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Hooray for bridge adjustment
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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DanielB
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June 22, 2012 - 3:27 pm
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With the new acoustic violin, the D string has been sounding "off" to me.  Pitch is right and I could get the notes, but the timbre.. Lacking better adjectives, I'll say it sounded a bit loud and too "stuffy".  Kind of like someone with a cold in their nose.

I thought it might fix itself with a bit of playing and maybe allowing a few more days for the tung oil I finished the fingerboard with to harden more, but it didn't.  So I got to thinking about the bridge position.

When I first got the violin, the factory bridge placement was far towards the neck.  No part of the bridge was actually back far enough to be between the nicks on the soundholes.  So I had moved it back a bit, so it was centered between the nicks.  I got to thinking maybe I'd moved it a little too far back. 

I made myself a bridge jack when I was working on the violin, so the most bother involved with adjusting or replacing the bridge is touching up the tuning afterwards.  Even that isn't much, since it doesn't usually take it out of tune by even as much as a halfstep. 

So I tried moving the bridge forward a couple mm.  That tamed the volume difference on the D string, but now the D and G both sounded "stuffy" and the A and E sounded very "nasal", way too much "sting" on them.  Looking close, I noticed I'd inadvertently moved the bridge a little towards the E string side of the body.. Hmm..

I moved it back to dead center under the "eyes" of the soundhole, and that mostly tamed the excess sting.  Also the G and D sounded better, but still a little stuffy.  So on a crazy notion, I moved the bridge maybe half a millimeter "too close" to the G side.  Much better!

About four fussy little tiny moves later, I've got the sound much more the way I like it.  Volume on all 4 strings is at least very close to even, and they all have a good reliable range of "sweet to sting" as I move the bow contact point from the fingerboard to the bridge.   I am definitely smiling more at the sound now. 

I think I am getting this stuff figured out, a little at a time.

note

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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SaraO
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June 22, 2012 - 5:56 pm
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Good news! dancing

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Kevin M.
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June 22, 2012 - 9:23 pm
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Sounds to me like the sound post could be slightly too tight.  Very tight and the top hole at the f hole will not be flush and will wtick up, if too loose it will be down.

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springer
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June 22, 2012 - 9:59 pm
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Kevin what would make the E string sound really week? beg

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cdennyb
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UmmmAnd where are the sound samples from all these adjustments?

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlerman
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June 22, 2012 - 11:52 pm
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Springer, among other things, having the sound post too far inwards will make the E sound weak. In other words if the sound post is closer to the G-string side. A low tension E would probably sound weaker as well.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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DanielB
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June 23, 2012 - 7:57 am
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KevinM: Agreed, I am sure the soundpost is not adjusted optimally.  It is in well enough that it doesn't buzz and it doesn't fall out when the bridge is removed.  Running thumbs over the tops of both soundholes at once, they feel even, so it probably isn't so tight as to be damaging the instrument.  I doubt the factory's quality control checks for more than that when they're putting out probably at least thousands of these a day.  The soundpost is probably installed with some simple jig or with one or two measurements at best, and not tuned by ear at all.

I haven't started trying to mess with the soundpost yet, I simply checked to make sure it was vertical and not looking like it is damaging the wood of the top or back.

 

cdennyb: Well, I don't like to presume upon your patience and good nature too much.  You are a busy guy and you have your own playing and projects, so I try to figure out as much as I can on my own.  But since you asked and all, yeah, I would be interested to know what sort of changes your charts show.  The analysis I use shows some changes, some of which are maybe good, some of which may be new problems.  There is always a trade-off with any adjustment.  

With the simple analysis I use I see changes, some of them surprising.  The low frequency range changed quite a bit and some of the more extreme p-v in that range smoothed out quite a bit.  That surprised me.  I don't know much about violins, but to get a change like that on something like an acoustic guitar would take a more extreme change than a bridle adjustment or even replacement.  It would take something like replacing the entire top to affect the chart of an acoustic guitar that much. 

Another little oddity that I am wondering if can be seen from the charts.. To me when playing the instrument, it seems a little quieter.  But others in the household heard a difference and basically agreed that the sound "carries more" or "comes through clearer" at distance or through walls/floors. 

My household is a little unusual, so I should perhaps explain briefly.  My wife has been a vocalist all her life, classically trained.  Our room-mate played electric bass in her younger years and is also a recording/production school "drop-out".  I took top marks on sound recording and engineering in college, but it wasn't my major and not as well known a school for it.  My 20-ish daughter has less formal training and her ear is still a bit green, but it is good enough to easily tell the differences between 2 acoustic guitars from the same maker but different factories and to have decided preferences in nut and bridge materials on something like an acoustic guitar.  So, better than average ears.  Which is good in a way.  Not so good if you're trying to just knock off a quick take of something..  "You aren't actually going to let anyone hear that, are you?  Something is just not right there in about the 5th octave, upper half." 

I'll skip over the rather diverse analysis and terminology they use due to differing backgrounds, but the consensus was that the sound carries clearer and further, even though my ears while playing hear it as being a little quieter.  And that the G string is still a little weak and the E is still a little brash, so it still needs more work although this adjustment was an improvement.  LOL

Anyway, sound sample for cdennyb..

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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cdennyb
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June 24, 2012 - 3:38 pm
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OK Daniel... here's what I came up with.

 

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DanielB
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June 25, 2012 - 7:28 am
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What's more, it sounded worse after the instrument settled for a couple days.  LOL

Ah well, I didn't really expect to get it good with just one or two easy adjustment sessions.

I decided to take a different approach tonight.  First off, I looked up what the length of the string from nut to bridge is supposed to be.  You might think that would vary a lot, but it doesn't, really.  Most of Stradivari and Guarneri's instruments measure just about exactly 327 mm for that length.  They are believed to have taken it from Jacob Stainer's measurements.  And no major maker deviates from it much, if at all.

Well, now if I had known that, I woudn't have been guessing on bridge placement.  LOL  The source is Wiki, but the number is probably still right or at least close.  Chinese factories most likely do not design violins from scratch.  I'm betting they copy some known good violin, maybe even a famous one where all the measurements have been taken and published. 

So I set the bridge so I have a string length of 327 mm between nut and bridge.  That was the easy part.

I had also read that some *good* luthiers also check the tuning of the strings behind the bridge.  Called the afterlength, I had read that it should be tuned by adjusting the length of the tailgut until the pitch on the afterlength of the D string matches the pitch of the 4th harmonic on the A string.  In other words, assuming the instrument is in perfect tune, they should both ideally be the A at 1760 hz.  I checked the pitch of the afterlength on the D string and it was a somewhat flat C over 1760.  That is way out from the alleged ideal.  Ok, so the afterlength needed to be made longer, which means moving the bridge closer to the saddle, which means shortening the tailgut a little.  There are a couple of threaded brass nuts on a nylon tailgut, so that sounded simple enough.  I figured I could get it in a couple tries. 

roflol

Eleven tries and about 3 hours later, I finally had it at least very close.  1.7 some hz sharp but even breathing on the tailgut adjustment sleeves could overshoot that by a lot.  At least it was recognizably an A, so I left it.  I want to replace that tailpiece anyway.  But the point was that the afterlength tuning is supposed to affect tone and projection.  So getting it at least close to correct seemed a sensible idea.

So that has been adjusted and the bridge has been set for the 327 mm standard string length.  Does it actually sound better?   I *think* so, but my ears are pretty fatigued and burnt by all the tuning and retuning for me to trust them with something that subjective.  I tuned it up and put it away and will try playing it later.  Right now, I am kinda "all funned out" on that particular violin for the moment.

I'll put up the test recording for cdennyb and see what his analysis software can make of it.

Oh, and before anyone wonders.. No, I do not expect to get fabulous sound from a very inexpensive instrument.  I've got it comfortably playable and holding tune well.  That is about the most one can really expect from violins in the less than 100$ range, in my opinion.  But I am finding out more about how a violin should be set up and I'm up for seeing how good I can get it with a bit of fussing and a reasonable amount of work.  I feel that's a realistic enough expectation, and the learning experiences alone are worth the bother to me.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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cdennyb
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OK, in case anyone wants to say, "...see I knew messing with it would only result in a disaster, take a look at what Mr. D has achieved here. He took a cheap violin, sounded ok but not great, then made a few minor changes which some resulted in a decrease in projected sound and then after he was done messing with those small details went to the tailpiece position exercise and the results are incredible.

Will this cheap $100 violin sound like a $1000 violin? Maybe... it's all in the acoustics.

His violin is now in excess of where it has ever been in regards to sound frequency projection. A little more work on the bridge I think and the trace will smooth out and the instrument will become seasoned as well. Time will mellow it some and I feel it has great potential as a 'player'. Good work Daniel. Keep at it.

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DanielB
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This may go to show that the 327 mm string length and the tailpiece adjustment are definitely critical to the sound of even a cheap violin, cdennyb. 

I haven't played it much, since I got a bit "burned out" on the acoustic from the tailpiece adjustment.  But letting an instrument sit in the case for a day or two, so long as it is in tune, usually does no harm for settling.  I played it a bit this morning, and felt it sounded definitely a bit better than before, but that can be pretty subjective.

The trace confirms that I was hearing a bit more sound/projection for it and not just indulging in wishful thinking.  Thanks cdennyb!!

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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June 26, 2012 - 2:11 pm
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And before I forget again, here's an interesting article I found about the comparative length of neck, stop and etc.  It may be of come interest to cdennyb and the others here who study such violin measurements..

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t.....38;cad=rja

 

Looks like it was scanned and run through OCR, so I think 7% should read 7  5/8 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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coolpinkone
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tongue

Way to go guys! Interesting research. I come here and read and comment to look like one of the smart techie kids!! 🙂

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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DanielB
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June 27, 2012 - 4:47 am
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Well CPO, I am quite sure that most people coming to these forums would much prefer to play their violin/fiddle than make measurements and adjustments or make or analyze recordings.  But the experimenting is one way of learning how to do these things and what adjustments are likely to be the most important. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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July 4, 2012 - 8:19 am
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This is just a progress report on how the MV300 has been playing and etc, and to put up another sound sample since cdennyb was interested in getting to do another analysis before I go modding/fixing the violin a bit more.

It has been holding tune impressively.  I tune it up when it gets put away (usually in the late afternoon) and again when I take it out in the morning.  Even with temperature and humidity changes, it rarely has drifted more than a cent or two.  For a cheap fiddle/violin, that is pretty amazing, I think.  Other than it meaning the pegs aren't slipping, it also means that the body wood is staying stable to a degree I just didn't expect from an instrument in this price range.  It doesn't need touched up often when being played, either. 

It will be interesting to see the analysis since I "think" I hear some differences.   The high strings seem to have a bit more "ring" or "echo" to them than they did a week ago, and the G string seems to have lost a bit of raspiness.  The D though.. I'm still not 100% happy with the tone I'm getting off the D. 

But I have a bit more work in mind, and I expect it will take more than one adjustment to the bridge and maybe the soundpost after that before the sound may actually be nice enough that I won't want to risk any more fixes or adjustments for at least a good long while.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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