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fiddlewallop

Plate tuning

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Hi All,

I'm quickly approaching the point where I'll need to perform the plate tuning step for the spruce and maple plates. I know there are several approaches to plate tuning. I'm looking for a tried and true method, and some "been there, done that" advice. I'm hoping I won't need too much fancy equipment, but if I do, I do. I want to make sure I get it correct, above all else.

I know Keith Hill has good info on his site (http://www.instrumentmaking.keithhillharpsichords.com/areatuninghints.html). Platetuning.org has a wealth of information. Carleen Hutchins is the pioneer of the method, and I'm sure she has much light to shed on this area.

But I was wondering what people have found to be the best approach, in their experience. I realize that plate tuning is still kind of in its infancy, and new discoveries and advances are being made all the time in this field of research. But for my first fiddle, does anyone have any advice for a good method to follow?

Thanks y'all

FW

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"About 601 results"

site:maestronet.com plate tuning

That piece by Keith Hill on the "Hill Effect" is very creative. Very inventive. Interesting to ponder. I have no idea if it helps or works. Certainly interesting to read. It would be nice if he would do a video to demonstrate. Has anyone else used a "monochord"? It also brings to mind the aye-aye's method of finding insects by tapping or scratching the tree with its highly specialized middle finger.

To imitate the aye-aye, someone needs to invent a device which has a very sensitive tiny microphone on the end of a small stick. Also on the end of the stick, but acoustically isolated from the mic, is a small tapper or scraper. The signal from the mic goes into the computer for later analysis. Just like the aye-aye, the tapper taps and the mic listens. The computer analyzes. You saw it here first. Er, well the aye-aye saw it first.

BTW, Keith's hint #21 is just wild. Deepak Chopra has nothing on him.

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Mr Hill's method is highly idiosyncratic, not based on sound scientific principles, has never been demonstrated to be effective. I have never heard or seen one of Mr. Hill's violins, although I understand that he is a respected harpsichord maker. I've also seen other idiosyncratic, non scientific methods that seemed to work well for some makers (Vigdorchik/Croen)

Never the less, IMHO this is not a good way for someone to build his first violin.

For a hobbyist with a limited budget I would suggest theStrobel books If you have more resources then the Sacconi book (which I use as a reference) or the 'Art of Violin Making by Johnson and Courtnall has been very highly recommended, though I haven't seen it.

My advice is to keep it simple, learn classic Cremonese construction techniques (see Hargrave & Sacconi) use the best tools you can afford, keep them sharp, copy a good violin (Strad posters are an excellent resource)

my $0.02

Oded

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After reading some older posts on plate tuning on the forum, it sounds as though plate tuning is a controversial issue, with some smoke and mirrors involved. I considered bringing up the topic on the forum because The Art of Violin Making book dedicates a chapter to the subject, and seemed to suggest to me that this was a common, and accepted, practice in violin construction. In other words, I got the impression that this was an accepted "step" in creating a violin, that all luthiers performed in creating a violin. Just like bending the ribs, and laying purfling. I'm now starting to get the impression that most luthiers (maybe around the 60% range) skip this step entirely (maybe not even considering it a "step", per se), and simply thickness their tops/backs as closely as they can to the violins they are copying. Or, they have experimented a little bit with plate tuning and have developed their own idosyncratic method for plate tuning by simply experimenting with tuning, gnashing their teeth, and essentially getting an intuitive "feel" for what the plate thicknessing should be, from prior experience.

So, going forward, I guess the best approach for now might be to copy the thicknessing map as best as I can, and see what kind of sound I come up with for my first instrument. Then set down the road of developing an idyosyncratic theory for how to create a better sounding plate through different thicknessing techniques.

It seems like something every luthier needs to at least consider, even if the waters are grey and the road is muddy.

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Tap tuning is not something Hutchins invented. The earliest written material I know of is the experiments Felix Savart did in cooperation with Vuillaume which had access to great instruments. Savart had made a cogwheel device which could give the cycles per second for each note. Sort of an early tone generator. There might be other early examples of tap tone data too, and I would be interested if anyone knew about any such sources.

Otto Möckels first edition of his violin making book (from 1932?) contain a substantial amount of tap tone data from fine old instruments given as notes. These might be mode 5 frequencies, but one can't be sure.

Tap tuning is not new, but Hutchins advocated using more than just one mode as a guide, and wrote about a benfit of octave tuning the modes 2 and 5. We know know that some Cremonese violin plates tend to have a larger ratio between the mode 2 and 5 than an octave. It is more typical with say 2,2 or 2,3 ish.

I think that you should avoid using a too heavy top plate, not more than say 70g, and I think that the mode 2 should not be tuned as high as suggested by Hutchins. 145-155Hz is the right range if you want the signature modes to lie within the best normal range. Following Hutchins advice of 180Hz will give a too stiff top and too high signature mode frequencies.

Good luck with your project!

Edited by Anders Buen

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Because of substantial variation in tonewood density and other physical parameters inherent to the wood itself I don't think most makers simply copy the graduations of a given model. Add to that the likelihood that the majority of old Italian violin plates have been substantially altered over the intervening years since they left their creator's hands. Similarly, you shouldn't just copy the arching diagrams from your Strad poster (or whatever) because these archings have invariably distorted to a greater or lesser degree over time. I think the best approach to plate graduating for a newcomer to vioin making is to start with some slightly conservative general numbers (those for backs given in the Sacconi book for a 'typical' Strad would be good, and the numbers for tops might benefit from adding a couple tenths of a mm unless you have pretty strong and heavy spruce). From that point you need to find an experienced mentor to help you learn what finished plates feel like in terms of flexibility and/or simply aim for a target weight threshold. I'd suggest you keep careful records of as many subjective and objective plate parameters as you can so that you develop a good sense of what works for you. You have to make a lot of instruments to expect to become good at this and you shouldn't be discouraged if your first few leave something to be desired. Good luck!

Doug

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' We know know that some creomnoese plates tend to have a larger ratio between the mode 2 and 5 thanan octave. It is more typical with say 2,2 or 2,3 ish. '

Ah, but those plates are varnished, and varnishing affects tap tones, so unless you plan to thickness your plates after varnishing, what's the point.

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' We know know that some creomnoese plates tend to have a larger ratio between the mode 2 and 5 thanan octave. It is more typical with say 2,2 or 2,3 ish. '

Ah, but those plates are varnished, and varnishing affects tap tones, so unless you plan to thickness your plates after varnishing, what's the point.

Yes, I use to varnish the fiddles before I finally finish the tuning process and record the tap tones. The sensitivity to the changes due to varnishing are lower for the violin box than for the free plate. I think mode 2 will rise more from varnishing than mode 5. Taking the top of an instrument that has been stringed up also seems to result in plates with higher tap tones than they initially were given. I think that could origin in slight arching changes.

The climate dependant moisture content of the plates will also affect the tap tones and weights.

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Let me weigh in to this thread. I agree with everything Oded recommended. Focus on classical methods and workmanship. Get the Strobel books (cheap!) and Johnson and Courtnall (highly worth the price). Next, ignore Free Plate Tuning. Concentrate on copying the classical designs of Cremonese instruments. How I wish I started out this way.

Been there. Done that.

Mike

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So, going forward, I guess the best approach for now might be to copy the thicknessing map as best as I can, and see what kind of sound I come up with for my first instrument. Then set down the road of developing an idyosyncratic theory for how to create a better sounding plate through different thicknessing techniques.

Yep.

I'd suggest some consideration of wood properties in the copying of the thicknesses... I wouldn't use ultra-low density wood, and then copy a thinnish Strad where there are vast areas less than 2 mm thick.

Personally, I like to track M5 taptone and weight as I thin the top plate, just to see where I am relative to other things. But I don't have any magic numbers to try to reach. I also firmly believe that whatever determines the difference between great and mediocre instruments is elsewhere (haven't found it yet, but eliminating things is progress of a sort).

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I didn't advise free plate tuning and please don't misquote me.

Was that directed at me? We seem to have different opinions, not a problem for me. I did not assume that you to do plate tuning.

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Was that directed at me? We seem to have different opinions, not a problem for me. I did not assume that you to do plate tuning.

NO, Ben's complaint was with my post. He interpreted "Next,ignore Free Plate Tuning as Ben advises." as meaning he advocated FPT which is not how I read that sentence. Nevertheless, I edited out the reference to him.

Mike

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NO, Ben's complaint was with my post. He interpreted "Next,ignore Free Plate Tuning as Ben advises." as meaning he advocated FPT which is not how I read that sentence. Nevertheless, I edited out the reference to him.

Mike

Ok thanks for the clarification. And sorry, Ben, for the misinterpretition.

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The idea that one can make great violins by having plates that sound the same as those of the best makers is no doubt psychologically attractive, but I think it's based on faulty logic. Assuming it's true that most of the best instruments have plates that exhibit particular vibrational modes when studied in isolation, it's not necessarily so that the statement is true in the opposite direction.

Some of the best cakes are spongy, but not all spongy cakes are the best.

[caveat: I'm not a maker]

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i think the idea that you can base a copy of an old master on measurements without any concept of trying to copy or reproduce that tap tones of the original is based on faulty logic, indeed i would think if you are trying to make a tonal copy of an original copying the tap tones might be more important to the sound than exactly copying the arching or graduation, i should point out from my research there is a lot more than just one tap tone to a plate, though

but chronos is right, copying just the tap tones doesnt make your instrument as good as the original, neccesarily

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speaking of tap tones. I 'discovered' something new (for me) the other day.

I'm often interested in the nodal lines of a plate since they can indicate areas that are too stiff. I found that if I pinch the plate n the usual way and tap in such a way as to dampen the response, meaning tap and keep my knuckle on the wood, the nodal lines will ring while the anti node will not.

Oded

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I think the idea that you can base a copy of an old master on measurements without any concept of trying to copy or reproduce that tap tones of the original is based on faulty logic.

But why tap tones? It seems to me that reproducing the sound and response of the assembled instrument is more important than the particular means of getting there, and I'm not even convinced that reproducing tap tones is an effective means of getting there.

This plate tuning business reminds me of the cargo cults that emerged after the end of World War II: Following the departure of American solders from Tanna Island, members of one such cult built crude landing strips, bamboo air control towers, and coconut radio headsets, hoping in this fashion to attract the planes that used to deliver the cargo they had grown to appreciate.

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the tap tones are dependent on the thicknessing, density, stiffness, as well as being influenced by arching etc. the tap tones are specifically related to what notes the violin resonates, and so IMO tap tones are more important than an out of context measurement like graduations which can mean anything depending on the density and stiffness of the wood, copying graduations only works if your wood is identical in properties to that of the original, copying tap tones works irregardless of whether your wood is totally different

in other words when youre copying tap tones, your also copying other factors related to the tap tones, like stiffness and weight for instance

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I think that you should avoid using a too heavy top plate, not more than say 70g, and I think that the mode 2 should not be tuned as high as suggested by Hutchins. 145-155Hz is the right range if you want the signature modes to lie within the best normal range. Floowing Hutchins advice of 180Hz will give a too stiff top and too high signature mode frequencies.

I agree!

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the tap tones are dependent on the thicknessing, density, stiffness, as well as being influenced by arching etc. the tap tones are specifically related to what notes the violin resonates, and so IMO tap tones are more important than an out of context measurement like graduations which can mean anything depending on the density and stiffness of the wood, copying graduations only works if your wood is identical in properties to that of the original, copying tap tones works irregardless of whether your wood is totally different.

I'm not saying there's anything to be gained from literal copying of plate graduations, nor do I think there is. What I do think is that "copying tap tones" only works for particularly small values of "works", and that one is likely better off trying to find relationships between arching/outline/graduations and instrument response than between tap tones and instrument response.

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I'm not saying there's anything to be gained from literal copying of plate graduations, nor do I think there is. What I do think is that "copying tap tones" only works for particularly small values of "works", and that one is likely better off trying to find relationships between arching/outline/graduations and instrument response than between tap tones and instrument response.

Why do you think that, and do you believe that arching/outline/graduations don't manifest in tap tones?

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