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Arching?


Mairead
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I often see the term 'arching', as in 'characteristic Maggini arching', but can't seem to find a definition for it anywhere. Presumably it refers to the curve of the table (or perhaps both table and back) but it's not clear which way it's measured. Does the term refer to the curve that would result from slicing the fiddle body [Goddess forfend!] crosswise, lengthwise, or both? Or does it mean something completely different and I'm just a daftie? Thanks!

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Hello:

I think the people describing the arching are guilty of thinking they are talking to someone who has had many years in the violin business, rather than the consumer. It is a little overpowering for those who have not used the terms most of their lives!!

I think the message by describing "Maggini archling" being an attribute of the violin being described is "full, to a point, but flattening toward the edges."

And, yes, it can be cross ways arching, longways arching, and both top and back. What the writer means is what he/she sees in his/her own mind.

Oh well, they will learn...

Regards,

Al

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And, yes, it can be cross ways arching, longways arching, and both top and back. What the writer means is what he/she sees in his/her own mind.

Thanks, Al. So there is no standard frame of reference for the term at all, then? It's merely a synonym for 'curvature'? If so, then no wonder I couldn't find it defined anywhere!!

Are there well-defined terms for describing the difference between, e.g., the rather shallow longitudinal slope of a strad vs the somewhat abrupt slope (I think of as being) characteristic of a Stainer? For example, the fiddle I have sitting on my lap right now, if looked at from the side. has a strongly domed table, having a rise/run of about 0.75"/1.5" at the button end, and then continuing straight along til the tailpiece end where it drops off again just as abruptly. The back, in contrast, is very shallow and looks almost an flattened arc of a circle, from the side.

If there are standard terms to refer to those two visually very different profiles, I'd like to learn them -- they'd be lots easier than the circumlocution I just went through! :-)

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Oh my~~~~~~yes, we do have to describe arching as we see it. Problem is, through other eyes, it might be described differently. Clear as mud, eh? The general terms, such as flat arching, or high arching, Guarneri arching (arch goes to purfling, more or less) and Strad arching (straight line...almost....to purfling, then rise.) Then, the abrupt arching attributed to Stainer is nothing like he made....but a gross distortion...like a bath tub!

I guess what I mean is there are no definitions, just generalities. In making, I use templates derived from the model I am emulating.

Wonders of talking in circles....there are many books which have "geometrical" design of arching...point sources, etc. They are interesting, but I'm not sure the better makers of years gone by went to that trouble. Stradivari did leave some interesting drawings.

Bye for now,

Al

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The book "Violin Making as It Is and Was" by Edward Herron Allen has some very good descriptions of the formation and foundation of the "Arch".

If you need a glossary of terms, here you go:

Arch- refers to the overall height of the plate above the ribs.

rise- distance from the edge that the plate starts to change shape and form the arch.

scoop- some violins (french in particular) carved a slight trough around the perimiter of the plate, so that the overall effect is that there is a shallow gutter that runs around the entire instrument.

slope- how steeply does the plate rise up the arch.

some plates may have different arching on different areas. Some Italian and Yugoslovian instruments have a steeper slope and more arch at the breast of the table than at the belly, thus giving the appearence of a very mild slope from the neck to the saddle when viewed from the side.

While others have a symetric slope that has the highest part of the arch directly beneath the bridge.

for instance:

A Guarneri will have a fast rise, while a Strad has a slow rise. Both have a mild slope.

An Amati has slow rise but a steep slope to a high arch.

A Stainer copy (Tyrolian model) has a fast rise, steep slope, high arch, with shallow scooping.

Sebastian Kloz copies are slow rise, deep scoop, steep slope, high arch.

Joseph Hill violins are no scoop, fast rise, medium slope, medium arching.

Hellmer violins are slow rise, no scoop (ie flat at the edge)steep slope, medium arching.

and so on ......and so one.

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The book "Violin Making as It Is and Was" by Edward Herron Allen has some very good descriptions of the formation and foundation of the "Arch".

If you need a glossary of terms, here you go:

[excellent glossary clipped]

Thanks very much, Steve! That's exactly the sort of thing I'm interested in. I find it's immensely difficult to talk about something without having an appropriate vocabulary! :-)

Would you consider that book a good one for learning how to identify individual makers, as well as more general theory?

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That book is best for learning the mechanics and techniques used for building violins by hand, Combined with the construction methods described in Bachman's book, you will get a feel for what really goes into the instrument.

It will not help you identify individual makers, but it will help you learn to recognize a hand made violin vs a machine made violin.

The makers all develop their own style and identity. They can be classed in a general category, but the only really good way to learn to ID makers is to see the instruments first hand.

I will never forget the day my master showed me the very subtle differnces in hand scraped vs. machine rolled purfling. It was something that I had never noticed before, but after learning it, I could pick out a factory fiddle vs a shop instrument in amatter of minets. (when I say factory, I am referring to the hundreds of thousands of cranked out violins that look good on the outside, but are not finished on the inside. These violins are now genuinely old, however that has not increased their value, because they were never any good to begin with) This bit of knowledge opened my eyes to examining all violins for minute details that are as unique as someones face, and you start to recognize different makers by their own traits.

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Steveg wrote :

That book (Ed. Herron Allen) is best for learning the mechanics and techniques used for building violins by hand, Combined with the construction methods described in Bachman's book, you will get a feel for what really goes into the instrument.

I have just read both books from cover to cover and was struck by the similarity between them when discussing construction of a violin.

I accepted this as a common, since both authors were describing the same actions.

If anyone has them to hand, compare the illustrations of the bows. In the Bachmann book they have made use of the exact artwork - only mirror imaged and of a slightly lesser sharpness.

The Allen was published in 1885 and the Bachmann in 1925. In the forward of the Bachmann credit is given to F.H. Martens for translation. Assuming that whole excerpts of Allens book were translated into some other language, published by Bachmann 40 years after Allen and then translated back into English it is hardly surprising that one had a feeling of deja vu when reading B after A.

Thanks to them both.

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Then, the abrupt arching attributed to Stainer is nothing like he made....but a gross distortion...like a bath tub!

Oh dear...so is that 'bath-tub' shape another case of misunderstanding, then? Like the German makers who got confused about Maggini scrolls because (I suppose) they'd never actually seen one in the flesh, as it were, and so did one more twist instead of one fewer?

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Hi Edi:

Most all of the listings of violin makers are derived from Lugendorf(sp?)...who also borrowed from those before him. The people who compiled "new" lists included more makers. William Henley, Vannes and most of the rest, including Jalovec, copied the mistakes as well as the factual information. Unfortunately lots of folks consider these writings as gospel. Read Vannes (in French) and compare the listing wordings to Lugendorf (in German) and you find them identical...almost....and the same thing repeated in Henley's dictionary. Fun, eh?

Good evening,

Al

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From your study of the one you examined, and the auction photographs--what ARE the main characteristics of Maggini scrolls? The one I've been looking at (see link below) seems bold and elegantly simple. To my (untutored) eye, it seems like Maggini would have felt a 3-turn scroll to be a bit "fussy."

: I've only held one real/certified/documented Maggini in my hand. The scroll had the classical number of turns. Also, looking at the auction books, all the Maggini's have the standard. There may be some with one more or one less, but I've never seen one in the books.

: Bye,

: Al

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Hello Mark:

The scroll in the picture is like a normal classical scroll, almost. Notice that the little curl going to the eye of the scroll doesn't go all the way around. This has led to the German factories accentuating the shortness of the curl, and eliminating one of the scroll turns.

So, to me, the Maggini scrolls look almost like the classical ones...some actually are, with the curl being completed at the eye. Like any hand made thing, there are differencies from one to the other. The one I held looked just like a normal scroll as we see on modern instruments, but not to perfection.

Cheers,

Al

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Al wrote, responding to Mark W.:

The scroll in the picture is like a normal classical scroll, almost. Notice that the little curl going to the eye of the scroll doesn't go all the way around. This has led to the German factories accentuating the shortness of the curl, and eliminating one of the scroll turns.

So, to me, the Maggini scrolls look almost like the classical ones...some actually are, with the curl being completed at the eye. Like any hand made thing, there are differencies from one to the other. The one I held looked just like a normal scroll as we see on modern instruments, but not to perfection.

A few weeks ago I ran across the pictures that Mark pointed to, and mailed Rafael (the owner) about them. He very kindly wrote back, telling me something about how he knew he'd got a Maggini. It had a good cert, for starters :-) But he also considered it significant that the scroll has a quarter-twist less, and the two sides are different, one from the other. I thought that was very interesting.

Do you suppose the idea of 1 twist fewer is also a mistake? I find it interesting that the German instruments alleged to be copies of Bertolotti da Salo's work all have 1 fewer twist. If they copied correctly, I wonder whether the idea that Maggini also did one fewer twist (and then, by extended confusion, one extra) came merely from Maggini having been trained by BdS?

When I set out to learn to play fiddle, I never supposed there was so much extra to be fascinated by :-)

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Good Morning:

The little curl on the ear of the scroll looks like a slightly less twist than normal...and, being hand made, there is no way to make the scroll symetrical, only machines do that!

It is a fact that the German factories made a run of violins. Suppose they made a thousand of one model. Then, they had orders from Sears and Montgomery Ward. One retiler wnted all Maggini models, one wanted Gaspar Da Solo models....then, the factory put in the labels of both makers, 500 Maggini, 500 Gaspar and shipped....every body was happy....except those of us who wonder what happened 100 years ago??

Bye,

Al

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It is a fact that the German factories made a run of violins. Suppose they made a thousand of one model. Then, they had orders from Sears and Montgomery Ward. One retiler wnted all Maggini models, one wanted Gaspar Da Solo models....then, the factory put in the labels of both makers, 500 Maggini, 500 Gaspar and shipped....every body was happy....except those of us who wonder what happened 100 years ago??

It sounds as though you're saying that the labels are even more nonsensical than the claims on their faces imply -- i.e., that they're not only not originals, but not even copies of originals? An instrument made with double purfling could be labelled and ship as Maggini, Ruggieri, Bertolotti da Salo, or perhaps even Amati, depending solely on the retailer's order, sort of thing?

It would explain a lot.

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Hello, Al & Mairead,

Fascinating, tracking the owner of the Maggini in those pictures! I was curious, but I didn't think to do that, knowing a lot of owners only like to say just so much about what they have.

About labeling--I believe the factories did simply call a model a "Maggini" in some cases, merely because of one characteristic like double purfling. I've seen ones with long, slender Amati-style corners, for instance. You can see in the pictures that the genuine article has corners that are somewhat short and blunt. I bought an old (German?)copy because the outline looked very much like the real one in the photographs. My question to Al about the scroll was motivated by that purchase. The sound, BTW, is excellent, sonorous, dark and rich. The instrument is also very easy to play, which is important for one at my novice level.

Question--Is it the rather fullish lower bout and larger ff-holes that give it this darker sound? I wonder why modern players don't seem to favor it, at least for solo performance. The author of the Maggini web site identifies himself as a member of the Schidlof Quartet, but he doesn't say whether he plays the Maggini in performance.

Regards,

Mark W.

: It is a fact that the German factories made a run of violins. Suppose they made a thousand of one model. Then, they had orders from Sears and Montgomery Ward. One retiler wnted all Maggini models, one wanted Gaspar Da Solo models....then, the factory put in the labels of both makers, 500 Maggini, 500 Gaspar and shipped....every body was happy....except those of us who wonder what happened 100 years ago??

:

: It sounds as though you're saying that the labels are even more nonsensical than the claims on their faces imply -- i.e., that they're not only not originals, but not even copies of originals? An instrument made with double purfling could be labelled and ship as Maggini, Ruggieri, Bertolotti da Salo, or perhaps even Amati, depending solely on the retailer's order, sort of thing?

: It would explain a lot.

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The author of the Maggini web site identifies himself as a member of the Schidlof Quartet, but he doesn't say whether he plays the Maggini in performance.

In his mail to me, Rafael mentioned he was on tour, though not playing here. From that I inferred that he does indeed play it in performance and that, had he been playing nearby, I could have heard it (and perhaps even seen it up close, after (well, I can dream, can't I? :-)). He says it has a 'deep contralto sound' -- which sounds rather like your description of your copy!

The other identifying characteristics he mentioned were the characteristic Brescian arching, and 'inside the violin the eccentric use of the corners', though I can't imagine what he means by the latter.

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Hm, wonder if he's made any recordings with the Maggini that are available?

It would be great if some of the players on this BB would make some MP3 files and post them for purposes of example or pedagogy. It could add a new interest to the accompanying discussions.

Regards,

Mark W.

:

: The author of the Maggini web site identifies himself as a member of the Schidlof Quartet, but he doesn't say whether he plays the Maggini in performance.

:

: In his mail to me, Rafael mentioned he was on tour, though not playing here. From that I inferred that he does indeed play it in performance and that, had he been playing nearby, I could have heard it (and perhaps even seen it up close, after (well, I can dream, can't I? :-)). He says it has a 'deep contralto sound' -- which sounds rather like your description of your copy!

: The other identifying characteristics he mentioned were the characteristic Brescian arching, and 'inside the violin the eccentric use of the corners', though I can't imagine what he means by the latter.

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