Why Does a Violin, Viola, Cello or Double Bass have to be Set-up?



All orchestral stringed instruments must be “Luthier set-up”. That means the critical elements which optimise tone and playability must be set up correctly. The quality of the set-up will have a huge bearing on how easy it is for the musician to play the instrument and create the desired tones.

We can arrange for European-trained luthier, Peter Horcin, to perform the set-up prior to shipment (or we may even have your model already set-up). Please go to LUTHIER SET-UP and select Violin, Viola, Cello or Double bass to include set-up with your purchase.

The WHY and WHAT about Instrument Set-up

We find most people are unaware that most factory-manufactured orchestral string instruments leave the factory in a semi-finished state. And many people have never even heard of a “Luthier”! In Europe, where orchestral music has predominated, Luthiers study the craft and science of instrument-making in universities and are very highly-regarded professionals.

So why is a pre-purchase “Set-up” necessary?

When a factory-made instrument leaves the factory, the finer aspects of the production have not been completed. The bridge will not have been properly finished, the tuning pegs may not turn easily and/or may slip, the sound post may require adjustment to achieve the best sound and the fingerboard may not be true. It is almost certain that the strings will be set too high for easy fingering and they may not be spaced correctly. (Even a virtuoso would have difficulty playing an instrument that is not properly set up, so what chance would a beginner – your son or daughter have!)

The key elements performed by the Luthier in the set-up process

–       The BOW is checked for straightness, tension and any faults.

–       The instrument is checked for any manufacturing defects and it may be necessary to correct any minor faults.

–       SOUND-POST: the position and length are critical to the tone and integral strength of the body.

–       END-PIN: This must fit snuggly and the taper may have to be adjusted.

–       TUNING PEGS/PEG-BOX: To enable the instrument to be tuned easily and to prevent slipping out of tune, the tapered peg and peg-box holes must be round and usually require trimming and reaming to the correct taper to achieve smooth operation.

–       NUT: String spacing and height are crucial to enable the musician to achieve correct fingering.

–       BRIDGE: This arrives semi-finished. The feet must be shaped to follow the contour of the body, the height must be within specification and the string spacing correct. Considerable trimming (thinning and re-shaping) of the bridge is required for optimum tone.

–       FINGER BOARD: This must be true to allow notes to be clean and free from any buzzing. Some fine trimming may be required.

–       Once all of these elements are correct, the Luthier will “Stand-up” the bridge, fit the strings and tune the instrument so that it can be checked for playability and tone and any necessary  fine-adjustments carried out.


If you are purchasing an instrument from us on our website and require us to perform the set-up, please go to LUTHIER SET-UP and select Violin, Viola, Cello or Double bass to include set-up with your purchase.