What should the length be from the bridge to the nut?

February 16, 2012 at 04:21 AM · I have a new used violin and tried to use one of the fingerless fret guides (its like violin fingertape, but much better) I got from the internet, but my teacher said that the markings were in the wrong place for my violin to be in tune when playing the notes. I checked online and they said that the violin should be 330mm from bridge to nut, and if it is, then the product should work.

So, I measured my violin and it is a little under 330mm from bridge to nut. So, I checked online and it seemed like one place said 12.75 inches, which is less than 330 mm, but mine is more than 12.75 inches (but less than 330mm) from one to the other. So, now I am confused. Can you all tell me what it should be?

Also, does it absolutely have to be that distance? Or, do I need to take it to someone to have the bridge moved?

Replies (25)

February 16, 2012 at 04:42 AM · I am not sure why but fiddle dimensions seem to be more prevalent in metric units. That said the standard violin string length to my knowledge, from the exit of the nut to the entrance to the bridge, is 328 mm. Other dimensions may sound just as good or better but the distance between notes on the fingerboard will be different and if you have spent a lifetime getting used to certain muscle memory it could be really irritating.

Tom

February 16, 2012 at 06:56 AM · Hi Lisa, forgive me if I haven't understood you properly, but instead of fret guides, couldn't you just use your ears? Nearly every violin you pick up won't have the same measurements as the last one, they are all so different. As far as I know, the bridge should sit directly between the notches in the f-holes, and I'm not sure you should have it moved, especially for the above reason. I have two violins and have to adjust my fingering a little between them, after a while it's no big deal. Your ears should be able to tell you if you are in tune anyway, no need for fret guides.

But perhaps this is just an experimental situation and I'm taking things way too seriously, sorry if this is the case. :)

February 16, 2012 at 08:56 AM · The correct string lenght is 327-330 mm. I see no big problem moving your bridge a little back in order to get those 330mm you need. Prpbably you will not notice any sound change.

Anyway, check if your bridge is correctly standing before moving the feet. That also could be the cause of your shorter string lenght.

February 16, 2012 at 09:40 AM · If you want to play the violin out of tune by using visual aids then by all means go ahead, but as Millie says, if you want to play it in tune then use your ears as that's what they are there for.

Any teacher who condones tapes or visual markings with a pupil should be barred from teaching.

February 16, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Throw away the guidelines. First and foremost, seek to get your ear in touch with the sounds your fingers make as you press the fingerboard. Learn how to hear when they land where you imagine they should sound, and then learn to train them to their proper places when they stray.

February 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM · It can vary depending on the instrument. Unless you have a sound problem, don't worry about that.

Don't move it yourself, the post may fall, etc. Ask your luthier about it the next time you visit him.

www.manfio.com

February 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM · "If you have a mark for the octave on the stickons that will be on or near the centre of the string. (Half way up to the bridge. Check it by ear )."

John

IF you are going to check it by ear why the hell should you use stick ons? If a teacher uses stick ons then there is only one place for them, and its not on the fiddle.

February 16, 2012 at 05:32 PM · The bridge-nut length on my old violin is 330mm; on my Jay Haide it is 325mm. On both instruments, which have been set up by professional luthiers, the bridges are located precisely between the f-hole notches, and I have no reason to suppose that the soundposts are other than correctly installed. At one time, some years ago, it felt a little awkward going from one violin to the other, but now I'm not aware of the difference in string length; my ears are evidently controlling the situation satisfactorily.

February 16, 2012 at 05:40 PM · "Any teacher who condones tapes or visual markings with a pupil should be barred from teaching."

In a perfect world, students would learn to play in tune by ear. Unfortunately, some have so much trouble discerning proper intonation that it really isn't possible. I have one such student now who does not have markers, but his sensitivity to pitch and his memory for placement (even if he were to hear it) is so low that we may have no choice.

So bar me.

February 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM · Bridge between the notches on f-holes is a normal guideline, but not absolute. Not all makers got it right, especially in the "olden days," and making it (and other items) right can improve sound dramatically.

February 16, 2012 at 07:37 PM · I was thinking of using fingertapes because I read a research study that said that students who used fingertapes, had better intonation after the fingertapes were taken off, than students who were not given fingertapes.

I want the best intonation possible. I am afraid that my ear is not that great, and that it gets confused easily. What I mean is that I can hear the correct sound, but then if I hear a lot of sounds that are almost the right sound but not quite it (like a little flat or sharp), I lose track of the right sound because I can't remember what it sounds like anymore. Of course, I am just starting so that will probably get better, but I just want to train my ear in the best, most efficient manner. I don't want to learn bad habits, because I know that it is much harder to unlearn them than to just learn the right way to begin with.

What do you guys think?

Also, if you play different violins with different bridge to nut lengths, is it hard to get your fingers to go to the right place, you know because of muscle memory? Or, do you just automatically adjust naturally?

Thanks!

February 16, 2012 at 08:09 PM · Whatever study you read did not state which group could hear pitch intonation better. One group has better trained muscle memory than the other. If you are not learning to hear your pitches and discern whether they are where they need to be, then you will not get far on the violin. So you may as well begin with that.

February 16, 2012 at 08:13 PM · That research study is probably based on a group setting in a school where the teacher doesn't have the time to give the students individual attention. Or perhaps the students don't have a good teacher. There is a horrible teacher in my town who has such bad intonation herself that she relies on a PIANO to teach her students. She uses the finger tapes and to be honest I think they are more for her than for her students. There is an art to teaching intonation and it has nothing to do with visual guides. It's about your ears and the relationships that your fingertips have to each other. I can safely say from having grown up in lessons and youth orchestras that the people who learn to play "au naturel" without the finger tape play better in tune than the ones whose teachers tried to take "shortcuts". It does depend very heavily on the teacher.

February 16, 2012 at 08:40 PM · Agreed.

February 16, 2012 at 09:42 PM · Agreed too.

In the end people who have such a bad sense of pitch should maybe play a tuned instrument like a piano.

Singers for example do not have the possibility of taping their vocal chords so they have to train their ears.

February 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM · Lol. Good point.

I can defintely hit the right pitch with my voice, so I guess there is no reason to think that I can't hit the right pitch playing the violin. I can hit the right pitch on the violin and with my voice if I know what the piece sounds like (though I might have to move my finger a little bit to get there). But, if I was told to play a such and such note on the violin, I don't think I would be able to know what it sounds like and just play it. But, like I said earlier I have just started (one lesson), so hopefully that will get better...

February 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Lisa, it does get better, trust me. After about 26 years rest from the violin, I had a hard time even tuning for a while. 3 years later and little by little my ear memory improved to the point where it dictates every move I make. If I'm even a tiny bit flat or sharp now, I get very annoyed with myself. You'll be surprised at how well your ears can work.

So leave the tapes alone if you can. Good luck with your learning!

February 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Peter said: Singers for example do not have the possibility of taping their vocal chords so they have to train their ears.

Maybe so, but they can tape up their mouths. In some cases, that might be an improvement. :-)

February 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM · Lisa,

My suggestion is to not take playing in tune too seriously at first. Its much more important to learn to listen than to play in tune - and playing in tune means hearing all the ways the notes can be OUT of tune. How best to do that? Play two strings at the same time. If your violin has been tuned right [and this is a MUCH more important issue than finger position ;) I strongly recommend using an electronic tuner to make tuning easy at first - others would disagree (and I respect that) but in any case it should not be long before you can dispense with it] playing two neighbouring strings will result in a harmony.

Now you need to learn which combinations of notes gives you a harmony (e.g. 3rds, 4ths 5ths and 6ths) and which gives you a disharmony (2nds, 7ths) but note up front that a disharmony is not necessarily an ugly sound, good intonation makes it a pleasing if disturbing one). The ugliest sounds are generated when the notes are off any exact note interval combination. The sweetest harmonies result in a sound that is interpreted as one note to the ear (sometimes with harmonics - sounds that do not conflict but enhance the combination.

By playing lots and lots of combinations - either with two strings or with a pure sound generator (often available also on your electronic tuner - get that type if you have a choice) will lead to your brain learning WITHOUT YOU THINING.

The latter is critical. Although you have to think to make a harmony and to find a note on the violin, your right brain is continually sampling the noises and subconsciously learning those that are nice (and in tune) and those that are not. Freakishly weird but true.

Go for it. And, agreeing with all the opinions above, forget the fingerboard. For an instrument as complex as a violin it is only a first approximation and will NOT get you to playing in tune nearly as well as your own right brain will.

PS Disclaimer: I'm only a fellow student there are lots of teachers and accomplished players on here that may wish to modify my advice. If so I too will learn...

February 17, 2012 at 06:31 PM · John - I'm sure you jest! I know singers can be trying at times just like the rest of us, but they have the sound and artistic nuances (at least the best of them) that we should be aiming for in string playing. I've worked with singers a lot over the years and I've always felt I have gained a lot from them.

February 17, 2012 at 06:35 PM · I thought John was a bit harsh too - after all, isn't it us that liken the violin to the human voice? Whats good for the goose is good for the gander....

February 17, 2012 at 06:38 PM · "In the end people who have such a bad sense of pitch should maybe play a tuned instrument like a piano."

I can grok that.

By the way, aligning the bridge with the notches is not as easy as it sounds: should the notches be exactly in the middle of the feet? It's hard to tell, and the vibrational center of the instrument my be off just a tiny bit.

February 17, 2012 at 06:52 PM · "I thought John was a bit harsh too"

Harsh is listening to the lead of "Annie" sing a quarter step flat for the entire show. Someone should hae trained her better before she took to the stage under the assumption she was a rock star.

I'm sure she's cute and all, and quite a likeable person, but I can't tell that from my seat in the pit.

February 17, 2012 at 07:11 PM · Emily: LOL

And what synethetic sensation was Annie? I mean ontop of the ongoing orchestral acid burns...

February 17, 2012 at 07:50 PM · Oh my gosh, last night the entire pit was a nightmare! (I really shouldn't post these things publicly, but I'll own up to it face to face, if anyone asks about it.) No one could agree on the definition of 440 A, so I tried to just listen to Maria on the piano and stick with her, but it was literally like playing pin-the-tail on the donkey. With paper cuts and lemon juice to boot. I was dizzy and nauseous by the time it was over.

PS I was told Annie has had a cold and so she was probably saving her voice for opening night. I'm so mean.

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