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Do fiddlers like a loose sound post?


Daniel Martin
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Michael Darnton once said in a post on this forum that the fiddlers like a very loose sound post. I have tried to find the post (an old one) without any luck. Does anyone have any input on this statement? How does a loose sound post affect the sound? I am interested because most of my music is fiddle tunes and bluegrass. I am working on violin number 9 and 10 at the moment and have always set the posts as recommended by the best books available. Set just to fit with a minimum of pressure.

Michael Darnton's statement has always stuck in the back of mind and I have not had a resolution to this issue of a loose sound post for fiddlers. So why would fiddlers like a loose sound post?

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Just a postulation... looser soundpost might lower the arching slightly, possibly giving a less bright sound (?). Fiddlers generally don't do much 5th position work on the E string, and might go for a more mellow sound.
Most of the fiddle players around here have violins that will shake your fillings loose. To my way of thinking, I can't really comprehend what a loose fitted post is. Either it's so loose it falls over if you jar the instrument or release tension on the strings which is of little use, or on the other extreme it's wedged in so tight that it's distorting the top. There isn't a really wide latitude of adjustment between too loose and too tight.
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I can't see any gain from a loose soundpost. I've had the opportunity to break in three new fiddles so far in my limited experience and each one has had the sound post loosen up in the first few months of playing. Each time I found the loose post I was investigating a problem that was developing with the sound. The fiddle gets "soft" and hard to play. No response and a hollow sound were also some of the symptoms. In most cases, I thought the strings were going bad so I'd start to replace them. No sooner than I'd loosen the tension on the strings a little, I'd hear that soundpost fall over. In the last fiddle, it fell over when I took off the E.

When I put the post back in place, I realize I'm using a post that is now too short to fit EXACTLY in the original position. I only pull them in tight enough to not fall over when the strings are off so maybe I'm not wedging them in as tightly as they should be. A longer post would be needed to reestablish original position and tightness. So maybe that's what Darnton meant by a loose post.

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Fiddle players can be all over the map as far as tonal preferences ....but for the record Kenny Baker always liked a soft fairly deep sounding fiddle.......same goes for Aubrey Haynie. I myself tend to go in that direction. It's all a matter of choice.....I suppose a really tight post could be counter productive in achieving those goals, but a really loose post doesn't sound good on any fiddle that I know of ...

DB

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I can't see any gain from a loose soundpost. I've had the opportunity to break in three new fiddles so far in my limited experience and each one has had the sound post loosen up in the first few months of playing. Each time I found the loose post I was investigating a problem that was developing with the sound. The fiddle gets "soft" and hard to play. No response and a hollow sound were also some of the symptoms. In most cases, I thought the strings were going bad so I'd start to replace them. No sooner than I'd loosen the tension on the strings a little, I'd hear that soundpost fall over. In the last fiddle, it fell over when I took off the E.

"a hollow sound were also some of the symptoms"-- There is a pretty good fiddler in my area and he always comments on the " Hollow Sound " I'm not sure a loose sound post contributes to this but that is the sound he looks for.

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My thoughts about posts (and setup) have changed considerably since that earlier thread. At that time, I began to notice just how small certain changes needed to be to make a big difference in sound. The concern then was not losing a particular sound that took a good deal of time to find.

I now think of a given violin as having a continuum of tonal variations rather than one ideal one. The new mindset does not lessen the importance of very good post positioning, but one remains aware that there is more than one good post position in a violin, and each is determined by requirements of the specific player/listener. And of course routine makes all tasks simpler, even locating a sweet spot (or one of them) quickly.

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I've played fiddle since 1973, and never knew of anyone who played with a loose post intentionally. I served a 5 year apprenticeship under a luthier and still do some work occasionally, so I've seen my share of loose posts. But I never got an argument when I told the customer his post was too short and needed to be replaced. So my answer to the question, "Do fiddlers like a loose sound post?", is no.

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Ah never mind. :)

If in the transition from thin plate to consideration of thickness, the neutral plane in bending seems to shift to the outside of the curve. I have found with an adjustable post that loosening deadens sound. That is to say, if without strings, the adjustment is made with some tension, then when strung up, loosening deadens much quicker than tightening will make it harsh.

I wonder if our other discussions are relevant? Compressing an arch will move the neutral axis outward even faster. Tension in the post would move it toward the inside of the curvature. (Toward the middle of the plate) This way, a wave will only bend the plate, not stretch it.

Maybe this is a decent point, the soundpost area is exactly the place where one is trying to put in high frequencies. That means short wavelengths, high curvature deformations.

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What (American) fiddlers prefer:

http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=3IAEp4cU0Qk

Yeah, great clip. Classic to see Tommy Jarrell struggling to play on a Stradeevareeus. I also liked the "antiqued by bullethole" fiddle. And the copper-clad fingerboard. Reminds me of Eddie Lowe's banjo, with the aluminum siding on the fingerboard and the garden sprayer wand for the neck stabilizer.

Bottom line: (old) fiddler's prefer what they're used to.

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So, how would string tension fit into this ?

If you have a "looser" fitting soundpost and use strings with high tension.....this is going to compress the top more than "normal" and give you something equivalent to a "tight" fitting post.

Do fiddlers, (or you folk that set-up "fiddles"), take this into account ?

E.

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So, how would string tension fit into this ?

If you have a "looser" fitting soundpost and use strings with high tension.....this is going to compress the top more than "normal" and give you something equivalent to a "tight" fitting post.

Do fiddlers, (or you folk that set-up "fiddles"), take this into account ?

E.

I try to fit the soundpost bevels as closely as I can, believing this is the important part. If it falls over with a slight tap, I'm worried it's too loose, and will probably cut another. If I would have to really tug on the soundpost to set it in place, it's too long and I cut it down.

I don't differentiate between fiddle and classical set-up in this respect -- though I'm happy to hear about reasons why I should. So far, players around here seem to like what I do with soundpost sets.

"Loose" is a loose term, and means different things to different folks. At a workshop I attended, Paul Schuback mentioned moving the soundpost by the thickness of a cigarette paper and noting a difference. It would be great to read what other folks mean by the word 'loose' -- though I'm afraid that without seeing it, feeling it, the terminology would be similar to that used when describing an instrument's tone.

Ken

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