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Violin/Viola Neck Profile - How About Options?
Time for an ergonomic change?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (13 votes) 
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ELCBK
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January 6, 2024 - 9:15 pm
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Why is it I see NO one concerned with the neck profile on a violin when shopping? 

...there's all sorts of options for guitars! 

Yeah, gonna rock the boat here. 

529307_528086037232778_2048998883_n.jpg

I have been absolutely ecstatic about the PLAYABILITY of my new 6-string violin! 

 

It's all because of what I think is a non-traditional (violin/viola), neck profile on my violin - which feels/looks (to me) like the 'thin D' shape (1st of the 4th row in guitar neck profiles, above) vs. what might normally be like a fat/chunkey 'C' or 'V' on a regular violin/viola.

So, the underside of my new 6-string violin neck is wider & 'flatter'/shallower than my 5-string violin - WORKS WITH MY HAND VERY WELL!  This shape does NOT want to nestle in my purlicue so easily (TG) & my thumb has more secure places to balance the neck while my hand moves up & around the fingerboard!  The neck also feels thinner as I shift up toward the bout - so MUCH more comfortable playing in higher positions!  THIS MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE TO ME!

Playing is now MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE, NOW! 🤗🥰 

The way my older 5-string violin/viola neck fits in the left hand - it basically begs to get stuck in the purlicue & naturally be gripped with the thumb... which I overcame, but nothing about the neck of my older violin really aids in good hand-playing shape or shifting.  While my thumb is underneath, balancing the neck (on my 5-string), any extra weight in the neck/scroll end (like I have) makes it worse - my left hand/thumb 'balancing act' wants to topple down into my purlicue.  I suspect this might be an issue for many beginners. 

I don't have these issues playing my new 6-string Violin! 

I know there is more than one thing to consider when designing a neck, but a slight change to the neck profile might make the physical act of playing the violin/viola MUCH more ergonomic for OTHER MUSICIANS LIKE ME!  

Can't help but wonder if folks with different sized hands/fingers/arms, might also find other shapes more helpful! 

 

527004479478eacab544c6b1006205db.png

Seen amazing customizing of guitar necks available, like in this image, (←), but never noticed anything for violin/viola until I received my new 6-string violin!  

I have NOT tried a full size wood violin since I was a child (don't remember anything), so I don't know how close one neck compares to others. 

If YOU have more than one violin or viola - what are your observations about the necks?  Are they different, or same?

...changes happen when enough people ask/request them. 😊

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ABitRusty
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January 6, 2024 - 9:33 pm
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@elcbk you can have a builder shave some of your neck down. well maybe not yours since carbon fiber..but I know one person who has and antique type violin that when it was being refurbished.. had the neck reshaped..in almost a v.  very thin..to me not as comfortable as the standard size im used to in my limited experience.

guitars .. alot more wood to work with there.  probably more freedom to experiment with without getting into problems with it being able to hold up to stresses.  bracing and such probably more to work with.

and also..sometimes..if aint broke dont fix may play into it?

 

maybe contact glasser and check for custom neck sizes?

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ELCBK
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@ABitRusty -

That's really interesting!  

Do YOU see any difference between YOUR fiddle necks & viola?

Maybe that 'V' shape allowed his thumb some extra control as he shifted.  Unfortunately, most of us can't find out what would be helpful, unless someone makes a few neck models to try. 

Think this might be an area Luthiers could really make a difference.  I'm not completely sure how much of the violin design tradition is about sound production vs. playability (ugh) vs. just 'graceful' appearance (we've all seen odd ones). 🙄  A violin neck for a 4-string IS very narrow - if nothing else, a stronger type of wood might allow a thinner profile.  I think there's room to experiment. 

Anyway, feel it's worth talking about more, not only to possibly make playing more fun for beginners, but maybe provide a big edge for professional musicians.  'IF' I had a local Luthier, I'd be asking all sorts of questions. (lol) 

...have to admit there's probably even more factors involved than neck shape vs size of hands, like the relationship between properties of our skin vs type of texture/finish on a neck (whether our hand 'stick' or 'slip') - not going down this rabbit hole.

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ABitRusty
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January 6, 2024 - 10:43 pm
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standarization for orchestral reasons may play into this too.

she wanted it for hand size reasons i think.

Unfortunately, most of us can't find out what would be helpful, unless someone makes a few neck models to try. 

do we need to know what we dont know if we know we are happy with what we have?  discussion here only.  

 

window shopping and bored youtube scrolling has cost me alot of money over the years 😀

guitars are the worst.  so many styles/wood choices.. each with a slightly different sound and playability.  I think violins maybe different.  instead of having styles or companies that have unique sound.. think martin vs taylor..  theres prices ranges.  seems like for violins theres the 500 and below range. 500 to a little over 1000.  then 1000 to 3000 and 3000 to 10000.. collectors or custom builds above that.  for a special neck design i think youre probably getting into that upoer range.

again..were talking...im not claiming to know.  maybe those comments will have someone that knows respond

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AndrewH
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There's no standardization of violin necks for orchestras. There's simply no reason for it.

And violin necks do vary quite a bit, it turns out. Just in the few violins I've tried, there have been very noticeable differences in fingerboard width. There are several traditional violin neck shapes, and each of them is just a basic shape whose exact dimensions can vary. See the description here:

https://www.theviolinshopsandi.....es-part-1/

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ELCBK
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January 7, 2024 - 10:14 am
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@ABitRusty -

I agree that there are so many variables/options available for guitars, it's crazy.  Custom violin build is one thing, but what about when we come across a used violin/viola - looking at the neck could tell us quite a bit.  

 

@AndrewH -

THANK YOU! 🤗

What a fabulous article!  The 2nd article was also worth reading - about which neck dimension variables can effect playing & varnish/hand perspiration.

Wow, that's the 1st site I've seen that mentions anything about necks! 

This has been enlightening for me!  We've talked about what qualities we'd look for in instrument (elsewhere on the forum), now the neck IS something I'd place high on my checklist. 

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ABitRusty
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January 7, 2024 - 10:37 am
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Im still not sure its common to vary too much.  I think even in those articles it mentions 3 basic shapes.  Vompared to what youre getting at with guitar necks it doesnt leave much room to change the design much without getting into custom type territory.

This is from 2nd article

To start with, there are 2 neck dimensions (and one more on the top that works with the neck dimensions) that are standard. And for a good reason......

.....So if you get used to standard, you should be able to switch from your instrument to another instrument without too much trouble playing in tune.

still seems due to the size of a violin theres not as much wiggle room to change much.  but it would be a personal thingon necks I guess.  Im sure one could find a builder to do whatever was desired to point.  Maybe if that design caught on it could become the standard.. always worth a go I guess! 

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ELCBK
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@ABitRusty -

I can only guess that a luthier makes what feels best to him/her - so their hand size, their neck preference, becomes part of their trademark style for violins/violas. 

 

Don't think about the neck the next time you try out a new or used violin.

 

...gotcha.  🤭 

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ABitRusty
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ELCBK said
 

I can only guess that a luthier makes what feels best to him/her - so their hand size, their neck preference, becomes part of their trademark style for violins/violas. 

 

Don't think about the neck the next time you try out a new or used violin.

 

...gotcha.  🤭 

  

Ahhh now.. thats not what im saying.  the OP is about how many different type guitar neck styles and why we dont have those options for violin.  I think i suggested getting one made to suit and that theres probably not as much variety in off the shelf violins for a reason.  Think thats what the articles pointed out too.  I DO think how well a violin is made to include varnish on the neck and such can be detected after a bit of playing.  It takes trying out different ones and really having played one for a while to feel and hear alot of that kinda stuff.  

Im all for finding the perfect one but realize theres some limitations there.  Theres a big difference in subtle violin neck designs vs going to guitar center and trying out different size guitars.  There just different..of course.  Nut sizes and fret count can change the whole feel of a guitar,  it jumps out when you switch.  TO ME beside maybe how smooth the neck surface is maybe due to varnish or sanding.. ive never had that experience in different violins ive played.  The sound and string angle yeah.. but not same experience.  I havent tried a 6 string though.  5 string yes.  string spacing is what i noticed most on those.

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ELCBK
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Don't think about the neck the next time you try out a new or used violin [see what happens].

 

...gotcha.  🤭 

 

 I was only implying a possible outcome of this thread discussion. 

...do you think you will be able to pick up a new or used violin WITHOUT taking a closer look at the shape & feel of the neck, now? 😏

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ABitRusty
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yes

 

***EDIT****

sorry didnt get to finish last response...so heres why yes and referring baxk to guitars because YOU started all this 😋🫣

When I shop for a guitar... e.g.  lets say i KNOW a Taylor guitar has a certain type of neck construction..they do..Its very comfortable and easy to play.  Taylors are known for that.  so much so I think Martin has introduced a few years ago their necks made in a similar way.   same thing with them.  i think the neck build type is called a performing artist taper or something.   I know when they specify that what it will feel like EVERY TIME.   Its a given.

with a violin ... whats the equivelent?  I can search for a guarnari or strad copy.   and its not like they advertise on fiddlershop or my local shops a special neck build.. so either i go by what a video sounds like or I try it out.  and when i try it out i am playing and paying attention to how i play on it and how it sounds.  i cant search for a specific neck style other than famous violin build copy types.

so to me its irrelevant on the neck construction because all i can do is move to another violin if the one im trying out doesnt feel right.  I try the violin out as a whole because basically thats all i can do anyway.. I wish violin shopping was like guitars.  With a guitar i could order a specific size made with a specific type neck and specify the wood i want and type of tuners..fret size and fretboard material...it can be very customized in that way.

with violins not so much...unless i am shopping for a builder to make me one..THEN i could say...let me look at your necks and see or describe what i want.  but at that point im into a whole nother price range.

Its not that its not an important part...its just that its part of the whole instrument.

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AndrewH
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ABitRusty said
Im still not sure its common to vary too much.  I think even in those articles it mentions 3 basic shapes.  Vompared to what youre getting at with guitar necks it doesnt leave much room to change the design much without getting into custom type territory.

This is from 2nd article

To start with, there are 2 neck dimensions (and one more on the top that works with the neck dimensions) that are standard. And for a good reason......

.....So if you get used to standard, you should be able to switch from your instrument to another instrument without too much trouble playing in tune.

still seems due to the size of a violin theres not as much wiggle room to change much.  but it would be a personal thingon necks I guess.  Im sure one could find a builder to do whatever was desired to point.  Maybe if that design caught on it could become the standard.. always worth a go I guess! 

  

As I read it, the second article is just pointing out the two dimensions that are almost always standard: the length of the neck and the placement/shape of the heel. All other dimensions can vary more.

ABitRusty said

When I shop for a guitar... e.g.  lets say i KNOW a Taylor guitar has a certain type of neck construction..they do..Its very comfortable and easy to play.  Taylors are known for that.  so much so I think Martin has introduced a few years ago their necks made in a similar way.   same thing with them.  i think the neck build type is called a performing artist taper or something.   I know when they specify that what it will feel like EVERY TIME.   Its a given.

with a violin ... whats the equivelent?  I can search for a guarnari or strad copy.   and its not like they advertise on fiddlershop or my local shops a special neck build.. so either i go by what a video sounds like or I try it out.  and when i try it out i am playing and paying attention to how i play on it and how it sounds.  i cant search for a specific neck style other than famous violin build copy types.

so to me its irrelevant on the neck construction because all i can do is move to another violin if the one im trying out doesnt feel right.  I try the violin out as a whole because basically thats all i can do anyway.. I wish violin shopping was like guitars.  With a guitar i could order a specific size made with a specific type neck and specify the wood i want and type of tuners..fret size and fretboard material...it can be very customized in that way.

with violins not so much...unless i am shopping for a builder to make me one..THEN i could say...let me look at your necks and see or describe what i want.  but at that point im into a whole nother price range.

Its not that its not an important part...its just that its part of the whole instrument.

  

That's one thing that makes violin shopping harder: you're trying the whole instrument with limited ability to make changes. (You can have a luthier shave down the neck, but that only goes in one direction and it's irreversible.) The neck definitely figures into how the instrument feels to play. When shopping for my viola, I never asked about necks, but playing 3-octave arpeggios was part of my testing process, and I noticed that I was less comfortable with shifting and string crossing on certain violas. If I were commissioning an instrument from a luthier, I would definitely want to talk about the neck.

That said, maybe it doesn't matter as much as with guitars because a violin (or even viola) neck is much smaller than a guitar neck and there isn't as much contact with the hand.

I would guess that the other reason we don't see neck shape being mentioned for factory and workshop violins (basically everything with a brand name rather than a named maker) is the history of violin making. In some ways I think it's unfortunate that there are a handful of legendary makers from hundreds of years ago, because almost all the factory and workshop violins being made today are copies of old violins. Even if almost no Stradivari violins have their original necks due to conversion from Baroque style to modern style necks and fingerboards, most of the general public doesn't know that, and none of the major brands seem to want to admit that their violins differ in any detail from Stradivari's pattern.

By the way: a few years ago, when I was reading chamber music at an orchestra friend's house, I borrowed her backup violin to play a violin part for a piece. That violin was a German Strad copy from the 1950s. My violin is also a German Strad copy from the 1950s. But the necks felt very different, and I later realized that they were two entirely different neck styles -- my violin has a French neck, and hers had a German neck. Clearly "Strad copy" says nothing about the neck, and neither does the violin's country of origin.

I wonder if it would be worthwhile for a workshop to offer limited customization, such as different neck shapes. I suspect it might not be, because that price range is  mostly being sold to students; the serious amateur market might care, but is dwarfed by the vast number of high school age students buying that category of instrument.

At least violinists only have that one detail that doesn't get mentioned... violists have it much worse, because there are not only different neck shapes but also different neck lengths and body shapes. And sometimes sellers only mention the body length, so we often end up having to try a lot more violas before we get what we want.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Your experience with a 'French' neck style vs. 'German' is VERY interesting - hadn't thought about distinct differences in styles!

Violas are like a whole other World! 🤣 

It's kinda funny, one luther's site I visited showed some steps in his making a viola - when it came to finishing the neck, he wrote only TWO sentences:

The neck needs to be carved into a playable shape. This step is very important, since the neck is the main point of contact between player and instrument.

Brand new students ARE usually started on cheaper 'student' models.  We want new students to succeed & move on to better quality instruments, but how often does this tactic backfire?  ...I realize the wrong size violin (or set up) is usually blamed, but maybe a student's experience sours right from the start by playing on a neck that doesn't fit their hand, or maybe the neck finish is a hindrance...do any teachers think about these possibilities? 

 

Now this is downright SCARY! 

 

@ABitRusty -

violin-bangJeez, you crushed my 'eureka' discovery moment AND you debunked the 'power of suggestion' theory!  I was having a bit of fun... if you tell someone NOT to do something, usually they can't help but think about doing it. 

Still, all good food for thought, so thank you! 

 

Btw, I have sanded down a rough ridge on the right side of my 5-string violin neck (where fingerboard is glued to the neck).  BUT, being my full-sized violins & viola are CARBON FIBER/COMPOSITE - I WOULD NEVER TRY TO RESHAPE THE NECK, without first checking with the manufacturer, because the neck could be hollow! 

Now, with wood violins - once the fingerboard is glued to the neck, it provides added structural strength, so maybe more final neck adjustments are feasible than we'd imagine (I'd still want to discuss it with a luthier).  Changing the finish on a neck is possible & could be helpful for better hand movement, or stability. 

 

...there is the possibility of a new neck 'graft'.  Can't be cheap.

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ABitRusty
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sorry @elcbk. dont mean to be a party pooper 🙂  guess Im just giving reason the 2 instruments are different in my mind as far as the topic goes.  my main violin now is based on some french maker that i guess copied a guanari pattern?  not sure.  but to me the necks havent been too different in feel.  every one ive tried doesnt stand out as a different animal..good or bad.  and i also think theres more consistancy between the middle to higher end student violins ive tried.  sound can change but feel seems about the same usually.  which could be good or bad depending on your views.

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@ABitRusty -

I really appreciate you took time to compare your fiddle necks & think about other fiddles you've tried. 

...don't imagine you have any reason to even think about it - haven't ever heard you mention you are uncomfortable playing on your lowest strings, or having any difficulty shifting.  

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ABitRusty
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no...havent had any problem shifting when needed although its rare i do due to the music I prefer to play.  Mainly scales just to keep the act recent. 🙂.  low strings havent been an issue.  the one violin, what i think really was a small viola lol.. was too tall frim bottom to top for my taste.  i traded it and got credit on my current.  both the 1st student violin and the soloists have been good.  the 1st student violin has ahigher bridge in my opinion and it seems the top maybe thicker so the sound is different.   its fun to play every now and then.  its the one with helicore heavys.  i cant tell any difference in the necks.  nor any ive tried out in stores honestly. A 6 string surely would feel different and with it being more comfortable probably has helped you.. alot to be excited about on that!  i know you prefer lower voicings so im sure youre having a blast.

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That is one thing I love about Snuffles. His neck profile is very different from my Fiddlerman Soloist. Very much V shaped, thinner and slimmer. And *much* *much* *much* easier (more comfortable) for me to play.

And then there is the neck on my NS WAV 4 which is a chonky beast compared to the Soloist. Snuffles has made me realize just how awkward that neck feels for me to the point of I might just get a piezo for Snuffles and let go of the WAV. 

I know there is a lot more difference available for guitar necks (which, also have a truss rod in them giving a bit more flexibility on size and shape) but it seems like there could be more with violins also.

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@Sasha -

Thanks for describing the difference in your violins! 

This has been an eye-opener for me.

...really happy you found a violin you LOVE!  

 

I can't help but notice the HUGE difference between the size of Kevin's (hubby) hands & mine - he doesn't play an instrument, but seems hand size alone should be reason enough to make a few different neck profiles readily available. 

ABitRusty mentioned about some guitar makers being known for a type of neck.  I was wondering if the number of sales/year (guitar vs violin) had a bearing on this.   Didn't do an extensive search of statistics but looks like guitar sales/year kinda crush violin sales, globally. 😞 Makes sense guitar makers can afford to specialize & offer more options... or, maybe there would be more violin sales IF some neck profile options were available (?) 

Think it would be nice to see a little attention drawn to the neck profile during violin/viola comparison & review videos. 😊

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I think the guitar sales vs violin sales has more to do with music.  Guitar is more mainstream and crosses more styles...from rock to country..folk..bluegrass..old time..irish..celtic... even classical.  not saying better..just more known.   On the flip side i bet theres more guitars gathering dust in someones closet vs violin.  and yes theres examples of violin in each style of music.. but i think its pretty plain to see theres just more guitars being played in any given band on any given weekend vs fiddle/violin.   i dont think neck designs are driving factors in that fact.

Now.. IF the violin had the rep as being easy to play would sales go up?. probably.  I think because of how common guitars are theres a thought that its easy.  so when deciding on an instrument a more safer choice?  maybe idk... maybe instead of redisgning the instrument..show that its not so bad to try and play it and that people later in life CAN succeed.   maybe as fiddlers we hurt bringing people into it by talking about how hard it is.

just talking and discussing here...

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@ABitRusty -

Great points! 

I guess I was thinking - 'the easier student violins are to play, the more life-long customers/more sales' result thing. 😁  ...so if neck profile makes a big difference for smaller hands, I'd take that into consideration. 

I was wondering if fractional size violins are just scaled down - or is anything extra done for kids.  I have 2, half-size & since the kids aren't using them yet, I haven't thought about it until now.

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