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Feb 18, 2024 - 12:32:44 AM

yoyogogo

New Zealand

23 posts since 1/9/2024

I am a newbie when it comes to violin. My kids are learning, and I want to learn too.

I often hear people talk about the importance of seeking a luthier help to setup the violin, whether new, or second hadn. But I am curious, what does this mean?

Apart from cutting a new custom bridge for the violin, and putting in new string, what else is there to do, apart from complete service of the violin and restoring it? And how does each aspect of the jobt affect the overall sound of the violin?

and what kind of setup is required for a student violin, an amateur want to learn dad like me, and a professional?

Purely for my educational purpose here :)

Edited by - yoyogogo on 02/18/2024 03:12:56

Feb 18, 2024 - 4:23:36 AM
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2585 posts since 10/1/2008

Hmmm... a quality set up on a violin / fiddle makes it easier to draw a good tone out of. String height, string spacing, string angle over the nut, a well-cut quality maple bridge, proper sound post material and placement, a fine tuner integrated tailpiece if you want to use metal core strings, well fit tuning pegs, good condition of the fingerboard. All these make small differences in tone and playability that mount up to the difference between a good and poor tone. Keep in mind that a well-balanced bow made with good materials be they wood, or carbon fiber will also play a major part in a violins sound. This is, of course, on top of developing good technique. Which, of course, takes time. Yes, it can be expensive. Yes, it is worth it. I expect a proper luthier may add three or more things to this list. Enjoy the journey.

Mar 16, 2024 - 9:11:22 AM

4 posts since 3/16/2024

From my limited experience, you hit the nail on the head concerning asking a luthier, but, my second-hand fiddle was set up as a fiddle. The bridge was new and it and the sound post were positioned for a tone that was, in the luthier's opinion, good for Old Time, Country, and Bluegrass. The strings were and are metal core, but the bow was not rehaired. For a student instrument, I think it had a good sound, but so much time not being played has had an adverse effect on the sound.

Not certain, but I think bridge and post position and strings play a lot in how a fiddle is set up, with other factors not being quite as important.

Mar 16, 2024 - 11:36:37 AM

3320 posts since 10/22/2007

There's setup on, say, a Cremona SV100 purchased online in a package.
Then there's setup on a 100 year old pawnshop find.
Then, there's a setup on a violin purchased from a reputable shop.
Some things are common among all three. Some things are specific to a certain instrument. Besides bridge profile and soundpost placement, the nut may require attention. String height adjustment. But also corners rounded off to prevent sores and calluses. Tuning pegs and sockets may or may not need attention, but should be checked. Setup could be a little, or it could be alot. Yes, it can make an instrument easier to play. It's like many interests, a new student really needs every advantage. While an experienced person may be able to suffer through, he/she would still enjoy the advantage of a good setup.

Mar 17, 2024 - 10:46:59 AM
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1403 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by yoyogogo

I am a newbie when it comes to violin. My kids are learning, and I want to learn too.

I often hear people talk about the importance of seeking a luthier help to setup the violin, whether new, or second hadn. But I am curious, what does this mean?

Apart from cutting a new custom bridge for the violin, and putting in new string, what else is there to do, apart from complete service of the violin and restoring it? And how does each aspect of the jobt affect the overall sound of the violin?

and what kind of setup is required for a student violin, an amateur want to learn dad like me, and a professional?

Purely for my educational purpose here :)


Setup refers to the optimization of playability and tonality on an instrument. The more expensive an instrument, the higher the expectations of the setup. However, if you're getting a violin from a good luthier or leaving it there for setup work, the quality of the work will be on a better level than what you get from a music store, a player, a reseller, or a platform like Facebook, eBay, or Craigslist, even if it's a "student level." 

When you buy an instrument you don't necessarily get a proper setup, and this aspect is absolutely crucial to getting a good sound and sense of comfort while playing. People who like to tinker with instruments often make their own adjustments or changes to the instruments that need to be reversed.

Some of the things that setup includes are: cutting a bridge, cutting a soundpost, fitting or adjusting pegs, reshaping a neck, installing or planing the fingerboard, making or reshaping the nut, installing or adjusting the tailpiece, and choosing strings.

At the first shop where I worked, a setup included these things: removing  the fingerboard provided, shaping the sides, planing the bottom down to a proper thickness, planing the top, gluing it on, making a nut, reshaping the neck, staining and polishing it, retouching the neck heel and scroll chin, fitting a set of pegs, cutting a soundpost, cutting a bridge, putting on and adjusting a tailpiece, putting on a set of strings, and playing and adjusting the violin before handing it to the head of sales to inspect before placement in the showroom. We were expected to do all of this in four hours. 
 

It is a bit of an investment to get all these things right, but it's infinitely worthwhile to do so. So many beginning players quit because of unplayable instruments that work against them. Put yourself (or your child) in the best position to succeed in learning to play by making the instrument as playable as good-sounding as can be reasonably accomplished.

Instruments for children are often treated as less important because the smaller body size leads to a less impressive sound and there's an attitude that a student doesn't need something "good" to learn on. Taking the time to improve the setup on a fractional is just as beneficial, and getting a good set of strings makes a huge difference--factories and many music stores use the cheapest strings they can find to lower their costs. 

Mar 17, 2024 - 1:36:26 PM

2437 posts since 12/11/2008

Rich -- your set-up instructions make it seem as if many violins are are haphazardly thrown together on an assembly line, and need considerable work even after they reach the retailer. If this is true, wow! Ouch!

Mar 18, 2024 - 5:35:07 PM
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1403 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Rich -- your set-up instructions make it seem as if many violins are are haphazardly thrown together on an assembly line, and need considerable work even after they reach the retailer. If this is true, wow! Ouch!


This is exactly how it is! It's standard procedure for any good shop to redo setup on a commercial instrument because it's a given that the work on it will be poor. Factories in Asia and Eastern Europe can produce good quality violins these days because the machinery they use has gotten much better and they have learned how to spray varmish on in a way that gets better visual results than the early factory violins. That being said, the attention to setup has not matched the other improvements. 

It's easy to understand this discrepancy if you consider the business model. Factories employ workers to do specific tasks in fabrication, but they do not train workers to do fine work. Setup encompasses so many aspects that it can't be taught as a single skill, even if all you're doing is cutting bridges or soundposts. Factory violin making jobs are highly sought after in the countries that are major producers of instruments, and the demand for products is high enough that there isn't time to invest in much job training. Many other industrial jobs in these places are considerably tougher and more dangerous, so the competition for these "safer jobs" is high. Factories want the cheapest labor they can get, which is how they can employ large numbers of minimally skilled employees to churn out huge numbers of products and sell them to consumers at prices that are substantially lower than their competitors. Therefore, things like cutting a bridge are taught in the most generic way, and parts are often simply cut to a template but not a specific instrument. This is why the bridges that come with factory violins never fit. At the minimum you have to refit the feet and adjust the height and curve, but the wood that they use for the bridges (they save money by manufacturing their own bridge blanks from poor quality maple that's not quartered properly) isn't worth using in the first place, so it's in your best interest to do a proper setup. 

Factory setups are one thing, dealer setups are another. The factories don't actually interact directly with the consumers; middlemen who have contacts in the factories buy shipping containers full of instruments and then sell them to consumers. This is the business model for violin companies, and they present themselves as if they own the factories, but this is almost never the case. You often end up dealing with several degrees of separation.
 

I mention this because factories don't always do the setup. Some dealers have headquarters locally where they have all their imports shipped. They then hire a crew of teenagers or college students to do unskilled setup work. In that setting employees are expected to "fit" bridges and soundposts in minutes with belt sanders and sandpaper. Dealers that don't sell to the public aren't as motivated to do good setup work because luthiers regularly buy instruments without setup. It's mostly the online-only sellers and music stores without luthiers that actually sell the instruments with their provided parts. If a shop doesn't do setup on its inventory, it's a bit suspicious.

Setup is a major part of the identity of a good shop. Getting these things right makes a world of difference!

Mar 18, 2024 - 6:34:18 PM

2437 posts since 12/11/2008

Rich... Wow... I guess I'm just lucky (and spoiled) as heck that I spent the vast majority of my life in a metropolitan area where Arts & Entertainment was a major industry.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 03/18/2024 18:38:18

Mar 19, 2024 - 9:09:41 AM

Old Scratch

Canada

1246 posts since 6/22/2016

OTOH, maybe, you'll be surprised how much difference a very small modification can make in the sound of an instrument - a few rubs of sandpaper in the right place can make an improvement in the sound that seems out of all proportion to the change they've made in the physical structure.

Mar 19, 2024 - 5:20:31 PM
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1403 posts since 3/1/2020

Funny story—I was writing my last comment the other morning when I got a message from a customer who bought a Chinese viola a while back. He told me that he’s had a few people play it and everyone has commented on the thickness of the neck. A colleague of mine called it a cello neck and told him to get it reshaped, so he asked me to make it playable. The neck was about 3 mm too thick and the neck heel was 2 mm too big. So many people (even a lot of makers) don’t get this right, and it makes such a gigantic difference. Incidentally, the bridge that came with it was not cut well and the owner noticed that its curvature was abnormal. He told me he had the opportunity to see a famous player’s coveted old Cremonese viola and was struck by how much flatter the profile of the fingerboard and bridge were in comparison.

Mar 19, 2024 - 8:21:04 PM

6401 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Rich -- your set-up instructions make it seem as if many violins are are haphazardly thrown together on an assembly line, and need considerable work even after they reach the retailer. If this is true, wow! Ouch!


Same to be said for many acoustic string instruments. Martin guitars are my least favorite "great guitar" to play because for the most part folks buy them and don't give a second thought about set up. Most I've played could use action lowered, not that they aren't playable, but lowered just a tad IMO. Mass produced, but more than entry level ukes are notoriously not set up much (except Kala in my experience) and can always benefit from some sort of tweak. Electric guitars are worse but also easy more user set up friendly, kind of like a banjo laugh

And some luthiers are better at set ups than others, they are only human.

Edited by - ChickenMan on 03/19/2024 20:23:25

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