Horizontal Neck Angle


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Mr. Burgess, you are of course also a demi-god! Yes, this was a mundane mechanical question but there was a lot behind it for me ... I should clarify a few points. The original argument wa

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I'm still learning.. on #8&9. on this set I will plane the top FB surface to tip toward the E apr.1/2 mmm after leaving a platform over the normal height ,so that a "Normal fingerboard set" my be put on sometimedown the road. thanks to M. Darton. and I think D Burgess ...a few others as well for the sugestion..

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Joseph Curtin, "Some Principles of Violin Setup," Journal of the Violin Society of America, November 1995

John Wodowski: This is a neck-set question. On the East Coast a lot of people rotate the neck toward the treble side half a millimeter or so, and on the West Coast, they rotate it the other way. I was told this makes the E side much lower than the G, the first way, and more equal, the second.

Mr. Curtin: I think this has to do with the relative differences in the rotation of the earth on the East and West Coasts. Seriously, at our shop we tilt it to make the treble side lower on the violin. This makes the playing angle lower. If you start hitting the treble C bout on a wide viola, for example, you might want to even things out. Gregg, you do that on violas, don't you?

Mr. Alf: On cellos as well.

Mr. Nigogosian: I am against it. On viola and cello, the C tends to be soft and the A metallic.

Joe Martin: Isn't it generally accepted that the top strings have a little more tension, and so are lowered to equalize the tension?

Mr. Curtin: I think that's probably right. The rotation helps the playing angle and the sound a little. I think this is what Nigo is saying. Thank you for your questions and attention.

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Makers, do you fit your necks so that the top plane is nominally horizontal, or do you drop it down marginally towards the E string? If the latter, is the entire neck marginally rotated or do you just plane down the treble side of the top surface post-fitting?

Thanks in advance for any insights.

Martin Swan Violins

I do the opposite, make the "E" side very slightly higher than the "G". If you do it you're way round, I think you could spend much of you're working life making new corners.

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Our shop practice is to tip 'em about 1/2 mm the other way - toward the bass side.

Couldn't begin to tell whether it makes a difference tonally, what with all the other adjustments available, but it does even out the bowing arc just a bit.

I do the opposite, make the "E" side very slightly higher than the "G". If you do it you're way round, I think you could spend much of you're working life making new corners.

I take it you both do this .tipping to the bass side... Is it all about bow clearance?my understanding is with this kind uf set up only the neck's FB surface is tilted ..not the neck,as in heal to scroll is sguare to the plane of the plate..and the gluing surface is left just proud to allow later fitting.

I'm Not a player but as I imadgine playing, It seems as if access to the bass in second and third possition could be more difficult in this type of set up...any thoughts?.

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I'm Not a player but as I imadgine playing, It seems as if access to the bass in second and third possition could be more difficult in this type of set up...any thoughts?.

Multiple players have told me that the problem with violins is not reaching the G in third, but the E in seventh, and this helps them a LOT. Old, bad ideas die hard, especially when they come from people like Sacconi and Weisshaar.

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Multiple players have told me that the problem with violins is not reaching the G in third, but the E in seventh, and this helps them a LOT. Old, bad ideas die hard, especially when they come from people like Sacconi and Weisshaar.

MMMMM...perhaps a new thread in the finger board would offer insight..after all I really have no prefrence except to make the real artists happy... thanks for the insight..I still have not cut the platform so...

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Multiple players have told me that the problem with violins is not reaching the G in third, but the E in seventh, and this helps them a LOT. Old, bad ideas die hard, especially when they come from people like Sacconi and Weisshaar.

I would very much like to second Michael's point. I sometimes think that "playing" makers make the E string slightly higher and "non-playing" makers the G. The distance between the string and fingerboard at the end of the board is (and I know that this is a mater of opinion too!) at the E ca. 3.5mm and G ca. 5.5mm, so lifting the G would make this relationship even more uneven.

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OK thanks for so many replies! I didn't expect to get such a response - it's obviously a bone of contention, which makes me feel better. I should clarify that my position is that the neck should be level, and that's how we make our violins. After reading this thread I think I will stick to that, though I'm very interested in the argument for tilting down on the bass side.

I got into a spat with a prospective customer who told me that the neck should be lower on the E string side, and that anything else was a sign of a cheap factory fiddle - I disagreed (a bit impolitely) and got in a big mess, we then parted company ... so I felt the need for reassurance.

The argument can only really be about either playability or string tension (or I suppose bridge aesthetics if you're really anal).

Playability : miniscule changes in the curve of the bridge will never make anything like as much difference to the bowing arc as a minor and un-noticed change in the tilt of the whole violin, so that's that argument out the window. Besides, as Jacob points out, bringing the E string nearer the table is a guaranteed way to mash the treble corners. As a player with very long fingers, I find myself nicking the upper corner with my index finger all the time - lowering the neck on the treble side would exacerbate the problem. Indeed I think the only argument you could make would be for a tilt in the other direction. Yes if the E string is higher at the bridge then it's slightly more accessible to the bow, especially if you're playing over the fingerboard for tonal effect. But then you have to consider issues of string tension!

String tension : Assuming a competent bridge & soundpost position, I find that the single most crucial modification I can make to the sound of a violin is the height of the E string above the table (all the strings are relevant but the E seems to create as much downbearing on the bridge as the other 3 added together, and has a strong overall effect on the sound). Over time (not a lot I confess) I have found myself working with an ideal string height - this is measured up from the table and expresses itself in the height of the bridge. If the fingerboard and the action don't work with this string height I tend to change the fingerboard angle (though with problem violins I try to use string height/tension to make tonal corrections). This ideal string height is achieved most easily by having a flat neck surface on which a symmetrical fingerboard sits - a straight edge on the top of the fingerboard gives an elevation of about 28.5mm at the bridge position on a conventional table (ie not a blow-up Stainer-type thing). If I was to lower the neck on the bass side I wouldn't want to increase the tension on the E string, so I suppose the bridge would end up having less irregular sides. Are there any other advantages (sonic) to this beyond preserving the treble c bouts?

I suppose that working on old violins requires a lot more pragmatism, and I do often end up with odd shaped bridges. But I feel most comfortable when there's a difference of about 3mm between the bass height and the treble height - am I normal?

Martin Swan Violins

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I would very much like to second Michael's point. I sometimes think that "playing" makers make the E string slightly higher and "non-playing" makers the G. The distance between the string and fingerboard at the end of the board is (and I know that this is a mater of opinion too!) at the E ca. 3.5mm and G ca. 5.5mm, so lifting the G would make this relationship even more uneven.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a distinction between the needs of soloists and orchestra members? As a soloist, high access and clearance on the E seems like a necessity, but for the orchestra player it would be the exact opposite.

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Am I the only one who thinks this is a distinction between the needs of soloists and orchestra members? As a soloist, high access and clearance on the E seems like a necessity, but for the orchestra player it would be the exact opposite.

seems like a good point.

I made a post on the fingerboard to see if any players have input. just for fun...

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Am I the only one who thinks this is a distinction between the needs of soloists and orchestra members? As a soloist, high access and clearance on the E seems like a necessity, but for the orchestra player it would be the exact opposite.

I certainly don't see this distinction.

I would like to point out that this question is even more crass for cellists. If you are obliged to play a cello with a fingerboard leaning downwards towards the A string, you feel semi spastic going fro 4th position into thumb possition and collide against the belly edge with you're left wrist.

I think that playing the violin/cello is quite difficult enough already, without makeing things even more awkward and that that is the same for solo and tutti.

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Am I the only one who thinks this is a distinction between the needs of soloists and orchestra members? As a soloist, high access and clearance on the E seems like a necessity, but for the orchestra player it would be the exact opposite.

Tell that to the first violins playing the opening of Don Juan... :blink: As a player, I prefer having the E a little higher -- it's just more comfortable to get to the stratosphere. (Stradosphere?) Not to mention that most violinists spend a lot more time in seventh position on the E than the G...

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I certainly don't see this distinction.

I would like to point out that this question is even more crass for cellists. If you are obliged to play a cello with a fingerboard leaning downwards towards the A string, you feel semi spastic going fro 4th position into thumb possition and collide against the belly edge with you're left wrist.

I think that playing the violin/cello is quite difficult enough already, without makeing things even more awkward and that that is the same for solo and tutti.

Jacob,

Do you set the neck lower on the C string on a cello? I play cello, and I know I personally like it lower for playability, but I was wondering what the standard was in Germany.

Also, I am a little confused about setting the neck on a violin lower on the G for playability reasons. I always thought it was the other way around for ease of playing? I was taught if the G is a little higher, the player doesn't have to reach their left hand around as far and the placement of their elbow and shoulder is more comfortable. I know you briefly talked about it in one of the previous posts, but could you elaborate more on your reasons for setting it slightly lower on the G. This is a very interesting topic, and I appreciate hearing the different viewpoints. Thanks.

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Jacob,

Do you set the neck lower on the C string on a cello? I play cello, and I know I personally like it lower for playability, but I was wondering what the standard was in Germany.

Also, I am a little confused about setting the neck on a violin lower on the G for playability reasons. I always thought it was the other way around for ease of playing? I was taught if the G is a little higher, the player doesn't have to reach their left hand around as far and the placement of their elbow and shoulder is more comfortable. I know you briefly talked about it in one of the previous posts, but could you elaborate more on your reasons for setting it slightly lower on the G. This is a very interesting topic, and I appreciate hearing the different viewpoints. Thanks.

Dear Mathew,

I play the Cello too, since I was 8 years old. During my whole working life as a vm. (with noticeable exceptions) I have been surrounded by colleagues who either don’t play at all, or who could just about scratch out “Ghost Riders in the Sky” if there life depended on it. When an instrument comes in for a re-shoot, one can normally see from the dirt boundary on the fingerboard that the musicians generally play the violin up to ca. 4th. Position on the G String, marginally higher on the D, much higher on the A and almost 7/8ths of the way to the top on the E string. With Celli it is not much different. Therefore the argument about tipping the G String side higher for “ease of playing”, I think, falls completely flat.

I don’t know any “standard” for Germany, where I lived until 1985 and don’t think there is one.

To answer you’re question, I would fit a neck, when making a new Cello, or a neck graft on an old one, about 21mm between purfeling and underside of fingerboard on the A side and about a mm less on the C side. On particularly wide or square shouldered Celli, perhaps a little more. As you will know yourself, repairing old ones is normally a matter of “making the best out of a bad job”.

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It's true that most music partitions require higher positions on the E string than on the G string so in a sense it's probably better to favour the E side of the fingerboard in a way or another, but I believe there is a big difference between violin and cello in term or arm and elbow twisting to reach the G in higher position. I don't play cello but a little bit violin and I really have to move my elbow pretty far under the violin to feel comfortable in third or 5th position on G string. Of course you don't have to do this with a cello. I guess ultimately a player commissioning a violin should be able to tell the maker what he/she would prefer.

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Dear Mathew,

I play the Cello too, since I was 8 years old. During my whole working life as a vm. (with noticeable exceptions) I have been surrounded by colleagues who either don’t play at all, or who could just about scratch out “Ghost Riders in the Sky” if there life depended on it. When an instrument comes in for a re-shoot, one can normally see from the dirt boundary on the fingerboard that the musicians generally play the violin up to ca. 4th. Position on the G String, marginally higher on the D, much higher on the A and almost 7/8ths of the way to the top on the E string. With Celli it is not much different. Therefore the argument about tipping the G String side higher for “ease of playing”, I think, falls completely flat.

I don’t know any “standard” for Germany, where I lived until 1985 and don’t think there is one.

To answer you’re question, I would fit a neck, when making a new Cello, or a neck graft on an old one, about 21mm between purfeling and underside of fingerboard on the A side and about a mm less on the C side. On particularly wide or square shouldered Celli, perhaps a little more. As you will know yourself, repairing old ones is normally a matter of “making the best out of a bad job”.

Thank you for replying so quickly. I have another follow up question for discussion. Do you think by setting the overall overstand a little higher, one would achieve some of that ease of playing on the E even there wasn't any poirette (we use a lot of French terms in the shop so I don't know the English for that one. Twist maybe?) favoring a higher E? Or do you find this would still not be enough for players? Thanks.

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Makers, do you fit your necks so that the top plane is nominally horizontal, or do you drop it down marginally towards the E string? If the latter, is the entire neck marginally rotated or do you just plane down the treble side of the top surface post-fitting?

Hans Weisshaar recommends for Violin and Viola a tilt towards the the Bow Frog, and the 'same' for the Cello!

He also though shows how to check for bow clearance and ease of playing so that one should not be blindly doing these tilts. Taking into consideration your client. What size hands does your client have?

I don't think makers should be taking a violin with a low 'neck step' and blindly be making it lower on the E string side, to satisfy some pet theory. Thinking is always preferable to following rules.

As to the Scroll, Hans Weisshaar recommends it is to remain square to the body of the instrument. In other words, the eyes should be parallel to the rib frame surface, and only the gluing surface of the fingerboard is tilted.

If you are servicing a client that wants the tilt, then why not, and if you are making a new instrument, then what sells in your area?

String tension changes could be handled by string gauge or different string brands.

I like what Michael does, which is NO TILT at all, because you have to start from a fixed reference point when making adjustments, and the 'Angle of the Strings over the Bridge' seems to me to be a pretty good fixed starting point.

The reason why you get every possibility under the sun here is because it'd not a deal breaker, unless you fail to satisfy a client. If it were we would all know about it.

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I got into a spat with a prospective customer who told me that the neck should be lower on the E string side, and that anything else was a sign of a cheap factory fiddle - I disagreed (a bit impolitely) and got in a big mess, we then parted company ... so I felt the need for reassurance.

Instead next time try agreeing but with a caveat like "In this part of the world you are right, but on the West Coast it is all the rage!" In other words No Hard and Fast Rule applies.

Then just wait for those ingenious Chinese to translate this thread and start making 'cheap factory fiddles' with a tilt towards the E string, and we will all be screwed because everyone knows that that really is the secret to making excellent violins!

The argument can only really be about either playability or string tension (or I suppose bridge aesthetics if you're really anal).

You hit it right on the head! That's worth repeating!!!

The argument can only really be about either playability or string tension (or I suppose bridge aesthetics if you're really anal).

Playability : miniscule changes in the curve of the bridge will never make anything like as much difference to the bowing arc as a minor and un-noticed change in the tilt of the whole violin, so that's that argument out the window. Besides, as Jacob points out, bringing the E string nearer the table is a guaranteed way to mash the treble corners. As a player with very long fingers, I find myself nicking the upper corner with my index finger all the time - lowering the neck on the treble side would exacerbate the problem. Indeed I think the only argument you could make would be for a tilt in the other direction. Yes if the E string is higher at the bridge then it's slightly more accessible to the bow, especially if you're playing over the fingerboard for tonal effect. But then you have to consider issues of string tension!

Yes exacerbating the solution is the goal!

String tension : Assuming a competent bridge & soundpost position, I find that the single most crucial modification I can make to the sound of a violin is the height of the E string above the table (all the strings are relevant but the E seems to create as much downbearing on the bridge as the other 3 added together, and has a strong overall effect on the sound). Over time (not a lot I confess) I have found myself working with an ideal string height - this is measured up from the table and expresses itself in the height of the bridge. If the fingerboard and the action don't work with this string height I tend to change the fingerboard angle (though with problem violins I try to use string height/tension to make tonal corrections). This ideal string height is achieved most easily by having a flat neck surface on which a symmetrical fingerboard sits - a straight edge on the top of the fingerboard gives an elevation of about 28.5mm at the bridge position on a conventional table (ie not a blow-up Stainer-type thing). If I was to lower the neck on the bass side I wouldn't want to increase the tension on the E string, so I suppose the bridge would end up having less irregular sides. Are there any other advantages (sonic) to this beyond preserving the treble c bouts?

I suppose that working on old violins requires a lot more pragmatism, and I do often end up with odd shaped bridges. But I feel most comfortable when there's a difference of about 3mm between the bass height and the treble height - am I normal?

As normal as can be nominally stated! ;)

In new making what is your 'Projection' for setting your neck in?

Do you allow for some settling?

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In fact if you simply take a look on youtube for players like Heifetz, Oistrak or Kennedy you will see that this matter of slightly (less than a mm) tilting toward on side or the other makes no sense. Some players (as my teacher insists on) will be taught to play with their violin extremely flat on their shoulder (see Heifetz). Some will learn to tilt the violin itself more or less (see Oistrakh or Kennedy) to accommodate for their playing or their hands or the difficulty to reach the G or the E string in higher position. In regard to these positions the tilt on the fingerboard would be negligible.

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Hans Weisshaar recommends for Violin and Viola a tilt towards the the Bow Frog, and the 'same' for the Cello!

I know what Weisshaar wrote, I bought his expensive book 20something years ago. On this point he was WRONG. The emperor hasn't got any clothes!

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