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Casey Jefferson

Soundpost wood quality

25 posts in this topic

Hi again all,

I have a question about soundpost wood quality, or character. Is it going to influence the tone of the violin, given that the fit and tension are more or less same? I've done quite some readings on past topics here on maestronet (googled using "site:www.maestronet.com" after the keywords), scientific test resulted the soundpost has nothing to do with the result, and quite a few folks here mentioned fit/tension is more important. At the same time, some folks proves otherwise with their experiences that wood quality/character will influence the sound.

So, after my violin settled down with the latest adjustment, I thought I got the sound I want but still after comparing the older recordings of my violin, it lack of a layer of sheen, and volume. But the feel, response, and control seems to be highly similar as when everything was good.

I have another soundpost cut from the same wood as the one inside my violin, it was too short so the luthier cut another one. I compared the soundpost by dropping them on hard surface and the new one gave so-so "click" sound but the older soundpost gave this wonderful "ting" and generally a louder and more resonating sound, with a much more "forward" feel.

I wonder if the comparison associate with the sound I'm getting now? I remember with the old soundpost it always sound bright and shiny no matter where the luthier adjusted, though with the right fit/tension/position, it retained the same sheen but added the thick, warm and smooth layer of sound underneath. With the new one, I can get that thick warm and smooth character (like now, which I'm quite satisfied), but that sheen never appeared no matter how I adjust it and make sure the fit is as good as possible which is comparable with the old soundpost.

Any inputs will be greatly appreciated. :)

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I have a question about soundpost wood quality, or character. Is it going to influence the tone of the violin, given that the fit and tension are more or less same?

Any inputs will be greatly appreciated. :)

No one?

Ok, I'm going to say that, no, the wood quality doesn't have an effect.

Now that I've said that, I will change my answer - yes, it does have an effect.

But the effect that the wood quality, by itself, has, is an exceedingly small percentage of the total performance effect, after the correct length, fit, and position have been accomplished.

The "plink" factor is probably 99.99+% imaginary. A post that you toss on the bench will sound better in the violin if it rings more when it is bounced around outside? Any tonal correlation will be incidental. Maybe and maybe not.

The wood I habitually use for sound posts is old, dense, close grained sitka, and it does have a nice ring or plink - but I have been reduced to using whatever wood happened to be on hand, plenty of times before, (including the original post) and if the fit and placement is correct - there were simply no problems.

With fit and tension issues, saying that they are "more or less the same" is like an admission that they are "totally different".

After changing the post position to what you consider correct, give the violin a week or so to get used to the new post before forming an opinion to change things around again.

Do not do any real soundpost work with the violin strung up to playing tension. (not to damage the inside top plate)

Try to be realistic about what you are hearing, and do not expect a Chinese student violin to suddenly become Il cannone by virtue of a soundpost "correction".

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Thank you CT for your support everytime,

I'm trying to eliminate unwanted actions, and I've learned to not do anything anymore to my violin, ask questions and patiently wait for answers.

I've always been realistic about my violin, at least I tried hard to be. Now it's close to 90% about how my violin sounded during its best a little more than 1 year ago. I never wanted my violin to be better than how it was, but the closer the better. I also keep track from time to time on how my violin sounded by doing recording, so at least I'm able to form an objective opinion by comparing the recording done in the same place, with the same device.

Yes, you just hit right onto my forehead, more or less the same simply means totally different! It's never a 100% fit, but very close. I've read about soundpost fit on many past topics, and I really wanted to have a perfect fit soundpost for my violin. Unfortunately, none of my local luthier are aware of it, worse, they aren't even bothered about it. Strange thing is, when my violin was on its best, the soundpost isn't 100% fit either...

Current soundpost position has been set about 3 weeks ago. The tone now is leaning a little towards "too gentle" side, a little lacking in the core of the bass side. Compared to where the old post was, the current soundpost is a little more behind the bridge feet, about 0.5mm. The post is not quite vertical viewed from the ff hole, and that's what gives the best fit as it seems.

Going to reach other luthiers and ask if they have any concern about this matter, it's not just "the fit is almost perfect and should give you very good result" and hand the violin back to me.

PS: I started this topic also because I have another doubt about the sound, is that my bow was also rehaired but my luthier did not follow how the bow was - now the hair is less than it used to be, and not the same type of hair (mongolian). Too many things happened at the same time so I'm very confused.

Sorry for all the irritating questions asked here on MNet... :(

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The question of the the post's wood quality have been discussed here in old threads. The most accepted idea is that the wood quality of the post is not all that important and that the most important issue is its position, "pressure" and proper fitting.

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Current soundpost position has been set about 3 weeks ago. The tone now is leaning a little towards "too gentle" side, a little lacking in the core of the bass side. Compared to where the old post was, the current soundpost is a little more behind the bridge feet, about 0.5mm. The post is not quite vertical viewed from the ff hole, and that's what gives the best fit as it seems.

Sorry for all the irritating questions asked here on MNet... :(

No irritating questions from you Casey, they are always good questions, especially from a players perspective.

I am answerting them as if you were interested in learning how to tinker around with this variable yourself.

Having the post further behind the bridge - meaning further towards the tailpiece, (right?) usually means a softer tone. Closer means brighter, and perhaps a slightly "stiffer" response - requiring a bit more leaning on the bow to get the same tonal colors, but with a bit more bite.

According to tradition, (in some circles)

the more towards the treble side the post is, opening up the bass side, the better the bass response,

The more towards the bass side the post is, the more treble response you will get.

but these directions are so "iffy" that it is hard to say that they are reliable in every or even in most cases. Using a "standard" starting position is usually your best bet. (which, for me, a standard starting point has the center of the post centered on the leg of the bridge, the thickness of the top behind the bridge. Though, many players prefer the post a bit further behind, wanting a more of softness to the tone, only players that require being heard like the post that close to the bridge - it's not unususl to find that players like to play, but not to really *stand out*)

Tilted posts are another thing that can work or not. Mostly mine wind up fitting vertical, and having the ends cut for it so that sitting at an angle, the ends don't fit like I like them to.

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Thanks Manfio,

I've been reading lots of old threads, but couldn't form a clear conclusion. Now with responese from you guys here, I have a clearer idea - soundpost density will have impact on the sound, but maybe only 0.01% if 2 posts aren't terribly different in sound they produced when dropped on hard surface. So unless the post isn't far away from the normal range, they usually don't make much difference, if any, at all.

Thanks again to all!

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No irritating questions from you Casey, they are always good questions, especially from a players perspective.

I am answerting them as if you were interested in learning how to tinker around with this variable yourself.

I'm happy to hear that, though I have a clear idea on what kind of person I was. I've always bother luthiers around seeking for help, and I know how irritating I was for them. :(

At once time when my violin was at its best, I'm so happy that I don't need to bother anyone to tinker with the violin, for a year or so. Now that the sound isn't satisfying to me, hence my restless seeks for help...

I do adjust my soundpost, but I'm very carefull with it. Anything feel tight, I'll stop trying to jam things around. And I loosen the strings everytime, although I've read that people like M. Darnton adjusting soundpost with full string tension (if I'm reading it correctly) by squeezing the C bout a little to relieve the tension and to let the soundpost slide around, but that's when the soundpost has a perfect fit. I don't dare to do that, though.

Having the post further behind the bridge - meaning further towards the tailpiece, (right?) usually means a softer tone. Closer means brighter, and perhaps a slightly "stiffer" response - requiring a bit more leaning on the bow to get the same tonal colors, but with a bit more bite.

According to tradition, (in some circles)

the more towards the treble side the post is, opening up the bass side, the better the bass response,

The more towards the bass side the post is, the more treble response you will get.

Thanks for that, and I'm reading the same thing in the past topics. Moving towards the bass for more bass doesn't seems to sound right as what's available on the net though.

Yes you're right, now the post is a little towards the tailpiece (south). But then, it's only the top part due to the tilted post, and the bottom part seems to be the same as the old position. And also the top part seems to be a little further inside (closer to bass side) too, compared to the old position.

I think I'll bite the bullet and move the soundpost a little to the north, and every so slightly to the treble side and see if things improve.

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The first thing one has to know what is the best quality of the wood of the sound post.

I do not know.

Fortunately I never have to be worried about that. I buy the best in the market. If it looks good I trust it.

If you get the sound post stick from a good luthier suppy shop, all I have to do is to do a good job to cut a sound

post to fit. I have done a few time. I do not remember if the sound were better or worst.

All my posts work quite alright for me. I notce professional jobs are better (in look).

Caution: You may practice your skill in a cheap violin. If you have an expensive violin, by all mean to have it done

by a professional. An unexperiened person works in putting a post in a violin requires many trials. The top plate which is made

out of spruce may be easily damaged by forcing the post in position. where you may not notice damage.

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Hi again all,

I have a question about soundpost wood quality, or character. Is it going to influence the tone of the violin, given that the fit and tension are more or less same? I've done quite some readings on past topics here on maestronet (googled using "site:www.maestronet.com" after the keywords), scientific test resulted the soundpost has nothing to do with the result, and quite a few folks here mentioned fit/tension is more important. At the same time, some folks proves otherwise with their experiences that wood quality/character will influence the sound.

So, after my violin settled down with the latest adjustment, I thought I got the sound I want but still after comparing the older recordings of my violin, it lack of a layer of sheen, and volume. But the feel, response, and control seems to be highly similar as when everything was good.

I have another soundpost cut from the same wood as the one inside my violin, it was too short so the luthier cut another one. I compared the soundpost by dropping them on hard surface and the new one gave so-so "click" sound but the older soundpost gave this wonderful "ting" and generally a louder and more resonating sound, with a much more "forward" feel.

I wonder if the comparison associate with the sound I'm getting now? I remember with the old soundpost it always sound bright and shiny no matter where the luthier adjusted, though with the right fit/tension/position, it retained the same sheen but added the thick, warm and smooth layer of sound underneath. With the new one, I can get that thick warm and smooth character (like now, which I'm quite satisfied), but that sheen never appeared no matter how I adjust it and make sure the fit is as good as possible which is comparable with the old soundpost.

Any inputs will be greatly appreciated. :)

The new soundpost I made for Paganini's 'Cannon'(a new post was sorely needed) was made with the three criteria you mention fit/tension/position. If I did anything else it was to look for good quality, straight unblemished spruce, for a violin post about 6-7 rings in the finished post with a diameter between 6.2 and 6.3 mm (usually leftover spruce from making and repair; seasoned but not excessively old). I don't buy the ready made posts that are available but split them out individually and plane them round against my bench. It's incredible how far off the grain the prefabricated soundpost sticks can be.

Bruce

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Casey, I want you to take your soundpost (the new one that is too short) and place a knife on one end, perpendicular to the annual rings, the other end resting on your bench and split the soundpost and see how true it is to being parallel to the wood fibers. Feel free to say no thanks by the way.

I have notice that split pieces of wood have a plinkier sound to them than if not well split, similar to the way your soundposts sound differently, maybe? I think well split is good. If you had a choice of split or not what would you choose?

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Fellow - Thanks for the advice!

Bruce - What a great opportunity to fit a soundpost for a legendary instrument! After examine my old and new soundpost again, it seems that the old soundpost has about 7 grains while the new one has more, about 8~9 I think. Using my hand to feel the wood, seems like the older one was made from left overs, not a perfect round cylinder, and I can feel the tiny fibres; the new one looks pretty perfectly round, and very smooth surface. The luthier actually gave me the leftover soundpost dowel, which I think was prefabricated.

Don - I think I'll keep the older post for future reference, at least it's a good reference of the length to avoid more trials and errors. I'll try to see if the new post wood is a well splitted one. But as you mentioned, along with my above further examination, my older post most likely made from well splitted wood while the commercial dowel wasn't.

Some update, I've moved the soundpost to where I believe the old position was, on the top part. Due to the tilted post, the bottom part is far off the old position. In fact, the older post was tilted too, maybe towards south, while the new one is opposite. Despite the big difference on the bottom post position (old vs current), the sound is now closer to what I'm expecting - tighter highs, and more lows. While the sound under ear hasn't change much, but felt smoother, and sound projected noticeably much better than before. Hopefully it'll get better after a week or 2, instead of getting worse. :D

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Some update, I've moved the soundpost to where I believe the old position was, on the top part. Due to the tilted post, the bottom part is far off the old position. In fact, the older post was tilted too, maybe towards south, while the new one is opposite. Despite the big difference on the bottom post position (old vs current), the sound is now closer to what I'm expecting - tighter highs, and more lows. While the sound under ear hasn't change much, but felt smoother, and sound projected noticeably much better than before. Hopefully it'll get better after a week or 2, instead of getting worse. :D

Uh oh! Now you're hooked Casey. You can just go around with your soundpost setter in your pocket!!! :lol:

Bruce

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I never move a good soundpost that responds well from an old violin. I do use the best premade sticks when I have to change a post. It takes some settling time and adjustment to get it right.

My main violin is an old Italian that was resotred by one the best violin makers and repairers also one of the best and respected musicians I have ever known in Louisiana, (a rare combination).) The work was done some 40 years ago and the the sound was and is great. Only he could have achieved this. I would never think of removing or moving his original post as I know that the violin could never have the sound quality that he was able to bring out from the instrument. He is no longer with us and the sound could never be reproduced by anyone else. If you were happy with the sound of your violin, perhaps you should have left the original post in place.

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It was a long story, I actually started quite some topics here since a year ago.

How I wished my violin stayed the same until now. It changed to the worse, and many things done to bring back the good sound. It was a new violin, and I'm the first owner. Some part of the violin still moving and settling in. I'm still going through a process to know my violin more...

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I never move a good soundpost that responds well from an old violin. I do use the best premade sticks when I have to change a post. It takes some settling time and adjustment to get it right.

My main violin is an old Italian that was resotred by one the best violin makers and repairers also one of the best and respected musicians I have ever known in Louisiana, (a rare combination).) The work was done some 40 years ago and the the sound was and is great. Only he could have achieved this. I would never think of removing or moving his original post as I know that the violin could never have the sound quality that he was able to bring out from the instrument. He is no longer with us and the sound could never be reproduced by anyone else. If you were happy with the sound of your violin, perhaps you should have left the original post in place.

I do understand this.

Still, on the opposite end of this particular spectrum, there are people who are expected to (and who do) perform this operation to the degree of "perfection" you are talking about, on a regular basis; and they cannot be afraid to move an existing post from its current position, for fear of never recapturing the "perfect old spot" again, or, to set one back up that has fallen.

It's not quite the magical, one time only feat, that some players seem to fear that it is, and in fact, when I get someone who thinks this is the case, (and every once in a while i do get them) and who will not come back to Earth, I usually won't mess with the post (I'll send them to Albuquerque) - even if it needs adjustment, because, even if you don't touch anything and hand the violin back, asking if the new spot is ok, you're likely to get the answer that no, it's nothing like it should be.

There is no magic involved.

I will admit that it was some years before I didn't dread having to replace an old soundpost with a new one, but after you have carefully considered the problem and performed the task so many times it is no longer a mystery. You cannot get there from here without a lot of practice. That's not the same as saying that you can't get there.

Casey, if you care to, PM me - I have something I think you'll be very interested in.

ct

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It was a long story, I actually started quite some topics here since a year ago.

How I wished my violin stayed the same until now. It changed to the worse, and many things done to bring back the good sound. It was a new violin, and I'm the first owner. Some part of the violin still moving and settling in. I'm still going through a process to know my violin more...

Casey, what is really changing; you, the violin or both?

Bruce

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There is no magic involved.

I will admit that it was some years before I didn't dread having to replace an old soundpost with a new one, but after you have carefully considered the problem and performed the task so many times it is no longer a mystery. You cannot get there from here without a lot of practice. That's not the same as saying that you can't get there.

Casey, if you care to, PM me - I have something I think you'll be very interested in.

ct

I think it's what I'm going through, too. I was really afraid to make any tiny movements on any part of the violin. I actually thought that it's not the real solution to maintain a good sound of the violin, what if any major operation need to be done to the violin? Am I going to be doomed? Afterall, after a lot of inputs and observation, I began to realize that it IS possible to get the good old sound back, though it will not be 100% the same due to different piece of wood ala soundpost and bridge, as well as playing in period resulting a tighter sound. I began to understand what my violin need and what going to work, and what won't.

Thanks for your offer Craig, awaiting your PM reply. :D

Casey, what is really changing; you, the violin or both?

Bruce

The violin, for sure. Me? Probably, but I'm really not too sure...

I always ask my friend to play the violin for me from time to time by the same person, at the same place, and that's how I discovered the violin became worse. Along with that, I have a habit of recording my playing often as well. So with both together, at least objectively I knew something was wrong with my violin. :o

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Does any one know the fail- strengh of a sound post? seems to me it could be quite high. I'm thinking maybe 100# or so. for a split post.

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Thanks for your offer Craig, awaiting your PM reply. :D

Very well, I will let you know what the exact particulars are tomorrow via a PM then, ok?.

Right now, it's the middle of th night - everything's closed.

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Material may have some to do with it, but not a lot. This is best demonstrated by using other types of material. For example if you put a hardwood dowel in, you can notice a difference, or plastic or a metal tube {not easy, need hemo's} etc. But Once you get into standard sized softwood dowels, its pretty hard to notice any difference. I make my post's from my scrap from my tops, that way know what I'm dealing with, sound quality wise.

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jezzupe - Thanks for your inputs!

jones - No idea on that, sorry...

Some updates:

So it's been a little more than a week since the latest adjustment. The bass response is much better now, much richer. However, while I like it quite a lot better than any of the previous adjustments, I still find it has the same problem that the sound is lacking in focus, or a solid feeling to it, or what I put it like my above post - it's still a little too gentle. Perhaps "a little" too gentle here, to me, is quite a lot of difference, the sound ain't cutting, or lacking quite a bit of sparkle.

I begin to realize that no matter where I put the post, it'll give me the same kind of the gentle-ness to the sound. Unlike what I experienced before with the old post, when the luthier make adjustments, I always experience lots of sparkle but lacking in warmth and bass. When the setting just clicked, it'll sound very smooth while retaining that sparkle and brilliance.

If I narrow it down the possibilities, it could be the tilted post that's giving problem. I try not to include the possibility of the soundpost material affecting the result but then I more I compare both old and new soundpost the more I think I should try to have the luthier cut another soundpost for me. The new soundpost not just lacking in the "plink" with the cutting brilliance and sparkle like the old one do, it's also muted as if the wood contain more moist and dampen the sound while the old one sounds like it's dryer, or free to vibrate more.

So before I make any changes, I have more questions to ask and hopefully getting some inputs as well:

1. Will a tighter tension of the soundpost give more edge to the sound? I'm thinking of moving just the bottom part of the post and see if things will be better.

2. Is the position bottom part of the post affect the sound? Although it could be closely related to the above question - moving just the bottom part of the post is going to change the tension rather than the position that's affecting the sound.

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Don't know about wood quality but as it was discussed on another thread, not long ago, about bridges that after some years of use lost its resonance (became death) due to the string tension pressing the wood, I imagine on soundposts there must be the same, and the sound would benefit from a new soundpost from time to time.

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Don't know about wood quality but as it was discussed on another thread, not long ago, about bridges that after some years of use lost its resonance (became death) due to the string tension pressing the wood, I imagine on soundposts there must be the same, and the sound would benefit from a new soundpost from time to time.

Hi bcncello,

Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause, such as tension pressing on the wood. If that were the case wouldn't instruments have died a long time ago due to tension? I have customers who have used even 40 year old bridges. It is my experience that soundposts become too short because the instrument very slowly (imperceptibly) moves and changes shape and the soundpost that was good some years ago is no longer suitable.

Bruce

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Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause, such as tension pressing on the wood. If that were the case wouldn't instruments have died a long time ago due to tension?

That's a good point, thanks Bruce :)

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Thanks for the extra inputs. :)

By the way, I search MNet about soundpost tension and I found an older post (by Oded if I'm not wrong) that tapping the area above the ff hole beside fingerboard, as well as below ff hole beside tailpiece, will hint if the soundpost is too tight/loose. After doing the test, apparently my soundpost was slightly too tight and maybe that's why it restrain the vibration being freed.

I back off the bottom of the post, which will keep the top unchange, and the sound begin to open up more, with noticeably more power and sparkle. I'm not sure if it's a temporary effect but so far after a few hours of settling in as well as some playing in, seems to retain this sparkle and openness.

At the same time, as a player (and owner) of the violin, I also get to experience the before and after effect to the bow response, and it indeed make a difference.

There're so much to learn! :D

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