Low finger-board

September 24, 2008 at 05:19 AM · Recently, a luthier had a look at violin and said the finger-board is too low and that I should get it raised. Do I need to? What are the advantages of having a higher finger-board? I just don't want my violin being repaired without a good reason...

Replies (46)

September 24, 2008 at 06:29 AM · Greetings,

raising the fingerboard is relatively simple if it juts means putitng a wedge under the board. Why? Well, if the board is too low either your stirngs or too far away from it or your bridge is just plain silly. Both cases will be very detrimental to yur playing,

Cheers,

Buri

September 24, 2008 at 12:28 PM · Some luthiers want to reset the neck to do this, don't know if that is considered more traumatic than putting a wedge in. Do you have to have your bridge cut very low in order to play on your violin? That would be an indicator. Also, what sort of violin are we talking? If this is an old student violin, might not be worth the cost unless you really, really love it. But if it's something more valuable, then probably. You can always go to another shop for a second opinion. Sue

September 24, 2008 at 07:50 PM · Well if your happy with the sound and it's not so low as to prevent a bridge from being fitted reasonably well or interfering with bowing, then there is no harm in leaving it. That said, the height of the bridge and the angle of the strings over the bridge are important factors in setting up an instrument for optimum sound.

September 26, 2008 at 01:57 AM · We had the same problem a while ago. I read somewhere that it is probably due to humidity. I also recall reading that having the fingerboard lifted by adding a wedge under the ebony board is the best resolution (as compared to having the whole neck tilted to a different angle).

I am happy that we had it repaired. The strings no longer hurt at higher positions. It could sound better because the repair allows a better setup.

September 26, 2008 at 04:42 AM · I have the same problem with my viola. After speaking with the local luthier, we decided to just lower the bridge a bit. The only "problem" it caused was making playing in higher positions a little more difficult. Lowering the bridge by a mm or so did the trick nicely at a fraction of the cost.

September 26, 2008 at 05:20 AM · You're not being specific enough. There are two possibilities:

1. the angle of the neck is incorrect or

2. the f.b. is too thin, necessitating a less-than-optimal bridge height.

September 26, 2008 at 11:00 PM · Most likely what you need is a projection raise. This would add a small shim between the neck heel and the top. With this technique there is little or no change in the sound of the instrument, it does not add thickness to the neck like a wedge, and it is inexpensive. On a typical violin you can have this done several times before the neck needs to be re-set.

September 28, 2008 at 12:39 AM · We need to know how low it is... 1mm, 2mm, or more? Measure from the top of the sound plate to the top of the fingerboard (in the center), and get back to us.

October 5, 2008 at 05:36 PM · Cherry, you wrote,

"I also recall reading that having the fingerboard lifted by adding a wedge under the ebony board is the best resolution"

May you, or anybody there describe me how to do it exactly? I noticed too low fingerboard in my student's violin. Though there is still no problems to place fingers (or it doesn't affect the space between fingerboard and strings), but it affects bowings: the bow almost touches c-shape rib when in hits E string.

Thank you!

October 6, 2008 at 12:47 AM · Well, a well-respected luthier in our area did it. It was a "major repair", unfortunately. I will take a picture and send it to you.

October 6, 2008 at 04:49 AM · Cherry, thank you very much!

March 7, 2011 at 04:21 PM ·

Hi, i know this post has been low but i guess i do not want to start a new post.

I was wondering is a fingerboard at 26.5mm too low in a humid country like Singapore?

March 8, 2011 at 03:12 AM ·

I would say 26.5 mm is a bit too high.

For violins made in temperate countries, sunken fingerboard is indeed a problem in a humid Singapore. Even violins made in China, those made in North China like Beijing also give trouble. In fact, there is also a difference between violins made in humid summer and dry winter. Violins made in humid South China give no trouble at all.

Bring your violin to Michal Bittner of Gramercy Music to take a look. He did a neck job on my Roth. The German Roth had sunken fingerboard problem.

 

March 8, 2011 at 11:23 PM ·

Hi,

so you think 26.5mm is too high? because i used to have a 26.5mm fingerboard violin however i find that the projection is not very good compared to fb height of 27mm. so normally i look for violins with FB of 26.5mm haha^^

thanks for your point of view.

March 9, 2011 at 07:06 AM ·

Since this thread has been raised again, I will let you know the result: I let the so-called luthier do the 'job', and he KILLED my violin. Several years passed and it never sounded even slightly as it used to, no matter how 'geometrically correct' the fingerboard might be now. I deeply regret.

March 9, 2011 at 08:17 AM ·

 Sherman, Tong. Where are you measurIng those 26.5 mm? If it is the distance between the top plate and the upper surface of the fingerboard at the end of it it is really high (should be 21-22 mm). But if it is the fingerboard projection at the bridge location, 26.5 mm is not bad at all.

Rick, sorry to hear that. I have and old violin with a low fingerboard (it rises only 17 mm from the top plate) and finally decided no to touch it. Just cut a lower bridge (with a low heart) and that makes it.

March 10, 2011 at 12:22 AM ·

My fiddle was fitted with the wedge under the fingerboard because the luthier said that the neck had moved due to age.  This raised the bridge to over '30mm'!

Also, due to the age of the instrument, the belly had collected much rosin and so was cleaned which changed the shade to a much lighter tone.

When I played my fiddle after the repairs I was.........*AMAZZED*....my fiddle is RESONATINGING!

And now I dont worry about sawing away on the C bouts because there is great distances.

The Luthier gave me a follow-up call because my fiddle also needs a polish which I will have done soon.  But I told John, that because he had improved my fiddle to such a degree, I said........

" you are the best fiddle teacher I have ever had"...........a moments silence followed...( yea, I think he thought it was silly too, but not for me, being a self taught fiddler)

When I selected the fiddle to purchase over the internet from China, this was my criterion...the angle of the neck that requires a high bridge which is '33mm' in height. I took these measurements directly over the heart of the bridge...Where else?

 

 

 

August 7, 2011 at 02:47 PM ·

 Hi nick,

Thanks for telling me about the height of 21mm-22mm.

Currently mine is 19mm i think its too low shall bring it to a local luither to take a look at it soon. I was wondering does a lower fb affect the sound of the violin?

Sherman

August 7, 2011 at 03:51 PM ·

 Rick,

This is very interesting. Just last fall, a luthier also told me I needed a neck reset. Unfortunately, almost $900 of work later, it did nothing to help the violin. And other luthiers told me he had done it incorrectly. 

Much of the violin world, including luthiers, is obsessed with numbers: this measurement MUST be this...

I'd also add that I've suffered more financial pain at the hands of luthiers (and many quite well-known ones) who, using their rulers, told me I needed such-and-such.

I feel your pain.

Scott

August 15, 2011 at 04:48 AM ·

 I recently had this problem too, though it as more of a problem of the angle of the fingerboard in relation to the table of the instrument. It can affect your sound, as violins are made to have very specific proportions and angles in order for them to sound their best. Be sure that you can trust the luthier before committing to any type of major work to be done on your instrument, and get second opinions from others as well. 

 

Best,

Michael

October 5, 2016 at 12:04 AM · I have been researching on the low fingerboard issue and required measurements. Here's a good video explaining at around 5:47min:

https://youtu.be/FX7Ah7Yw3-Y

He suggested having violin made with raised fingerboard, and then with humidity, it will be naturally lowered to the correct height.

Do violin-makers have such requests from customers?

October 6, 2016 at 09:49 PM · Rick, et al.,

The first two questions would be: what style is the body of the violin and how does it play for you?

Not all violins are Flat-Strad's. Steiner's have very high arches on both top and belly and the fingerboard almost touches the top. The bridges are quite a bit shorter than on flatter violins.

To put it simply, there is no single standard, regardless of what your Luthier told you.

My opinion is that if the violin works for you and it sounds good leave it alone.

October 7, 2016 at 12:26 AM · I have a fat-bellied Stainer imitation and one edge of the fingerboard actually touches the top plate for about 1/2". I don't think it needs to be "fixed;" what would the purpose be?

October 7, 2016 at 12:36 AM · I should point out that George is not a luthier, for instance the top and the belly are two different words for the same thing!!

That would potentially cause a buzzing, and even for a high arch Stainer model the fingerboard should not be touching the top which means you could get a louder fuller tone by getting a neck reset and getting the bridge height right, even given that it is high arching.

October 7, 2016 at 12:38 AM · If you put a straight edge on the fingerboard going to the bridge it should be about 25-26mm high at the bridge, compensating somewhat for the higher arching, regular violin would be 27-28mm. Not the height of the bridge, but the height of the straightedge running on the top of the fingerboard.

October 8, 2016 at 09:49 PM · Lyndon, et al.,

You are correct. I'm not a Luthier and I did make the redundant reference to Belly and Top. My goof, no excuses.

As a player, to me the issue is how high above the finger board the strings are. Too low and you have potential buzzing. Too high and you have to put more pressure on the string and have more potential to touch adjacent strings causing either buzzing or killing the resonance.

I still say that if you like your tone and don't have problems playing leave it alone.

October 8, 2016 at 09:55 PM · The height of the bridge governs the tone that you get out of the violin, too high, too much down pressure on the belly, high volume but not good quality tone, too low bridge height, too little pressure on the belly, low volume, and the tone may suffer too. The angle of the fingerboard has to be just right to get the correct bridge height, too high an angle and the bridge ends up too high, too low an angle and the bridge ends up to low, all this assuming you have the fingerboard string clearance in the normal range.

October 9, 2016 at 12:34 AM · George, I would second your advice.

October 9, 2016 at 12:53 AM · Wow, you have some friends in strange places, David!! I take it you don't worry much about bridge height or fingerboard angle on your violins??

October 9, 2016 at 03:09 AM · I don't mind "strange", in the fiddletech world, as long as someone can demonstrate some really good chops, outcomes, and the strangeness doesn't extend into the realm of messing with my daughters.

Absolutely, I care about bridge height and fingerboard angle. I just don't happen to be among those who think that a great fiddle can be adequately evaluated, or reproduced, from a set of measurements on a ruler.

October 9, 2016 at 03:36 AM · Well let me start by assuring you your daughters are completely safe from me!!

Assuming you were working as a repairman, which you no longer are, if someone brought in a good fiddle thats bridge height and fingerboard projection were say 4mm lower than standard, would you tell them, as I would, that a neck reset could get them a louder and potentially better sound (if they wanted to pay the cost), or would you tell them its fine, nothing wrong with that, as your friend, Mr. Wells presumably would?????

I should point out when someone brings me a violin with a quite low bridge height, I don't tell them it should be raised, I tell them it can be raised and they can expect a louder and oftentimes better sound, but at a cost, in my case a little over $200, on average.

Pretty much the same thing I assume you would say if someone brought back an older violin by you, David, who's fingerboard projection had fallen 4mm. Although you might well fix it under warranty.

October 10, 2016 at 01:25 AM · David the question above was directed at you.

October 10, 2016 at 12:13 PM · "Assuming you were working as a repairman, which you no longer are, if someone brought in a good fiddle thats bridge height and fingerboard projection were say 4mm lower than standard, would you tell them, as I would, that a neck reset could get them a louder and potentially better sound (if they wanted to pay the cost), or would you tell them its fine, nothing wrong with that, as your friend, Mr. Wells presumably would?"

_____________________________________

With violin family instruments, when possible, I like to choose the path of minimal intervention. So if the player was happy with the sound (and I was too), and wasn't having issues with playability such as inadequate bow clearance, and there weren't other issues needing attention which could be fixed at the same time, my recommendation would probably be to leave it alone.

One thing that many people don't know is that when some types of repairs are done, there can be a certain amount of collateral damage to the instrument, no matter how careful and skilled the technician is. And this damage can be much worse when less than stellar technicians do the work.

There is also the risk that if the player was happy with the sound before, they will not be, or will be less so with the new configuration. Changing ANYTHING on an instrument which the player is happy with is not without risk. It is not that uncommon for players to have work done, having been offered the incentive of tonal improvement, and not be happy with the outcome.

With any kind of work, I would want to weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages very carefully, and I have often recommended that work not be performed, or deferred, in cases where other luthiers have recommended it. Part of that, though, may be that I'm chronically way overbooked, and don't need the work. Some others may.

October 13, 2016 at 08:51 AM · If your main criteria for judging the correctness of neck angle and bridge height is not wanting to take on additional work, I can imagine all manner of incorrect setup could become "normal"!!

Not that I believe this is your actual position on the matter, David!!

October 13, 2016 at 11:13 AM · "When ain't broke, don't fix it."

October 13, 2016 at 11:24 AM · A violin who's neck is collapsing resulting in a deficiently low bridge would be considered "broken" by most restorers I know.

October 13, 2016 at 04:01 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"If your main criteria for judging the correctness of neck angle and bridge height is not wanting to take on additional work, I can imagine all manner of incorrect setup could become "normal"!!

Not that I believe this is your actual position on the matter, David!!"

___________________________

No, that was merely your own spin.

Some people may perform unnecessary work, because they need the business. I'm not in that position.

October 13, 2016 at 04:08 PM · I only offer to do the work when I'm almost certain it will improve the sound, I find the idea that you wouldn't perform the job on a violin you made that's fingerboard had "drooped" frankly a little bit hard to believe, David, tell us it ain't so!! I could have sworn you were one of the posters on Maestronet recommending the "NY lift" a method to correct just this exact problem.

October 13, 2016 at 04:19 PM · So now, you're trying to spin this into a violin that I made?

Don't you have any work to do? I sure do. I tried to give a solid and coherent answer to a question you asked me to respond to a couple of days ago, and now it looks like you're just trying to be a nuisance, by implying I said things which I did not, or have opinions or positions which I do not. This also happened several times in the thread which the moderator deleted this morning, in which you were a prolific poster.

I certainly don't appreciate it.

October 13, 2016 at 04:51 PM · edit

October 13, 2016 at 05:02 PM · I quoted the questions I was responding to.

More spin. Again, don't you have anything better to do?

October 13, 2016 at 05:09 PM · I'll have to agree to disagree with your position on this David, a neck lift or fingerboard replacement is not an overwhelmingly dangerous or difficult procedure unless the violin is already in poor or fragile state. The customer deserves to know that a low bridge is not optimal for tone, and that a rectifying of the situation will most likely result in a better, fuller tone, and what it would cost to do the procedure.

Most customers that are completely happy with their tone aren't going to want any invasive procedures done to their precious violin anyway, so what you are left with is customers that would like better sound, and so far at least I've been pretty successful at improving the tone in the customers eyes on the few customers instruments I have done these procedures on. Mostly I save modifications like this for instruments I own and am restoring for sale, if an instrument I buy has a low bridge height, I don't consider selling it as is, I fix it properly and then put it up for sale, part of the business.

October 13, 2016 at 07:54 PM · I did consult the two top experts I am personally friends with, the one in America had a sort of, "If it ain't broke, no reason to fix it" position somewhat similar to David's,

The other, in Austria said he considered it his responsibility to inform the customer if their bridge height was low (or high) and explain to them the advantages, and risks of getting it fixed properly, and what they could expect the violin to do tonally because of the changes.

That makes more sense to me, let the customer be aware of the problem, what fixing it might do and let them make an informed choice based on having the options clearly explained to them.

October 13, 2016 at 09:59 PM · The two positions you have explained in the preceding post are not necessary at odds. I assume that both would explain things, as would I.

Where I think people can go astray, is in the belief that since 27mm is sort of bandied about as a standard measurement for fingerboard height, this means that it is a "correct" height. There are many values which can work quite well, and some of this will be specific to a particular fiddle. This holds for many other setup and adjustment parameters as well. I've had fiddles sound and work their best with higher fingerboard measurements, and I've had others which did best with lower measurements. So "fixing" a violin by altering it to conform to this measurement may not be fixing it at all.

October 14, 2016 at 10:55 AM · Thanks for clarifying this David, and I would certainly take your advice seriously as an expert. (As it happens my violin is OK, but I can see my old antique one, if I ever use it again, may need some work).

October 14, 2016 at 04:58 PM · Perhaps one of the reasons you're not as happy with your antique violin is that its not set up properly??

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