Jim Clinton Violins Greenville, SC



Instrument Setup



All too often when you buy a new instrument it is setup to some common standard to fit most players most of the time.  Our passion for instruments does not let us just get by.  Every instrument that leaves Jim Clinton Violins is setup with the musician in mind.  Here is what we mean:

The Setup as (unfortunately) it usually is:
Instrument manufacturers offer their factory setup to music stores and reputable violin shops. This makes it easy for a store or a violin shop to have a large volume rental program without the intensive labor necessary in setting up hundreds, if not thousands of instruments. This significantly saves money and time, a necessity in a highly competitive rental market. Even though setups are offered as a selling point to the end user, they are often irregular, incomplete, mass produced setups done quickly with the bottom line price point as the primary function of this work, or they are cookie cutter setups meeting MENC or some other specifications designed rather to keep the instrument from coming back to the store for buzzing (resulting in being difficult to play). Hardly ever does a setup performed outside the local workshop and without consultation effectively meet an individual’s needs. It is important for the workshop technician to discuss with you your needs in order to complete your instrument setup. We welcome suggestions and preferences from you and your teacher.

Jim Clinton Violins has chosen to set in motion a new direction. We have chosen to stay small, avoid corner-cutting methodology, and put in the time necessary to provide an excellent musical experience for new as well as advanced musicians. The advantage of professional grade craftsmanship is now available to the new musician.

Many years of instrument setup research, an ongoing pursuit at Jim Clinton Violins, has made it possible for the musician to benefit.

The Setup as it should be:
A 14 task Setup couples the JCV Passion for Instruments with the musician’s Performance of a lifetime. The following description is a procedure simplification requiring up to 12 hours of detailed workmanship on a violin.

This is a basic setup applied to all instruments either before or at the time of purchase. Additional tap tuning, tonal and parts adjustments may be applied based on the requirements of the musician and his instrument.

Every adjustment performed on an instrument influences its tone and playability.

Performed on all Jim Clinton Violins instruments are the following Setup inspections and adjustments:

-Analysis & performance testing with a musician consultation
A conversation with the musician may be as simple as a few questions about his musical intentions, ensemble or solo use, tonal preferences, musical style, acoustic environment, and the innate realities of the musician’s instrument.

-Neck angle
Neck angle is foundational to correct feel and ease of play. Correct neck angle provides the ability for the technician to make appropriate adjustments, and provides the basis for the instrument’s ultimate tone, and power. Neck position must be correct before beginning a setup. Correcting the neck angle after doing the following procedures will require redoing all setup procedures.

The soundpost is initially set with the instrument’s removable parts disassembled in order to find the maximum tonal center of the instrument. Thickness, position, and proper fit of this hand made soundpost influences the instrument’s power, tone, and lifetime of the top and back.

Fittings are not merely accessories. Properly selected tuning pegs are made of a strong, dense wood, are easy to use, and accent the instrument’s appearance. Properly prepared and fitted pegs hold the string to pitch, are resistant to humidity changes, and are ergonomic during tuning. These pegs will give maximum life.

The fingerboard is a critical and complicated adjustment to the instrument. Carefully planed compound arcs on the fingerboard’s dense ebony is smoothed to a glassy finish and will stabilize pitch location, regulate string “feel” under the fingers, and clarify tone throughout the range of the fingerboard positions.

The nut is usually replaced with a new instrument setup. It is made of hard ebony and is painstakingly carved and fitted relative to the new fingerboard shape. The nut’s grooves are smooth and evenly spaced. It is fitted precisely to the instrument and fingerboard. This new nut influences string height feel and tonal focus. Strings will now last longer and deliver clearer tone.

-Neck thumb area
The neck’s lengthwise thumb area must be smooth and straight. It will be artistically graduated toward the neck heel and scroll ends of the thumb area. Any varnish is removed to provide a non-sticking surface for ease of shifting technique. Proper thickness and “cam lobe” sectional shape assists the left hand in locating pitches and minimizes fatigue. Changing the thickness of a neck has tonal implications and must be taken into account before performing this task.       

The saddle provides for sensitive tonal adjustments that will be tailored to the characteristics of the instrument and the musician’s acoustic preferences.

All work must be neat, carefully fitted to the instrument’s lines and contours in order to remain intact and allow clean vibration of the tailpiece.

The bridge has the greatest impact on the tone and response a musician experiences while playing his instrument. JCV purchases only select grain and top quality maple tonewood bridges. These are individually selected based on the instrument’s needs. The hand carved bridge can be tuned to warm the tone, brighten it, even out the tone between strings, and increase or temper the projection of an instrument. String clearance is also set for correct feel and pitch stability. Much time is spent on a professional bridge while carving, installing, play testing, removing, and repeating this process. For a professional bridge this sequence is repeated until the instrument response is optimum. Simply buying a “premade” or factory setup bridge and installing it will result in poor tonal characteristics, damaged strings, and if improperly fitted will damage the instrument’s top.

-String Selection
String selection, a close second bridge carving has the greatest impact on the tone and power of an instrument. Selecting appropriate strings is not a matter of liking a particular brand and putting that brand on every instrument. Each instrument and its setup brings with it individual requirements. These necessitate an understanding of the tonal characteristics that a particular string, its weight, its winding, materials, and design bring to an instrument’s projection and tonal potential.

As previously stated: “fittings are not merely accessories”. The tailpiece vibrates with the string and delivers tone. The materials, weight, shape, length, and position between the bridge and saddle provides subtle and sometimes not so subtle influence on tone, response, and harmonics.

The tailchord is lightweight, strong, and flexible allowing the tailpiece to vibrate. Shifting the length and position of the tailchord makes significant fine tuning adjustments for tone, clarity, balance, and power.

-Performance test & final adjustments with musician feedback
Performance testing and final adjustments are the last step in a process similar to cheese tasting. The technician must maintain focus and lock in on a tonal reference point. The fine-tuning of these adjustments will bring the instrument to its full potential.  Additional subtle adjustments are available once the musician experiences his/her new setup. The musician and technician may now perform final tweaks together.

-Document the setup
Once the instrument setup is complete, many hours invested are protected when the instrument setup is documented. This service is recorded for professional instruments.  We record the dimensions, positions, pitches, and mass of the many parts adjusted on this instrument. This will serve as a reference should a mishap occur influencing this most sensitive aspect of the completed musical instrument’s tone.

This is all part of the passion that drives Jim Clinton Violins for the instruments we sell.  Please feel free to contact us by calling 864-322-2622

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