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Aug 30, 2023 - 11:31:44 AM
596 posts since 2/10/2020

Hello All. I'm looking for some advice here. I've been playing fiddle now for about three years. I just bought a new-to-me fiddle and the string spacing at the nut is 5.5 mm, measured from the center of each string. There is equal spacing between strings.

From my "research" on the intertubes, this appears to be the standard set-up. However, I'm having some minor difficulty keeping my fingers from slightly touching adjacent strings when I play my new fiddle. I then took a close look at my old fiddle and the spacing is 6 mm, and I don't have any problem keeping my fingers clear of adjacent strings. I know that 0.5 mm doesn't sound like much, but I can tell!

I really do like the sound of my new fiddle, it rings clearer and louder, and sounds sweeter than my old fiddle, especially at the e string. I'm thinking, at the very least, that I'd like to have the same set-up on both fiddles and I prefer the 6 mm spacing.

Is there any reason that I shouldn't have a new nut cut to accommodate a 6 mm spacing for my new fiddle? As an aside, I'm 63 years old and likely never to become any kind of virtuoso, or even the lead fiddle in a modest jamming group. So, I'm not worried about setting myself up for failure 40 years down the line!

Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.

Aug 30, 2023 - 2:25 PM
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2597 posts since 8/27/2008

Given everything you said I'd say to go ahead and make the spacing on your newer fiddle the same as your old fiddle. There's no intrinsic harm in doing that.

Aug 31, 2023 - 3:52:54 AM
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RichJ

USA

968 posts since 8/6/2013

Seems to me some fiddles have a slightly narrower neck than others. Since string spacing at the nut in usually in proportion to neck width in that region it may not always be possible to have string spacing of all your fiddles exactly the same. I guess only a luthier would be able to tell you after looking at both fiddles.

Aug 31, 2023 - 7:30:25 AM

kjb

USA

774 posts since 6/8/2013

yes necks can vary, especially 5 string, you need to find out what works best for you.

Aug 31, 2023 - 8:39:04 AM

doryman

USA

596 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

Seems to me some fiddles have a slightly narrower neck than others. Since string spacing at the nut in usually in proportion to neck width in that region it may not always be possible to have string spacing of all your fiddles exactly the same. I guess only a luthier would be able to tell you after looking at both fiddles.


I will look into this, thanks. 

Aug 31, 2023 - 2:02:22 PM
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1462 posts since 3/1/2020

String spacing is determined by setting the G to E distance, then dividing to find the spots for the D and A. The common measurement for G to E is 16.3-16.5 mm, although a narrow neck can make these measurements problematic. For the sake of playability, the strings shouldn’t be too close to the edges of the fingerboard so that the fingers are falling off as one is playing. The spacing in between strings is important as well because the strings need to be at a distance that will allow playing double stops and string crossings without issue. Too small a spacing makes it harder to avoid hitting strings with the bow or fingers. At 5.5 for each, that would make the overall spacing 16.5, but 6 would make it 18, which is considerably wider. However, a nut is a very easy thing to replace. Keep the old one if you have a new one made so you can revert if the new one doesn't solve the problem. 

Are you certain that the problem is coming from the string spacing at the nut? If the shape of the nut is bad or the heights are not in concert, it can cause issues. If the bridge has a curve that’s too flat, it will be especially noticeable near the bridge with the bow, but it can affect playing nearer the nut to a lesser extent.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 08/31/2023 14:04:42

Sep 3, 2023 - 4:53:22 AM

102 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by doryman

Hello All. I'm looking for some advice here. I've been playing fiddle now for about three years. I just bought a new-to-me fiddle and the string spacing at the nut is 5.5 mm, measured from the center of each string. There is equal spacing between strings.

From my "research" on the intertubes, this appears to be the standard set-up. However, I'm having some minor difficulty keeping my fingers from slightly touching adjacent strings when I play my new fiddle. I then took a close look at my old fiddle and the spacing is 6 mm, and I don't have any problem keeping my fingers clear of adjacent strings. I know that 0.5 mm doesn't sound like much, but I can tell!

I really do like the sound of my new fiddle, it rings clearer and louder, and sounds sweeter than my old fiddle, especially at the e string. I'm thinking, at the very least, that I'd like to have the same set-up on both fiddles and I prefer the 6 mm spacing.

Is there any reason that I shouldn't have a new nut cut to accommodate a 6 mm spacing for my new fiddle? As an aside, I'm 63 years old and likely never to become any kind of virtuoso, or even the lead fiddle in a modest jamming group. So, I'm not worried about setting myself up for failure 40 years down the line!

Thanks for your thoughts on this matter.


As some of the respondents have alluded to, the string spacing is often determined by the width of the neck's handle at the nut. There is a minimum distance from the edge to the e string (2-3mm) so the meat of your hand doesn't mute it. The g string side can be much less of course. Then the strings are evenly spaced within what is left over. 

Sep 3, 2023 - 7:27:50 AM

1462 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by fiddler135
The g string side can be much less of course. Then the strings are evenly spaced within what is left over. 

This doesn't make sense. Neither string should be too close to the edge, and it would be unacceptable for the strings to be shifted over to one side. The spaces to the edges from the grooves need to be equal so that the fingers fall in the proper places. The fingerboard is shaped in a regular curve and the nut follows its contours, so the groove placement should take this into account. Once the outer string spacing is set on dividers, marks should be made on the nut and and the spacing to either side should be checked for symmetry. Then the D and A strings can be set. 

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