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The influence of the nut on violin sound

Peter Lynch

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4 hours ago, Michael.N. said:

Once you finger a note the nut is out of the equation. 

Very interesting argument... I don't think it's at all true, but I'm not a maker or tradesperson... Once you finger a note, the violin is still ringing, and the other strings are still attached, right? G strings on the violin very much benefit from a not-dead E string. I change my E twice as often as the other strings, and always there is immediate benefit for all strings.

That's a different topic, but they're all trying to vibrate, even if it's just a little bit, every time you play a note, so something messed up with the nut on one string is simply going to affect more than that open string.

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Suppose you stretch a rubber band. It's under some tension. Now pull the ends a wee bit farther apart: tension goes up a bit, in proportion to the amount of elongation.

Wouldn't this apply to a violin string as well? When it's open, it describes a line segment between the nut (call that point A) and the bridge (call that point B). When you press it down, it goes from point A, down to contact point at fingerboard (call that point C), then back up to bridge (point B). This make a skinny triangle, & we know that length (AC) + length (CB) is greater than length(AC). So -- just as in the rubber band case -- string tension should go up a bit when the string is fingered.

If you put on a higher nut, the deformation of the fingered string will be increased, so the change in string tension will be more. If you train your fingers to readjust slightly to compensate for the change in string tension, your axe will feel more responsive.

I'm not entirely sure about that last point. All I'm really trying to do is make an argument that changing the nut will change sound and/or playing characteristics of the instrument.

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

IMHO, the spacing, depth and shape of the grooves has the most influence, along with just enough pencil graphite.  :)

yes how it is cut is paramount,particularly on guitars , I always suggest high magnification to visually examine the seating as well as using pencil to establish the "fall away" of the groove is correct.

Assuming all is well, it comes to material, experimenting with...brass, bone, abalone, marble and carbon fiber as well as many hardwoods. I find a nice dense ebony works well for bowed instruments, but other hardwoods work too. Guitars are more accepting to alternate materials it seems to me.

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I talked to someone who believed that the string length in the pegbox affects the elasticity of the string as a whole, so that the longer the string length in the pegbox, the more elastic the string should be. If true, (and I can imagine it could be true) this obviously will have an effect on how the string behaves. If the nut groove is Deep and worn, I can imagine that this would have a reducing effect on the elasticity of the string, because the string doesn't slide easily.

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

My take:

If the nut is adjusted the way the player likes, then they will play better and sound better.  If it isn't, they won't.  I don't see much merit in any of the other arguments.

Agreed... and in my opinion this is a vastly underrated factor for more than just nut.

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Just for my benefit, as I am curious... What do players tend to prefer in nut adjustments? Are you mostly talking about string heights? I agree that we cannot separate the parts of our brain that process sounds and touch, and actually be objective, but I think there is something to a single bad groove negatively affecting all the strings' ability to ring.

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2 hours ago, Porteroso said:

Just for my benefit, as I am curious... What do players tend to prefer in nut adjustments? Are you mostly talking about string heights?

Mostly string heights, and mostly depends on the player.  Fiddlers generally tend to prefer lower, classical higher.  String spacing can matter if the player has skinny or fat fingers.

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