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Violin response time


richardz
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Martin, you know this stuff already. The tension is determined by the string gauge and tuning, i.e. by the pegs. If you put your finger on a string, it doesn't change the tension (much), but it shortens the string and this changes the pitch. If you change the afterlength, this similarly changes the length and pitch of that part of the string, but not the tension. (And yes, the tailpiece complicates this somewhat--I think it acts mostly like a big finger that shortens the string, but won't attempt to answer further.)

In order to move and produce sound when you bow the string, the bridge has to vibrate. This also makes the afterlength and tailpiece vibrate, which soaks up energy and suppresses certain frequencies. The weight and position of the tailpiece, and possibly the stiffness of the tailpiece gut, affect the frequency response, and possibly the response time.

Before we get dragged back into the whirlpool ......

Can I clarify one thing?

Tension one side of the bridge = tension the other side of the bridge.

OK BUT

The tension from nut to bridge is equal to the tension from bridge to saddle, not from bridge to tailpiece.

I think you're getting confused by trying to add up tensions. Think of it this way. The tension is the same anywhere from nut to tailpiece gut. It makes no sense to add up tensions. The tension on the string = tension on tailpiece = tension on tailpiece gut, etc. And here's the kicker: tension "from nut to bridge" = tension "from bridge to saddle" = tension "from nut to saddle".

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I would be wary of judging increases in responsiveness the same day as you've had the strings off and on - it always sounds better. What's it like next day? That's the test.

This fact makes a lot of adjustments very open to misinterpretation!

Yes, I agree with you here... well, at least different after having it apart. Not necessarily better. But things like a bigger sound are instant.

We are probably all guilty of changing more than one variable at a time, and attributing the change to only one.

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I think you're getting confused by trying to add up tensions. Think of it this way. The tension is the same anywhere from nut to tailpiece gut. It makes no sense to add up tensions. The tension on the string = tension on tailpiece = tension on tailpiece gut, etc. And here's the kicker: tension "from nut to bridge" = tension "from bridge to saddle" = tension "from nut to saddle".

I was s**t at physics at school, still am!

But I've got the tension issues now, and am therefore interested in other things ...

1. How varying the afterstring might modify the sound by generating or cancelling out notes

2. How varying the afterstring might generate more or less "acoustic stuff" (pardon the scientific term) by changing amplitude

3. How tailpieces act to damp the bridge, both by their closeness to the bridge and their mass

4. How tailguts absorb energy or not depending on what they're made of and how much of them you have

That's a lot of different issues, and I've pretty much decided to "do what I do" unless I come up with specific problems, and then just concentrate on the question of damping.

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I agree, in fact until richard's post I hadn't ever thought of this concept. The wording is a bit tautological ....

I think it probably covers a lot of different things.

Personally, just in terms of "response", I look for a good attack at any volume level (though this always involves finding the right bow for a particular instrument), and a BIG dynamic range. Any ways of enhancing this are of interest to me, but basically it's got to be there in the instrument first.

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... how quickly a string can go into a stable vibration regimen

... "crunches and consonants" which can add so much to an instrument, and to a player's performance.

I think the first is a good working definition of response. But it leads to many more questions.

1. Are response time and "chhh" and "zing" (my highly scientific terminology) linked?

2. Playing nearer the bridge increases the chhh/zing, but can slow response. Is this correct?

3. Setup and bow: ideally, shouldn't the setup depend partially on the bow? Or are they ever considered dependent?

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D#...and at 52mm the d, a, e were on pitch?...what are they now?

Sorry Ernie I was a bit dyslexic this morning. When I had it at 52 mm I checked the D afterlength and it was correctly an A...I remember the others were off a bit but I don't remember what they were. I played the violin for a few hours today at a jam and it has settled in more. I just checked the afterlength pitches again at 56mm tonight and they are: G = D, D = G#, A = C#, E = F#(the F# may be a harmonic but it was the predominant note). Can you tell anything from this additional info? I always thought as long as one was in the park, that was it. Thanks so much for the comprehensive tailpiece information. Your descriptions are very good and the visuals put it over the top....one for the record. I agree with you about the unappealing design of the Thomastic and the shortness makes it look even worse on a violin. (In it's favor though, I do remember reading that the tuners have such a wide range that people can completely crosstune the violin without using the pegs, so Old Time players might like them) I think I'll start with the Wittner composite and see what that does. Thanks again!

Martin:

"I would be wary of judging increases in responsiveness the same day as you've had the strings off and on - it always sounds better. What's it like next day? That's the test.

This fact makes a lot of adjustments very open to misinterpretation!"

I hear you....but it was actually better today than last night when I first did it. The core sound solidified more and there is more range of color.

David:

I agree wholeheartedly with your more refined description of response time. My description of "like running with your shoelaces tied together" was woefully inadequate.

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i find it extremely unlikely as well a scientifically next to impossible that the G and D afterlength are tuned only a semitone apart, a fifth and a semitone more likely. that would give you a G of c not g

Dyslexic again, sorry....I made a mistake and corrected it: G afterlength is D.

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that makes a lot more sense, good luck with this stuff, i must admit i have a kind of fix em all up the best i know how and if they sound bad, short of adjusting the soundpost or trying different strings, its the violins fault. and leave it at that, you cant turn a sows ear into a silk purse, or something like that, of course if i had a violin by a good maker that looked incredible and i expected to sound incredible but it didnt, i might find that harder to accept and try some of these ideas.

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To me, "response time" is still a term lacking an adequate and agreed-on definition. If it was about how quickly a string can go into a stable vibration regimen, it would leave out the "crunches and consonants" which can add so much to an instrument, and to a player's performance.

Yes! It doesn't seem like a simple single quantity.

Here are some impressions from my own playing and preferences:

It seems that in instruments with a more satisfying tonal range, there are multiple components to the sound and different kinds of voices available from the instrument, with some components responding faster than others. My sense is that in better instruments the sibilants/stridents and other brighter components respond the fastest, and that there is a basic 'clean' voice that responds quickly. But under that there is both a blowy/airy voice and a gutsy/deep voice available - which are both slower to invoke. With pressure or closer to the bridge there are additional bitier and driven sounds possible, with response times somewhere in the middle.

It seems as if the differences in response times are helpful, aiding in control and selection of voice as desired.

Perhaps others can give more specific description of the mechanisms behind these effects? I'd love to get quantitative about these observations, but for me they are just impressions at this point.

Beyond response times for different components of the sound and different voices, there is a separate set of response effects around the change of pitch/finger/string within one tonal voice. A desirable example of this is the special kind of crisp almost 'popping' transition from pitch to pitch that is available on some violins. You can sometimes hear the same effect with other kinds of instruments, clarinets for example. This effect seems to require both a lingering and persistence of the old pitch, combined with a suddenness and full blown cutting in of the new pitch.

It does seem like it would be helpful to separate and distinguish different aspects of 'response time'.

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Can a violin produce a clean, articulate and musical sound when playing rapid detached semiquavers on the G string in all positions (I don't mean standing on one's head)?

Most violins fail this test, however well set up ...

Violins that pass this test seem to be "responsive" in all other senses of the word.

I don't really think there should be a response time at all - everything should be immediate. Once you've experienced this in a good violin, it's immediately apparent when it's not there. Sometimes it's hard to find the energy to tweak things in the right direction, knowing I'll never really get there!

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Well... going back to the OP... biggrin.gif

... I think we're talking about tweaking less-than-stellar violins to get the most out of them. At an hourly rate... as you and Lyndon hint at... it's often not worth the effort, but these are also the instruments novices (like me) feel comfortable messing with. Of course, if it sounds worse than a tin can with strings, even I know to put it back in the box and walk away.blink.gif

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