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David Beard

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Posts posted by David Beard

  1. I agree that sometime, someone else work (Classic or modern) is inspiring and leads you to try new things or pay attention to something you where not really looking at. That happened to me not that long ago too and motivated me to make this instrument. I am honored if this violin give you this kind of feelings and wish it translates into something that you like and enjoy making. For the compactness, maybe this is also because this is a "small violin" somehow. Its body length is 341mm and rib height between 28 and 29mm. Its not big. By the way here is a new picture, and I posted more in my gallery.


    (Photo by Jean Fitzgerald)


    Wow! Nice work. I love the balance between clean and rich.

  2. robertdo, the Fischer book has everything the beginner encounters. On the other hand, the string builder series from Applebaum has absolutely nothing but notated tunes in it. I get the impression that Flesch/Fischer is too complicated, therefore always the message to get an instructor. Anyways bye, I think Fischer has a forum.


    Clearly you aren't comfortable using the Fischer book. No need to trash it, just lay it aside for now. Experiment with a few other books and use what you like best and feel is helping you most.

    Robertodo is right. Fischer is great for advanced work or students perfecting their technique. It is fundamental, but in no sense beginner.

    Some books I think could be used more by beginners, from teachers who really produced great students:

    Hrimaly scales

    Auer (first books only)

    Joachim Violin School

    Fashions in playing change with time. In older books, some of the description of how to do things will seem strange or archaic. But let what you are doing teach you how to do it. Verbal descriptions of technique always were and remain somewhat birdbrained. Violin playing is not the sum of describable actions. Trying to make a good open A string sound teaches you how to move the bow. No amount of studying the motion will produce the sound, but trying to make the sound will give you the motion. So take all descriptions you read with a BIG grain of salt. Turn to written descriptions only as a secondary source as needed. When you do, read several contrasting sources and compare. Take none of them too seriously. Use the effort to make music and musical sound as your primary reference book. Fischer's material has the advantage of reflecting current technique and thought, but is not overall beginner's material. Now and again he might present something 'beginner', but mostly it is 'fundamental' in a way that is helpful to advanced students and artists but no so much for beginners.

    Focus your work on doing things. Early fluency in simple things is more helpful then struggling with too much difficulty or too much detail.

    I would add that it is dangerous to use beginning methods that don't aim fairly directly at advancement to mastery. It is easy to make an infinite road out of something as complex as violin playing. Most methods out there make an infinite road out of exploring the foothills, and they never set foot on the trail to climb the mountain and reach the summit. You must aim at the mountain from the start, but pace yourself and enjoy the foothills.

  3. David, I can't be sure, but it sounds like you're thinking that strength is a desirable goal. Have you considered that structural stiffness may destroy tone rather than create it?

    Hi Michael,

    Yes, it is a big leap to assume strength is entirely a positive attribute. Also, I would never want to let an intellectual hypothesis override experience, tradition, or even just intuition. So again, I’m only advocating the catenary as a loosely guiding idea.

    Strong is only one aspect of catenary, and perhaps less pertinent than others.

    You could readily replace the description of catenary as ‘strong’ with any of ‘balanced’, ‘stable’, or ‘quick’. For the violin, ‘elastic stiffness’ is certainly more exactly to the point than ‘strength’.

    For a couple reasons, I think of catenary as contributing liveliness to the instrument.

    • Because catenaries make for efficient use of material, the plate can be as strong as desired/needed with a minimum of weight.

    • Since a catenary is the shape which follows the lines of force, it will offer the fastest and most unified transmission of a deflection at the apex out and down to the effective buttress (the channel). This will offer the most unified cone like behavior for frequencies that use this mode of movement.

    In other ways, you can see that the manipulation of stiffness is a principle concern in plate design.

    • Any form of an arch is essentially a high strength for weight design

    • Spruce is conspicuously exceptional in its combination of elastic stiffness with low weight

    • The complex shape of the plates involves corners, and concavities and pinching in at places. All of these features contribute ‘geometric stiffness’ in certain places and directions. While other features like the cut of the sound holes and the channel provide dramatic reductions in stiffness.

    Because the catenary provides the most efficient combination of lightness, stiffness, and quick transmission, I think it deserves to be one of our tools and part of our thinking about arching, and a resource in making.


    Michael, I want to thank you for all the wonderfully useful, experienced, and thoughtful things you’ve written and posted. It’s all tremendously helpful and valuable.


  4. This is very interesting. WHY do you think that ?

    Yes. The same factors that cause a chain or a wetted cloth or a soap film to fall into a ‘chain shape’ also determine the shape of a natural self supporting arch of non-rigid material. Catenary shapes have various special properties and are in some sense a minimized shape for the given conditions.

    In the case of an arch of fitted stones, the lines of force carrying the weight of the stones down to the buttress follow a catenary shape. Arches of non-catenary shape can be stable as long as the arch shape is thick enough to contain a catenary from the apex to the buttress within it.

    As you try to make the stone arch thinner and thinner, the curve of the arch will be forced to follow the actual catenary line of force more exactly to remain stable. So under the right conditions, nature pushes us toward a catenary shape, no matter what concept we had at the start.

    But the extended family of catenary curves is very large. We mostly think of the unique solution special case where the chain is entirely flexible and even in weight. In this case, two start points and a depth uniquely determine the shape. However, variations in weight and stiffness will result in modified shapes, as will constraining the chain in more than two simple hold points.

    Because of variations in thickness, weight, and stiffness, the lines of force within a violin arch almost certainly don’t follow the exact shape of a simple even weighted chain, but they are still catenary – just not the simplest form.

    Feel and eye guided by practice and tradition are surely superior in creating a ‘catenary family’ curve, rather then a simple chain. But the chain should be ‘in the ball park’ and a good rough guide when in doubt.


    on Wikipedia

  5. your 'compromise' (can't everyone be right?) is contrary to one of the guiding principles that both Roger and Torbjorn agreed to, which is that the process be logical and simple. What you are suggesting is a tortured method without any underlying purpose or reason.


    Not all unions are 'compromises', nor does the result in this case lack either logic or simplicity of execution.

    There is nothing tortured about beginning by setting rough outside height, thickness, and inside depth at the center point in one initial action. This can either be done exactly as Zethelius indicates, or by any method that seems simple and comfortable for the maker.

    Next the border of the catenary is marked on the inside of the plate and the catenary is scooped out. Again this can be done exactly as Zethelius says. But it can also be done rather well just by eye and feel. A catenary is simple, natural, easy to produce, and easy to check if in doubt.

    From here we shape the outside freely, using the rough inside arch as a guide to taper and shape against. Hargrave's methods would be use for the outline, the edges, and everything else.

    The main purpose is straight forward; a catenary is the natural and most stable arch shape possible.

    Any approach to make an arch both thin and strong will naturally migrate toward the chain shape. Free hand, or even thinking about a different sort of shape like a portion of circular arc, you can still end up with a very close approximation to the needed catenary.

  6. I know I'm just a 'newbie' and don't have the experience to carry any weight in this conversation, but I'm not sure I see any true conflict in the principle points of Zethelius and Hargrave.

    Unless I miss the intent, Zethelius's principle point is that the concept of the arch is a catenary reconciled to the edgework. While Roger has a whole fabric of carefully studied conclusions about the sequence and basic method of the work.

    But it seems that completion of the inside is not central to Zethelius's concept, and that Hargrave's case is about the outside arch being 'completed' first, rather than begun first.

    Is not an initial roughing out of the inside to secure a 'catenary concept' compatible with Hargrave's 'completion' of the outside first? I don't see that evidence showing the outside finished first is the same as evidence that the outside was begun first. Nor do I see that Zethelius's concept truly rests on anything more beginning the arch work by roughing out an inside catenary.

    Why not have our cake and eat it too?

  7. I'm not seeing what you're seeing. Are you perhaps noticing the glue line surrounding where the shaving has already been glued in?

    Thank you, David. I didnt understand the picture properly. That makes much more sense. I thought the coloration was in original wood and showing very deep penetration.

    So this is not an example of penetration beyond the .5mm range. Not a picture of penetration at all!

    Again, thanks.

  8. Thank you for the various responses.

    The pictures at this link partly motivated the question.

    These are apparently of an 18th century French violin by J. N. Lambert being repaired for worm damage.

    One of the pictures clearly reveals penetration or alteration of the belly wood for more then a full 1/3 the wood thickness.

    I would think such deep penetration would have a big effect on the structural and acoustic performance.

  9. I wish you well in your project and fully respected it.

    I recognize the value of the motivation you are displaying. Selfishly, I was hoping it might morph into the seed of a wiki. Nevertheless, all speed and good fortune to your project as you desire it to be.

    Myself, I'm not motivated enough to initiate such a wiki. But I look forward to the day such a thing starts. Despite your position, I believe such a wiki will come and will be a hughly valuable extension to the online luthery community. I welcome the day.

  10. Yes. I believe there will be something like a WikiLuthier in the future.

    I see that you actually envision a different sort of project. I got excited though, thinking that this might readily be adapted as part of a more general wiki of luthiery.

    You might be successful for a few years with a special project like you describe, but eventually it will be substantially overtaken by some form of a WikiLuthier.

    The advantages and vitality of wikis out weigh the weaknesses. Once a community buys in to a wiki, you have the advantage of many hands and continuous growth, update, and editing.

    Any project will contain errors and incorporate spectacular blunders. The strength of a wiki lies in its ability to adjust and correct, and the many eyes available to edit. Moreover, a fallible and dynamic wiki can always make reference to more carefully edited fixed projects like you describe.

    This is a wave which is coming. It is as hard to stop as the effect radio had on concert going, or TV's effect on radio, or the effect of computers on media.

    We have a good vital forum for luthiers. We also would benefit from a good vital wiki.

    Such a wiki would naturally provide a constantly evolving loose version of the project you describe. It could even provide some of the discovery for your project. And while your more carefully edited project is successful and current, a wiki could make reference to and raise awareness for it.

  11. I would advise to use and trust the Wikipedia formula.

    In other words don't overly control things. Vitality and wide involvement and buy in are more valuable then making sure no ideas you disagree with get posted.

    Get enough good people to dump in a sufficient volume of initial content. Use the Wikipedia edit and review tools and structure.

    Let it evolve naturally and democratically. Let idiots submit and get edited.

    That is the road to a viable wiki, well proven and demonstrated by Wikipedia.

    Some people might contribute listings of every luthier that's ever been, as you mentioned. Others might contribute 20 different methods to rehair a bow. Nurture the involvement and vitality. Others might document crazy improvements to the violin.

    Don't try to control it. Trust that the wiki collaborative mechanism will yield a valuable living entity.

  12. Glazed layers of color can end up producing complex effects that vary with angle and lighting.

    Darker colors glazed over lighter can sometimes nearly disappear in transparency under a penetrating bright light, but dominate and obscure the under colors in a lower softer light or viewed at an angle.

    Perhaps such effects are part of what we see in the old instruments.

  13. Melvin, we are as one!

    I think so much of this type of discussion misses the point, but maybe that's because we need to separate out a few confused strands. Different levels of players require totally different things from violins. Learners or good amateurs need balance and a friendly sound, and not too much squeak when poor bow technique is employed. An absence of high harmonic content can be a great asset here. Also, such players are likely to choose instruments by listening to the sound, rather than listening to their playing. Better players favour completely different things, in fact the better a player is the more they can handle and control high frequency content, and they will also favour what David Burgess refers to as "punch". Soloists require volume and modulability above all things, and will gladly trade off tone in favour of expressive potential.

    I regard "noise" as an essential part of my sound, and am not drawn to purity of tone or roundness or sweetness. I'm aware that this noise doesn't carry that far, but then a lot of my work is close recording, where this constituent is emphasized. I've worked with a lot of fantastic eastern European and gypsy players for whom a degree of "filth" in the sound is essential, and I also like to inhabit a musical space which combines beauty and ugliness. A very developed high frequency content and a lot of attack help me to find this place.

    Most of my customers are looking for precisely the sort of violin I wouldn't use myself. What to do??

    Yes! Just like speech, we need both vowels and consances. A better playing violin will go where you want when you want. In that sense it shouldn't be painted all dark tone or clean tone or any other one sound. Like a dramatic actor, we need to be able scream and sooth, to bark and whisper.

    We want responsive changable character. The most pleasing violins seem to invite you into a greater variablity of color, bite, and power. They almost hint at the next further expressive possibility, inviting you in deeper.

    It's a wonderfully addictive thing once tasted. Speed is an aspect of attractive response, and so is power. But I don't mind if particular sounds or colors take a bit of deliberate effort to reach, as long as the tone/sound/effect is there to find.

  14. Thanks for the curious data.

    If there were a purposeful asymmetry in the wood thickness of classical backs or bellies, one might expect it to somehow relate to the intrinsic asymmetries of a violin: the bassbar, sound post, and tension differences in the bridge feet.

    Your data does seem to suggest thickness in relation to the post, but it isn't all that obvious or clear.

    Does your data enable you to focus the search for thickening/thining in realtion to the post, the bridge feet, and the bar??

    What you've posted so far seems very interesting.


  15. I can hear it now...

    Yes that’s a great violin! - hey, wait a minute - look at this graph!, you don’t really like that, do you?

    I like the analogy you made to wine. The final evaluation is human.

    Taste tells us which numbers are good, not the other way around. In this sense, the science follows the art. It can not lead.

    Along the themes of symmetry and modern versus old methods and aesthetics, I find it curious that we will use a high resolution printer to precisely recreate the appearance of a loosely hand cut font. Somehow these loose looking fonts seem to interest the eye to a greater degree.

    It's also interesting to me that in older writings on art and architecture, the word symmetry does not always carry the mathematician's meaning of equal/congruent through a transformation (equal around a line or point etc). Instead, the word can mean merely that the parts of work are related in simple proportions.

    Perhaps it is more engaging to the eye when we see the evidence of a human hand and eye using a loose tool/technique to approach a design. In a funny way, perfect clean precision gives us less to see.

  16. Above the "ground", whatever that is, I've always thought of it as a uniform product, and not a layered product.

    No it doesn't "dissolve" in alcohol, in the sense of returning a state where it could be easily re-applied.

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the further detail.

    I suppose that all might be consistent with nearly any finish system that was mostly polymerized drying oils/cooked varnish, with some components/layers of other natures. That leaves a lot of open possibilities.

    On the other hand, these details seem to contradict the notion of any simple scheme of a predominately spirit varnish.

    Again, Thanks.

  17. It seems like a basic question: How do classical finishes respond to various solvents, and how do the layers vary in this?

    Of course who gets a chance to observe such things? Still, from cleaning cracks and other repair experiences there must be some opportunity to discover these facts.

    Any observations of the behavior with solvents is appreciated.




    Spike Oil?


  18. 1) a child with desire

    2) and talent (mostly desire, ear, and willingness to work)

    3) some sort of strung up box that at least hints at making a better sound when played with love and skill

    4) awareness and exporsure to good music, good musicians, good teachers

    5) supportive circumstances are plus

    6) better strings, setup, bow

    7) better instrument

    Just guessing...

  19. Yes, I did take a chance and took quite a number of that kind of photos Ken. A lot of wobbling around with tripod but it was worth it.

    You are right Nicolas, DG was the shiniest thing on the exhibition. Beside "Medicea" viola by Gerolamo Amati. You can see that better on this two shots of DG. But it kind of suits to this violin.

    Stradivari "Ex Bavarian" for example has much more relaxed finish.

    I do not know what wood was used for that cradle Addie, perhaps Bruce or someone else can tell.


    Thank you for sharing these great pictures. The lighting and coloring look so natural. Also, the highlights do a wonderful job of clarifying the surface contour and texture. Even the gloss and transparency of the varnish seem evident.

    Thank you!

  20. While masterful freehand is certainly possible, I'm not sure it was commonly characteristic of work in the era.

    I suspect that the compass was used very actively as a tool in the actual work.

    In support of this, paintings and drawings of artisans and workshops from the time generally feature compasses prominently among the tools. Also, writers like Alberti give the compass high place in design work at least. Other writers of the time note use of compasses on the work as a layout tool.

    For the woodworker, the compass might have been used to scribe designs directly into the work. It could even have been used for a light degree of cutting??

    It is not difficult to replicate the outline and edge curves using compass arcs joined with radii on a shared line. Since these ideas and tools are very much of the time and place, it seems plausible to suppose they worked in this manner.

    Compass scribing onto the wood was probably a very common work method.

    --(not proof of anything, but note the little scribed decoration on the carving cradle at the Strad museum.)

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