High vs Low action

July 13, 2018, 2:26 PM · How do violinists that use high action strings manage to play?

I find it beyond umconfortable to play on high action strings when going beyond fifth position. And vibrato is considerably harder, since I cannot relax my hand and keep the string down at the same time.

Replies (17)

Edited: July 13, 2018, 3:24 PM · Is there a chance that your "high action" is actually too high? I'd get it checked out by a luthier who will be able to make any appropriate adjustments to the setup that may be necessary. There is an ideal height for the action, and the luthier should be able to ensure it. I don't advise doing this yourself unless you have skills that are effectively luthier skills!

The second point is to avoid pressing the string down into contact with the fingerboard in the higher positions. Contact with the fingerboard is unnecessary, makes relaxation and vibrato more difficult and will make the string go sharp on that note because of the extra tension in the string.

On one of my violins I have a 2-octave fingerboard (a Baroque length), but if I need to go beyond that 2nd octave E into the region where there is now no fingerboard (which is not very often) - no problem whatsoever, the notes still play as they should.

An action that is too low is just as bad, but for different reasons. The string will tend to contact the fingerboard all the time, causing fingerboard wear, shorten the life of the string (due to the contact), string buzzing is more likely, and pizzicato will feel clumsy and more difficult. There may also be an unconscious inclination to press the fingers down unnecessarily harder, which is not relaxing, and can cause joint problems in the future.

July 13, 2018, 3:15 PM · How high above the top end of the fingerboard are your strings - especially the E and G strings?
Edited: July 13, 2018, 5:56 PM · Andrew: I think it's 6mm G string; 7mm D string, 6 mm A string, 5mm E string.

I took some pictures

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

July 13, 2018, 6:28 PM · In my opinion, this 3 pics show a VERY HIGH action...........
July 13, 2018, 6:47 PM · that's a bit too high, have your luthier adjust it
Edited: July 13, 2018, 6:55 PM · Yeah, I'm going to take the violin tomorrow to the luthier.

My teacher has played with my violin just fine, I thought it could be my fault. How much lower do you think it should be?

I wonder if lower the bridge will be enough.

July 13, 2018, 6:57 PM · if you dont like high try 5.5mmG, 3.5mm e
July 13, 2018, 9:44 PM · I agree with Lyndon - but the curvature needs changing too - for the A and D.
July 13, 2018, 10:10 PM · What should change about the curvature Andrew?
July 13, 2018, 10:33 PM · Basically the bridge curvature should more closely follow the curvature of the fingerboard - BUT NOT EXACTLY - instead tapering so the strings are above the top limit of the fingerboard (as Lyndon said) by 3.5 mm for the E string and 5.5 mm for the G string with the A and D about 4 mm and 5 mm respectively.

Also at the nut, the strings should be above the fingerboard by only about the thickness of a business card.

July 14, 2018, 2:24 AM · In the meantime, we don't necessarily have to hold the string right down at all times: just enough to avoid slipping and get a clear-enough tone.
Edited: July 14, 2018, 7:29 AM · I'm sure your shop guy will get it right, but it's a mistake to have any regard for the middle strings' heights above the board. They need to be positioned so that the angle of bowing change between strings is exactly the same, and the standard angle, unless there's a specific reason for a different angle, which there usually is not. This not only facilitates bowing, but also affects the perceived balance between the strings. Ignore the board!!

For the curious, with a standard bridge shape, each of the two inner strings will be 1.63mm above the two adjacent strings, measured just in front of the bridge. I measure this with a small rule that has a slot cut in the edge that's just under that measurement--like 1.62mm, so that when the slot is placed on the middle string, the rule will rock just a tiny bit. I believe, if I remember correctly, that this gives about a 15 degree angle between the strings.

A standard cut board doesn't follow that at all. This may be a "mistake" but it's the way it is. The standard board curve is somewhat flatter than the needed bridge arc, which is backwards from logical. I don't really know how this came to be, but I suspect it's to facilitate fingering in high positions on the E string. It's not ideal for the middle strings, but. . . . that's the way it is, and everyone deals with it.

July 14, 2018, 9:23 AM · If it makes you feel any better the cello is even weirder.
July 14, 2018, 9:49 AM · Repeatedly playing a violin with action too high can cause serious repetitive stress injuries to your left hand, particularly the 4th finger.

Get it fixed.

Edited: July 14, 2018, 10:51 AM · Michael, thank you for that most useful arcane wisdom. I guess I knew that (deep in my being) from having reshaped a few bridges on some cheap old ebay violins (and almost 80 years since I was given my first violin). The angles for bowing the inner strings are critical; the outer ones pretty much take care of themselves as long as they are not too high or too low.

Regarding cello bridges: I had Ifshin lower the bridge twice on the Jay-Haide cello I bought from them in 2005. When I wanted it even lower, they refused but did a free "New York neck reset" before we finalized the deal. A year or so later at a CMNC Chamber Music workshop I had a chance to try the cello of one of the coaches (our coaches for that session were an internationally known string trio) and found her bridge was closer to the original height of my cello's than to my preferred height. Cellists are perfectly happy stopping their strings from the side (finger goes down on the fingerboard to the right side of the string without necessarily driving the string into the fingerboard - especially in high positions - it works fine).

July 14, 2018, 1:46 PM · I took the violin to a luthier this morning, I should have it back monday morning.

He told me he could reduce about two milimeters from the bridge.

I'll post an update when I get it back.

Edited: July 14, 2018, 2:00 PM · Well, the main question here is: is the neck angle correct?
Cutting the bridge down will result in bearable action, but will also impact the distribution of horizontal and vertical forces, inevitably affecting the sound... for better or worse.
A good luthier would not lower the bridge before reporting back on FB to bridge projection - the dot on the bridge where imaginary line from FB connects to. If close or lower than 25mm.... the neck has to be reset, or you will have to settle for blue-grasss sound. (not to mention that you may start chipping of the edge of c bout)
2 Canadian cents, soon to be worthless....

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