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Don Noon

D. Noon's bench - Jackson Project

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Like the majority of my other violins, this one is now regraduated.  There are a number of things leading up to the decision to thin it out; I'll go in somewhat reverse chronological order.

 

At the VMAAI contest, my Jackson copy came in tied for 12th in tone (in the first round where half of the score is from the player, half from the 2 listening judges, including "tone only" entrants).  I myself scored it tied for 10th, noting "Clear, projecting, good tone, not too loud or powerful."  I also entered my #4 and #10 violins as "tone only", and they scored a tie for 3rd and 9th, respectively.  I also scored them similarly.  After the competition, I asked the violinist to comment about deficiencies, and his main beef was "surface noise" on the G string mostly.  An interesting point is that in round 2, where the scores are only based on the playing impressions of 3 players, my Jackson copy came in first.

 

To my own ear, this violin has been weaker than I prefer on the low notes, and more clear and projecting than I prefer on the highs.  Part of why I left it alone until now was due to comments from Robert Cauer, who advised that all of my instruments sounded "too dark" to be of use for a concert violinist.  So I thought I'd leave this one alone and see what violinists thought of it.

 

The odd characteristic of sounding good under the ear, but harsh while listening has been apparent from when I first put it together 4 months ago.  See post #42.

 

Anyway, all of this was pretty convincing that the tone could be improved by thinning.  I took as much as I dared out of the top, losing 2.7g to go from 65.4 to 62.7g, with bar and varnish.   I also took some out of the back, I don't really know how much.  The total instrument without chinrest weighed in at 368.2g, which is now slightly lighter than the Jackson (some of that is likely due to moisture loss; it is quite dry here now).

 

The result is basically the same instrument, but just a little more bottom end, and some reduction of the "surface noise".  It doesn't show obviously different on the impact spectrum, but bowed scales it does.  And comparing recordings before and after, it sounds just a bit fuller and more clear, with less hiss and rasp.  As one might expect, the signature mode frequencies went down by ~10 Hz, except for A0 which went down by 4 Hz. 

 

I think it's about as good as I can get it for now, and I'll let time settle it in and hopefully improve it further.

That means your B1- is somewhere ~410hz. That's quite a bit lower compared to the original (436hz).

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That means your B1- is somewhere ~410hz. That's quite a bit lower compared to the original (436hz).

Yes, the real Jackson B1- frequency is higher than mine, even before the regrad.  So something in the stiffness/weight equation is different.  But since I know my wood density is far higher than the Jackson, I'm not going to fret much over it (other than to note that the Jackson probably has some light and stiff wood), and now I'm just trying to get mine to sound as good and balanced as I can.

 

And things move around.  A0 was 275 when I first finished it, 277 three days ago, 273 after the regrad, and 274 today, a day later.

B1- was 427 originally, 423 right before the regrad, 413 after the regrad, and 420 today.

B1+ was 544 originally, 545 right before regrad, 537 right after, and 554 (!) today.

 

I record the numbers, but I'm not obsessing about them.  What matters is how it plays and sounds.

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Yes, the real Jackson B1- frequency is higher than mine, even before the regrad.  So something in the stiffness/weight equation is different.  But since I know my wood density is far higher than the Jackson, I'm not going to fret much over it (other than to note that the Jackson probably has some light and stiff wood), and now I'm just trying to get mine to sound as good and balanced as I can.

 

And things move around.  A0 was 275 when I first finished it, 277 three days ago, 273 after the regrad, and 274 today, a day later.

B1- was 427 originally, 423 right before the regrad, 413 after the regrad, and 420 today.

B1+ was 544 originally, 545 right before regrad, 537 right after, and 554 (!) today.

 

I record the numbers, but I'm not obsessing about them.  What matters is how it plays and sounds.

Cool observations as ever Don and quite a good illustration of the fallacy of 'tuning' an instrument .( I make a point of reading everything you post.)

My feeling is as follows....

Wood however cured it is will always be a bit hygroscopic and will vary in pitch according to the general humidity or the local humidity of the player. One of the things with tuning and being in tune is that things must be perfectly in tune to work well and generate many of the qualities that are associated with good tone. It is impossible to make a violin where all the modes etc stay in tune.& .in reality just being a bit out of tune is worse sound than completely out of tune.

 

The musician has control of tuning  by tuning the strings and competent intonation but they can not re  tune the modes. If we can make an instrument that aids the musician with their intonation we give them the ability to control the instrument and make great tone. The idea of an instrument that sounds nice to a basic player ( which all luthiers without exception are) or has great tone in itself is not entirely irrelevant but can be quite a red herring. ....especially to amateur makers ( It has happened to me)....(Don has that stuff covered)

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Yes, the real Jackson B1- frequency is higher than mine, even before the regrad.  So something in the stiffness/weight equation is different.  But since I know my wood density is far higher than the Jackson, I'm not going to fret much over it (other than to note that the Jackson probably has some light and stiff wood), and now I'm just trying to get mine to sound as good and balanced as I can.

 

And things move around.  A0 was 275 when I first finished it, 277 three days ago, 273 after the regrad, and 274 today, a day later.

B1- was 427 originally, 423 right before the regrad, 413 after the regrad, and 420 today.

B1+ was 544 originally, 545 right before regrad, 537 right after, and 554 (!) today.

 

I record the numbers, but I'm not obsessing about them.  What matters is how it plays and sounds.

It's likely that when strung up, the high arches and thin plates lowers the top arch and pushes the back arch higher . This gives a low B1- and higher B1+.

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It's likely that when strung up, the high arches and thin plates lowers the top arch and pushes the back arch higher . This gives a low B1- and higher B1+.

Naaaah.  The archings aren't moving.  It's the wood taken out of the island (that was the main area of wood removal) which lightened up the moving mass for B1+ and lowered the bending stiffness crossgrain that lowered the B1-.  I have had this result before in removing wood from the island of the top, i.e. B1+ goes up and B1- goes down.

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Don:  Hi, did I see this fiddle in the Arizona contest this year?  I think I recognize it.  Beautiful workmanship and beautiful varnish. 

I would like to talk to you someday about your varnish.  I love the top.  This is really first rate work.  Peter White

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Peter,

It was there, entered in the gut/synthetic string category.  I have no idea if you saw it or not, but it looks somewhat similar to the one I entered in the steel string group.

 

I have been using the same basic varnish for a while now.  You can read up on my varnishing starting with post #54.  There's some color in the terpene ground, but most of the reddish brown comes from nano iron oxide (red) and Gilsonite (brown).  The Gilsonite is cooked into a separate varnish which is extremely dark brown, and I just mix in a small amount to the main varnish to get the brownness I want.

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How do you varnish your dark processed wood?...Is it possible to still have a golden ground under the colored top varnish?

 

It's actually surprising how reasonable it ends up, even with wood that starts out ridiculously dark.  Here's the raw wood for #12 and it's final appearance.  The spruce is some of my expermental super-nuked dark stuff.  Obviously, you don't need to put much color on it.  The main visual abnormality is the edgework, which doesn't get any lighter when you wipe off some varnish.  Of course, if you want a pale yellow violin, you won't get that.

post-25192-0-97122300-1383622634_thumb.jpgpost-25192-0-37242300-1383622676_thumb.jpg

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No "Frank's Fiddles" this year; I don't know why, perhaps a schedule conflict.  I think he was there every year I've gone except this year.

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Frank told me in an email the reason for not attending this year. He had sold all his fiddles and had nothing to enter. I'm glad to hear he's still going strong. He's made over 200 fiddles since his retirement. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

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I'm digging up this fiddle to post some recent analysis.

Some critiques of the tone have been:

 

surface noise

too bright

crispy

brittle

 

So I thought I'd look into where that's coming from.  It can't be the B mode frequencies; they are comparitively low anyway, and have nothing to do with the E string.  Here's the low-resolution spectral comparison of bowed semitone scales (just looking at the higher frequencies):

post-25192-0-25789000-1393979533_thumb.jpg

 

The Strad is relatively strong aroun 3 kHz, and the response drops off steeply after that.  In comparison, my copy doesn't have the 3kHz peak, and rolls off much more slowly at the higher frequencie.  There's a big difference around 5kHz and 8kHz.  That all makes sense, although I'm completely at a loss to explain why the response is that way in physical terms.

 

Anyhow, I took the recorded E string semitone scale, and tried to perform an equalization to get closer to the Strad tone.  It seems to be somewhat successful, although the actual response peaks and dips are much narrower than the equalization bands I had to play with, so there's still a lot of detail differences in the response.  You can judge how this worked for yourself.

First is the unmodified copy E string, then the equalized version of the same recording, then the Strad E string.

E string comparison.mp3

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