The violin has many different parts and pieces to make it function properly, some are absolutely necessary other’s are used for decorative purposes and some are just personal preference .Below is a list of those parts and their function. To better understand the importance of these parts and how they effect the sound quality of your instrument take at look at my other article about the Importance of a professional setup where I discuss in more detail about the various effects the setup can have on your instruments sound and play ability.
The bridge determines the height of the strings and the angle, it distributes the vibrations throughout the Violin body. The thickness and quality of the bridge will also make a noticeable difference in the quality of the sound and also add different colors to the sound…a violin with a thicker cut bridge will generally sound a tad darker or softer, where as a violin bridge cut thinner will sound brighter and louder (for the most part it depends on the violin) to thick and you will lose the sound projection and your sound will not carry very far form the violin, it may sound loud in your ear but to someone standing in the next room it will sound very weak, likewise a violin with a to thin violin bridge will sound to harsh and shrill and will weaken the bridge and always be in danger of breaking…there are different quality bridges that will also help with the clarity and projection, talk to your local luthier or repair man and tell him what sound you are looking for and ask his opinion on what he suggests for your violin to get the best sound.
FingerBoard And Nut
The finger board and neck angle will also determine the height of the bridge, if incorrectly shaped it will be very difficult to play and sometime’s even impossible, the fingerboard should always be made from ebony and fell comfortable to glide up and down it, the should be no groves it should be smooth, a experienced player can tell the difference between a correctly shaped fingerboard and a incorrect one, you should be able to look down the side of the bridge and see a hollow arch the middle should look slightly hollow or even straight with no high area’s. the fingerboard’s purpose is to make contact with your finger and string as you press down thus making a different note, if shaped wrong or if it has grooves that are to deep or is not smooth it is very very difficult to make a clear note and sound, and will be uncomfortable to play. the nut is placed just above the fingerboard and is raised slightly higher so as to give the strings the clearance needed to move freely down the fingerboard, the nut will have four grooves carved into it with a file and should make all four strings evenly spaced apart, and will also determine the height of strings at top of fingerboard if to high it can be painful or uncomfortable to press the strings in first position and will need to be lowered.
The pegs control the majority of the tuning of the violin, pegs for the most part are friction pegs, (some are planetary or geared pegs) so the fit of both the peg itself and the peg hole are very, very important if fit correctly you don’t really even need any fine tuner’s except for on the E string, when your pegs work correctly they will be easy to turn and stay when you release them, always tune down before tuning up (lower the tension/pitch before raising the pitch) as the peg can become a little stuck, so if you try and tune up before down it will be hard then as you add pressure it will suddenly become easy and if your not careful you will over tune it and break the string. to check and see if the pegs fit correctly you can loosen the tension and turn the peg if the pegs moves smoothly as you turn you with no “bumps” or you don’t feel the peg being pushed out on certain rotation’s then your peg fits correctly, if you feel it slightly push back against your fingers or can see it as you turn there is usually a problem with either the pegs shape or the peg hole (sometimes both) and will need to be corrected in order for it to work properly.
The sound post is a round “Stick” made from spruce and is cut to match the curve of the violin to gather as much of the vibration from the top plate and transfer to the bottom plate (top and back of instrument) it also helps to hold the pressure of the string applied to the bridge, usually strings will have about 45+ lbs of pressure, the sound post helps the instrument to hold this pressure and not collapse or cave in. The sound post has a big effect on the sound as well and can be placed in different position to acquire the desired sound, a experienced Luthier will often place a sound post inside the instrument and then play to listen to the sound, and make small adjustments and play again u and again until he feels he has acquired the desired position and sound quality.
Tail Piece and Fine tuners
The tail piece holds the strings in place at the bottom of the violin and also hold the fine tuning machine’s, position of the tail piece also has some effect on the sound not a large effect but noticeable to a trained ear. the tail piece is made from various hard woods and even composite materials such as A.B.S plastic or carbon fiber with fine tuner’s built into the tail piece rather then added after….In general these are all personal tastes and preferences some player’s love their wooden tail piece other insist on a composite tail piece but both serve the same function of being a anchor for the string’s and for fine tuning. the tail piece is connected to the violin using a “tail gut” a strong cord of fiber usually made from nylon or multi fiber thread, in earlier times they where made from actual animal gut hence the name “tail gut” this will connect to the violin endpin and rest on the violin saddle (the ebony piece under Chin Rest) the saddle will serves to keep the tail piece raised above the violin and seem to float.
The Chin Rest
The chin rest clamps onto to bottom of the violin and helps you to hold it, as the name implies you rest your chin on it, it comes in many different shapes and sizes and is made form many different materials, assorted hardwoods and composite materials, all personal preference and for the most part chosen for the comfort rather then the look of it, the chin rest allows you to hold the violin much easier and comfortably and saves the violin varnish from sweat and oils that would otherwise result with the contact of your chin on the violins surface.
the violin scroll had many different shapes and sizes sometime it is not a scroll at all but carved into a lion’s head or the head and face of a man or woman, the scroll not only expresses the skill and craftsmanship of the maker but also gives strength to the peg box and help’s to balance the violin. the shape is personal and for the most part dose not effect the violins play ability and is mostly for look’s, luthier’s put allot of time and effort into carving the scroll as it is one of the most identifying part’s of a violin and is very personal and displays the craftsman’s skill.
The “F Holes”
the F holes are located on each side of the violin top and are cut out of the spruce, they are both decorative and essential, this allows the sound to project out of the violin, it also lets you place the sound post inside and determines the bridge placement as swell.” F” holes cut incorrectly can damage the stability of the violin and will also have a detrimental effect on the sound. Named after the shape they are carved, they resemble a cursive “f”..the notches carved into the middle will determine where the bridge is placed, the bridge should be placed so the notch closest to the bridge’s feet is centered on that foot and centered onto the violin’s body.
the perfling on a violin is for decorative purposes and for structural purposes, it also show’s the skill of the maker, the perfling is made form many materials such as, maple sandwiched between to pieces of ebony or sometimes a black fiber is also used, mother of pearl, abalone shell and some others, and is carved into the top plate and the back plate along the edge of the violin, in some they will do a double perfling line and add a decorative design down the back of the instrument, on the low quality violin it will be painted onto the insturment. you should always choose a violin that has real carved perfling.
The violin has 4 strings tuned to G.D.A.E and are mainly made from 3 different materials, cat gut (made from actual cat intestines), synthetic core strings (nylon with a steel or silver winding) and steel core strings, gut strings are not used as much and they used to be,synthetic strings are the most popular strings and sound remarkably similar to gut, steel string are very popular for fiddle players and eastern music, steel strings will have a higher tension then the synthetic strings both are widely used today by professionals and beginners alike there are many advantages and some disadvantages that go along with each kind of strings but we will go further into that another time.
There are many more parts to the violin on the inside such as cleats, bass bar, corner block’s, neck blocks and the lining, ill go further into these and other’s in articles to come so check back often.