The soundpost fell

August 25, 2006 at 05:05 PM · I wanted to ajust the soundpost because my violin had a really dark out of tune sound, but it fell into the violin while trying to adjust it.

my husband got it back standing but it is not straight.

So is that a bad thing? the sound changed a bit, it sounds more metallic than before but i don't mind as long as the soundpost is standing.

is there an exact place where it should be? how much does it affect the sound if it's out of place?

Replies (51)

August 25, 2006 at 05:13 PM · Immediately take the tension off the strings and take your violin to a luthier who can check the proper placement of the post.

If it is in the wrong place or even twisted a little it cam severely damage your violin.

If it is in too tightly it can easily cause a serious crack in the top.

August 25, 2006 at 06:18 PM · This is not the type of adjustment that would typically do yourself. Your best course of action is to take your violin to a local luthier. He or she can then work with you to make small adjustments to the soundpost placement and other aspects of the setup so that it sounds more to your liking.

August 25, 2006 at 06:32 PM · absolutely right.

Take it to a pro (a good luthier in your area).

August 25, 2006 at 07:24 PM · I take the soundpost out of my violin all the time. It is fun to do, and great therapy.

Until you have de-posted and re-posted your violin yourself, it really isn't "your" violin yet.

But everything said above by others is true.

August 26, 2006 at 01:15 AM · I hope you are joking, Bill!

I would never touch my soundpost...that's what the professional luthiers are for.

August 26, 2006 at 01:32 AM · Yah always let pro's adjust the soundpost, and it only costs like $25-$75 anyways. It would cost a lot more if something happened to your istrument because of inproperly touching it. ANd Sarah btw, closer to the bridge means a brighter sound, farther away means darker, mellower sound..

August 26, 2006 at 02:15 AM · Greetings,

I sometimes remove my internal organs if I am feeling off color. I am not qualified to do it, but who cares?

Cheers,

Buri

August 26, 2006 at 02:26 AM · Actually I am only half joking :-D

I have and do adjust and reset my own soundpost, but I don't do it on a regular basis.

I also cut my own bridges, and do any repair that I possibly can. My daughter accidentally sat on my son's violin and snapped the neck off, so I got out the hide glue and fixed it up just fine. My daughter even helped (she was 5 at the time).

August 26, 2006 at 02:49 AM · I agree with Bill that it's good to do simple work on your violin. But, until you REALLY know what you are doing, take it to a luthier. For example, if you have to ask whether it is okay for it to tilt, or whether a metallic sound is okay, then you need to take it to the luthier.

Lots of people never work on their own violins, just as lots of people never change their own oil or spark plugs. I don't like to feel helpless in an emergency.

August 27, 2006 at 07:18 AM · At last, what looks like an answer to something that has bothered me for a long time. When trying out violins, some of them have a dark sound, like an oboe almost, while others have a more open sound, more like a flute. I associate those particular sounds with the tone that emerges on a guitar when plucked near the bridge or in the center of the rosette. So is this range of different sounds merely a reflection of the siting of the sound post? If so, could one buy a Bavarian style violin with an extremely mahogany tone and have it brightened up by a luthier?

By the way, is there a standard vocabulary for this range of tonal differences?

August 27, 2006 at 07:22 AM · Noel,

The position of the soundpost does not necessarily mean that it will change the sound per se. Its primary function is to transmit vibrations to the back.

The position of the sound post (relative to the treble foot of the bridge) regulates or, perhaps, accents the frequencies in the vibrations.

The closer to the back of the bridge foot the post position, treble is accented.

Further to the right of center of the bridge foot the post position, less bass is accented.

Further to the rear of the bridge foot the post position, less treble is accented.

Further to the left of center of the bridge foot the post position, more bass is accented.

Both top and bottom of the post must be beveled to exactly follow the interior arching of the plates. It should also be exactly long enough to stand in place without undue pressure.

Each instrument has its own unique tone quality. Proper adjustment of the sound post is only one factor in the setup process.

JT

August 27, 2006 at 01:22 PM · Noel, the sound of a violin is determined by a whole bunch of things, especially arching. materials, and graduation, the very least of which is the post. Think of the post as a fine adjustment for some aspects of tone and playability, but it's not a tone control like the one on a radio.

I usually think of the post not as an adjustment, but as something that has basically one spot where everything on the violin opens up and plays right. When the post isn't there, that doesn't happen. If a maker interprets players' comments with that in mind, adjusting gets a lot simpler. This is a different model from the traditional one that John's outlined above. I make the types of changes people usually attribute to the post in other places, where the differences are more radical, and changes more effective. But these adjustments aren't overall tone controls like you want, either.

August 27, 2006 at 03:19 PM · Thank you John and Michael, for your answers to my questions.

Michael, I was simply asking to increase my understanding; I certainly do not "want overall tone controls." In order to clarify my question, I suggested an extreme case - that of a putative attempt to adjust the tone of a Bavarian violin. That is an example of a common rhetorical method (taking an extreme case). It does not in anyway correspond with something I might try or want to do! I treat my violins with the greatest respect.

August 27, 2006 at 04:27 PM · No, it wasn't a put-down-- I'm just trying to explain both how I do things, and that the range of things you can do with the post is actually very small, compared with some of the other options available. I know many musicians think adjustment is just a matter of knocking a post around using a script that if they had it and a post setter, they could do it, too, but not only doesn't that work, the possibilities are much greater than that. . . . but in spite of that, you can't change a violin into a completely different one, just with the post. You may understand that, but I don't think the initial poster realized that before she knocked her post over.

August 27, 2006 at 06:37 PM · Noel,

I forgot to mention the grain direction of the soundpost should be fitted perpendicular to the grain direction of the top plate.

I should also say the sound post functions to render the vibrations of the plates similar; probably more so than transmitting the vibrations of the top plate to the back plate.

JT

August 29, 2006 at 05:11 PM · panic

August 29, 2006 at 06:45 PM · Hi Sarah,

Usually, this is something that an experienced luthier should do. The reason I say this, is because most instruments only have one position for the soundpost. I know that this opinion is not shared by everyone, as some instruments are different (or difficult). I'd bring it to a luthier and sort it out..They have a special tool to move it.

Daniel

August 30, 2006 at 03:00 PM · I agree with Michael Darton.

The soundpost has one or two or three spots where the instrument "comes to life", and anyplace else is worse.

We've done a lot of experimenting with sound adjustment in my Oberlin class, including having Rene Morel teach sound adjustment, and have been unable to verify the notion that there are trends, such as,

"If you move the sound post this way it does this, and if you move it that way it does that"

with the exception that Rene seems to have an uncanny ability to listen to an instrument, and know what changes to make to the post.

I'd also agree that post adjustment is maybe 10% of the total sound adjustment process.

I have seen MANY instruments damaged by people attempting to adjust or set up the post themselves, and would not ever recommend it without extensive training.

David Burgess

burgessviolins.com

August 30, 2006 at 06:10 PM · David, you are absolutely correct regarding great skill in fitting and adjusting sound posts.

In the past 30 years, I've repaired several hundred fiddles damaged by incorrect soundpost adjustments. I've seen every thing from interior bruising to the post being driven all the way through the top plate.

I have a Joseph Guarneri on my bench right now with a post repair done in 1894 by W. C. Gomph, Syracuse, N.Y. In addition to inserting a piece to fill the hole, he also put a patch on the inside about the size and thickness of a half-dollar. Goes to show you never can tell!!

Edit: I also have that 'uncanny ability' to find the sweet spot.

August 30, 2006 at 08:52 PM · >I sometimes remove my internal organs if I am feeling off color. I am not qualified to do it, but who cares?

Buri, you crack me up.

August 30, 2006 at 09:30 PM · "Edit: I also have that 'uncanny ability' to find the sweet spot."

I have yet to talk to someone who adjusts violins who doesn't say that about himself. I think fully 150% of the makers in the STRINGS guide refer to themselves as "tonal specialists"! :-)

August 30, 2006 at 09:39 PM · Any ideas about why a good place for it is a good place, and how to find it, short of trial and error? (It's the adjusters turn to fight. The players are all knocked out)

August 30, 2006 at 11:47 PM · I have a concrete list of things I listen for on plucking different specific notes, and moves (not only of the post) to make that are specific to each, along with concrete objectives for each of the various adjustments. There's nothing indefinite about it--no trial and error--it's very fast, and you know when you've hit the spot. There's an overarching concept behind it that's simple, and that I don't talk about.

I can get a violin maximized in about two minutes, if the post and bridge are properly cut. It doesn't involve the player playing at all, though the player's comments are always helpful, of course, and after I'm done I *might* get one request for a further honing, but often I just get a stunned look and "how on earth did you do that?"

The violin is a beautifully designed, sophisticated object, and when things don't sound right, there's usually a concrete reason for that. IF the violin is well made, up to a reasonable standard, adjustment is the final step to getting everything functioning properly, at least as much as possible, that's all. Different violins have different potential, and the best ones have both the most potential and are the fussiest regarding proper adjustment. With really bad ones, nothing you do does much, but fortunately my customer base is such that I don't have to see any of those.

I know this all sounds like a crock. If I explained it completely, you'd all immediately understand (and since this is how I make my living. . . . well, you get the idea. :-). It's definitely one of those "why didn't I think of that" things. There's no voodoo involved--not a single bit.

August 31, 2006 at 01:11 AM · Someone previously wrote...."I know this all sounds like a crock."

Yep, that sounds about right.

Some one also previously wrote..."Different violins have different potential, and the best ones have both the most potential and are the fussiest regarding proper adjustment."

I don't find this to be the case at all. The better the fiddle, the easier it is to set things to working properly.

Someone also~also previously wrote... "With really bad ones, nothing you do does much, but fortunately my customer base is such that I don't have to see any of those."

Really?? Wow!! You must be the ONLY one who never has seen a bad fiddle!! Amazing, simply amazing!!

Smile boy!! You're on Candid Camera!!

August 31, 2006 at 01:29 AM · Well, take from it what you will. That's fine with me.

Just for the record, though, I didn't say good violins are harder to adjust; I said they're fussier. And of course I didn't say I never have seen a bad fiddle.

August 31, 2006 at 04:09 AM · I'm not 'taking anything' from your remarks, just quoting them.

I've never had any problem (whatsoever) in adjusting a fine Italian violin, especially a Stradivari or a Guarneri del Gesu.

I have repaired and restored some that were busted all to pieces and still haven't had any trouble getting them to sound well, irrespective of the damage done, or "what my repairs are supposed to look like".

What do you mean by a violin being 'fussy'??

To me, it sounds like you've tried to adjust some of those Strads and DG fiddles which have their interior thicknesses drastically reduced, then had to have doubling patches and re-doubling patches inserted because some 19th century restorer had the audacity to think he could "improve" on literal perfection.

That will definitely cause problems which can never be fully corrected, no matter where the sound post is placed, what the neck angle is, how the bridge is trimmed, or what kind of strings are used.

The E.N.D. process, isn't it?

Enhanced Natural Decay...yeah, that's it. Right?

Fortunately, none of my fiddles have been subjected to that kind of barbaric insult.

And, I certainly hope none of your productions are treated that way in the future.

Chicago's own Fritz Reuter deplores that kind of stuff!!

How~bout~U?

You're still on Candid Camera!! Smile!! That's right!!

August 31, 2006 at 07:36 AM · tit-tat-tit-tat

August 31, 2006 at 07:51 AM · tit-tat-tit-tat??

A three year old baby with a BIG NAVEL can do better than that!!

August 31, 2006 at 09:29 AM · thanks guys for your interesting and educating answers. i will call a luthier today, and i'll let you know what happened to my violin afterwards if you're interested.

August 31, 2006 at 10:34 PM · I made my own violin. It only took 12 years. I cut my own bridge, and placed my own sound post.

Then, after I declared it officially finished, I took it to the local luthier and had him replace the sound post, and cut and fit a new bridge.

I was smart enough to know that I didn't want to spend 12 years and have a poor sounding instrument because of an inferior fit and placement of these two key components.

August 31, 2006 at 11:27 PM · 12 years 8 hours a day?

August 31, 2006 at 11:28 PM · More like 12 years, 8 minutes per day. Some days, no minutes. Some weeks, no minutes. Some lazy Sunday afternoons, several hours and a couple of beers.

It took a long time to design a pattern, then a corresponding mold, acquire tools, learn how to use them, learn about varnishing, etc.

My goal when I started was to build a lousy violin quickly. Once I started, I really wanted to do it right.

I am going to build another one when I find a spare 12 years. But, I'll still let a pro set the sound post.

August 31, 2006 at 11:52 PM · When I was a little kid, I ordered a how-to book by a guy in California named Sebastian (?) Wake. I ordered parts from IVC, like five dollars at a time for most of a decade. Finally had most of the parts, and went off somewhere and my parents threw it all away thinking it was junk left over from building the house. Somewhere at my parents house is still a most of a neck and scroll I made though.

September 1, 2006 at 11:00 AM · now my violin is ok. i went to a luthier yesterday and he replaced the soundpost for free. we played a bit together and i got to play one of his violins wich was nice since my violin was made by a man over 80 years old it does neither look or sound perfect and it's verry hard to play and get any sound from. but the luthier liked it's tone, heh.

September 1, 2006 at 05:02 PM · Jim:

I think the guy you are referring to is Harry Wake, from here in San Diego. I used his book for guidance in varnishing my violin.

Also, I actually own one of his instruments, made in 1974, as I recall.

September 1, 2006 at 08:26 PM · I also brought my violin to a luthier in my neighborhood yesterday and she charged me $25.00 without even playing it. :-(

That said, $25.00 is still way cheap in comparison with risking damage done to my violin. I like this violin a great deal.

I agree it is fun to play with the soundpost (and bridge for that matter). But it might be wise to try that with a junker violin, which you can certainly find a bunch on eBay for under $100 or much less.

September 2, 2006 at 04:36 AM · John,

"Literal perfection'??? That's a little over the top, don't you think? Please, it's centuries old technology. We'll be making them out of fiberglass before long, and by the hundreds.

Remember, technologically we are space aliens compared to the folks in the 17th and 18th centuries.

And Buri, your pancreas is showing...

Howard

September 2, 2006 at 04:43 AM ·

September 2, 2006 at 04:43 AM · Oops... my message got posted three times... sorry.

September 2, 2006 at 01:25 PM · I do my own soundposts but would never suggest anyone else should fit their own (unless they're a pro like David Burgess of course).

Even some pros or violin makers tend to jam soundposts in too hard and distort the table of the violin. In my view, it should be just sufficiently tight to keep it standing (before you tighten the strings of course). And we've all seen violins where the edge of the f-hole has been crunched by the sound post tool.

Also, some people cut too much of an angle at each end of the post, which makes it like putting a spike in your violin.

By the way, can anyone recommend a soundpost tool that is really neat and sharp at the business end ? Most of them tend to have a spike that is too thick.

Cheers

Oliver

September 2, 2006 at 02:48 PM · All of the commercially available post tools I've seen or had need quite a bit of grinding to make them functional. Sometimes there's as much as twice as much metal as needed to do the job.

September 3, 2006 at 10:12 AM · Howard wrote;

"John,

Literal perfection'??? That's a little over the top, don't you think? Please, it's centuries old technology. We'll be making them out of fiberglass before long, and by the hundreds.

Remember, technologically we are space aliens compared to the folks in the 17th and 18th centuries".

_________________________________________________

Howard,

Literal perfection is in no way a little over the top. It is the top; especially with respect to the tonal qualities of the finest Cremonese instruments.

That "centuries old technology" has never been deciphered, nor understood. If it were so, (and by now), many late 18th and 19th century French and Italian violins (from Lupot and Storioni, on down) would have ascended to the highly favored status as concert instruments of the first rank.

Consider this:

The Hill brothers ventured to tabulate their opinions of the time periods it would take to "season the tone" of the most famous makers through normal, but intermittent use.

(paraphrases mine)

Stainer: 10-15 years.

Amati: 20-35 years (depending on period and form).

Stradivari: 30-60 years (depending on period and form).

Guarneri del Gesu: 40-80 years (depending on period and form).

As far as I can understand, time and use would have little or no effect in "seasoning the tone" of a musical instrument constructed of man-made materials.

Consequently, there will always be a clear and distinct difference between the tone qualities of instruments constructed through "modern technology", and instruments constructed by "centuries old technology".

Can we imagine what our great-grandchildren would do with " Grandpa's fiddle" bearing a label reading like this?

"Antonius Scrapivarius Commerciallius

Fiberglassius Anno 2xxx A+S"

:-(!!

September 3, 2006 at 10:13 AM · Very interesting about the soundpost resetting tool, I always use a ladies Hat Pin, about four inches long to spear and hold the sound post, then the soundpost tool I use to gently manipulate the top and bottom of the post into place, and to support the post while the Hat pin is pulled out.

DavidP

September 3, 2006 at 10:24 AM · David,

That is exactly the way I set sound posts!!

I've found this method works best.

Wemustbesomemorekindofcoolasacucumberfiddlefixers!

September 3, 2006 at 09:17 PM · Thanks everyone for the tips on soundpost tools !

Do you bend the hatpin (which must be a little difficult!) or use it straight ?

September 3, 2006 at 09:35 PM · Ah--I think the question got edited, so my answer's not relevant...

September 4, 2006 at 08:31 AM · I was referring to David and John's use of a ladies' hatpin to skewer soundposts, ie do they use the hatpin in its original state (straight) or do they bend it, like the curve on a soundpost setting tool?

September 4, 2006 at 01:43 PM · Well I use my hat pin straight... but I take a bit of care to get the angle it sticks into the sound post right so as not to foul the sides of the f hole.

David

September 5, 2006 at 09:08 PM · Thanks David !

Now to find a shop in Sydney that sells hatpins without appearing to be some sort of weirdo !

September 5, 2006 at 09:12 PM ·

September 5, 2006 at 11:35 PM · Has any body seen my Congressional Metal of Armor? I lost it somewhere between here and yonder! Yikes!! Thisthewrongneedleandthread!!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe