Set Ups

Correctly setting up instruments is one of my specialities and an area of my work where I am especially comfortable and confident. I have a very good reputation for this work. For me, every element of instrument making is about the final sound produced therefore correctly setting up an instrument is critical.

In part I have Dietrich Kessler to thank for my passion for instrument set up, although it is certainly a natural talent of mine that has been honed with time.

Most of the musicians I work with come to me by word of mouth, having been referred by the many others I have helped in the past. Generally they simply say: 'I am not entirely satisfied with my violin/viol at the moment.' In most cases I don't know the instrument, but rather than asking them to play it I prefer to talk to the musician about the instrument and the problem first.


I interpret the vocabulary and the language they use to describe their problem with the instrument based on my experience – I might then ask them to play. I then look at the instrument in question and assess it on all its aspects. Usually when talking about an incorrect set up we're talking about the bridge, the sound post, tailpiece, strings and bass bar and the relationship between these elements and how they work together.

After my assessment I put forward a proposal of work required – perhaps replacing the bridge or the sound post for example – basically whatever needs to be done. Usually the musician is open to my suggestions and after the work is complete I tell them to take the instrument away and play it for four or five weeks really hard. If at the end of that time they feel it's better, then I am happy! But if not, I tell them to come back for just some tiny final adjustments. That final part of the setup can only be done with the musician.

In terms of describing this work, I describe it as like putting the instrument in focus for the musician.

To enable me in this work I have an extraordinary range and style of bridges so that I will always have the one I need for whichever instrument that comes to me! I understand that the quality of the wood used has to be of the highest order, and that the quality of materials used throughout instrument making and set up is so vital to the quality of the final sound so I never skimp on the materials I use.

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