David Beard

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    : Santa Barbara, California

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  1. David Beard

    Bridge position: What's most important?

    The octave frame of the first finger to the fourth finger, which also frames the fingers in each position and half position, is already changing and getting smaller with every half step we go up the string. So a player is used to adjusting these continually with each position change. The skills to change as needed to play in tune on instruments with slightly different string lengths falls within the skills needed to play on a standard length instrument. i know there are players who do want the exact standard length. But any player who is willing can easily adapt, almost instantly. I would suggest accommodating any player that wants the standard string length. But all else being equal, I would rather adapt the string to the instruments ideal set up (what the maker planned).
  2. David Beard

    William Fry Internal Scraping Method

    Yeah. It's a witchdoctor version of David's fake out sound post adjustments. But with the witchdoctor believing his own nonsense.
  3. David Beard

    Bridge position: What's most important?

    There are three competing notions here. One is the modern fixed string length measure. Second is the idea that the maker supposedly has thoughtfully marked the intended bridge position by the notches. Third is the very old notion that the bridge and body stop should make a 2 to 3 ratio. So what is 'right'? The modern fixed string measure is based on the idea of specific numeric standards. If your violin is 'standard' in evey respect, then the three approaches will end up matching. If they don't match, how do you decide? Partly that reflects biases and priorities. What is the body length? If it isn't close to standard full size or long full size I would then discount the standard stting length approach. Is the body less than 351mm? My bias is to strike a balance between three. And I prioritize 2/3 ratio, discount either of the other two if they are far off base.
  4. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    Hmm. I tend to think the extra mass on the back and the 'swing' of the back (to use Marchi's word) both matter. I think these help in the lower range when the player wants a driven or edged tone. At least these are my suspicions.
  5. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    A discussion of wood curl.
  6. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    If the part you're looking at is the extra mass/thickness for the back, then yes. Only in the cBout back arch. But I think there is the bit of extra thinning at a somewhat random spot as you travel out from channel bottom toward the main area of convex arching. That part of the 'smile' is visible as its own think in Amati and Stainer work. However, it might not have started until the Brothers. Does anyone have any examples of that thinning in Andrea?
  7. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    (Joking?) Yes it would be. But that isn't the idea that prevailed for the violin family. And the back idea we have, and its particular evolution in the hands of generations of Cremona making is strong enough. How many other structures have people made that have service lives exceeding 3 centuries? No need to focus and making it stronger.
  8. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    My vote is more that they only adjusted within the traditional patterns of choices. So not 'I'll make this curve how I feel like doing it today. I'm inspired.' But more like 'usually I make this bit 1/6th part of that bit. I'd like to try it smaller. This time I'll make it 1/8.' And the instrument is made in all its features be repeating or varying slightly a very large number of similarly specifc choice. With each individual choice very traditionally structured and limited in its range of options. Then, on completing the instrument, the maker observes what he likes more and less about results and features. Next time he will repeat most of the choices, but tinker with some. Always in the traditional structures and choice ranges. In this way, development is an evolution.
  9. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    The thickness directly at the lowest point of the channel is significant to me in terms of process. If we assume (not that everyone agrees) that the channels were cut early in the arching process, and before the interior was excavated, then the working process for Amatis and Strad, Guarneri, and Ruggieri families all end up looking quite very similar, despite the various differences in the final results. They all set the channel width as a part of the bout width, the edge and working edges heights as a part of the rib height, and the thickness at the bottom of the channel and the general plate diaphragm thickness as a ratio of edge height. Where the difference arise is in the specific choices of the ratios used, the placement of the channel bottom either mid channel or closer to the edge, and in the handling of the interior shape and plate thicknessing coming out of the channel to the main part of the arch, and in the handling of the extra mass/thickness for the back and how it does or doesn't connect out to the edges in the cBout area.
  10. David Beard

    The Universe Within

    He doesn't strike me as a liar. Colorful in language and imagery, yes. Also, oddly flat footed and pedantic. A strange combo. Obviously, anyone can make mistakes, but lying I do see in him. Rather an almost painful effort to make his case plainly and clearly by directly sharing the evidence visually. He says the varnish is original. And he points to more and less worn areas. Certainly there is a possibility of err, but purposeful misdirection seems very unlikely. Further, the varnish and finish is complex and texture in a way that looks very consistent with other classical instrument, and very inconsistent with most modern efforts. All in all, I'm very inclined to take what was shown essentially at face.
  11. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    I guess I don't read most of the Amati and Stainer cases quite the same way. What I tend to think I'm seeing in most of these instruments is a good thickness right at the bottom of the channel. But then as the channel rises from channel bottom, in the direction toward the plate center line, their work often gets momentarily oddly thin at some almost randomly located spot anywhere from just next to the channel bottom to somewhere further along as the curves begin to rise. My impression is that perhaps the interior and exterior curves were made at different times with different ideas in mind, and allowed to oddly interact, often leaving such thin spots. My guess is that either the interior or more like the exterior smoothing between channel/edge work was left to last, and completed with good regard to smoothness and neglect of thickness. Or perhaps this is evidence of purposeful thinning in these areas from the outside after closing, alla Andreas' proposals? ****** The one example where I think I see thinness actually under the channel bottom is for the back plate bass side where Don showed an Amati cBout compared to a DG. Of course much of what we see on such cBout cross sections comes simply from how much the maker runs the thickened area of extra back mass into the edges. My guess is that in this example we're seeing the same process described above, but carried out abnormally close to the edge, thus abnormally thinning that one channel bottom. How are you reading these same things?
  12. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    It seems that a couple people at least have suggested that at times Amati family work has the thickness under the bottom of the channel less than the general overall diaphragm thickness of the plate. This is actually outside of my own awareness. What instruments give examples of this? I would love to see what we're talking about.
  13. David Beard

    Cello sound - projection in concert hall

    I suspect Nathan and Baroquecello are on the right track. Low sounds are somewhat different than high sounds. For one, we are perhaps more acute at hearing the higher tones. For another, it takes MUCH more energy for a low tone to be heard as equally loud. And for a third, any tone is actually a stack of partials, and low tones present a much taller stack of partials before passing out of clear audibility. For warmth and sweetness in a small room, it probably helps if player and instrument direct more energy into the lower parts of the tone. For clarity of articulation, and for projection, the opposite is probably better. I don't imagine responsibility for this tonal balance falls entirely on any one of instrument, set up, or player.
  14. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    Substitutions that work for the painter don't automatically transfer to making semi-transparent or transparent violin finishes. The painter tends to actually prefer more opaque pigments. The use of the words Cinnabar and Vermilion gets confusing. Cinnabar more properly refers to the natural mineral, which has a very high refractive index (over 3) and can be relatively transparent. Vermilion more properly refers to pigments either made from Cinnabar, Cinnabar processed with sulfur, or man made versions synthesized directly from mercury and sulfur. These often are more opaque. Pigment ground from crystals of Cinnabar selected for better transparency would probably be the most suitable for violin work. Vermilion and Cinnabar were produced in ancient Rome, and ancient China. Even the new world prior to European contact shows use of the natural mineral (I don't know regarding Vermilion). These colors were of great importance around the world before the invention of modern pigments. The differences I've described would likely have been well understood by the general artisan community, and much more broadly than today. The traditional arts did not avoid toxic or hazardous materials. Though they did take precautions. We currently have swung to an opposite extreme. We tend to draw a bright line between 'toxic' and 'non-toxic'. But animals and people tend to have degrees of tolerance and intolerance for substances. Arsenic is highly toxic. Artisan's still used arsenic pigments, but with considerable caution. Lead and mercury are not toxic in the same way. Long term and excessive exposure should be avoided, but you won't just drop over dead from a small moment of accidental exposure, the way you would with arsenic. It's hard for us today to realize, but until very recent times both mercury and lead had fairly large places in daily life. Both were used in cosmetics. And both were used for thousands of years in close association with food. Vermilion was the colorant in traditional Asian red lacquer ware that was used to prepare and serve food. And lead of course played a big part in water supply for a long time. I'm not advocating ignoring the dangers. But we could stand to moderate our caution. The dangers presented by arsenic, mercury, and lead are not 'apples' to 'apples'. We should not treat them as equal since they in no way are. Hopefully the world will not get so hysterical as to start banning or destroying art works. Our museums are full of 'toxic' art. Due to the realities of modern markets, it's probably a bad idea for any modern maker to use any lead or mercury ingredients in their normal violin finishes. But for the occasional historically faithful project, there is no reason to be completely paranoid in handling these materials. Use the traditional artisan precautions. Don't touch your face, eyes, or mouth when working these materials. Keep particles from going airborne by working them only mixed in water or oil, or similar that will keep the particles captured. Clean yourself and your work space carefully. Dispose of scrape and waste carefully. Etc. With Vermilion or Cinnabar, be aware that pressure, from grinding or crushing or other, can 'bleed' out mercury. This released mercury is more dangerous than the pigment directly. Historically faithful work probably pulls on us to use lead even more than it does to use Cinnabar. Perhaps Strad frequently used Cinnabar, but overall it probably wasn't a constant ingredient in classical finish work. But the arts of the time very much favored using various lead treatments for linseed oil -- basically always.
  15. David Beard

    Stradivari's secret was a concept?

    ************************* Marty-- I think you're probably right that part of the effect of the plate shape at the edge is to stiffen the whole structure of the sides and ribs. Many details of the classical treatment of ribs/blocks/linings/edge seemed aimed a result that is very pliant to forces running parallel to the length and width of the plates, and very stiff to forces running at right angles to the plane of the plates. And while motion studies do show the corners and the whole structure of sides twisting and moving in many ways, still i think this stiffness of the sides to forces normal to the plane of the plate is beneficial to enhancing more independence of the plate and the sides for motions up and down in relation to the plane of the plates. And this relates both to motions of the plate as whole, and to the motion in modes the divide the plates into various 'patches' of up and down motion. Besides stiffing the side structure, this channel shape design also somewhat insulates the sides from the downward component of forces in the plate motion. Those forces will tend instead to flex the cantilevered wood of the channel. A good portion of the flexing energy should then return to the plate as kinetic motion as the plate flexes back. Some down force will of course still reach the sides structure, but its stiffness will again help a greater portion return back into plate. On the other hand, this same channel shaped edge design helps the outward components of force fully and directly travel to the side structure. As Gough's work shows, this may be a major contributor to coupling motions of the internal air of the violin to the driving motions of the strings by way of plate motions. (at least these are some of my guesses about the dynamics going on) Sorry Andreas, I wasn't trying to be accurate in scale of the forces. Just wanted to show some basic structural stuff. However, it is characteristic of arching that it converts a complete downward initialing thrust into a combination of downward and outward force. Just a consequence of the geometry. This means the bottom edge of any arch has to deal with forces pushing out (or in --example a hanging arch, or a violin back). Don injects an important caution that we must keep in mind when thinking about violin behavior. Part of this caution is based in the complications of physical size versus wave length when considering vibrating systems. Whenever we look at a particular frequency in relationship to a particular physical mode, there will be a specific physical wave length associated. If we then consider a this mode and frequency in a system whose lengths are much greater than the wave length, then we are looking a transmission behaviors. An example is waves from a surface disturbance traveling across a lake. The other extreme results in 'lumped' behavior. This happens when the physical system observed is small compared to the wave length. Thus a small wine cork on an ocean wave only experiences a small portion of the wave at a time, and the whole cork responds equally as a 'lump' to this immediate portion of the wave. Most small electric circuits are like this also, as they are very small compared to the physical wave length of the electricity, so the whole circuit responds in a 'lump'. The whole 'lump' of our cork moves up or down depending on where the wave is in its cycle. The third case is when the lengths of our systems are within a small number of multiples or fractions of the wave length. This is where most musically interesting vibrations happen. And where standing waves happen. So a string, an air body, or a wooden plate moving as a 'whole' in a constant back and forth stranding wave probably matches a whole or half wave length. Similarly, when a drum diaphragm, or wooden soundboard move in small standing wave 'patches', these again probably correspond to whole or half wavelengths. So one difficulty with drawings like I showed (or like Gough's) is that they show force dynamics for 'lump' behavior. But the instrument behavior is mostly of the 'standing waves' kind. These might be rather closely related, but still there will be differences. ************* Obviously, I'm pretty obsessed with uncovering the design ideas in old Cremona work. Part of that's about history, and seeing value directly in understanding their process. But I'm also drawn to the idea of their selection of 'control levers' for the work. And then hopefully going the further steps of observing in greater detail their conversation across the generations about how to make a good violin. In terms of their design methods, what things did the Brothers Amati keep from their father, what did they feel need continued evolution? Etc. All through the generations to late DG. Then there is an opportunity for some modern makers to resume that old conversation. To start making some instruments that pick up in the old choices, and continue to search and evolve within those same veins of work. So for me, the channel is one of those topics in the old conversation, one of the levers old makers manipulated. We can see that later generations keep using the basic methods and ideas, but mutated them a bit to create somewhat significantly different results. So that conversation of choices and changes is I think very interesting. And it seems that conversation was carried out in terms of edge work, channel width, channel bottom, and relation of the channel to the edge height. ******* So what can we say about the old choices in channel work? And about consequences perhaps? ********** Now one modern concern came up that a wide channel can be too dark. And then we had also very credible reports of the opposite, clean bright results associated with wide channels. So can we say nothing? As alluded to, different notions of 'dark' are at play. I think the 'problem dark' results from a too weak top plate which can happen if the channel is both wide and too thin at the bottom. Experimenting in this direction might easily be inspired by the 'speaker cone' idea, and thinking that the job of the channels is to make the centers of plates freer to move. But this direction is easily over done, to bad results. The classical channels are often enough quite wide, but not too thin. ********* I'm really not convinced of this. cBouts are where classical channels sometimes reduce to the merest traces. This is also where the extra thickness of the center back mass often runs all the way to the edges and obscures the normal plate diaphragm thickness under the channel, and where the soundholes cut through actually physically separating the edge and channel from the central arching. I think it quite possible that a good channel shape through the cBout area is not necessarily functionally significant, other than to provide enough strong wood at the edge to help stiffen the side structure. My suspicion is that channels are more functionally significant in the upper and lower bouts. (Not to say I won't keep making channels in my cBout work!) ******** Some more fast and loose observations on classical channel choices. It's seems important for the sides and blocking of the upper bout area to be stiff enough, but also important for the central arching in the upper bout to be free enough. All the generations seem to have consistently chosen generously wide channels in the upper bouts, and with a reasonable curvy depth to the channel bottoms and less tendency to move the channel bottom toward the edge. Strength running through the cBout seems to have been more significant than carefully shaped channel work. Here we often see the fairly clear channels of early generations often (but by no means always) give way to other concerns. Shaping around and through the soundholes, width of the bridge table, and directness to the edge are examples of things that at times might have been allowed to push against clear cBout channel work In the lower bouts, it seems to me that most makers, even late work, kept rather wide channels here. But you can observe a trend toward less substantial edges through the lower bouts, resulting in a kind of wide shallow and almost flattish channel. To me this suggests some interest in making the side structure actually in a way less stiff through the lower bouts, particularly from the widest part curving down toward the end block. ******* Notice how in the narrower cBout and upper Bout areas, a wider channel choice significantly reduces the distance available for the cross arching to rise to full height, so I a wider channel rather directly leads to a curvy arching. But the much greater width of the lower bout reduces this impact considerably. ********