Violin "Tune up"

December 22, 2022, 6:33 AM · Earlier this year, March to be more specific, I purchased my first GOOD violin.
I'm thinking about sending it back to my luthier in March of this coming year to have him look it over. Sound post reset, glue joints good?, bridge, etc.

Is that something you guys do?

I have friends who have NEVER had their instruments looked at and kinda look at me cross-eyed when I mention my intentions.

Just wondering.

Replies (14)

Edited: December 22, 2022, 6:43 AM · Depends what it is, where it came from and how much it cost. If it's an old violin that hasn't been played regularly for a while I should get it looked at and decide on the basis of urgency and estimated cost what work to prioritise.
December 22, 2022, 7:06 AM · My kids get their violins looked at once a year. At minimum, it gets cleaned of rosin and polished up. My son is required to bring his loaner violin to the luthier every three months, though they don't actually work on it that frequently -- usually just a check and a little lube on pegs, straighten the bridge, etc.
December 22, 2022, 7:16 AM · Its an excellent idea and I think any owner of a reasonable instrument would do the same thing. Mine is going in in January.
December 22, 2022, 7:34 AM · I have never had mine checked as you describe. as far as I know the sound post shouldn’t move unless the strings have all been completely loosened then there is a chance it could do, but I may be wrong and Others on here probably have more experience in that. As for bridge I straighten that myself now and again, as they tend to pull forward when tuning, for that I use a credit card to check it.
Edited: December 22, 2022, 8:08 AM · I recommend making it a "set up" appointment wherein the luthier puts on new strings, at which time he checks and adjusts the bridge and soundpost and, in the course of that, inspects the instrument for any other work he might recommend. It might cost about $150 plus the strings. This way, if your violin doesn't actually need any repairs, you're still getting it "tuned up" for optimal sound.
December 22, 2022, 8:17 AM · It's a great idea. Is there anything you don't like about how your violin sounds or how it responds: Is the e-string a little weaker sounding or have a whistle ? Does it have any buzzes or rattles ? Would you like it to be a little brighter sounding or darker sounding ? Do you like the string height ? Asking your violin person questions like that will help you get the best out of your instrument. Having a great playing instrument will make practice a lot more enjoyable.
Edited: December 22, 2022, 3:44 PM · I don't think it is a bad idea to be sure your instrument is working at its best. But I would think about it real hard before doing it if I had to send it instead of carry it in myself. The most sensitive adjustments can be undone in unattended transit.

The 4 violins I had "checked over" by my luthier for their first time late in the 1990s had the following histories.

1. "born" in 1951, purchased (new) from the maker for me in 1951
2. "born" in 1970, purchased (slightly used) from the maker by me in 1971
3. "born" in 1971, purchased (used) from England and shipped to me in 1974
4. "born" in 1990", purchased (new) by me from the maker in 1990

My luthier (given cart blanch) replaced bridges and soundposts on 1, 2, and 4. All he could find to do on no.3 was clean up rosin that was stuck on it when I had purchased it (he may have adjusted the soundpost - I don't recall being charged for that, I was surprised that it cost $75 for the cleanup - but it must have been tough, because previously I had been unable to remove any of it).

In 2000 I purchased another new violin, No. 5 for myself by the maker of No. 4 after my granddaughter had commandeered it from me as her forever own. In early 2020 I "dropped" the soundpost of 5 while adjusting it and could not retrieve it to set it up so I took the violin to a new luthier shop closer to my which who installed a new soundpost and cleaned the exterior up a bit. She did such a good job that I also took No. 1 and No. 2 in for check ups. I also brought in No. 3 just to hear it played, as well as the others - just so I could hear what they sounded like to others - I also had the shop owner play one of the $26,000 violins he had for sale, for my own ears to compare.

So No. 3, born in 1971 has never had any work (except for the cleanup more than 20 years ago) and still has its original soundpost and bridge. Although No. 1 was given a new bridge more than 20 years ago, I have alternated that with its original bridge 2 or 3 times (most recently 2 weeks ago) for reasons of sound (to my ears) and relative heights of E and A strings (apparent to me when playing certain music).

I have had a few open seams over the years, but I have owned a bag of violin makers' (hide) glue "granules" since 1954 that I can dissolve and heat to fix (a "residue" from the days when we lived too far from any luthiers).

December 22, 2022, 8:50 AM · Any competent luthier can look it over for burst seams and such. You shouldn't assume, however, that the instrument's maker is the best qualified to make adjustments for you. Ask around who's good at that in your area. If you have to ship your instrument back for an adjustment, will it still be "adjusted" by the time it returns?
Edited: December 22, 2022, 9:27 AM ·
Definitely. Who knows what its state might be?

About 18 months ago, I purchased my first good violin from a luthier I've known for a very long time. He'd had the violin on consignment for several years, when the owner asked him to substantially drop the price. Then, I came along.

Long story short, he's since had to repair it three separate times. (It's an old violin.) First time was my fault; while experimenting with different E string tuners, I broke the tail-piece making the tuner too tight. Bummer!

Yet, a "bummer" with an excellent outcome. It gave him the chance to install a good Pernambuco tail piece with a Kevlar tail gut. Of course, he properly adjusted all the relevant dimensions. I had played around with this repair, including using a plastic tail gut, and the violin sounded terrible. Once his repair was complete, it sounded better than when first purchased. (It previously had a titanium tail gut.)

I've also been trying different bows that my luthier has. In one such visit, he noticed that the bottom (I believe) had partially come unglued from the rib just to the starboard side of the tail end. So, he made that repair and adjusted the sound post.

Third time's the charm! I had been experimenting with different chin rests, and adjusting my chin rest to different locations. It was odd how a minute repositioning could have such a definite impact on the violin's voice? Then, it's voice really went south. Sound post?

Back to Paul, and he discovered that the violin's top just to the port side of the tail-end wasn't just loose, it was revealing a gaping separation. He made that repair. He also took the time to make my chin rest just right. He carved it underneath to reduce the area that actually contacts the violin. In addition, he added and shaped cork underneath so that it wouldn't disturb the perfling. (This can be a problem with side-mounted chin rests.)

The weakened state of the glue between the top and the ribs of the violin must have been an unrecognized, on-going problem. Once this most recent repair was completed, the violin's voice sounds so much better than ever before. Both my luthier and I are delighted!

All these improvements came about as a direct result of my luthier's knowledgeable interaction with the violin.

December 22, 2022, 3:27 PM · Instruments change over time. I have had numerous students who beat themselves up because they can't get the instrument to sound what they want them to sound like. In many cases it is because of faulty setup or need for adjustment of the sound post. Personally, I learned my lesson about this. At one point in my violin study with Galamian, he kept criticizing my intonation. I happened to take the instrument in to a luthier who checked it over and said, "I imagine you are having difficulty playing in tune." He then said the fingerboard needed to be replaned. After this easy repair, all the sudden my intonation improved.
December 22, 2022, 8:05 PM · Mine gets looked over twice per year when I take it in for new strings. It is important to have your luthier give it a look and make sure the sound post is still in the right place, etc.
Edited: December 22, 2022, 11:34 PM · For a working pro with a quality expensive instrument, taking it in once a year to a good luthier for a checkup, adjustment, cleaning, is normal behavior. If you were selling an instrument you would want to put it into optimum playing condition. So, why not also do that while you are using it.
I can change my own strings, and experimenting with different strings is a moderately expensive hobby.
Edited: December 23, 2022, 2:43 AM · Joel (and everyone really) - I don't believe many pros over here are quite so assiduous, amateurs practically never. Once a new violin has been fully fettled and set up there's actually very little to go wrong and most of those things can be identified and fixed at home. My last violin, bought direct from the maker and set up by a local part-timer, never saw a professional luthier during its 20 years in my keeping. During that time I must have played it in more than 200 concerts and never suspected it of misbehaviour. Of course some old instruments are more temperamental but I've never known a soundpost go walkabout.
December 24, 2022, 1:51 PM · Interesting!!!
I'm going to take in in for a set up in January and while it's there have him give it a good going over.
It wasn't cheap so a few extra dollars once a year might be good insurance.

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