1/8" from the center of the F hole. This is a good starting place for most fiddles.
Lots of luthiers loosen the strings and remove the end pin and eye their work through the end pin hole to assure they are fitting the sound post to the proper contours.


I'd say those dimensions are pretty close to where the sound post is on my fiddle that doesn't need adjustment. I'll remember those!

Mar 14, 2022 - 4:36:04 PM
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5704 posts since 7/1/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Lemon Banjos

I wanted y'all to see about where the sound post is located on the fiddle that does not need adjustment. The one I posted earlier is the one that needs adjustment badly.


There's a real good reason that one sounds better! The location shown is pretty close to what usually works as a pretty good starting place. I usually start with the post 1 to 1.5 mm inside the treble bridge foot, although some tubby sounding fiddles work better with the post farther in. Having the post much farther out doesn't often yield much.  Regarding North-South position a good rule of thumb is to leave the thickness of the top behind the bridge to allow the top to flex. I usually end up with a little more, say 3 to 4 mm behind the back of the bridge and the edge of the post. You can move the post North-South without too much consequence, but for any movement more than 1 mm in or out (east-west), I usually change the length of the post. That's why I approach fitting a post to an unfamiliar fiddle from the center out, shortening as I go. If I go too far, I have to make a new post. Fit is always the key, and when a post fits, it's like flipping a switch, the sound changes so distinctly.

Mar 14, 2022 - 6:36:28 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles
quote:
Originally posted by Lemon Banjos

I wanted y'all to see about where the sound post is located on the fiddle that does not need adjustment. The one I posted earlier is the one that needs adjustment badly.


There's a real good reason that one sounds better! The location shown is pretty close to what usually works as a pretty good starting place. I usually start with the post 1 to 1.5 mm inside the treble bridge foot, although some tubby sounding fiddles work better with the post farther in. Having the post much farther out doesn't often yield much.  Regarding North-South position a good rule of thumb is to leave the thickness of the top behind the bridge to allow the top to flex. I usually end up with a little more, say 3 to 4 mm behind the back of the bridge and the edge of the post. You can move the post North-South without too much consequence, but for any movement more than 1 mm in or out (east-west), I usually change the length of the post. That's why I approach fitting a post to an unfamiliar fiddle from the center out, shortening as I go. If I go too far, I have to make a new post. Fit is always the key, and when a post fits, it's like flipping a switch, the sound changes so distinctly.


I'm going to purchase a set of sound post gauges, as well as the "clip type" setting tool soon. I have the "S-shaped" tool. It may take a few weeks to finally order them from Amazon or wherever, and maybe another week and a half to get the soundpost where I want it, but I'll report back when I get it there.

It'll also pay to sharpen my 3/4" chisel before then too!

Mar 14, 2022 - 7:11:40 PM
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5704 posts since 7/1/2007

You don't need sound post gauges, just a 6" steel rule and a business card with a slit in it.  The cheap, skinny s-type gauges give the best control and most flexibility, IME, and the clip type are as worthless as the plier type. Spend some time with a file and get the point of the S tool down to only about 1/10 of an inch or 2.5mm high with a long, slim point. Pre-stab your post with an xacto knife, and when you stick the setter in there, you should be able to pick the post up with the setter in it, shake the post, and the setter shouldn't fall out. It should be hard to pull out unless you wiggle it first.

AS for chisel, 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 " wide works best, sharp enough to POP hairs when you check it, or to carve a curl off a hair. Sharp is the best investment you can make when working on fiddles/ violins. I hold the post in the curl of my left index finger , then rest the back of the chisel on my finger and use that as a support and guide to control the chisel as I SLICE across the end of the post, trying to cut uniform wafers with each stroke, toward the last. Wetting the end of the post helps, as does LOTS of practice. I've only been doing a few a week since 2006, and I've still got a lot to learn about setup.


 

Edited by - KCFiddles on 03/14/2022 19:17:55

Mar 14, 2022 - 7:55:27 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles

You don't need sound post gauges, just a 6" steel rule and a business card with a slit in it.  The cheap, skinny s-type gauges give the best control and most flexibility, IME, and the clip type are as worthless as the plier type. Spend some time with a file and get the point of the S tool down to only about 1/10 of an inch or 2.5mm high with a long, slim point. Pre-stab your post with an xacto knife, and when you stick the setter in there, you should be able to pick the post up with the setter in it, shake the post, and the setter shouldn't fall out. It should be hard to pull out unless you wiggle it first.

AS for chisel, 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 " wide works best, sharp enough to POP hairs when you check it, or to carve a curl off a hair. Sharp is the best investment you can make when working on fiddles/ violins. I hold the post in the curl of my left index finger , then rest the back of the chisel on my finger and use that as a support and guide to control the chisel as I SLICE across the end of the post, trying to cut uniform wafers with each stroke, toward the last. Wetting the end of the post helps, as does LOTS of practice. I've only been doing a few a week since 2006, and I've still got a lot to learn about setup.


Glad to know that I don't need to buy gauges or another setter!

Here's a picture of the tip on my current setter. So if I'm understanding you right, I need to make the "length of the blade" (like the length of a knife blade) 1/10" or 2.5mm long, then file the edges to make the point more pointy and less triangle shaped?

Mar 14, 2022 - 7:58:23 PM

27 posts since 1/3/2021

sorry, forgot to attach the photo


 

Mar 14, 2022 - 9:24:48 PM
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5704 posts since 7/1/2007

Here's what mine lookslike. It takes some work to make a setter that functions well, IME. The tip is pretty worn; gets filed a lot and I don't worry too much about the shape as long as it's skinny and sharp. The steel in the setter is soft and bends easy, also gets dropped a lot.


Edited by - KCFiddles on 03/14/2022 21:27:22

Mar 15, 2022 - 4:31:03 PM
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742 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Lemon Banjos

Please, this is just a quick and dirty diagram, but it's accurate as to where my current sound post position is relative to the foot of the bridge. I'm assuming it should not be angled that heavily?


If that diagram is accurate, the sound post is in a dangerous position. Unless the post was actually fitted at that angle, the ends won't be be in proper contact with the plates. If it's under too much tension, there's potential for a soundpost crack. 

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