Soundpost

August 30, 2007 at 03:18 AM · How much do shops or luthiers charge to do soundpost adjustments?

How much do new soundposts cost? I've heard from a friend that a new instrument should have its soundpost replaced after a couple of years, due to the instrument changing or something like that.

Replies (28)

August 30, 2007 at 03:54 AM · The guy here (like, the ONLY luthier in all of central Arkansas) charges about $20 or so. Same for bridge cutting and filing. Same for repairing a too-deeply-filed nut, etc. I'd imagine it'd cost around that where you are. Meenahsoetah and Arkuhnsawwww tend to cost about the same on most goods and services. ;)

August 30, 2007 at 04:57 AM · It's not a lot. My luthier was going to do it for free. But, it's got to be right.

The replace it after a couple years, I've never heard. Sounds strange.

August 30, 2007 at 06:06 AM · Soundposts do need occasional adjustment, but not as much if you're careful not to subject your violin (whether in or out of its case) to sudden bumps or jogs that could dislodge the soundpost.

Also, never leave the violin without tensioned strings for extended periods of time. The tension of the strings on the bridge pushes down on the violin's top, helping to keep the soundpost in place.

I never heard of needing to replace the soundpost in a new instrument after every two years, though. I doubt that it's true.

August 30, 2007 at 02:34 PM · I have never heard of changing the soundpost, either,as a matter of course. Ditto, sounds weird. There are folks out there "gifted" in soundpost adjustment to help tone, even out sound from string to string. Wonderful when you find one.

August 30, 2007 at 06:18 PM · Sound Post Tip:

With a pencil,mark where the sound post meets on the inside bottom plate.

If it ever falls over,you'll know exactly where it was !!!

August 30, 2007 at 09:23 PM · Joe,

Well, that makes perfect sense. That's, of course, why I never thought to do that before you mentioned it (I have no common sense). ;)

I've marked it, though I dare say anything I'm likely to do to make it fall will leave the soundpost, itself, being the least of my problems.

I can already see that visit to a luthier: "Well, I don't know if you can glue a neck back together from three pieces, or if you can figure out how the belly goes back together from this little pile of chips...I think there may be a few bits missing, so you'll just have to wing it. Also, the f-holes seem to have completely fallen off. I couldn't find them anywhere. But, if you can fix this thing, you see that little pencil-lead circle right there on the back plate? That's exactly where the soundpost goes."

;)

August 30, 2007 at 06:43 PM · Joe Fischer That's cool... And even if I don't feel confident (actually coordinated enough) to put it back myself, that's still a smart move...

August 30, 2007 at 09:04 PM · When I was a teenager I knew a guy who made a few violins, and he put a tiny hole in them to the right of the endpin so he could tell if it was leaning to the side or not. It's hard to tell looking in through the F hole. Actually, he was the first viola teacher at Juilliard, which was known by its former name at the time he taught there. When I knew him, he was in his 80s. He made some bows too, and instead of bending them over a flame, he put them on a jig and sat it in an oven. He showed me fantastic drawings he'd made years before of his wife, who was still a knockout even at her age. A very beautiful and elegant woman. Now back to the topic...

August 30, 2007 at 09:15 PM · From discussions held among luthiers on another forum, replacing soundposts on an instrument that is 1-2 years old is quite common.

August 31, 2007 at 01:33 AM · hmm... changing a post for the sake of change seems unusual. But, climate does affect the violin, so when I took mine from dry to humid, the sound did change. By altering the setup (including moving the soundpost a tad), the sound returned. I can think of no other reason to change the post or position. Best is to set it once for the climate conditions, and leave it: you and your violin will be happier this way. You can become neurotic by constantly changing post and setup.

August 31, 2007 at 02:05 AM · it amazes me that most violinists do not know how to adjust posts. or did not attempt to learn. or did not dare to try:)

August 31, 2007 at 02:06 AM · According to my friend, and to my knowledge, the violin's top and such will fluctuate, and thus, after a couple of years after the violin is played in and it adjusts closer to its final shape, the original soundpost will not be the best fit or match. My violin actually does have a line marking where the soundpost should be, and has a slit in it to show if its leaning (I think...)! The violin was originally adjusted for Evah Pirazzi's, but I prefer Dominants + a good E, so I was looking to see if an adjustment could optimize the performance of the Dominants, or if it would make a difference at all.

September 1, 2007 at 01:03 PM · Bobby is correct. A new violin will "settle in" after a couple of years. If the original wood was stable, that helps a lot, but nontheless only time will tell. String tension pulls up on the neck,often making the finger board sink a mm or so on a new violin with attendent "swelling" of the top to offset the change. (Some makers add a mm to fingerboard projection to prepare for this)

The biggest problem with the soundpost is that it may be a little too short, or worse, long, to fit properly on a seasoned in violin and it's length may need adjustment. Pick up any old violin, and you will commonly see that the inner "wing" area of the treble F hole rises above the plane of the rest of the top-the sound post is pressing too hard on the top. So- a check by a luther to "feel" the tension of the post is in order.

String type changes can definitely affect the harmonic overtones of a violin-if the sound is more or is less brilliant as a result, a sound post change can help. Common dogma is that moving close to the bridge increases the brilliance (overtones), moving towards the bass de-emphasizes treble sound and so on. Reality is that only several adjustments over time will tell how the particular instument will react to soundpost adjustment. Often string cleaning can have more impact than a minor soundpost adjustment.

Regards,

Fritz

September 1, 2007 at 03:49 PM · Thank you Fritz.

September 1, 2007 at 03:49 PM · At our shop (and many of my friends shops) a simple soundpost adjustment on ann instrument that was purchased at the shop or has previously been worked on at the shop (or for a regular customer or local teacher) is free. On other instruments/customers we charge $10. A competent Luthier, especially one with a good ear (no, they don't always go together), can set a soundpost fairly quickly so $20, especially on an instrument that was purchased at the shop seems a bit high. This free service is another reason we dissuade people from purchasing an instrument from e-bay.

September 2, 2007 at 08:16 AM · Since $0 to $20 has been mentioned for soundpost work, I just wanted to say a few things so people won't assume they're being ripped off if they encounter someone who charges a lot more.

Some of the better adjusters I know can easily spend half a day getting a post just right. Ten bucks just won't cover that, and some of these people don't have wholesale-to-retail markup on strings, cases, instrument sales volume etc. to cloak the cost of sound adjustment in those other profits. Moreover, the soundpost interacts with so many other things, that optimizing sound can involve things like moving the post, then making a new bridge based on what is discovered with the post, then changing the post some more from what is discovered with the new bridge, etc. In the process, a luthier might also go through $200 worth of strings to find what the instrument likes.

On the matter of needing a new soundpost on a new violin within one or two years:

Violins change shape quite a bit when they are first strung up, usually requiring a longer post after a time. With any luck, this has already been taken care of by the time you get the violin.

It's always wise to have a new fiddle checked after a year or two though.

September 2, 2007 at 05:33 PM · David,

The guy here charges $20.00 to reset a sound post. Though, since it was my first-ever visit to his shop, he charged me this for adjusting the soundpost, too, even though that took a couple of hours. He did actually tell me he'd charge considerably more than that, usually, for an adjustment, but business was dead that day, so he wanted something to do to kill time. (Besides students learning to play violin, there aren't a lot of violinists/fiddlers in this area, so during the summer when school's out, the poor guy doesn't do a whole lot.)

Of course, given the huge difference his adjustment made, I'd've gladly paid more, but he actually refused to take more than the $20.00. Of course, he knows that's how he can snag new customers. I'm sure I'll be back in there before long with some other odds-and-ends little things that'll end up leaving me broke, and him driving a new car. ;)

September 3, 2007 at 02:37 AM · to Al Ku: I agree with you to some extent, re violinists are too timid to attempt changes to their instrument. The right tool should be used, though. Patience is needed to learn how to use the tool and fit the post. Placing a post back in original position (or close proximity) is not too difficult. The big risk is damaging the f-hole with the shaft of the tool - very easy to rub the edge and chip the varnish. Of course, the value of the violin factors into my decision to adjust or not by myself. BUT, positional changes are not easy, especially when a longer post may be needed (eg moving from E to G string side). 99% of the players I know have no abilities at all in trimming a post millimeter by millimeter to fit inside the violin. So, I would say overall the optimisation of any violin of value is likely best left to an expert.

September 3, 2007 at 04:50 PM · I also cut my own hair, do my own dental work and plan to do my own bypass.

;-)

~OK

September 4, 2007 at 12:22 PM · one of the most thrilling experiences in our house in the past couple years, ala dissecting a worm in other households, was moving the soundpost around on our fraction violin and listening for the change,,,

and arguing with a 6 yo on whether the bevel of the post fits snugly against the upper plate,,,

can darnton, burgess, oded do better? absolutely. they'd better.

do those people know how playing around with the soundpost feel like before they tried their first?

probably not.

did we destroy the violin the process? no.

was varnish scratched near the f hole? hell yeah, but missteps are the best teacher.

also, a distinction should be made between what you can do and what should be reserved for the pros. this judgement call is also part of the learning process.

January 9, 2011 at 03:23 PM ·

After my very first violin's soundpost felt down, and I persistently spent half of my night try to get it out with a fruit knife (and I succeeded), I bought a sound post setter just in case. The first one was fixed by my teacher, but the sound changed dramatically, and not in my favor. Since I didn't pay for my teacher for that, I could not ask him adjust it so I had to put up with it.

Recently when I changed my tailpiece to the Wittner with built-in adjuster, I put the violin on a balance surface, on a soft a clothe and my dog passed by, decided to give the scroll a nose poke, and the soundpost felt down. Pulling the American made sound post setter, I found that it's way too big for the tiny f-hole on my 3/4 violin. After a while persistently chopping the soundpost itself, I finally stabbed the sharp end to to post and got it out. The post was in pretty bad shape, holes, reduced the diameter....One lesson I learnt from discussion on v.com that I should mark the soundpost position, and I did. I knew where it should be, but I could not put it up. and my f-hole is sracthed badly. I took it to a guy and he put it up back, but not where it was before. The sound has become very harsh, and loud...I hate that sound and I tried to use the other to pull the post to the mark. I failed. I was too afraid that it might fall down again  to actually put any force to the post. I ended up took it to my current teacher and he put it right at the mark. I can't tell you how happy I am when I hear that usual sound on my violin. Actually it's changed somewhat due to the beaten/stabbed serverly post.

So yeah, I have the tool but I am too clumsy and coward to try and use it properly.

My teacher said the post was too short so it felt off by its own, but I don't believe so. Because if it's too short, how could it stand up at the first place, and now.

I have another question: If I have a worthy instrument, should I bring it to a luthier to get is adjusted; assume that I find the sound is OK since I buy it from the workshop?

If I'm not experienced enough, should I bring someone along so that he can judge the new sound and give his ideas for adjustment? Or I should only trust my own ears? or put all faith in the luthier ears?

I'm not so confident in sound judgment because many times I find the sound is so so, others say it's bad :(

After digging around, there are very few people who actually do the tonal adjustments, but I don't trust them. The closest place is Singapore but it would include air ticket both way and 80$ for the job. That's about more than what my current violin worth, but if I have something more expensive, wondering would it be worth the trip?

 

January 9, 2011 at 05:33 PM ·

 Hi Bui,

If u're talking about Singapore then you can come look for me to recommand you the luithers there. I've been researching/finding and sourcing around for the luithers in Singapore and made some conclusion after talking/discussion/meeting over the some time.

I really think if you're interested in buying a more expensive violin say around US800++ or above then i think it is worth it to come to Singapore to do up your violin, however why dont u save up money fly to the states and do it there, at the same time you can enjoy a holiday treat there :) that would be awesome!! i wished if I could get the chance to go the US i will bring my violin there for an appraisal and get many things fixed! (trust me in SG its not cheap to get your violin done up because the community is so small)

Coming back to the question... sound post. Hmm... changing the sound post is really an art itself. I brought my violin to a local luither after 4 years of playing in my violin. I changed the bridge,post, refitted the violin parts...etc...when he took out my sound post he was shocked.

a)the quality of the sound post was terrible, the circle wasnt a complete one and the post itself has only 4 wood ring(meaning the post was taken from a very young spruce or not the prime spot of the spruce)

b)the post was too short and it didnt give a perfect fit that connects the belly and the back together, therefore the full vibration of the strings is not transfered equally on the top plate to the back. Thus affecting the sound.

So i think these are what you need to look out for.... 1-quality of the post 2-perfect fit. As for the positioning of the post my luither spent like 30mins infront of me getting the perfect tone and response for my violin so i was very glad because i got to seat in front of him and tried out the violin and describe the tone i desire...it was very rewarding and a $ well spent :D

hope it helps, Sherman

January 10, 2011 at 07:37 PM ·

Another little detail that I don't think has been mentioned – the grain of the sound post should be aligned in a specific direction, shouldn't it? Not sure offhand which it is – either parallel to or at a right-angle to the violin's longitudinal axis.

A luthier friend of mine said that setting a sound post is the one thing that can reduce a grown man to tears.

January 10, 2011 at 08:02 PM ·

The grain of the post is perpendicular to the grain of the top.

This is almost certainly simply as a result of the method of installation: you stab the post with a knife-bladed tool and then pull it into position from the f-hole. The stab works well when you stab in the tangential direction of the annual rings.

Or it might be that as you drag the post into place, even considering the stabbing aspect, you don't want to chip off a bit of the end of the post. This would be a risk, if you were dragging perpendicular to the grain of the soundpost.

I think the 2nd reason makes the most sense. You can make a pretty good stab in either direction. You can sink the blade farther with the tangential though.

January 10, 2011 at 08:05 PM ·

John:

Speak up. Speak of your experiences as your own, and be clear about it, and perhaps your nemesis will take kindly to you :-)

January 11, 2011 at 01:13 AM ·

The sound post setter I have is made with soft steel, and doesn't hold a tip very well, I have sharpened it as much as I can, and it works OK for the light use I have; the only time it failed me is when I was trying to reset a fallen post on a CF violin; the sound post was CF also....

January 11, 2011 at 04:30 AM ·

oh dear John! Even though I'm poor as hell but reading your post making me have all the courage to give the job to a repairman!!!!

January 12, 2011 at 10:44 PM ·

@John, I looked at the website for the soundpost setter and something I saw tells me why they charge $76 for that product. The "something" was the phrase "patent pending", and that says it all. I was in the patents profession for most of my working life before I retired some years ago, and a patent attorney's fees to clients were not insignificant then – God knows what they are now. And, of course, those costs have to passed on by the patentee to his customers. Further, the business behind the product, Allred and Associates Inc., is an established engineering product development and manufacturing firm. The nature of that business tells me that they are well used to intellectual property and their infrastructure will therefore almost certainly include an IP department (which has to be paid for).

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