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Help needed with my violin's sound


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I'm hoping the collective wisdom on this forum can help me improve

my violin. (my playing is beyond hope, but my instrument has

potential!)

The short story:  Violin is fairly new, and tight. I just

discovered that is sounds fantastic when tuned to Eb, but choked in

standard tuning. Huh? (FWIW, the violin DOES sound better than a

bagel with strings.)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's the long version:

VIOLIN:

Jurgen Klier Model 5 $4300 @ SW Strings.

1 year old & played about 10 hrs per week.

Soundpost looks to be slightly back - about 4-5 mm instead of

2.5

After-length is dead-on.

The weight is fairly heavy so I would assume a fairly thick

top.

The sound is extremely dynamic,with lots of upper-midrange color on

tap, and FUN to play.

Sadly, it is quite tight-sounding as most new violins are, It lacks

body. Also, the "D" string slightly soft & muted compared to

the others (very slightly) -every set of strings gives that same

result.

I just tried Obligato mediums, in hopes of more body. The sound was

very disappointing. Soft & one-dimensional. However, after

about 48 hrs, with the strings still stretching and violin about

1/2 step down on all strings, it actually sounded wonderful. The

sound was noticeably louder and MUCH fuller. When I brought it back

up to pitch, the sound choked badly. All the body and volume

disappeared. You would guess that my bridge is too high, but in

fact it is only 30.5 mm.

If I could get that "Eb" sound at normal pitch, I would be

ECSTATIC.

I obviously need to find a good luthier, but first I'd really

appreciate your opinions. There is something magical about this

violin's response, so I am willing to try "whatever it takes" to

open it up, even if it doesn't work in the end. The one luthier I

spoke with suggested lightening the internal components slightly. I

don't want to take away any dynamic response by thinning the top,

but I think he was talking about the ribs, or maybe the blocks?

Again, this violin is on the heavy side so maybe he has a point? -

but Klier is supposed to be a multiple gold-medal winner in

Germany. (of course, that could also be BS)

Any thoughts on what might be wrong?

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Perhaps the string angle over the bridge is too acute. This could be caused by the neckset (low overstand, tight angle), a low saddle, or both.

The post is too far back. What is the fit like, apart from the position?

How good is the bridge fit and trim?

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Jacob, thanks for the fast reply.

The bridge is the original from Klier, and seems perfectly cut

(though a little thin)

The post seems pretty tight. (I tried to move it towards the

bridge, but it was very stubborn so I'm leaving it to an expert)

The f-hole doesn't look distorted, so it can't be terribly tight.

 -but could the post be TOO tight, thus restricting the top's

vibration? that's an interesting possibility.

I know the post is too far back, but if anything, would that make

the sound fuller and/or more mellow?

What would be a typical cause of a slightly dull D-string?

 It's really just slightly duller, not softer exactly.

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I wouldn't trust a supplier's setup to start with, sound post as well as bridge. If the post won't move, it probably doesn't fit (the bevels dont follow the arching contour on the inside). If the post is too far back, the D could very well be dull.

But I would also look at the string angle (neckset and saddle).

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Here's a quick test that will give some indication if the post is too tight or too loose.

Holding the violin uner your chin, tuned to normal pitch, tap the top with your fingernail just above the treble F hole and just below. Listen to how the strings respond. If the strings vibrate more at the top of the F hole than the bottom then the post is too tight. If they vibrate more at the bottom the post is too loose. You're listening for an open, sustaining, ringing, vibration not any particular note or string.

A simple way to reduce pressure on the top (same as lowering the tuning pitch) place something between the tailgut and the saddle. This raises the tailpiece and reduces the string angle over the bridge.

Good Luck

Oded Kishony

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Allan, there's no way of knowing whether the post is too far back without experimenting.

Some new violins, particularly those which are hefty in the soundpost area, sound best with the soundpost farther back, including mine.

Soundposts sound best where they sound best. The measurement is just a starting point, and it doesn't matter if they appear straight. It's important that they fit well in their final position, and that the top of the post be more or less behind the bridge foot to prevent eventual structural problems and distortion.

Otherwise, anything goes (within reason).

Just my opinion.

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I experienced smilar thing when E is tuned to E#, and I know violins were on the thicker side, regionally thick top or back, if one of them was out of balance, I got smilar response from violin.

In your case, before letting the top opened, I would get a complete graduation map with an hacklinger then start thinking on it. I would stay away the ribs.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Oded Kishony

Holding the violin uner your chin, tuned to normal pitch, tap the top with your fingernail just above the treble F hole and just below. Listen to how the strings respond. If the strings vibrate more at the top of the F hole than the bottom then the post is too tight. If they vibrate more at the bottom the post is too loose. You're listening for an open, sustaining, ringing, vibration not any particular note or string.

Oded Kishony

Oded,

I think I read your post entirely wrong, but I'm not sure. Maybe you can clarify.

My first reading was: Tap f hole at top and bottom and if that part of the string "above the f hole" (ie, the vibrating string length, the string between bridge and nut) vibrates more than the string "below the f hole" (the afterlength part), then post is too tight. If afterlength vibrates more than vibrating string length, then post is too loose.

That sounded like requiring a degree of discrimination most people don't have , and a second reading produced this interpretation:

Tap F hole at top and bottom. If the strings, as a whole, vibrate more when tapping the top of the F hole than when tapping the bottom of F hole, then post is too tight. If the strings vibrate more when tapping the bottom of the f hole than when tapping the top of f-hole, post is too loose.

I assume the second reading is the right one.

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Do a search for "soundpost" on this message board.  I don't

have time to link it right now, but there is a post somewhere here

that describes the expected changes for soundpost reposition either

left/right or up/down.  

Oded has posted that particular technique before.  I've been

meaning to try it myself, but I keep forgetting to since I love the

sound of my fiddle anyway.

If I recall some of the previous threads, moving the soundpost

further away from the bridge will have a "softening" and "muting"

effect, since it is less directly translating the vibrations of the

foot of the bridge.  If your top is thick (and that's not bad)

those vibrations are further muted.  

A lot of makers (more with factory violins) achieve more

"projection" through shaving a little more off the top.  Yes,

that makes it louder, but isn't good for the long term life of the

violin.

Unless you are very experienced, I would say that you should not

attempt a soundpost adjustment yourself.  Maybe I'm just a

"chicken" but the potential for disaster can be great, both

cosmetically and acoustically.  

Take your fiddle to a good luthier.  Let them play it and

advise you, and describe everything you've done.  At first

glance though (and I'm not a luthier, just a player/big fan) I

think that fudging the soundpost closer to the bridge, and possibly

a little bit towards the center (loosening it), may help.

 

Do you have an "up wing" on your treble f hole?  Often a too

long soundpost will force an "up wing".

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I would say to cut a new bridge. It will cost you some money. My experiences with

adjustments mostly came up negative results. Only positives were a new bridge, and a neck

angle adjustment.

Sound has a lot to do with the stiffness of the plate. If it has problem of sound, it is not so easy to

correct. My feeling is not that kind of problem. You like the sound as you said.

PS. One comfortable thought: It is your violin. It is probably true that no one would notice

the problem except you. (like a tiny scratch of a new car, I understand)

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Allen,

i've read posts from you before (some over on violinist.com)

concerning the problems with this instrument, and the thing that

really amazes me is that a brand-new $5000 instrument would have

such problems! i feel for you, i personally would be going insane!

have you talked to SW Strings about this? i have heard in

passing that they 'drop ship'...i'm not sure exactly what that

means, but in the context i heard it, i took it to mean that

they get stuff from the supplier and ship it straight out without

checking things out or making any adjustments...maybe you got a bad

instrument? or something weird happened to it during shipping?

 

i know it sounds unhelpful, but i would have to agree with the

other folks, i think you need to get it into the hands of a good

luthier and see if they can tell what's up...

good luck!

cassi  

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Apparently the violin has a potential to sounding good (to your ears). without any drastic removal of wood.

I recommend taking it to a luthier and get consultation. You will probably need a new bridge and soundpost, and probably also raising of the fingerboard projection. Maybe a new saddle? Let it cost.

If you are uncertain, you could ask for a 'satisfaction guaranteed or your money back' guarantee. There shouldn't be too much hesitation if they know their stuff.

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Here is an article you need to read from Joseph Curtin on setup:

http://www.josephcurtinstudios...al_vsa/principles.htm

He suggests a simple test to demonstrate that it is not bridge force that is important; rather, it is lever length (height of the string above the top as measured at the bridge) which is more important. Thus, he suggests for a new and stiff instrument, you want a high bridge. This suggests a neck reset or wedge under the fingerboard or a west coast reset (or was it an east coast reset?)--but only do this after an experienced luthier has verified that the instrument has been properly setup. If these things do not work, then it will require a regraduation.

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Thanks, Mike.  I already had that article in my database. I

have read it many times and digested it well.  That combined

with a few other articles, and some minor experimentation on my

own, convinced me that subtle changes to the bridge (including

minor carving of the "tidly bits" on the outside edges) can make a

huge difference.  On one violin, I found that simply thinning

the existing bridge by about 1 mm made a HUGE difference, giving

more volume and body.

-And I was thus amazed to find that many supposedly top luthiers

claim such adjustments are superfluous.  One such luthier is a

member here.  It thus scares me severely that I might find the

WRONG luthier, despite various reputations, and that is exactly why

I am asking questions here.  -  I want to be pre-armed

with various expert opinions.  As I said, the one luthier I

have seen immediately recommended internal modifications, and I am

skeptical of that.

Regarding Oded's soundpost, tapping test:

 Tapping clearly shows equal vibration on both sides,

though tapping below has more LF content, as you would expect.

 I have to assume Klier got it right.

Maybe the instrument just needs time, but i remember David Burgess

writing that no new instrument should be purchased if you are

not happy with it, with the hopes that time will cure all

deficiencies.  that seems like good advice. My gut

says maybe I should find an old, open & warm instrument to

use now, and keep the Klier for its future prospects.  I will

of course get a pro set-up soon, but two elements of this violin

(thin bridge and soundpost far from the bridge) would if anything

create more body, not less, so they can't be the issue.

One of you asked about the overstand. I have never understood what

that is, but my guess is that the FB is indeed just a hair low,

since the 30.5 mm bridge gives perfect string clearance.  What

should I expect to pay for a pro FB reset?  (I hate the idea

of a shim)

Also, Oded's idea to add a riser to the saddle is intriguing.

 My saddle is plenty high already, but I am going to try it

anyway, with a very thin shim.  It makes me wonder why violins

are not made with adjustable-height saddles in the first place.

 friggin' tradition.....  (I know, it's a

love-hate thing)

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"One of you asked about the overstand. I have never understood what that is, but my guess is that the FB is indeed just a hair low, since the 30.5 mm bridge gives perfect string clearance."

There is a standard range for bridge height and string angle. To achieve these ideal parameters, the neck should be set at a certain angle, and at a certain height - this latter is determined by the "overstand", which is the height of the neck root between the top (belly) and the fingerboard. This can be anything between 5.5mm and 7.5mm, depending on the arching height the fingerboard projection must clear to arrive at a certain bridge height, with the strings crossing the bridge at a specific angle.

The string angle determines downward pressure on the top. Too acute an angle will result in too much downward pressure, which can cause the tone to become muted. If there is too little downward pressure (or more accurately, too littel upward pressure against the strings) there will be bowed response problems, especiallly on the lowere strings. If the bridge is too tall or too short (regardless of the distance between the strings and the fingerboard), the bridge will not function properly.

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Allan,

If you think the soundpost is too tight, there's a fairly quick fix for that, namely pushing the post about a 1/2 mm laterally toward the bass side. Because the arching is slightly higher there, the soundpost would be looser.

I'm not recommending that you do this. You would want to take it to an experienced set-up guy. But this adjustment would take only a couple of minutes of an experienced set-up person's time, and would not involve removing the soundpost to trim it. If all you wanted is the soundpost moved toward the bass side that 1/2 mm, you might not need to leave the fiddle with the shop and the charge would be, I'd hope, minimal.

This movement toward the bass side might also help your D and G strings.

This new position might not be optimal, but it might be a good experiment to see if tone improves, thus confirming that post was too tight. Then again, it might be all the adjustment the fiddle needs.

PS, Like others above, that 30.5 mm bridge height sounds low to me. Are you measuring the height of the bridge from top of fiddle to top of bridge (measuring on the back side of bridge) in between the D and A strings?

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I read this thread a couple of days ago while at work, and couldn't

reply on that computer. If I understand the original question

correctly, your violin sounds better when tuned down a semitone? If

this is the case, you might want to try moving the bridge a few mm

forwards (towards the fb). Instruments which sound better at a

lower pitch seem to do so because they prefer lower string tension.

You can replicate this lower tension at normal pitch, by

shortening the string length (moving the bridge forwards). You

might need to move the sound post forward a bit too, according to

the new location of the bridge.

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