How To Set Up A Violin/Fiddle


All new stringed instruments must undergo some degree of further adjustment and preparation to ready them for optimum playability. Most classically inclined instruments, for example violins, cellos and double basses, require a proper set up in order to avoid future complications such as intonation issues and tuning instability.

It is a fairly simple process to go about, but if done incorrectly will prevent your instrument from playing at it's best and in some cases can be detrimental to both it's sound and materials. Following a few short steps, here is how to go about preparing your new violin for play:

1. Position the Bridge

The bridge, a small, thin piece of light coloured wood, often comes wrapped in paper and tucked under the tailpiece. This is used to seat the strings in place at a suitable height above the fingerboard.

Placing it with the taller side underneath the thickest string (G) and the shorter side side underneath the thinnest string (E), aim the feet so that they are flush with surface of the body and inline with the notches of each f-hole (located either side of the front of the violin body).

In the event that the bridge slips over, it can help to add a slight lean towards the tailpiece, to compensate for string tension pulling the bridge out of place.

2. Tighten the Strings

With the bridge in place, position the strings in their correlating slots in the wood. Tightening each string will pull the bridge in it's direction, so it is often useful to start with the two outer strings (G,E), so that there is equal pressure on either side. To tighten the strings, turn the relevant top tuning peg upwards, whilst simultaneously pressing inwards.

These traditional style tuning pegs function on the basis of friction holding them in place, so if it happens that your tuning peg comes loose, falling down in pitch, simply use more pressure until it sticks firmly at tension. Use this method to raise the pitch of each string up to or just under the desired pitches (GDAE), and you can then move to the next step.

3. Fine Tune to Pitch

The fine tuners are found as small black knobs secured at the top of the tailpiece, at the base of each string. These are used for small modifications in pitch, as they provide a more accurate and stable adjustment ability. Gradually twist each knob (right = up in pitch, left = down in pitch) to attain the desired note, it can also help to slightly tug at different points on the string to stretch it into holding it's tension.

You may find that with a new instrument the strings will slip out of tune over time, the solution being to just give the instrument a quick tune up to pitch every time before play.   

4. Rosin the Bow

The bow comes with it's horse hairs loosened, and can be tightened via the knob on the bottom of the handle. It should be tightened to the point where your pinky can slide between the hairs and the wood, with the hairs lightly touching your finger, but the wood should still have a curve to it.

After scratching the rosin surface with a coin or key to produce powder, run the bow hairs up and down along it. There should be enough powder on the bow so that when rubbed on the back of your hand, a light white blotch is left, if there is no mark it needs more rosin, if there are chunks of powder it is too much. Once finished your violin is ready to play!

Here at Melbourne Music Centre, we fully set up every stringed instrument, in store and postage, to ensure you receive a properly functioning instrument!