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Violin/bridge to tailpiece distance


Mr. Lashof- I have specs from al goldblatt's site mentioning the distance from the tailpiece to the bridge should be 54.5 mm for a 4/4 instrument. Should the measurement go from the bridge to the front face of the tailpiece or to the breakpoint on the saddles of the fine tuners? There's a 5-6mm difference between the front and saddle locations. Does it matter? On to a different subject now. Here's what happened to a cheap VSO I bought 3 1/2 months ago.  

1. bridge warped
2. "A" peg has more or less wore all the way through it's hole.
3. the nut rose up about a mm off the fingerboard but stayed glued to the fingerboard edge.
4. the soundpost was spotglued to the top and was installed backwards. I could tell from the installation tool mark that was on the post. The angles were 180 degrees out.
5. the tailgut threads stripped on one side and the tailpiece slammed down onto top. Fortunately they were plastic saddles vs metal. No damage done but the vso is unplayable until fixed.
6. speaking of saddles- the e string saddle broke 6 weeks ago. It couldn't handle the pressure of the fine tune adjustment screw.
I am mechanically/luthier inclined so getting this back together to play will be something to do on a rainy day but to others who aren't, be careful with your stringed instrument purchases.

Hi again
The 54.5 - 55 mm distance is an average and that is basically 1/6 of the vibrating string length from nut to bridge and the string pitch of the section from bridge to tailpiece is 2 octaves + 1/5. The standard strig length is 330 mm which comes out to 55 mm afterlength. When measured properly, the distance is from the back of the bridge by the strings to the tailpiece saddle (the free string distance). This makes sense when you also think of tuning the string behind the bridge. Obviously, the E string will be different because of the fine tuner and strings with windings may through off the pitch. This system is based really on plain gut strings that have no windings.  Because the windings through off the pitch, that is why we primarily use the 1/6 or 54.5-55 mm distance today. After setting up, sometimes we play around with the length by .5 to see if changing it can make things better.

As far as the cheap VSO's are concerned, This is what I have been saying for years and I still have to say it everyday on other forums when people ask me about some $100-200 violin they are considering to purchase off of Amazon or Ebay.  They just don't realize how bad these instruments can be and how awful most of the parts on them are. In the end, they will be spending a whole lot more on repairs than if they just bought a better instrument to begin with. You are lucky that you have a few extra skills that enable you to do some of the repairs yourself, saving you some extra expense.  The items you described would easily cost over $100 if the instrument was taken into a shop for repair, and this still doesn't take into account the usual bad quality strings, bow and basic construction of the instrument. In the end, people are much better off spending a little more and getting an instrument that is made properly and with quality parts. Thanks for bringing this subject up. It is good that people can hear the experience from the buyers, not just the sellers and repairman.


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David Lashof


I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)


I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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