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Stradivari's Secret


Roger Hargrave

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It is the frequencies that make the difference in sound and not the thicknesses: otherwise, the problem would have been resolved long ago. Changing the thicknesses amounts to modifying the frequency: simple, but not for everyone.

 

Certain old instruments that you mention were regraduated later because, with time, the back plate can become slightly deformed, raising its frequency. The loss of hemicellulose likewise raises the frequency of the materials. Since the bass bars had been changed, it was easier to retune the top plate to a lower or higher frequency.

 

www.kreitpatrick.com

 

 

Do you have any EVIDENCE for this or you are only SPECULATING ?  I am getting tired being lectured by you without you supplying a shred of evidence in support of what you're claiming.

 

 

Lars, please to not reply to posts out of context. As you can see my post was about something completely different.

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If you try doing small stepwise adjustments to a playable instrumen you won't have any problems in hearing changes that are too smallto measure mechanically. I do tuning in steps of rougly 2/1000 mm because these changes are audible and if I do bigger changes I may go to the land of no return...

If you do changes in this way and measure spectral changes it is easy to see the hardening of the plates (say 5 Hz in a few hours). Over a few days/weeks the plates change more but it gets exponentially slower with time.

 

Lars, I don't really doubt that what you say here, happens. My hearing is probably not sophisticated enough to pick up these very fine points but that doesn't mean yours might not be.

I have a SERIOUS doubt that this is how the Old Masters did it and I have a chain of arguments as to why not AND NOT THE TRIVIAL ONES like repairs, regraduations and the like.

But I see no reason why a violin maker might not use tuning to improve his violins.

 

What I would like to hear is proper sound samples - proof in other words. At the moment ( and that's for quite a while ) all I am getting is hot air from some makers nobody's heard of.

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Lars, I don't really doubt that what you say here, happens. My hearing is probably not sophisticated enough to pick up these very fine points but that doesn't mean yours might not be.

I have a SERIOUS doubt that this is how the Old Masters did it and I have a chain of arguments as to why not AND NOT THE TRIVIAL ONES like repairs, regraduations and the like.

But I see no reason why a violin maker might not use tuning to improve his violins.

 

What I would like to hear is proper sound samples - proof in other words. At the moment ( and that's for quite a while ) all I am getting is hot air from some makers nobody's heard of.

See private message.

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This "resonating tubes" idea needs to die until anyone can show that it actually happens on a piece of wood.  It ain't real, folks; the tubes are so narrow that any resonance will quickly die from viscous drag.

 

However, the air in the wood does do something... it reduces the density, creating a structural material that is pretty much impossible to duplicate by artifical means.  Cellulose is pretty amazing stuff on its own, and then forming it into a honeycomb cell structure makes it ideal for sounboards.  If I could do better with anything else, I would have tried it by now.

 

There seems to be continued belief in some idealized Stradivari /Cremonese myth that their fabulous tone is the result of expert tonal adjustments by the original makers.  Has everyone forgotten that most of them have had new bass bars, regraduations, repairs, and whatever else happens to wood over 300 years?  Come on, folks... what we have now is not the same as what came out of the makers' hands.  If you could show that regraduated instruments are far worse than the untouched ones, you might have one weak wobbly leg to stand on with this "tuning" myth.  I find it much more believable that they just used good overall practices, and were done with it.  If it was a little stiffer than normal, someone with a strong arm might like it.  I just don't see them diddling around with each one very much, at the rate they cranked them out.  The only thing I have heard from dealers today is "I don't judge tone of an instrument... clients have all kinds of ideas about what they like".  I don't hear much about the "perfect" tone.

 

Agree with Mr. Noon's point made here and previously re/ 300 years of modifications and playing-in.  While not attempting to dampen enthusiasm of the overall discussion, I think it reasonable to believe that many modern makers (including those engaged herein, self excluded) have likely made instruments which are (subjectively of course) on par with those of the masters.  There are a few supporting blind listening tests of modern instruments informally judged to sound better than 300 year old masters.  How will your instruments sound after 300 years of playing and adjustments?  You don't know, do you?  But they'll likely be even better. 

 

Looking at the violin family evolution, I believe the development can be viewed graphically as a rapid upward slope to the great masters of the 1700s, and essentially flat since.  Basically, a product development which was near its pinnacle 300 years ago because the masters' basic design is so good for how we continue to use them. 

 

But since you guys have touched on all the good points, I had to scrounge to come up with the following:

 

Anybody ever look into possible effects of using shade side (North) vs sunny side (South) out of a round?  If I recall from biology class, there's a chemical which flows up the shade side of plants causing elongation of cells and subsequent bending toward the sun.  So, you have longer cells and shorter cells.  Don't really know how the chemical works within the cell, and how the chemical might be dispositioned in straight vs. bent trees.  Also in bent trees, the shade side would be in tension and sunny side in compression.  Also, sunny sides often have more limbs, which might favor use of the shade side.

 

And a real scrounge - Instruments are played-in and age, repeatedly being stressed and stress relieved.  Wonder what this does on a cell, and even molecular level.  Then there's gravity, an ever present force resulting in stress.  Does gravity cause flow on the molecular level as it does with other materials (the classic example of old window panes being thicker at the bottom due to the glass flowing).  Certainly if glass can flow

(granted a near homogenous material), could wood experience some flow or deformation on a cellular level?  Told you I was scrounging!

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This dropoff looks like how most microphones respond.

 

That's my microphone, and I really have no clue how the microphone responds.  It's a cheap one that someone gave me, but it seems to be good enough for my purposes.

 

However, I thought I'd check curious1's fiddle against my #14, which is known to be extremely bright bordering on harsh.

post-25192-0-29837500-1397171722_thumb.jpg

 

I win the contest for power :) .  

 

If I could only tone down the spikes just under 1kHz, maybe moderate that other one at 1550Hz, and chop off that excessive power over 4500Hz, then it would really be something.  Oh, and while I'm at it... more power everywhere else.

 

But back to the microphone... since these two spectra were taken with the exact same equipment, there's obviously a lot of the spectra variations and dropoff that's not the microphone.

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... and another thing.  Notice how the signature modes are very close... within a few Hz, and within a dB or two in amplitude.  Yet in the higher frequencies (where the human ear is more sensitive), there are huge differences, 6dB, even 18dB where there's a peak vs valley difference.  They definitely won't sound the same.  I have been repeating this argument for a while, but I think this shows it graphically:  a lot of important tonal features have nothing to do with the signature modes, and these features are sensitive to smaller-scale arching and graduation changes.  Probably the wood, too.

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I have been repeating this argument for a while...

 

 

 

We’re listening!  Your tap tone/weight graph, your chat with Michael Darnton about post 1720 Strads, and this.  VERY interesting stuff. 

 

a lot of important tonal features have nothing to do with the signature modes, and these features are sensitive to smaller-scale arching and graduation changes.  Probably the wood, too.

 

Extremely noteworthy.

 

worthy_zps30730184.gif

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That's my microphone, and I really have no clue how the microphone responds.  It's a cheap one that someone gave me, but it seems to be good enough for my purposes.

 

However, I thought I'd check curious1's fiddle against my #14, which is known to be extremely bright bordering on harsh.

attachicon.gifdn vs curious1.jpg

 

I win the contest for power :) .  

 

If I could only tone down the spikes just under 1kHz, maybe moderate that other one at 1550Hz, and chop off that excessive power over 4500Hz, then it would really be something.  Oh, and while I'm at it... more power everywhere else.

 

But back to the microphone... since these two spectra were taken with the exact same equipment, there's obviously a lot of the spectra variations and dropoff that's not the microphone.

Did you try moving the microphone to a different distance? The wavelengths get quite small at those higher frequencies. Mic position may well show a different response by changing the distance.

 

What does your setup display with a pink noise source? What we perceive as flat response should roll off at 3 db per octave as frequency goes up.

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Did you try moving the microphone to a different distance? The wavelengths get quite small at those higher frequencies. Mic position may well show a different response by changing the distance.

 

 

Distance is not quite so critical as position laterally.  The higher frequencies have multiple antinode sources, leading to additions and cancellations, or "beaming".  For that reason, I use 9 different mike positions for each spectrum.

 

I haven't done any type of calibration of my setup; it's intended for mostly comparisons between instruments, rather than any absolute measure.  I did compare my plots to what Curtin gets on his rig, for the sam instrument.  Close enough for me, although there are some differences.  For one, he uses different microphone positions than I do.

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Did you have any ideas on how to get such a steep drop off at the high end?  I think this might be an important feature of really good instruments.

I anticipate that the good violins in Claudia's test have frequency response curves similar to Curious 1's.  Perhaps we could start a new thread: "Curious 1's Secrets" or as Joseph Curtin said: "Why are we copying old instruments?"

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That's my microphone, and I really have no clue how the microphone responds.  It's a cheap one that someone gave me, but it seems to be good enough for my purposes.

 

However, I thought I'd check curious1's fiddle against my #14, which is known to be extremely bright bordering on harsh.

attachicon.gifdn vs curious1.jpg

 

I win the contest for power :) .  

 

If I could only tone down the spikes just under 1kHz, maybe moderate that other one at 1550Hz, and chop off that excessive power over 4500Hz, then it would really be something.  Oh, and while I'm at it... more power everywhere else.

 

But back to the microphone... since these two spectra were taken with the exact same equipment, there's obviously a lot of the spectra variations and dropoff that's not the microphone.

How are the graphs normalized? Is there anyway to display error bars?

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Curious 1's spectrum at least allows one to make an educated guess as to what continent he/she is located in. :)

No help there really. Don did the spectrum of that violin at the Oberlin workshops. Many people from many places.

I'm away from workshop at the moment but I can tell you a few things about that violin. The top wood is of fairly low density. I don't have the speed of sound but would guess that it is in the higher range. The arching is fairly low and broad at the center. It don't have densities for back but can tell you it was about 50-60 years old. Both plates are not especially light weight. Top=68gms. Back=~100gms

Some of the spectra (the stuff between 600-1000hz) I associate with backs that have weaker cross grain bending. I'll try and post a picture of the fiddle later.

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