String spacing at nut

Edited: September 20, 2017, 8:06 PM · I have a new, newly-made violin of which I really enjoy the sound. But I'm having some playability issues. Couldn't figure out what the problem was until this morning. While doing exercises on the A string only, my fingers are frequently catching the D string. I've never had this problem before. Sure enough, the strings are unevenly spaced at the nut. The distance from G to E looks about right (16.5 mm), but the distance from G to D is 6.0 mm, the distance from A to E is 6.0 mm, and the distance from D to A is only 5.0 (all measured from center of string with scientific caliper). Could this possibly be correct? My brief search around the interwebs indicates the distance should be about even at 5.5 mm for all. Appreciate your feedback before I contact the luthier regarding having this fixed.

Replies (14)

Edited: September 20, 2017, 12:09 PM · 5.5mm, evenly spaced, is the norm. Some might use even center-to-center (which I believe is most common), others might use even edge-to-edge, but the measurements you describe seem pretty far off.
September 20, 2017, 10:45 AM · For a little bit I thought I unknowingly made this post. Hi there, other John C :P
September 20, 2017, 10:51 AM · Is this a violin by a maker or a manufacture? If it is by a maker I would contact him and ask if he did it on purpose and if yes why, if its manufactured ask for correction becauswe it propably did not mean to be like that.
September 20, 2017, 1:59 PM · <--- carefully avoids making or even attempting any jokes about an ageing pop star's mental health.
September 20, 2017, 2:48 PM · Neil, LOL. I didn't notice the error the first time I read the thread...
Edited: September 20, 2017, 7:42 PM · John C and John C, this kind of name confusion can be rendered much less probable by using your full name in accordance with the rules of the site.
Edited: September 20, 2017, 4:17 PM · And if you're getting stung on the nut at regular intervals you should put some clothes on!
Edited: September 20, 2017, 8:25 PM · Thanks Don. As I thought. And good point Marc. Violin was made in Italy to specs by a shop in the US. So more like the latter situation you cite. A bit disappointing, but looking forward having it fixed.

I fixed the typo in the title.

Hi other John C.

September 21, 2017, 10:59 AM · If you didn't pay over $15,000 its not made in Italy, more likely China, which might explain you nut not being properly spaced.
Edited: September 21, 2017, 8:52 PM · The main viola on which I play is a W. K. Fuchs viola (Erlangen, c. 1952, I don't recall the exact year off-hand as I have more than one Fuchs). I purchased the instrument new in 1964. The strings were always equally spaced across the nut. In the late 90s I took the instrument to a luthier whom I had respected to have a bout re-glued. (The bout had opened slightly, causing a buzz). When I got the instrument back, I found I was having difficulty playing it in tune and without hitting adjacent strings. I took a careful look and found that the luthier had cut a new nut and re-spaced the strings: C-G was widest, G-D was an intermediate distance, D-A was the closest distance. This was not what I sent the instrument to him to have done! When I asked him why he had changed the string spacing, he told me that a the original equidistant spacing was wrong. Since the C and G are thicker strings, they needed a wider spacing. The D and A being thinner gauges needed a closer spacing. I understand what he was saying, but after 35 years of playing that specific instrument as my main axe, this change of spacing totally threw my game off. I had him put my original nut (with equidistant spacing) back on the viola. If he had ASKED ME BEFORE he had done the change, I may have let him do it. The fact that he took it upon himself to make the change infuriated me! (BTW, he died shortly thereafter, not through any actions of mine; though at the time I discovered the change, I felt like killing him!)
September 22, 2017, 4:50 AM · I suppose that I have been fortunate to have good luthiers take care of my instruments. Usually when I bring my instruments in for a checkup and they find some issue that needs to be addressed they always ask what I want done instead of just immediately doing it and I appreciate their candor. Sometimes I have asked to try a setup change such as a slightly longer afterlength and if they express doubt and think I should leave it as is I take their advice. I think that if I had left a violin to be repaired and when I received it back with other unwanted changes I would be a bit miffed. Bill Monroe had Gibson refret his mandolin and when he got it back they had done a lot of unwanted work to it and he got so mad he gouged The Gibson logo right out of the head stock and left it that way for a decade or so.
September 22, 2017, 8:07 AM · Joel at least you had the original nut still. Fortunately I think these days most luthiers give you your original parts back. I've had gear pegs put into three instruments now, which leaves me with 12 wooden pegs sitting in a box in my workshop. I think I will use them to create a necklace, which I think might be appropriate to wear whilst playing "world music."
September 23, 2017, 1:15 AM · A friend of mine had his fiddle given away for tonal adjustments and became it back with enlarged f holes.
I actualy gave him the advice to sue this guy for destryoing at least 15k of value on that instrument.
September 23, 2017, 3:52 AM · That is a terrible item to hear of Marc. Fortunately for me, whenever I have work done the luthiers allow me to stand and watch them do their minor work at the bench and I have learned a lot from watching them. One time he even invited me to watch how my bow is rehaired and he took the time to explain every step as he was doing it.

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