My first soundpost adjustment!

October 30, 2012 at 04:05 AM · Hi All,

I'm an enthusiastic newbie who has already got my hands dirty with changing out strings, then messing around with lowering my bridge, trying to cut my own bridge (not yet successful--feet are about 90% a good fit, but not quite, so I am still using the stock bridge), installing kevlar tailgut, re-installing nylon tailgut due to the kevlar being a bit too harsh, trying to sleeve the kevlar (perhaps I'll detail that in another thread)....

Anyhow, just trying to say that I like to get my hands dirty and see what is what (I'm an engineer by trade). So, when the mailman delivered my new Yitamusic vunder-violin I got busy messing around with it. Threw on a set of Warchal Ametysts I had as a second set for my other violin. Those certainly were an upgrade of the stock Chinese spaghetti steel it came loaded with. Violin sounded pretty good, but definitely a bit abrasive and harsh...

I purchased this violin for a couple of reasons: firstly, to see how the Yitas were (pretty nice for what they are, actually quite nice...), secondly, I wanted to do some experimenting with sound posts and their adjustments, so a bargain violin was what was required. $241 delivered including a carbon bow. No tears would be shed if I made a total hash of things (OK, yes I'd still cry.....I'm not made of money here...)

I crafted a soundpost tool out of a fork: I ground away three out of the four tines, and modified the broad end into a pretty decent facsimile of a proper tool, sharpened the end, and custom bent it to suit my needs.

I removed the strings, bridge and endpin (removing the endpin gives you a great vantage point for seeing what's happening inside there as you guide the post in). It took me 4-5 tries to get it where I wanted, but eventually I was successful!

I re-strung that bad Larry and tuned it up: Aha! Eureka! The tales are true-- by moving the soundpost aft a smidgen (luthiers use such terms in place of the metric system), the harshness was eliminated, and now it sound robust and full.

I'm not planning on trying this type of shenanagin on my primary violin, but it felt nice to tackle the mysterious and arcane world of soundpost adjustment and not split my top plate in twain, nor transform my violin into a screeching banshee of auditory atrocity, in fact it made it sound rather nice.

Anyhow, just sharing my little adventure!

Replies (23)

October 30, 2012 at 05:23 AM · Congratulations. I have not yet worked up the courage to adjust the sound post although I have all the necesssary tools to do so. My violins sound good now so if it isn't broken then I don't fix it.

I am a bit curious about your soundpost : you made it out of a fork ? To me, a fork is a metal tool used for eating. Perhaps I am missing something here ?

October 30, 2012 at 07:43 AM · I've taken sound posts out and put them in, is that the same procedure to move them? I made a tool from a coat hanger.

October 30, 2012 at 11:29 AM · Brian:

I made the soundpost setting tool out of a fork, not the soundpost itself.

October 30, 2012 at 09:25 PM · Sorry, I did not see the word 'tool'. LOL

I could not work out why you would make a soundpost out of a fork !

November 2, 2012 at 04:11 PM · My soundpost fell while I was in Florida last year on vacation so my Dad and I put it back up with an old string and something else I can't remember what it was. It worked and now 9months later it sounds great and has stayed up!!

November 2, 2012 at 05:57 PM · Good to see others attempt soundpost adjustments-it was one of the most useful skills I've ever learned, along with fitting a bridge and pegs. Buy up those cheap junker violins and give it a go. WAY easier than learning to play the instrument, IMO :-) I use a post gauge and setter, a dental mirror and a small penlight. I now prefer my own work to anyone elses.

November 2, 2012 at 06:35 PM · At some point, I'll need to insert my usual and obligatory "wet blanket" on the topic of do-it-yourself soundpost adjustments, so I might as well do that now.

For every happy anecdote and success story we (in the trade) hear about sound post installation and adjustment, we see numerous examples of carnage. Sometimes the damage is on the inside, so the person isn't even aware of it.

Have fun, but please don't do this on a valuable instrument without some solid training.

I've been making and adjusting soundposts for about 40 years, surrounded by some of the best training and coaching available, and am still learning. It could be easier or more difficult than playing the violin. Depends on the level you want to achieve.

November 3, 2012 at 12:45 AM · David

I'd appreciate your advice if you have a moment.

My instrument seems to be very sensitive to sound-post placement. A single tap by the luthier makes a huge difference. It's wonderful when the post is just so, but it can go off quite badly as the seasons change, etc.

My nearest workshop is some way away and while they are good I struggle to afford the service. If I had an hour or two of training from someone experienced, would it be practical to make some micro-adjustments myself? I'm not talking about cutting new posts or anything major - just fine tuning.

It's a good instrument, but I have a basic student instrument I could practice on.

November 3, 2012 at 08:07 AM · I too would love some tips. I have an old Czech student model to practice on. How do you nudge it into a different position?

November 3, 2012 at 11:32 AM · How to nudge it?

From my completely limited experience (I have now probably adjusted my soundpost a total of a dozen attempts, all told), I was not able to "nudge" the post once set. If I wanted to move the position I had to knock it down and re-install it to re-position it. During the re-positioning phase it is then loose enough to "nudge" it into a different position, straighten it up, adjust rotation, etc.

November 3, 2012 at 09:46 PM · Geoff and Bud, I'd love to help if I could figure out a good way to do it in a forum format.

To me, the best fiddle-tech learning is largely a live hands-on experience, with someone good looking over your shoulder, and offering tips adjusted to the person's most effective leaning routine and background.

It's a little like learning to play the violin. One can learn a lot from text and the internet, but what great player hasn't spent a lot of time with personal live coaching?

If I wrote ten pages on soundosts, I could probably teach you just enough to make you dangerous. ;-)

November 4, 2012 at 02:23 AM · From my experience, a properly fitted post will make perfect contact with the top and back plates, and not work itself loose under normal circumstances UNLESS the instrument has been jarred or dropped, or exposed to extreme temperature/humidity changes-- especially without string tension. I agree with David Burgess here, many variables can occur, including uneven surfaces and unsuspecting curvatures of the interior, etc. If your post needs constant adjustment, it's possible it is not fitted correctly in the first place.

November 4, 2012 at 10:39 AM ·

November 4, 2012 at 10:16 PM · Adam-- I do not dome the ends of my posts. I find if they are angled properly for the violin, there are no gaps or spaces. If a shorter or taller post is desired, you *may* need to change the angles accordingly, depending on the arching of the plates.

Most soundpost adjustments are fore and aft-- either towards or away from the scroll. Even still, the angles may need to be adjusted if the interior of the instrument is inconsistent.

Basically, each post is cut for an exact location within a specific violin. Sometimes you can move the post fowared and back slightly, othertimes you may need to cut a new one for each position.

If the string tension is loosened and the post is cut correctly, you can usually move the post around safely as long as it's not fitted too tight. This assumes there is no internal damage, splintering or uneven gouges on the plates.

Again, experiment on junker fiddles only!

November 4, 2012 at 11:52 PM ·

November 5, 2012 at 12:19 AM · Thanks for all the advice - much appreciated!

I'm sure that David's right and that even minor adjustments are best learned hands-on with an experienced luthier. I do have a contact who has offered, so I think I'll give it a try on my student instrument and see how I get on.

As for the soundpost not being properly fitted, it has been checked by a well regarded workshop and pronounced in good shape. But I do find the instrument goes off a bit in the winter and comes back in the summer. I was present when the original post was fitted, and it was the final tiny adjustment that moved the sound from good to gorgeous - the difference was rather striking. Rather than the soundpost actually moving, I suspect that the instrument is simply changing shape a little with the seasonal change in temperature and humidity, and that it would benefit from a small adjustment twice a year or so. Does this make any kind of sense, or should I be looking elsewhere for the issue?

December 8, 2012 at 06:22 AM · Finally finished up the new bridge as well on my other violin (which also recieved a soundpost adjustment). Despieau 3 tree, with black ricepaper parchment for the E string slot.

Definitely brightened up the violin.

iphone pic, sorry:

December 10, 2012 at 09:59 AM · I am with David Burgess here... leave this kind of thing to a luthier. Even if your instrument is a cheap one now you can develop a soundpost craving and do that even when you have a Strad or Del Gesù (or keeping asking luthiers to adjust it every week).

A bad adjusted bridge can damage the top too.

December 10, 2012 at 03:27 PM · How does one become a luthier?

Doesn't one have to start somewhere? I'm not about to hang out a shingle advertising my services. But I found my experiments into soundpost adjustment (including cutting my own), bridge trimming and installation, tailgut adjustment and replacement with kevlar, lowering the nut on one of my violins, and installing various strings to have been extremely informative to my personal understanding of the instrument. Dropping the violin off at the shop to have the work done would not have been 1/100th as elucidating.

I purchased the Yitamusic violin for the express purpose of having a test victim for my first foray into soundpost adjusting. Definitely an eye-opening experience. Worth it just to pop out the end pin and peer around inside the violin. All the more so with the dozen or so soundpost adjustments I ended up making to it. I recently sold it to someone who is much more skilled than I (they attended New England Conservatory of Music)and they commented on the sound quality.

The violin pictured above is my primary violin. It is an Old Violin House "Master" violin that cost all of $289. At that price point, I'm not going to splash out ~$100 to have a pro install a bridge on there. So, I got a Despiau A quality ($34), and had at it. I can see why a luthier charges what they do, as carving and installing a bridge is a rather involved process. But this violin is all the more "mine" with the effort I put into it myself.

And I got to experience the definite brightening of my instrument now that a quality bridge is on there as opposed to the generic Chinese bridge it came with. Likewise, the Yita came with a rather thin bridge, so I swapped the OVH bridge (which was appropriately thick) to the Yita, and again realized an improvement in tone for that instrument as well.

I can certainly appreciate the caveat about the possibility of total disaster. But on the other hand: to acquire the ability to care for your own instruments is a valuable skill to have as well.

December 10, 2012 at 11:07 PM · Seraphim-- great post (pun intended). The last time I brought my violin to a "reputable" shop, the peg holes were re-done incorrectly, a hole was drilled inside the back of the scroll, and my bow re-hair was WAY too short. Of course, some luthiers are better than others, but do you really want someone to experiment using YOUR violin?

Yes, there are luthiers I trust- they are 4 hours away and don't work cheap! At least in my experience, once you begin the learning curve, basic bridge, post and pegs are not all that difficult. Lots of free info on the web! As always, learn on junker fiddles first.

December 11, 2012 at 03:26 AM · I don't know a single luthier who makes bridges that I'd consider to be "acceptable" who doesn't charge at least $300. That being said, I've seen bridges costing over $400 that were absolute crap, done by supposed "top professional luthiers".

December 11, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Ok, I am a self taught luthier, so I understand your point. Try to read as many books and articles about the subject, get good tools. The book "THE ART OF VIOLIN MAKING" by Courtnall & Johnson is a very good one. Good luck!

December 13, 2012 at 06:08 AM · I had mentioned also adjusting the nut on my OVH violin

The nut came quite high and arched, the A and D strings were significantly higher than the G and E strings.

So, I had at that ebony with file and sandpaper, etc.

Before and after:

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