Neck Job

June 8, 2008 at 07:25 PM · I sent in my violin to have its fingerboard replaced (it got really thin), but the person at the store said that the angle of my violin is steep (I think he said steep?) and that the current neck angle only allows a thin fingerboard. So he'll have to put in a fingerboard that's pretty much just as thin as the one I have right now. Has anyone heard of this? I don't really understand this...

And he recommended that I fix the neck now too, so that he can put on a new fingerboard that's the normal thickness, and I wouldn't have to keep running into the same problem of a thin fingerboard after this point on. However, he said that that will cost 2-3 times the money of a fingerboard-replacement job, and since it's a more invasive job, it will change the sound of my violin, no question about it.

I'm not sure what would be more wise for me to do. I'm a music major now, so I'm playing a lot, but in about 3 years, I don't think I'll be playing the violin as much as I do now, as I'm off to pursue something other than music (of course I'll keep playing! Just not as much...)

Replies (22)

June 8, 2008 at 08:59 PM · Do you trust the shop that gave you the evaluation? If not, I would get a second opinion. Was replacing the bridge included in the estimate? I supose that the neck angle could be so extreme that with the added thickness of a new board, getting a bridge that would be high enough could be difficult. This seems unlikely though. A neck reset with fingerboard replacement costing 2 to 3 times more than just a fingerboard replacement does not sound out of line though.

June 8, 2008 at 09:26 PM · Lots of variables to consider. Sounds like you'll be playing a lot for the next 3 years. This may mean you'll need yet another fingerboard, if the replacement will be too thin to re-contour. How much would changing the sound of the violin impact you? Is the violin worth the cost of major sugery? If you don't like the sound of the new violin/neck, will you be able to afford to trade for another instrument, and how long will that process take?

While a neck reset may make sense, and will make it easier to trade or sell the violin if that becomes indicated, it may not be the right answer right now. On the other hand, it might improve the violin, and it might improve your playing, depending on how dramatic a change in the neck angle is indicated.

This is a very subjective situation. I don't see how anyone can provide you with an answer, but possibly your answering the questions that arise might point the way to a solution that would work for you.

June 8, 2008 at 11:07 PM · What's the actual fingerboard projection on your violin? If it sounds OK and plays OK, I don't know whether I'd mess with it.

The fingerboard projection on my favorite violin is way high. I have lived with it for years, but now it's time to replace the fingerboard. While I have the fingerboard off, I'm going to do a "neck pulldown" to correct the fingerboard height. This entails opening the upper bout of the top only, removing a sliver of material from the top to let the neck fall forward just a bit, and then gluing it back up. If feasible, this is a lot less invasive and also less expensive than a full neck reset.

The violin in question is a 1920's Markneukirchen benchmade. Decent violin, worth maybe $5,000 tops. I figure that replacing the fingerboard is going to change the sound some anyway, so I might as well set the neck angle closer to nominal dimensions. I think the basic sound will be even better overall, and I can make minor adjustments with saddle height, bridge, and soundpost to keep it sounding good, even if it's not exactly the same.

I'd hesitate to do this on a concert instrument, but at my playing level and with this violin, it's no problem. I can live with the result.

June 9, 2008 at 01:34 AM · Its a bad memory

forget it all-

if you must.

buy a new piece-its time to

have a fresh start on your playing.

the "fixes" could cost you a bundle of fundages.

plus,there probably is no guarantee

that the sound will improve.

buy anew and fall in love again !

June 9, 2008 at 02:01 AM · Thanks for the post. It's great timing for me.

The neck on my violin is angled too low, so the FB at the bridge end sits too low, so the sapce twixt the G string and FB is too high, so the violin is hard to play. So, the fix seems to be to add a shim, so the neck is angled upwards, so to raise the FB at the bridge end.

Also, the neck is mounted slightly askew, so the FB does not run dead centre from scroll to tailpeg. ugh.

Perhaps remarkably, the violin sounds great, even with these flaws. After many years of searching, I have finally found a luthier who has a trusted reputation among the pros here. He tells me the changes are no big deal to accomplish. So, I have decided to take the risk and let him proceed.

I do not expect changes for the neck only to alter the sound. But I expect a different bridge will need to be cut, which may possibly require a new sound post too. I hope with expertise and sufficent tinkering, the sound can be preserved. If the luthier is correct, the changes may sweeten the E string, which currently is a tad harsh when the Dom E is used - I certainly hope so.

If anyone has comments, please let me know.

June 9, 2008 at 02:04 AM · maybe better to keep the flaws.

how much money is involved ?

a huge chance to take.

June 10, 2008 at 12:54 AM · Job cost is not the factor here. But since you asked, the cost is about 4% of the purchase price.

The real issue is to achieve the optimum setup. The violin has a great sound - powerful, with rich low register - so I overlooked the basic flaws. Since purchase, I realise it is too tiring to play, which is confirmed by some pros. I tweeked the bridge and soundpost, and achieved a slight improvement. Now, all factors point to the neck.

So, a 4% cost to achieve optimum setup is worthwhile, I think.

I am hoping with optimum setup, the violin will reach its true potential. As the neck is angled higher, so too may the bridge need to be higher - if so, then the violin can return to its full power (I shaved the bridge in my tweeking, which reduced power). Don't know what this may do to the E string sound, but people say the E may sweeten. And, don't know what a dead centre alignment will do for sound, but hopefully will improve the sound somehow. I think everyone would agree that any violin needs a proper setup.

So, if the vilolin becomes easier to play without a loss of sound, then great! If the sound improves, then fantastic. but, if can be a big word! I am counting on the reputation of the luthier - what else can I do?

keep the comments coming! thanks.

June 9, 2008 at 04:01 PM · Thanks for the comments! As for some of your comments...

It’s difficult for me to get a second opinion because this is the only place that’s nearby unless I want to drive a few hours.

The guy at the store told me that my options are to… fix the neck and put on a regular-thick fingerboard. Or put on a fingerboard that’s just as thin but at least it’s going to have an even surface.

The cost of the neck replacement will be about 1/5 of the cost of the violin, so in that case, it doesn’t seem worth it. Also, this violin store is not the place I bought the violin at (that’s much further away), so I’m not sure how a trade would work, if the sound gets “worse” (from my point of view) because of a surgery that some other store did. (Obviously, my violin isn’t a super expensive, five/six-digit instrument)

The reason I wanted to get the fingerboard replaced was because I couldn’t re-contour it anymore and it was taking a toll on intonation of my double stops. I like the sound/tone very much as is (so this is one of my bigger concerns apart from the price in proportion to the cost of my violin…), and it’s comfortable to play on it.

So now that I reason it out, maybe a neck fix isn't worth the price/"cost," but then I'm not sure if then spending 1/10 of the price of my violin to get a fingerboard replacement (same thinness as now) is worth it either... :(

June 9, 2008 at 08:25 PM · If you dont mind, how much is the violin worth, what kind of violin is it, and how much are they asking for the repairs?

June 11, 2008 at 01:40 AM · Another question then - has anyone done a major job like this on his/her violin? I'm wondering how much of a sound difference I should expecting.... I mean, I'm sure it differs for everyone, but does anyone have personal experience on this to share?

June 11, 2008 at 04:38 AM · Based on the email you sent me, it sounds like you got a pretty good deal on the violin. I have worked on a few instruments by that maker, and they can be quite nice when properly set up. Violins of that type often came with a thinner board than what we think of as standard today. Sometimes a little shorter as well. For what its worth, I would charge a fair bit more than you were quoted for that job. If the repairman is any good, I would expect a tonal change for the better.

June 11, 2008 at 04:50 AM · Also, make sure you are getting a new bridge cut to accomodate the new neck angle. Seams obvious but you never know. :)

June 11, 2008 at 01:31 PM · Really? Awesome. And yes, the fingerboard *was* shorter! Yeah, I really love the instrument.

This repairman said that he would ship this to his brother who's more used to doing this kind of (more invasive) repairs on the instrument. I just know this guy from the regular jobs like rehairing bow...

He did say that usually with French violins, the tone gets better. Is that a good *generalization*?

June 11, 2008 at 05:01 PM · Generally, going from an excessively thin fingerboard to a normal one will benefit the sound of the violin. Mirecourt violins often have a very thin fingerboard. You see this a lot less on Paris violins though, so I would not make that generalization about all French violins.

June 15, 2008 at 08:02 PM · I have never had my neck angle reset, but a year ago I had the whole neck reshaped. It changed the sound quite a bit at first, but after a couple of weeks, the instrument "settled" and returned to it's former sound.

June 15, 2008 at 11:39 PM · Just to add, a thin fingerboard can cause the neck to warp. So I would expect that once you get the nect reset, you would get a regular sized fingerboard, and the violin should be easier to play. In general, a violin will sound better with the correct string angle. I'm also thinking of getting this done, although my luthier is not pushing it. He trimmed the bridge, and dressed the board because he said the board was scooped too much which caused uncomfortable playing. This is only a $3500 violin. He told me to play it for a while and then come back if I still want the reset.

June 18, 2008 at 02:14 AM · Thanks for the info everyone! I decided to send it in for the repair after all.

Hopefully someone's scrolling down to read this, but another question!!!!

To get this repair, my instrument will have to be shipped. Have any of you shipped your instruments before? The store here will ship it by over-night Fedex in a light-case. Should I pay for insurance and does anyone have experiences to share or tips to give??

June 18, 2008 at 02:40 AM · "...Fedex in a light-case. Should I pay for insurance... "

If you mean the insurance the shipper offers, be careful. I think it's Fedex that limits coverage to $500 on a musical instrument that's more than 20 yrs old or custom-made. So...just be careful lol.

June 23, 2008 at 12:36 AM · Jim is correct. Read the fine print. Also read your home insurance policy. Look into buying additional, specific insurance.

BTW, I received my violin from the luthier. He did not remove the neck. Instead he altered the fingerboard and neck. My violin came with an oversized neck and FB, which were misaligned for the instrument. The luthier altered the planing of the FB, and the alignment to bring the FB into centre. He cut a new bridge, too, which is now higher than the old one. Now, the violin plays much easier, still has the same great tone, and in fact is more powerful. So, the advice I got from the pros to alter the neck actually was good solid advice.

My prof still has it,as he says he wants to mature the violin via playing, and ensure the setup is optimum. Actually, I think he does honestly like the violin now, and is rather reluctant to return it. No problem, it is an honour.

October 5, 2008 at 11:17 PM · Update on neck reset. I went ahead and got two of my violins a New York neckset and I'm glad I did. Not only are they both easier to play, but their sound has opened up more and feels more responsive. Now the violins are a joy to play, the string height is not so high and I can do high position runs with very light finger pressure. My teacher has always been telling to to barely brush the fingers on those fast runs.

So if you're still sitting on the fence, go ahead and have the New York reset. It's not such an invasive operation and in my case, I'm glad I got it done.

October 8, 2008 at 05:08 PM · Can you tell me what the fingerboard measures, i.e. how thick is it on the side.. 5 mm? Also what is the measurement from the top of the sound plate to the top of the fingerboard? I aploogize if you have already answere this question. GG

October 12, 2008 at 09:56 PM · Ship in a carry case... without insurance? You are going to have to ask that question again before I will take you seriously!

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