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You're right, Oded. I'm way too serious about words having meaning.

Sorry but...

"The original point was that you could find a way to measure anything ... I'm certainly not arguing that it can be measured meaningfully."

In saying this, you are again suggesting that a 'meaningless measure is still a measure.'

The folks who took your point seriously (and didn't see it as tongue-in-cheek) would argue, you can find a way to convince yourself you can measure anything, but if they aren't meaningful measurements, then they aren't measurements. And meaningful measurements require objectivity.

There is a difference between measurement and judgment. You still, tongue-in-cheek or not, seem to be conflating the two.

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Let's get back to the original topic of ff-holes position and placement for a second.

I think the argument here is that one side says ff hole position and placement does effect the tone and the others side says no.

I thought long and hard in the shower this morning about this topic. One major problem for the modern makers is that they are working around a so called "standard" which is base upon some of the best work of Stradivari and del Gesu. They induced some fixed measurements on certain feature's in the master's works. And fixed the measurements as if they are the ultimate procedure to produce great tone. But the fact is there were no standard measurements 300 years ago. The great masters worked base on intuitions and experimentations to create the greatest sound in our history. If we follow the so called "standard" measurements, how can we ever surpass that confined "work space"?

It is obvious that Strad and del Gesu did not have a set of standard measurements. But they had design principles to make things work in a violin. Let's also assume that the ff hole placements has no tonal effects as Michael stated. What are the facts we have today? Let's take a look at few of the examples of Stradivari violins.

First one, I would like to bring your attention to Strad 1698 "Joachim". Since it is a little extreme, it is easier for everyone to visualize what I am trying to say. The upper eyes of the Joachim is only ~34.5 mm. How does this effect the rest of the violin? Has anyone considered how to put a bass bar in with the "standard measurements"? If we follow the standard bassbar rule that is defined in both Sacconi's book and C&J's book, one will end up with a bassbar that show up at the upper bass eye. Hence, the bass bar must be moved to avoid the upper eye. If one use a "standard" 42mm brdige, the bassbar will cross much further inward in relationship to the bridge feet. If one use the standard rule of balancing the sound post position to the bass bar, then one would end up with a sound post position that is much further into the bridge feet. Wouldn't these all effect the over all tone?

Second issue, let's assume the 42 mm upper eye is fixed and take a look at the inclination of the ff holes. Strad's ff hole size is rather consistant in size. I measure them to be around 61~62mm in general. We also see the Stradivari ff hole template in the museum that shows the he used a template to connect the upper and lower eyes, assuming they are rather constant in distance. If the ff hole size remains constant while the ff holes are inclined, the stop length would vary. This is particularly obvious in the long and G patterns. Some stop length for the long pattern ends up at 200mm. The G pattern often ends up with 197mm for stop length. It is known that stop length effects the tone. One can do a simple demo by having a string with fix tension. By changing the length, the tone will change. I know some people would compensate the stop length issue by extending the length of the ff holes. Michael has demonstrated his method of extending the ff holes to compensate the stop length in the past. That would effectively change the total area of the ff holes openings. According to the Oded's experiment, it will change the tone when the size of the ff holes are changes.

Even if the ff holes have no effect on the overall tone, it will have enough impact on the relational dimensions of other features to effec the over all tone. Any comments about this observation?

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You're making some assumptions. First, ref your third paragraph, I not going to worry about making better violins than Stradivari until I can equal him. The way to get to that point is to do what he did, not reinventing the violin. Then when I can do that, I'll think about pushing beyond.

Second, in your bar example, no good shop would set the bar based simply on the upper eye of the f-hole: they'd decide where the bar needed to go, and then figure out a way to put it there.

Third, I believe that actual published research shows that f-hole size has very little impact on things when the changes are in normal ranges. Oded's experiment assumes he can otherwise make two identical instruments, which I don't believe, nor, probably, does any other violin maker.

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There was a thread in the Pegbox a couple of years ago -- I will try and find it -- that should be factored into this discussion of f-hole measurement.

The gist of the point was that units of measurement in the 18th century (until the middle of the 19thc I think) were local. So that a Cremonese measure was significantly (by the metric standard) different from the Venetian or Milanese.

So a difference between a 42mm spread and a 38mm spread could well be attributable to the ruler in hand, not a conscious decision to make it bigger or smaller than an agreed upon ideal.

Incidently, in speaking with a luthier who trained in Mirecourt I was told that as recently as his apprenticeship in the 1960s the first thing one did was make your own rulers. And those rulers were based upon the master you trained with (not modern scientific rulers). So the fact that French fiddles are often oversized could well be an inherited measurement, passed down from maker to maker dating from the days when the King's Foot in France was demonstrably longer than the German Foot.

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I remember the thread and the article well. Just like in Tom King's f-hole placement research, what is revealed is either a practical, mathematical, or aesthetic method which results in certain measurements and relationships. I can't recall ever having seen such research pointing to the possibility that a specific tonal result was the main aim of the originators of those methods. A certain aesthetic goal achieved via mathematical means seems to be the dominant factor. All of Stradivari's various models were based on essentially the same principles and methods of design - it does not seem that he ever took one specific element, be it arching, graduation pattern, f-holes or whatever, and tried to mess with that separately from the overall design. That, to me at least, is one of the things which sets Stradivari and del Gesu apart - the ability to make what at times seems like minor modifications, but which in fact are most of the time re-designs of an entire model which may superficially only show, for instance, more slanted f-holes, or a lower stop, or a fuller arching, or whatever.

By which I don't want to give the impression that I personally don't think tone wasn't important to them - only that they did not go looking for "silver bullets" by trying to focus on a specific design element (such as f-holes) with a tonal view in mind, at the cost of the overall basis of the design and design principles - they left that to guys like us

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Here's a possible experiment to test the acoustical effect of F hole placement.

Start with a normal violin, set up and play it, perhaps record it. Then to simulate the effect of having the eyes placed closer together cut a narrow slot from the inside portion of the eye toward the center. This would allow the top to move as if the eyes were closer but would not change the area of the opening by a very significant factor.

Oded Kishony

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While not being able to find answer here, I went back to my books to search anything that tells me about the ff holes. C&J pretty well just brushed over the topic by siting 42 mm as the standard in a few sentance. Sacconi had an entire chapter dedicating to this topic. While re-reading Sacconi's book, I came across these statements from him:


The position of the ff holes is as fundamental to the quality and power of the sound of the instrument as the archings are. For this reason, in order to position the ff holes correctly, Stradivari used to study their dimensions and exact position for every single model by means of a series of trails.

From earlier posts, I would say that I have seen similar evidence from all the photos that I measured. There seem to be a systematic progression in Strad's work.


..... the worst defect of an instrument comes from spacing the ff holes at a greater distance than the instrument needs, or from an excessive accentuation of the inclination of the connecting arms because both these defects increas the central surface area and reduce the ability of this surface to vibrate with freedom...... The sound that results from this will be weak and superficial because it is poor in harmoncs, almost as if the bow did not press the strings but was repulsed by them..... The entire harmonic box, remains almost inert, and does not fulfil its function of giving vigour, brilliance and capacity of expension to the sound.....


.... The opposite error, that is placing the ff holes nearer than normal, contracts the central vibrating surface on account of th exccessive nearness of the feet of the bridge to the ff holes. This is qually a defect even though it is not as serious as the preceding one. The vibratoin being constricted between the closer ff holes, remains limited to the central zone instead of extending itself to the entire belly. The sound of the instrument is thin, without body, not well balance, shrill in the upper register and poor in the lower.

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The best explanation I read about F hole tops being closer said that it makes for a triangular area that is less stable on the belly and therefore more easily influenced by the bridge. 'Made sense to me - first thing I thought of was the 3 wheeled ATV vs 4 wheeled design. Or a 3 legged milk stool vs 4 legged. The triangular designs can be tipped over with less influence whereas the square designs take greater power to tip over. Seems to me that tone is not the issue as much as response to the bow.

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