Soundpost adjusting and fitting.


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I was reading Casey's post on soundposts, and over the weekend I managed to find some time to peer inside my violin and adjust the soundpost. After setting it up and toppling it down 40 over times, I finally developed the knack for imagining how the post would fit in the violin, as I am positioning it on the soundpost tool. Then I noticed that there's a worn soundpost spot on my violin top much closer to the edges than my existing soundpost could reach.

After shaving down my soundpost and fitting it into the old spot, the violin sounds so much richer and brighter. It sounds like a totally different violin almost. I was thinking whether it's a better idea to try soundposts of different lengths, as it will be cheaper than buying a new violin. Is there some advice to the possible changes you can get from soundposts? With the huge change in sound, I wonder if french violins sound "French" and german violins sound "German" because they were set up to sound that way...

If I decide to make new soundposts, is it possible to describe common soundpost setups to my luthier?

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Hi downhere, In general, moving the soundpost towards the fingerboard tends to increase brilliance and loudness and more direct sound. Moving the soundpost towards the tailpiece decreases the l

I 100 percent agree with Melvin on all points. Well, maybe not 100% on the last one, but it's more likely that we're both thinking of the same thing and using different descriptions. My take on it is

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I was reading Casey's post on soundposts, and over the weekend I managed to find some time to peer inside my violin and adjust the soundpost. After setting it up and toppling it down 40 over times, I finally developed the knack for imagining how the post would fit in the violin, as I am positioning it on the soundpost tool. Then I noticed that there's a worn soundpost spot on my violin top much closer to the edges than my existing soundpost could reach.

After shaving down my soundpost and fitting it into the old spot, the violin sounds so much richer and brighter. It sounds like a totally different violin almost. I was thinking whether it's a better idea to try soundposts of different lengths, as it will be cheaper than buying a new violin. Is there some advice to the possible changes you can get from soundposts? With the huge change in sound, I wonder if french violins sound "French" and german violins sound "German" because they were set up to sound that way...

If I decide to make new soundposts, is it possible to describe common soundpost setups to my luthier?

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I hope it is not your imagination. Soundpost adjustment has its limit, when it reachs to a that point , I would not be able to do any more to improve it.

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I've been experimenting with the new soundpost lately, although I didn't adjust it too frequently, maybe just try out a spot or 2 at one time and let it settle and play for a day or a few.

After trying out the soundpost within an area of about 4mmx4mm behind the bridge foot, I still find there's a small area that consistently give the best sound character, which is within the area where the old soundpost was. It wasn't exactly at the old place because the soundpost cut is a little crooked on the top so the top of the soundpost need to move slightly away from the bridge foot, while the bottom of the post is virtually at where the old soundpost was.

So upon reading downhere's post, I guess some violins do have a soundpost spot/area where it'll consistently give the best sound.

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Hi downhere,

In general, moving the soundpost towards the fingerboard tends to increase brilliance and loudness and more direct sound. Moving the soundpost towards the tailpiece decreases the loudness and adds a richness or hollowness to the tone. Moving the soundpost towards the outside increases brightness for higher strings and moving in towards the middle increases the lower frequencies and darkens the tone.

Have fun... :D

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It's easy to do a lot of damage to a violin by moving and fitting a soundpost. That just needs to be stated up front.

different instrument have different reactions to soundpost adjustment. There are two factors in post adjustments, one is tension/pressure of the post against the plates, the second is position. If the arching and graduation of your violin is 'football' shaped, then every time the post is moved, the tension/pressure of the post changes significantly. On violins with flatter arching/graduations the post can be moved (especially north and south)with little change in tension/pressure.

Usually if there is a really dramatic change in the sound then the post was either way off base before the adjustment or after ;-)

Oded

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I'm attaching a photo of what I use to set a soundpost. I always felt that the peg-sticker normally used is medieval at best. Even with a good burr, I tired quickly of dropping and resetting the post.

I modified a pliers post setter. First I had to file down the bearing button to fit in an f-hole without bruising the f-hole edges. Next, I had to bend the tips a bit by using a vice. This bend makes the tips run parallel to the bottom back plate. Then I put on the pretty pink heat shrink tubing to eliminate marring the f-hole and post.

Next I took an inexpensive ruler and ground in a notch big enough to grab a sound post. I also placed red lines and marks to help me position the post properly.

The operation is simple. Insert the pliers setter into the bass (left) f-hole so that it can grab the sound post lowered into the treble (right) f-hole. Pull the sound post into the body and use the modified ruler to poke the top of the post into position. The ruler end pushes while the notch grabs to pull the post. The pliers post setter holds the post's lower end, never letting go until the post is in final position. Alternatively, the pliers and ruler can yank out the post for more shaping.

One day I got careless and dropped the soundpost. Then I realized that I forgot where I put the post retriever because I had not used it in ages! I bought another and a week later I found the original. Now I have two retrievers collecting dust. ;) And, yes, I discarded the medieval beast.

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I'm attaching a photo of what I use to set a soundpost. I always felt that the peg-sticker normally used is medieval at best. Even with a good burr, I tired quickly of dropping and resetting the post.

You don't need a burr on a sound post setter. If angle of the tip is narrow enough and the setter is sharp, your biggest problem will be getting the post off the setter without pulling it too tight. As a test, I just stuck my setter into a post, held onto the post and attached a violin of mine to the setter with a string. I was able to (carefully) lift the violin and setter just with the grip of the setter in the sound post, and I didn't even have the setter jammed in tight. I just have cheap, soft steel setter, but I keep it as sharp as I can, no burr. I have to be careful not to get the post on too tight.

You don't have near the sensitivity or flexibility with a scissors type setter that you do with an s-type, and the scissors tear up the posts. I have a scissors setter, but never have found a use for it. As an example, the tip of my setter is just over 2mm tall, and 1cm back from the tip, it is just under 2mm wide. Try filing your S-setter to something like those dimensions and see what happens. The tip can be taller, but getting the point narrow enough is the trick.

For a retriever, I just use a piece of hard wire sharpened to a flat point. A lot of the time, I can pick the post up with the setter, and if I'd ever break down and buy a good setter with a really narrow shank, I wouldn't even need the wire.

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Casey: I actually shortened my post but kept the angle to move it to the side. Like luthierwannabe said, it's "brighter".. I would describe it as having more complexity/more overtones. I've been looking for brighter strings than evah for the old setup, but they didn't solve the problem, so I'm glad I moved the post. At least now, I have enough brilliance to play with, so I switched back to dominants(more complex sounding) from peter infeldts (purer sounding). I think shortening and lengthening is another variable to play with for us tinkerers.

Oded: Yes, I shortened the post to place it where i want it to be with as little tension to fit as possible. Just slight tension to hold it in place. It is a well fit post (not as good as professional, but the angle to the top and back match). I'm just wondering if the "best" sound is a matter of preference.. like there's no "wrong" position, just different places where people like to put their soundposts. The sound changed from a pretty straightforward german student violin type sound, to an overtone rich sound, and I was looking for that change from strings and other things. Just surprised it happened when i decided to shift the soundpost position after it fell.

MIchael: Thanks for sharing your tools. Wish I had a set of yours! I just speared the soundpost until i got the job done.

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With the S-type setter, I think you can feel the orientation of the soundpost, and how it is touching the top and back. Took me a while to get the hang of it, but the post always fell off the setter until i figured out you had to wedge the top and back apart simultaneously with the soundpost. Is there any trick for orientating it in 3d space tho? It looks good from the end pin hole, but i always misjudge the distance behind the bridge that i want.

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Casey: I actually shortened my post but kept the angle to move it to the side. Like luthierwannabe said, it's "brighter".. I would describe it as having more complexity/more overtones. I've been looking for brighter strings than evah for the old setup, but they didn't solve the problem, so I'm glad I moved the post. At least now, I have enough brilliance to play with, so I switched back to dominants(more complex sounding) from peter infeldts (purer sounding). I think shortening and lengthening is another variable to play with for us tinkerers.

Oded: Yes, I shortened the post to place it where i want it to be with as little tension to fit as possible. Just slight tension to hold it in place. It is a well fit post (not as good as professional, but the angle to the top and back match). I'm just wondering if the "best" sound is a matter of preference.. like there's no "wrong" position, just different places where people like to put their soundposts. The sound changed from a pretty straightforward german student violin type sound, to an overtone rich sound, and I was looking for that change from strings and other things. Just surprised it happened when i decided to shift the soundpost position after it fell.

MIchael: Thanks for sharing your tools. Wish I had a set of yours! I just speared the soundpost until i got the job done.

I've been using a $3.95 setter for years, and the piece of hard wire I use for a retriever was a leftover. I cut the tip down and filed the shank narrower and rounded the corners.

I use a setter several times every day, so one of these days I'll break down and buy a Herdim Classic or something similar.

Fit is the first thing in setting a sound post. The more experienced pros apparently take a near perfect fit as a "given". If the post doesn't fit right, it doesn't much matter where you put it. I very rarely see a violin that doesn't sound pretty good with a well-fitted post fitted gently in "home" position (say, 3mm behind the bridge foot, and @1 1/2 mm inside the outer edge of the bridge foot. You can adjust balance,focus and resonance from there, and I have more experienced friends who tell me that you can make even finer adjustments on the finest violins, but getting a good basic sound starts with as close to a perfect fit as possible in standard position.

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There is a good place for a sound post to be on a violin, viola or cello and this can vary a bit with the model but not a lot....The rest is Placebo or error

General rules so far mentioned for positioning posts do not entirely work because as been stated by myself and others on this forum the movement of the post does not always function as a continuum.

Most post adjustments unless done with total diligence yield spurious results.

First of all it is most important that a post is fitting perfectly and at the correct tension (or to hold the belly up)...moving one post around is unlikely to conform to this criteria.In some cases several posts may need to be cut and fit perfectly for different positions

Second..if you move a post on any instrument of value you must slacken the strings to avoid damaging the belly and the post....slackening and re tuning the strings has a tonal effect in itself.

Third...instruments sound best when they are PERFECTLY in TUNE...neglecting this can give spurious results and is often the false eureka moment for the non aware. (Edit I meant the strings being perfectly in tune)

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I 100 percent agree with Melvin on all points. Well, maybe not 100% on the last one, but it's more likely that we're both thinking of the same thing and using different descriptions. My take on it is that violins won't always sound best when in tune, but if they don't, they're not in proper adjustment. Adjusting a violin when it's not in tune is a waste of time, because when it's tuned, it won't be right any more.

Three hundred bucks for a new soundpost along with adjustment? It starts to make sense when you read Melvin's post.

Someone who inserts a vertical stick of wood inside an instrument without such care, and charges the price of a beer? No problem. Who knows better than they what their work is worth. ;)

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I think Melvin & David have covered "adjustment" quite nicely... though I do try and consider the player's approach/style when finding the "good" location, as it can vary slightly.

Tools:

I've gone through several post locator guides (bridge foot to post) of slightly varied style, but can also get by just fine with a flexible steel ruler. Someone on this board makes kind of a nice one though, which I saw at Oberlin last summer. Think I might just have to make an order. :)

I include the use of a small brass "hammer" on a bent brass handle when adjusting the "back" end of 'cello posts. Seems to offer a bit more control than I get out of the larger ('cello size) setter.

As far as the setter goes, I've been using this altered, medieval, "S" style setter for coming up on 3 decades... the shrink wrap is only 25 years old (lasts pretty well, I think), however. The setter's handle is reduced in size (width) and the barb is refined. It does gain a small, naturally occurring, "burr" as I use it (I do stab the post)... leaves a nice small slot (I used to close up the slot with a drop of water on a brush in days gone by... but I got over that)... and I have no difficulty holding onto a post, releasing one, or picking one up from inside the fiddle. 'Cello setter is altered similarly. I have other setters... some very nicely made I think, but I honestly never use them.

post-17-0-07091200-1293495992_thumb.jpg

Excuse the mess on the marble. Did a bass bar this afternoon. The change in color shades of the shavings might pertain to the old wood thread. :)

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An electric supply store. One of the first equipment shopping trips I made after moving to Ann Arbor. :)

Probably a better term for this is "heat shrink tubing"--available in numerous diameters from electrical supply shops. Shrink with a heat gun or even over an alcohol lamp.

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As far as the setter goes, I've been using this altered, medieval, "S" style setter for coming up on 3 decades... the shrink wrap is only 25 years old (lasts pretty well, I think), however.

Jeffrey was the one who finally crow-barred me into trying the shrink wrap. I will always consider it an insult to my soundpost setting skills, but for unbeknownst reasons, I have never gone back. Even screwed up the aesthetics of my recently purchased gold-plated soundpost setter to put the shrink wrap on.

Molnar's method sounds like a good thing too. Can't publicly endorse it, or I might need to disappear into to the soundpost setting protection program. :blink:

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I got tired of toppling sound posts over and retrieving, especially cellos and basses. I now wrap thread around the post a couple of times and do a half hitch knot. so when the post topples I can easily lift it out with the string which was left dangling out of the f hole. Once the sound post is in place and the strings tightened a small tug frees the string.

Maybe this not a new idea but I be luv'n it :)

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