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gtm

Steel drum tuning and plate tuning

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Hi all:

Watching TV show "How it's Made" for steel drums and noted the tuning process and was thinking of various possible methods of attempting same for violin.

In the case of the steel drums they had microphone(s) / pickups used though they seemingly kept that info secret. They did mention it was being fed into a computer/laptop but again nothing shown. I was under the impression that it was not sophisticated or beyond the average pocketbook. I have seen colloids used to visually display a sound/ pattern though don't know that a specific frequency was assignable. Using glitter might not be as effective or reliable because it's following the curves in the surface. Hopefully the colloid in a freezer bag would give more detail. I could see amplitude changes would be helpful in isolating where they can be found.

I've read in other threads here that the tap / rap methods have been used and employed. I am interested in something which is more definitive and perhaps less subjective which can be fed into a computer and monitored. I can impose a source tone from a speaker and then record what is actually happening in various areas perhaps in stereo or even quad sound. Borrowing from some research phono cartridge(s) would be used fed into an amp and then into the computer. I have several cartridges though not all the same which were left over from making tone arms from reeds rather than bamboo.

Has anyone else has tried using this method?

Cheers,

gtm

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You might want to read Keith Hill on area-tuning the violin, I believe some or all of his articles are now on the web.

Then read up on plate-tuning, which is described also in various sources on the web, as well as a detailed writeup by Al Carruth which is in one of the GAL's Big Red Books now.

There used to be a highly detailed discussion of steel-drum tuning on the web.

Beyond all that though, have a look at Martin Schleske's website. The stuff he's doing is where all this actually starts to get interesting, and it doesn't bear much resemblance to the rest.

Keep in mind that lots of people make very fine violins without any of the above. Just because some people might use (to make up an example) a microscope and a caliper which reads to .001 mm to make violins doesn't mean they are necessary to the process of making a fine instrument.

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Ellie Mannette's workshop is located near my house; I've spent some time there doing photos for a magazine article. The tuning process is astounding. It is the highest skill in the workshop (and I believe tuning is what Ellie Mannette built his early success on).

I spent a good bit of time talking to their top tuner and couldn't help but think of Vigdorchik's plate tuning that used discrete sections tuned to particular notes, but I have no idea if there really are any relevant connections.

The tuners I saw used a strobe tuner for the pitch, but no other electronics. Tuning the individual notes always seemed amazing to me, but what I didn't realize is that they also have to tune the overtones more or less independently. On a steel drum you can have the fundamental perfectly in tune, but get a horrible grating tone. The tuner works the note (the section of drum that produces that pitch) with small hammer to bring the overtones into tune while maintaining the pitch of the fundamental.

The process seems to be mostly intuitive with few firm rules about what to do in any particular situation. I also talked to their most advanced apprentice tuner. I believe she'd been at it for a year (learning to tune, in the shop much longer) and had learned enough to realize how far she still had to go. That may well be the closest parallel to violin making.

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Vigdorchik's plate tuning could really hit the mainstream when violin plates come to be played like steel drums.

Who knows?

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The tuning system passed on to me involves 6 tap toned regions on

the top and 5 on the back, not one for the top and one for the

back, if youre not tone deaf there is no reason to use electronics,

the old makers all seem to have done it this way by ear, Ive just

purchased an unaltered in any way 1700s violin and the tap tuning

is obvious, clear and very well tuned, the problem with using no

tuning at all is the tuning becomes random and 95% likely to be

between two semitones rather than right on one note. Regraduated

violins often loose there tuning if the regraduater doesn't know

how to redo the tuning, sincerely Lyndon

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Andres Sender

You might want to read Keith Hill on area-tuning the violin, I believe some or all of his articles are now on the web.

Then read up on plate-tuning, which is described also in various sources on the web, as well as a detailed writeup by Al Carruth which is in one of the GAL's Big Red Books now.

There used to be a highly detailed discussion of steel-drum tuning on the web.

...

look at Martin Schleske's website. The stuff he's doing is where all this actually starts to get interesting,

...

Keep in mind that lots of people make very fine violins without any of the above. Just because some people might use (to make up an example) a microscope and a caliper which reads to .001 mm to make violins doesn't mean they are necessary to the process of making a fine instrument.

Hi Andres, Mark, Lyndon and all:

Thanks for all the good reading info, is there going to be a test? :-)

While I can clearly hear tonal difference using the tap method I question my ability to properly make adjustments to correct what I am hearing. I use to have pretty good relative pitch and know when a guitar string was vibrating false when the root was in tune. I'm not ready for a hearing aide but obviously something more than a tuning fork is needed to keep me honest.

In envy those who can look at a piece of wood, scratch here and there to make it sing. I think we call them professionals. It would be years if ever before I attained those skills. For certain I'm a lot more comfortable with tools and measuring as a way to compensate for my lack of intuition.

It's this plate tuning which has me uncomfortable, not suggesting I'm heavy handed with my 9' disk grinder but I sure don't want to be seeing daylight while I'm chasing a perceived tone. (joke with the grinder)

Honestly didn't know what I was faced with to the degree that has been dumped in my lap. I knew of thinning as a means to achieve a desired tone but no idea how involved it was. The phono cartridge seemed to make the most sense to prevent too many mistakes as I chase those magic tones.

Tried several tappers and the best found to date is a ping pong ball to give the crisp sound without denting the surface.

I was looking at the Vigdorchik tone strips and was talking with someone who has been using them for some years. If I can depend on that I surly can put a phono stylus and see what I have.

Then comes the question of how to support the top. An instant solution is to cut the top shape out from a cardboard box and support the ends with stryofoam cups. This will also give me a mount platform for the tone arms and the box can house a speaker.

Cheers,

gtm

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Andres Sender

look at Martin Schleske's website. The stuff he's doing is where all this actually starts to get interesting,


Wow, that site is a revelation! gtm, take the photo tour there - a number of pictures look like what you're attempting. Also lots of great PDF's to download...

Also check out platetuning.org - that site looks like a gold mine...

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

...Honestly didn't know what I was faced with to the degree that has been dumped in my lap. I knew of thinning as a means to achieve a desired tone but no idea how involved it was...

And that's how it is. As I make my first violin, every step of the way feels like that. There are layers upon layers of depth to this endeavor, which is why I guess so many spend a good part of their lives pursuing it...

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It's a good thing to stay busy and occupied. It if has to be with "tuning systems", so be it - it's probably less expensive than playing the lottery on a regular basis.

If it keeps one from learning how to make a good violin, that's perhaps not so positive, but hey, who needs competition. If you can't kill a vampire, at least try to plate-tune a violin.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Tim McTigue

quote:


Originally posted by:
Andres Sender

look at Martin Schleske's website. The stuff he's doing is where all this actually starts to get interesting,


Wow, that site is a revelation! gtm, take the photo tour there - a number of pictures look like what you're attempting.

...

Also check out platetuning.org - that site looks like a gold mine...

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

...Honestly didn't know what I was faced with

...

...every step of the way feels like that. There are layers upon layers of depth to this endeavor, which is why I guess so many spend a good part of their lives pursuing it...

Hi Tim,Lyndon,Andres,Mark and all:

By no means did I read all that was offered on those sites. I did reject the use of microphones if I am to use a speaker and given tones. It would be impossible to isolate the source and the effect. The other aspect was to not become so involved requiring sophisticated electronic measuring equipment.

I now have diagrams of known areas to address. Once I have mapped some of these I should have a better idea if the phono cartridge is a valid method to _hear_. I think it's important to have some recorded data so should I undertake another I have a reference point of where to begin.

Tim you have a considerable leg up on this for you have been at it for over a year with loads of reading and planning behind you. I'm coming in after the fact with a very narrow limited knowledge base and a plethora of ideas on how I should do something without adequate information.

I just found out how to plot the highs and lows on the top and back with a simple tool thanks edi malinaric. Combined with the diagrams at least I will have some basis for trying something.

Thanks,

gtm

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quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

Once I have mapped some of these I should have a better idea if the phono cartridge is a valid method to _hear_.

gtm

A phono cartridge will work. A piezo strip will work better and is easier to use.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

Tim you have a considerable leg up on this for you have been at it for over a year with loads of reading and planning behind you. I'm coming in after the fact with a very narrow limited knowledge base and a plethora of ideas on how I should do something without adequate information.


Sorry, I really don't. I've done a **little** reading on the topic of plate tuning, and when I posted above, I hadn't had more than a cursory glance at the platetuning.org site. I subsequently took a longer look at it, and I have to say, I'm no longer so sure about the value of this information. I have to keep asking myself, if this is such vital information, why isn't it mainstream, and used by all the finest shops? It's certainly not because it's some deep secret. Anyway, you seem to think I'm some kind of expert, but I'm not. I have very little information or experience, and if I've represented myself otherwise, it's most assuredly not intentional...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Tim McTigue

Sorry, I really don't.

...

I have very little information or experience, and if I've represented myself otherwise, it's most assuredly not intentional...

Hi David, Tim and all:

Woops, that was a generalized statement about starting from scratch and not about plate tuning. I've followed your progress and take my hat off to you for your work.

............

David, I know nothing about a piezo strips nor know why they would be better? The phono can be adjusted down to less than 1 gram or up 10 grams for I don't have a tracking or skating issue. I could load them up sideways with a feather if I thought placement and wave form was being distorted.

Cheers,

gtm

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I've used both.

Piezo film is much cheaper than a phono cartridge.

Much less fragile, harder to damage.

Don't need to figure out which of the four phono cartridge wires to use.

Easily used from any position (sideways or upside down)

Will handle larger amplitudes than a phono cartridge.

Just mount the thing to the end of a stick, clamp the stick somehow (a vise?), and place the free end of the strip against a vibrating surface to use as a contact microphone. Will work through a mic preamp, haven't tried a phonograph input. Also works well as feed for a spectrum analyzer or FFT program

PIEZO FILM

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quote:


Originally posted by:
David Burgess

I've used both.

Piezo film is much cheaper than a phono cartridge.

Much less fragile, harder to damage.

Don't need to figure out which of the four phono cartridge wires to use.

Easily used from any position (sideways or upside down)

Will handle larger amplitudes than a phono cartridge.

...

Also works well as feed for a spectrum analyzer or FFT program


Hi David and all:

Not meaning to be contentious but I see some drawbacks. The color codes and pin-out of cartridges are standard in the industry. Yes there is a significant difference in cost, in this case I have many.

Tone arms can be made to work sideways (jukebox) or upside down by adjusting the counter balance.

Thankfully I don't have a lot of experience dropping un-dampened tone arms though not known any to be destroyed. That said I can agree the strip appears to be more robust though doubt that is needed for this application.

As for amplitudes I again question how it's attached to the surface... weighted, taped, or clamped. Any of these could cause false readings whereas the needle would not have these problems. Consider what happens when the tone arm goes skating across the grooves, it isn't destroyed.

If I am to believe the drawings there are areas which would be overlapped by the strip thus having shadows not knowing what was being sampled especially using a larger size. We are also talking about a monural source if that matters. By design you can hear the left side of an orchestra vs the right, rotate 90' it may recognize front to back.(???) If true I could see as a real plus in determining wave source.

It could be the needle will be too sensitive and I miss the point so to speak. There are so many unknown variables that it could be just a waste of time and the real proof is just following the thinning drawings and be done with it.

Cheers,

gtm

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quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

Not meaning to be contentious but I see some drawbacks. The color codes and pin-out of cartridges are standard in the industry.

Yes. But unless you're an audiophile electronics dinker, you might not know which pin combinations produce a signal on which axis.

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

Tone arms can be made to work sideways (jukebox) or upside down by adjusting the counter balance.gtm

I know. I've done it. My point had to do with the ease or difficulty with which it can be done, and switched from one position to another.

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

As for amplitudes I again question how it's attached to the surface... weighted, taped, or clamped. Any of these could cause false readings whereas the needle would not have these problems.

As I mentioned, it's not attached to the surface. The end or a corner is placed against the surface, not unlike a stylus.

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

Consider what happens when the tone arm goes skating across the grooves, it isn't destroyed.

Depending on how you support and drive your plate, you may be dealing with amplitudes vastly greater than the grooves on a record.

quote:


Originally posted by:
gtm

If I am to believe the drawings there are areas which would be overlapped by the strip thus having shadows not knowing what was being sampled especially using a larger size. We are also talking about a monural source if that matters. By design you can hear the left side of an orchestra vs the right, rotate 90' it may recognize front to back.(???) If true I could see as a real plus in determining wave source.

See "attachment" response above.

If you want to get into multi-axis and phase relationships, that's fine, especially if you have the software to resolve the signals. If you want the best way to do this, I can recommend a 3D laser system. I was under the impression from your earlier posts that you wanted to keep it simple though.

I

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