Maliestraat 13B 2514 CA DEN HAAG tel;06-57326535 mail; info@haagschevioolencello.com

Categorieën

The instrument itself is very important for the sound, but small fittings can make a quite difference in sound and playability.

What can be done to make your violin sound best and which part can make the difference?
First, we must see how the sound is being created.
When the bow touches the strings it commends a vibration.  This vibration is transmitted through the bridge to the top plate. From the top plate the vibration moves to the back plate through the sound post and ribs. As air inside starts vibrating, sound comes out from the ‘f’ holes. Both bridge and sound post are very important in creating this sound.
A second factor is playability. When you play the instrument easier, you can produce a better sound from the instrument. This is mostly affected by shape of the bridge, conditions of pegs, string hight, fingerboard, etc.
To adjust the sound we check all fittings and accessories.
 
Let’s check each factor;

KAM


Foto

 The bridge, made of maple wood, serves the purpose of upholding the strings and transmitting the vibrations from the strings to the body of the violin. As such it must be both robust enough to withstand the pressure of the strings yet light enough to transmit the vibrations freely. First, to transmit the vibration, the feet of the bridge must be in perfect contact with the arching and have the right thickness. When the bridge is too thick it creates a dull sound and when too thin it makes a shrill sound.
 
Checklist;
Are both feet of the bridge in perfect contact with the top plate?
  • Is the bridge standing in the right position?
  • Is the bridge straight?
  • Is the bridge not too high or too low?
  • Are strings cutting into the wood?
  • Is the bridge too thin or too thick?
 
 

Foto

The Angle and the Place

  • The bridge must be standing centred to the ‘f‘ holes(not too much right or left). This is sometimes difficult because the fingerboard is not aligned or the ‘f’ holes are not symmetrically placed. In which case one must make a compromise different to each instrument.

  • Ideally the distance from the top edge to the bridge is 195 mm. (400mm for Cello) Which is around the height of the cut of the ‘f’ holes. This can vary slightly, but never more than a couple of mm.

  • The back of the bridge should be angled 90 degrees to the top plate. The back of the bridge must be completely flat whereas front side is slightly arched. It is very common that a violin bridge tends to bend towards the fingerboard and the cello bridge bends towards the tailpiece. This happens due to pulling of the strings each time you tune.

 

For the playability, the height, curve and  string distance are very important.

When the bridge is too high it is difficult to play and if it is too low, sometimes the strings are hitting the fingerboard and start to make noise. Also, for advanced players, too low string height limits the expression of play. Normally string clearance for the E string is around 3.5 mm and for the G string just over 5mm.
Distance between the E- and G string for violin is around 33mm. If it is more than 35mm it will be very difficult to play 5th. Distance between all strings must be the same.
String canals must be just deep enough to hold the strings in the right position. When the strings are cutting too deep into the wood the sound often becomes dull and they become more difficult to tune. This can be quite easily fixed by closing the canal with a thin piece of wood.
 

The Thickness of the bridge determines the sound

Not often mentioned, but ivery important for the quality of sound is the thickness of the bridge. Roughly speaking the thickness at the feet is around 4.5mm and at the top 1.2mm. Because it can change the sound quite dramaticly, it is always a good idea to check one time the thickness of your bridge. Normaly speaking a thicker bridge produces a more muted and less refind sound and a thinner bridge gives a louder and  more direct sound.

Stapel


Foto

 
The sound post is a small piece of spruce standing inside of your instrument just behind the bridge. It helps to support the top against the pressure given by the strings and transmits the vibration of the sound to the back of the instrument.

The sound post must touch the top and back perfectly and stand in the exact right position under the right amount of tension.

Often when people say sound adjustment it means moving the sound post.
 

Foto

First let’s check if the sound post is standing in the right position.
The standard position of the sound post is around 3mm behind ( 5-7mm for cello) the bridge and 1¬2 mm inside of the outer edge of the bridge’s feet. In theory the bass bar and the sound post are symmetrically placed.
After checking the sound post is standing in its standard position making proper contact the adjustment can start.
Normally, nearer to the bridge produces a clearer sound. When the sound post stands too far from the bridge your instrument tends to sound rough.  Standing with higher tension, it creates stronger sound. These are movements of less than 1 mm.  In order to get it placed right several trials are needed. It is a good idea to sit with your violin maker for good half-hour to move, try and find out best for you.

 

The position of sound post should be checked regulary.

Once you find the perfect position it doesn’t mean this is always will be the perfect position beecause instruments are made with wood, Changes caused by temperature and humidity often occur. So, if you notice that your instrument is not sounding the way it used to, get it checked!

The Nut or saddle


 
The nut is a small ebony block where the strings touch the upper fingerboard.
The nut is small part but important to the playability.  

It must have the right height and the right string distance. Strings have to be able to move very smoothly!

The distance between E and G string is good around 16mm. (22mm for cello) If it is too wide or too narrow it becomes very difficult to play or tune. As well it must have the right height. When people complain that the bridge is too high, very often the nut is too high.  When you play the violin. Your fingers get that black stamp of strings? Very probably the nut is too high.
 

The Fingerboard


The fingerboard is made from solid ebony wood. It is not a perfect cylinder shape but it is hollow in the centre. If it is not hollow, the G string hits against the fingerboard and will make noise.

The fingerboard is something that needs regular maintenance.

Because  it gets channelled by the strings. These can be removed and the fingerboard reshaped. After reshaping you will feel how easy you play and tune and have better finger movement!
 

The Pegs


With pegs it’s the same as with the fingerboard; regular maintenance is something that cannot be missed. After years of hard work pegs turn not too smoothly anymore. This is when a peg needs to be reshaped.
Pegs must move easily but at the same time must stay in place when your instrument is tuned. Hard to move or extra force needed to stay tuned is not good.
 

To all the violin, viola and cello players


The instrument itself is very important, but keeping it in good condition and regular sound adjustments are important just as much.
Just a slight movement of the bridge or sound post sometimes makes a huge difference in sound. Any instrument has the possibility to sound openly and freely. If you find it difficult to get the sound out, there might be something wrong. Please get it checked!
Bring your instruments once in a while to a violin maker specialised in sound adjustment.
Sound adjustment can be personal.  Each person has a different ear and each violin maker different techniques. Go to someone you trust and share with the feeling of the sound, then try bit by bit!
 
Here I wrote something very general. I hope it helps you to understand the condition of your own instrument and that you will get the maximum out of it.
 
A happy musical life to you!
 
Tomoko Koizumi , violin maker and owner of Haagsche Viool en Cello

 

NEWSLETTER