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Strange neck angle


Polk
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I have one violin that is a Strad copy from about 1900 (which I own and is not particularly valuable). It looks and sounds good, but has a strange neck angle. It's not the angle toward the bridge, but rather, the whole neck assembly is canted towards the treble side. The attached file is a simple drawing showing the back of theneck as viewed from the bridge. The neck itself is not twisted. This makes playing single notes on the E string a chore.

 

I've done neck resets a few times without problems, and it seems to me that's whats needed here. Any other ideas?

 

neck.bmp

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I have one like this too, you come across them from time to time, I believe it is supposed to help playing in upper positions, but clearly hasn't caught on. I haven't decided what to do with mine, but I believe in my case that the neck might have enough meat on it to plane it flat, with enough overstand and thickness to still work.  But I don't think I'll do anything with it except wait, maybe somebody else will like it. I think its annoying. I'll dig it out and take a look again.

 

I'm not sure how you would fix it by resetting the neck, seems you would have to rotate it and that would get messy pretty quick. A neck graft would work. And you might be able to plain it down, and if needed add a shim to correct, but I hate shims under fingerboards

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I have one like this too, you come across them from time to time, I believe it is supposed to help playing in upper positions, but clearly hasn't caught on. 

 

It was an incredibly stupid idea from somebody who never had to play in upper positions. :) 

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It was an incredibly stupid idea from somebody who never had to play in upper positions. :)

Actually, a number of major shops have done it that way for ergonomic reasons. The right arm doesn't need to be raised as far, and the left arm and hand can be in a more natural position.

 

It's often tilted the opposite way on cellos for some of the same reasons, and also for additional C bout clearance.

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Actually, a number of major shops have done it that way for ergonomic reasons. The right arm doesn't need to be raised as far, and the left arm and hand can be in a more natural position.

 

It's often tilted the opposite way on cellos for some of the same reasons, and also for additional C bout clearance.

 

I don't know building but I know playing. I don't want my fingers sliding off every time I change positions up there and I know nobody who does.

I don't mean to start any argument but I think this solves a problem which never existed to start with.

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I don't know building but I know playing. I don't want my fingers sliding off every time I change positions up there and I know nobody who does.

 

Why would your fingers slide off, if you apply the pressure perpendicular to the fingerboard surface? Or did you not learn this way? Doing this is really quite natural, since your your thumb is on the other side of the neck.

 

What sort of playing do you do?

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Whatever the arguments are, for or against, I cant think off the top of my head of any players (violin or viola) who currently have an instrument set up this way, but I guess I don't look closely at everyones violin.

 

I can think of one case where I was shown a very nice large viola set up this way at one of the top US shops, but it wasn't standard issue for everything they had.

 

David, do you ever set up violins like this? Not wanting to get into an argument, I'm just curious if there is any desire for this nowdays. I keep thinking somebody might like the one I have.

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Why would your fingers slide off, if you apply the pressure perpendicular to the fingerboard surface? Or did you not learn this way? Doing this is really quite natural, since your your thumb is on the other side of the neck.

 

What sort of playing do you do?

 

I play lighter classical music. Quartets, trios etc. Nothing demanding.

 

I just tried and I can't apply pressure perpendicularly as you say unless I am strictly on E. Take an E6 and hold something on A,D or/and G in the same time and you'll see what I mean. Maybe you have much bigger hands but my thumb is fully on the heel by now.  Then, if you need to trill high up a dropping f/b really makes it unstable. There might be some benefit for the low positions for certain hand anatomies but for me in chords is much easier and cleaner to lift the hand than to drop it.

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Whatever the arguments are, for or against, I cant think off the top of my head of any players (violin or viola) who currently have an instrument set up this way, but I guess I don't look closely at everyones violin.

 

It's not something that jumps out at you unless you're looking for it.

 

Who does it? Looks like the Wurlitzer shop, Sacconi, the Weisshaar shop, Bein and Fushi, the Francais/Morel shop, Curtin and Alf, and probably many of the people who came out of these shops, so there must be at least a handful of pretty decent players who are on board with it. ;)

This other thread also has much more discussion on the topic.  Link:

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/323668-horizontal-neck-angle/

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Just glancing through that thread, seems like there are more people that actually tilt the neck slightly towards the G.

 

I can still only think of that one situation where I was handed in instrument like this (in a major shop) and I would notice it in my hands. I've seen more trade fiddles set up this way, but not higher end instruments.

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Original OP here,. Yes, it's because the bow hits the C bout (actually the plate just above the C bout). Often gives me harmonics rather then the note I'm going for. I thought about working my bowing to avoid it, but I have other violins that play fine and don't want to modify playing technique just for this one. The glue joint looks original, and I think it was just a factory (I think it's a factory violin) mistake. Probably dried that way and tey just said 'let it go'. Perhaps a new (thicker) finger board, thinned down on the G side and a nut to match might help, although I can do a neck job.

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 I can still only think of that one situation where I was handed in instrument like this (in a major shop) and I would notice it in my hands. I've seen more trade fiddles set up this way, but not higher end instruments.

It's rather unusual for players to notice it. More often, they just find the instrument friendlier to play. The same is true of many other minor tweaks. Players may not notice details of the setup, or understand the mechanics, they mostly know whether they like it or not.

Just like with sound adjustment.

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I think it's a matter of degree. What David and Nathan are talking about are very different from what the OP mentions, which, if it is the same thing as I've encountered on some low-level Mirecourt and Saxon instruments, is very severe: the entire neck root is tilted towards the e-string, and that causes just about everything to be out of whack. I reminds me of a drunken cat trying to walk against the side of a piece of furniture.

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I just want to read something into the record here, in case any actual violinist wanders on this thread: I have been setting the board level for over 25 years, multiple hundreds of times. Every  time it's on a customer's violin, I have explained carefully what the benefits of both systems are and not one player has elected to have the board tilted. One, however, asked me if I could make it so the top end would be tilted into his hand, and flat at the bridge end. As someone at the start of the thread said, these days with such fancy shoulder rests players can set the angle of the upper part of the neck any way they want. One thing they cannot do with a shoulder rest is change the board's relationship with the top. If the far end, already hard to reach, is lower, if it's tilted farther in the wrong way than it needs to be, these things do not help performers play better and easier. Players will tell you this, if you bother to ask them rather than trying to sell them your own idea.

 

These were not children, and the violins were not trash: these were good professional players, recording artists, and teachers. No one had asked them what they wanted in the past. If they'd been informed of the tilt, they'd always been told it was for their own good. Many, many times on getting their instruments back from me with flat boards they've asked "This is so much better, WHY do they do it the other way?" They do it the other way because makers always know what's best, despite what customers want. If you question that, you only need to read this thread to see how hard it is to drag makers away from an idea that some ancient violin back room gods (David named them for you) decided violin players needed for their own good. 

 

Don't despair: I see level boards all of the time, from good shops, so if you want your violin set right, to please you rather than some know-it-all shop guy, there are lots of good, genuinely-innovative people out there doing it. Also you'll see flat -set boards in violins that the gods of the 1950s and 1960s and their passionate disciples never got their hands on, which are perhaps  the majority of instruments in circulation. Also, a quick check of Courtnall & Johnson just now seems to indicate that they set it level also, so perhaps this is just a backwater American habit that will properly disappear in time.

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Nathan has a good point, I think Polks example, and the German fiddle I have could be extreme, and definitely not a simple fix if you want it even. Mine doesn't have C-bout clearance problems but it is visually obvious, with the overstand at the E side about 2/3s of the G side.  

 

Looking at a bunch of other violins that I have, of various qualities and from different shops, they are all pretty even except for one that has a very slight lean, almost immeasurable, maybe a tenth or 2 of a mm difference in the height at the overstand, but I think it was intentional.

 

David, how much tilt do you use? Is it something that you do very deliberately and measured or is it just a "whiff"? Do you change it for customer's preferences?

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David, how much tilt do you use? Is it something that you do very deliberately and measured or is it just a "whiff"? Do you change it for customer's preferences?

My normal default is about 1/2 mm lower on the treble side of a violin, measured at the heel. If a client wanted it straight, or slightly tilted the other way, no problem, So far, I've never had a request for that, and I typically have violins done straight and tilted on hand so a client can get an idea of the difference in feel if they wish.

 

It's hard to come up with a recommendation for Polk without knowing a lot more about the instrument. If there was enough overstand, and the neck projection was on the high side, I'd probably investigate the possibility first of removing the fingerboard, and taking some material off the bass side at the heel end, while leaving the nut end untouched. This would result in a bit of a spiral on the surface which the fingerboard attaches to, but if tweaked straight while gluing the fingerboard back on (and until the glue is dry) the lamination between the two materials can hold the new shape quite well if the joint is good.

 

I've done some similarly unconventional things to raise "neck projection" too, which are less invasive than some of the usual procedures. I think Jan Spidlen had an article a while ago in Trade Secrets (The Strad) which showed something similar to what I've done.

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Darnton,

Once again you spend your time criticizing great well respected makers and restorers without ever having worked for or with them and without having anywhere close to the training, understanding and expertise they have gained through many years of experience. Spend less time trying to convince everyone how gorgeous you're belly button is.

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Pasewicz,

 

Here is the opinion of a TOP European restorer from another thread :

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/323668-horizontal-neck-angle/#entry502547

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/323668-horizontal-neck-angle/#entry502571

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/323668-horizontal-neck-angle/#entry502623

 

I don't know personally Mr Jacob Saunders but I don't think his competency suffered in the least from not

not working with your "great well respected makers and restorers".

 

You managed to insult everybody who holds the opposite opinion for absolutely no good reason.

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S,

This is not a criticism of a technique, and I did not mention any technique. In fact, we have many very good and respected colleagues like Jacob that set the neck flat, and I set necks flat myself when appropriate. My point is that these colleagues don't spend their time criticizing great masters of the past in order to glorify themselves. They learn from the past first, and then with that learned experience come up with well reasoned and respectable opinions.

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I was recently shown a violin that had been set-up in NY. New neck, bridge, post. The E-string side was a good 1mm+ higher than the G side and the joint. The fiddle has really wide c-bouts, and it was thoroughly chewed up on the treble side. Because of the distortion, the presentation of the bridge was a flat curve.

 

Flat, tilted, either way, have their places. Sometimes one or the other is blatantly wrong for that instrument, sometimes any one would be an improvement over what has already been done.

 

I try to set them flat and introduce any desired tilt into either the bottom of the board or through removal of a bit of that little step that we now leave on the neck.(sorta like a shim, if you ask me...)

 

Also, each generation of makers and restorers do things that they think is reflective of the Best Practices model used in other professions/disciplines. Sometimes, the next generation is removing that Best Practice and "updating" it with the new Best Practice. That's why we don't do anything that can't be reversed, or try not to do anything like that.

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