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David Beard

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Posts posted by David Beard

  1. I would be interested to know how many Zanetto's are being used as concert instruments by top flight soloists.


    Have you compared to the top arch of the Zanetto to late Del Gesus?


    I'd be surprised if Zanettos are in actual concert use.    And I'm not pointing to Zanetto as evidence of the merit of the feature, but because it indicates the feature is broader and older than the Andrea Amati usage.   However, given that Andrea laid such a long lived foundation for violin building, and considering how freely and wisely he revised and amended the features he borrowed into his new violin family of instruments, I think it telling that he retained the flattish top.   It suggests he considered it a nontrivial feature.   Its further telling that so many following makers retained the feature so long, despite its non-visual or even negative visual aspect.







    You're right about some of the late Del Gesu.   Was he perhaps the first to make this sort of hybrid long arc??   In Ole Bull there is just a trace of the flatness, but integrated into a general sense of overall through arching.


    Pold, is this kind of arch what you were getting at?

  2. post-30802-0-96879200-1374426238_thumb.jpg




    It's very interesting to me that Zanetto also shows the same principals of the flat section in the top, contrasting with a relatively all the way through arching for the back.


    I understand that not everyone will agree, but I see Zanetto's work as representing the precursor ideas that Andrea Amati started from. Not to say that Zanetto actually came first, but only that Zanetto makes in a style that came first, with Andrea doing the borrowing and not the other way around.


    If this premise is accepted, then the flat of the top appears to be a broadly valued and established principal for centuries.


    To my eye, it's only in the neighborhood of 1750 that some Italian makers start hybriding in an a through arching of the top. Yet they still retain a shorter but significant flattish are in the cBout region.



    Perhaps this is one of the more significant observable differences between classical and other styles of making??

  3. ... which is not very rigid. Try lightly squeezing the C bouts on an instrument without strings, and listen for the clunk as the soundpost falls over.




    Granted.   However, the recurved bow shape of the sides encourages the cBout area of the sides to move in and out as a unit.  Several common features in classical building enhance this: heavy wood left from the soundholes to the edge of cBouts, morticing in of the cBout linings, letting the central mass of the back extend at least some thickness of back out to the edge of cBout areas.


    As long as the structure of the cBout area moves more or less as a unit, carrying the corners and a bit into the outer bouts with it, then the flat of the top should mostly get moved around up and down as a unit also.

  4. Clearly the string preasure can significantly move the shape of the cross arcs, creating or enhancing asymetry.   But I'm not as convinced that the long arcs are significantly distorted.


    I don't see the flat section of the top long arcs as distortion, but as puposeful design --and a big part of what characterizes the old italian violins.


    If you roof a rectangular shape with cross arching only, leading to a straight line length wise at the crest of the roof, the geometry is good.  The straight line does not tend to sag or distort, even under some presure.   The cross arcing gives you strength and converts down force on the straight crest line into out ward force at the outer ends of the cross arching were it sits on the walls.    The rigidity and straightnes of the crest line of the roof will mostly depend on lateral rigidity of the walls supporting the cross arcs.

  5. Thanks for sharing the pics.


    I believe every instrument you show illustrates the 'flat' long arc in the top.  The flatness runs through the Cbout area, and variously extends more or less into the lower bout and toward or into the upper bout.


    If you use a graphics program or a straigth edge, you can see that for a significant stretch in the middle, each of the top long arches is very straight, with only a hint of arc barely crowning near or slighlty in front of the bridge.


    However, as the Storioni most dramatically illustrates, these 'flat' sections are not necessarily level, just very straightish.  Some version of this flat section is characteristic of almost all the classic tops.


    The backs however vary more.   Some of them perhaps do also have a bit of straightish section too them, but generally not really so very straight.    They might be higher and stay high longer, but if you compare them to a straight line you will find most (if not all) are much more continuously curved in shape.   


    Again, the issue is neither levelness or height, but the straightness through the middle section of the long arc.


    And it's not that backs can't have a bit of straightish section to them, its that the backs mostly don't; and  that the tops virtual all do.

  6. I'd love to see a thread develop a vocabulary for common aspects of violin tone. 


    Further, it would be great to start associating such terms with their acoustic description/profile, and to whatever extant possible to associate the terms with physical attributes of the instruments.


    For instance, lots of us have thrown around a term like 'tubby'.   I'm not the acoustician guy, but to me 'tubby' sound seems to boom at the low end and have very high partials rolling around, yet the middle range seems hollow and gutted.    I also tend to associate this sound with an instrument/setup that are sort of flabby, not quit stiff enough or tensioned enough.   I'd love to hear other folks take on it.  Maybe the numbers and charts guys can actually identify tubby tone in their spectrums???


    Similarly, plenty of fiddles present to me an overly tight and harsh tone that I tend to think of as 'boxy'.   These typically seem over built and/or over tensioned.


    Then there are different aspects of excellent tone.   In a good instruments with a wide range of colors available, I hear a number of particular sorts of sounds available.  I'd love to see these discussed more specifically.  


    For example, the middle strings when bowed with moderate strength and good bow speed, a bit far from the bridge, can go into a kind of tone that somehow seems very 'air' like, rather like a strong flute tone, or very clean organ tone.     Is this literally an 'air' sound dominated by resonances from the body cavity??


    In contrast, going up high on the low strings and playing heavy and close to the bridge there is available a very thickened and intense kind of sound that somehow seems less transparent.


    Then again, playing the upper strings with long string length (low positions) and quick bow speed firm and near the bridge a very bright almost trumpet like sort of sound comes available.



    I'm hoping people will use this thread to share observations, pet terms, nerdy tech analysis, etc.





  7. I was using a visor.   But now I've switched to a combination of a big illuminated maginifer on a lever arm clamped to the bench, and a pair of glasses just for up close detail viewing.  


    I'm much happier with the illuminated magnifier and reading glasses combo.   I feel more freedom in my work.  


    The visor more or less pushes you to keep your face a fixed distance from the work.   My current system is much more flexible.  When I want, I can see a great level of detail without resorting to a microscope, or I can work at a greater distance while still seeing good detail.

  8. That might be the illusory thing though.   The bounce and playing characteristics of a stick might easily be the source of perceived differences in sound, rather than some sort 'sound of the bow' which might have some sort of life and persistence outside of playing characteristics and player handling.  


    Real differences in the ‘sound of the bow’ might live in the relationship of tension, weight, and dampening in the contact between hair and an excited string.   Such things might effect the character of sound in legato and son file, but the hand is not a passive participant and is likely to be equally or more important to the outcome.  For this reason, any differences actually in the stick are probably more of secondary bonus value, only useful if good handling characteristics are present.  I suspect that most of what is heard as differences in bow sounds are actually differences in handling and playing character.


    The bounce and balance of one stick might help a particular player draw a smoother cleaner contact between hair and string, while another stick might help the player toward a harder brighter contact.  This difference in playing action could easily produce the perceived sound differences. However, such contact difference wouldn't mean much except when the player is being passive and 'letting the bow do the talking'. 


    In normal good play these variations of contact can be controlled by the hand using almost any bow that isn't horribly bad, thus becoming largely invisible to listeners.  After all, the bow is only a part of the dynamic player, hand, bow, string, instrument, room, audience system that results in hearing the final sound. 


    I suspect that the better the player, and the more familiar with the bow, the more the bow becomes a transparent element in the creation of sound.  The more the player commands the bow, the less the bow commands the outcome.   But also, the better the player, and the more familiar with the bow, the more the player will have an awareness of what range of expression the bow empowers, and how hard it makes him work for it.


    To me, that seems to be the evaluation which really counts.

  9. It's interesting to see explicit description of a clear varnish ground with mineral particles added.  And with distinct color layers following.


    I wasn't aware of this source.  Thanks for sharing it!!!!


    What is the context of the wood finishing described?    Probably not instrument making?

  10. Horsetail is often mentioned in old italian varnish texts (1700's and earlier), a few examples loosely translated:


    1 - Before applying the last varnish coat, one should burnish the already applied varnish with the horsetail humidified in oil and afterwards with a linen cloth, and when it is very luster apply the last coat.


    2 - It is mentioned in between color coats of different red tonalities.


    3 - After the last color coat has been applied, polish with the horse tail, pumice in powder, and olive oil, and afterwards dry the labor with a soft linen cloth, or with a chamois, for giving luster heat up some pure varnish, and remove it from fire once it starts to smoke, and apply above the warmed labor, using a soft brush. Once the varnish is dry and hard, give it the last luster by rubbing it with olive oil and tripoli in very fine powder, and passing over it a piece of chamois.


    4 - After applying the light color, once it is equal through the labor, polish it with the horse tail.


    5 - After applying a ground made with clear and light colored fish glue and calcium carbonate (there are lots more details to this preparation) , at least six coats, lightly applied and dried in between, and humidifying the wood whenever necessary, so it does not bend, if possible prepare both sides, than polish it with pumice, shark skin, and horse tail, till it's smooth and shiny as crystal, than let it rest for some time, for afterwards applying the desired colors.


    Many more, these are the ones that where handy.


    Would love to see more quotes from these texts, and the sources if possible!    

  11. If the goal is playability, rather than investment, than I would suggest not seeking an absolute best bow but rather a best bow for a particular player playing a particular instrument.    So to me it’s important to test bows with your main instrument.  


    Beyond that, I would say pay as much attention to how the bow feels in handling and playing as you do to the sound.  Make sure to play different characters of tone and articulation.   As with instruments you're looking for something you can live with and spend a lot of time with, so don't be hasty.  Also, be sure to have listeners.  Sound is different under the ear and to an audience, and both matter.   One bow might make you sound better to an audience, but sound the same and feel the same to the player -- or vice versa.   


    Don't just focus on legato tone quality.  Articulation, rapidity, and changeability of character all matter.   Get to know the few bows you consider seriously. 


    As suggested, the ear tires of testing bows rapidly, so test repeatedly and with breaks.    Final choices will certainly involve balancing trade offs of various positives and negatives.

  12. I still tend to think the search for objective and/or quantifiable differences in instruments and bows is mostly a red herring.


    Instruments and bows are part art object and part tool for making music.   As art objects, their value is almost completely subjective and cultural.   As tools, they can only be evaluated in context.   The end product of the tools is not simply ‘sound’, but ‘music making’—a complex, kinetic, and ultimately subjective thing which sometimes involves an audience, but always involves a player.   


    Valuable bows are valued by people, not by numbers!  Out of a dozen bows of varying character and quality, it would be quite possible that different players with different skill levels, styles, and taste might pick different favorites.


    The sound results from a complex interaction of the player’s emotions, concept, imagination, skill, and touch together with the instrument, strings, piece of music, and yes bow. 


    Even though a player will often hear differences in bows, it’s a big leap to assume those differences live entirely in the bow and not in the combination of player and bow.  After all, a dress that brings out all the curves of one woman might look like a tent on another!


    If a player tries three bows and sees/hears/experiences no difference between them, then whatever difference might be there doesn’t currently matter for that player. 


    In terms of a musical tool for current use, that’s the end of the story.  But a collector might buy based on other factors, and perhaps based on opinions other than his own.  Similarly, a student might defer to a teacher in order to get a bow which will aid in development, and requiring selection beyond the student’s current perception.   


    How can numerical evaluations really help in such things??   Perhaps they can give a false sense of an alternative evaluation without relying on experts?  But numerical analysis forces artificially simplified contexts.  A sugar level test might tell which wine has more sugar, not which is better.  Such a test can’t even really be relied on to tell you which will be sweeter, as other factors can complicate the perception of sweetness, and it is the perception that matters! 


    In the end, dealer value depends on complex cultural context that is difficult or impossible for any but expert dealers to assess.   Similarly, player value depends on a performance context that only expert players can really assess.  

  13. Thanks for putting the human element back in the conversation!!    


    While numeric analysis of the noises produced by mechanically controlled bowing might tell us something, I'm not sure how ultimately useful such cold data can be. Even if you collect perfect scientific data on sound, how are we to translate that back into relevant meaning for maker, investor, or performer???    Instruments ultimately are human made, for human possession, and human use.    


    Aspects of cultural, psychological, and aesthetic bias are probably equally or more important to investment buyers, and significant to the working musician.  How an instrument impacts one’s confidence and comfort in school or career matters.  Physical size and comfort issues count also.    For a performing musician, there are all the issues of playability and how the instrument works with you or against you in actual playing.   None of these things can be evaluated by listening, but all of them will find expression in the player’s emotional reaction and body language.


    Certainly the quality and carrying power a player can get from an instrument is important, and can be evaluated by a listening audience.  But equally important is how hard the instrument makes you work for that sound.  How can a microphone and computer evaluate that?

  14. I guess it kind of depends on what you count as the first thing.


    In fact, I also focus on the open strings as the very very first thing.  But I don't consider that to really give me a feel for the instrument.  The open string stuff is almost more then end of set up work.   I pluck the strings strongly, and play each one very full and then very quiet, listening for any disruptions or impurity of tone which might suggest something is still needed in set up.  I'm looking for buzes and defects mostly at that point.   Still before I would really consider set up done, I'll play slow scales in different positions and strings, now looking for anything like a wolf, and listening for imbalance in the power and character of the strings.   Anything discovered at the stage means tweaking set up.


    When I finally feel like set up might perhaps be done, then I try playing a bit of music to get a feel for the instrument.  Of course, before this I retune carefully, so lots of open strings sounds again.  As others suggest, the open strings give you some sense of the instrument.  But still, find that withour actually playing I'm still in the dark as regards responsiveness and much else.


    For a first real go at the instrument, I like to play some Bach and Handel -- often I've started with the A Maj Handel.   I'm listening for responsiveness, evenness, warmth, and openness.  If this doesn'tt send me running back to setup work, then I'll try something with a warmer bolder romantic tone, maybe Kreisler or the opening of the Bruch.


    This is a rather manic moment for me.   Once I get this far in testing a new instrument I tend to be either quiet happy, or very very not.

  15. If instruments change with playing, do you think this would be selective, changing only some instruments, or only the instruments which "need it"?



    I'm not sure if it changes the instrument, or just settles the set up.   I think of 'Playing In' as a tactic with pretty good success when an instrument doesn't seem to be as immediate, lively, and/or open as it should be, or when the instrument is obviously unsettled.   So that is selective.  I don't see it as applying to instruments which already feel wide awake and responsive, and not to instruments that just don't have the goods in the first place. 

  16. Don-


    What was your impression of the test instrument before your experiment?   Was it already satisfyingly responsive? 


    I think you will only be able to observe 'play in' if you start with an instrument that actually exhibits that inhibited 'cold' response characteristic. 


    You can not demonstrate a cure for a singer with a head cold on a singer who doesn't have a head cold.

  17. I think if one wants to truly uncover the nature of the 'play in' effect that some see as real and others see as fiction, it might be helpful to try some preliminary experiments to idenify the nature and domain of the phenoma before attempting to induce the effect by alternate means.


    If one had access to a large collection of instruments, as many dealers do, than it would be possible to get some orientation on the issue by running some tests with a group of good players who believe the phenoma is real, and that they own a violin that is currenty well played in.


    One could first ask each player individually to select one or two instruments from the dealer's collection which seem promising, but that the player currently evaluates as 'cold' or 'needing play in'.


    After each player has made a selection, you would capture data for each players personal 'played in' instrument, and for the 'cold' instruments selected by the players from the dealer's stock.


    Then pool all the instruments together.  Now have each player in turn evaluate all the instruments in the study as either 'cold' or 'played in'.


    You could then the evaluate first of all if the players agree to any extent on which instruments are 'cold' versus which are 'played in'.    If you found some significant agreement in evaluations, you would then at last be in a position to look at the data and try and spot the nature of the phenomena in the 'cold' instrument data versus the 'played in'.


    Of course, during this you could only allow each play a very brief sampling of the 'cold' instruments.  After all, you don't want them to get played in during the first stage of work.


    As a follow up, you could take some of the instruments which by consensus were 'cold' and send them home with players to get 'played in'.  It would be best to only use the players who personal instrument were by concensus actually well played in.   You could leave these instruments with the players until the players determinned that the instruments were finally well played in.  Then you could capture new data sets to compare with the origanl 'cold' data sets.


    If the phenoma is real, this kind of study should succeeded in revealing it.  If its psychological or illusiory, this would also likely become apparent.


    I'm not sure that more focused studies of indiivdual instruments will settle anything, unless you get very luck and look in just the right way at just the right thing and actually find your dragon. Negative results in a tightly focused study have very limited meaning.  Well controled, well focused studies are great.   But their also rather like a narrow band narrow beamed light, if you don't have quite the right spectrum and aren't aiming in just the right spot you're likely to miss what you want to find.  You'll get a bright picture of an uninteresting rock, and not find the dragon which is hidding in the shadow two trees to the side.   A broader aimed study is probably needed for orientation first.

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