violin adjustment?

Edited: January 26, 2021, 10:34 AM · Hi everyone!
I needed a new thumb leather and rehair, so I took my bow and violin to the shop. I figured I might as well have the strings changed at the shop also, because I like how they always line up the pegs so they are in the best position for tuning. Well, the luthier told me that that my fingerboard was falling and the neck would probably need to be reset at some point in the future, but in the short-term, he suggested shaving down the bridge a millimeter to lower the action. The soundpost was also in the wrong place and crooked. There was an open seam near the chinrest.

I left my violin and bow with them for the repairs. The gave me a loaner violin for a week--an "Eastman" with a plain back--I assume it is entry-level. It had a very tinny sound, but much better responsiveness on the G string than my own violin.

Having gotten my violin back after the repairs, I am not so happy. The G string remains much less responsive than the crappy loaner. The E string and A strings sound watery and the E string feels mushy. The Bs are not resonant as they used to be. It is easier to play double stopped fifths in 5th position. I can now manage that ricochet passage of fifths in 5th position of the Mendelssohn cadenza without having to stick my first finger between the G and D strings.

What happened? Should I go back and get an adjustment? Is there any way to lower the contagion risk of an adjustment in the pandemic? Presumably I'd have to be in the same room with the luthier--handing the violin back and forth...

Replies (6)

January 26, 2021, 10:54 AM · Shaving 1mm off the bridge is a large change in the clearance of the strings, especially the E string. If you liked the feel of the strings before the bridge adjustment, then lowering the bridge would do nothing to improve the feel or sound of the violin.

It sounds like an odd recommendation to make unless the lowered neck caused a significant increase in string clearance that was affecting your play.

Whenever you have the sound post adjusted and you are not there to provide feedback on the changes, you run a risk of being unhappy with the results. "Wrong place" and "crooked" are ambiguous descriptions. It is frequently the case that violins sound "best" with tilted posts and post positions some distance from the "standard" position.

January 26, 2021, 1:05 PM · It sounds like you do need an adjustment. There isn’t an easy way to adjust a violin without being in-person, because personal sound preferences vary so much.

The luthier spoke of a dropping neck, and the suggestion of lowering the bridge is intended to make the string heights appropriate for the dropped position of the neck, which would make the violin more comfortable to play. The downside to lowering the bridge is that you end up with a bridge that’s more squat and the string angle and tension are altered. The best solution for the tone and structure of the instrument is to correct the projection, but it means you have to invest more in the instrument. If the neck is not off by much and you aren’t ready to spend the money for the ideal solution, cutting the bridge down can be an option. The caveat is that the neck may continue to drop, so keep a careful eye on it and be prepared for the possibility that it will need to be repaired eventually.

January 26, 2021, 5:15 PM · I would be concerned that the geometry of the instrument is now off. The compensatory fix may have created more harm than good. Best to bite the bullet and have it done right IMO.
January 26, 2021, 5:39 PM · 1) Until the strings are broken-in, violins often sound bad with new strings. How long have you played on them?

2) High action can cause left hand injuries in addition to intonation problems, so lowering the bridge may have been the cheapest solution to correct this.

3) Ask the luthier about a "New York Neck Reset," which is a faster and less expensive way to raise the neck than a full neck reset or a shim.

February 8, 2021, 12:11 PM · Thanks for replying! I've played on it for another week or so and I've gotten used to the new string height to some degree, and the strings have settled in--it seems I'm not losing power in the upper positions anymore. There are still problems with G-string responsiveness, but not worse than before I had the repairs done. I am going to try to get an adjustment at some point to try to improve the G-string responsiveness--but I may wait until we are further along in the vaccination process locally.
Edited: February 8, 2021, 12:38 PM · You might already be at the limit of what your violin can produce on the G string. The luthier is probably listening mainly for overall power and balance in the four strings. Probably (s)he didn't go for more power in your G string because that might have meant sacrificing what you have on the E string, which usually violinists cannot bear to part with.

I've never done the hand-back-and-forth with my luthier when he does a seasonal sound post adjustment, but I always seem to be happy with the results. Still, I'm curious how that back-and-forth thing would work, since, really, one (allegedly) needs to evaluate the tone of the instrument in a large hall to evaluate all of its nuances. We are told we must do this when buying a violin even though we might have no idea whether any of the violins we are comparing are optimally set up, whether they need fresh strings, or the last three brands of rosin that may have been used when playing them. When Joshua Bell's luthier hands back his violin, do they both go across the street to Carnegie Hall so that the luthier can listen while Josh saws through his favorite high-octane cadenza?

The fingerboard job sounds weird. It was falling, so he shaved it down? What am I missing here?

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