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I don't think that a climate change could produce wood with superior tonal qualities. The same factors that affect wood grain and density are present at different altitudes, latitudes, soil fertility, forest age, and even the side of a hill on which the tree is growing. I firmly believe that there are violins being made today, that will rival and possibly surpass the violins made in the "Golden Age" in Italy.

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"I firmly believe that there are violins being made today, that will rival and possibly surpass the violins made in the "Golden Age" in Italy."

Interesting point.

I happen to agree.

But - given the present and ever increasing future scarcity of the best early Italian instruments, how would you possibly check your premise?

...Perhaps they really are superior.

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This concept is interesting, but has several problems, the main one being that it gives more credit to Stradivari's materials than to his workmanship in accounting for the sound quality of his violins. But I would say this one is better than the "secret varnish" theory, which I never bought at all.

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Here's a quote from that article:

"We would suggest that the narrow tree rings that identify the Maunder Minimum in Europe played a role in the enhanced sound quality of instruments produced by the Cremona (Italy) violinmakers," Grissino-Mayer and Burckle write, noting that "narrow tree rings would not only strengthen the violin but would increase the wood's density."


Like there are no great sounding Cremonese instruments with wide grain?

Besides, lots of trees that grew during that period have been harvested throughout the 19th century, and possibly even now...

Did they ever consider that one??

And what??

There's no tight grained wood coming out of Europe now?


Another quote:

"So it is never a complete explanation. Nor is the varnish nor any of the other things they have talked about. I would dare say there is no one piece of the puzzle," she said.  Maybe not, Grissino-Mayer said, but compared to theories of mythical varnishes, "this is the most plausible explanation"... (italics mine).

Yeah, right...

I got a more plausible explanation:

Those guys were absolutely wonderful violin makers who built instruments that have now been played/maintained for well over 300 years...

If there's one that bugs the hell out of me, it's when media-hungry academicians seeking tenure get involved in an infinitely complex subject that they previously had no experience in, and attempt to explain it away with a sweep of the hand...

Happens all the time...

These guys inflicting us with their "studies" don't even think of the simple stuff....

How about this:

You've found a drop-dead georgeous staight-splitting tree three feet in diameter growing in the Italian alps and want to know a little bit about how old it is, etc. (not that you'd ever cut one down--in 25 years in the tonewood biz, I've yet to cut a spruce tree down).

So-ooo, you decide to take a core sample....

(A core sampler takes a 12 inch pencil-sized sample without hurting the tree--pretty cool)...

You drill into one side of the tree and see that there are 32 grains per inch...

Wow!  This must be like one of those trees that grew during the Maunder Minimum that those pseudo-academicians seeking tenure were talking about in that article I read!...

You excitedly run down the hill and grab your friend to show them this amazing tree...

You find the exact same tree and take a core sample from the other side of the tree only to find that the tree is really only 12 grains-per-inch.  

What gives?

"Man, this tree was 32 g.p.i.!  What the &$%#@ is going down?"

You go back to your original sample hole, take another sample, and sure enough it's 32 grains per inch....

The above is a true story, by the way, and shows how a "scientific" sampling of trees can be misleading, and how by examining old violin plates and assuming that climate created the grain spacing, one is not exactly being "scientific"...

The answer to the above mystery is quite simple, by the way. Anyone?

What "science" fails to take in account on a tree such as the one described above, and what the "scientist" Grissino-Mayer and Burckle could have easily failed to take in account as well when studying the Cremonese violin tops, speaks volumes...

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<removing foot from mouth>

Just a guess. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that rings differed depending on what side faced the sun...

And if the mini-ice age of the maunder minimum slowed growth, it seemed to follow that the rings would be more compacted on the dark side.

But hey it's all a mystery to me.

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Yep...The tree grew with it's center very off-center, and it is fairly common.....An off-centered tree makes it possible to make a quartet of instruments with the violins in tight grain, the viola in medium graining, and the cello with wide grain, all out of the same tree....Also makes it quite iffy to assume that if you look at the tight grained wood from say, the Strad Betts period, that it's strictly climate that is creating the spacing between the grains...And that this spacing is "this is the most plausible explanation" as to why these instruments are what they are...What causes a tree to grow off-centered is a mystery (to me at least), but this is a common explanation:"Concentric rings mean that the tree grew straight up, and rings that are off-center, with one side wider than the other, mean that the tree grew on a slope. The downhill side has wider rings.

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Just want to interject my meager 2 cents - not knowing anything about violin making, I did not know what to think about this article, but it was the first time I've seen anything related to the violin in the news since I've been taking lessons. I also had never heard of the Violin Society of America. Anyway, I'm learning a lot from your comments.

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Except that the wood in Stradivari instruments isn't particularly narrow-grained and dense, and Stradivari likely didn't use much wood grown around the time when he was working, since his wood was cut, in many cases, decades before.

The author appears to have forgotten that there's a LONG time lag between when a wood grain is laid down in the tree and when it's used.

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Hey Bruce you old lignum meister, wouldnt the larger rings on the downhill side have something to do with the water content of that side of the tree? It would seem logical to me that since water determines the spacing of the cells that gravity would make the water collect more on the downhill side. If a cow stands on the side of a mountain won't the mlk make the udder bulge downhill? Just a notion. My Mother was always trying to get me to stand up straight, maybe thats why I wound up off-center.

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"wouldnt the larger rings on the downhill side have something to do with the water content of that side of the tree?"

Trying to figure out what makes people tick is a piece of cake (at least you sorta speak the language sometimes) when compared to trying to figure out why trees grow they way they do, and I'm having a hard enought time trying to figure out people...(g).

I don't have any idea why trees grow off-center, grow with a twist, etc. etc. etc. etc...

Studying stumps in a clear cut is interesting (but depressing)....

A whole family of Engelmann on a hillside will have a wide variety of grainings, off-center trees, twist and no-twist...all within an acre or two...

Same climate, hillside, etc., can produce a wide variety of individuals...

Just like people...

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