Violin/Viola Set Up | A Guide to the Set Up Process

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Violin/Viola Set up

There are many different processes when setting up a violin or viola. All these processes combined makes a huge difference to the violin/viola in how it sounds, plays and feels. At a professional level even the smallest change can make a huge difference to a player, but it is also true that a student violin or viola can play easier, hold its tuning better and sound better when properly set up.

All of the violins and violas that we stock have been through this very process. In between hire agreements we also check every violin/violaover to ensure they are still as they should be. This makes all our violins and violas sound, and play better, which will only help and encourage someone learning to play.

We have outlined below the main steps involved in the violin/viola set-up.

Peg Fitting - Without a really good fit tuning can be very difficult

There is nothing worse than a violin or viola that does not stay in tune. The main reason for this issue is ill fitting violin pegs. We first check the violin/viola pegs themselves; they should be perfectly cylindrical and taper towards the end. If they are not, we use a peg shaper (just like a pencil sharpener) to make sure they are perfect. We then check the violin/viola peg box, the pegs should pass through and just show on the other side (they rarely do on new violins/violas out of the box) to ensure they grip well, but also turn freely and easily. To make the pegs fit perfectly we use a reamer to shave small amounts of wood away.

Violin Peg Not Fitting Through Peg Box

Peg number three (with the white line) demonstrates a peg that doesn't yet fit. If they do not pass all the way through the peg box it is harder for the peg to grip. This makes tuning hard.

Shaving Violin Peg Box With Reamer

Small amounts of wood are shaved from the peg box using the correct sized reamer. This is done little by little to ensure the peg does not pass too far through the peg box.

Correctly Fitted Violin Pegs

The correct fitting of the violin peg. You should be able to see the violin peg slightly protruding from the peg box, this gives the peg as much grip as possible.

Violin Has A Shine Once Fitted Correctly

Once a peg fits perfectly it will, over time develop a shine where the peg fits snugly to the violin peg box. This clearly demonstrates how good the fit is.

Nut slot and string height

Any new violin or viola will need the violin/viola nut adjusting so the strings are the correct height form the fingerboard. If the string is too high the violin/viola becomes harder to play, especially for a beginner. Even the smallest adjustment can make a huge difference to the player. The nut slots also have to be filed at the correct angle, and a small amount of graphite dust is inserted making the string glide over the nut which will also help with tuning.

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Violin String Height

The string height at the nut is measured from the fingerboard up to the string. If the strings are too high it becomes difficult to play, especially for a young player or complete beginner.

Cutting Violin Nut

Each nut string slot is carefully cut to the right depth to ensure the string is at the right height.  The angle of the cut is also very important for both sound quality and tuning.

Checking Violin String Height

We use a feller gauge to measure the string height precisely. We cut the nut little by little, being careful not to cut to far.

Adding Graphite to Violin Nut

When tuning the violin the strings need to be able to pass over the nut smoothly. To help with this we add a small amount of graphite which helps the strings to be able move freely and easily.

Soundpost Fitting

This a a hugely important part of the set up process. It takes some practice and skill to get right!  The sound post is inside the violin/viola and therefore fitting it takes some skill but with enough practice it can be fitted to the contour of the violin/viola body. The idea is to have as much surface area as possible connected trough the sound post. It is so important for the sound of the violin/viola that it is often referred to as the 'soul' of the instrument, if it is moved one way or the other it can dramatically change to overall sound of the violin/viola.

Inserting Violin Soundpost

The sound post is cut so the ends of the post match the angles of the violin/viola. It is then inserted using a sound post setter tool and 'wedged' into the correct position.

Violin Soundpost Within The Violin

The sound post fitted in the violin/viola. This shows the accuracy of the top and bottom angles and how well the fit needs to be for a good sound to be produced.

Checking The Soundpost Position

The position of the sound post is checked, the smallest move forward or backwards can dramatically alter the sound of the violin/viola.

Soundpost View from outside the violin

You can see the sound post by looking through the violin/viola 'f' hole, it will be perfectly vertical with the violin/viola.

Bridge Fitting

Correct bridge fitting is very important for both sound and how easy the violin/viola is to play. A violin/viola purchased straight from the box will have a higher bridge to compensate for other areas of the violin/viola/viola set up not being correct. For a beginner this makes it harder to press the strings down, and especially hard for a younger player. The bridge feet must match the contour of the violin/viola body exactly, down to the finest detail. Once they are matched the bridge height is measured, and the excess material removed from the top of the bridge and the string slots are then cut.

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Blank Violin Bridge Before Fitting

We use bridge blanks to fit to the violin. From this chunky looking bridge we start to carefully, and precisely fit the bridge feet to the contour of the violin/viola body.

Fitting the Violin Bridge - The Detail

Once the basic shape has been done we carefully remove little areas of wood. We use carbon paper to find the areas to remove. Little by little the feet begin to fit the body exactly.

Violin Bridge Feet Fitted

Once the feet have been completed you can see how well the fit is. You will also notice how much wood has been removed and how the bridge starts to look much more delicate.

Checking Violin Bridge Height for String Height

Once the feet have been fitted, we adjust the height of the bridge to make sure the string height is exactly where it should be. This can be dependent on string brand and playing style.

Bridge & Tailpiece Positioning

There are lots of measurements that have to be correct when setting up a violin/viola. The distance from the nut to the bridge and then tailpiece has to be spot on. Most student violins/violas come with low quality tailpieces which have low quality fine tuners that often stop working, and the tail gut can stretch causing tuning & intonation problems.

Measuring Violin Bridge Distance

Checking the distance from the violin/viola nut to the bridge.

Measuring Violin Bridge Distance

Checking the distance from the tailpiece to the bridge, these measurements have to be precise.

Fine Adjusters

All our tailpieces are Wittner, a high quality German made product that has excellent fine tuners.

High Quality Tail Gut

The violin/viola tailpiece gut, we fit high quality tail guts to ensure they will not stretch over time and cause tuning issues.

Violin Set Up Video

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