The eBay Super-Bargain Violin


DISCLAIMER:  I have had no instruction in violin setup.  Any success I may have had was due mostly to dumb luck.  I do not promise that doing as I did will work for you.  If you want your violin to "be all that it can be", I strongly suggest you pay a professional to set it up properly.

THE BRIDGE -- That little, unassuming slice of unfinished wood that means so much

Well, it looks completely unprepared; no notches to indicate where the strings go, no apparent attempts to custom-shape it.  But it's definitely a bridge!

Bridge preparation

A real violin professional (luthier?) would do some shaping and notching of the bridge before installing it, but I have no idea how to do this.  Since this is an experiment to see if I can set it up without help, as I received it, and since I haven't a clue how to do this, I'll just skip this step ...

Next question:  Which way should it go???

Looking at my three real violins, set up by real professionals, I noticed that the higher arched side of the bridge went under the big strings (G and D).  Another professional also told me that the flatter side (see the profile shot) goes on the bottom, closest to the tailpiece.  In the case of this bridge, the two instructions worked together -- by putting the higher arched side under the big strings, the flatter side was to the bottom.

Fine, but WHERE should it go????

Again, relying upon observation and advice from a professional on a discussion group to which I belong, I chose to place it near the center of the "f" holes, by the notches that appear there.


This shot shows several things of interest.  First, the incredibly cheap fine tuners.  Second, yes, Virginia, there IS a sound post!  (the stick visible through the f hole near the notch)  Third, the notch near the center of the f hole with which I intend to align the feet of the bridge.

  Sliding the bridge under the strings (after pulling them out from behind the bottom of the fingerboard), I set it flat under the strings, its feet in the right spot just above the f hole notches, its head toward the top of the instrument.  I then verrrry carefully tilted it upright under the strings.  I may (my memory is a bit foggy on this step) have tightened the strings just a tiny bit to hold it up.


Above is a straight-on shot of the bridge after I raised it, "fiddled" (sorry about that!) with its position to center it, then did my best to evenly space the strings.  Below is an angled shot from below of the bridge I took at the same time.  The different color is just due to the lighting -- honest!

In absence of guide notches, I just did my best to space the strings evenly.  At that point, I wasn't sure whether professionals actually cut guide notches (they do), or if the strings simply made dents that I mistook for guide notches.  I've also learned that professionals shape the bridge so that the "drop off" from one string to the next is the same.  The always-helpful and knowledgeable STEVE PERRY suggested the following test:
  1. Insert a nice flat business card over the two outer strings (G and E), but under the two middle strings (D and A).  
  2. Set another business card on top of the middle (D and A) strings.
If  the bridge has been shaped properly, the two business cards should sit parallel to each other.  Not surprisingly, my new violin failed this test.


Above, on my new violin, the two business cards are not parallel; they are noticeably closer together on the right than the left.  For comparison, on my professionally set up old violin (below) the cards sit nearly perfectly parallel.