Violin Setup

March 25, 2016

It`s in the setup!

The problem with most student grade violins is not the quality so much as the improper or complete lack of setup. It is important to understand the value of a good setup.

Many buyers believe that setup, simply means having the bridge inserted under the strings and the violin tuned. This is not the case. Most violins sold online as setup or shop adjusted in fact do not have the bridge installed. This should be part of the setup, however, it is only a minor part.

For a first time violin shopper, it is good to use something you are familiar with for an example. Let’s use an automobile.

Let’s say you buy your new car without air in the tires. This is minor thing to fix, however it makes the car nearly impossible to drive and absolutely unsafe. Now, what if you do not have an air pump to bring the tires up to the correct air pressure?

Applied to violins….

If you receive your violin without the tuning pegs fit correctly, the violin is not going to stay in tune. The pegs will slip loose allowing the strings to loosen. Pegs need good solid wood to wood contact to work properly.

Without the proper tools, you will not be able to fix the violin. A trip to the local shop will have you spending anywhere from $5 (rarely this cheap), to $50 (high-end violin shop) per peg to correct the problem. Multiple that by 4 and you have a $20-$200 bill just for the pegs. This is a relatively simple job, however, it is quite time consuming.

Reshape Bridge: $10-$50 (not including new bridge if needed).

Let’s run through some basic steps involved in setting up a violin.


1. Fit Pegs. 
2. Lubricate pegs. 
3. Plane Fingerboard (if needed). 
4. Shape Nut. 
5. Lubricate Nut. 
6. Adjust tailpiece. 
7. Fit Bridge 
8. Adjust Soundpost

From here we can either keep going, or go ahead and try the violin to see the end result. Additional steps that would be taken on better violins include:

9. Tune Bridge 10. Check Saddle height 11. Change the strings 12. Continue with various combinations of bridge, sound post, string variation to achieve the optimum tone.

These steps do not include the basic inspection where minor problems are taken care of.

Setup and quality are not the same. All violins need to be setup regardless of the instrument’s quality. It is more common for the high-end instruments to be setup when purchased. This has led to the thought that “those cheap instruments purchased on the internet are unplayable”. This is not the instrument itself, but the seller, not setting it up correctly.

What does this mean for you the buyer? 
Well… you have your work cut out for you. Not only do you have to decide on a brand and model, you also have to decide where to purchase the instrument. This can not be done by price alone. In fact, it is almost certain that those sellers with the lowest prices are not setting up the violin. On the other side of the coin, spending more money on a higher model normally gets you a better quality instrument, but not always a better setup.

If you are capable of setting up the violin yourself, or plan to have someone else do it, then and only then is it ok to shop by price. Otherwise, factor in the additional work that needs to be done and ask sellers questions before making a purchase. Saving $20-$50 dollars now may cost you much more down the road.

We do a setup on every violin we sell (unless specifically sold without a setup). We hope you will consider Folkmusican for your next violin purchase.

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