Sound adjustment in Chicago

November 19, 2006 at 08:09 PM · Which violin shop would you recommend in or around Chicago, IL for a good and honest sound adjustment on a violin?

Replies (14)

November 19, 2006 at 09:13 PM · My teacher told me Carl Becker and Son is a great shop in Chicago.

November 20, 2006 at 04:32 AM · My teacher also uses their sound adjustment. She was telling me how good the Beckers' ears are. I had my vioin repaired there before, but hated the location (parking or public transportation). Michael Darnton, a regular contributor here, is also a great choice. One bonus, you cannot beat the downtown location by public transportation:

November 20, 2006 at 02:42 PM · For the last couple of years, I've been very happy with Kesuke at Bein and Fushi. He works with John Becker there.

I'll second the recommendation for Carl Becker (senior), although it's not always a quick experience! He takes great pride in what he does, and will only do it completely and to his satisfaction. You won't find more of a class act in the business, but things are really on his terms.

Mike Darnton really helped me out of a bind once, and I'll second that recommendation as well. We're blessed with a lot of options in Chicago!

November 20, 2006 at 03:32 PM · Fred Thompson-he teaches at the Chicago school of violin making in Skokie.

November 20, 2006 at 04:11 PM · forgive me for being naive, but what is a sound adjustment?

November 20, 2006 at 04:57 PM · Terri Bora wrote: "what is a sound adjustment?"

Generally it involves adjusting the position of the soundpost to change the character of the instrument's tone. It may help to equalize the response amongst the four strings. In some cases having a new bridge fitted to the instrument will be helpful as well.

November 20, 2006 at 07:55 PM · Much more than that, if the tech knows what he is doing.

The bridge position is as important as the soundpost. Also, a REALLy good tech will now how to shave the bridge for tonal changes. Besides deciding on the proper overall thickness (which affects overall volume and timbre) the little bits on the outside edges can be trimmed, which changes the damping of select frequencies.

Afterlength (amount of string behind the bridge) is also somewhat important, and is evidently more art than science, once you get close.

Other things can affect tone & resonance, such as the type of material used for the tail-cord.

Some instruments can also benefit from slight internal shaving, esp the bass bar. Some folks are against this, but I think it makes complete sense if the instrument requires it, even if it's an expensive instrument from a known maker. Some instruments don't quite break-in as expected, so why not make slight adjustments later?Granted, if the maker is still alive and in the same country, it would be best to let him do such work.


Finding the right tech is incredibly important, and who knows if you have? There are p[lenty of people with good reputations who may make certain changes, but not necessarily bring out the absolute best in your instrument. It would be nice if there were some sort of certification process.

FWIW, I have had a few good conversations with Stephen Perry of Gianna Violins. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of his work, but I am very reassured by the thing he talks about. My kinda' guy. Gas is so expensive, I figure it's actually less money to ship my violin to him, thna to drive to Manhattan, so that's what I'm going to do. (unless I can convince David Burgess to start doing set-ups!) They do bow work as well, so this kinda' simplifies my life.

Simple is good sometimes.

November 21, 2006 at 04:33 AM · Although I don't mind getting a violin shipped to me, shipping my violin somewhere never appeals to me for fear of being lost, damaged, stolen...OMG!

November 21, 2006 at 05:19 AM · That's true enough. Maybe I'll re-consider.

After all:

UPS stands for "oops"

November 21, 2006 at 05:11 AM · Allan,

All of these "techs" know what they're doing. You are talking about a set-up, not what is typically referred to as an adjustment. Adjustments are usually just the soundpost, and placement of the bridge is a given. If the processes you describe are needed on a bridge, I believe most luthiers (I don't know about techs) would fashion a new bridge themselves to get exactly what they wanted instead of shaving off wood from an existing bridge. This is not an "adjustment" but is "getting a new bridge." Shipping your violin to get a completely new set-up might be fine, but you will most probably have to get it adjusted when you get it back. Shipping it to get an adjustment is a backwards idea. The strings will generally lose tension and the soundpost (and bridge) will most likely move, rendering the performed adjustment useless.

November 21, 2006 at 02:13 PM · A lot of what I do involves adjusting the violin to the player's playing style. That really necessitates the player's presence. I can often read more from watching the player than he realizes, himself. If you do a remote adjustment, you'll basically get something that's adjusted for the guy that does the adjusting, and I gotta warn you, most of us don't play all that well, and the chances of understanding what you do without you there are VERY remote.

Aside from that, if the original setup is at least competent, there's a lot that can be done with what's there. Things like bridge tuning are grossly overrated, in my opinion (and I do have experience doing it and I do understand it). A commonly-missed point in the published research on bridge tuning is that good shops habitually hit the mark by experience, without much fuss. The guys you have to watch out for, as always, are the ones who have strange voodoo ideas that drift from the norm, and claim extraordinary results. We have several of those in Chicago, but they haven't been named yet. :-)

November 21, 2006 at 05:29 PM · Michael,

If I understood what you said correctly, the sound adjustment can be tailored to a player's style (or preference, perhaps?). Is it so-called sound maximization? That is, the way you adjust the bridge will help the player get the best sound of his/her violin with least effort? Or you adjust the bridge to get the sound the player prefers (say, some like it bright and some like it dark)?

What would you do for a beginner, whose has no "style"?

I really like your new shop in the photo; it looks like a upscale gallery too.

November 21, 2006 at 07:15 PM · Some players want to push, and need a violin that's supportive of them at high bow pressure; some don't, and need a violin that gives them the fullest range of response with less pressure. Neither is good or bad, but it's highly personal. (And players are rarely accurate at expressing which type they are--I don't understand that, but have observed that, time after time, which is why "remote" adjusting doesn't work as well).

Also, I get a lot of info from seeing what a player is having problems with: violins that aren't great can't be made great through adjustment, but they can be tailored so that the things a player does extremely well and doesn't need the instrument to help with can be stolen from to make the things he has difficulty with easier.

Though violins can be made a bit darker or brighter relatively easily, that's not the part of the sound that I find most players respond to if the adjustment is done well--there are a number of other issues that if they're right, most players will be happy with the "native" tone of their instrument (and surprised at that).

All players have a style--it may just not be permanent or intentional.

November 21, 2006 at 07:27 PM · Now it's clear. Thanks a lot, Michael.

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