The set-up on a violin is critical to how the instrument sounds and how it plays. And a poor set-up can actually damage a violin, such as sound post fitting too tightly can cause a crack in the top or back (and when that happens you’re looking at a serious repair).
Here’s something that surprises a lot of folks: If you do a good set-up on a violin and then put that instrument away for a number of years, you’ll likely need to redo at least some of the set-up. Why? Because wood is not a totally stable material, and over time the fittings (such as the bridge, soundpost and pegs) will change dimension and no longer fit properly. Therefore, if you have an old violin in the family, we don’t recommend setting it up unless someone plans to actively play it. Store your instrument somewhere safe and away from temperature and humidity extremes and it will be just as well off. We recommend that you store the instrument with the soundpost down and bridge off. Important note: Do not play a violin if the soundpost is down! Read more about Violin Care on our FAQ page.
Here’s an outline of the steps we frequently take to put a violin in “fresh” playing condition. Not every violin will need all of these steps. For example, pegs don’t always have to be replaced; the existing pegs can be refit until there’s not enough wood left to work with. Soundposts are sometimes simply adjusted, not replaced. Some violins will need more. It’s common to have to reglue open seams, replace the tailgut, and possibly even fill and redrill the holes in the pegbox when they become oversized due to repeated refitting.