19th century setup / saddle height


Recommended Posts

Hello, quick player's question here.

How would have violin setup have changed from the 19th century to current day? As a player and not a luthier, I've been paying attention to the obvious external factors (neck setting, saddle, bridge height).

My mid 19th century French violin supposedly has a more or lesson original setup (feel free to disagree, I know that neck angle has likely shifted over time - does this decrease overstand?).

I can't vouch for extreme accuracy in my measurements but I measure the neck overstand at about 4.5mm and the saddle height at about 5mm. Currently the bridge is 33mm at the highest point although when first setup it was 1-2mm higher (which did not work well, very wolfy and hard to control, although extremely strong). 

The overstand and saddle both seem a bit lower than "standard" but not impossibly so. Would these be typical for the original setup 19th century instruments, as far as we can tell? Looking at Tarisio photos of famous instruments with modern setups both neck overstand and saddle height seem noticeably chunkier than my fiddle.

This violin benefits from lower than normal tension strings (basically it is hard to play with any set higher tension than Dominant, and works absolutely fine with a set of lowest tension Eudoxa non-stiff, which act just a bit too bright!). I've read that the strings used in the 19th century would have been quite thick, and not lower tension than modern synthetic sets. 

Any thoughts? I'm loath to rip out the neck and saddle if they are untouched, so perhaps I could try lowering the bridge height again. My luthier mentioned it as an option but also noted that it was non-reversible. And he is also very very busy.

 

 

20210415_105633.jpg

20210415_221704.jpg

20210411_195032.jpg

20210415_110654.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got to say that violin sure doesn't look mid 19th century! I'm not an expert on 19th century set ups, but I think that you're trying to concentrate on the wrong parts. The overstand and saddle look acceptable to me. You may have misunderstood your luthier: "I could try lowering the bridge height again. My luthier mentioned it as an option but also noted that it was non-reversible.". The bridge is a replaceable wear Item, and it's not a big deal. You don't show a face on type picture of the bridge, and you also don't show the nut. I would concentrate on the nut height, fingerboard profile, and bridge height, to get the proper string clearances.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you will find it not helpful to try and dogmatically establish what a 19th C. “set up” was, since it varied, and wasn’t as different as some people think. Also regional differences abound. I have a Weber Prague Violin in entirely original condition, where the bridge is higher than would be normal today. The biggest difference will be gut strings rather than our nylon ones. That is also a “reversable” change

Link to post
Share on other sites
55 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

I've got to say that violin sure doesn't look mid 19th century! I'm not an expert on 19th century set ups, but I think that you're trying to concentrate on the wrong parts. The overstand and saddle look acceptable to me. You may have misunderstood your luthier: "I could try lowering the bridge height again. My luthier mentioned it as an option but also noted that it was non-reversible.". The bridge is a replaceable wear Item, and it's not a big deal. You don't show a face on type picture of the bridge, and you also don't show the nut. I would concentrate on the nut height, fingerboard profile, and bridge height, to get the proper string clearances.

It's overall in very nice condition, which is part of why I dont want to muck around with the neck and saddle if possible. I understand about the bridge of course, the problem is that where I live there is a severe shortage of qualified luthiers so it will mean giving up my violin for weeks if I want to try a lower bridge, then making a new bridge (my orchestra is lucky to be working as this part of the world has the pandemic under control, and I use it for work).

I was fearing Jacob's answer but I'm sure he is right.

Here's a more straightforward question:,how does a shorter bridge differ in acoustics and playing to a higher bridge?(with identical string break angles - imagine the setup is adjusted to compensate)

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Here's a more straightforward question:,how does a shorter bridge differ in acoustics and playing to a higher bridge?(with identical string break angles - imagine the setup is adjusted to compensate) "

Since the changes to the bridge that I'm thinking of will be small, I think that acoustics are not going to be an issue. I'm thinking more about playablity and associated effects. If the strings are too high off the fingerboard, it will be harder to play, and having to push the strings down further will add tension to the strings, and change the tone.

No ethical luthier would guarantee that changing the neck or saddle would correct your problems. Go with the simple stuff first!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Your violin, as far as one can judge by the pictures, looks to be in an admirably unchanged condition. It would be an aberration to muck around with it to conform to some baseless prejudices you might have about 19th C set up. If you sit in your orchestra rehearsing the Mahler 10th Symphony getting your slide rule out for the high altitude bits, you could be cognisant of the fact that the original performance would have been with a plain gut E string.

A general rule of thumb would be that a higher bridge and lower “overstand” should give a louder more strident tone, but beware of general rules.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Jacob concerning general rules and dogmatic definitions of 19th century setups, but will add just a couple observations: 

It is not unusual for 19th century French fiddles to have lower "overstands"" than is now "common practice", but I think it should be said that this does not just occur in the 19th century, just in France, or for every French fiddle. That said, I have a rather pristine (unaltered) Miremont in the shop presently with an "overstand" of about 4mm.

Nor, do I believe, should we always be so quick to jump at "the numbers" of the day when it is necessary to reset a neck. For example, I've found that a good number of the better Turin fiddles (like Rocca) that I've come across sound very nice with what would presently be considered a slightly low "overstand".

Many of the violins that have had the neck brought to modern accepted standards have had this work done "between owners", which makes sense to me. If the violin has no physical problems (it can be played comfortably) the way it was made, things aren't that far out of whack, and the owner likes it the way it is, the wisdom of recommending an alteration is debatable. "The argument of "but it will make it better" may (and I say may) be true, but the present owner may not actually like "the better" results. If there is a problem with one (or more) of the criteria I've stated above, maybe it's time for a discussion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.