Sound Post cracks

May 31, 2012 at 04:24 AM · I have a 100 years old viola that has a sound post crack. I learned that the repair for this problem is very expensive.

I am just wondering what could be the worst to happen to this viola if I continue playing with the cracks. The sound is fine now, although I am sure it can be much better without cracks. This viola feels very comfortable, and I am learning a lot using it.

Please feel free to post any suggestions, opinions.

Thank you.

Replies (27)

May 31, 2012 at 05:28 AM · The crack would soon worsen and perhaps render the instrument unplayable. A soundpost patch costs thousands of dollars to repair, but it's worth it if it's an instrument you love and want to keep playing on for some time.

May 31, 2012 at 02:09 PM · If the crack is not repaired it will get worse, the presure of the soundpost over the crack will make it bigger.

If the crack is repaired and you see it and you are refering just to a "cosmetic" repair to make it "unvisible" there is no problem.

May 31, 2012 at 03:14 PM · It depends on the value of the viola.

If the viola is inexpensive...then it's not worth the repair. Play it until it breaks and then toss it.

If the viola has sentimental value...maybe put it away vs. damaging it more. Or cut your losses and repair it.

Totally up to you.

May 31, 2012 at 04:47 PM · Just how expensive is 'expensive' and did you get a few quotes from different luthiers ?

May 31, 2012 at 08:13 PM · If you want to keep playing this instrument, get it fixed.

The musical instrument as a tool can continue to serve its purpose (creating sound) well regardless of its market value.

I had a friend in tears over damage to two of their bows (Bazin and Morizot) in an accident. While they aren't worth as much anymore as collector's pieces, the repairs to them returned them to superb playing condition. They continue to serve that purpose to this day!

May 31, 2012 at 08:29 PM · Why not just get a new sound post?

May 31, 2012 at 08:39 PM · Good one, Tom. :-)

June 1, 2012 at 02:19 AM · Hi Nancy: I agree with most comments that advised you to stop playing the viola with a sound post crack. Loosen the strings and take it to a competent repairman. What caused the soundpost crack? Do you or your repairman know? I've made 100 violas, yet not one sound post crack - at least not to date. What is the value of your viola, before the damage or after competent repair, assuming the tone will not significantly change? The age of the viola itself means nothing. What is the estimate for the repair? Charles

June 1, 2012 at 11:08 AM · The leader of one of my local orchestras has a 1700 Italian violin. The repaired old cracks and splits on the belly look like a railroad marshaling yard seen from the air. Perhaps it had been sat on some time in the last 300 years. Nevertheless, it produces the tone and projection you'd expect of an orchestral leader.

June 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM · David - been there, done that. My soundpost did not crack but was deteriorating. My luthier made a new one and put it in. Problem solved. Good to hear that one of the fine luthiers on this site liked my suggestion.

June 1, 2012 at 04:58 PM · Sorry for the dumb question but just to be clear, is the crack in the actual soundpost, the little piece of dowel under the foot of the bridge or is the crack in the top plate above the soundpost? I'm assuming it is the actual soundpost, and if it is why would it cost thousands of dollars to replace it?

June 1, 2012 at 05:13 PM · The crack is in the plate of the violin...where the soundpost exerts pressure - so it's serious damage...the violin has to be taken apart, the weak area patched and then the violin has to be reassembled.

Think of it as standing on thin ice...eventually you'll fall through...

The soundpost itself isn't the issue. And the odd time it is...it's easily replaced (and quite cheaply).

June 1, 2012 at 05:30 PM · I have to say this thread is hilarious! Between the people who don't know what a soundpost crack is (and no, it's not a crack on the soundpost!) and those who read humour in what turn out to be straight answers... A good illustration of why you should go to your local luthier when you have a problem of this kind and avoid getting violin restoration advice on V.com!

June 2, 2012 at 12:53 AM · "I have a 100 years old viola that has a sound post crack. I learned that the repair for this problem is very expensive.

I am just wondering what could be the worst to happen to this viola if I continue playing with the cracks. The sound is fine now, although I am sure it can be much better without cracks. This viola feels very comfortable, and I am learning a lot using it.

Please feel free to post any suggestions, opinions."

I have no idea what sort of viola you own, so I'll simply make general comments.

An open, unreinforced, soundpost crack in the top has the potential to become a larger problem than it presently is... in addition, the dirt and rosin that collects in that area can contaminate an open crack in short order (raising the repair bill when you finally get around to doing something about it).

The standard approach to repair in this area is to install an internal patch, which requires a cast to do properly. You are correct. It's not an inexpensive repair.

While a century ago, many shops didn't think twice about installing patches as a remedy for many problems, restoration has become a bit more conservative. A soundpost patch, when required, is still a standard and appropriate repair. However, it should be mentioned that in some cases, if the "soundpost" crack is not directly over the post, it may be possible to repair the problem without a patch... but there is no way anyone here can diagnose this properly (over the internet). You'll need to see a competent luthier and discuss options (if there are options).

June 2, 2012 at 01:28 AM · I had a crack in my windshield once. I ignored it and kept driving the car. The crack went all the way down and ruined the engine. Same thing can happen with a cracked sound post.

June 2, 2012 at 01:37 AM · Darn imports. :-)

June 2, 2012 at 09:32 AM · Had you gotten your car to a luthier in time, they could have glued the windshield crack with hide glue, and stabilized the repair by attaching a row of small wooden reinforcing cleats. ;-)

June 2, 2012 at 10:37 AM · @David. I'm not sure I agree with your method of repairing windscreen glass. I feel in this instance maybe circles of parchment might be more appropriate.

Cheers Carlo

June 2, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Carlo, whether one chooses wooden cleats or parchment for windshield reinforcement, the skilled restorer will shape and color them to resemble squashed insects, rendering the repair less visible and more natural looking.

June 2, 2012 at 12:40 PM · From now on, I'm taking my car to the luthier. But I hate to leave my auto mechanic out of work. I wonder if he fixes violins :-)

June 2, 2012 at 02:44 PM · From what has been happening in this discussion I'm wondering whether or not there is a viola out there with a sound post crack, since the person starting this discussion has not responded to anything? Charles

June 2, 2012 at 04:32 PM · Thank you all for your inputs; until the post dated June 2, 2012 at 01:28 AM.

I needed suggestions for a serious problem, and do not appreciate jokes about it.

The crack is about 4" from the foot of the bridge, maybe longer. After talking to a few luthiers, I found out the cost of repairing these cracks cost some $2000+. Really not worth it for what I paid for this viola.

I think I'll keep playing it, and in the mean time look for another viola.

June 2, 2012 at 06:28 PM · Hey, it's a forum, so you get what you get. In this case, the mix included some excellent answers, some from people who also exhibit quite a bit of humor here from time to time. If there weren't some light moments, they might not be here giving you free advice. What are you complaining about?

Edit:

The post you highlighted in your complaint, Miss Grumpypants, came from someone who has posted a lot of valuable advice.

June 2, 2012 at 07:53 PM · I think the title said it all: Sound posts and cracks.

June 2, 2012 at 08:58 PM · Nancy, there could be options which cost a lot less than $2000. They may hold, or they might not.

Depends on many details of the crack.

I know of one cello soundpost crack which was glued and cleated (no soundpost patch), which has been holding up fine for about 20 years so far.

A few repairmen are amazing, and can do more with less invasive procedures. This might involve procedures like cleaning contaminants from a crack under a microscope.

June 2, 2012 at 09:31 PM · Hi Nancy,

My apologies if you took offense to my goofy sense of humor. I see that you are a new member here, so welcome. I have been hanging around this forum for a few years and it is the combination of serious insights and occasional humor that makes this a fun place to hang out.

If you are not accustomed to the joking, then I can understand how you might be upset at people making light of your situation. Sound post cracks are certainly no laughing matter.

Please accept my apologies if you were offended. I hope to see you around in future discussions.

Cheers.

June 3, 2012 at 12:07 AM · Carefully avoiding both the subject and the inevitable viola joke, I must point out that I once worked with a wonderful Korean lady, who, on discovering that her car had a flat tire, sold it forthwith and bought another.

"I just couldn't trust it again", she told me. "I felt it had let me down".

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