Life After Sound Post Adjustment . . .

Edited: September 2, 2023, 2:54 AM ·

Well, it's happened. We've been having some 100 degree plus weather, and the sound post on my violin slipped. Aaaargh!

So, time to take the violin to my luthier for adjustment.

He last adjusted the sound post a couple of years ago. Having then recently purchased the violin from him, the adjustment improved the tone of the violin, and I'd come to really enjoy playing the violin with it's then, new voice.

The same seems to have occurred with this most recent sound post adjustment. It appears to me that the violin's voice has again been improved. Yet, as I indicated, I so enjoyed playing the violin with its "previous" voice. It was more intimate.

How many have had a similar experience, post adjustment? How did you deal with the change in your violin's voice?

In my case, I guess I'll play the violin for a while and see what I think. In fact, I had changed the A and E strings, thinking the previous strings might have gone "bad," after the sound post had slipped. So, I at least need break in the new strings.

My luthier suggested that I could return the violin for further adjustment. But, I'm hesitant to do that.

Replies (28)

Edited: September 2, 2023, 8:07 AM · > How did you deal with the change in your violin's voice?

I started to learn how to set soundposts myself.

(and next: experimenting on the best way to align the bridge)
(and next: cutting new soundposts myself and adapting)

In the long run it seems to be the most logical way to adapt the violin to what i want it to sound, because the soundpost issues belong to the chaotic part of phisics....
Luthiers often don't have the time and patience to experiment with all the solutions of a soundpost placement and length (not to mention the costs).

And i firmly believe that the person that plays a particular violin knows better than someone else the way it has to sound :)

September 2, 2023, 7:54 AM · Before the start of each orchestral season I have my luthier snug up the soundpost.My violin has a one piece back and, according to the luthier, is less strong than a two piece.Im always amazed how a little" click" in a certain direction can vastly improve tone and make playing so much easier.
Edited: September 2, 2023, 8:29 AM · I have resurrected and adjusted soundposts in my violins and cellos over the past 60 years (also shaped and installed bridges in one of my cellos).

However, I was pretty amazed at Ifshin Violins 18 years ago when I watched while Haide Lin adjusted the soundpost of a cello I had purchased there only one week earlier. In the space of 5 minutes he moved the post 5 times, retuning the cello and playing it each time to finally optimize the post position. It has not been readjusted since.

I had my most recent violin soundpost adjustments done professionally with great results. I am very pleased to have found a luthier who can do that only 2 miles from my home. (I since found this small shop has 1000% 5-star Yelp (50) reviews.)

I may have finally retired my own soundpost adjustment tools.

Edited: September 2, 2023, 9:39 AM ·

My luthier was very patient. He adjusted the post and played it. And then he had me play to get my opinion. And, back and forth.

We could have taken more time; but, I was influenced by his assertion that the violin sounded good. With the violins I've played in the past, how would I know what a good violin sounds like? Proceeding on logic, I decided to give it a try for a while. Working with a good luthier can be more an educational process, versus being solely transactional.

Edited: September 2, 2023, 10:02 AM · Learning how to adjust soundposts by practicing and experimenting on a violin can damage the violin, ranging from ruining your soundpost to pressing dents in the top to soundpost cracks. Sometimes, the soundpost is poorly cut and needs to be replaced so no amount of adjustment will fix that.

Why take the risk when you can get your violin adjusted by an experienced luthier who has performed this adjustment 1000s of times? He or she can also tell if the sound post is cut correctly and/or if it needs adjustment at all. Many times, slight movement of the bridge or the tailpiece can bring out the core tone of a violin. If it is already in the "right place," my luthier prefers to move the soundpost as a last resort when performing tone optimization.

You can more safely experiment with soundpost placement by moving the bridge slightly in relationship to the soundpost. For example, if moving the bridge a mm toward the fingerboard improves the tone, that suggests that moving the sound post back from the bridge after the bridge is placed back in its original location. Then have your luthier move the post for you, or leave the bridge there as long as it isn't too far from the soundpost and the string length is ok.

September 2, 2023, 11:27 AM · I just nailed that sucker in when I found the right position
September 2, 2023, 11:47 AM ·

Anything beyond changing a string or adjusting the bridge a bit, I take to Paul.

For example, I tried a bit of violin repair when my tail-piece broke. There was really no way that I could hurt the violin by finding a new tail-piece and tail-gut. After I had finished, the violin sounded absolutely terrible! Again, back to Paul; it sounded great after he was finished. In fact, it was during this episode that he discovered the bottom to the right of the button was separating from the rib.

September 2, 2023, 2:15 PM · Soundest adjustment is quite tricky. Small adjustments can change the sound significantly, emphasizing the sound of one or two strings in a particular way while having no effect or sometimes a negative effect on the sound of other strings. It is something I let my luthier do for me. He tries adjustments and gives me choices. Finally, we settle on the one that seems best to me.

I could never really reproduce the process myself, so I don't try, even though I possess the tool to do it. I got the tool when I took my luthier's (Dalton Potter's) course in "kitchen table repairs"; he did teach us how to put the soundpost back if it actually fell down. I have never been in a situation where I had to do that and am not sure I could do it now. I took the course years ago.

September 2, 2023, 2:36 PM · I'm starting to wonder if it could be better for the mantainer of this forum to register the new domain "askyouluthier-askyouteacher.com", in order to migrate this forum, in place of "violinist.com" :D :D
September 2, 2023, 3:56 PM · @Marco - lol! For a good number of the questions that arise on this site, your proposed name for it is, indeed, the answer for most folks. However, for many of the other questions, the violinists on the site have reasonable ideas. But, one of the beauties of the site is that many of the violinists can distinguish between the questions that others on the site can answer and which ones require a luthier or a teacher to really answer.
September 2, 2023, 4:17 PM · Tom, I had to fish fallen soundposts out of violins and cellos numerous times. I can tell you that fishing, catching and pulling that stick out of an upside-down cello over my head was tough and something I do not recall risking or doing since my 80th birthday.

September 2, 2023, 4:50 PM · @Andrew - I suppose it is easier to fish a soundpost out of violin or viola, but once you have done that, you have to place it correctly. While I think I could fish it out with my tool, I am not sure I would want to risk trying to place it unless there was an emergency. I have never had a soundpost fall, thank G-d.
September 2, 2023, 4:52 PM · Tom, i understand your own thought, and other's.
I'm very far from believing, in every aspect of life, that one (or me) can hold the truth in the pocket :)

So, maybe i could remodulate my answer this way:
learning what you can do by yourself, tweaking (safely) the instrument, can make someone gain some more awareness upon the cause-effect things related to the violin and the settings, so then after that a luthier can be asked to do a specific thing that "maybe" you know that will help you because you have once experimented with it, in safeness.
Is it ok? :)

September 3, 2023, 9:59 AM · I think we should bear in mind that there are very many V.com members that do not have access to a skilled luthier. While it may sometimes be impossible to give advice that would replace those skills perhaps we should be careful we don't make suggestions that are likely to make their situation worse.

With that in mind, do any luthiers offer a mail-in service for the remotees? Can't say I've ever read about one ...

September 3, 2023, 11:20 AM · You are correct Elise. For us "remotees" (Northern Midwest US) the search for a good luthier is as elusive as finding the perfect bow or strings. There are a few local music stores within an hours drive from me that offer adjustments, but the feeling I've had using them is "yup - soundpost and bridge look ok and it sounds like a fiddle, so here you go!" I checked with symphony orchestras in the nearest big city for suggestions for a skilled repair person. but could never get a good reference.

The closest luthier listings on Violin.com are two hours away, so I purchased soundpost adjusting tools and attempted the work on my own with fairly good results. I would still love to find that perfect luthier with the skills to bring out the best in my violin rather than settling for just good enough.

September 3, 2023, 1:00 PM · SOUNDPOST RESETTING

I can tell you that in spite of having a violin/viola S-shape soundpost tool that I inherited from my father I would never have attempted that first post removal and resetting had I not been too far from a luthier and too poor to afford one had I not had access to the first information source listed below. The first caution I offer is do not start any one of the repairs in any of the books before considering all the damage you might do. (Carpenters’ Rule, “Measure twice and cut once!”)

Following is a list of the 5 magazine-size books on feasible amateur violin repairs I have acquired over the past 50 years. I include the publication date because some of them may be difficult to find now since I have not found them to be republished. My estimate of their usefulness is based on their treatment of soundpost resetting and they are listed in my assessment of decreasing utility for that. (The first 2 books are probably tied for the soundpost problem; the second is better for reshaping a new bridge, but I did my first fallen soundpost removal and reset when in position of the first 2 books . The 5th book is no help for ‘do-it-yourselfers,’ which is often the best advice, but it has other useful information at elementary levels.)

1. EMERGENCY STRING REPAIR MANUAL FOR SCHOOL ORCHESTRA DIRECTORS,,Lowell & Douglas Bearden,, Elon College, NC, 1972
2. YOU FIX THEM, 4TH edition, Scherl & Roth, Inc. 1959
3. KITCHEN TABLE VIOLIN REPAIRS, L. Dalton Potter, Potter’s Violins, 1997
4. VIOLIN REPAIR GUIDE, Michael Atria, Hal Leonard, 2004
5. MY VIOLIN NEEDS HELP!, Korinthia A. Klein, Korinthian Violins, 2020.

Edited: September 4, 2023, 6:52 AM · This kind of tool:

tool

has been invaluable for me.
I don't use it to move the post itself, but i use it as a "free fall stopper", and as a indicator.

September 4, 2023, 1:58 AM · Practice on something cheap. You also need to look through the endpin hole.
Edited: September 4, 2023, 10:01 AM · @Andrew - thanks for mentioning Dalton Potter's Manual on "kitchen table" repairs. I actually took the course from him many years ago, and it gave me some insights on how the violin functioned as well as a rudimentary knowledge of repairs. The Manual is full of interesting information.

Indeed, concerning the soundpost, my copy has the following handwritten note. "Soundpost adjustment mostly affects the A and E strings. Moving closer to the bridge or away from the bridge affects how the A and E sound relative to the D and G. Toward the bridge enhances the A and E." I also wrote in "You can tell the top of the soundpost from the bottom because the hole in the side of the soundpost will be nearer the top." So, there you have the basics of sound post placement.

Luckily, I have never had to use the manual, but it does sit in my music area "just in case." Fortunately, Dalton's shop is nearby.

Edited: September 4, 2023, 1:19 PM ·

I have to admit, post adjustment, my violin's "enhanced" voice is growing on me. (A metaphor.)

The A and E strings sound more penetrating, but perhaps in a way that contributes character to musical motifs. Moreover, the D and G strings have deeper and more pronounced voices. I think likely, the violin may be easier to play, since I've found I need to substantially lighten the pressure by which the bow presses on the string.

Were my luthier to adjust the sounde-post further, I would ask him to mellow it a bit. But, I don't think that I'm yet ready to make that request.

In the past, I've found that my luthier has a habit of knowing what's best for my violin. That may be true in this case as well. So, will continue to practice / experiment further.

Edited: September 5, 2023, 10:34 AM · Tom,
Moving the soundpost "laterally" (i.e., parallel to the bridge) will affect the "depth of tone." So, moving it inward from the f-hole can bring out the lower strings more (and vice versa). The problem regarding this is that a longer post (and different end shapes may be required except for fairly flat plates and very little movement. I found the information on this in the 1st book I listed earlier, the book by the Beardens.

The violin on which I proved the above to myself is a Strad copy that already had a loose fitting soundpost. I still have that soundpost (installed by the maker 72 years ago) and have had it back into the fiddle several times since Ifshin's shop replaced it about 25 years ago.

Edited: September 5, 2023, 8:28 AM · Elise asked, "With that in mind, do any luthiers offer a mail-in service for the remotees?"

Sure, many of them do. I shipped my violin to Potter's when I wanted gear pegs. When I expressed some nervousness, the clerk told me, "We ship violins far more valuable than yours every day." One thing that's really nice to have is a violin-shipping box, of the type that shops like Potter and SHAR use to ship violins. Of course you ship the violin in its case, but then that's surrounded by packing material in an ordinary cardboard box. Out of the blue one day I got a violin shipped to me from a well-known shop. It was a student kit intended for a customer in the Midwest. I immediately called the shop, and they emailed me a UPS label to forward to the intended destination. Everything ended well. But I was able to peek at the instrument and observe how the shop had packed it for shipping, e.g., to protect the bridge and such with little pieces of foam.

The thing is that the small adjustments (sound post and bridge positions) are what might not survive the trip because the strings are slightly loosened for shipping, but I have not had any issue with this. Also the shipping cost for that big heavy box is not trivial. So if you're getting a $30 soundpost adjustment, that suddenly got expensive.

I agree with Andrew that any significant lateral movement of the sound post generally implies a change in length and/or end shapes. If you've never set a sound post before, you better order 50 blanks.

September 5, 2023, 7:17 PM · Also, it isn't just north-south-east-west. When you set a soundpost, you have to be certain that the surface contact at each end of the post is correct, the post is vertically straight (usually), and the grain is properly aligned perpendicular to the E string.

However, it isn't terribly uncommon to find an old trade fiddle with a piece of string tied around the soundpost which was used to set the soundpost by manipulating it by holding an end of the string through each f-hole. So there's that. :-)

September 5, 2023, 8:10 PM · > and the grain is properly aligned perpendicular to the E string.

Are there scientific studies or someone that has seriously experimented setting "aligned" VS "non aligned" grain to the E string?.....

September 5, 2023, 8:38 PM · Sounds like more "violin voodoo" to me.
September 5, 2023, 10:03 PM · If nothing else, that alignment of the grain of the soundpost stick has to be that way so the simple S-type setter can penetrate and do its setting job. (not voodoo)
September 6, 2023, 5:10 AM · Paul Deck
September 5, 2023, 8:38 PM · Sounds like more "violin voodoo" to me.

It's not really, nor is it particularly scientific- It's just that if the hard winter growth in the post is parallel to the hard winter growth in the front, then there's a possibility that post and top 'interlock', sort of... Does that make sense?
Post adjustments are a little smoother and less likely to damage the violin if the grain is at right angles. Andrew's observation is also correct.

September 6, 2023, 8:54 AM · Andrew that does sound reasonable. Sorry if I'm skeptical. I've just heard so much rubbish over the years.


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