Do You Plan A Sound Post Setting ?

December 27, 2013 at 05:28 PM · This thread is now closed : Soundpost setting tips, tricks or techniques??

This subject seems very important. May I ask :

Do you plan a Sound Post Setting on your Violin ?


Do you do it by trial (and error) ?

The advice is : “ Go to a Luthier who will do this job ! “

If you are on an Island and cannot get hold of a Luthier, you may decide to move the Sound Post yourself. BEWARE : The risk of wrecking your Violin is always there, unless you are techie enough to know what you are doing.

By now, I have moved the SP about 80 times, and feel at ease. I initially bought 2 Sound Post Setters from the USA :

1. One with a sharp end and a 5 notch like a star on the other end. This SP Setter seemed a bit difficult to handle by a Novice like me.

2. The VS – PRO 2 + “. It is equipped with a Clamp and a Guide at the top to help you locate where the SP is under the Top of your Violin. This SP Setter built my confidence.

After many trials and errors, I decided to “ Plan a Sound Post Setting”. I drew a 10 cm horizontal line on a sheet of paper. The line was sub-divided into 10 cm, each cm to represent 1 mm from right to left, from the bridge on my Violin.

I noted it as 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0. 0 fell under the bridge. 1 is a very approximate 1 mm from the bridge. 2 is the very approximate 2 mm from the bridge and so on.

a. I used my SP Setter VS – PRO 2 + “, clamped the SP and let the SP be held by this SP Setter.

b. I released tensions of strings A and E.

c. I moved the SP to a very approximate 1 mm from the bridge. The SP Setter yellow/green guide on top helps visually.

d. I tightened Strings A and E and fine tuned to the usual A440 Hz. I noted the sound. I decided in advance that VB will mean Very Bright, B will mean Bright, M will mean Mellow etc. This was very subjective according to my liking !

e. I repeated same action (a) and (b) and I moved the SP to the very approximate 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm respectively, and noting the sound with my codes on the sheet of paper.

f. I DID NOT lock the SP between the Top and Back, but let it loose enough so that the SP was held upright only the tensions of the A and E strings. Locking the SP too many times in this study, would surely effect a wear and tear of the wood.

g. By Planning a SP Setting, One should logically attain the right Sound Spot / Sweet Spot to One’s liking, only limited by the Quality of the Violin.

This was written by a Novice without a Luthier on an Island. Your Opinions and additional help will be much appreciated.

By the way, I wish to say hi to David and Lyndon !

Replies (28)

December 27, 2013 at 07:24 PM · My sound posts have been professionally set and I've never felt a need to adjust them. They are not too tight, and not too loose, so I don't expect a disaster if I have more than one string down.

However, if I wish to change the tail piece all the strings obviously have to be let down and the bridge taken off. In order to minimize the risk of the sound post moving under these circumstances what I do before I start is to wrap a thick band of soft cloth round the waist of the violin, haul it tight and hold it in place with a leather strap. Only then do I proceed with letting the strings down, and so forth. The idea is to replace the pressure of the strings with the tightness of the cloth band. How tight should the band be? - I don't find it all that difficult to judge, but an all-important criterion for me is that if I were to hear creaking during the tightening process that would be bad news!

When the tailpiece replacement is finished I replace the bridge and strings, bringing them up initially to a half-tone under pitch, and only then do I remove the cloth band and proceed with the final bridge adjustment and string tuning.

It also helps when the bridge and strings are down to have the violin horizontal and motionless; secure in its case ensures this for me.

December 27, 2013 at 08:56 PM · ..and when the tailpiece is removed, I can remove the button and check the perfect fit of the soundpost against the inner surfaces..

Judex, I like your methodical approach. But:

- I'm not sure "very bright" etc. is precise enough. At each stage, I would play every semitone for one and a half octaves up each string, (bowing nearer and nearzer the bridge as you you go up). The main resonances of the violin shouldn't change their pitches, but their relative strengths will, to a surprising extent.

- I would play for at least half an hour at each step, for the wood to "settle", checking that the feet of the bridge remain in full contact as the strings re-stretch.

- I would play loudly, "into" the string,; the very softly, with minimum pressure, then quick spiccato. We need to know not just the different tone-colours, but also the changes in response.

- Bear in mind that as the soundpost is moved away from the bridge, it will have to be progressively nearer the centre of the fiddle, and its carefully filed ends will no longer be a perfect fit This will somewhat invalidate the comparisons..

As I "dared" to admit in your previous thead, I have also tried different lengths of soundpost, (always well fitted). Most "inherited" posts are well to the right (by choice or from shrinkage)

I have found that I get a more even response across the whole range with a longer post, either symetrically spaced compared to the bass-bar, or simply in line with the center of the bridge's right foot, (rather than its outer edge). As Lyndon kindly pointed out, this is different from loosening an existing post by minute movements to the left. On my widely-built violin, I have even adapted a viola bridge, to have wider spacing between the feet.

I hope this new thread will not come to read like the bickering of a group of adolescent schoolgirls! My suggestions, like Lyndon's, come from experimentation, not from the World Wild Web..

P.S. My own luthier in Paris is an recognised expert, but retains a lively, inquisitive and creative outlook. He has never sneered at my amateurish questions and opinions.

Good luck, and/but take care!!

December 28, 2013 at 03:58 AM · Thank you Trevor and Adrian.

People of goodwill like you, bringing each one a bit of their experience will soon make Sound Post Setting not a real Mystery !

Thanks again and a Very Happy New Year to you all !

December 28, 2013 at 04:20 AM · My friend who learn the art in Cremona knows exactly what to do to achieve the desire result. He would first announce something like "I can give you a little more edge" "I can give you a little more overtones" "I can make the G louder to balance with the rest" and surely, he did exactly what he announced, by moving the soundpost a little.

He didn't plan anything, just knowing exactly what to do to achieve the results. However, he told me that, this can be easily achieved given that the soundpost is well cut, instrument is of high quality, and a sensitive player's pair of ears. He's been disappointed by a lot of musicians where they're not sensitive enough to tell the differences.

I'm supposed if you do it enough times you'll start to realize moving the soundpost specific way will achieve certain effect. So planning and recording what you did is a good way to learn, good luck!

December 28, 2013 at 04:30 PM · Thank you Casey for your post.

What the professional Luthier said is very valuable indeed. Accordingly, I will try to re-fine my SP Setting and Mapping. You are right, doing it many times will develop certain amount of dexterity.

Thank you again. Happy New Year. May all the best be yours.

December 28, 2013 at 06:26 PM · I've been trying to tame a new violin that had an overly strident A. I narrowed the waist of the bridge and had moved the SP waaay back ( like 6-7mm behind the bridge. That calmed it down somewhat, but by way of toning the whole violin down.

I had also noticed that no matter how hard I leaned into the strings, they wouldn't sqwauck at all. So I figured this violin was a good candidate for light gauge strings.

Last night I made two or three changes all at once, which isn't the greatest for the Scientific Method, but it sure saves some time.

I measured and found that the soundpost was rather too far inside the treble foot of the bridge, so I carefully trimmed off a half mm of the post. When I installed the post I also now targeted a more "normal" distance from the bridge, now about 3-4mm back. I strung it up with the new light gauge Corelli Crystals and let it settle overnight.

So far, so good. Previously the G and D had sounded great, but the A was always sour and piercing. Now it seems to be much better balanced.

Was it the new light gauge strings?

The SP shortening to get it more under the treble foot?

Dumb luck?

All of the above?

Anyhow, it seems much improved. I'll have my teacher give it a whirl and see what an objective view is of the tone as of now. (Initial impression before adjustments: "wow, this is a BRIGHT violin...")

December 28, 2013 at 11:11 PM · Casey,

Next time, have your friend write what will happen on a piece of paper and give it to you folded, BEFORE he moves the post. Don't look. See how well you agree then. Some people may not be sensitive enough (but how can they play well?) and some may be too impressionable.

When I adjust a post for a customer I NEVER tell him or her what will happen. I ASK what did happen. Seems to work more satisfactorily that way.

December 28, 2013 at 11:23 PM · John, may I describe myself as a "skilled" tinkerer?

One of my trade fiddles had indeed been damaged by a soundpost jammed in skew-wiff: I had to open it up to repair the damage. It's feeling much better now!

But I would never touch a valuable intrument, only those many which are worth less than the luthier would charge.

Lyle and Casey, I think if practicing musicians cultivated a good luthier's ear, they might give up? A imagine a piano tuner trying to conduct a choir without tearing his hair out..

December 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM · St.Jude is my favorite!

The dentist's mirror will "see" if the soundpost ends are a perfect fit. An LED lamp (i.e. cool) shining into the opposite F-hole lights the inside sufficiently. If the fit is not perfect we get a slight shadow between post and plate, on one side of the post. Not good for the fiddle, and invalidating tonal comparisons.

December 30, 2013 at 03:16 AM · Lyle,

Well the point was whatever it works. I don't need to test the luthier or some sort, as I know my instrument well and I've dealt with quite a few luthiers so I know what I'm listening. As a matter of fact, after a few adjustments it improved so much that my colleagues including non musicians can tell how much my violin improved.

Since then I visited him a few more times and he would let me try out the violins that he's currently working on and adjusting. And he's able to prove what he can do again and again, sometimes I just need to tell him my impression e.g. E string not clear and after nudging the post once he did exactly what I expected to improve. When it works, it works, and things can be really simple, no gimmick no nothing.

What's funny is that many local musicians avoid looking for him, yet there's growing number of foreign musicians who're members of the top orchestra in my country would let him adjust their primary instruments. Those players are the one that has big concertos e.g. Tchaikovsky under their fingertips. Go figure...

December 30, 2013 at 09:03 AM · I feel I am beginning to catch some good techniques in SP setting. Thanks to all of you, I am compiling all the Tips and Tricks with my SP planning and mapping. It appears that SP setting is more technical that being an art.

I have again been re-adjusting that little "Organ" we call a SP in my violin. I now can say that :

1. All the Strings respond immediately under the Bow.

2. The sound is even and ringinnnnng tone is good enough.

John Cadd, thank you also for your post. Yes " Beau Bassin " is French. " Beau " means beautiful and " Bassin " in the context of my place means " A Lake". So, " Beau Bassin " means " A beautiful Lake ". I currently speak French, but I do not write much. English is the official Language for the Government and Business, though a few write in French.

In French the noun is either masculine or feminine. "Good Luck, my Friend" is translated as " Bonne chance, mon Ami". "Chance" is feminine. So, the adjective "Bon" becomes "Bonne".

The Violin is so beautiful and almost a feminine Instrument by its look. The French say " Le Violon ". Violin is masculine ! Maybe because of the SP in it !

Good for a little French lesson here !

I wish you All " A very, Very, Very Happy New Year".

Take care.

December 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM · "It appears that SP setting is more technical that being an art."

It is both! Some say that mathematics is the language of God, or that music is the harmony of the spheres etc. I fear that God must smile at this: I think maths and the sciences are a desperate human attempt to put some simplistic order into a miraculously complex universe.

As a teacher, I realise that minds (and hands) are as similar, and as different, as faces. The same applies to the trees from which we make violins.

December 31, 2013 at 05:17 AM · Hi Adrian,

I rely on your experience when you say that the setting of the SP is both technical and being an Art also.

Today is the last day of 2013. I thank you All for your valuable Posts, and also to All who contributed in the previous thread : SP Setting Tips, Tricks or Techniques . Due to your valuable advice, I can say that now my Violin "Obeys and is Generous !" in the true sense of the terms.

Tonight I will lift my Glass for your Health and A Very Good Year 2014 For All !

Enjoy your Holidays and Cheers !

December 31, 2013 at 05:26 AM · New Years resolution:

Don't play around with the sounpost any more than is truly necessary.

December 31, 2013 at 07:12 AM · Hi Seraphim,

Intelligently speaking, I think that I have reached the optimum possibilities of my Violin. I should not be far from 90 times moving the SP ! Enough now !

All the best and Happy New Year to you.

Cheers !

January 1, 2014 at 07:34 AM · Hi,

Hope you have spent a very beautiful start of the New Year, playing lots of beautiful tunes for your Parents, Relatives, Friends and Pets.

Last night I have been playing the "Peekaboo" game with the SP through the f-hole. I cannot wait till the foolish month of April to ask the following :

" If you divide by 2 the area of the cross section of the SP, then make 2 thinner SPs and put both on various combinations in the violin. Will it divide by 2 the sound intensity ? Will it give the impression that 2 violins are playing at the same time ? Will it give a slight reverberation effect ? "

I have not much facilities to do this experiment on my Island.

Will you care to reply to stupid Questions ?

Happy New Year !

January 1, 2014 at 10:35 AM · I have never tried this, nor do I know anyone who has!

I have an old trade fiddle, with very thin plates, which howls rather than sings. I have put the soundpost directly under the right foot of the bridge: this calms it a little. A luthier friend suggested an extra soundpost to stiffen things up, but I suspect it needs added bracing inside.

January 1, 2014 at 02:57 PM · Have you perhaps tried light gauge strings on that howler?

January 1, 2014 at 03:41 PM · Yes.

January 1, 2014 at 06:21 PM · It occurs to me that if the violin were to be invented today by an aero-engine designer he (or she) would take care to ensure that essential operating parts (the sound-post in this case) would be easily accessible for installation and maintenance by means of a removable access panel in the side of the instrument.

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

January 2, 2014 at 04:29 PM · A fiddler I met in a session had a loose SP which he solved by the simple expedient of a small nail hammered through the back of the violin into the end of the SP.

Weep, oh ye luthiers, weep!

January 2, 2014 at 04:47 PM · Sometimes the only way to solve a werewolf note on your violin is to drive a stake through it's heart at dawn....

Or a nail in the soundpost may suffice...

January 2, 2014 at 09:43 PM · The sound post in my original VSO was glued in place. I found this out when a luthier tried to move it. I'll always remember (with a bit of a shudder) holding the violin down securely on his table while he inserted a chisel through an F-hole and whacked it with a mallet.

When he made a new sound post and installed it where he figured it should be (rather than where the old one was), that VSO sounded like a whole new instrument.

January 3, 2014 at 05:28 AM · Hi Adrian !

In your previous post you mentioned " Maths ". Yes Humans, with our finite Mind, we have tried hard to understand what is under the hood. Indeed, we did quite some progress with the sciences !

On my own, on my Island, I have desperately tried to study the SP setting. I planned and mapped it, and now I feel that somewhere there is a "SP Equation " to be written down. One thing that is escaping me is the coefficient of variations in the whole mechanism.

I wish I could have the facilities of a Luthier's Workshop. I may buy some tools, and try a flatter SP instead of the long, round one. I would like to add a porous post under the bridge for the mechanical support. The flatter SP cross section area to be same as the area of the cross section of a normal SP. To experiment with different sizes.

Has somebody ever tried a crystal SP ?

Since April 2013, it was only in Nov/Dec 2013 that my Violin is obeying nicely and is generous. Thanks to the posts of so many of you in this and the previous thread. Thanks a lot and a mighty handshake to All.

January 3, 2014 at 05:35 AM · Synthetic soundposts, such as crystal do not expand and contract like the wood that the rest of your violin is made of.

I believe in the distant past someone did use a glass tube of some sort.

January 5, 2014 at 07:21 AM · Thank you Seraphim.

I just have a new thread about bow bouncing on A String. Please join and let me know your opinions.

It appears a solid observation because actually my bow bouncing on the A String disappeared, hardly noticeable !


January 6, 2014 at 08:14 AM · I think I failed to explain properly something in my last post ! Sorry !

I meant, provided that the SP is in the right position/spot, is the A string a bit tricky on the curvature of the bridge ?

Strings G, D, E are ok. Only the A string was a bit the odd man out, and by moving it on the curvature of the bridge, I found a better result.

Maybe you wish to map the different spots on the curvature of the bridge, and find out.

January 17, 2014 at 09:47 AM · Ha Ha !

The Novice as I am trying hard to be a " Pro " in Sound Post Setting. (Smile !)

Observations in experimenting hard have been pretty weird with illusions as my last two posts!

I am now much more at ease in planning and mapping my Sound Post setting. One more thing I believe is true is that the " Sound Post and the Bridge " are literally two great Partners !

I have gone through many sleepless nights to finally satisfactorily enhance my violin.

I look forward to do better with a Pickup and Amplifier.

Nice weekend and Cheers !

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