a question about violin afterlengths

November 13, 2016 at 02:29 AM · In my search for a new violin, I have come across a number of instruments with afterlengths of 50mm instead of the usual 55mm.

None of the instruments are new. So they have been set up this way for awhile. Is this a new trend in setups? I would say about a third of the instruments I have looked at are set up this way.

Replies (22)

November 13, 2016 at 04:33 PM · There is not a standard measure for the afterlength, but position of tailpiece may be changed depending on the requirements of the instruments.

In my violins often works well with 51.5 or 52 mm, a shorter afterlenght also decreases the overall tension of the strings giving maybe different feelings to the player and less pressure on the bridge.

November 13, 2016 at 11:52 PM · Hi Davide, may I ask what's your usual setup for tailgut length if the after length is 51.5 or 52mm? Quite a few luthier prefer it to be as short as possible. I've also been trying to play around with the my violin setup and found the tailgut length to have more influence on the violin tone. Thank you

November 14, 2016 at 04:21 AM · reducing the afterlength does not give less tension on the strings and does not decrease downward tension on the bridge IMHO

November 14, 2016 at 05:33 PM · I see the "new" 50 mm-ish set-up. I think that is a result of violins that need a shorter tailpiece and the people doing the set-up can't be bothered to seek out a tailpiece of the correct size.

In other words, not intentional, just lack of attention to detail and knowledge.

November 14, 2016 at 08:35 PM · Excuse me, a shorter afterlength does not lower ovarall string tension, which depends only on the vibrating section. A common misconception, even amongst successful luthiers..

Plain physics.

November 14, 2016 at 11:59 PM · " reducing the afterlength does not give less tension on the strings and does not decrease downward tension on the bridge "

"Excuse me, a shorter afterlength does not lower ovarall string tension, which depends only on the vibrating section. A common mistake, even amongst successful luthiers..Plain physics."

If you shorten the afterlenght the overall string lenght (that under tension) will be shortened, requiring less tension to achieve the same pitch.

Is it not right?

November 15, 2016 at 12:14 AM · " Hi Davide, may I ask what's your usual setup for tailgut length if the after length is 51.5 or 52mm? Quite a few luthier prefer it to be as short as possible. I've also been trying to play around with the my violin setup and found the tailgut length to have more influence on the violin tone. Thank you "

My tailgut lenght is usually about 5 mm or less (as is the free lenght from tailpiece to nut), using tailpiece of 110 mm max.

Anyway 51.5 or 52 mm do not always work, too many variables like tailpiece length and mass, lower bout dimension, material of the tailgut, kind of strings and so on.

I often use steel cable tailgut.

November 15, 2016 at 02:27 AM · "If you shorten the afterlenght the overall string lenght (that under tension) will be shortened, requiring less tension to achieve the same pitch. Is it not right? "

No, sorry! The tension will be the same throughout the string (if the string can slip easily over the bridge and nut, but that tension will only depend on the vibrating section.

November 15, 2016 at 10:02 AM · Thanks for the clarification.

However, I believe that the greatest effect of afterlenght variation is attributable to elongation or shortening of tailgut, which goes to change the stiffness and the modes of vibration of the tailpiece.

Possible influences on tension, or on tuning of the short end of the strings have only minor effects, if any.

November 15, 2016 at 11:24 AM · And, as I've said elsewhere, you can change the pitch of any or all of the short ends without moving away from your preferred afterlength.

November 15, 2016 at 11:38 AM · I think Carleen Hutchins suggested tuning the "thonk" got by tapping the tailpiece that of "plucking" the end of the fingerboard.

November 15, 2016 at 01:56 PM · Hi Davide, noted and thanks for the reply.

November 15, 2016 at 03:42 PM · My string afterlenght is around 55 mm and a couple of years ago I asked my violin doc if he could try a 58 mm afterlength and he said he would have to trim the tailpiece to do that and recommended to leave as is which I agreed to. I have heard that a longer afterlength sounds harsher under the ear but better at a distance so that is why I wanted to try it.

I have also considereded for a long time trying out a compensated or harp shape tailpiece but have yet to try that route. Some of them come in laminated wood with differently dyed layers, so pretty...

November 15, 2016 at 04:58 PM · People should quit obsessing about the numbers and adjust for the best sound. You're talking about measurements much less than a millimeter anyway--just the slightest adjustment of the bridge will change that length and sound anyway. And I highly doubt a millimeter here or there will have any noticeable effect one way or another on string tension. I've seen luthiers that like it long, and some that like it short. The ears of the player do not always match those of the luthier.

November 15, 2016 at 05:21 PM · I am with Davide Sora here, no fixed rules, it is adjusted according to the instrument.

The afterlength is very long on Heifetz's del Gesù.

November 15, 2016 at 06:07 PM · A mm her or a mm there is the difference between the afterlength being in tune with the sounding string or not, at least that's the theory. The other theory is that a short tailgut is best for tone. The two theories seem to be in opposition to each other in most cases.

November 15, 2016 at 11:57 PM · If you move the tailpice "South" the instrument will get more edge, if you move it "North" you will calm down the instrument and it will be easier to play.

November 16, 2016 at 01:17 AM · I'm selling a violin on consignment that has overtones that are so strong, when playing note d on the a string, you can't hear the note at all. The overtones drown it out. Moving the soundpost didn't help. Now I'm wondering. Would moving the tailpiece help? None of the luthiers who worked on it ever considered moving the tailpiece.

November 16, 2016 at 02:41 PM · Leon,

When you say "overtones" do you mean sounds coming from the PLAYED string that are different than the fundamental note being played, or loud sounds coming from the UNPLAYED strings that vibrate along with the played string because they are all connected to the bridge?

It is important to distinguish between the two because the solutions will vary depending on the cause.

For example, I encountered a violin that sounded good except for the D string. It always sounded slightly out-of-tune. It was especially noticeable when playing a piece in D Major from first position. When one played an authentic cadence that ended on the open D, it became obvious that something did not sound right.

We tried swapping out various strings, all to no avail. Eventually I generated a frequency spectrum for the open D and a few other notes in first position. The upper overtones coming from the violin were way out of proportion to the lower overtones to what one typically sees.

Basically, overtones 1 thru 4 where rather weak compared to overtones 5 and above. For an open D, overtones 1 thru 4 correspond to tones D D G D. These are perceived as a "pure" tone. Starting with overtone 5, (F# for the open D), you start getting notes that give a dissonant character to the note, sometimes perceived as a "complex" tone.

This problem seems to be mostly with the violin structure itself: perhaps the post position, bass bar, arching or graduation schemes of the belly and back. Experimenting with the post position helped some, but moving it too much started to affect the other strings in a negative way.

Basically, the problem was inherent to the violin body itself and the only practical way to improve the situation was get a different violin.

The other common case, unplayed strings drowning out the played string, this is due to a particularly resonant bridge, top or tailpiece. Something to keep in mind is that the unplayed strings, the afterlengths and even the tailpiece will all tend to vibrate at some overtone of the note being played. So they can add dominating overtones to a note, at least "under-the-ear".

People mistakenly think that if an after length or tailpiece are positioned so that their fundamental frequency is some value, that these things will ONLY vibrate at that value. Not true. It also explains why sometimes changing after lengths or tailpiece positions, one gets an unexpected boost or dampening of certain notes played on some strings.

The physics is rather involved, but a good rule-of-thumb is that something that has a fundamental frequency ABOVE the notes being played will tend to reinforce the note, while something that has a fundamental frequency BELOW the note being played will tend to be neutral or occasionally dramatically dampen notes of higher frequency.

Going with a heavier bridge or increasing the after lengths might give you some relief.

November 16, 2016 at 08:14 PM · Thank you for the reply Carmen. When I play a d on the a string, nothing at all comes out. I think the problem is inherent to the instrument. That could be why none of the luthiers I took it to suggested fooling with the afterlength. Hopefully, someone will buy it.

November 17, 2016 at 01:25 PM · Having a D string that will not strongly sound the fundamental overtone is a very unusual condition. One of the prominent modes of vibration of the violin is in the range of an open D string. This suggests something seriously wrong with the structure or setup.

Have you tried a new D string? It may be damaged, such as the winding separating from the core, or adjacent strands, or a fracture in the core that cannot be seen beneath the outer winding.

November 17, 2016 at 02:22 PM · Yeah, I put a new set of strings on when I took it to the violin shop. The only thing that hasn't been tried is changing the afterlength.

What's really confusing is that this only started happening in the last year. No matter what the humidity or temperature, it's still there.

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