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soundpost - since when?


bcncello
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These last days I've been reading and watching a lot about the many different stringed instruments going on around the 15th and 16th centuries (vihuelas, viols, vielles, violas, liras, rababs, fidulas, etc). The wide variety of shapes, sizes and number of strings is simply astonishing  :blink:

 

One thing however that I wondered was if all those instruments did had a soundpost inside with that rather flat tops and bridges placed everywhere between the tailpiece and the sound holes (although I know paintings are not photographs of course ;)). The wonder comes too since at least one of the articles I read stated that spanish vihuelas did not had soundpost (...)

 

So, when is the earliest mention of a soundpost in history? Should it be attributed to Andrea Amati and his 'innovative' instruments? Is it something related with the use of a bow to play? Is it related to a century (e.g. 15th)? To the placement or shape of the bridge?

 

 

 

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These last days I've been reading and watching a lot about the many different stringed instruments going on around the 15th and 16th centuries (vihuelas, viols, vielles, violas, liras, rababs, fidulas, etc). The wide variety of shapes, sizes and number of strings is simply astonishing  :blink:

 

One thing however that I wondered was if all those instruments did had a soundpost inside with that rather flat tops and bridges placed everywhere between the tailpiece and the sound holes (although I know paintings are not photographs of course ;)). The wonder comes too since at least one of the articles I read stated that spanish vihuelas did not had soundpost (...)

 

So, when is the earliest mention of a soundpost in history? Should it be attributed to Andrea Amati and his 'innovative' instruments? Is it something related with the use of a bow to play? Is it related to a century (e.g. 15th)? To the placement or shape of the bridge?

The word "soundpost" was first used by William Shakespeare in the form of musicians Simon Catling, Hugh Rebeck and James Soundpost in Romeo and Juliet. First use in the English language. Must already have been fairly common knowledge c.1591-1595.

 

Bruce

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These last days I've been reading and watching a lot about the many different stringed instruments going on around the 15th and 16th centuries (vihuelas, viols, vielles, violas, liras, rababs, fidulas, etc). The wide variety of shapes, sizes and number of strings is simply astonishing  :blink:

 

One thing however that I wondered was if all those instruments did had a soundpost inside with that rather flat tops and bridges placed everywhere between the tailpiece and the sound holes (although I know paintings are not photographs of course ;)). The wonder comes too since at least one of the articles I read stated that spanish vihuelas did not had soundpost (...)

 

So, when is the earliest mention of a soundpost in history? Should it be attributed to Andrea Amati and his 'innovative' instruments? Is it something related with the use of a bow to play? Is it related to a century (e.g. 15th)? To the placement or shape of the bridge?

This is from Western China.  It has a soundpost  at about where you would guess. Tell me how to post a jpg

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I believe that the Greeks had an instrument called a Lyra which has a partial soundpost that goes quite far back (in time) as well. Similar post to the crwth I think ?

http://bigpondmusic.com/album/various-artists/lyra-mainland-greece-the-art-of-the-greek-musical-instruments

http://education.folkfestival.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Greek-Lyra.jpg

 

r.

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I believe that the Greeks had an instrument called a Lyra which has a partial soundpost that goes quite far back (in time) as well. Similar post to the crwth I think ?

http://bigpondmusic.com/album/various-artists/lyra-mainland-greece-the-art-of-the-greek-musical-instruments

http://education.folkfestival.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Greek-Lyra.jpg

 

r.

 

Did the rebec have a soundpost ?

 

Here is a link.

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/titon/6244227263/

r.

Greek lyra refers to two different instruments, classically the lyre, and in late Roman/early Medieval times, the Byzantine lyra.  The lyre can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Sumer.  The crwth appears to be a late evolution from it.

 

The lyre in its archaeologically accessible Saxon form is detailed here :http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~priestdo/lyre.html (gee, talk about an old Saxon :lol: )  Lyres did not have soundposts, nor were they bowed.

 

The Byzantine lyra is a rebec, is a rabob and about 20 other lookalike variants with a hair's breadth between them, some still being made as folk instruments and often heavily contaminated with modern violin features..  The historic ones lacked soundposts.http://crab.rutgers.edu/~pbutler/rebec.html#5. http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/rebec.htm.

 

Lyra viols (17th. century English) have nothing to do with either of them, BTW.

 

Soundposts seem to have appeared with viols (or possibly archtop guitars), probably sometime in the 1400's.  If Stefano Pio is still coming to MN, he would probably know the most about it because he's written about the origin of the viol.  The soundpost seems to characterize instruments that have thin arched tops and rather high string tensions, none of which predate late medieval/early Renaissance times.

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The Byzantine lyra is a rebec, is a rabob and about 20 other lookalike variants with a hair's breadth between them, some still being made as folk instruments and often heavily contaminated with modern violin features..  The historic ones lacked soundposts.http://crab.rutgers.edu/~pbutler/rebec.html#5. http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/rebec.htm.

 

Lyra viols (17th. century English) have nothing to do with either of them, BTW.

 

Soundposts seem to have appeared with viols (or possibly archtop guitars), probably sometime in the 1400's.  If Stefano Pio is still coming to MN, he would probably know the most about it because he's written about the origin of the viol.  The soundpost seems to characterize instruments that have thin arched tops and rather high string tensions, none of which predate late medieval/early Renaissance times.

 

The rabab is more like a persian kemanche or chinese erhu. There is a drum skin head. I don't know if the links you posted make me more certain of the history of the lyra or rebec though.

 

 

r.

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The rabab is more like a persian kemanche or chinese erhu. There is a drum skin head. I don't know if the links you posted make me more certain of the history of the lyra or rebec though.

 

 

r.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/487848/rabab  Sorry, the terminology gets a little murky, like with the word lyra itself.  Rbb has been applied loosely long before me :P .  My general point is sound, however, that none of the stringed instruments prior to 1400 appear to have had soundposts.  Maybe Leonardo did it, he gets blamed for a lot these days. :lol:

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http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/487848/rabab  Sorry, the terminology gets a little murky, like with the word lyra itself.  Rbb has been applied loosely long before me :P .  My general point is sound, however, that none of the stringed instruments prior to 1400 appear to have had soundposts.  Maybe Leonardo did it, he gets blamed for a lot these days. :lol:

 

Poor Leo.

 

r.

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That's very interesting (at least for me). Thank you violadamore and all for your help. Going further on, could it be that an assumed transition to more arched tops around 1400 changed the way in which support bars were glued under the top? from widthwise to lenghtwise. The use of a lengthwise bass bar may result on the need to use some kind of support (like a dowel) on the treble side.

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This is from Western China.  It has a soundpost  at about where you would guess. Tell me how to post a jpg

I think when you are a new user it takes some time since you are allowed to post pictures. Try sending me a message with the picture and I'll post for you.

 

Thank you!

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bcncello

 

I put a lengthwise bar right down the center of my medieval fiddle.  It just seemed more likely to me that the first such bars would have been central, and that they would have existed this way until some unknown genius had the idea to move the bar to a position under the bass foot.

 

I am guessing that the movement of the bar occurred after the introduction of the soundpost.  Once you have the idea of the post, moving the bar to a complimentary position on the other side of the bridge just sort of makes sense.

 

For what it is worth, I intended to have no post in my fiddle, but the sound was very thin.  In the end, I gave in and installed a post, and that made a huge improvement.

 

Mac

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The crwth (a bowed instrument with a soundpost) belongs to pre-history. It bears an extraordinary resemblance in design to the Cretan lyra or Croatian ljerica, so I assume that it pre-dates the Celtic migrations.  

This is one of those "appearances can be deceiving" things.  The lyre can be seen on carvings and paintings going back to at least 2500 B.C. The bow isn't reliably seen depicted associated with it until the medieval period, when it becomes the crwth, crowd, or various other names.  The crwth "soundpost" is a projection of the bridge and doesn't support the top, it passes through it. 

 

http://www.sedayne.co.uk/crwth.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crwth

 

I don't feel that the crwth is a violin ancestor.  I think that in it's current form, it dates to sometime in the so called "dark ages" and was something that the Romano-British and Irish came up with from the previously mentioned lyre that then evolved alongside the lyra variants coming up from the south and east around that time.  I'm going to live dangerously here and say that I believe, based on archaeological evidence from western China that the Celts were a part of the cattle and sheep raising "horse barbarian" complex that started irrupting all along the northern borders of early civilizations in the middle to late 2nd. millennium B.C..  The answer as to the fiddle's earliest ancestor is, in my view, probably buried in an unexcavated mound somewhere in Russia or western China.  But I'll bet, when we find it, it doesn't have a friction fit, movable, top supporting soundpost :P  :lol:  

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  The answer as to the fiddle's earliest ancestor is, in my view, probably buried in an unexcavated mound somewhere in Russia or western China.  But I'll bet, when we find it, it doesn't have a friction fit, movable, top supporting soundpost :P  :lol:  

 

You surely aren’t going to seriously want to suggest, that the violin is a chinese invention, are you?
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You surely aren’t going to seriously want to suggest, that the violin is a chinese invention, are you?

 

Of course it is, imported by Marco Polo, like the spaghetti. :rolleyes:

 

Seriously, before we start to discuss the invention of violin, we need to define, at which point a bowed instrument can be called violin.

Similar the long foot of the crwth: It is not a movable soundpost like the modern, but an ancestor. When the long foot was divided from the upper part of the bridge, it started to be a modern soundpost.

I don't know much about horse riding or cattle raising barbarians and their musical instruments, but I think, that we can agree, that the form of the modern violin is an amalgam of many different elements from very different cultures, not only from one mysteric ancestor, buried unknown somewhere in the eastern steppe. And that is, what makes it great.

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You surely aren’t going to seriously want to suggest, that the violin is a chinese invention, are you?

 

No, I figure that bowing a string was invented by the pastoral nomadic barbarians who had lots of horsehair to play with and whose favorite weapon was the bow.  I imagine that they brought it with them to China, India, Anatolia, and Central Europe along with several other things,  This would give the bowed string a considerable antiquity..  I would also suggest that in the West, erhu like instruments were  discarded in favor of the lyre for some reason, probably status related.  I will note that the prehistory of north central Asia is only recently beginning to be investigated and understood.  It appears to be possible that a highway for ideas existed there earlier than anyone previously thought, but the subject is extremely controversial so far.

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but I think, that we can agree, that the form of the modern violin is an amalgam of many different elements from very different cultures, not only from one mysteric ancestor, buried unknown somewhere in the eastern steppe. And that is, what makes it great.

I figure it was invented by a group of roistering Brescians and Cremonese after a violletta or something got broken during a drunken orgy at Cellini's house.  Remember, folks, you saw it here first!!  :lol:

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Well I have just stumbled on an article that 'has opened my eyes'  :)

 

How, when and where the specific technological features of the violin family appeared

Christian Rault,  Michaelstein, 2007

 

http://prolyra.free.fr/Christian_Rault_luthier/pages/30publpag/art17technofeatures.htm

 

It is extense and needs time to digest but I encourage the reading. Many argumentative hypothesis there, but I think not so controversial like the chinese ones  :lol:

 

Sorry for the joke violadamore, actually I think like you  :)

 

Edit: In fact, on that link, if you go to the 'Présentation' some reference to the influences from the East is made.

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Well I have just stumbled on an article that 'has opened my eyes'  :)

 

How, when and where the specific technological features of the violin family appeared

Christian Rault,  Michaelstein, 2007

 

http://prolyra.free.fr/Christian_Rault_luthier/pages/30publpag/art17technofeatures.htm

 

It is extense and needs time to digest but I encourage the reading. Many argumentative hypothesis there, but I think not so controversial like the chinese ones  :lol:

 

Sorry for the joke violadamore, actually I think like you  :)

 

Edit: In fact, on that link, if you go to the 'Présentation' some reference to the influences from the East is made.

Thank you immensely for posting this link.  The reasoning based on the evidence of bridge movement plus the Romeo and Juliet citation seems to narrow the appearance of (central) soundposts to the late 16th. Century with our modern usage no earlier than the second quarter of the 17th. based on text citations.  That is a lot later than I would have guessed. 

 

It is interesting to me that what appears to be the oldest violin in my collection gives its best sound with the soundpost located much more centrally than the usual norm, and gives evidence of this having always been the case.  Perhaps a tradition was being followed..

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Funny, I just stumbled on this same article two weeks ago, looking for information about the lira da braccio (maybe I will have to build one for a customer).

It opened MY eyes, too, and I was surprised that Christian Rault's research seems to have been largely neglected (he was already working on such things in the early nineties). Honestly, I never heard of the Freiberg instruments before, either.

 

In any case, if one would want to build an Andrea Amati violin, say 1560-1580, this would mean that you should probably build it without bassbar and with a central soundpost. Has anyone already tried this? I surely will next time!

 

In another book (only in french, sorry), Rault writes that Auguste Tolbecque was probably among the first ones to build "musical instruments from the past" at the end of XIXth century and that, having restored some such instruments built by Tolbecque, he could see very clearly how the techniques and views of his time influenced his making (of course, not in the right way). Rault then goes on to regret that modern makers, although they are not so largely bound to the habits and uses of our time, very often think of medieval and renaissance instruments as if they had been built with baroque views and concepts.

Much food for thought, I think...

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Well I have just stumbled on an article that 'has opened my eyes'  :)

 

How, when and where the specific technological features of the violin family appeared

Christian Rault,  Michaelstein, 2007

 

http://prolyra.free.fr/Christian_Rault_luthier/pages/30publpag/art17technofeatures.htm

 

It is extense and needs time to digest but I encourage the reading. Many argumentative hypothesis there, but I think not so controversial like the chinese ones  :lol:

 

Sorry for the joke violadamore, actually I think like you  :)

 

Edit: In fact, on that link, if you go to the 'Présentation' some reference to the influences from the East is made.

Thank you for that link!  This is paradigm-shifting stuff.

 

Mac

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