The Violin Beautiful

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  1. Just think about the physics involved. A V shape groove distributes all the pressure between two points, whereas a round one distributes along an infinite number. There’s less pressure on a surface that supports the shape properly, assuming friction is reduced. Also, the V shape forces the string deeper into the bridge, effectively clamping it into the nut. As one tightens the string, it catches in a V groove because it can’t slide as it should. This pinches the winding and makes it unravel. I hate to belabor a point, but this one matters a lot to me because I’ve seen the ill effects of bad grooves so much. It’s such a pleasant surprise to find an instrument set up with attention to detail like this.
  2. This doesn’t make sense to me. A V groove has two sharp edges that can cut into the winding. The only way to avoid those sharp edges is to make the groove wide enough that the string isn’t in contact with the edges of the groove, which means the string has to be buried in the groove—a distinct disadvantage. Getting the groove to match the shape of the string is critical to proper functionality. And lubricating the surface helps to lower friction. Another thing that often gets overlooked is the path of the string from the nut to the peg. If the string doesn’t “flow” over the nut to the peg it’ll pinch. And it’s important to make sure that the groove isn’t an uneven width.
  3. A V groove only gives 2 points of contact, whereas a curve provides infinite points of contact and therefore reduces chances of binding. You’re right that each groove must be exactly made for the string, but any competent luthier does this as a routine part of setup. I know of a couple people who use triangular files to make the grooves, but they’re infamous for their setup work... If the string is deep enough in the groove to be able to slide around, something is very wrong with the groove. The sound of the instrument is also going to suffer.
  4. I find that if the nut grooves are improperly shaped, the string will bind and degrade at the pinch point. This is more common with synthetic core or gut strings, where the winding unravels and exposes the softer core. The OP’s description led me to believe the issue was with the peg, but without seeing it in person it’s hard to know. The nut could be an issue. But I’ve seen enough instruments with Preludes to know that they break quite easily.
  5. String grooves should never be V-shaped. That causes strings to get pinched and break. If the string broke at the pegbox, it likely had an issue there, not at the nut. It’s definitely worth checking the groove, but that’s probably not the cause of the trouble, unless that’s where it actually broke.
  6. Preludes break pretty easily, so it’s not hard to imagine the string breaking under normal circumstances. However, if the string gets kinked or if the edges of the peg hole are too sharp, those things can cause trouble as well. Before putting another string on, just make sure the strings are installed properly and that the pegs are finished well. If you’re unsure about how to evaluate the pegs, visit a violin shop (NOT a music store) near you and have a luthier look at it.
  7. Yes, it’s true. This happens quite often if people aren’t careful with their instruments. Sometimes if you inspect a warping bridge you’ll find a hairline crack. The most common spot in a violin bridge for a break is right through the middle, but sometimes the break can be at one of the feet. Cello bridges have taller legs, so there’s more likelihood of a break in that region.If you see enough customers, you get to see all kinds of broken bridges!
  8. When the hair is relaxed and the eyelet is all the way up the track, the frog should ideally come almost up to the thumb leather, with a gap of 1 mm or so. With use and atmosphere changes, the gap will increase as the hair stretches. At some point the gap is too large and the hair needs to be replaced.
  9. If you’re having difficulty playing, it’s very important to solve that problem. Playability is crucial—it’s easy to stop living an instrument that’s hard to play, even if it sounds great. At some point, difficulty in playing is going to hold you back and frustrate you. There are some standards for string height and spacing, although there can be exceptions. And if an individual has clear preferences for particular heights, a luthier can adjust. A major advantage to standardization is facility of transition from one instrument to another. If the setup stays the same, it’s easier to isolate other factors that might be worth changing. Show it to your luthier. If the heights have changed since you had the setup done, there could be a projection issue.
  10. Yes. To be more precise, I use the setter to dislodge the post, then pick it up with the retriever. I’ve got a soundpost retriever right on the side of my bench for cellos and I use it almost daily. I don’t do that with violins and violas, but in the last shop where I worked, my colleagues thought it was a form of barbarism to hold an instrument over one’s head, even a small violin. I’m not saying anyone must use a retriever tool, just that I think it’s the safest and most efficient way to do the job.
  11. I wouldn’t recommend shaking the cello overhead—there’s a lot of risk for damage. I think it’s better to keep the cello secure and reach in with something that easily fits into the ff and can be covered with tape so as not to damage the wings.
  12. Get one of these at your local hardware store. This one even has a built-in light.
  13. I would advise against a stain—it’s too easy to go dark if your color isn’t controlled well enough. Any skilled luthier should be able to do touch up on the nick. However, if the nick has indented the wood, it might be a bit more complicated, but still reparable.
  14. I don’t doubt that Lie-Nielsen’s bigger planes are superior. I have really only stuck with my Baileys because I got them for almost nothing and I don’t have to mess with them often enough to feel the need for an upgrade. I took advantage of a day that the shop was getting reconfigured to clean up and correct my big plane. It was enjoyable to fix it up without any pressure to get customer work done for the day. If I were starting out, I’d probably just save up for the LN. I haven’t seen a bad plane from them yet.