Setting up the instrument
A very important step towards good sound is the setup, which is the last step of the making process of a string instrument. During this step, many things happen: the bridge is cut and adjusted according to the instrument and the circumstances, the tuning board is positioned and adjusted, the pegs are fit into the tuning board, the fingerboard is adjusted, the violin nuts are cut to size and the neck or rather the back of the neck is touched up. Each of these steps requires a lot of experience and patience. The setup is crucial for the playability of the instrument – every musician has different hands, habits and their very own expectations.
In regards to acoustics, a lot is determined during this step. There is plenty of potential in every direction that shouldn’t be underestimated! The materials which are used (such as the quality of the bridge’s wood but also the choice of pin or tailpiece) are not the only thing to have an obvious influence on the instrument’s vibration behaviour. The individual handling of the materials is also reflected and can clearly be heard in the sound of the instrument.
For this process, the same principles are true as for working with tone wood: there is no perfect pin, no perfect bridge and no perfect tailpiece. What is helpful for one instrument can be damaging for another. Muting and the individual necessity of it also play an important role here. Once an instrument has been glued together and varnished completely, there is hardly anything that can be changed about the fundamental acoustic quality. The only thing left is some leeway during setup, which is a process that should not be underestimated. As mentioned before when talking about varnishing, a good basis (which in this case means the varnished instrument) is absolutely necessary. Otherwise even the most elaborate handiwork during setup won’t be of any use.
As with the tuning of a race car, there is a lot of potential to be uncovered during setup – or lack thereof. An efficient base is a prerequisite for good performance. A lot of things just have to be tried out; there is no way around it. Many factors during setup can be evaluated with the help of physical measurements and then be handled accordingly. What adds to all of this is the individual taste of the musician, who has to feel completely comfortable with the instrument.