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Low Density Spruce


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Jezzupe nicely put. I am well aware of the blind test with Stern and Zukerman and others like it. I want to make something clear. I am not dogmatic about the ubiquitous nature of Strads and Guarneris. I have played some violins that are quite new that I would put in the outstanding sound category (Curtain, Zygmontowicz, Bellini, Becker and others). I have played a few Strads that were what I would call dogs. But the absolute best were Guarneris, Strads, and one Storioni that had the best E string I have ever played. As you say probably because they were played for a long time by good to great players. I would say that each time that I have had the opportunity to play on the expensive antique instruments part of me is excited—for obvious reasons and because of my making/repairing background I almost wanted them to be ho hum. Additionally I knew that I was playing on instruments that I would never be able to own. I actually for a while quite going to shops or asking players if I could try their fiddles.

Perhaps to bring this topic full circle the image below might shed some light on my original question. As I understand it Curtin uses low density Engelmann (correct me if I am wrong). I have quite a bit of his old spruce. Like I said before, I asked him why he was selling this wood as most of it does not have glaring defects. He said because we (I guess he was still working with Greg Alf) found something lighter. I have tried his instruments and for the most part liked what I tried.

BTW thanks for warning me about my hands. Years ago I was working on a bass bridge. I was really going at trimming it. All of a sudden it let go and I drove a big splinter in between my fingernail and skin of my thumb. It came out ok after they cut off half of my fingernail and removed the splinter… a tad uncomfortable as you can imagine.


Well, all I can say about that is, nice! If you don't want it, send it to me :lol:

I'm sure its more than suitable. again much of this is about balance of different parts doing different things. To put all the eggs in one basket related to one part being paramount over the other may be misleading. I feel that LD wood is very important, but I also feel what type of back/rib material you pair it with is important. I also feel like Melvin, that it is important, and then again its not. To me the wood choice for a NEW instrument is very important. How all these factors interact is quite unknown. But I think you could be quite confident that if you have those guys "old wood" that they were using for who knows how many great instruments before they found something they felt was better, that it is quite good. They do, after all have an established reputation, as I hear that has something to do with it. :lol:

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Getting back to the original topic, I recently had the opportunity to play several instruments in a performance setting, ranging from my unvarnished #6 with .3 density top wood to a friend's regraduated old fiddle with .49 density wood. In terms of overall sound, the high-density instrument didn't lag behind as much as the numbers might indicate. There was a definite difference in the character, though. The HD instrument had more overtones, and the LD instruments were quick to respond, more "midrangy", and less overtones or "color".

I agree that these generalization are true, as if the HD wood by having more "stuff" to travel through will pic up more tangent waves and add more complexity to the tone, however I would not assume 100% that LD vrs HD are the only reasons for your assessment. Many factors related to the bridge and post can effect response time and feel. Let alone different bows and their interaction in the equation.

There is one large caveat on this comparison... the HD instrument is ~50 years old or more, and the LD instruments are all very new, between 0 and 1 year or so. If (large IF) the LD instruments age and play in to develop the high end and overtones, the comparison would be quite different.

Now, on the tangent topic:

Science and technology works pretty good at figuring out the violin works in the lower-frequency range. However, just following plans and patterns works just fine for getting these resonances into the right area, and I also don't feel that these are the most important factors in differentiating OK from Great. There have been no end of claims of knowledge of "The Secret", none of which seem to be agreed to by anyone other than the claimant. Truth is, nobody really knows.

I feel that the best chance is by using every source of information available: history, listening, playing, technology and measurements, feeling, twisting, and plenty of carving chips. Focusing too sharply on any one of these might miss something important. Say, for example, that the Cremonese DID soak thier wood in something, and this was indeed responsible... at least in part... for a great sound. Focusing only on historical documents and traditional methods would never get there. Similarly, one can develop a love affair with numbers that don't matter, which also will not get to the goal.

If anyone can send the violin to the moon Don, its you ;)

Personally, I believe that many things matter, and all interact in extremely complex ways. No source of information can be detrimental... only the misuse of it.


If we could re-create the sound of a great 300-year-old Cremonese instrument today, I think there would be plenty of interest... even if it only sounded good for 50 years. The lifetime of such an instrument would depend on what had to be done to make it so, therefore there can be no answer to how long it would live until we know these details. There is no guarantee that any of the great Cremonese instruments will sound good for 300 more years, either.

what is the sound of a great 300 year old instrument? and under what conditions? Apparently if someone who does not know how to play a violin, plays a Strad, it doesn't sound that good, I never discount the players part in the picture. They only sound like 300 year old instruments because there are people who have music inside of them and know how to bring it out :D
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What do you use for the volume number?

On a carved plate, I just go on historical scaling... from plates I've made of known density wood.

For the "known density", I cut very precise rectangular samples, as many as possible, from the offcuts of a plate, and weigh and measure them.

There are a number of things I very much admire about Don's methods, thoughts, and approach.

Gwarsh. :wub:

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