Purchasing a String Instrument-Playability and Set-Up

Article published at: Mar 12, 2023 Article author: cassandra thuneman
Purchasing a String Instrument-Playability and Set-Up
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Our Last Category for the Buyer is Playability and Set-Up

Just as the condition is important when pricing an instrument for the seller, The proper functioning of the parts and maintenance are essential when considering purchasing a string instrument.


Any instrument hanging on the seller's wall waiting for you to try must be correctly adjusted, tuned, and ready to play. Nobody wants to test drive a car that has to be jump-started.  “Set-up" on a violin is very important. Expect some minimum set-up standards on an inexpensive instrument. As a general rule, the pegs need to turn smoothly, stay in place, and work with fine-tuners. 
Strings are to the violin, viola, cello, and bass what the reed is to the oboe. They must be well made of good materials, properly matched, and suited to the instrument. Unraveling or false strings need to be replaced.

Nearly all bridges warp slightly in time with the pressure of the strings. An instrument will produce its best sound with a straight bridge. If the bridge feet do not fit, the bridge can be prone to falling over as well. The bridge also needs to have the correct height above the fingerboard. Too little and it will cause buzzing. Too much and it will be difficult to play. The arching on the top of the bridge must conform to the shape of the fingerboard so that the playing of two strings simultaneously is omitted. 


The fingerboard must be accurately planed with a slight concave along its length to prevent the strings from buzzing and so that every note can be played clearly. the nut (where the strings cross into the peg box) must be properly shaped, both for comfort and so the strings do not break.


Maintenance and Care:

Like most musical instruments, the violin requires occasional maintenance. You should expect a few broken strings from time to time, but if the same string breaks often, maybe something is out of adjustment. Has the upkeep of the instrument been done?

Because the instrument is made of wood and is held together with glue, it is very susceptible to heat and humidity changes. Are there open seams that need to be attended to?

Rosin is used on the bow to make it grip the strings. Dust from the rosin will collect on the fingerboard and top of the violin. If the rosin dust is not occasionally wiped off with a soft cloth it can build into a hard unsightly layer which will have to be professionally removed.