April 10, 2018 at 3:01 PM #60104
I’m selecting this forum for this topic since in a way it relates to strings and things. Moderator, please feel free to move it to its proper place.
On the 6th of this month, I decided to re-locate my violin tailpiece on my 1834 “Julia” fiddle. I had a conversation a few days prior to that with a guitar/mandolin maker and a professional fiddler and they were discussing the importance of having the end of the tailpiece even with the edge of the fiddle. They were of the opinion that the farther away from the bridge the tailpiece was, the more the bridge was allowed to vibrate and send those vibrations into the sound box.
It made sense to me, so I went home, got up the courage (it really didn’t take much) and decided while I was at it, I’d change my strings, too.
So, I moved the tailpiece back about half of the distance to the edge of the fiddle, changed the strings and marveled that Friday night at the increased tone and also volume. It was like a new violin. I couldn’t get over it!
Today, Tuesday the 10th, I moved it again. This time all the way out to the edge. All I can say is “Wow!” Talk about beautiful tone. I can hardly set it down.
I strongly recommend this to anyone who dares do it. What an improvement. It’s funny, it’s just one of those things that I had never learned. It makes acoustic sense. Upon examining pictures of professional violins in advertising literature, I notice they’re all like that.April 10, 2018 at 4:56 PM #60107
That’s awesome! Hey, check the note that is played when you pluck a string below the bridge (between the bridge and the tailpiece). I have always heard that the distance between the bridge and the tailpiece should be 1/6 of the string length. If the distance is 1/6 the length, then the note it makes should be 2 octaves and a fifth higher. So, your D string (D4) will be make an A note under the bridge (A6). You can shift the tailpiece to “tune” this note. When the note is tuned, it makes a nice sympathetic harmonic above the string when played open.April 10, 2018 at 7:03 PM #60108
That’s great news Fred. Here’s something else, not recommended exactly, but was dramatic for me. My bridge needs to be replaced, so I wasn’t concerned about hurting it…I was changing strings and for forgotten reasons decided to see what it sounded like with my bridge tilted at an obnoxious angle. We all know the accepted wisdom of having the bridge straight and the feet profiled to set with maximum contact on the top plate, so it should have sounded muted with the bridge tilted to just be on the edge of it’s feet. But it had a beautiful sound such as I’ve never heard from my fiddle! No explanation, and not rational, but this gorgeous sound was there. I couldn’t leave it like that, but when I get time I’m going to do some experimenting with getting a bridge to sound like that.
Also, with the adjustable tail gut cords it’s really easy to move your tail piece back & forth to experiment with the tail piece location.
Fred, before you moved it, how far was the tailpiece from touching the saddle. Mine is right at 5/16th’s of an inch. Was yours farther away than that?April 10, 2018 at 7:18 PM #60109
Here’s a super-fast video explaining what I said above…April 10, 2018 at 7:31 PM #60111
that was weird. I was typing this long question on my not so accurate laptop and somehow left the website and came back to find a video explanation.
(spooky music plays)April 10, 2018 at 8:20 PM #60113
Thanks for the thread, Fred (oops…that rhymed), and thanks for the other comments plus the video…I was just gonna ask for pictures…lol. I will have to watch it tomorrow…phone duty tonight and I’m already multitasking beyond my abilities.April 11, 2018 at 3:02 AM #60118
For those who like Wittner tailpieces.
Wittner has a “Multi-system tailpiece” which allows for up to 5 mm of adjustment for overall string length by regulating the distance beteen the bridge and tailpiece without removal of the strings and tailpice (with use of a screw driver and with the tailpiece fitted). May save lot of time when and if trying to fine adjust the string length.
Available both with or without finetuners.
April 11, 2018 at 11:39 AM #60126
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by Hakan Lindholm.
I never heard of this before…gonna have to check all of mine.April 11, 2018 at 3:03 PM #60128
Seems hard to believe that .02 of an inch (5mm as per the Wittner Tailpiece allows for adjustment) would make that much of a difference in tone and volume, but it probably does for some violins. I moved my tailpiece more than that both times and overall it really did make a noticeable difference.
Are any Wittner’s made of Ebony? They all seem to be made of metal or space age composite material.April 11, 2018 at 4:01 PM #60130
It does not allow for adjustment over the whole possible distance.
I think one need to position the tailpiece roughly on the sweet spot or in tune as mentioned above).
Then 5 mm might be of help for the final tuning not having to remove the strings completely for every minor adjustment.
I have only seen the adjustable Wittner tailpieces in composite material.
April 12, 2018 at 1:55 AM #60148
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by Hakan Lindholm.
That’s cool, I didn’t realize Wittner made those.April 12, 2018 at 1:58 AM #60149
I have expensive fiddles and cheap fiddles. All of which I try to get the tailpiece 2 up to 2 1/4 inches from the bridge, depending on the fiddle. (1/6 of the length of the strings from the bridge to the nut). It is my opinion, having read for several years that the actual goal is to set the harmonics on the backside of the bridge.
Behind the bridge the G string will pluck a D, the D string, behind the bridge, will pluck an A. then the A will pluck an E. Think about it. If you are playing a D string and behind the bridge is playing an A note, you have built some harmonics into your fiddle. Plucking the strings behind the bridges is not a real easy job on some fiddles. Sounds ugly. If you can not pluck and get a good note, go with measurements. But your tuner can hear the note.
Certainly it is likely to put new life in a fiddle. I read all of this on the net. I don’t remember the site name. If I see a fiddle I like the looks of on eBay that is not set this way, I buy them, put appropriate size tail pieces to accomplish my goals.
Yes I like the tailpiece to go near the edge of the fiddle. I think you will discover that the real key to scooting tailpiece back to the edge of the fiddle is you are allowing better movement of the strings in general.
That being said. Get the intonation on the strings and each finger position set perfect before you measure it. The bridge must be set right to get the intonation right or you will do a lot of work for nothing.April 12, 2018 at 4:46 AM #60153
pcquikfix: Your information is quite helpful. Thank you very much.April 12, 2018 at 2:38 PM #60160
Fred, you’ve made me a believer. I adjusted my tailpiece today, trying to get at the 1:6 ratio John mentioned. What a difference! Much better tone – it just seems to vibrate or ring more. In all, I move the tailpiece about 3mm. I could go another 1 or 2 mm before I touched the saddle, but I’ll let it set for now.
JoeApril 12, 2018 at 9:01 PM #60164
Thank you so much Fred for all the great information. I get the feeling that every member who reads your post will now be busy adjusting their tail pieces (that is the tail piece on their fiddles, not their bodies). I’ll be adjusting both. 🙂
When I finish my recording tour and amazing vegetarian safari, I would like to try experimenting on “Ming Woo’, my cheap Chinese fiddle: But then as the old saying goes, “You can’t make silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”(But you can sure make some mighty fine – tasting Sweet and Sour Pork out of it!)
Thanks again for sharing this information with us all here, Fred.April 13, 2018 at 1:15 PM #60182
Thank you, Icebike. I’m happy that it improved volume and tone. It’s so cool to make such a simple adjustment and have such a radical change in volume and tone; especially tone.
You’re very welcome, Great Scott. Great to hear from you. Take care.April 28, 2018 at 12:53 PM #60677
Today I made an attempt to tune the tail piece for one of my violins (inspired by the posts above).
I have tried this several times before but haven’t been very successful. I have normally left it approximately at its recommended position as mentioned above and on internet (1/6 of string length) or a bit further back. I have also tried the extreme positions as far back and forward as possible to see the effect on the sound and playability but with poor results, it did not sound very good on my fiddle. So have left it with that.
Today I tried again with a different approach.
I am not able to hear if those very high notes back of the bridge are in tune with the string below it (see posts above) and I don’t have any suitable tuner that will catch them so tried to measure it with some frequency analyzing software free on internet.
I used the free software “Audacity” a simple recording application with a very good frequency analyzer. Quite easy to use and get started with, add a mic and start recording when bowing the strings G, D, A behind the bridge. Then mark up the recording section to be analyzed one note at the time and select “plot spectrum” put the cursor on the peaks and it will show the frequency and name of the note (I used the config/ algoritm: spectrum, function: hanning, axis: log, size: 1024).
I adjusted the bridge distance to 1/6 string length (approx. 55 mm, my string length is 328-329mm), then measured the frequencies for the G,D and A string behind the bridge. But all the notes turned out to be 1-1,5 note value too low!!! i.e. behind the bridge on the D string was measured Gb6-G6 did expect A6 and similar for the others. I also expected to have to move the tail piece further back for tuning but that will only lower the frequency further so I had to shorten the distance to approx. 47mm to get the G string behind the bridge to the note D6 in tune with the D string and similar for the rest.
I also noticed that I can’t get all 3 strings in tune at the same time I have to select one of the strings to tune and the other two will be slightly off either to low or to high (I guess it is because the distance from the bridge to the tail piece differs for the different string (curvature)).
Anyway the sound and playability is much improved.
I am surprised that the theoretical distance 1/6 ratio did not give me the expected notes. My own thinking/guess is that the math. formula expects the string to be fixed to a fixed pint in both ends but on the violin it is not fixed to a fixed point but to the tail piece which also vibrates together with the string (but maybe I am doing something wrong all together).
I just wonder if it is just me that did not get the expected note values when using the approx 1/6 ratio.April 28, 2018 at 10:57 PM #60684
Hakan, those are some great ideas. Audacity’s FFT is a great way to check the tuning of the strings. I didn’t check my length ratios.May 2, 2018 at 3:43 AM #60780
I also think it matters which of the 3 strings (G,D,A behind the bridge) to tune since it seems that not all 3 strings could be in tune at the same time at least not on my fiddle (see above).
I started to tune the G-string behind the bridge to D6 in tune with the D string and left the other two strings a bit off and that was a very big improvement in sound and playability. Now I have changed it to have the D-string behind the bridge tuned to A6 in tune with the A string and that made an even more improvement in sound and playability on my fiddle (leaves G and A strings behind the bridge a bit off but probably more evenly distributed).
(I have integrated fine tuners on the tailpiece on this violin. It seems that it is possible to compensate a bit ie to improve the tuning of all 3 string by keeping some of the tuners near the bottom or top positions which will alter the length of the strings to the bridge. But very unpractical.)May 2, 2018 at 12:15 PM #60790
Ok My turn on my fiddle Antonio the strings are medium Helicore and the string length is 328 and about 55 the D string plucks [ “”A ] four bars flat . My other other fiddle Maggie the strings are heavy gauge Helicore and the string length is 328 and about 55 the D string plucks [G””] four bars sharp
So Maggie is a mess or heavy gauge strings pluck different ?May 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM #60792
Hakan, I’m amazed at how deep you’ve gone into this…some things I would never have thought of, so it’s certainly fascinating to read what you came up with. My fiddle, although it has a pretty good sound, doesn’t not conform to the theory in the sound of the strings behind the bridge…they are all over the place. I wonder how much it actually matters? I suspect it might be noticeably in a waltz or such, but in faster fiddling I wonder if you could tell any difference?
I had never seen or read anything about this before, other than set it up by the book, but as to actually adjusting the tuning of the strings behind the tailpiece. And believe me, in the violin making workshops they do go to great extremes in tiny construction nuances to chase for that perfect tone. They even go to period specific techniques to try to recreate the original varnish, or experiment for that secret ingredient. Or endless geometrical algorithms to get the perfect profiles & dimensions. And most of those guys use the same kind of tools used back in Cremona, just in case.
But the irony of all that is, none of the original Strads have the original neck…they’ve all been lengthened. And no body uses the original kind of gut strings either. I doubt they got their bow hair from Mongolia or Canada, and it goes on & on.May 2, 2018 at 4:34 PM #60793
I wonder if there is such a thing as a “compensated” bridge for a violin?
I’ve used compensated bridges for mandolins and banjos for years now, but I can’t remember ever seeing one for a fiddle. I’ve seen them for guitars, too. Not sure if I’ve ever seen one for a resonator guitar.
It would be quite complicated to build for a violin, it seems to me, unless it was fashioned out of a thick maple block and shaved at the precise spots to match the overtone requirements listed above.May 2, 2018 at 11:09 PM #60799
That’s a good point, Fred. Since the fiddle is fretless, we can set the bridge parallel to the nut and just compensate with our fingers.
Hakan, I ended up slightly tilting my bridge in order to get the harmonics to match for all the strings.
Rodger, there is just something mythical about Stradivarius. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and make careful notes and measurements?May 3, 2018 at 11:29 AM #60812
When I was in the workshop down in California, I saw a large picture book of his wood carvings that ended up in museums. They are so incredibly intricate that it seems impossible a human could have done them. When I saw his unbelievable skill to work with wood it made me feel anyone would be foolish to think they could remotely come close to duplicating his work on a violin. But, evidently, a lot of the work on his instruments was done by apprentices and co-workers.May 3, 2018 at 11:46 AM #60813
I am just guessing but common sense tells me anything that did not meet His high standards , was sold as a no name or some other name , Because capitalism has been alive and well even back then so god only knows for sure how many violins were made but sold as something else as no way would he except anything to bear his name that wasn’t perfect to Him ! ????? Just Guessing ?
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