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Evan Smith

I need help with cello neck set

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I am building a cello so I Have lots of questions.

For the most part the answers have been straight forward,

But on the subject of string angle over the bridge, overstand, and fingerboard projection I am hearing quite a variety of things.

Questions:

1. Is 153o standard no matter what?, or does the angle change proportional to the arch height.

I would imagine that it is standard, but I don’t know.

I noticed at the end of Yo Yo Ma playing The Swan he turns sideways for a straight on\side shot of his cello, it looks as if it has a fairly low arch, it measured at 153o or so.

2. I have been told a stand height from 19 to 27 without any regard to arch height. I realize there could be different ways to measure,

(I would assume top of plate edge to glue line under fingerboard.)

I have heard to make it 25, project to 80 or 81, and don’t worry about the angle over the strings.

I do worry about it.

To me the stand height and the saddle are used to accommodate the proper string angle.

3. 80 or 81? I would say 82 or 83? ,,, to allow for settling?.

4. Is there a reason to make the angle greater or less than 153o?

I would appreciate any insight on these matters,

String angle over the bridge,

Stand height,

Projection,,

Is the string angle is ever varied and when?

I would like to get this neck set in a couple of days and I still feel like I’m in the dark.

I’ve heard too many conflicting things,, I give.

For what it's worth it has 1740 montagnana proportions with a 29-30 arch height.

Thanks for your time and patience and knowledge.

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Violins and their precise measurements are by products of the "Straditis" where his models became the standard, and therefore many of the measurements are quite precise and have been parroted over and over again, thus making it seem "standard", whereas cellos you will find way more variation with just about every measurement depending on the model, as there is no standardization comparison, it really seems to be a model to model thing. So I think you're perhaps over thinking it a bit. You should base projection and over stand based on comfort and proportions of your instrument. Really I suggest playing a couple that you may find, and judge the feel based on your feedback from the experience and base your choice on what you liked, unless you were building it for someone, then you should get their feedback. Really it just comes down to how high the top of the bridge will sit and how that effects things feel wise, I don't like too steep of an angle that make the bridge poke up too high personally, it seems easier to play because its more "right there" but can be a little flabby feeling. Really its pretty personal, I think it's easy to get caught up in numbers and measurements, I think it's more important to fix numbers based on the ergonomic feedback of the end user. Certain things as we know need to be "fixed" numbers wise, for example stop lengths, not lots of wiggle room in that measurement, but for measurements that you are talking about,there is, as you see and hear quite a bit of variation and therefore you will get no "fixed" or right answer. Rib height has lots to do with this, if we have tall ribs mixed with a steeper angle and a higher projection, you will create a mount everest type feeling bride that is poking up and therefore changes the rotation of the shoulder joint. That's what it all comes down to, when seated with the cello in playing position, these things can effects the body mechanics of the player. The cello is an instrument where the persons frame and size are much more of a factor so therefore, many different shapes and sizes of cellos to fit all these different frames. A smaller woman may not be comfortable on a huge cello, and thus a big guy won't be comfortable on a tiny cello, in general. So I can't give you any measurements because I don't have any that I use as standard.

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I think it's very important, especially with a broad model, to tilt the finger board well over towards the c string.

The angle you plane on the neck surface to do this will probably look a bit extreme the first time round, but trust it - it's so important for the comfort of the player, and the health of the edges in the c bouts.

My overstand comes out at about 22, and I aim for about 82 in the elevation.

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I go for an overstand of around 20, but as I'm fitting the neck I'll tolerate 1 or 2 mm less or greater as the neck fits.

Quick trip around the shop shows overstands on various celli (not mine) ranging from 15 to 25mm, with most around 20.

I aim for 82 projection as well. 

I also add a carbon fiber rod to the neck, AND reinforce the heel with dowels ala Burgess. (Trade secrets, the strad Aug. 2008), so the neck does not move under tension and the projection does not fall.

Raymond Schryer describes something similar in the April 2015 Strad, but the device he uses is pretty pricey (600?). But well worth the money I'm sure! ;)

Using two separate pieces (rod and dowel) is cheaper and achieves the same result (I believe).

 

The heel angle is 82o, and with everything set correctly (heel angle, overstand, and projection) the string angle should be just fine, whatever it is. I honestly don't worry about it. Good luck!

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So, I just checked the string angle on the cello I just finished, and it's right at 153. This was not a consideration as I was setting the neck. I just tried to hit the other numbers. Who knows, maybe I just got lucky?

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I think it's very important, especially with a broad model, to tilt the finger board well over towards the c string.

The angle you plane on the neck surface to do this will probably look a bit extreme the first time round, but trust it - it's so important for the comfort of the player, and the health of the edges in the c bouts.

My overstand comes out at about 22, and I aim for about 82 in the elevation.

I agree with Conor on the neck tilt. I play a lot of cello. It's pretty irritating to me as a player when I pick up an instrument that is even or tilted toward the A. It feels very uncomfortable.

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I don't believe I've ever played a cello that had a neck set tilted toward the c string. Tilted towards a, yes, and that is not a good idea at all. I think you would need a relatively slender Cello though, for a tilt toward the c string.

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It's just the board that's tilted. If it's put on level, the lower height of the A string forces the bow down to foul the c bout on that side, especially on a wide cello. Also, the player must reach around to play the top string. If you tilt the finger board so that the top of the bridge is more or less level, you will have clearance for the bow on both sides.

I suspect that you have played cellos set up like this, but didn't notice, because it looks and feels correct (because it is). You really only see it if you look in at the end of the neck under the board, or when you take the nut off.

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I don't believe I've ever played a cello that had a neck set tilted toward the c string. Tilted towards a, yes, and that is not a good idea at all. I think you would need a relatively slender Cello though, for a tilt toward the c string.

 

It's just the board that's tilted. If it's put on level, the lower height of the A string forces the bow down to foul the c bout on that side, especially on a wide cello. Also, the player must reach around to play the top string. If you tilt the finger board so that the top of the bridge is more or less level, you will have clearance for the bow on both sides.

 

Great explanation, Conor. I had something up ready to post, and deleted it after I read your post.

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Thanks for all the amazing replies !

A lot to think about Jez,,great post,

sounds like you are talking about my wife!

I will never understand what that beautiful woman sees in me,

but we are a good match and I am grateful.

Thanks for checking the cellos for me Argle,

I too am putting in carbon fiber under the board and a 1/2" cf rod in the heel,

thanks for the encouragement!

Thanks Connor, your second post answered my concern and question about the amount of tilt necessary,

great explanation.

So after your first post I went and played the cello a bit,, ok kind of hack played,,,

but I thought why not just roll the cello a bit,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Baroque, you brought up an issue that I had a question on and that is the width of the instrument, relative to the tilt and that would include the players style and how much they roll the cello when they play relative to the string position.

After all a little roll will put the strings in the right playing position, if it is comfortable to play at the bridge the angle at the left hand would remain the same, no matter how much the board was tilted because the player could roll the cello to match their bow arm, but the larger the instrument the more difficult this would become,,,, but Connor nailed it with even distance to each c-bout, and that would indicate the amount of tilt that is necessary.

So if the cello is the wrong size for you as Jez said,, Deal with It!

Matthew, thank you for your perspective from a players point of view.

I think I'm beginning to understand.

If I'm not please tell me.

Thanks for the response David,

every time I talk to you I think Dam!

I wonder what this mans IQ is!

Preachers son huh?

I'm glad you did something respectful and didn't go for a big multi billion dollar glass cathedral!

And to the person that cordially returned my call not so early this morning and got me out of bed,(real late nite)

I felt like a bumbling idiot, takes me a while to wake up.

I am gaining confidence to face the world of cellos!

You guys may get me an edukayshin yet!

How well do I remember the war that ensued once upon a time over "Tilt"

Peace brother peace!

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OK!

one more question on the MO.

As I am carving the scroll I am setting the neck in my head.

Set the neck with finished board, projection slightly high.

Set up dummy bridge to measure string height.

Remove board and tilt as necessary.

Anything better, what am I missing?

Straight and to the point. (be nice)

I am in another one of my dysfunctional time constraints,

I swear I thought I started soon enough.

I certainly hope the prophet Don Noon,, Doom and Gloom is wrong about me varnishing in the car again,,

he has been wrong before hasn't he,,, well hasn't he,,, please somebody!

Lord have mercy on me!

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How well do I remember the war that ensued once upon a time over "Tilt"Peace brother peace!

I remember a thread with a lot of heated discussion about neck tilt, but I remember that to be focused on violin. It seemed to me and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought everyone was pretty much in agreement on the cello side of things.

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I remember a thread with a lot of heated discussion about neck tilt, but I remember that to be focused on violin. It seemed to me and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought everyone was pretty much in agreement on the cello side of things.

Not everyone; I set them level.

M

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Not everyone; I set them level.

M

Hi Mike,

I don't care either way and have no bone to pick,,

I would like to know how you would deal with a wide cello that might be pushing into the problem zone.

Use a higher bridge. flatten the radius a bit?

Or would there come a situation where tilting might be an option,

I'm just asking,people have ingenious ways of dealing with problems that is just over everyone's head.

If I remember correctly, you've done real well with cellos.

just asking.

Thanks.

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Set the neck with finished board, projection slightly high.

Set up dummy bridge to measure string height.

Remove board and tilt as necessary.

 

Evan,

If you are using the cf rods in both the neck and heel, than I would really just set the projection where you want it to be, not high. If it doesn't drop, and it probably won't, you'll wind up with a too high projection, halving to plane the f.b. surface to compensate.

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Hi Mike,

I don't care either way and have no bone to pick,,

I would like to know how you would deal with a wide cello that might be pushing into the problem zone.

Use a higher bridge. flatten the radius a bit?

Or would there come a situation where tilting might be an option,

I'm just asking,people have ingenious ways of dealing with problems that is just over everyone's head.

If I remember correctly, you've done real well with cellos.

just asking.

Thanks.

Hi Evan,

I realize I'm bucking the trend here, but I do have a theory behind what I'm doing. I think of set up like an ecosystem. Given my projection (82.75), my overstand (24-25), my fingerboard, my bridge shape, and my cello model (arch height 28ish, c-bout width 245 over the arch) there is plenty of bow clearance on both sides when I set my neck tilt level. I've never had any player even notice.

Compared to someone who tilts the neck down on the C string I am increasing the angle over the bridge on the C and decreasing the angle over the A, which I think benefits the sound on both accounts.

If I were making a different model, or working on a restoration, I might need to reevaluate my neck tilt for that particular situation. For what it's worth, this is what I was taught at the shop where I worked, and it seemed to be just fine for our customers.

M

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I just measured the string angles on my latest cello. The angle at the bridge over the C string is 152*, and the angle over the A is 154.5*. (A larger number is more obtuse, smaller is more acute.)

If I place a straight edge on the outer string and the edge of the c-bout, midway between the bridge and the fingerboard, and measure the height of the straight edge over the next string I get 6 mm clearance over the D and 9 mm over the G.

Matt- You've played a few of my cellos at this point, and I respect your opinion. Do you remember noticing anything about the bow clearance?

M

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Just a few thoughts:

 

Even excellent players aren't always good at relating what they feel, to technical remedies. I think that will mostly fall back into the realm of a really good instrument technician. Some instruments are much more friendly to play than others, and sometimes the difference between the two might be what many would consider as trivial.

 

My wide-model cello was inspired by the Montagnana owned by the principal cellist in the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was pretty well hacked up in the C-bouts, and perhaps we can assume that the dude had pretty good bow control.

 

So I narrowed the C-bouts some, but that didn't change bow angle enough for my satisfaction. So I also put on a much higher bridge. That would have increased the string angle over the bridge rather radically, had I not also included a much higher neck overstand.

 

Bow clearance at the C-bouts, on a wide cello, needs to take many things into consideration.

A C string deflects more than an A string. Damage from a frog hitting the instrument is usually greater than a bow tip hitting the instrument.

 

Even when reinforcing a neck, I'd still recommend setting it in a little high, for the long haul. There are other factors which will contribute to neck projection dropping, like compression of the top or lengthening of the back, which reinforcing of the neck won't completely address.

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Great explanation, Conor. I had something up ready to post, and deleted it after I read your post.

Yes I very much agree too. On new celli my overstand is always 2mm higher measured on the treble side at the base of the neck. I will also add more tilt to the set up depending on the style of board to be used by having the treble side of the board thicker than the bass side and sometimes also shaping the neck heel slightly so the whole neck is canted to the bass side. This can look a bit odd and some folk don't like the look of the scroll being canted over to the bass side a bit but It's not about looks in the end it's about playability and this is what I find my customers prefer. I started out setting cello necks level and actually had to reset most of them. I would only do set up with tilt to bass side on cello now but of course take the model into consideration and the fact that this is what works for me and my clients  does not mean that other ways are not valid

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I just measured the string angles on my latest cello. The angle at the bridge over the C string is 152*, and the angle over the A is 154.5*. (A larger number is more obtuse, smaller is more acute.)

If I place a straight edge on the outer string and the edge of the c-bout, midway between the bridge and the fingerboard, and measure the height of the straight edge over the next string I get 6 mm clearance over the D and 9 mm over the G.

Matt- You've played a few of my cellos at this point, and I respect your opinion. Do you remember noticing anything about the bow clearance?

M

This makes me think about this a bit more. I like your cellos quite a lot actually and I don't remember anything uncomfortable about the playability. When I spoke of noticing the cant being level or even favoring the A on some instruments, it's because I started looking at the setup as a result of the playability being uncomfortable. If I'm playing a cello in a casual situation, like at a VSA convention, and I don't feel anything odd, I suppose I don't investigate, but now I'm thinking I should. I'm thinking it's a combination of a number of factors as you say that contribute to how it feels. I think it's important to think of things as a system.

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It should also be mentioned that in resetting necks in cellos, the neck tilt is measured at the bottom bouts and not at the neck heel or bridge. It is not odd to measure the tilt at the neck heel and have the disparity amplified or opposite compared to the direction of the tilt. Also, when grafting the neck, the head is aligned with the upper bouts throwing yet another variable into the mix.

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It should also be mentioned that in resetting necks in cellos, the neck tilt is measured at the bottom bouts and not at the neck heel or bridge. It is not odd to measure the tilt at the neck heel and have the disparity amplified or opposite compared to the direction of the tilt. Also, when grafting the neck, the head is aligned with the upper bouts throwing yet another variable into the mix.

Yes...an old instrument could be twisted one way or the other...That needs to be factored in. A few years ago I copied a Venetian viola that had a level neck overstand....BUT the instrument had a huge twist on the body which I did not factor in so later I had to re work the neck to make it feel familiar to the player.

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Thanks argle for the insight you just saved me a major screw up!

Mike thanks for that excellent explanation, and going back and measuring , wow.

David, taller bridge ,,taller overstand, check.. I’ll watch the projection,, for me too much is just enough,

I’ll be careful.

Melvin that is great how you list several things to choose from.

I want to apologize to you for snarling at you one time, I really regret it.

I was totally out of line, I am groveling at your feet begging for forgiveness so I may rest in peace.

Great insight Jerry,,, you told me to use a Belgian bridge and I waited too long to get one and used what I had,, I didn’t listen, I barely missed the top at a competition, all the judges said a Belgian would have given then what they wanted absolutely!

Slap me silly PLEASE!

Thanks all for some great Info.! Should I share the prize money!

,,

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So I narrowed the C-bouts some, but that didn't change bow angle enough for my satisfaction. So I also put on a much higher bridge. That would have increased the string angle over the bridge rather radically, had I not also included a much higher neck overstand.

 

If string angle is the same, would achieving that with an increased saddle height produce a different tonal result compared to the higher overstand?

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If you are setting a neck  without a graft then tilting the scroll and neck can look quite odd. If you are making a new instrument or setting a grafted neck then there is no need to tilt the scroll.  All the tilt can be done by leaving a 1mm high platform above the peg box and planing the C side down and then making the board 1mm thinner on the C side as well. You wind up with 2mm of tilt that is visually unnoticeable.

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