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Newly Published Book "The Sound of Stradivari"


pt3
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I don't get this discussion. I hesitate to jump in as an onlooker who knows nothing, beyond the fact that I tried a Strad once and it was a fantastic instrument. But I will jump in, in case someone can explain what is really going on in this discussion.

Claiming to have duplicated some part of Stradivari's process is sort of a violin maker's meme. Historically, the claim has been incorrect virtually 98% of the time (the other 2% turns out to be true, but functionally useless), and triggers a response of abuse, which is a primitive violin makers' sexual bonding ritual. You've really done it now, though, because claiming that Strads are better than what modern violin makers are doing usually triggers a "The Fox and the Grapes" skit.

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You've really done it now, though, because claiming that Strads are better than what modern violin makers are doing usually triggers a "The Fox and the Grapes" skit.

The lad who longed for a Strad, beholds with pain

The tempting melodies were too high to gain;

Grieved in his heart he forced a careless smile,

And cried ,‘Their expense is hardly worth my while.’

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Has anyone ever observed what happens to the plate resonant frequencies when the plate gets attached to a rib structure and re-tested in comparison with a free plate?

My experience on what will happen to the tap tone, or frequency, of the back plate mode 5 is that it will drop some 40Hz-ish from free to assembled on the ribs with the neck in place.

Data from one instrument in Wilkins and Pans VSA Papers article Summer 2009 (plates only attached to the ribs, no neck):

>>>>>>>>>> Free On ribs Difference

Top mode 2 174Hz 234Hz +60Hz

Top mode 5 340Hz 288Hz -52Hz

Back mode 2 172Hz 224Hz +52Hz

Back mode 5 368Hz 314Hz -54Hz

So mode 2 will go up and mode 5 down when the plates are on the ribs.

[Edit] I also enclose the data from Wilkins study from the Nov 2001 issue of the CASJ in the attached table along with the data given above. Average shifts were lower for the two examples from 2001. He has also shown some data for a cello in one of the later CASJ issues.

post-25136-0-03147300-1303309562_thumb.jpg

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To me, the silliness of the book in question is due to the authoritative prescriptions offered which do not match even a simple survey of known data on Strad's instruments.

My experience on what will happen to the tap tone, or frequency, of the back plate mode 5 is that it will drop some 40Hz-ish from free to assembled on the ribs with the neck in place.

The frequency changes between free plate and plate+ribs is pretty large, and essentially shows that the masses and stiffnesses are different... something that was not involved in the free-plate mode has now entered the picture. Things get even more different when the other plate gets glued on, and more different when the post is put in. Only a small fraction of the factors in the original free-plate mode end up defining the assembled instrument mode in any identifiable way. Like viewing a painting through three layers of stained glass windows, and trying to describe what you see by only using the painting. It has some small influence, but all the other stuff matters more.

That said, I still measure and record free-plate taptones, not so much for trying to hit some target in the assembled instrument, but for its indication of the properties of the wood.

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To me, the silliness of the book in question is due to the authoritative prescriptions offered which do not match even a simple survey of known data on Strad's instruments.

The frequency changes between free plate and plate+ribs is pretty large, and essentially shows that the masses and stiffnesses are different... something that was not involved in the free-plate mode has now entered the picture. Things get even more different when the other plate gets glued on, and more different when the post is put in. Only a small fraction of the factors in the original free-plate mode end up defining the assembled instrument mode in any identifiable way. Like viewing a painting through three layers of stained glass windows, and trying to describe what you see by only using the painting. It has some small influence, but all the other stuff matters more.

That said, I still measure and record free-plate taptones, not so much for trying to hit some target in the assembled instrument, but for its indication of the properties of the wood.

Well apparently I do see patterns where you don't. :-) It is quite clear that the wood and plates that are assembled into a violin box must have an influence on the violins response and properties! Now why not show us data on how "all the other stuff that matter" influence the instrument response?

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I don't get this discussion. I hesitate to jump in as an onlooker who knows nothing, beyond the fact that I tried a Strad once and it was a fantastic instrument. But I will jump in, in case someone can explain what is really going on in this discussion.

As far as I can see, either it is true that the best Starivari violins are way better than modern violins, in a different league. In which case anyone who searhes for the reasons should be praised, that is better than being an experiened but jaded violin maker who have given up the search for perfection. OR Stardivari are fine violins which are not radically different in sound and playability from what can be achieved with good materials, hard work and skill today.

If Strads are not in a different league than the best modern instruments, this kind of research is barking up the wrong tree, and violin design should look for refinement and innovation without idolizing Starivari. However, no one has come out and said that, though I know the discussion is repeated from time to time. I am guessing that this second view is behind scepticism about this new book.

There is a third explanation for the scepticism which occurs to me: when engineers and physicists finally work out what makes a great violin, fiddlex of Stradivari quality and better robustnesss will be made from synthetic materials, putting traditional violin makers in the position traditional watchmakers have in the age of digital watches: restorers of antiques which rarely work as well as something mass produced from plastic. Therefore best call of the search for how to engineer a Strad, because one day it will surely succeed.

Just being provocative to see why there is less support for the effort (even if it fails) to work out what it was that Stradivari 'knew' which modern makers are failing to match.

The problem arises when one takes it to the point of making a bold claim or statement (and even more so, then tries to sell an expensive book centered around such).

We're all for openness and learning (obviously), but after a while one grows tired of the noise. This is why I seek advice from acknowledged makers, those who obviously know the craft. And as for all else (my own crazy thoughts included), I take it with a hefty dose of salt.

Regarding Stradivari in particular, in my opinion the situation we have here is one of a true genius, operating in a specific place and a specific time in history. He was "the perfect storm", if you will (and del Gesu an even more perfect storm still...another of my opinions). And so, how does one repeat, this past? Well, one must be a possessor of the same genius, and live a similar life. In short, the creation is the sum of so many things, over which we've only so much control. We may bump up against it every now and then, in making an instrument that is in our day very special, but to my knowledge nobody is able to do so consistently. Heck, even Stradivari didn't always get it right, 100% of the time.

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You have to look from the perspective of the Cremonese masters. I doubt very much that they felt they created the epitome and standard by which all other instruments would be judged. I also doubt that they pursued acoustic excellence with the fervor and depth that makers today possess. In those times, the intent was to build violins as efficiently as possible in volume, because the sales of these instruments are what fed the family. These guys weren't whimsical dabbling artists, they were tradespeople cranking out product.

Because Stradivari and Guarneri were late in on the game having 150 years of empirical experience by previous makers available, they had the luxury of being able to look at some refinements in the system of building and acoustics. The higher demand and the higher prices they were able to command allowed them even more latitude for refinement.

I have no doubt that well built modern instruments will in time meet or exceed the present standard by which all instruments are judged presently. I believe time and use has a lot to do with the instrument settling and developing it's voice.

What's the secret or magic formula for time? Perhaps I should find a way to bottle and market it.

Addendum: Consider what were thought inferior instruments from the late 1700's through the 1800's have now moved into a higher position of respect.

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Well apparently I do see patterns where you don't. :-) It is quite clear that the wood and plates that are assembled into a violin box must have an influence on the violins response and properties! Now why not show us data on how "all the other stuff that matter" influence the instrument response?

Anders,

I absolutely agree that the wood and plates ARE the things that define how a violin works... I just have an issue with the over-emphasized importance of the taptone frequency. I don't have data on "all the other stuff", as it would be very difficult to determine what it is, and that wouldn't matter much, either. Allow me to indulge in my engineering view of this, for the two main modes:

M5 - in the free plate, the center and upper/lower edges move the most, and there's a combination of longitudinal bending, some minor crossgrain bending, and who-knows-how-much stretching due to the 3-D arching of the plate. Adding the ribs and endblocks puts a significant mass (endblocks) on the parts that were flapping free, which would tend to lower the "M5" frequency. The S-shaped ribs can't add much stiffness longitudinally. So the net effect is a lower frequency, with a slightly different mode shape, meaning slightly different areas of the plate mass and stiffness are the determining factors, as well as the endblock mass and some rib stiffness. The edges are still relatively unconstrained... but perhaps moving more like a simply supported beam now, rather than the free-free state.

Adding the other plate adds a huge pile of factors... the endblocks are now not free to rotate, and the ribs become much more like an I-beam, albiet a curved one. So it will behave more like a clamped-edge plate, quite different from the free-free beam we started with.

Now stick a support post in the middle of that plate, and its motion (and the areas of mass and stiffness that define it) changes even more. You couldn't really call it M5 now... it's something else.

M2: in the free plate, cross-grain flexing is dominant, mostly at the upper and lower edges. Adding ribs across here (where it's relatively straight) gives more stiffness than mass, so its frequency goes up. I won't go into the long-winded sequence of assembly, but it's similar to the above.

So, I don't have any helpful answers, just a description of the reasons why there are no 100% correlations between plate taptones and anything measurable in a completed instrument. Yes, there ARE correlations... as some pieces of the free-plate mass and stiffness show up to define the modes of the final product. However, it ain't much, in my data:

post-25192-0-34497400-1303318735_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-51540800-1303318734_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-84297000-1303318733_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-84489700-1303318732_thumb.jpg

I didn't bother putting in trendlines or R values. You might say that higher taptones might tend to give higher body modes, but as a predictive measurement, it isn't good.

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Blazing success:

Characteristic "A" of the free plates will result in characteristic "B" of the assembled instrument... and here's the objective evidence. Yes, I know there are correlations that show some trend between plate taptones and body modes, but the scatter plots look more like a shotgun blast. And that's the BEST we have.

On the positive side, at least my experience, taptones can vary all over the map and the body modes of the assembled instrument still come out pretty much in the same place.

I think part of this problem is that the free plate modes aren't really giving the information that they are often claimed to give. For instance, it's often written that mode 5 of a free plate is related to the stiffness along the grain of the plate and mode 2 is related to crossgrain stiffness. This doesn't appear to actually be the case because modes 2 and 5 are combinations of the two modes that give this information. In addition, the final modes of the assembled instrument will contain contributions from both stiffnesses as well. So, I agree that it is unlikely that there is any simple relation between free plate modes and the assembled violin's modes that will work for all violin shaped objects. It might be possible to relate them for one particular model, arching, and spruce with a certain set of properties but once the solution is that focused it will only be of interest to the one builder with that trunk of spruce.

Still, knowing how to control the modes of the completed instrument isn't really what most people are actually interested in doing. There may be a few people who are interested in just trying to understand how things work but most builders are looking for a way to make consistantly better instruments. Without having a real definition of what a great violin is then even if you had complete control over all of the modes of a violin then that doesn't mean that you will make great (or even good) violins. It only means that you have the ability to make violins that sound consistantly the same as each other.

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You have to look from the perspective of the Cremonese masters. I doubt very much that they felt they created the epitome and standard by which all other instruments would be judged. I also doubt that they pursued acoustic excellence with the fervor and depth that makers today possess. In those times, the intent was to build violins as efficiently as possible in volume, because the sales of these instruments are what fed the family. These guys weren't whimsical dabbling artists, they were tradespeople cranking out product.

Because Stradivari and Guarneri were late in on the game having 150 years of empirical experience by previous makers available, they had the luxury of being able to look at some refinements in the system of building and acoustics. The higher demand and the higher prices they were able to command allowed them even more latitude for refinement.

I have no doubt that well built modern instruments will in time meet or exceed the present standard by which all instruments are judged presently. I believe time and use has a lot to do with the instrument settling and developing it's voice.

What's the secret or magic formula for time? Perhaps I should find a way to bottle and market it.

Addendum: Consider what were thought inferior instruments from the late 1700's through the 1800's have now moved into a higher position of respect.

True, and I had considered the same (the pragmatic side of me, what little there is, always wants to move in this vein). But I've also considered the level these guys reached and the efforts they seem to have undertaken, consistently, to improve the outcome. Guarneri (del Gesu) in particular comes to mind in this respect. In such a short span he did so many things, his work evolving tremendously. Obviously he was seeking an ever greater result, and doing so in earnest. He was a craftsman, absolutely, and had to earn a living, of course, but he was also so very much more, and his work a reflection of it.

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'Twas Andrea Amati

Who first cast the spell

Maybe not an acoustics genius

But still did pretty darn well

Grandpa Guarneri did his long arch mod

Others would soon follow

Del Gesu found 'thicker' could be good

But thin too much and the witch rings hollow

Stradivari and Del Gesu

Their projection power curves certainly differ

One a bit more nuanced to play

The other quite a bit stiffer

So even Andrea Amati didn't know it all

And today, acoustics struggle with the past

If I may quote the great Moe Howard

"We ain't gettin' no place fast!!"

Jim :)

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I didn't bother putting in trendlines or R values. You might say that higher taptones might tend to give higher body modes, but as a predictive measurement, it isn't good.

Ok, thanks for sharing these data Don. I have copied the data from your figures and mixed them with Wilkins data I have worked on earlier today so we get 16 data points for the top plate data and B1+ and B1- frequencies, and some 11 for the free backs. And guess what: There are significant correlations between the top plate mode 2 frequency and the assembled instrument B1 modes, as well as for the free back plate mode 5 data.

I enclose the figures. Not fantastic good correlations, but there are some explanational power in them. That is: part of the variation in the B1- and B1+ frequency data can be explained by the variation in the input free plate data. Basically as you say stiffer plates tend to give higher resonance frequencies for the B1 modes.

post-25136-0-46589600-1303333058_thumb.jpg

post-25136-0-97743400-1303333072_thumb.jpg

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I suggest Mr. Kreit should put his money where his mouth is: Make a half-dozen fiddles, French-polish the bejesus out of 'em, and ask his friends in the business to endorse them in the International Musician.

I mean, hell, if it's good enough for Mr. Ma, then it's certainly good enough for me...

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The real note of quality is when musicians have the wisdom and integrity to buy something based on their OWN standards and recognition.

In an ideal world, yes. laugh.gif

But in the real world, the top players pay top dollar for the name Stradivari and Guarneri, and not a copy that in blindfolded play tests can't be told from the original. Or the other real world, where Strad and Guarneri "models" with facsimile labels sell better than instruments that sound better but don't look as pretty or have name recognition.

Hovering just outside the factory shell game are the volumetricists, varnish chemists, and tap tuners (do I really need to tap tune my endpin?)... not to mention the fungus thing... maybe they will buy my old gym socks? blink.gif

I AM glad there are luthiers who just make good instruments, and don't write books. smile.gif

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i sell only tap tuned violins over 100 yrs old, unfortunately i dont have room for all you superior modern makers, if you don't believe in tap tuning you don't know much about old violins in my opinion, not saying that mr kreit has it figured but at least hes trying :rolleyes::blink:

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i sell only tap tuned violins over 100 yrs old, unfortunately i dont have room for all you superior modern makers, if you don't believe in tap tuning you don't know much about old violins in my opinion, not saying that mr kreit has it figured but at least hes trying :rolleyes::blink:

Just out of curiosity, how do you differentiate between a violin that was tap tuned a 100 years ago versus one that wasn't? I've seen the odd crappy factory built violin that has an anomalous good tone that certainly wasn't tap tuned; heck, it didn't even have real purfling, the top plate had 8 to 10 RPI and was finished with laquer.

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In an ideal world, yes. laugh.gif

But in the real world, the top players pay top dollar for the name Stradivari and Guarneri, and not a copy that in blindfolded play tests can't be told from the original. Or the other real world, where Strad and Guarneri "models" with facsimile labels sell better than instruments that sound better but don't look as pretty or have name recognition.

That, in a nutshell, explains why you're missing the point. You might want to re-examine your assumption "sounds better/looks better" are the only criterion that matter to performers. As absurd as it might seem, I'd wager for most performers they don't even rank all that highly on the list.

If you think about bows you might be able to understand what I'm getting at.

I don't deny there may be a certain cachet to the implication "X is good enough to be able to play a Strad/DG (and hence own one or a few)" but if modern instruments are anywhere comparable you'd be crazy to think performers wouldn't be all raving about modern instruments. I just find the irony a bit amusing. Performers have given up looking at modern instruments because they are tired and recognize the futility of looking for diamonds in the proverbial garbage heap and makers are "tired of plate tuning cause that's been done and hasn't proved that fruitful."

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bill, by tapping on it and youre right not every 100 yr old violin is tuned but most of them are, including even some of the cheapest crappiest ones, surprisingly a lot of regraduated violins are tuned by the regraduater, at least when it was done in the 1800s, and a few modern makers are tuned, even though they claim ignorance to the tuning, maybe its one of those secrets they don't want to let out, any one who doubts it and has access to 150 200 yr old violins, original thicknessing, i can show you how to hear the tuning if you call me at 909-793-8506, tuning new violins is not easy, takes a lot of patience and takes a lot more time than the physical regraduating but basically on the top its tuned G d a e1 and on the back often A e b f#1 as well as where the bridge feet contact the top and the soundpost contacts the back

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i sell only tap tuned violins over 100 yrs old, unfortunately i dont have room for all you superior modern makers, if you don't believe in tap tuning you don't know much about old violins in my opinion, not saying that mr kreit has it figured but at least hes trying :rolleyes::blink:

I prefer play-tuning over tap-tuning ;)

Regards,

T.

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