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A different bass bar question


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1) How do you know when it's time to replace the bass bar in an instrument?  When the bass feels weak and unsupportive? 

 

2)  Is it true the use of steel strings wears out a bass bar prematurely?

 

3)  I've had my instrument about 17 years, always played with steel strings.  Now all of a sudden my luthier can't get the soundpost in a place that satisfies me.   Can this be another symptom?

 

4)  Do bass bars really wear out and lose their ability to support the bass bridge foot adequately?

 

TIA for any help.  If this has to be done, obviously it's not inexpensive work.  I want to make sure I make the right decision. 

 

Regarding the sound, and my unhappiness with it:  literally every other little thing has been done that can be done.  Glue, strings, bridge, tuning the after-length, etc, ad infinitum.  If the problem isn't the bass bar I'll have to pull out the rest of my hair and/or retire. 

 

Thanks again.

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What, exactly is the problem with the sound?  What are you trying to improve?

 

Are you sure it's not you? Hearing changes over time, as does technique.  Just asking; I've listened to a LOT of good players trying out violins, and they all tend to sound like themselves, no matter what they play, as do I.

 

The only bass bars that I've seen replaced are ones that are obviously out of spec, or where the top has sunk on the bass side, or on instruments that have been regraduated. If your bass bar hasn't sunk and isn't obviously too small or too short, changing the bar probably won't help. I don't think they wear out.

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Chances are there is nothign wrong with the bar, why should there be.

If you are worried about the sound to the extenet that you are saying your luthier can't fit the post in the right place, why are you using steel strings ?
It would seem obvious to use some decent quality strings first, and trust the guy to fit the post better than you can do.

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1)   The problem with the sound is it doesn't "spin" the way I know it should.  I play in a concert hall 6 days a week, I know what it should/can sound like.

 

2)  Evah Pirazzhi are pretty good strings.

 

3)  I wouldn't touch the sp on my Venetian cello; that's a job for someone who knows what he's doing.

 

4)  This is a long-standing problem, that's why I'm trying to look "outside the box" for the solution.  I once read that steel strings cause premature bass bar wearout, that's why I'm going here.

 

Thanks anyway for the help.

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If your bass bar hasn't sunk and isn't obviously too small or too short, changing the bar probably won't help. I don't think they wear out.

My opinion too, based on experimenting with changes to a bass bar and finding that even fairly significant changes to the bar don't change the basic sound of the instrument.  I also can't imagine a way that a bass bar would "wear out" acoustically. 

 

 

Hmmm... "Spin" is a new term to me, and not immediately obvious what it means.  A definition would possibly help.  I can only think of a bajo player who added a pivot attachment to his belt buckle so he could spin his banjo around while playing... but that's different.

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My opinion too, based on experimenting with changes to a bass bar and finding that even fairly significant changes to the bar don't change the basic sound of the instrument.  I also can't imagine a way that a bass bar would "wear out" acoustically. 

 

 

Hmmm... "Spin" is a new term to me, and not immediately obvious what it means.  A definition would possibly help.  I can only think of a bajo player who added a pivot attachment to his belt buckle so he could spin his banjo around while playing... but that's different.

 

Spin is pretty hard to define, since it's a quality, and not a tangible object.  It's the quality that gives a string instrument sound beauty, complexity and carrying power   I know the instrument's potential, I'm trying to recover it.  The top isn't sinking, but I'm thinking maybe if the support of the bass bar is not equal to the SP support of the top, that could affect the integrity of the sound box.

We've already done all the obvious, I guess I'm just grasping at straws.  I'll discuss it tomorrow with my luthier.

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If you have played the cello for the past 17 years, you have a good idea of what it is capable of and what is missing.  Before I consider changing a bar, (especially if the instrument has "worked well" in the past and the bar is in a good spot in relation to the bridge etc...), I will usually try a slightly longer soundpost.  The backs of instruments tend to "stretch" outwards on the treble sides, and what may have been a well tensioned soundpost may gradually become too short.  This happens both on new and old instruments.  

 

In my experience, if there is a tonal improvement with a slightly tighter post, but it is short lived, meaning that the sound again deteriorates after a relatively short period of time, (and everything else seems in order), then I will begin to suspect that the bass bar is not supporting the top in a way that I think it should and that replacing the bar can have a positive effect, even when the existing bass bar is in what would be considered a correct position.  Does that mean that a bar "wears out"?  I don't want to argue about that as many terrific makers and restorers have opposite opinions. 

 

Ultimately, if your luthier has a good understanding of your playing and your instrument and you've had a positive and trusting working relationship with him or her in the past, then I'd recommend discussing a new bar with that person.  They're in the best position to advise you.

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Has your luthier taken a good close look at the bar, especially the ends?

 

I recently had a cello where the end of the bar had become unglued causing it to sound weak, but no buzz had developed. The unglued bar was discovered when the top had to be removed for a different repair.

 

Also has the soundpost been taken out and inspected at some point recently?

I sometimes find that the post has split at the end if it had been adjusted quite a bit over the years.

 

Oded

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...Is it true the use of steel strings wears out a bass bar prematurely?...

 

 

No.  How would the bass bar know what the strings are made out of?

 

It seems reasonable that higher tension strings might "wear out" a bass bar faster than lower tension strings.  But steel strings do not necessarily have higher tension than other types of strings.  The tension depends on how the strings were designed.  The material that strings are made out of is only one aspect of string design.

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I'm with Micheal, bass-bars don't really wear out. If the belly has not sunk then your problem is probably any of the above including your own hearing. One thing that I would ask is. If you have had the bridge replaced, as you appear to indicate, were the string ever too high? The necks on most instruments sink at some time. Some take decades some only a few years, but if this has happened it may also be a reason for your problems. It is usually easy to fix without the need to reset the neck or use wedges. But you need to be careful before you change anything. Your rule should always be; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.    

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It is not my idea that a bass bar wears out; I read it in a book a long time ago.  I don't have enough expertise to have an opinion one way or another.  The bridge position and everything else has been checked once, checked twice, and then checked again.  The strings are new-ish.  The instrument is all glued up.  My luthier is not only talented but also thoroughly trained in the German system.  If the problem is not the damn bass bar I don't know what else it can be.  At this point, the only thing I can do is discuss it with her.  (Thank you, erocca!)

And thanks, everyone else, for your patience and ideas. 

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First, I agree with the "if it ain't broke" sentiment.

 

Reading the thread, I started to have a similar questions about the neck height that was voiced by Roger.  Pretty much all violin family instruments suffer from this problem eventually, and 'Celli are especially susceptible.  The concept that the neck simply "drops" usually  isn't completely correct, however.  Forces on the top (compression and expansion) and the back (expansion) that aid in the result...  and the changes are often slowly occurring (so the player doesn't notice 'till things just aren't working as they remember they once did).  In some cases, the subtle distortion that occurs can build up tension in another area (like where the top meets the upper block).

 

So...  I too have the question: Was the bridge taller at some point in the past?

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Watched the Heifetz movie last night, 'God's fiddler'.
It occured to me that he more than anyone else perhaps, never suffered fools.
I like that.
Which led me to think, where did he get his set up checked or tweeked ?
I know Benning had a brief word in the movie. 

http://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.peterrosenproductions.com%2Fproductions%2Fjaschaheifetz%2F&ei=hRkQUYrABJC10QGC0YDwDQ&usg=AFQjCNEESOfQC5EATG13ru4T2WMzvHoDQg&sig2=ygS9upN5kOHvKlXKvBHvgg&bvm=bv.41867550,d.dmQ&cad=rja
 

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Watched the Heifetz movie last night, 'God's fiddler'.

It occured to me that he more than anyone else perhaps, never suffered fools.

I like that.

Which led me to think, where did he get his set up checked or tweeked ?

I know Benning had a brief word in the movie. 

 

 

Heifetz mostly went to Benny Koodlach, around the time I

was in Los Angeles. Weisshaar was really good at many things, but sound

adjustments, and kissing up to customers who expected a red carpet

treatment, weren't exactly his forte. LOL

 

Hans loved his craft, and also developing craftsmen around him to a high standard. To him, customers were a necessary evil to support what he loved. If he could have figured out a way to do without them, I believe he would gladly have done so.

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That's cool, thanks David.
Weisshaar sounds like the man.

So, was Benny Koodlach into sound post / bass bar tweeking etc ?
I'd love to have seen how Heifetz had his fiddle set up. 

Found this book, mentions Koodlach, Piatigorsky etc.

http://books.google.ie/books?id=0u_8pNWkGJQC&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=Benny+Koodlach&source=bl&ots=a5bbkv_hm5&sig=l-Fo8BDuvUBBqBmzHB7vIW3GYNU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=KS4QUcryAfCk0AWgnoHICQ&ved=0CF0Q6AEwBw

 

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This thing with bass bars wearing out is a widespread myth amongst musicians. And many violin makers uphold the myth (I suspect cause they can earn money with it) here in germany I have found many musicians that believe in it. I think it is ridiculous. If the top didn't sink, the bar is structurally sound. Ofcourse that doesn't mean that a different bar won't sound better, but that is due to a difference in construction and placement and maybe material, but definately not because of wearing out.

 

Melvin, you are mistaking about the tension. Eva's do not have a significantly higher tension than Eudoxas do. In fact, the eva g string has lower tension than eudoxa g! Look here for an overview: http://www.aitchisoncellos.com/articlenewstrings.htm

The only string with significantly lower tension is Dominant. And as you can see, quite some solist versions of strings have a lower tension than their normal counterparts.

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Would I be wrong in saying that if there is any weakness in the top you should be able to see it? Surely the arching would distort.

 

Without being able to physically see or play the Cello I don't think there is any way to say what is wrong with it. Especially with the current discription.

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