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When to change sound post for new instruments


orenchi
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I don't always cut a new sound post.  But I do give it a check to see if it's too tight or too loose after a few months.

 

I don't think it's a good idea to sell a newly-finished instrument right away,  It's better to wait a few months to make sure things have somewhat settled.  I know at least one maker who provides one-year free adjustments.

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I finished a cello this year with a poplar back. I fitted it up in June, and looked in at the post last week. The post doesn't fit any more. I'll replace it, and be content to sell the cello, but will ask the owner to bring it in in six months or a year to check again.

 

Some backs can distort quickly when an instrument is first set up. A willow or poplar cello will probably do so more than most, and in this case, a gap had actually appeared, even though the elevation hasn't moved at all, and is perfectly stable. Always a good idea to check.

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Hi all, I read that one should change the sound-post after a few months as the instrument settles.

 

First, is it necessary for most instruments?

 

Second, If that is the case, does a client need to bring back the instrument after a few months for the new sound-post to be installed?

Depends. I like to have things pretty well settled in before the instrument ever meets a potential client. In such cases, an instrument may go for many years without needing a new post. I think this makes them more stable in sound too. I wouldn't want a client to buy an instrument because they like the sound, only to have it change substantially as the instrument "settles in".

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It is neccessary for most instruments, but the question is whether the luthier does it before the shop releases it as others suggested. Regardless, I offer free adjustments in the first year, and strongly suggest they bring the instrument in for a checkup in about 6 months since that is likely to represent the summer winter shift. Best not to wait too long or the top will sag on the treble side, which is most easily seen at the upper wing of the fhole.

Depends. I like to have things pretty well settled in before the instrument ever meets a potential client.

Based on previous statements I have gathered that you don't find playing in to speed this change, so do you just set it up and keep it tuned for a few months as it settles or is there some other way to assist with the change?

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First, is it necessary for most instruments?

 

Second, If that is the case, does a client need to bring back the instrument after a few months for the new sound-post to be installed?

 

IMO:  Yes, and yes.

 

I have probably bought and "broken in" as many new violins as anyone.  Except for one, all have gone through stages which have required new posts.  The general routine is that the violin is easy to play for a very short while, then it gets harder to play, then slowly it becomes better and better until all of a sudden it "dies."  As far as I can tell, the reason is that a violin changes in such ways that a post no longer fits perfectly or is under appropriate tension in the spot it was placed.  But there are probably other things going on as well.

 

One famous maker once told me that he will sometimes find it necessary to put in three posts in a new violin within the first year. (Whether he still does this I have no idea.) 

 

The one violin which didn't require a new post was made by someone who claims he does something which stabilizes the instrument;  naturally, he would never tell me what he did.   :)

 

 

If as serious a maker as David Burgess takes settling in as a problem worth dealing with, then we should follow his lead.  I've wondered if some of those violins I bought and suffered with were sold too soon.

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Toward the end of its first year, one of my new violins (Tschu Ho Lee, year 2000) needed a post adjustment which included a position change, as well as, I believe, but am not certain, a longer post.  Mr Lee had asked me to bring it to him after I would have it for about a year.  He also checked the fingerboard projection.  Nothing had moved there.   

 

Don't pass up the chance to have the instrument checked over by the maker within the first year, especially if the maker has suggested to you to bring it back within that time.

 

On the other hand, after that first year, you don't want to treat a violin like a car that needs service at regular intervals.  Maybe it does.  Maybe it doesn't.  After that first year, don't let the calendar be the determiner of when to have an instrument adjusted.  (Typical myths seem to be post adjustment is needed every year or so and bass bars replaced every 30 years.  Those are myths, not reality.)  Let your ear, your perception of the sound and how it's changed, be the determining factor for adjustment after the first year.

 

If you do decide that the sound has changed and not for the better, then describe the sound change and the sound you want to the maker or setup person.  You as the player are the expert on what kind of sound you want.  The maker or setup person is the expert on achieving that sound.  Don't confuse those roles by insisting on a specific procedure, such as new post or post position, new bridge, (and worst of all in terms of potential harm) new bass bar.  A competent setup person will know what to do, if given a true and realistic description of the instrument's sound as you hear it and a description of the sound you want. 

 

PS:  "I want this violin to sound better" is not a helpful description of the instrument's sound nor of what you want.

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Both my new cellos needed a new sound post after 6 months. Then after about another two years. One of the two then stayed stable, the other now has its 4rth sound post. I feel the cellos have improved over time, not so much in sound as in playing characteristics, the changes stopping when they stabilise and seize to need new sound posts. The one that recently had its fourth sound post installed is still changing.

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Depends. I like to have things pretty well settled in before the instrument ever meets a potential client. In such cases, an instrument may go for many years without needing a new post. I think this makes them more stable in sound too. I wouldn't want a client to buy an instrument because they like the sound, only to have it change substantially as the instrument "settles in".

 

Yes. I agree with David. That is how I try to work too. Sometimes in my work  it is not possible. 

Generally a brand new instrument or an old instrument that has been taken apart for restoration will need a slightly longer post as it settles in. Really there are no strict rules about  'when'.... the timing on this it varies from instrument to instrument. 

Maybe I shoot myself in the foot now as a maker of new instruments but the ideal time I would like a new instrument to settle in before I think it is worthy of any kind of serious evaluation  evaluation is about 3 years. I think that is about time enough to judge how it's going to hold up and perform in the real world and to judge if it will have structural integrity or constant problems with elevation or sinking belly etc..

Its been a long time now since I was excited to string an instrument for the first time and feel delight or despair.

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  A competent setup person will know what to do, if given a true and realistic description of the instrument's sound as you hear it and a description of the sound you want. 

 

PS:  "I want this violin to sound better" is not a helpful description of the instrument's sound nor of what you want.

I agree with everything else you wrote in your last post, but I've never had much luck in describing sound to an adjuster whether he was the maker or not.  It may be that you are right and I'm simply inarticulate, however.  

 

Also, what I find even more important in telling us a violin needs a new post or an adjustment is how the violin is responding to the bow and even the left hand fingers.  I'm always surprised that Maestronet conversations on adjustment seldom mention this; surely I'm not the only violinist in the world that senses this.

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I agree with everything else you wrote in your last post, but I've never had much luck in describing sound to an adjuster whether he was the maker or not.  It may be that you are right and I'm simply inarticulate, however.  

 

Also, what I find even more important in telling us a violin needs a new post or an adjustment is how the violin is responding to the bow and even the left hand fingers.  I'm always surprised that Maestronet conversations on adjustment seldom mention this; surely I'm not the only violinist in the world that senses this.

 

Will,

 

I bet you're underestimating your verbal abilities, and the truth is that one doesn't need technical terms.  

 

Usually a change in the fiddle's tone or playing characteristics is what induces a visit for an adjustment.  So one has a comparison to express, how it was before and how it is now. I remember saying to Mr Lee that the fiddle in its tone had lost some of its sparkle, had gotten duller, especially on the D and G strings.  The strings were no longer balanced in their clarity, and all of them had lost some clarity. There's nothing technical about that.  Mr Lee knew just what to do, and sparkle, clarity and balance were restored.  I don't have the acoustic knowledge to use anything but everyday terms. Talking about frequencies or decibels would have been faking it and counterproductive.

 

You're right about response being a good reason for an adjustment visit, either a loss of immediacy in response to a bow stroke or a need to press fingers down harder or perhaps farther in the left hand to get the tones to jump out.  A player can make up for a lot of short comings in what is commonly called tonal color with vibrato and bow pressure. Sometimes adjusting the player is easier than adjusting the fiddle.  But for response and also projection, those qualities seem to be inherent in a fiddle, and the player can't compensate much for their absence.  The fiddle, in its current setup, either has satisfactory response and projection or it doesn't.  That's where the setup person can really be helpful.

 

If everything else fails, there's the possibility of playing for the setup person.  That may clarify more for them than any verbal description.

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I now put a fairly tight soundpost in as early as possible, that means as soon as the box is closed, which is very early for me. I have to watch it a bit as the tanning and varnishing process goes on, but when the violin is finished some of the typical distortion has already taken place, a new soundpost comes in, and I have the feeling it stays longer good.

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Sizing the inside, cancels out some of the outside surface tension, as the violin undergoes seasoning. Heat treated wood is preferable if you don't have old wood (10+ years) to work with.

 

The back plate needs to be strong at the edges between corners in c-bouts (~3,5 - 4,0 mm) to prevent distortion. CC, catenary or David Beard like cross arch, also minimize distortion.

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If there is any one single thing that bugs me about violins it is "instability." It is the bane of a player's existence:  There we are, bopping along, practicing hard and playing concerts; then all of a sudden we wake up one morning and the violin has died.  There are many possible reasons, but certainly the changeability of the violin around the sweet, innocent, unchanging sound-post is one of them.

 

To the maker who invents a perfectly stable fine violin, an award—the equivalent of that given to John Harrison for solving longitude for the British Navy—will be in order.  I'm taking up a collection.   :)   

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How long does that generally take?

 

 

Based on previous statements I have gathered that you don't find playing in to speed this change, so do you just set it up and keep it tuned for a few months as it settles or is there some other way to assist with the change?

I string the muthah up as soon as I can after varnishing (fingerboard isn't planed, peg ends aren't trimmed, just a bridge blank with the feet loosely fit, no upper nut or saddle, etc.

The post is super tight. Even when I squeeze the center bouts hard to increase the distance between the top and the back, I may not be able to put the post as far outside as I would wish it to eventually end up.

 

That's OK. After about a day, the post can be pulled out farther (still very tight). Day two and three and twenty, same thing. After maybe a month and a few mild humidity cycles, that same post may be about the right length, needing only some minor fitment changes at the ends, partly because arching shapes have changed a little, but also because it's finally time to do some post placement experimentation. I don't see much point in attempting that when the instrument is still changing day to day, or week to week. A waste of time, and a needless emotional roller coaster.

 

After a month or two of  an "accelerated program" :lol: like that, things seem to stick pretty well, seemingly as well as with much older instruments.

 

"Playing in"? I'm not currently a big fan of the notion, unless it refers to the "playing in" of the player to the instrument. Spankin' new instruments will change, whether they are played or not, so it gets hard to attribute changes to playing, versus what would have happened anyway. Both Don Noon and I have done some investigations around this, and while neither of us is ready to say definitively  that instruments don't play in (due to vibration from playing), I think we both agree that measurable or study-type evidence for the phenomenon is sorely lacking. There's also the Australian study, showing minimal or no change from playing. At the moment, it's looking to me like humans have greater powers of adaptation and compensation for variables, than wooden boxes. :o:)

 

And that's really weird for me. I really wanted to believe that vibration did something to the fiddle, and that vibration patterns (even those from a particular player) could be imprinted on a fiddle. I also wanted to believe that pretty much any Strad or Guarneri could blow anything else away. But we'all (a new Southern word I just invented) :lol: started testing such notions with increasing rigor, and they began to look ever more sketchy.

 

I need to say though that some folks, whose opinions I respect, disagree with my opinions about "playing in".

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I string the muthah up as soon as I can after varnishing (fingerboard isn't planed, peg ends aren't trimmed, just a bridge blank with the feet loosely fit, no upper nut or saddle, etc.

The post is super tight. Even when I squeeze the center bouts hard to increase the distance between the top and the back, I may not be able to put the post as far outside as I would wish it to eventually end up.

 

That's OK. After about a day, the post can be pulled out farther (still very tight). Day two and three and twenty, same thing. After maybe a month and a few mild humidity cycles, that same post may be about the right length, needing only some minor fitment changes at the ends, partly because arching shapes have changed a little, but also because it's finally time to do some post placement experimentation. I don't see much point in attempting that when the instrument is still changing day to day, or week to week. A waste of time, and a needless emotional roller coaster.

 

After a month or two of  an "accelerated program" :lol: like that, things seem to stick pretty well, seemingly as well as with much older instruments.

 

"Playing in"? I'm not currently a big fan of the notion, unless it refers to the "playing in" of the player to the instrument. Spankin' new instruments will change, whether they are played or not, so it gets hard to attribute changes to playing, versus what would have happened anyway. Both Don Noon and I have done some investigations around this, and while neither of us is ready to say definitively  that instruments don't play in (due to vibration from playing), I think we both agree that measurable or study-type evidence for the phenomenon is sorely lacking. There's also the Australian study, showing minimal or no change from playing. At the moment, it's looking to me like humans have greater powers of adaptation and compensation for variables, than wooden boxes. :o:)

 

And that's really weird for me. I really wanted to believe that vibration did something to the fiddle, and that vibration patterns (even those from a particular player) could be imprinted on a fiddle. I also wanted to believe that pretty much any Strad or Guarneri could blow anything else away. But we'all (a new Southern word I just invented) :lol: started testing such notions with increasing rigor, and they began to look ever more sketchy.

 

I need to say though that some folks, whose opinions I respect, disagree with my opinions about "playing in".

VERY worthwhile comment. Respect.

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Body heat and moisture from one's breath can have an effect on a violin.  Thus, a violin can indeed warm up.

The violin can indeed warm up-- but its tone cools down as its entire frequency response curve is lowered due to the higher humidity and temperature during playing.

 

Ahh shoot!  I get mixed up. Is it cool to be bright or bright to be cool?

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Mr. Dave,

Okay about the playing in, but...do you find that at a given sitting, the instrument will become easier to play as time passes on? I do not play violin, but I can certainly remember that feeling in a practice room on bass when all the sudden the instrument is not fighting any more.

 

Sure, we all felt that. But could you MEASURE it ? Because if you can't measure it, it don't exist.  :lol:

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And that's really weird for me. I really wanted to believe that vibration did something to the fiddle, and that vibration patterns (even those from a particular player) could be imprinted on a fiddle. 

 

It depends. Tends to work better with fresh ones. But if they've been around the block for 100 years they become somehow insensitive............

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