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Alex Kowalik

Another after length question

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This is a question about setting the violin after length measurement during setup to get the best sound and playability. I know that the after length measurement should be approximately one sixth of the vibrating string length. But not always. Some violins like a different ratio. Just like us people don't all like the same beer or maybe don't like beer at all.

The method in question is setting the after length to a measurement that results in the plucked after length of the G string producing a note that is one octave (or should it be one octave and a third?) above the plucked open D string note. (The violin must be correctly tuned.) And then, hopefully, getting the same relationship between the D string after length and the open A string with the measurement that has already been set for the G string.

Or, maybe do the D string after length first and hope the remaining strings follow suit, as the other strings will have approximately the same after length. However, detecting this sort of relationship between the A string after length and the open E string seems to be very difficult. (Or impossible for certain old folks; like me for instance).

Do any of you folks set the after length like this? or in some way basically similar to this idea?

Does this procedure have any practical value for achieving best sound and ease of playing?

If not, how do you decide what after length measurement you will use? and then set it to the decided-upon length?

My thanks, in advance, to all those who reply.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION: By my count, the phrase "after length" appears in this question a total of 10 times. The word "beer" only appears twice. Seems it would be more fun if it were the other way around. Drat!

PERSONAL ASIDE: If CT had submitted this question, it would indeed be the other way around. Ha!

Resquiescat In Pace, CT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Alex Kowalik said:

to get the best sound and playability.

I do not think it is possible - you'll have to compromise.  As you increase the a/length a couple of things happen but the most obvious TWO are the tone becomes glassy and wolves creep in. Violins do nicely ( IMO... ) if they're a bit glassy and a tiny bit wolfy.  If by playability you mean easy to play/docile/predictable etc then I don't think you can shoot both rabbits at once. 

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The 1/6th rule for afterlength is really just to get you to a starting point that works reasonably well, but there is nothing magical nor scientifically compelling about the rule.

Recall that you are constantly changing the string length with your fingers while you play, so any relationship between the full string length and the afterlength is immediately violated as soon as you put finger to string.

The afterlength, especially on the G and E strings, restricts the movement of the bridge from side-to-side. I've had some success in making violins more responsive to the bow by increasing the afterlength beyond 1/6th by using a smaller tailpiece.

Sadly, this is not the easiest thing to adjust without one of those tailpieces that let you adjust the afterlength by adjusting the length of the tail gut without removing the strings or playing around with bridge location.

 

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5 hours ago, ctanzio said:

Recall that you are constantly changing the string length with your fingers while you play, so any relationship between the full string length and the afterlength is immediately violated as soon as you put finger to string.

Nope.

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11 hours ago, ctanzio said:

The 1/6th rule for afterlength is really just to get you to a starting point that works reasonably well, but there is nothing magical nor scientifically compelling about the rule.

 

Agreed.

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a respected adjuster posted here that he adjusts the afterlength to show a certain spectral pattern on the tube that he recognizes, saying it's much easier than trying to compare previous sound to next sound

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There are a LOT of ways to consider this problem, and several things are being manipulated. I split it into two categories (at least). One the resistance effect of the tailpiece being closer or farther from the bridge (ref, CTanzio's comment)' and the other is the absolute pitches of the afterlength notes. It seems obvious that these won't necessarily be optimized at the same moment on every violin. Another factoid is that the resonances added can be good or bad and can be moved around (ref Bill Merkel's comment).

I try to adjust to favor the one that will have the most positive influence. My violin-playing business partner insists that when the notes are spot on it makes a difference, and I'd attribute this to the fact that if all of the afterlengths were precisely tuned, the resulting notes fall within the scales, harmonics and primary chords of most of the common keys,  so it that almost 100% of the time one or the other of these afterlengths would be ringing along with the note being played (ref Carl Stoss' response to CTanzio). But if the afterlengths are between notes, nothing at all is going to be reinforced by this type of resonance.

If you don't think that would matter, try the experiment of playing the open G string, then just touching the D string at the third finger G position and noting the difference in sound. If you believe in amplifying the zone around 3KHz, notice that the E string afterlength is right in there with a Hill tuner, but not with a fork tuner. Something to at least think about. . . .

Another thing that should be obvious is that violin string lengths don't vary enough to get out the calculator, and the silk wrap on the end of the string messes up the 1/6 rule by adding weight to that part of the string. The effect of this is that 54.5mm afterlength for the G string is going to get you very close to the note you want.  And don't forget that these notes can be tuned or untuned by moving the bridge, having unrelieved tension on one side or another of the bridge, etc. etc. It's a fragile adjustment!

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There is also a psychological aspect to afterlength adjustment.

One time I carefully tuned the afterlength of the D string to resonate at two octaves and a fifth: a high pitched A, theoretically at 1/6th the full string length but practically a somewhat shorter distance. Playing an open D created a distinct high pitched ringing which I found annoying. Moreover, that ringing sound did not project beyond a couple of feet of the violin. But I can see where a player might think the violin is being especially resonant and bug a luthier to tune the after length to get the effect.

 

 

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Unless you are swapping around tailpieces, adjusting the afterlength would also require changing the free tailgut length, which can have (IMO) a more noticeable tonal effect than the afterlength.

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