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Woodland

Boxy, honky nasal sound.

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Being an introvert I decided to give myself a 10 minute reprieve from a holiday family gathering to discuss what's really on my mind.

I just strung up my second violin in the white to give it a go. My biggest issue is with the neck angle, I did a "dry" fit  with a FB projection at about 27.5 to 28mm and it rose to about 29.5mm after gluing. The resulting bridge is about 36mm tall (yikes). The sound of the violin is rather boxy and nasal on the open strings, but sounds reasonably good when the strings are stopped. My graduations are "within reason" but perhaps not thick enough for the piece of Englemann I used for the top (unknown SG), or the arching style I used. 

Anyways, I'm considering a "therapeutic fingerboard" (thicker at the nut end) to bring the FB projection down and fit a new bridge just to see if it's the culprit. I'll probably just lower the bridge with existing neck set just to see if there's any improvement in tone to see if I'm on the right track.

Thoughts?

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In my experience, nasality comes from the forehead of the bridge being too thick and the post being too far from the feet. Maybe longer afterlengths would help, too.

I've never built or regraduated a violin, but I imagine a top too thick would be a bit stifled, especially with light strings.

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Fingerboard projection usually drops somewhat over time, so I wouldn't put too much effort into "correcting" it just yet.  Likewise, the sound of a freshly strung up unvarnished instrument is likely to change quite a bit with varnish and some settling-in time... so I wouldn't put too much effort into optimizing it now, either.

I'd say to varnish it, set it up, and play it for a few weeks... then adjust things when you know what you really have.

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I’d agree with Don. I’ve been chasing perfect projection measurements the last few instruments and have corrected things I wish I hadn’t only to have to redo it again. From dry Idaho summers and shipping to damp climes makes it rough to predict . 

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I wouldn’t make the fingerboard unevenly thick. That makes the neck seem too thick at the nut and too thin at the body. Before doing anything further, I’d recommend checking all your measurements to be sure nothing else is causing trouble (plate thicknesses, bass bar position and dimensions, soundpost position and tension, saddle height, etc.).

Assuming everything else checks out, if you can afford to wait, go ahead and varnish it, then set it up again and see where you stand. Then you can either remove the fingerboard and plane the neck or leave it at tension for a while longer to see if it drops. 

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If you are into violin making for the long haul, sooner or later you'll have to learn how to reset a neck. Why not use this as your learning opportunity? I'd hate to have a 29.5 mm neck projection, don't care what anyone else says. And there must be an issue with the quality of the fit for it to alter so much in the gluing process.

Alternatively, a useful "cheat" to raise or lower the projection: loosen the seams on the front everywhere except the top and bottom blocks. Apply closing clamps loosely, adjust projection (you'll find it easy to push/pull the FB up/down in order to achieve this) and find some way to hold the fingerboard at the desired elevation, then tighten clamps. Then reglue front as normal.

Merry Christmas!

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Yes, it woud be usefull to know if the angle raise is the consequence of the bad neck/mortice fit or slight shift which appeared during the gluing process, which would result in compromised joint to some degree. In that case, re-fit would be advisable.

If the raise is a consequence of the humidity change and raised later, than you should wait and see on which angle it will set in next few days (weeks) in consistent humidity, and do whatever is necessary after that period of time.

I make faint pencil lines on the sides of the neck heal in the place of heel/ribs joint (just above the ribs) when dry fitting the neck, and check that lines constantly during the gluing proces. Things can shift sometimes when clamping.

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Merry Christmas!

I am killing time until I go to the family gathering so I'll weigh in on this. I would agree that 29.5 pitch is definitely too high and will result in a dry nasty tone in most cases. I set new instruments with a pitch of 28 maximum which will usually drop to 27 with in the first couple of years.

 I would first look carefully at the neck joint to see if it is properly glued because that kind of change from dry fit is unusual and if the joint is suspect you can expect it to drop or even come loose and that would need to be dealt with before going on. If you reset the neck before varnishing the repair will be easily hidden and if you cut the neck out and make another there will technically not be any repair at all. However if the joint is solid there is plenty you can do about the pitch should you want to. If you are into experimenting with sound on a white instrument (which I have never done) then by all means do it and see what you can learn. Otherwise I would suggest varnishing the fiddle and seeing where the pitch winds up because it may change with varnishing. You don't say what your apuis is but if it isn't too low you should be able to remove the board and plane down the neck surface to give you the pitch you want. Taking one mm at the body end while nothing at the head end will drop the pitch by about two mm so you can easily make the required changes. Other options include making the board thinner and care fully cheating the angle a bit or as John says pulling the pitch down by moving the top. Good luck!

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I appreciate everyone's wisdom and input. I agree with a number of the points made above, and here's where I'm presently at:

It's too early to pass judgement as the neck angle will likely settle and varnishing will change things - vs.- If you have a compromised neck joint/fit (as there is strong evidence to suggest) the time to fix it is now, where there will be little to no evidence of the repair/refit in the long run.

The neck was set exactly one week ago in early-winter midwest conditions (moderately low humidity) and been subsequently strung up and played for a few days, with no change in the angle. An important measurement I didn't mention above is the neck step (overstand) which came in a little low at 5mm.  Even though I see new, reasonably high-quality educational fiddles (Scott Cao) with that measurement, it isn't working in my favor in this case.

If the neck were to settle lower in a relatively short period of time, I would assume that the joint isn't that solid and/or the arching is too high and flexible. At present the joint "feels" firm and solid, but time will tell. Carving a whole new neck seems excessive, but removing it and doing a refit and placing a "wafer" on the heel of the neck and cap it off with an ebony crown sounds more reasonable to me. A wafer on the heel would help to put the overstand at or above 6mm where it really belongs, and give me a second chance at a more optimal elevation. 

This could be an opportunity to place some more repair techniques and experience in my arsenal. Perhaps leave it strung up until early spring just to see what happens before I make the decision to varnish it or change it.

 

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I wouldn't address "Bonky, honky, nasal" directly to neck projection. But I have done some experiments on changing the neck angle/bridge height on the same violins. I'm pretty convinced that 32-32,5 mm bridge heights are optimal by many years of evolvement. One mm higher makes quite a difference on the same violin. It kind of kills the ringing violin tone, but it doesn't change the base timbre.

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29 minutes ago, Peter K-G said:

I wouldn't address "Bonky, honky, nasal" directly to neck projection. But I have done some experiments on changing the neck angle/bridge height on the same violins. I'm pretty convinced that 32-32,5 mm bridge heights are optimal by many years of evolvement. One mm higher makes quite a difference on the same violin. It kind of kills the ringing violin tone, but it doesn't change the base timbre.

Hi Peter, what is the relation between the bridge and saddle height? What would be optimal saddle hight, given a 32 mm bridge.

Both affect the string angle which should be 158 degrees i believe.

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13 minutes ago, Emilg said:

Hi Peter, what is the relation between the bridge and saddle height? What would be optimal saddle hight, given a 32 mm bridge.

Both affect the string angle which should be 158 degrees i believe.

There are other things to consider like chinrest, tailpiece and gut type. I make them as high as possible with a thick nylon gut. A total max of 9,5 mm saddle including top height is possible with the equipment i use. This one is 9 mm.

Saddle2.thumb.jpg.e8b33a38ad3ceb06f2d494082eaf321b.jpg

Saddle1.thumb.jpg.ca8056ad647e6399f77ab368a17771f6.jpg

 

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8 minutes ago, Peter K-G said:

There are other things to consider like chinrest, tailpiece and gut type. I make them as high as possible with a thick nylon gut. A total max of 9,5 mm saddle including top height is possible with the equipment i use. This one is 9 mm.

 

Yes, you're quite right, saddle is just a part of the "string height" (projected) at the saddle .. so 9 mm is optimal for you?

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Yes, ~9 mm is max, otherwise the tailpiece would touch the chinrest (as have happened with a bigger tailpiece)

While on the subject I happened to be in my workshop, lowering the bridge on this particular violin, that I finished exactly one year ago on Christmas eve. I left the bridge too high then (~33,5 mm) and the projection had not changed in a year. I haven't seen any abnormal changes (if any) in neck angles on my violins, even after years. But I use heat treated wood

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I decided  to top off the bridge to reduce the height and it made a substantial difference in sound for the better. I've reduced the height by 1mm so far and it immediately became warmer, fuller and less hollow. In short with each lowering of the bridge it became more violin-like and less fiddle-like. Something of a warm and rich sounding instrument so far. Once the neck is at a more optimum height I can put a proper bridge on it in the 32mm range and that should help even more.

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8 hours ago, Woodland said:

I decided  to top off the bridge to reduce the height and it made a substantial difference in sound for the better. I've reduced the height by 1mm so far and it immediately became warmer, fuller and less hollow. In short with each lowering of the bridge it became more violin-like and less fiddle-like. Something of a warm and rich sounding instrument so far. Once the neck is at a more optimum height I can put a proper bridge on it in the 32mm range and that should help even more.

With a high bridge you also have high string heights over the fingerboard which requires a lot of downward finger force to push them down.  This widens the string contact length touching the finger tip which in turn increases the dampening of the string.  This decreases the high frequency harmonics and makes the violin's sound less bright. 

The same thing happens at the other string end if the nut is too high.  So it's important not to have a bridge and nut that aren't too high if you want to increase the brightness.

Anyway that's my bright idea for the day.

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On 12/25/2018 at 2:31 PM, Woodland said:

An important measurement I didn't mention above is the neck step (overstand) which came in a little low at 5mm.  Even though I see new, reasonably high-quality educational fiddles (Scott Cao) with that measurement, it isn't working in my favor in this case.

This is really too low.  The projection will go up and down, but having this so low can be a long term problem. A low overstand can also cause problems with playability and getting around in the upper positions.  

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On 12/27/2018 at 2:33 PM, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Anyway that's my bright idea for the day. 

Nice one, i hadn't considered that aspect ..

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6 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

This is really too low.  The projection will go up and down, but having this so low can be a long term problem. A low overstand can also cause problems with playability and getting around in the upper positions.  

Apart from getting to the upper positions, which I maybe understand, (kind of); what is the problem with - let's say - 4mm overstand? Anybody ever proved anything, or might it just be modern practice and assumption?

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34 minutes ago, Salve Håkedal said:

Apart from getting to the upper positions, which I maybe understand, (kind of); what is the problem with - let's say - 4mm overstand? Anybody ever proved anything, or might it just be modern practice and assumption?

Well, all of the above.  Yes it is “modern practice” based on generations, and indeed, hundreds of years of cumulative experience; and it is “assumption(s)” based on that cumulative knowledge.  The problem is, there are so many variables in instruments that before these things can be proven, the variables have to be controlled repeatably...and before the variables can be controlled repeatably, one’s skill level has to be cultivated to reach that level....and before one gets the skill level up, one needs to have guidance to gain experience....hence the questions, and hopefully the answers on MN.  

Yes, the results are provable and repeatable consistently.   

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Salve, I'm curious where you're going with this, so do you mind if I ask, do you know the answer to your own question; do you think there should be a difference; do you think there should be no difference? Are you talking tonally, or feel, or what? 

You sound like you are challenging the idea that there would be any change at all, which is a dangerous position to take, I think, so I wonder if that's what you are saying? One of my mentors like to repeatedly warn me that believing that a cause has no effect is a bad train of thought to take.

On another issue, I've been wanting to ask through this whole thread what "boxy" means to Woodland, because I can think of and have heard players define this term in a lot of very different ways--overly resonant, thumpy dark, lacking mid-range, covered as in a sealed box. Are we talking a wood box or cardboard? That kind of question..... It's a tricky word.

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I understand the issue about playability in the upper positions, I'm just not conviced that a couple of millimetres at the overstand is that important. So I'd like someone to have "proof". Proofs in violin making is very difficult. Has anyone made the change in overstand only? That is: not combined with other work. That would be a scientifical way to (try to) prove it.

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18 minutes ago, Salve Håkedal said:

I understand the issue about playability in the upper positions, I'm just not conviced that a couple of millimetres at the overstand is that important. So I'd like someone to have "proof". Proofs in violin making is very difficult. Has anyone made the change in overstand only? That is: not combined with other work. That would be a scientifical way to (try to) prove it.

No, I have not made the change in overstand only, which was my point about controlling variables.  However, having changed, or witnessed the overstand being changed  on 100s of Instruments, the results are repeatable and consistent.  I believe you will probably find the same answer from most who have had long careers in the field, although their descriptors may be slightly different.   To your question, raising the appui from low to acceptable opens up the sound, makes the strings feel “stickier”, cuts a nasal feel to the sound, expands the variability in soundpost adjustment,  and has a huge effect on playability.... especially in cellos where it can also be instrumental in preventing long term physical problems.

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