Violin fingerboard issue

September 7, 2016 at 06:36 PM · Good day to my good violinist friends:

I recently purchased an old violin and got my luthier to set it up and do touch ups. He just left for his vacation to Europe and I cannot get a hold of him to ask the question. Here is my problem: I notice that on this violin the notes are a bit further down the fingerboard. i.e. If I want to play a B (first finger) on A string, I have to put my first finger about an inch below from the nut to get my B note! On my other violins this distance is about half an inch. Any ideas why?

Replies (22)

September 7, 2016 at 07:57 PM · ok. Get a metal measuring tape / ruler and measure the following (in mm):

1. Length of the back

2. Body stop

3. Neck stop

4. String length (vibrating)

See the following for details:

My hunch is that Body stop: Neck stop ratio is not correct.

Alternatively, string length (mensure) is longer than typical.

September 7, 2016 at 09:13 PM · Agree with Rocky 100%.

For your future reference, we use "lower" on the fingerboard to mean closer to the nut, and "higher" to mean further away from the nut/closer to the bridge. I was so confused reading your OP until I figured out what you meant.

September 8, 2016 at 03:57 PM · Thank you Rocky for the info.

Thank you Mary for your comment, I have edited the post so that it is more clear.

September 8, 2016 at 04:17 PM · so, what are the numbers?

September 15, 2016 at 02:10 AM · OK. Here are the measurements:

1. Length of the back 360mm.

2. Body Stop 202mm.

3. Neck Stop 130mm.

4. String Length 335mm.

September 15, 2016 at 02:26 AM · The body stop is 7mm too long if measured properly, and the string scale at least 5mm too long, normally I would move the bridge 5 or 6mm north of the notches, along with moving the soundpost north a similar amount, which may require refitting the soundpost, that would give you a normal scale if not looking a bit funny. It would also solve the problem you are having, as your neck length is correct, its just that you f hole notches appear to be 7mm too far south. You back length is long too.

September 15, 2016 at 02:55 AM · I'm actually rather surprised your luthier didn't do something about the problem, or at least tell you about it, I wouldn't let a violin out of the shop with a 335mm scale without mentioning it to the customer, and presumably fixing it before hand.

September 15, 2016 at 02:59 AM · From what you're describing your nut might be too high also, the distance between the strings and the fingerboard at the nut should be the thickness of a business card, if it is way off it could cause intonation problems.

September 15, 2016 at 03:09 AM · Not the first, or the last non-standard violin. Depending on age, a poor copy of long model or sadly half-way "standardized" old violin.

Lyndon is right that body stop is incorrect for this body size (assuming that you measured correctly)

Alternative, but less likely, hypothesis is that neck is too short for this body stop.

5/9 of body size is 200 (2mm less than you measured), which asks for 133mm neck stop (3mm longer than standard of 130).

In any case, in order to make this violin playable, neck stop:body stop ratio has to be corrected (2:3) by either:

1. moving the bridge North (to 195mm), or

2. extending the neck 3mm.

Former may have a negative impact on sound (and esthetics, unless F notches are moved too) and fingerboard to bridge projection (bridge height too), later may be too expensive and you will end up with a long vibrating string length (at least 333mm).

Depending on current neck angle, it may also need to get reset, depending on the option chosen.

The challenge with either approach is that resulting sound may not justify money spent on violin and repairs. If you did not spend too much on violin, sell it to a fiddler who does not venture outside 1st position.

I think that you should ask for your money back and look for another luthier more detail oriented and trustworthy for above mentioned job.

September 15, 2016 at 03:27 AM · Simply moving the bridge North is a much simpler solution than lengthening the neck, wouldn't you say, and lengthening the neck you'd end up with a 339mm scale, who wants that, a viola player??

September 15, 2016 at 03:35 AM · Lyndon,

I agree, but the bridge will have to get lowered... leading to re-distributed tension.

I doubt that it will sound good, unless for blue grass. Not to mention the ugliness of notches left far away.... and hitting the top corner with bow.

No winning solution.


September 15, 2016 at 04:18 AM · Moving the bridge 5mm north is not going to need lowering the bridge more than 1/2mm that's not very important, or maybe you could just leave the bridge and have slightly higher strings, a lot of bridges are set too low for proper string height anyway.

September 17, 2016 at 08:56 PM · Thank you for all the comments. Moved the bridge to 195mm and now the violin nice, loud sound has changed to sort of a muted sound. I hate it.

September 17, 2016 at 11:25 PM · Did you move the soundpost as well, if not that could explain the problem.

September 18, 2016 at 03:16 PM · If you move he bridge significantly more away from the soundpost, the treble will usually be reduced and the sound will be more "dull" or "muted"

September 18, 2016 at 03:52 PM · In my experience, if my luthiers makes a minor change such as soundpost or after length adjustment it does sound different right away but it takes a couple of days to settle in and then I have to rely on my memory to determine does this change sound better or worse and sometimes I am even uncertain as to better or worse in the never ending quest for best setup.

Is this your new Ernest Edler violin Ted?

September 18, 2016 at 04:09 PM · In this case I think it involved moving the bridge 5mm, that's further away from the soundpost if he didn't move it as well, thats a major, major difference.

September 18, 2016 at 05:00 PM · Jeff, this is not a minor change.

Ted, if you never installed sound post, please let you luthier do the job. Depending on the curvature, the existing SP may have to be adjusted for new contact points.

Also, please keep in mind that moving everything North may impact structural stability of the top plate. Depending on overall design and thickness of the plate, in the long run, the treble part of top plate may sink under the pressure.

Body stop was placed there for a reason and the violin was designed with this on maker's mind.

Find a very good luthier and ask for 3rd opinion.

September 18, 2016 at 11:39 PM · Moving your soundpost 5mm north is not going to make your violin collapse, that's just ridiculous, not having the soundpost moved also and professionally refit and positioned, that would be a problem, though.

September 19, 2016 at 12:09 AM · I have not moved the sound post and I don't know how. I will find another luthier on Monday and see what he thinks. Thanks for your help everyone. I paid a lot of money for this violin recently and I feel I have been had. May be I should put the bridge back the place it was, and instead use my ears for correct intonation and get used to placing my fingers a little bit further down the fingerboard. The previous owner of the violin was a professional classical musician and he never mentioned any issues.

September 19, 2016 at 01:57 AM · Ted,

keep faith!

Remember that long pattern violins are being used by some of the best players today.

One can get used to a longer string, but adapting to violin with improper neck stop: body stop ratio is not wise. You will make yourself unable to switch to a standard violin without working really hard on your intonation.

The reason people can easily switch between different violins and between violin and viola, is that all instruments, no matter their body size, strictly follow 2:3 ratio. One can learn to stretch and shrink finger frame, as long as the ratio is there - everything is proportional.

Good luck and please keep us posted!


September 20, 2016 at 11:34 PM · so what is the verdict?

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