Low fingerboard projection

February 11, 2014 at 02:48 PM · I bought a violin from large online music shop in europe in year 2012. I enjoyed started playing it till now.

Now I realized that fingerboard projection of violin is lower than normal 27 mm. It measure around 24 mm (23.5 to be exact)only. String angle on D string (measure at bridge) is also approximately 3 or 4 degree larger than normal (ie string lies flatter on the violin). String clearance above the fingerboard is normal ~5 mm (FB to bottom of string at fingerboard end/tip) on bass and ~4.5 mm on E string.

My teacher says the sound of violin is chocked somewhere even with new bridge and soundpost (adjusted properly). I suspect that low FB project may be issue. I also begun to realize myself after recoarding my own playing on this violin and other chinese violins I bought. The sound of the violin is not as full even though those chinese violin cost quarter of the violin in question.

I wrote to both music shop and manufacturing company (both in Germany), they both responded and required me to give drawing and diagrams (I haven't given send them back yet).

I am wondering if it will be counted as manufacturer's defect or intentional design for specific violin model. Does anyone face similiar issue before? Will manufacturer likely to do anything?

It is good to get a luthier fix the problem since violin worth only ~600$? I don't know the cost of repairing yet. Otherwise, is the only remaining option sell it?

Replies (46)

February 11, 2014 at 10:42 PM · A neck reset will cost a large fraction of the violin's value (half or more, and must include a new bridge), and there may be no difference in sound after it is done. I was told I needed a neck reset. After everything, it sounded not one bit better.

February 11, 2014 at 11:14 PM · Scott makes a good point. It is most likely a manufacturing "defect," but you will probably have trouble getting anything changed.

A tip I recently saw is to get a couple of "self-fitting" bridges of different heights. Try each one without changing anything else. If one of them improves the tone/playability significantly, see if you can find someone who will taper the back of the fingerboard (existing or new) to raise the projection and cut a new bridge. Should be much more economical than a neck reset.

February 12, 2014 at 03:39 AM · Neck projection is huge.

February 12, 2014 at 04:47 AM · A cheap way is for the luthier to fit a thin wedge of wood under the fingerboard if the fault is not gross. This is a common problem of German violins sold in Singapore. The cause is high humidity in the tropic. I wonder if the problem can right itself during seasons of low humidity in your country. After all, cellos are often fitted with a summer bridge and a winter bridge for the same reason.

February 12, 2014 at 05:18 AM · The wedge does nothing, IMO.

February 12, 2014 at 05:18 AM · I agree with the Tong. It is called a NY neck reset and should not cost a fortune. William is onto something; it may not resolve the problem in the long run.

Regarding the impact on the sound; with a proper FB to bridge projection, the bridge will naturally be a bit higher. This, in turn will re-distribute the vertical and horizontal forces in favour of the former. The sound may be better, the same or worse, depending on the factors beyond your control, such as overall design, graduation of the plates, etc.

I would say that, if you are not happy with this violin, sell it "as is" and buy an instrument within the standards and a pleasing sound.

February 12, 2014 at 05:34 AM · Fingerboard wedges don't favorably impact sound compared to neck projections, IMO and experience.

If there's something wrong with the neck, then fix the neck. Don't bs it with a shimmy. Balanced tension is so important to the sound of a violin!

February 12, 2014 at 05:50 AM · I can see no logical reason why a fingerboard wedge to raise projection wouldn't have exactly the same sonic effect as a complete neck reset to do the same, the only problem is the neck becomes thicker as you move into higher positions. The change in sound has to do with the higher angle over the bridge, putting more downward pressure on the top of the violin, as pointed out this may often improve the tone, but not always; it could get worse, it should get slightly louder though.

February 12, 2014 at 05:56 AM · Fingerboard projection doesn't change neck projection, does it? Seems like a cheap solution to me. The fingerboard is raised, but how does that affect the tension from the neck?

I've had close friendships with many luthiers, makers, etc... Mark Womack once fixed the neck projection of my instrument in less than 5 minutes, sans letting it sit time.

February 12, 2014 at 06:35 AM · Thanks for the replies.

Tong: It does not seems that it has something to do with humid weather in Singapore where i stay. The original bridge that came with instrument (it is German Auber one star) also has nearly same height at the middle (ie between D and A strings). When I got new set up on the violin, luthier made a similiar bridge giving proper string clearance without noticing me that the bridge is very low. I just recently discover this issue.

I am thinking that it happens by design. BTW, it is orchestra series violin.

Both manufacturer and retailer asked for photo details of measurements and just today, I gave these details which includes height of bridge, FB projection on bridge, string clearence at G and E string, bridge location, vibrating string length and string over length, FB level above top plate etc... waiting for response.

I understand that possible solutions would be: FB wedge, neck reset and third, sell it. But I still needs to find a bridge with usual height 33mm to see how it respond in terms of tone. Right now, volume is low (also partly due to ProArte strings) and sound is somehow constrained (ie not so-full tone). It is painful to do such long procedure to get the things correct on violin.

February 12, 2014 at 06:45 AM · The tension on the neck and the strings remains the same, but the higher the bridge and the corresponding higher the string angle going over the bridge, the more downward pressure on the top of the violin, hence usually at least improved volume, this relationship is the same for what ever method gives you the increased string angle and downward pressure, be it fingerboard wedge, NY lift, neck reset to either increase the neck angle or increase the overstand, what matters is not how you get the correct string angle(Michael Darnton says 158-159') over the bridge, but rather that you do get the correct string angle, In the baroque time all fingerboards had a wedge built in and the necks were set flatter angle to the body, there's nothing deficient about it except as I said getting used to the neck being fatter around closer to the body than at the nut.

February 12, 2014 at 05:45 PM · "...I enjoyed started playing it till now.

Now I realized that fingerboard projection of violin is lower than normal 27 mm..."

I wonder if there really is a "problem" at all. The OP was happy with the violin at first. What changed?

The setup didn't suddenly change. I think his perception that some measurements weren't "correct" (if there really is such a thing) led to a change in his perception about the instrument's sound. It seems from the post that this doubt may have been planted by the teacher.

We teachers have to be careful about causing a sudden dissatisfaction with an instrument, because it has a powerful effect on the student's perception.

I remember once purchasing an instrument as a student. I proudly brought it to a lesson, and my teacher said "where did you get that instrument? I don't like it." Need less to say, I was suddenly less focused on my actual playing and totally depressed about the violin for quite some time.

February 12, 2014 at 07:43 PM · Tension doesn't only come from bridge height. Think about it.... if the scroll is lower (neck lower, etc), there is a 'tug'; a downward pull/push on the bridge that is MUCH DIFFERENT from simply adding a shimmy to the fingerboard. Now maybe that will take a simple neck projection, or maybe it will take a neck reset. I'm no luthier, for sure, but surely a master maker luthier must realize this simple logic?

Scott: Why didn't you ask your teacher to help you purchase a fiddle? just curious...

February 12, 2014 at 11:47 PM · Scott asks good questions.

"Think about it.... if the scroll is lower (neck lower, etc), there is a 'tug'; a downward pull/push on the bridge that is MUCH DIFFERENT from simply adding a shimmy to the fingerboard. I'm no luthier, for sure, but surely a master maker luthier must realize this simple logic?"

Obviously you are no luthier and there is no logic at all in your reasoning. The downforce on the bridge is determined by the string angle over the bridge and string tension. Period. Doesn't matter how you get there. Changing that angle does not always produce a predictable result.

By the way, it is not possible for ANY luthier to change the neck projection in five minutes unless the top is already loose from the block, even if you don't count glue drying time. If it were we would all be doing it.

February 13, 2014 at 02:06 AM · Well ask Mark. I was there. And I don't think you are really thinking about it enough.

February 13, 2014 at 02:20 AM · You don't change the angle over the bridge by adding a wedge. The scroll has come up, in relation to the body, when the indicator: string heights are way too high, shows you that "the neck has fallen."

Actually, what's happened is that the plates and rib structure have changed shape due to the pressure on the instrument.

Think about what you're saying. If the angle is from the nut to the saddle, the fingerboard being wedged doesn't raise that angle. If you sight down the ribs, you'll see on an instrument with the neck set correctly that the eye of the scroll is just behind the back edge. When the neck "comes down", the scroll appears in the middle of the ribs, or higher.

In that state, adding a wedge to change the string heights back to standard does NOT change that scroll's position as it relates to the body. It doesn't restore a higher angle. It simple shores up the empty space created by the instrument settling.

And it does nothing to restore the instrument's sound, which surely is much worse with that angle so dramatically decreased.

Five minutes is mighty fast, and not recommended. Actually, a NY neck reset is not recommended. A reset is the right way to go. But yeah, a competent luthier can restore an instrument to it's proper tension pretty fast. Wedging the fingerboard will do nothing to affect the problem of restoring your fiddle's sound.

February 13, 2014 at 02:25 AM · Amen.

February 13, 2014 at 02:54 AM · Wow.

February 13, 2014 at 03:04 AM · Obviously Jacoby, you've never tried it have you, of course adding a wedge will raise the string angle along with the bridge height, maybe not the full amount of change that a neck reset would, but as I said its the string angle that matters, and the bridge height, not how you get there, two different methods that give the same string angle and bridge height should have the same results tonally.

ps and being off optimal by 1' or 1mm shouldn't make a whole lot of difference.

February 13, 2014 at 03:10 AM · I've had both done. A wedge sounds like #%%^ and a neck projection correction sounds good.

February 13, 2014 at 03:19 AM · Richard, my sympathy is with you. You have found yourself in a Catch-22 situation. I experienced same problem with two European-made violins, each costing a few thousand dollars. Michal Bittner of Gramercy Music in Singapore fixed both of them to my satisfaction.

When I was a student, I played a handmade Roth from Germany for many years, never getting full satisfaction. I only realized the problem many decades later when I noticed that the bridge on the Roth was lower in height than that of an excellent Chinese violin that I acquired.

Lowering the bridge height in 5 minutes seems to be a quick solution a luthier would do to solve the sunken FB issue. It actually compounds the problem. The angle made by the strings on the lowered bridge will be wider, resulting in weaker pressure on the bridge and hence softer volume.

Michal did a neck job on my Roth and made me a new bridge. The repairs restored the full mellow tone of the violin, but the volume was only adequate for orchestral playing, not solo playing. He then thinned up the bridge a bit which improved the volume somewhat.

My second European violin is a handmade Czech violin brought new from the maker. I noticed I had lowered fingerboard projection issue within 6 months of purchase, which made be think that the humid environment in Singapore is the cause of the problem. I also noticed that German-made violins displayed for sale in Singapore shops also showed the same problem, while Chinese violins were immune to it. Most Chinese violins are made in Southern China which is generally humid in most part of the year.

Michal did a wedge job for my Czech violin which restored the original tone and volume. He also changed the sound post which was necessary for all new violin after 6 month to one year of making.

Richard, I would advise you to pay Michal a visit before you consider your next step. Only a luthier can make accurate measurements for a proper diagnosis.

Depending on how much you have fallen in love with this violin, please bear in mind that whatever you sink in on repairs will not improve its resale value one bit.

February 13, 2014 at 03:38 AM · "I've had both done. A wedge sounds like #%%^ and a neck projection correction sounds good.."

Yes, but did you do it to two identical instruments? Otherwise this would seem more anecdotal and less scientific.

February 13, 2014 at 03:48 AM · No, thankfully. I learned from another instruments failure, and applied my intuition and reasoning to my instrument so I could avoid the unnecessary step of taking out a shimmy; and instead... doing it the right way. I'm grateful for that.

February 13, 2014 at 04:25 AM · Lyndon, re-read what I wrote. You can't change an angle by filling in empty space beneath the existing angle. There are two points that can change the angle if the bridge stays the same: the nut and the saddle.

The nut has come up, reducing the angle.

Placing new wood under the newly acquired SPACE under the length of the angle from the nut to the bridge does nothing to affect the angle. It just makes the new angle playable, vis-a-vis standard string heights.

To exert a new angle on the bridge, you either have to lower the saddle, or lower the nut. The wedge does nothing, and makes the violin crappy to play, hold, and hear.

February 13, 2014 at 07:40 AM · Normally when you fit a wedge you're fitting a new higher bridge so that the strings are the correct height above the new higher fingerboard, hence the angle over the bridge is higher as is the bridge height, if you get the correct string height and bridge height this way, you're Ok otherwise you might have to resort to resetting the neck angle, however as I said before its the string angle and bridge height that makes the difference, not what method you use to get it there, tonally speaking, I don't believe a wedge can have any significant bad effect on the tone.

If you want to try a more logical arguement you could say the wedge hinders the playability in higher positions.

May 7, 2014 at 07:33 AM · Thanks for the comments.

I wrote to the online retail store in Germany. They asked me to provide photograph showing the measurements such as string clearance etc..

At first a repair quotation was requested from a local luthier. However, the cost was higher than they expected. So they offered a replacement with a new violin (same model) which has the fingerboard project around 26.5 mm. So I accepted the replacement. The shipping costs (to and back) was absorbed by the store. I received a new violin. It has stronger tone then previously one. String angle over D string is now 158 approximately.

May 7, 2014 at 01:24 PM · 26.5 may still be a little on the low side for a new violin in Singapore, since it will probably come down some more.

But at least they tried, and didn't ignore you.

May 8, 2014 at 05:18 AM · David, thanks for comment. as far as I remember, the fingerboard was low originally when I received the first violin nearly last 2 years ago. My teacher asked me why the FB is so low above top violin plate. His assumption was just that may be arching is high. And I didn't pay attention to it since I though that that doesn't affect my playing much. I was just beginning with violin, so strength of tone that may be coming with proper string angle was unknown to me until recently I found that tone was weak and looked for possible fault. And luckily, I found that violin was covered under 3 year manufacturing defect guarantee.

I asked local violin shop a new bridge and soundpost soon after I received the violin. Since then, string height above the fingerboard has not changed. If the projection was becoming lower during this 1.5 year due to weather or something, i should be seeing significant changes in string clearance (if I am correct). Odd thing is that the shop who did the new setup didn't tell me about low FB. He just cut the bridge accordingly to get 4.5 mm string clearance for g string.

Violin with few mm lower bridge looks ugly when it is seen from side as well. The strings look flatter.

May 8, 2014 at 07:14 AM · A few observations from an active musician and informed tinkerer!

- Neck stiffness and mass have a considerable effect on tone, as does the weight of the fingerboard overhang. My finger-board came unstuck; being miles away from a luthier, and also from my toolbox, I attached it with two rings of scotch tape. The suddenly more flexible neck absorbed much of the tone. Later the rather thin, short, worn fingerboard was replaced with a new, thicker one. In this particular case, the tone was improved, and the B-flat wolf-tone reduced.

- I "wedged" an old VSO. The tone improved for two reasons: the strings bore harder on the bridge, but above all the higher bridge had more wood above the "heart", so it had a slightly more muted effect. Increasing the neck angle would have increased the bridge stress, but not this muting effect. I try to find bridge "blanks" with their cut-outs at different levels so that I can try to anticipate the tonal result.

So? Every one here is right, but there are many factors!

November 3, 2014 at 07:27 PM · A wedge does nothing to alter the projection of the neck. However, it can alter the projection of the FB if it's cut like a triangular prism. If you cut the wedge rectangularly, then the string angle will remain the same over the fingerboard while being smaller behind the bridge with a slight increase in string tension. If the wedge is cut triangularly, then the angle of the strings will increase on both sides of the bridge, increasing the tension noticeably. It's better to cut the wedge triangularly than rectangulary since the added mass is smaller. But, depending on the increased projection, the playability will suffer in higher positions. I have a very wide violin and the neck has a low projection while having the FB tilted towards the E string. I'll have to compensate with a sloped wedge to gain enough clearence from the edge of the C bout so I don't touch it with my bow.

November 3, 2014 at 08:57 PM · I've played on both, and from my recollection I have perceived a difference in sound. Steeper neck angle usually results in more full and open tone. Wedgie not so much. Sometimes a wedge works better, especially with thinner plates, or if the tone tends towards being boomy or too loud. Many "baroque" setup violins have a wedge in the neck, either from its original construction, or added later. I'd suggest if you need a strong, projecting tone, go for true neck reset. If a lighter, sweeter tone is acceptable to you and suitable for your violin's construction, try a wedge. After all, musicians primarily want a good playing instrument, not a theoretical analysis on the physics of tone production.

November 4, 2014 at 12:07 AM · Quote:

"It's better to cut the wedge triangularly than rectangulary since the added mass is smaller."

We're somewhat lacking evidence that decreased mass in the neck assembly is advantageous. It may even be the other way around.

August 8, 2015 at 07:32 PM · I've actually picked up an old violin today for $50, a West Germany violin(predates my age for sure), nicely flamed, and body had some damage here and there, but after listening to it with my ear against it while plucking some strings, I decided that it's a keeper.

Something I noticed was that the neck was reset improperly, you could see the "carpenter white glue" residue from the cracks of the neck. Also, the fingerboard projection was sitting at 21mm or so.

I want to repeat myself I spent $50 on this violin, after sanding down an old bridge I don't use anymore, and with the soundpost reset(improperly fitted), I put on old set of Infeld Red and played salut d'amoire. It sounded great! Equivalent to my primary violin. I noticed twang from A and D strings and the nut was worn down below the fingerboard, so It's in a luthier's hands to restore that.

Other than that, I am curious, how low can a bridge be? I recall having only 4mm in between the highest point of the top of the bridge to the crown. In the future, I will ask a luthier to properly make and fit a new sound post and I'll be fitting the bridge myself.

This violin with be my "side-project". I will not compare my quality of work to any and luthiers out there, but I do carve, varnish chess pieces.

August 8, 2015 at 09:03 PM · Steven,

the bridge can be as low as you want, until you start hitting the edge of your violin with the frog and chipping away chunks of wood.

Low bridge is sometimes even desired by folk and blue-grass fiddlers.

Have fun with your new violin!

August 8, 2015 at 10:01 PM · Thank you Rocky,

My Primary "Campbell" violin bridge was professionally fitted by Olivia Pelling, and she also mentioned that she used a "double low" bridge. It sounds and feels great but once a while I get carried away and I made two dents to the edge of the treble side of the rib with my frog.

Something I cannot get over with is the sound quality of the new new violin. It sounds equivalent and maybe even better than my primary violin.

I just spent few hours sanding down 2 extra bridges into the right height, I can't wait for next week to get the violin back. I'm using the "Violin Manual" Haynes publication as a reference.

August 9, 2015 at 04:36 AM · I just got curious and checked the fingerboard projection height on my "Campbell" as well, it is 22mm.

Is this some sort of German style? I'm starting to wonder if the divergence from "Standard" measurements make some of the (lower end)instruments sound so unique.

August 9, 2015 at 05:44 PM · Both of your instruments need a neck lift to sound their optimal, didn't your luthier tell you that??

Sounds like you need to save up your money and invest in a better violin, one that's set up right to start with, as are all my violins for sale. Buying a cheap violin and pouring hundreds into fixing it up kind of defeats the purpose of buying cheap, doesn't it??

August 9, 2015 at 06:02 PM · Well my "Good" violin has costed me $800 and my old violin to begin with, I'm hoping to have the money to make a step up to a $2000~$3000 one in a few years.

I did get to play French and Norwegian violins in that range, the only one that spoke out to me was another German one for $3000.

August 10, 2015 at 03:24 AM · Quite frankly, I think my "Campbell" is very well suited for my price and skill range.

Let's not forget I am still in the "beginner" range, and that I am a full time student in between Undergrad and Masters degree(not in music).

I just couldn't resist the temptation of a $50 price-tag after inspecting the body of the new instrument.

August 12, 2015 at 06:18 PM · Well, it seems that my lust has gotten to me as well as a new teaching contract(university tutorials) to be able to afford to satisfy my lust.

I learned that low fb projection = much easier to hit the violin with the bow. Also, I feel somewhat confined after the first position. I have to bow very close to the bridge on the D string from 4th position and up(basically after A, I have to be about 0.5mm away from the bridge, which gets very annoying when I am switching from double/triple stops. I've been trying the "wavey" string changing that Carl Fischer described, D is still bothering me). Also my "new" $50 investment rings better.

I will be trying new violins in a little higher price range while I still have some free time before full semester starts in September. Currently my priorities are:

1. Sound quality. This time I want a more balance rather than eccentric A, and dull D. I've read that this may have more to do with strings though.

2. Playability , FB projection, bridge height. (I will be looking for 27mm ish for FB projection)

Anything else I should be looking for while I try some violins?

August 12, 2015 at 10:26 PM · 26mm-29mm should be acceptable for fingerboard projection, 27mm is not the highest allowable.

August 13, 2015 at 04:03 AM · I'm curious, does neck and fingerboard width have much to do with playability?

August 13, 2015 at 09:06 PM · For some people. Others can adapt to anything within a reasonable range.

August 14, 2015 at 09:21 AM · Depends how big their fingers are, a person with bigger fingers might need a wider neck and string spacing, a person with smaller fingers might be more flexible.

August 14, 2015 at 05:00 PM · I have been trying a violin for the past hour or so. I really like the playability on this one, but sound is arguable, I like the old one better for sound.

I have a feeling that I'm going to have the same problem as last time... I seem to be drawn to an expensive German violin. Last time I got to try briefly some of Olivia's violins, I was really drawn into that one. Playability, I haven't really taken that one home yet, so I cannot say much on that, but the sound really got to me.

What would you say is more important for someone who is trying to transitioning from beginner to advanced? Playability or sound? I'm currently focused in 1~5th position, double stops and bowing techniques.

Playability I mean by:

1. Agility in terms of changing strings

2. bowing distance from the bridge, dominantly on D string.

3. Bow bouncing distance for staccato

4. Good angle for wrist vibrato.

August 14, 2015 at 08:13 PM · Nevermind, I was drawn into something else, Very good sound and easy to play.

I'll have to wait a little longer to be able to afford it

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