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Bass bar baroque viola


tartarane
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Hello everybody

 

I 've got to put a bass bar in a small baroque viola ( which was in a more or less playable modern state)

 

the body is 38.4 cm the archings quite low

 

would a 28 cm barr be too  too short ?

 

the modern one would be 29.6

 

some people say that it should be the same length, just reduced in height

some say it should definitely be shorter and the direction parallel to the middle joint

 

what are the thoughts of people with lots of experience ?

It is a german instrument, not  factory type but not very grand

 

looking forward to your answers

tartarane

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It is an old wives tale that “Baroque” bass bars have to be shorter than “modern” ones. I have a Thir violin from 1801 open on my bench right now where the bass bar is 29,2 cm long, for instance (and 12mm high at the highest point). The best rule-of-thumb is as usual, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

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Hello everybody

 

I 've got to put a bass bar in a small baroque viola ( which was in a more or less playable modern state)

 

the body is 38.4 cm the archings quite low

 

would a 28 cm barr be too  too short ?

 

the modern one would be 29.6

 

some people say that it should be the same length, just reduced in height

some say it should definitely be shorter and the direction parallel to the middle joint

 

what are the thoughts of people with lots of experience ?

It is a german instrument, not  factory type but not very grand

 

looking forward to your answers

tartarane

Jacob is right on this point. I've seen all types. The small Gagliano violas (normally less than 39 cm.) I've seen with their original bars are usually longer than their modern counterparts but at the same time they are lower, narrower in width and slab cut as well!

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Hello everybody

 

i have to change the bass bar because it had come unglued and did not fit  :-))

 

so that's not the issue

 

the issue was or is if I do make one,  how

 

thank you for your comments jacob, bruce , connor

 

you have comforted me in the long,  thin and lower bar.

 

Regards

tartarane

 

 

 

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It rather depends on what you mean by "baroque", and what your aim is. There are certainly some long, modern-length or even longer bars from the 2nd half of the 18th century, and it is good to remember that there is not a simple linear development from short to long, and that some late 18th century bars are indeed longer than modern standards; however, this period is surely transitional or classical, whereas baroque is conventionally understood as ranging from c1600 to c1750 (the "c" of course being crucial!). If that is your target period, I think you should look elsewhere, and I would question following models from 1801 (pace Jacob) or Charles and Samuel Thomson (typically 1770s and 80s) to set up a baroque instrument, when examples from earlier instruments most certainly exist and are frequently much shorter than later bars.

As far as violins are concerned, the Hill Stradivari book has a useful list of surviving Cremonese bass bar dimensions which vary from significantly shorter (the majority) to slightly longer (one or two) than modern (disregarding the Gaglianos, which are classical, of course); the 1679 Stainer's original bar is 233mm, a 1700 Albani is 235mm (can't remember whether this comes from Hill or Lindeman), a Jacobs from 1702 has 243mm, a German violin (possibly Widhalm? but uncertain, may be earlier) from the Pieta collection has 240mm. So it's not quite fair to say that shorter baroque bars are "an old wives' tale"; I would also strongly disagree that "you won't notice much of a difference" (sorry Torbjörn!) - most players in my experience do indeed notice, and a long bar in a baroque instrument certainly makes it sound more "modern".

So, if you want to set it up as a baroque instrument, I would say that you should at least consider a significantly shorter bar, though the precise dimensions are hard to determine.

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I'm curious to learn about any specific examples (pre-1750) that are bigger - mainly because they seem to be in the minority, at least of documented examples, and it is always interesting to learn about exceptions to trends. I've seen (or read of) many examples from later in the 18th century that are bigger (including some longer than modern), but that is not so surprising in a period of great change. However, I don't have the invaluable experience of opening up dozens of old violins! Can you give any specific examples of larger bars before about 1750, Melvin? Are the measurements in the Hill book unrepresentative? In their list of Cremonese instruments, for example, of those before 1750, there are 15, of which 13 are shorter than modern, and 2 longer (a brothers Amati from 1621, and an A Gagliano from 1720). 

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So it's not quite fair to say that shorter baroque bars are "an old wives' tale

I said “It is an old wives tale that “Baroque” bass bars HAVE to be shorter than “modern” ones”, which is a matter of fact.

It is unhistoric to try too establish a norm for “the trans-European baroque violin”, since there was such a variety. This is moreover a pernicious attitude, that has in the past even led to musicians asking me to ”re-baroque” old instruments that were in their undisturbed original condition. Dividing violin/music history into 3 mutually exclusive detached blocks - Baroque/Transitional/Modern, doesn’t really stand up to intelligent scrutiny either.

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Of course such a division is simplistic, and I certainly don't mean to imply there was ever any kind of "cut-off" point, which would be absurd - but on the other hand it is not controversial to state that there is a clear period of quite substantial and rapid change in instrument design between *around* 1750 and *around* 1800, so using examples from the late 18th or even 19th century to make a case for early 18th century set up doesn't stand up to scrutiny either, with all due respect (meant quite genuinely!).

Sorry: in haste I carelessly missed your "have" - point taken. However, if the *majority* of pre 1750 bars are shorter, that tells us something interesting. If the majority are not, then I'd like to learn more about the exceptions, which don't seem to be well documented. I have spent a lot of time in the last 6 months or so searching for surviving bars from the early 18th century, and haven't come across any apart from the 2 (out of 15) in the Hill book which are longer than modern. There are on the other hand many from the later 18th and early 19th century which are longer (as well as some exceptions which are shorter).

Many of your fellow luthiers, as well as players and musicologists would be *enormously* grateful if claims about longer bass bars in baroque instruments could be elaborated on with dates and measurements! I don't have any preconceptions - I am simply trying to use the evidence that I can find to draw conclusions.

Finally, I would of course concur that the idea of removing an original bar from a baroque instrument to "re-baroque" it is the height of stupidity; I would also be absolutely fascinated to learn the date and dimensions of said violin and bar :)

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The past three years I've been doing a lot of work with "baroque" instruments, and I get the impression that the size of the bar does affect the tone quite noticably. On the other hand, the type of setup (especially the neck set/fingerboard wedge) and string angle, the arching style and plate thickness should be taken into when determining the dimensions of the bar.

 

For my purposes I follow a vaguely generic late "Cremonese" setup (Hargrave, Larsen). I leave the top plate somewhat thicker than most Strad poster numbers indicate, and I'm very careful with the arching. Together with these I'm very happy with the results obtained with bars which conform to the dimensions of historical Cremonese examples. Probably the best-sounding (baroque) violin I've made during the past four years is a Nicolo Amati copy, and the bar is minute even compared to Stradivari examples.

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I'd like to ask a specific question to Jacob, Bruce and Melvin: you've all indicated that baroque bass bars are sometimes longer than modern bars. Clearly this is the case in at least those 2 examples from Hill (the 1621 Bros Amati, and the 1720 A Gagliano); from your experience, can you say that the Cremonese bar dimensions given in that book (with the majority - 13 out of 15 - significantly shorter) are untypical, or contradicted by other data? If so, would you be able to point me to some more specific information about these? The other few examples I have managed to find (see post 9 above) also seem to be substantially shorter than modern; I would be very interested to learn about any *pre-1750* examples which buck this trend - and if any specific data are available (rather than just general statements), that would be *wonderfully* helpful...!

Please note that I'm not trying to prove a point or attempt to establish a "norm" - obviously there is no such thing - but merely to gather as much information as possible.

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Finally, I would of course concur that the idea of removing an original bar from a baroque instrument to "re-baroque" it is the height of stupidity; I would also be absolutely fascinated to learn the date and dimensions of said violin and bar :)

The violin I was thinking of, that I was asked to “re-baroque” although it was entirely original, but not “Baroque” enough for the violin ayatollahs who imagine on the most flimsy anecdotal “evidence” that “Baroque” finished in 1750, was a Johann Georg Thir from the 1750's. I didn't open it, of course, because I was disgusted that they had even dared to ask me, and said as much. Another Johann Georg Thir from 1759 which I do know well, since I did extensive work on it before I sold it to a gentleman from the Bruckner Orchestra, Linz, has its original bass bar. This bar is noticeably longer than I would make in a new violin. The current owner plays massively impressive Romanian Folk Music with his Baroque bass bar, in his spare time.

Repairing 18th C. instruments that have original bars is absolutely routine, and I have never seen any necessity to keep records, since it is an every-day occurrence, and I have a violin shop, and not a library. A quick rummage through my stuff a few minutes ago revealed a Leidolf cello bar from 1746, 595mm, a Stadlmann cello (can't read the date) 615mm, (the previous generation, such as Posch were no different) a Stadlmann viola bar (would have to ring my customer to ask the date) 323mm, a (slab cut!) Le Pileuer, Paris 1750, 264mm, and there are plenty of other instruments that aren't currently opened.

The term “Baroque” doesn't mean violins in some vacuum, but an epoch. Having lived in a landscape for the last 30 years that is chock-a-block with Baroque churches, I would say that the most “Baroque” church of them all, is the Walfahrtskirche in Maria Langegg, which wasn't even built until 1780 (I think, I would have to ask again to be sure). In fact the rot probably only started to set in with the Josephinian Reforms of 1785.

The violin hardware in Vienna, which is my home turf, and after all, is where much of the music comes from, remained roughly (within a band width) similar throughout the 18th C. The noticeable change in building methods/models etc. in Vienna occurred ca. +/- 1800. Even then, this wasn't an abrupt occurrence, but took a whole generation. Mathias Thir, for instance, which you wrongly dismiss as irrelevant, worked into the first decade of the 19th. C., but had both feet firmly planted in the 18th C. violin making style. An even more extreme example would be Meinrad Frank in Linz (*12.1.1775 died 19.4.1847), whose violins have nothing to do with the new “Biedermayer” epoch at all, but were relentlessly “Baroque”.

Frank is one maker that I have documented exactly when I repaired a violin for the Schloss Museum in Linz, ages ago. It was necessary to remove the original bar to repair cracks, but they insisted on the instrument retaining its original bar. I soaked it out, repaired the cracks, and refitted the original bar over the crack cleats. I wrote a long repair documentation, with photos of every stage and explanations of what I had done and why, because they had wanted me to, and were prepared to pay for it. This was a considerably time-consuming task, and you will have to appreciate, that nobody is going to go to all this trouble to provide you with masses of data, rather you will have to either do it yourself, or pay for it.

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Apart from the "period" (when was "Baroque") perhaps one should also consider regional styles. From the limited information available to me it would seem that "Italian baroque" bars, and specifically Cremonese, may well be generally shorter and slighter than modern. Could this be connected to other aspects such as arching style and thicknessing?

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Apart from the "period" (when was "Baroque") perhaps one should also consider regional styles. From the limited information available to me it would seem that "Italian baroque" bars, and specifically Cremonese, may well be generally shorter and slighter than modern. Could this be connected to other aspects such as arching style and thicknessing?

Well this is where things get interesting - this is exactly the kind of question I think we should be asking!

Bridge height is also, I understand from speaking to other luthiers, closely connected with bass bar dimensions. Of course it's not surprising that all these matters are interconnected.

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"Bridge height" always seems to me to require translation. Do you mean just that - bridge height - or does it imply string angle as well? If you really mean just "bridge height" I don't believe that consciously aiming for either an unusually tall or unusually short bridge offers one anything. Too many other variables come into the picture then. If one wants to modify the string angle, I believe it should be done via other routes.

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Hello everybody

 

I 've got to put a bass bar in a small baroque viola ( which was in a more or less playable modern state)

 

the body is 38.4 cm the archings quite low

 

would a 28 cm barr be too  too short ?

 

the modern one would be 29.6

 

some people say that it should be the same length, just reduced in height

some say it should definitely be shorter and the direction parallel to the middle joint

 

what are the thoughts of people with lots of experience ?

It is a german instrument, not  factory type but not very grand

 

looking forward to your answers

tartarane

What are the dimensions of the old bass bar?

How did the instrument sound with the old bar?

Is the client asking for something to change with the sound of the instrument or are they happy with the way it is?

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