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Allan Speers

Advanced question re after-length & TP size.

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Last year we had quite a discussion here about after-length. At the end of the day, four things were clear:

1: It really, really matters.

2: Most agree on the effects of a change, but nobody is really sure of the cause. At all.

3: The 2:3 ratio is just a ballpark guide.

4: Many folks / many instruments prefer it a little longer/ lower pitch, but virtually NO ONE likes it shorter / higher pitch.

=================================

Here's my conundrum / question:

My new violin has a body that is slightly too short. A normal 328mm scale-length violin has about 60 - 62mm from the back of the bridge to the edge of the body at the button.

(is there a name for that? Maybe "the button stop?" )

Mine is about 154mm. The TP is your standard 110mm. This makes it REALLY hard to get a 2:3 after-length, let alone a hair longer. (I like to experiment.) At best, the tailcord would be so short that the TP would not move. - And it's virtually impossible to use my preferred 330mm scale length.

I have two solutions.

1: I could (obviously) use a ~ 100mm tailpiece, although that's a trick since this is a 5-string violin. I guess I could buy an Ebony TP and file it down.

2: I could figure a way to extend the button. That should be possible.

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I'm looking for opinions on what is best. Here are the factors, as I see it:

A lighter tailpiece is usually better, up to a point. I use shorter TP's on my acoustics, set to 330mm scale, and am very happy with the results. If the sound suffered, I coudl always add some weight to the TP.

Some folks think different tailcord materials give the fiddle different qualities. If so, then surely it is important to have just the "right" amount of play in the TP.

The difference between my two options is something like the difference between a jazz guiat (with it's long trapeze tailpiece) and a les paul, with it's very short bridge-TP arrangement. I believe this affects both tone & sustain. How this applies to the violin is one of those questions that makes me wanna' give up, fire up the blender & make a batch of margaritas.

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Have I explained the question correctly?

1: How much does TOTAL vibrating length (from nut to end button) matter?

2: How much does the "correct" amount of flexibility from TP to end button matter?

Which approach would you take (forget about which is easier) with my instrument?

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For nut and neck widths a few mm's is very important but for violin tailpeices I've never bothered.

I just use a standard violin tailpiece on all my 4/4 size violins, and aim to make the gap either side of the bridge equal.

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Extending the button is not an option (too much leverage, and no saddle over it), so you either have to accept using a 4/4 tailpiece, or try to find a 3/4-7/8 5 string tailpiece. Since you're already using a non-standard scale length, you have limited options. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it.

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At best, the tailcord would be so short that the TP would not move.

Many people (including me) think that IS the best.

1: How much does TOTAL vibrating length (from nut to end button) matter?

2: How much does the "correct" amount of flexibility from TP to end button matter?

Which approach would you take (forget about which is easier) with my instrument?

I don't believe either of these factors are what is really important. Perhaps those who do high-level adjustments for the pros can offer their opinion, but here's mine:

There are 3 main areas of concern, in descending importance...

1 - tailcord free length, and resonance of the end of the tailpiece. The tailpiece is a lousy sound radiator, so any vibration energy that goes into it will create a "divot" in the sound response from the body at the tailpiece resonant frequency. I have found that with free talicord lengths of ~5mm result in a noticable resonance in the 500 - 600 Hz range (depends on tailpiece mass and other factors, but you get the idea), with a resulting loss of sound output. Another MN'er found this resonance was mucking up the open E string. This might be a useful thing, if you have a very peaky body resonance, to smooth out the response by tuning to that frequency... but I prefer not to.

2 - afterlength tuning - similar to the tailpiece, resonant frequencies of the string afterlengths will also create holes in the sound response. Bow the afterlengths to hear what notes they correspond to, and you might be able to notice that playing those notes on the regular part of the strings will be slightly less responsive. If those are VERY important notes to you, then you can mess around with afterlength or add damping to the afterlength to move the divots around. Normally this doesn't seem to be much of a problem.

3 - normally the major tailpiece modes are below the playing frequency range, but if the afterlength is short and/or the tailpiece is light, I think the torsion mode might get high enough to get in G-string range. I haven't seen this yet, though. With a 5-string, there might be some issues on the C-string... but response on the fundamental is so poor anyway, you might not notice any loss even if there was some.

In a more speculative area... shorter afterlength might create some muting of the low frequencies and/or add more overall damping... but I think these would be very minor effects, if they even exist. I have not been able to detect them from measurements or listening, yet.

What I would do for your situation: shorten the tailcord to the minimum, and see if there are any problems. Then worry about fixing them, once they are identified. I wouldn't expect any.

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Thanks for your thoughts, Don.

-And now I must (respectfully) raise issues with a few of them: (g)

Many people (including me) think that IS the best.

Interesting to hear that. I'm not arguing, but many luthiers also think that a lighter TP (up to a point) sounds better than a heavy one. That would imply MORE vibration, not less. My own personal (limited) tests showed this also, on perhaps 10 mid-range fiddles. - that is, lighter weight helps, not necessarily more vibration. Interesting.

Well, the anchor is a different thing, technically, so maybe there's more to it. It makes you wonder why the early masters didn't just glue / peg / whatever the TP right to the body. Surely someone must have tried and rejected that at some point.

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2 - afterlength tuning - similar to the tailpiece, resonant frequencies of the string afterlengths will also create holes in the sound response.

This belief is held by some, not by others. Like I said in my OP, no one seems to know for sure. A search here will find several long threads on the subject, with absolutely no conclusions!

I personally don't believe that the acoustical addition from the AL section makes any difference. I did some rather extensive tests in that regard several years ago. My guess is that it either changes the formant structure of the main vibrating part of the string (mechanically) or it changes how the bridge vibrates. - or both. - But heck I don't really know, either.

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What I would do for your situation: shorten the tailcord to the minimum, and see if there are any problems. Then worry about fixing them, once they are identified. I wouldn't expect any.

It is at the minimum, and my afterlength is only 52mm, with a 104mm TP. - Hence this thread!

-And once again, there's a reason why jazz guitars have their strings terminated much further from the saddles (bridge) than on a folk guitar or electric. It's not for show. Something about tone or sustain. I think mostly it shortens the sustain, IIRC.

- Otherwise I'd just have Eric Meyer make me a 98mm 5-string TP and be done with it.

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Hmmm. Thinking about the jazz guitar- Maybe they do that simply to lower the vector? (the angle of break over the bridge.)

If so, maybe a super-short TP will be OK if I also lower the bridge? My action is too high anyway (neck is a hair too low, and this would save me an expensive operation.

Any thoughts?

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Extending the button is not an option (too much leverage, and no saddle over it)

No, i believe it's completely do-able, with some care. an extra "tailblock" would be made out of hard maple, with a long ebony endpin running through it, extending out both sides. One side goes in the violin body, the other side accepts the tail cord. New saddle on top. Shape & varnish to taste.

We're only talking 10mm. I've literally done crazier thing with some of my instruments.

I care more about sound than aesthetics. - plus this should be reversible.

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Allen,

if sound is what you are after I would suggest investigating these tailpieces, they have made a difference for the clients I have introduced them to, so far the players have been pleased with the results.

www.CordieraCantabile.com

Reese

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It is at the minimum, and my afterlength is only 52mm, with a 104mm TP. - Hence this thread!

-And once again, there's a reason why jazz guitars have their strings terminated much further from the saddles (bridge) than on a folk guitar or electric. It's not for show. Something about tone or sustain. I think mostly it shortens the sustain, IIRC.

- Otherwise I'd just have Eric Meyer make me a 98mm 5-string TP and be done with it.

----------------

Hmmm. Thinking about the jazz guitar- Maybe they do that simply to lower the vector? (the angle of break over the bridge.)

If so, maybe a super-short TP will be OK if I also lower the bridge? My action is too high anyway (neck is a hair too low, and this would save me an expensive operation.

Any thoughts?

I'm a bit confused ( not remarkable in itself ). Your string length is 330 so your goal is an AL of 55. You have 154 from the top? of the bridge to the end of the instrument ( might gain you a mm or so on the fly).

Subtracting, that gives you a desired, effective length from the saddle on the tailpiece to the end of the instrument of 99 - 100. If you add 5mm for the usual amount of wood in front of the center of the tailpiece saddle that's 104-5 for an AL of 55. But you only have 52 with a 104 tailpiece?

You do have a unique situation with the long SL and the short body, not to mention the five strings.

I was a guitar repairman and builder for twenty years. Besides the differences in sustain and brightness that players noticed in a shoter afterlength, they always mentioned the "feel" of the string tension as being different in that same continuum. I always wondered about this as there were so many other variables in the mix, but it was an accepted truism among the professional players that a shorter SL was brighter, longer and softer. Different animal but ? Jazz guitars have a much higher bridge so I'm not sure about the vector part.

Did you get my PM?

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Hey, Eric. Good thoughts.

Ah, you're right about the jazz bridge, I should have actually looked at a jazz guitar. There goes THAT theory.

Well, likely no one will have an answer to my original question, so I'll probably take the easy way out. PM sent.

To clarify: (OT) It's a short body. only ~ 348mm. "154" is the measurement from the back of the bridge to the start of the end pin. (actually more like 152 mm)

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So no real answer to my original query. Well, not surprising as it's pretty out there.

How about this:

My FB angle is a little low. I have been trying to decide whether to raise it, or just lower the bridge. Normally I would not lower the bridge, but-

An alterted after-length's main effect may be to change pressure on the bridge, by way of changing the vector (angle of the string-break) If that is so (a strong possibility) then maybe I should just keep the A-L short and lower the bridge?

Otherwise, I have to raise the FB, replace the Tp, add perfection pegs, and then there's no beans left for dinner.

Thoughts?

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An alterted after-length's main effect may be to change pressure on the bridge, by way of changing the vector (angle of the string-break)

If the bridge is kept constant, I can't see how afterlength would change net bridge pressure. Individual string pressure might vary, depending on how the tailpiece curvature matches the bridge, but the total will remain the same, as it is determined by the angle from the nut to the bridge to the saddle.

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I'm thinking that since the total length of the string changes, so will the tension.

- Probably very minor, but SOMETHING sure does make a difference to the tone. (& maybe to the sustain) I refuse to believe that it's comb filtering from the audible pitches of the after-length. (besides, my limited tests showed this NOT to be so) More likely something mechanical.

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I'm thinking that since the total length of the string changes, so will the tension.

- Probably very minor, but SOMETHING sure does make a difference to the tone. (& maybe to the sustain) I refuse to believe that it's comb filtering from the audible pitches of the after-length. (besides, my limited tests showed this NOT to be so) More likely something mechanical.

Hi Allan,

With the same strings, the string tension between the pegs and the nut, the nut and the bridge and as Don says the total tension from the bridge to the saddle will remain the same. What changes for me is the possible distribution of tension over the four strings and a shift of the mass by moving the tailpiece further away from the bridge. If the tailpiece is really close to the saddle the tailgut /tailpiece assembly could vibrate in a different way (increased rigidity from the shortened tailgut) inflencing the sound.

Bruce

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Allen,

if sound is what you are after I would suggest investigating these tailpieces, they have made a difference for the clients I have introduced them to, so far the players have been pleased with the results.

www.CordieraCantabile.com

Reese

Woah. Reese, somehow I overlooked your post before. That's interesting, but I don't read / speak the language.

Does anyone know more about this? Just for cello?

Is it a gimmick, or do they have some science behind it?

- And how would you set the after-length? (I guess they already have that worked out, yes?)

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Is it a gimmick, or do they have some science behind it?

I searched the website for any hint of science, and found only gobbledygook (fancy-sounding words and phrases that mean nothing). With the extremely long afterlength on the lower strings, I would worry about deep divots in the response caused by the non-radiating resonator effect.

IMHO: gimmick.

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Allen, I have posted information on these before but I can summarize here.

The website should have an english tab - I assume you got the french version as that is where these are from.

first let me state that I am not connected to this company directly. my association stems from a demonstration set up with Oberlin Conservatory of Music for their faculity and students by the company's chief representative and a friend of his on the college's staff. I was asked to come and help install the tailpieces and help with adjustments as they where tried. I was willing to see and hear them first without making a judment or uninformed opinion. The representative left several of these with me to show some of my other clients.

There is a great deal of research and expeimentation behind the design - it is not just a visual gimick based on old baroque designs. I would like the company to be more forthcoming with the specifics but they are progressing slowly with the webpage and marketing development. My understanding is that they have years of research with the leading French acoustical researchers and university programs, the design evolved to its present form after much measurments of the affects of afterlength etc. The tailpeice is a complex combination of curves and twists designed to even string tensions and product the greatest affect on tonal quality.

The basic idea is to lengthen the afterlength to correspond to a major harmonic for each string which has the affect of opening up the instrumnets resonance through the whole spectrum of sound.

(I am still trying to develop a way of explaining this, I have only been working with these since June)

The company has focused on direct sales to soloists and orchestra members mostly in Europe sofar, college teachers and professional players. This has been successful. the violist giving a concert at the Viola Congress this years was using it on his instrument.

They are available for all instrument, adjustment is by shortening of lengthing the woven tailgut material (kevlar). I have found the Hill style tuner work fine with them but they have a tuner also available. The biggest change is with the low string - it needs to be a string with a longer space between the windings so that the upper thread clears the nut. The company has special strings available for this purpose - they seems to be simular to Larson, eventually they want to have all the major string brand available in these long lengths, i have found that the violist can order a longer scale version of their favorite and violinsit can use the viola G for their to match the other type of strings,

so far i have placed them on an italian violin (Gagliano), J. Curtin violin, a fine Italian Cello (1850) and an American 15 1/2 viola from the early 1900, and an American violin from texas 1960. All are professional players, college proffessors or teachers. All recognize the improvement in sound depth, response, tonal color, easy of playing with the viola benefitting from the greatest impact so far - it was muted, closed and hollow now it is not. i will continue to have others trying them.

The company might have information at the VSA their plans where unclear last I communicated with them, I will be attending on Wed. and Friday, if you run into me i will be happy to share what I can, I am still working with the tailpieces to get a greater understanding of what it can do.

Reese

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The basic idea is to lengthen the afterlength to correspond to a major harmonic for each string which has the affect of opening up the instrumnets resonance through the whole spectrum of sound.

These are the kind of descriptions that do not work for me... mostly vague verbal arm-waving. The only concrete item is that the afterlength is tuned to a major harmonic for the string. Fine... so if you only play on the open string, something will happen. Put your finger down on a string, and the harmonic match disappears.

I'm not saying that this tailpice doesn't do ANYTHING audible... it might. I just get a little cynical when something is promoted as an acoustic breakthrough when there is no acoustic science or data given to support the claims. Just words. :) I'm a skeptic, but easily swayed by facts.

Yes, I did see the "English" tab on the website. The descriptions of the physics were still Greek, though.

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These are the kind of descriptions that do not work for me... mostly vague verbal arm-waving. The only concrete item is that the afterlength is tuned to a major harmonic for the string. Fine... so if you only play on the open string, something will happen. Put your finger down on a string, and the harmonic match disappears.

I'm not saying that this tailpice doesn't do ANYTHING audible... it might. I just get a little cynical when something is promoted as an acoustic breakthrough when there is no acoustic science or data given to support the claims. Just words. :) I'm a skeptic, but easily swayed by facts.

Yes, I did see the "English" tab on the website. The descriptions of the physics were still Greek, though.

What site? Bois D'Harmonie?

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www.CordieraCantabile.com

Thanks! Maybe an idea to test for a hardanger fiddle? The time history of the notes migt be affected. Slower and more ring.

The Frenchmen has an institute helping the makers to develop acoustical ideas: http://www.itemm.fr/site2/page.php?pp=3 I do not know if this institute has been involved or any of the other academic institutions containing musical acoustics groups for this particular tailpice design. But it could be a possibility.

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Thanks, Anders.

That Bois off-center end pin is pure genius! Such a simple solution... Not enough change for me, but I can surely make my own, with a wider diameter. That should get me close.

Reese, I'm with Don Noon on the skepticism. Like Don, I believe such a thing WILL make a difference, but it can't have anything to do with audible harmonics. Besides Don's point, and my own actual FFT tests on after-length, there is also the issue of string type. Every string type has its own specific set of modes. If your explanation were correct, then this TP could not work for both steel strings and unwound gut.

The more I think on it, the more I believe it has to do with tension on the bridge. (flexibility behind the bridge.) That jibes with the common belief that TP weight and tailcord composition also have a pronounced effect. It kind of hurts the brain to think about it. The size of the body is dictated by the frequency range of the instrument, but the length of the strings / length of the TP may have simply been an ergonomic convenience. Do we even NEED a tailpiece?

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