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David Beard

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Posts posted by David Beard

  1. Like everything in a violin, each detail actually touches many out comes in complicated ways.

    We just don't get to move one variable without many things changing.

    This is way I'm placing my bets and effort on returning to old ways.  Their community learning was highly collective and continous over generations of development.  

    Our modern efforts to learn and improve are by comparison very disjunct and isolated.   We might explore an idea across tens of iterations.  But our units of change are usual too big and radical.  So they exist in separate little islands.

    The classical development in contrast was collective, and proceeded in very incremental units of change, across generations and thousands of iterations.

    For such a holistic object as a violin, where each part touches so many outcomes, their approach has great advantage.

    When we come to Strad, Del Gesu, and even Gii Amati, Montagnana, Seraphino, et al.; they're standing on a great mountain of accumulated continous collective learning.

    Too bad the continuity of culture broke circa 1750-1776.

    My bet is that 'low iteration', 'big unit of change' modern efforts to improve violins are going to continue to be interesting but inbalanced in outcome for a long while.

    That's why I believe the best road is to resume their methods, continously from their works of around 1710 to 1740.  If this becomes possible, then a small community of such new makers could also resume their slow collective approach to development.

  2. My take is that the specific frequency doesn't matter, much.  And that the more specific you make the frequency the worse.

    The greater or lessor the air mass (proportional to air volume) the more or less energy can fall into this resonance, and later potentially radiate out from it.

    And this connects to the depth of tone of instrument.  If you want more of the playing energy to fall into the lower tones, then more air mass to soak in more low energy.  If you want a brighter instrument, then less air mass so less energy can store here.


    But what is truly not looked at enough is how broadly this air mass responds.   You want it to be a  somewhat low Q, not at all like a helmholtz bottle that responds very specifically at X frequency and then falls off sharply on either side.  No, you want it to respond to a band of frequencies around X.  The broader the better.

    And you want it to respond to a band around 2*X, around 3*X, around 5*X. And more if possible.


    In my not carefully thought through initial opinion.


  3. 2 hours ago, Christea said:

    I know I am responding to an old topic, however, PLEASE do not plant this in public places, especially where horses have access as it is toxic to them and other pets.  I am interested if anyone has any success containing horsetail in a container garden without it taking over their entire life?

    That seems an over reaction?  It's already everwhere, or at least anywhere there is muck and gently moving water.

    Animals already have abundant opportunity to eat the stuff.

    And, as long as conditions aren't muck like damp, it won't be that aggressive.

    Here in Southern California it's a frequently used as a decorative plant, and doesn't seem to spread beyond where people put it.


  4. 2 hours ago, violins88 said:

    This violin seems to indicate a layer of something before the red varnish was applied. Does anyone have thoughts about what that would be? The pic is from Phillip Injeian website. The violin is Maximilian Frirsz 1924 copy.


    It's not so easy to sort out by eye.  There is a color veil layer of red that has worn off most of the instrument.

    If you look and think, you can realize this layer is above the yellowness.  

    But then there is red in the figures of the wood?  Is this part of the red veil layer and just hasn't worn off as completely??  Or is it actually something that is also 'before' the worn color veil.  Is this color in thw figure before or after the yellowness?

    Are there clear between any or all of these?

  5. 1 hour ago, chiaroscuro_violins said:

    [...] You can adjust fiddles a lot more than winds/brass, but surely old violins were made to appeal to the violinists of the time-- not necessarily the violinists of today.  

    It sounds plausible, but doesn't square with history.

    I think we got lucky in the sense that the original demand wasn't for something with a real particular colorization to it, but for a 'vocal like', flexible, and mostly neutral sound.

    The violin has proven adaptable above all.  It's rolled with the changing styles in classical playing, and even been adopted into regional music styles all around the world.  It even has major roles in Indian and Arab music now.

    The key thing about the best violins, including the original famous Old Cremona instruments, is astounding expresive versatility and adaptability.

  6. 1 hour ago, Brad H said:

    This doesn't make sense to me.   If you are describing a violin's tone, you can describe what is present and what isn't, but I don't understand how the lack of one characteristic should result in ignoring a trait that is present.

     How about "lovely, warm tone but lacking in brilliance"?   

    To me, that lack is what matters.  A good instrument needs to allow musical playing.  That isn't possible if you're stuck in one end of the color palette.

    If an instrument offers range, but excels more at one end, that's fine.  But if it excels at one end and lacks range, that is entirely unbalanced and bad.  The setup should be reworked for better balance.

  7. 1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

    Unfortunately, in my lexicon, warm and dark are essentially the same thing. They are both good sound quality, neither is associated with great power, but if someone says, “oh that is a lovely dark sound“ or, “oh, that is a lovely warm sound, I’m going to interpret that as meaning the same kind of sound.

    You are not taking my meaning.  We agree that these are both positive, and mean much the same.

    My point is that I won't use positive adjectives unless an instrument does a fair job of producing the opposite end of the spectrum.  

    If an instrument had a lovely warm capacity, but couldn't also produce a reasonable brilliance when called, then I would use only negative adjectives like dull, muted, etc.

  8. 5 hours ago, Rue said:

    I think a few descriptors are fairly unequivocal. For example, bright or dull...probably most of us could agree that any given violin has that quality of sound.

    But some of the others? Not so much.


    I prefer to think about an instrument having or lacking a capacity for this or that.

    And many of these descriptors lay at opposite ends of a spectrum.  So, warm to dark is a spectrum.

    So in regard to a spectrum like that, there are basically two interesting things about a particular instrument in its current set up.

    1) How well can I access all parts of that spectrum?  And, 2) where is the instrument naturally entering that spectrum?

    So, our descriptors tend to include both negative and positive versions of describing the ends of the main spectrums.  I.e. Bright v Harsh, or Dull v Warm.

    If an instrument offers healthy full access to the entire spectrum, then I'll use a positive descriptor that describes the instrument's natural entry point to the spectrum, or perhaps that describes one end of the spectrum that the instrument thrives at, the not lacking the opposite capacity.  So I might say Bright, Sunny, Brilliant etc.  Or warm, lush, rich, deep, etc.

    But, if the instrumwnt is out of balance, if it offers one capacity and not the other, then I will use the negative adjectives: harsh, dull, screechy, etc.

  9. The main difficulty though is that instruments really don't have a specific sound.  

    Changes in setup change the sound significantly. And changes in playing change the sound significantly.

    To be meaningful, we need instead to talk about the palette of sounds an instrument offers, and how the playing experience differs.




  10. All of those words can be apt for describing some particular sound.

    The problem is that in skilled hands a violin doesn't and shouldn't have just one static sound.

    I violin that can only do bright or dark but can't do both is useless for an artist.

    A violin that can only make a pure clean sound or a thick husky sound but can't do both is again useless.

    Again, a violin that can do harmonics and flautando but not also biting scratchy playing is limiting and useless.

    Who wants a paint palette of one color, or a violin with a tone that is specific for you to pin down and describe in this way?

  11. On 5/1/2021 at 9:52 AM, David Burgess said:

    It sounds pretty similar. (I've done it)

    We were asked to convert a violin for "wrong-hand" ;) playing, and thought we'd try it without moving the bass bar first.  The person we were doing the conversion for, who had played the violin both before and after, was happy enough with the sound that we left it that way.

    Interesting experiment.  I would have expected the string switch to manifest more differences.

    If you try lifting the bridge feet, obviously the E string side is held down tighter.  But, on the scale of tone vibrations, perhaps that has little relevance.

    The bridge afterall has a waist, and vibrations from all the strings are to some extent centralized by this.

    We are used to perceiving big differences in the behavior of the treble and bass bridge feet.  But perhaps this has all most nothing to do with the arrangement of the strings on the top arc of the bridge, and almost everything to do with the strictures under the feet.

    The results of your experiment suggest that nearly equal vibrational information is reaching both feet, and that the differences actually are all about different admittance of vibrations at each foot.

  12. On 5/3/2021 at 11:36 AM, Bruce Tai said:

    To answer your collective question s about alum. 

    Nagyvary already reported aluminum in a Guarneri spruce sample (a filius Andrea cello? I need to dig up his old papers from the 80s). His analysis was not very accurate in terms of quantification due to older instruments. 

    We got two del Gesu samples (spruce and maple) from plate repairs (1740 and 1741 instruments). They were taken from the inside, little affected by the varnishing. The spruce had >1000 ppm and maple had >3000 ppm for the flake analyzed. Nagyvary told me that it is easier to soak maple than spruce for full penetration. This cannot be due to spraying alum solution or varnishing. This is due to very intentional soaking before carving the plates. 

    Aluminum ion in alum will crosslink wood fibers via coordination bonds. However, such bonds are reversible and hydrolysable. This dynamic crosslinking and ability to respond to moisture changes are extremely interesting. But it is very hard to study dynamic bonding using current chemical instruments. Its effect on stiffness and elasticity may be measured, but we have not done that yet. Perhaps the mechanical properties change quite little, but the fiber arrangements and ultrastructural integrity can be stabilized? We don't really know what it does exactly. You have to study it in combination with everything else that del Gesu did. But I highly suspect that alum is one of del Gesu's X-factors. 

    If you use chemical crosslinkers like formaldehyde, I think the wood fibers will be destroyed when it expands under high moisture. Alum is like a semi-reversible glue that holds wood fibers together. I suspect that this will become really important as hemicellulose starts to break down in the maple. After 300 years, hemicellulose has become badly fragmented in maple. Some of it even turned into volatile organic compounds and diffused out (loss of ~20%). 


    Historicaly and culturally, alum was an important and valued material during that time, associated with the use of colorants and many other aspects of the arts and industry.

    In later times, it's also the way a magician could a plant or flowers stiff and brittle.  It's affects on stiffness and material behavior can be significant.  Especially with organic materials that wick up water.

  13. We can guess that they sounded a lot like a good baroque violin. 

    But the OP questions are a touch whacky.  Obviously we aren't time travelers, so can't actually experience how they sounded back then.  No, there weren't any records for us to hear.  No, centuries old violins aren't unaged or unchanged.  There is no violin today that we can assume sounds exactly as it did then.

    Take a Strad or other and put in good baroque setup. That's the best estimate we can make.

    But we can know that Strad violins were successful in his lifetime.  It didn't take huge amounts of aging for the youger Amati generations to compete with the older, nor for Strad to compete with the older Cremona instrument.


  14. 1 hour ago, MANFIO said:

    With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored.

    You might have noted in a recent thread the some wooden Chinese traditional string have working lives exceeding 2 millennia.

    Something to consider.

    I think the survival of instruments has much more to do with how cherished and desired they continue to be, rather than with the wood getting too old.

  15. 10 hours ago, martin swan said:

    Good sound can come in all sorts of different packages - some more attractive or desirable than others.

    History, rarity, provenance, all can be very important, and ultimately the player's confidence in their instrument contributes as much to their expressiveness as any physical properties.


    I believe this is a great part of what goes on.

    Amazing playing is voodoo.  No player ever knows how much more they might be capable of.  And how much a player gets from an instrument is also voodoo.  And how much a setup luthier gets from an instrument is voodoo.

    If a player picks up a famous instrument, the thought they have found the limit of the instrument will be farther from their mind. And their voodoo will be all the stronger for it.

    Likewise, when we doubt an instrument, that doubt can be significantly self fulfilling.

  16. 22 hours ago, sospiri said:

    If Scots Pine could be used for the belly, I could supply all you need. 

    Obviously it is unsuitable but I don't know the technical reasons why.

    Why did Howard Hughes make the Spruce Goose out of spruce?  It's actually a very special material.  It's tough and strong for its weight, and it's highly elastic.  It returns a high portion of energy spent mechanically flexing it.

    Whatever the technical details, multiple cultures independently have indarrived at preferring spruce as the primary sound radiating wood for many traditional instruments. Cedar and a few other woods are distantly in thw running, but far behind spruce.

    Such traditonal cultural preferences reflect generations, or even millenia, of collective learning.

    But you know better.  Use the random salvage wood.  Since it landed in your lap by accident, it must be great.

  17. 3 hours ago, sospiri said:

    If Scots Pine could be used for the belly, I could supply all you need. 

    Obviously it is unsuitable but I don't know the technical reasons why.

    It's not so much that alternative materials are necessarily unsuitable, but they are contrary to tradition.

    If you want to make a violin with a Scots Pine, Titebond, metal strings, and a Teak back, then make it.

    Perhaps you will deem it the best violin you've seen?

    But it won't be traditional.  Maybe you don't want traditional. I do. But maybe you don't.

    So skip the Italian Spruce and Balkan Maple.  Leave the hide glue on the shelf.

    The guitar world doesn't seem to miss the older traditions.  

  18. 3 hours ago, DarylG said:

    I was curious about this so did a quick test. I sharpened a chisel using a Shapton 1000x waterstone (removing the mirror polish I had on the back of the chisel). Then stropped it 10 times on each side using a leather strop loaded with Micro-Gloss polish. This edge easily passed the 65 gram test using 40wt rayon thread mentioned above. Then I made 20 cuts on the end of a soundpost (all cuts were clean with no scratch lines) and it still passed the 65 gram test. Then I made another 20 cuts on the end of a soundpost but this time chiseling down onto a green cutting mat. After that I was able to lift the 65 gram weight off the bench about an inch before it broke. I then stropped it 5 times on each side and it easily passed the test again. The test was very limited but the edge did seem "perfectly adequate" as Deo said. I might try sharpening some other tools like this and see how they do under more real world usage.

    For the two surfaces to make a perfectly straight approach to edge, so for actual sharpening, the coarser work is the most important.  Your coarse sharpening should be perfect.

    As the grits get finer, the more it's about smooth the surface rather than perfecting the shape and approach to the edge.  And the greater the chance that your work will round the edge rather than perfect a straight clean approach.

    I always sharpen to over 1000, and usual to 2000 or 3000.  Then I strope.

    I agree that 1000 can be quite serviceable and durable.

  19. 1 hour ago, nathan slobodkin said:

    How well a tool will cut is solely a function of geometry. If you have two  flat planes which meet at a consistent angle all the way to the edge of the tool then it will cut. The exact angle required to cut with minimal force is determined by the nature of the material being cut and the angle of approach.

    I very much agree on focusing this idea of surfaces meeting.  And, the use of a 10x loupe and strong light to see what's going on.

    As an aide to seeing progress, I also often blacken the surface I'm working.  This can be helpful, but not always. The loupe is more certain for confirming things.

    I also distinguish between the different tasks of making the two surfaces meet well at a good angle, and making those surfaces very smooth -- between sharpening and honing is how I think of it.

    I think working the surfaces truly is much more important.  I do like also getting the surfaces stroped and smooth to make a bright mirror surface, but I don't mind scratches from earlier grits remaining to some small extent.  Completely removing scratches seems like the least significant detail, and it can cost a good deal of time.

    The last detail of my sharpening is perhaps just ritual. I've no idea how much it really matters.  But when I strope, I count the strokes on each surface of the blade, then switch sides.  And I reduce the count on each side as I finish.  So it might go something like 16 16 8 8 4 4 4 4 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1.

    I fancy that switching sides and countinh down helps reduce chance turning the edge.

    But I don't trust that really, so I check the cutting and check with a loupe.

    It all goes very quickly.

  20. 9 hours ago, sospiri said:

    Sorry if the question is a bit vague. I'm just trying to figure out how different arching heights affect the sound.

    As I understand it, a low arching can have good low and high frequency response, but the mid range is weak. And maybe something similar happens with high arching.

    Is this why 16mm is a prefered arching height? Also, it is true that Del Gesu generally made lower than this, and if so, how low is too low?



    One dimension parameter tend not to have simple meaning by themselves on a violin.

    Consider instead of just the height, the whole cup shaped area created by thw arching?  What area of the plate has been given an overall cohesive downward dome like shape, all concave on the inside?

    This area can vary considerably. But it never depends just on the plate height.  It also depends on how quickly the long and cross arches come down.  Or, in a different but related way of thinking about it, the area depends on how wide the channels are, and where convextivity changes.

    Few things exist in isolation on a violin.

  21. 16 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

    I have a great fondness for old books, especially those with beautifully embossed covers that are in good shape.

    This is a famous book, but I actually know nothing about it, and I’m interested in knowing whether the information in it is still valid or is it completely obsolete? I’m inclined to buy it anyway because it’s beautiful, but I’d love to know what the crowd has to say.



    It was and remains a perfectly good romanticized picture of violins from the view of an enthusiastic amateur looking from the outside via a 19th century English trade perspective.

    Not to be taken seriously as a guide to either good making, modern making, or historical making.

    But is a good book to spark or fuel budding interest.

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