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John_London

Chinese violins - European tonewoods, level of workmansip

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Bringing threads back from the dead can be risky business but this one has such good information and wanders just enough to be interesting.


At 67, I’m a somewhat rank beginner to violins although I’ve owned one or the other since I was 17.  But I did dealt and collected guitars for years.  And while the guitar is a child in the violin world, I can make some comparisons.


Gibson’s Les Pauls from 1958-1960 are the most prized and copied of all electric guitars because of their unique tonal pallette.  Coasting  $265 new, the now sell for a thousand times that price if you can find an original un-broken one.  The maple is uniformly Michigan or eastern maple, sometime called rock maple with varying degrees of flame and movement.

 

The many reproductions – even by Gibson --  often use softer western maple because it tends to be flashier.  And there is most definitely a difference in tone.


Red spruce in vintage Martin guitars has a more metallic sound compared to Sitka spruce, regardless that Sitka is a harder wood.  That metallic sound mellos over the decades producing acoustic guitars of enormous power compared to their Sitka siblings.


But… one of my favorite fiddles was made by Karl Hermann in 1952.  Karl made some decent boxes prewar but he had to move with the partition of Germany and start anew I believe.  He was an old man by then and his wood stash must have been pitiful because the flame on my violin was painted on with India ink on the insides as well as the outside – a beautiful job I might add.  Having said that, this plain, humble violin that I purchased in a recycle shop for a hundred bucks sounds very good, better in all respects than my $1200 vintage German instrument.  Admittedly we are talking about the shallow end of the pond compared to instruments played by professionals, but my point is that craftsmanship and an understanding of the principals of luthiership can go a long way in covering for more modest materials.


Sorry to go on.  I love this place and I thank you for all of your valuable knowledge, freely shared.

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Very insightful thread, really enjoyed reading! It is interesting to see the "war" between romantic theories and hard evidence.

This is a biased statement with no foundation. Even in higher levels of well studied science, the perception of "hard evidence" changes with time.

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This is a biased statement with no foundation. Even in higher levels of well studied science, the perception of "hard evidence" changes with time.

I am indeed biased towards the unfailing truth, Newtons laws are still considered fact even after being exposed to centuries of doubt and challenge are they not? What about Genetic theory and evolution or sensory perception? Theories may evolve (pun intended) and change with time but the truth which they try to explain will always remain the same. Things like wood fiber spontaneously decomposing with the use of powertools is not true, it isnt even documented or spoken of in the most conspiracy theory oriented thesis work,  that statement is a fact  backed by science and evidence and is not dependent on points of view to make it a fact.

 

This thread clearly shows that romantic and traditional technique normally conflicts with scientific evidence, where is the biased false premise behind that assertion?

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Newtons laws are still considered fact even after being exposed to centuries of doubt and challenge are they not?

Nope.  But they are good enough for practical purposes.  The effects of the more complete laws of relativity are insignificant under ordinary circumstances.

 

There may be a lesson there, somewhere.

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I am indeed biased towards the unfailing truth, Newtons laws are still considered fact even after being exposed to centuries of doubt and challenge are they not? What about Genetic theory and evolution or sensory perception? Theories may evolve (pun intended) and change with time but the truth which they try to explain will always remain the same. Things like wood fiber spontaneously decomposing with the use of powertools is not true, it isnt even documented or spoken of in the most conspiracy theory oriented thesis work,  that statement is a fact  backed by science and evidence and is not dependent on points of view to make it a fact.

 

This thread clearly shows that romantic and traditional technique normally conflicts with scientific evidence, where is the biased false premise behind that assertion?

 

Umm...incorrect . Newton's law's that have anything to do with gravity are incorrect off world (see quantum physics). Genetic theory is still in flux, evolution has a nice skip and jump for facts but, it is still a theory and sensory perception (how the brain works) is still a new science. Ultimately there is no hard science on the quality of sound in violin making. There will never be a true science with regards to sound since the human factor of sensory perception and translation of quality cannot be 'boxed".  Incidentally, I am a scientist by training (Medical field) and we still know so little about disease and care.

 

If you wish to discuss this with me let's do it privately. let's not bore the other members with a replay of this quite old argument.

Regards,

Dean

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I am indeed biased towards the unfailing truth, Newtons laws are still considered fact even after being exposed to centuries of doubt and challenge are they not? 

 

Is there something wrong with "Newton's Laws" ? Who doubts and what challenges them ?

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Is there something wrong with "Newton's Laws" ? Who doubts and what challenges them ?

 

Yes. Every scientist when you consider explanations within quantum physics and, generally the behavior of the Universe. Newtonian gravity has not yet been merged with quantum gravity yet therefore it is not a fact. this is leading in the wrong direction though. I don't have time to discuss this anymore so please don't consider my absence from this conversation as rudeness. 

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Back to the original topic, 

 

I have heard from many Chinese makers talking about the tone wood. 

 

Most of them think Chinese spruce is too stiff and often produces harsh sound. 

They can feel it when working on the top. European spruce are softer and easy to work. 

They provide a better chance to make a dark and colorful sound violin. 

 

Also the myth of european wood helps. From a same maker the price is far different depends on the tone wood. 

 

Take example of a prize wining maker in ShangHai, his violin in chinese wood sales for 1000 USD but in european tone wood it gose to 3000 USD and more. 

 

Although some makers think that with good adjustment like thinning the top can compensate the difference and there are indeed some international medals are won by violins of chinese wood. The myth about european tone wood is not shaken.

So the market is pushing in the direction that most makers are using european wood for their top violins while most of the chinese wood violins are workshop violins from apprentices or co-works.

 

I think it is difficult for non chinese-speaking buyers to get a decent chinese violin (even you can get one, it may not be a fair price). Because the export market is more about the low end side. So I don't expect you can get a fine chinese violin on ebay. However there is a chinese ebay-like site TAOBAO. Many violin makers sale their violins directly on the platform, but unfortunately it is in chinese.

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I think it is difficult for non chinese-speaking buyers to get a decent chinese violin (even you can get one, it may not be a fair price). Because the export market is more about the low end side. So I don't expect you can get a fine chinese violin on ebay. However there is a chinese ebay-like site TAOBAO. Many violin makers sale their violins directly on the platform, but unfortunately it is in chinese.

 

It is true that there are more Chinese makers selling in Taobao than in Ebay, and what you have is a wider selection of violins with varying qualities, with the increased quality variance occuring mostly in the mid to lower end of the distribution. You won't get the best, award wining makers' violins in Taobao.

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The planet, Mercury.

 

Nope. For the thing you might have in mind I can come up with non relativistic explanations, not to talk about the fact that half of it is still problematic. Newton was aware that a correction was needed for the force.

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Nope. For the thing you might have in mind I can come up with non relativistic explanations, not to talk about the fact that half of it is still problematic. Newton was aware that a correction was needed for the force.

Now I KNOW you live under a bridge.

 

:lol:

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Now I KNOW you live under a bridge.

 

:lol:

 

Why didn't you just ask - I thought you'll launch into an expert dissertation on the advance of Mercury's perihelion and Newton's LAWS.

( Newton's laws, not something else....).

 

Explain us please how is Mercury invalidating Newton's Laws. We are here to learn.....

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Carl, 

 

I am a retired astrophysicist as many on MN know. However, I post here to learn about violin making, and so should you.

 

Mike

 

Good for you, not that it impresses me in the slightest or matters any.  If you're here to learn about violin making  then why reply to a post of mine from APRIL, not about violins and not directed to you ? And what exactly means "Now I KNOW you live under a bridge" ?

 

Please quit patronizing and stick with what you REALLY know, not what you feel you should know. Have I ever taken pot shots at you when you dived into Mechanics or Astronomy ? Nope...

 

You stay tuned and have a nice day !

 

( and if Physics itches you, just add a retarded energy component and you should, if good enough at maths, drop straight onto Mr Einstein. Perihelion advance solved without GR ! )

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Good for you, not that it impresses me in the slightest or matters any.  If you're here to learn about violin making  then why reply to a post of mine from APRIL, not about violins and not directed to you ? And what exactly means "Now I KNOW you live under a bridge" ?

 

Please quit patronizing and stick with what you REALLY know, not what you feel you should know. Have I ever taken pot shots at you when you dived into Mechanics or Astronomy ? Nope...

 

You stay tuned and have a nice day !

 

( and if Physics itches you, just add a retarded energy component and you should, if good enough at maths, drop straight onto Mr Einstein. Perihelion advance solved without GR ! )

As I said, this is a violin making forum.

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I am also here to interact about violins... and I happen to enjoy the characters on the board and their varied backgrounds.

 

I don't like off topic disagreements, though.  OK?  Let's just cut this one here.  No blame, no foul.

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Rewiring the conversation back onto it's original track...

 

I believe what they mean by european wood = high grade violins is not specific to the wood itself but to the fact that imported european "wood" is expensive and selected with proof of Origen and age while the Chinese wood rarely has any discerning information and is not exactly marketed to be seen as romantic and exotic. 2 violins made exactly the same way, with the same figure, equal fittings and label, regardless of sound or price, place a "european wood" description on one and it will always garner more costumers.

 

It's the wood "pedigree" syndrome, I find it semi interesting how marketing has influenced the way instruments are priced, evaluated, graded and sold seeing as Strad and DG are well known for using wood which is "improper" by todays standards LOL

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