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martin swan

Horizontal Neck Angle

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I generally keep it level for violin and viola but tilt to the bass on celli for A string clearance if needed.. There is of course a lot more to set up that might influence these things.

Rules for doing this might not be good, There seems to me to be a tendency to work on set up by numbers..shop numbers , school numbers etc....I have seen good fiddles with slightly unusual set ups be ruined by having a conventional set up advised and implemented by shop who work to numbers and were sure that normalizing the set up would help when actually the set up was there for a purpose...

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I would be interested in hearing this if you still feel inclined.

Whew, it's sure nice to be back to a fully functioning computer, with a connection which doesn't fail five times while attempting to post!

The basics behind Weisshaar's tilt recommendation can be summarized by doing a quick experiment:

Raise your left arm into violin playing position, but leave the wrist and fingers completely relaxed. Maintaining this position, take a violin, and holding it at the tailpiece end with the right hand, rest the neck into the left hand. Now, move and rotate the violin as needed, so that it could be fingered with minimal alteration of this relaxed finger and wrist position.

What most people will find is that the entire violin will be rotated, with the bass side much higher, and the treble side much lower than can be achieved when the violin is positioned under the chin in the typical fashion, with a typical player physiology.

Building some of this angle into the neck is an attempt to bring the hand/neck/fingerboard relationship closer to this natural, relaxed state. This also requires less raising of the bowing arm. Are these desirable goals? Most people would think so, particularly with rising awareness of repetitive use type injuries.

How well does it work in practice? Your results may vary. Most musicians will not consciously notice the difference. What they may notice is that a violin set up this way is easier to play, or less tiring, or that they can actually play better technically, without necessarily understanding why.

"So and so did it this way" gets sniped at here, but it's still worth taking a look at. With a single subtle change, buried amongst all the other typical variables, something like this can be pretty difficult for any one person to sort out, or gain enough personal experience to reach a solid conclusion. So it can be helpful to consider the conclusions of the two major shops where Sacconi worked, and also the Francais/Morel shop, all of which had vast experience with large numbers of really good players.

Most of the possible negatives have already been mentioned in this thread. With some players, depending on their bow grip, position of the bow between the bridge and fingerboard, and how flat they use the bow ribbon, there can be slightly increased problems with right-hand finger clearance. With a wide fiddle, or a low neck projection, or poor bow control, clearance can be a problem with the bow itself. I don't happen to think that there is any increased tendency for the fingers to slip off the E side of the fingerboard, because the entire hand has rotated with the neck, so the direction of finger force hasn't changed relative to the fingerboard, at least in the lower positions where a violin is most commonly played. In the higher positions on the upper strings, where hand position can be more controlled by upper bout clearance, I can see in theory why there might be a greater tendency. In practice though, I've never heard it mentioned as a problem, unless the player already had a tendency toward this problem. One can watch a player, see whether they have a tendency to deflect the string to one side when it is pressed down (or you can often tell from string markings on the fingerboard), and anticipate what might help or exacerbate the problem.

The sound? One of the minor justifications Weisshaar gave for a lower E was that it gives more equal downforce across all the strings, since the upper strings tend to have higher tension. Of course, this part of the argument goes out the window when you consider that he recommends tilting a cello fingerboard the opposite way. However, the ergonomic benefits of a more natural and relaxed hand position remain with cello. I also don't happen to have found that individual string downforce matters much, but that what instruments are extremely sensitive to is the total or cumulative downforce. Change one string (pick one, any string), and the whole instrument changes, not just that string. Experimenting, I haven't found that tilting the fingerboard has any tonal consequences which can't be compensated for with adjustment, unless the total downforce has ended up different. There are some really well credentialed technicians who believe otherwise though. Haven't had a chance to play around with actual instruments alongside these people, each doing our best to compensate with adjustment, to really hash this out.

What do I do myself? On new violins, I rotate the fingerboard slightly to raise the G, and lower the E. On cellos, I do the opposite, both for ergonomic reasons. On both, I do it less than Weisshaar mentions in his book. On wide violas, where bow clearance can be a major problem, I make them flat.

I don't think any of it's a huge deal though. Do what seems to make sense to you. As far as I can tell, it's not worth going all crazy in support of one position or the other.

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Mr. Burgess, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on this, and it's good to have a reasoned explanation of the "Weisshaar tilt". (btw the experiment simply doesn't work for me, I just seem to put the violin where I want it ....)

However, I think this tilt is more easily achieved by using a slightly different chinrest, or dropping the shoulder-rest foot on the treble side - doesn't need to involve removal of wood! Perhaps this relates back to whether you use a shoulder-rest or not?

For myself I am seriously inconvenienced by having the E string approach the table too much, but I do have the longest fingers I've seen on a violinist .... and my right index finger quickly makes a characteristic divot in the top right corner of every violin I play for more than a week.

So I'm inclined to keep the E string up as much as possible, but this is over-ridden by considerations of sound/response. I for one have definitely found in setting up new violins that the E string down-bearing affects the overall response more than any other individual string (does anyone know the relative tensions involved?), and I try to keep it low!

Can't win ... that's why I started the thread.

Martin Swan Violins

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I'm pulling out the old Zukerman & Perlman Funnin' Around reference video 'cause these two great Maestros held their fiddles

at dramatically different tilt angles and I wonder how raising the G and lowering the E might affect their playing.

In the video, Zukerman seems to tilt at a much steeper angle than Perlman. Perhaps Zukerman's playing style would be hampered with a lower E.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Jim

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The basics behind Weisshaar's tilt recommendation can be summarized by doing a quick experiment:

Raise your left arm into violin playing position, but leave the wrist and fingers completely relaxed. Maintaining this position, take a violin, and holding it at the tailpiece end with the right hand, rest the neck into the left hand. Now, move and rotate the violin as needed, so that it could be fingered with minimal alteration of this relaxed finger and wrist position.

What most people will find is that the entire violin will be rotated, with the bass side much higher, and the treble side much lower than can be achieved when the violin is positioned under the chin in the typical fashion, with a typical player physiology.

Rotating the neck is an attempt to bring the hand/neck/fingerboard relationship closer to this natural, relaxed state. This also requires less raising of the bowing arm. Are these desirable goals? Most people would think so, particularly with rising awareness of repetitive use type injuries.

As a violin player I don't find this argument compelling. Let me state up front that I don't generally use a shoulder rest (not because of dogmatic reasons, just don't need one due to a sufficiently short neck).

Yes, ideally, you'd like to point the left elbow joint straight down towards the ground (as viewed from the centerline of the violin). But you'll notice players pivoting their left elbows (and changing that angle towards the ground) depending on which string they happen to be playing at the moment. You can observe this readily if you ask players to play a scale across four octaves.

I think most players would rather change (resting state) tilt of the violin, if required, by changing the way they hold the violin. They could do this by using different chinrests, shoulder rests, or padding. It's not clear to me how shaving wood "solves" this problem.

Violins that have E strings which present bow clearance issues (especially right index finger scratching off the right corner) just drive me batty. The high position argument is also more compelling, as it makes the high notes that much easier to play (where the left elbow angle is considerably more confined with respect to the ground).

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Mr. Burgess, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on this, and it's good to have a reasoned explanation of the "Weisshaar tilt". (btw the experiment simply doesn't work for me, I just seem to put the violin where I want it ....)

However, I think this tilt is more easily achieved by using a slightly different chinrest, or dropping the shoulder-rest foot on the treble side - doesn't need to involve removal of wood!

I'm a player too (or was), so I run into the same habitual and natural tendency to make my body fit the violin, rather than the other way around, and it's a challenge to do otherwise. And I agree about the removal of wood. I probably wouldn't go to the trouble to alter an existing instrument, unless a neck graft was being done anyway. On a new instrument, it doesn't need to be any additional trouble, and on a graft, sometimes it's not either.

With most players, I haven't been able to rotate an instrument enough with any chinrest or shoulder rest combination to reach a totally relaxed left hand position, without introducing other variables which they won't put up with. There have been a few skinny people with really long necks where it has worked. Of course, the fingerboard rotation won't totally do the job either. It could be thought of as an incremental step toward a goal. So many things about instruments result from many minor, almost insignificant changes, accumulating into something more meaningful.

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I'm pulling out the old Zukerman & Perlman Funnin' Around reference video 'cause these two great Maestros held their fiddles

at dramatically different tilt angles and I wonder how raising the G and lowering the E might affect their playing.

In the video, Zukerman seems to tilt at a much steeper angle than Perlman. Perhaps Zukerman's playing style would be hampered with a lower E.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Jim

Perlman is particularly interesting (although I didn't look at this particular video). He had a physiology which allowed him to move his chin, and rotate the instrument while playing to give better access to the string being played. This would be pretty difficult or impossible with some types of shoulder rests. It's a really neat trick though if one can pull it off.

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I'm a skinny person with a really long neck!

My main problem is that I can't get any of the strings far enough away from my fingers ....

Has anyone got any data on relative string tensions? I have a feeling that the E is under far more tension, but I'd like to know for sure.

What about using more fingerboard relief on the E string to allow one to drop the bridge on that side - is that addressing the same issue? Don't like it myself but some people seem to insist on it.

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Brilliant - thanks for that link ....

As I thought, the E is in a league of its own. Very interesting that Eudoxa D have the lowest tension all round, perhaps explains why people who like them can't get on with anything else!

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Perlman is particularly interesting .... He had a physiology which allowed him to move his chin, and rotate the instrument while playing to give better access to the string being played.

Excellent point, David.

In the video, he seems to rely on his chin quite a bit for the A & E, but dramatically raises his elbow to reach the G & D.

Jim

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Excellent point, David.

In the video, he seems to rely on his chin quite a bit for the A & E, but dramatically raises his elbow to reach the G & D.

Jim

I just watched that video, and the pivoting doesn't show as much as in some more recent videos I've seen, where he does it with all four strings. Perhaps as he gets older, he's developing greater economy of motion, and ways to get the same results with less effort?

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I just watched that video, and the pivoting doesn't show as much as in some more recent videos I've seen, where he does it with all four strings. Perhaps as he gets older, he's developing greater economy of motion, and ways to get the same results with less effort?

Well he certainly has changed his playing style [no longer sighting his chin straight down the FB like in his younger days].

He seems very comfortable in this somewhat more recent uptempo piece:

Playing slower tempo pieces in even newer videos, his chin is pointed in an even more Zukerman direction although he's dealing with some medical issues.

Thanks,

Jim

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Ah, thanks for that video. It shows much better what I was referring to. Why move the bow arm all over the place, when some of the angle change needed to switch to a different string can be accomplished by rotating the fiddle? :)

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Why move the bow arm all over the place, when some of the angle change needed to switch to a different string can be accomplished by rotating the fiddle? :)

True. I just wonder whether Perlman is 'alright' with a nontilted neck.

Jim

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On 6/2/2011 at 6:29 AM, jacobsaunders said:

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”.

I'm working on my first cello. The execution aspect of the tilt is still a bit of a mystery for me. @jacobsaunders and others; question for you: To slope down 1mm  from A to C on a cello,  does one plane the neck face on an angle (as pictured in Weisshaar) or does one cut the dovetail joint in the block on an angle to achieve the the desired slant? Would the latter look odd with the scroll/neck turned slightly to the left?

 

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10 minutes ago, Urban Luthier said:

I'm working on my first cello. The execution aspect of the tilt is still a bit of a mystery for me. @jacobsaunders and others; question for you: To slope down 1mm  from A to C on a cello,  does one plane the neck face on an angle (as pictured in Weisshaar) or does one cut the dovetail joint in the block on an angle to achieve the the desired slant? Would the latter look odd with the scroll/neck turned slightly to the left?

 

 

No, since one wants both the neck and the button in the middle, one would have this (very gentle) “tilt” on the surface between neck and fingerboard

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1 hour ago, Urban Luthier said:

I'm working on my first cello. The execution aspect of the tilt is still a bit of a mystery for me. @jacobsaunders and others; question for you: To slope down 1mm  from A to C on a cello,  does one plane the neck face on an angle (as pictured in Weisshaar) or does one cut the dovetail joint in the block on an angle to achieve the the desired slant?

 

On a new instrument, I would plane the fingerboard gluing surface of the neck to achieve the tilt. On older instruments, how one achieves this tilt will depend on a multitude of factors, such as whether or not one can plane this surface without taking original material off the top of the pegbox.

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@David Burgess and @jacobsaunders thank you both. Makes perfect sense.

One follow up question - for new construction - how much extra wood should one leave on the neck gluing surface to accommodate the tilt? 2-3mm?

I've seen new cellos that appear to have the pegbox set back a few mm from the neck gluing surface. Like the notch shown where the pegbox meets the neck in @Davide Sora fine drawing. I assumed it was to allow for future repairs. However in light of this discussion,  it makes sense the extra surface is planed at an angle to achieve the tilt as well.

post-70417-0-81262000-1468622923.jpg

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11 minutes ago, Urban Luthier said:

@David Burgess and @jacobsaunders thank you both. Makes perfect sense.

One follow up question - for new construction - how much extra wood should one leave on the neck gluing surface to accommodate the tilt? 2-3mm?

I've seen new cellos that appear to have the pegbox set back a few mm from the neck gluing surface. Like the notch shown where the pegbox meets the neck in @Davide Sora fine drawing. I assumed it was to allow for future repairs. However in light of this discussion,  it makes sense the extra surface is planed at an angle to achieve the tilt as well.

 

As I said above (in 2011;)) I make the “Überstand” on a cello about 21mm on the A string side, and 20mm on the C string side, so 2-3mm would be a lot (to much). A small step behind the nut is a good idea unless you trust future fingerboard replacers to not plane the top off the peg box (which is Verboten of course!)

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