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Stradivari's golden ground varnish


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17 minutes ago, sospiri said:

I don't have the book, have never read it and can't imagine I ever would want to own it. Is the list even important in any way that would be meaningful to me?

I just read the entire Nagyvary review thread and the protein sealer idea is not taken seriously. It doesn't seem to be Brandmair's idea, rather Greiner's.

Anybody making a serious study of this varnish would do well to read it, if not purchase one. Ignoring peer reviewed research seems silly.

Nagyvary's ideas are something for an entirely different discussion.

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It's probably worth trying interlibrary loan, facilitated by WorldCat. As I've alluded before, I'd gladly play a lesser fee for Brandmair's work alone. I am not concerned with Greiner's input. I respect him, but am more interested in the science. 

This is probably better reserved for a separate topic, but it's clear there are quite a lot of approaches to finishing an instrument. I do believe, as Sospiri does, that all of us are concerned with an acoustically positive outcome - this is consistent with the fact that we produce musical tools. Regrettably, due to the staggering range of variables, this is a punishing phenomenon to try to measure. 

There are, as I see it, two major camps with subdivisions: 1) those that pursue as historically accurate a reconstruction as possible of the materials and techniques of the ancients, and 2) those who wish only for an aesthetically pleasing but not tonally detrimental protective and decorative coating.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for the members of both camps - it is a challenging road either way, and at the end of it, public opinion decides what sells or not. Whether we care to admit it or not, even the most sensitive of musicians interacts first with the instrument optically. 

Then they tune - in which case Eric Meyer is the king (provided his works are properly fitted). 

As my mentor and friend Joe Robson is fond of saying,

On we go

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I find the B&G book worth every penny. 

The instruments are very well chosen, the pictures are superb, as is the print. 

I can understand why some of you don't give so much value to Greiner's part, but I think it's a mistake . We all have to figure out what to do with the science part, and I find his interpretation pretty good. 

My 2 cents... 

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

What you put on the instrument is very important to the player, and how the instrument responds to their touch. Otherwise the best sounding instruments would be unvarnished. 

1 hour ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Paging Dr. @Don Noon

As always, "best" sound is not objective, but depends on the listener's taste.  That said, unvarnished instruments definitely sound different.  In more than one blind listening test, it was easy to pick out the unvarnished one.  I would call it harsh, surface noise, rough, or uncontrolled... but loud.  Varnish gives a more refined sound, and to my ear, better... if it's not overdone.

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24 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

There are, as I see it, two major camps with subdivisions: 1) those that pursue as historically accurate a reconstruction as possible of the materials and techniques of the ancients, and 2) those who wish only for an aesthetically pleasing but not tonally detrimental protective and decorative coating.

I'm definitely in camp 2).  Camp 1) is admirable as an academic dendeavor or for those who prefer the aesthetics of the old methods of making... but if it is being persued as the secret to the glory of the Cremonese look... I hate to see folks headed down that dead end.  Unless they're aiming for that look hundreds of years after they die.

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21 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

As always, "best" sound is not objective, but depends on the listener's taste.  That said, unvarnished instruments definitely sound different.  In more than one blind listening test, it was easy to pick out the unvarnished one.  I would call it harsh, surface noise, rough, or uncontrolled... but loud.  Varnish gives a more refined sound, and to my ear, better... if it's not overdone.

 

I think of it as "judicious damping."

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

As always, "best" sound is not objective, but depends on the listener's taste.  That said, unvarnished instruments definitely sound different.  In more than one blind listening test, it was easy to pick out the unvarnished one.  I would call it harsh, surface noise, rough, or uncontrolled... but loud.  Varnish gives a more refined sound, and to my ear, better... if it's not overdone.

Thanks, Don. This is precisely the perspective I was hoping you'd bring.

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5 hours ago, sospiri said:

I just read the entire Nagyvary review thread and the protein sealer idea is not taken seriously. It doesn't seem to be Brandmair's idea, rather Greiner's. What is your impression?

 

Let me quote from Nagyvary's review of the Brandmair and Greiner book:  "The cross-sections of 7 instruments were stained by fuchsin that revealed the presence and location of proteins..." 

Greiner is quoted as saying "Stradivari's process began with the application of a thin coat of protein as a sealer, and the protein could have been derived from milk, eqq white, or animal glue.  This was in most instances stained brown by an unidentified stain."

The idea of a protein sealer is taken seriously.  I did not read where Nagyvary dismissed the idea of a protein layer.

Mike D

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I've got the book and read it several times, there is lots of good information. Greiner interprets it a certain way but also states that certain important questions remain open and further research is needed. I would say particularly that the presence of a stain is based on conjecture.

I think the term "ground" is too broad and people have different ideas as to what it actually is. Also I wouldn't describe something as "golden" only in terms of color, when lustre is equally important. 

 

 

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13 hours ago, sospiri said:

I don't have the book, have never read it and can't imagine I ever would want to own it. Is the list even important in any way that would be meaningful to me?

I just read the entire Nagyvary review thread and the protein sealer idea is not taken seriously. It doesn't seem to be Brandmair's idea, rather Greiner's. What is your impression?

And why do you dismiss Echard's work? Because you tried it once and didn't like it? That's normal I'm sure, because it is easy to apply too much.

I should point out that I didn't learn about his research until after reading the same idea from another source published in 1973,  who quoted a source from 100 years before that. Then finding a violin with an oil ground that had a unique sound, despite being rather crudely made.  

To get what I wanted required an awful lot of practice. It wasn't just some quirky idea that I had to follow.

One poster on that thread summed up most of my ideas in their own way. This is a common goal, not just of aesthetics. What you put on the instrument is very important to the player, and how the instrument responds to their touch. Otherwise the best sounding instruments would be unvarnished. 

Why would we need to know your opinion of historical practices, if you are not fully aware of the scientific literature? 
 

I find Echard is wrong after having read his dissertation and publications (thanks to @John Harte) where I found the reason of his disagreement with Brandmair. Echard assumed a two component model to his spectral feature. He ignored any organic ground’s contribution.
 

Of course, this is an open forum where we all can express ideas, but an unsubstantiated opinion is not a scientific theory. You may produce nice looking instruments, but you cannot claim that they are historically relevant to Cremonese instruments.

BTW, the best sounding instruments need some varnish.

 

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12 hours ago, Don Noon said:

As always, "best" sound is not objective, but depends on the listener's taste.  That said, unvarnished instruments definitely sound different.  In more than one blind listening test, it was easy to pick out the unvarnished one.  I would call it harsh, surface noise, rough, or uncontrolled... but loud.  Varnish gives a more refined sound, and to my ear, better... if it's not overdone.

That might suggest that there is an optimum amount of total damping of the wood's plus the finish's.

Maybe a wood with low damping should use a high damping finish and vice versa.

 

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7 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

As respectfully as possible in this instance, bugger Greiner and bugger his opinion. That a Hanford engineer would care more for the opinion of a popular maker than a fellow scientist is bizarre to me. 

 

Greiner brought his bias as a trained luthier to writing his section. Ignore his ideas about pre-protein impregnation (infusion is the better term). There are proteins but they were not used as modern luthiers do to seal wood. I hope to publish my findings in 2021, if I avoid the pandemic.

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14 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

It's probably worth trying interlibrary loan, facilitated by WorldCat. As I've alluded before, I'd gladly play a lesser fee for Brandmair's work alone. I am not concerned with Greiner's input. I respect him, but am more interested in the science. 

This is probably better reserved for a separate topic, but it's clear there are quite a lot of approaches to finishing an instrument. I do believe, as Sospiri does, that all of us are concerned with an acoustically positive outcome - this is consistent with the fact that we produce musical tools. Regrettably, due to the staggering range of variables, this is a punishing phenomenon to try to measure. 

There are, as I see it, two major camps with subdivisions: 1) those that pursue as historically accurate a reconstruction as possible of the materials and techniques of the ancients, and 2) those who wish only for an aesthetically pleasing but not tonally detrimental protective and decorative coating.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for the members of both camps - it is a challenging road either way, and at the end of it, public opinion decides what sells or not. Whether we care to admit it or not, even the most sensitive of musicians interacts first with the instrument optically. 

Then they tune - in which case Eric Meyer is the king (provided his works are properly fitted). 

As my mentor and friend Joe Robson is fond of saying,

On we go

I think we all want similar things in different ways.

 

13 hours ago, Don Noon said:

As always, "best" sound is not objective, but depends on the listener's taste.  That said, unvarnished instruments definitely sound different.  In more than one blind listening test, it was easy to pick out the unvarnished one.  I would call it harsh, surface noise, rough, or uncontrolled... but loud.  Varnish gives a more refined sound, and to my ear, better... if it's not overdone.

Agreed.

13 hours ago, Bill Yacey said:

I think of it as "judicious damping."

Agreed.

1 hour ago, Michael_Molnar said:

Why would we need to know your opinion of historical practices, if you are not fully aware of the scientific literature? 
 

I find Echard is wrong after having read his dissertation and publications (thanks to @John Harte) where I found the reason of his disagreement with Brandmair. Echard assumed a two component model to his spectral feature. He ignored any organic ground’s contribution.
 

Of course, this is an open forum where we all can express ideas, but an unsubstantiated opinion is not a scientific theory. You may produce nice looking instruments, but you cannot claim that they are historically relevant to Cremonese instruments.

BTW, the best sounding instruments need some varnish.

 

I'm trying to explain hand application. It doesn't get much recognition here.

What exactly do you disagree with Echard about? His Linseed oil ground idea will inevitably include Collagen, Elastin, Keratin and byproducts of these proteins if hand oil application was used. There is bound to be hydrolysis and electrolysis going on induced by reactions of sweat and friction.

Before you publish your findings you might want to consider that I have something you should be interested in? 

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9 hours ago, Mike_Danielson said:

Let me quote from Nagyvary's review of the Brandmair and Greiner book:  "The cross-sections of 7 instruments were stained by fuchsin that revealed the presence and location of proteins..." 

Greiner is quoted as saying "Stradivari's process began with the application of a thin coat of protein as a sealer, and the protein could have been derived from milk, eqq white, or animal glue.  This was in most instances stained brown by an unidentified stain."

The idea of a protein sealer is taken seriously.  I did not read where Nagyvary dismissed the idea of a protein layer.

Mike D

Thanks Mike. This is why I found the Nagyvary review thread so interesting. Other posters suggest that Brandmair was more cautious about the protein question and that Greiner was guilty of confirmation bias of his own hypothesis and working method.

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40 minutes ago, sospiri said:

 Greiner was guilty of confirmation bias of his own hypothesis and working method.

Like all of us here on Maestronet. B)

He is a luthier linked to his experience, it is inevitable, so I would not underestimate his hypotheses, like those of no other expert luthier, even if I don't necessarily have to share them to the letter.

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11 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

Like all of us here on Maestronet. B)

He is a luthier linked to his experience, it is inevitable, so I would not underestimate his hypotheses, like those of no other expert luthier, even if I don't necessarily have to share them to the letter.

I think Echard and Brandmair were both right because they both confirm my own bias in different ways.

I know that linseed oil can dry hard enough to be resistant to fingernail scratches. When I do the test, a trail of keratin is visible which disappears with very light rubbing. 

The dried oil forms thousands of tiny valleys and the keratin is smoothed into the surface. 

Those tiny valleys and ridges probably contribute to a more flexible surface that gives the player more control of the sound. I don't know if skin protein and by products of heat and friction contribute much. Is an elastomer being formed with the various ingredients?

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1 hour ago, sospiri said:

Those tiny valleys and ridges probably contribute to a more flexible surface that gives the player more control of the sound.

I am happy that you are able to appreciate these nuances, and what a pity that this kind of effects on the sound will never be verifiable. Perhaps it is better to keep our feet on the ground and since we invoke science for chemical analyzes it is better not to bother science fiction for the acoustic part.:)

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1 hour ago, Davide Sora said:

I am happy that you are able to appreciate these nuances, and what a pity that this kind of effects on the sound will never be verifiable. Perhaps it is better to keep our feet on the ground and since we invoke science for chemical analyzes it is better not to bother science fiction for the acoustic part.:)

If you can distinguish between Biology, Chemistry and Physics, then you might be right.

I don't know where one stops and the other starts.

 

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22 hours ago, sospiri said:

I think we all want similar things in different ways.

 

Agreed.

Agreed.

I'm trying to explain hand application. It doesn't get much recognition here.

What exactly do you disagree with Echard about? His Linseed oil ground idea will inevitably include Collagen, Elastin, Keratin and byproducts of these proteins if hand oil application was used. There is bound to be hydrolysis and electrolysis going on induced by reactions of sweat and friction.

Before you publish your findings you might want to consider that I have something you should be interested in? 

I look forward to learning your findings.

 

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On 12/29/2020 at 8:27 AM, sospiri said:

I'm trying to explain hand application. It doesn't get much recognition here.

What exactly do you disagree with Echard about? His Linseed oil ground idea will inevitably include Collagen, Elastin, Keratin and byproducts of these proteins if hand oil application was used. There is bound to be hydrolysis and electrolysis going on induced by reactions of sweat and friction.

Before you publish your findings you might want to consider that I have something you should be interested in?

I think that any proteins introduced by hand application would tend to be vestigial traces compared to the amount of oil or resins being used; certainly not enough to make any significant contribution to the properties of the ground.

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10 minutes ago, Bill Yacey said:

I think that any proteins introduced by hand application would tend to be vestigial traces compared to the amount of oil or resins being used; certainly not enough to make any significant contribution to the properties of the ground.

This is most likely true. Also it would be either Keratin and derivatives such as Cysteine and... I don't know what else. They are known to have binding properties in weak alkaline solution  but in violin varnish, maybe not?

So should they be removed or not?

If you believe, as I do that violin varnish should be super thin for optimal damping and playability, and many super thin coats are used, maybe in the region of one micron thick per coat, then the idea of an Elasomer forming with the oil, rosin/turpentine and proteins may be less fanciful, or at least worth investigating?

Or do skin proteins make no useful contribution to the process? Or even dull the sound?

10 hours ago, Michael_Molnar said:

I look forward to learning your findings.

 

There is nothing new that I can tell you or John Harte that I haven't said before, other than the refinement of my method to thinner overall finish, which hopefully is more senstive/responsive to the player. 

I agree with your point about a change in Stradivari's varnish in the 1690s. I wonder if Luthiers in the 17th century added cooked colphony final coats as a luxurious optional extra, and that from 169? onwards, most or all of Creomonese Masters' finishes were done this way?

It is interesting that from some time in the 19th century, the belief formed that it was the ground and or transitional coats that were tonally ideal?

Otherwise do unvarnished instruments sound better? Do expensive strings sound better than cheap ones? Do cheap student bows play just as well as the best Pernambuco? 

Should we discuss varnish in the same context of optimal sound and playability?

Also, I would be interested to know more from the academic debate of where Brandmair and Echard agree or disagree? I wonder if they are both right in different ways?

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7 hours ago, Wood Butcher said:

Fat chance of that.
I've been asking for a clear picture of this wonder finish applied to a violin for several years now, but each time, various excuses are given as to why it's not possible to take one.

It looks a bit shiny but not too much. A bit red brown yellow orangey kinda colour.

 

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