Are my strings way too high relative to fingerboard?

Edited: August 3, 2018, 3:48 AM · I purchased a violin for $80 two years ago. To this day, my violin is the only violin I have seen in my life so far. I haven’t had a chance to compare it with other violins.

Ever since I purchased it, I have been experiencing difficulties while producing tone in a high position (position above third). My strings don’t ring at all i.e they don’t produce sonorous sound. The sound could be compared to the one that you get when the strings are not being pressed hard enough, or when something is obstructing the vibration of the string. But regardless of how hard I press, they simply don’t produce a ring.

Here are few reference pictures, all of which were taken from the lower side (from the side of the G string, parallax effect could make it a little confusing) .

2) (In this one, I’ve placed a hexagonal shaped pencil against the string on the edge of the finger board, next to G string, the string almost goes under the G string, infact, they happen to be of the same height. Had the G been 1-2mm higher, I would’ve been able to slip the pencil underneath the G)

[Edited Readings]
My G is 0.8cm above the G string on the fingerboard
My D string is 0.8cm above the D string on the fingerboard
My E is 0.6cm above the E string on the fingerboard.

There are no luthiers in county in which I live and a cello player teaches me how to play violin. (He doesn’t play violin, but learnt it for 3-4 years because nobody here knows what a cello is, and a handful were ready to learn violin, needless to mention he cannot produce vibrato)

I see 2 reasons, Either the bridge on my violin is too high, or the finger is attached abnormally high.

What could be the reason? And is there a way I can fix it?
(No, I can’t afford a new violin, this is the one on which i’ll be practising for atleast 5 more years, until I land a job)

Replies (11)

Edited: August 2, 2018, 6:54 PM · Way, way too high. If you halved the height of the strings above the end of the fingerboard you might be at a good place to start considering what else to do - like reshaping the bridge.

Also, at the nut (the other end of the fingerboard) the string height should be about the thickness of a business card.

What is the height of your bridge (between the A & D strings)? Can you post a photo?

And keep this handy for possible future reference:

August 2, 2018, 6:56 PM · You're not measuring properly, you measure from the fingerboard directly below the string to the bottom of the string, not to the edge of the fingerboard which will be more, probably your strings are a bit high but not double.
August 2, 2018, 6:57 PM · Usual range is G string 5-6mm, e string 3-4mm
August 2, 2018, 8:07 PM · Well, your measurements are extremely high. But if you got it for $80 and it don't sound no good (so to speak), it's probably firewood.
Adjusting everything to standards will help but it won't make it a strad.
August 2, 2018, 8:36 PM · Some violins just don’t sound good in high positions and it’s hard to coax a good sound out of that. Especially some that aren’t amazing to begin with. I had this problem with my last (cheap-ish) rental too, and it was very well set up. Needless to say, when my teacher played it it sounded fine (not amazing but fine). Taking from your described situation I suspect you’re still at a relative beginner/early intermediate state of playing, so while a better violin or a better setup could certainly help you probably still haven’t explored the full potential that comes with a very very good tone production...

I eventually was able to coax more sound of mine too but it took really working on my sound, experimenting and getting to know the instrument in that area. Here are some ideas:

- experiment with sounding point: bow closer to the bridge or closer to fingerboard. Some of those “highways” where it sounds good are very very narrow.
- experiment with bow speed
- experiment with bow pressure
- experiment with the amount of hair (bow tilt)
- experiment with the combination of all of that

You could probably improve it all with a soundpost/bridge adjustment but I don’t really see how you could get that done well without a luthier or maybe making things worse :( Other (hardware) things you could try are:

- have you tried different strings? Softer/low tension strings can maybe help.
- have you experiment with rosin amount and kind? It seems like a small thing but I found I need weirdly different rosin depending on what Violin I play, so exploring that might be another option.

Good luck!

August 3, 2018, 2:56 AM · @AnnaV

The strings that came with my violin got damaged. The outer metallic layer started to chip off. I managed to accumulate money and purchase Piastro’s Obligato because I wanted to get rid of the extremely bright and metallic sound that my violin used to produce.

So my violin currently has obligato strings on it. (My violin is cheaper than my strings haha)

Edited: August 3, 2018, 3:46 AM · I measured the height again, this time sticking the ruler directly against the strings, and not against the captain edge of the fingerboard. Here’s are my readings:

Height of E: 6mm
Height of A: 7mm
Height of D: 8mm
Height of G: 8mm

These are in tandem with what I have been experiencing.
Even though all the strings sound bad in higher positions, D sounds the worst.

Edited: August 3, 2018, 7:04 AM ·

"Lay your instrument flat with the bass side toward you and place the ruler against the inside of the upper string half a centimeter in from the end of the fingerboard. The proper measurement at the middle of the upper string is 3.5 mm for a violin [...] To check the lower string, you place the ruler against the outside of the string, again half a centimeter in from the end. The proper measurement at the middle of the string is 5.5 for a violin..."

Hopefully we won't have a big argument about measuring at the bottom or middle of the string, as the difference will be around 0.5 mm on the biggest string, and around the level of accuracy which could be reasonably expected of a person without specialised tools or methods.

Some prefer slightly higher values, but usually on the order or 0.5 to 1 mm higher, not 2-2.5mm as in your case. Moreover, higher string heights might be more common in professional instruments / players, not student ones, given the difference in technique, strength and performance between the two.

So yes, your strings are way too high.

Some more discussion on string height here:

August 3, 2018, 8:07 AM · @Jay,
The question is, is it because of faulty neck piece, abnormally tilted fingerboard or abnormally high bridge.

In case of a faulty bridge, I can purchase a new one and replace it. (Ofcourse I won’t do that one my own, i’ll Ask my teacher to do that for me)

But shouldn’t bridges have some standard height? (For a full size violin)

August 3, 2018, 8:11 AM · you don't need to replace the bridge, you just need to have the grooves and the top of the bridge lowered by 2-2.5mm
August 3, 2018, 5:34 PM · Place a ruler's edge on top of the fingerboard, then slide the ruler until it touches the bridge. The distance from the top plate of the violin to where the ruler touches the bridge is called the fingerboard projection.

The projection typically falls within the range of 26mm to 28mm. If it is lower than this range, then it might suggest that the top plate or ribs warped and that caused the fingerboard/neck to sink downwards and increase the string clearance.

Since you probably will not pay to have the neck reset or plates/ribs unwarped on an $80 violin, the easiest thing to do is lower the strings.

Get a fine, triangular jewelers file. They cost very little at hobby stores. File a V groove at the G string position until the bottom of the G string is 5.5mm from the top of the fingerboard at its end. Repeat for the E string until it has a 3.5mm clearance.

To adjust the D and A strings, place an unwarped credit card under the A and D strings so it is resting on top of the G and E strings. File the A and D string grooves until the TOP of those strings are 2.5mm to 3mm above the card.

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