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Guarnerius Neck Angle


Lane
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I am trying out a new Guarnerius fiddle. It came with a classical setup although I perfer a flatter cut bridge and lower action. What is the correct measurement from the top of the fingerboard to the fiddle top and does it differ from strads? Just eyeballing the neck angle and string projection it would appear a really small bridge is needed to get my desired setup. Thanks in advance. Lane

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The standard way luthiers approach a setup concerns the angle of the strings over the bridge: 157-158 degrees is the modern norm, coupled with a standard distance of the strings from the fingerboard. The other things you mention are made to conform with and implement these. First, you decide whether the height of the bridge (measured by itself, not in relation to anything else) is desired to be high or low. From a playing point of view this can be influenced by whether a low bridge will cause the bow to touch the c-bout when drawn on the e-string. When the desired angle of the strings over the birdge and the bridge height have been decided upon, this is achieved by a combination of the neck angle and the neck overstand (height of the neck root above the edge of the top), the latter of which is in turn influenced by the arching height of the top once the other dimensions have been decided upon. So, the notion of a "flatter" action can be achieved in different ways, resulting in different tonal results, since the angle of the strings over the bridge has an enormous influence on tone, resonance and response.

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I don`t know the exact measurement from top of fingerboard to top of violin but if you project a line from the top of the fingerboard ( in a straight line from where the nut is ,carrying on past the end of the board, so the line is going uphill ,NOT straight across horizontally from the board end)to where the bridge is it should be between 26- 27.5 MM depending on various things

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The distance from the end of the fingerboard to the top is quite meaningless because arching heights and styles differ. The "fingerboard projection" to the bridge takes into account two of the measurements required for a neckset, but by itself, without a neck overstand measurement, cannot determine the string angle. The intended string angle is the final goal of a good setup tonally and ergonomically - the other terms ("bridge height", "flatter action", "looser/tighter setup" etc.) are just elements combining to that end. Pursued by themselves as the main intent more often than not results in a messed-up setup.

The only unchangeble element of all these for a given violin is the arching height. If you want a bridge height of, say, 32mm, on any violin, the height of the nut and saddle will obviously have to determine the angle of the strings over the bridge. Leaving aside the fact that the saddle height itself needs to be taken into acount, as far as the neck is concerned: there will be a specific horizontal position for the nut to achieve the desired string angle. This, as well as the ideal distance of the strings from the fingerboard, is achieved by manipulating the neck angle and neck root overstand.

Imagine the top of the bridge as the apex of a triangle: if that apex rises (the bridge top gets higher because of a higher arching or because of a particular desire to increase or decrease the absolute bridge height) the other two corners of the triangle (the saddle and nut) will also have to rise if the angle of the upper corner is to stay the same. This is achieved by elevating the saddle and nut. However, if the nut is raised or lowered by means of the neck overstand, the neck angle must also be adjusted to keep the standard distance between the strings and fingerboard. Therefore, moving the nut horizontally is achieved by a pivotal combination of neck root overstand and neck angle, since ideally the distance of the fingerboard to the strings should remain the same regardless of the horizontal position of the nut or the height of the bridge.

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The only reason I've elaborated to this extent is to try and show that the aim of the exercise is the string angle over the bridge. The fingerboard projection on many French and German commercial fiddles is indeed "ideal", but unfortunately, coupled with an inadequate overstand, results in a severely accute string angle which strangles the sound. In this instance I don't think some information is better than no information at all - it's in the same category for me as "an old violin is a good violin".

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