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Stradivari's Secret


Roger Hargrave

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One of the positive things about spectral analysis is quantifying what the desirable goal is in a finished instrument. Of course this ideal is like a fart in a windstorm, but there must be  common characteristics shared between great instruments. Striving to reproduce this isn't so much copying, but attempting to create instruments desired by demanding performers.

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Some of the spectra (the stuff between 600-1000hz) I associate with backs that have weaker cross grain bending.

 

Something seems to be connecting here, at least in my mind. 

 

Back in post #539, I speculated that one of the possible ways to create the Strad response curve was to have different aging characteristics for the spruce and maple.  In thermal processing, I noticed that maple is far more sensitive to time and temperature than spruce, which is a possible clue that they could age differently too.  It would seem to me that such a response would require kinda dead, wimpy maple...  the opposite of what I would look for in spruce.

 

Bwaa haa haa... the hot coals to the feet are slowly having the desired effect, and curious1's secrets are being revealed!

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 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.

 

Ah yes, you've finally seen the light. But the biggest change is the one within.  :rolleyes:

 

Oded

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Oded, thanks for pointing out my error.  It should have read:

 

... and these features are sensitive to wood properties and smaller scale arching differences.  Graduations don't matter nearly as much.

 

There.  Back into the dark I go.  B)

 

 

Doesn't surprise me that you would go back into the dark....

 

What I've long proposed and you long opposed, is changing both arching and graduation. And I'll repeat , yet again, that targeted changes can be done and could have been done by the Old Masters. These external adjustments would be long lasting and would survive regraduation. They are like a crease in a piece of paper, once done they cannot be undone.

 

I'm certain if I wait long enough you'll come around and see the light again  :)

 

Oded

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I wouldn't want you to hate yourself any more than necessary. What don't you understand about the statement?

 

Once a change is made to the outside of an instrument it remains there even after the instrument is regraduated. I suggest creasing a piece of paper as an analogy. 

 

Oded

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I am wading through this topic and one conclusion that I draw, is that the right questions are not being asked.

 

little things...  purfling is it to deep or shallow set hard or floating (it's part of the hinge ) the linings on the ribs supple or ridged? ..Sized wide or narrow? and so on (Strad. used willow)

 

Shaping the arch and plates, Top and bottom  ... do the lines of contour flow from one point or multiple points What is the shape of the epicenter ...Or there is even one there to work from?

 

And etc,  etc etc

 

The Violin is a miraculous machine that accomplishes a unique function, I guess the trick is to make a good one (with or without H10 mode thingies) 

 

I think we are really looking at the proper workman like steps that produce an 'anything ' (from Toothpick to a Rocket ship) Strad. had all the bases covered (which I don't)

 

Burp...

 

Jim

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I wouldn't want you to hate yourself any more than necessary. What don't you understand about the statement?

 

Once a change is made to the outside of an instrument it remains there even after the instrument is regraduated. I suggest creasing a piece of paper as an analogy. 

 

Oded

but regraduation changes the thickness.  The effects of that would not override the external arch shape? 

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What don't you understand about the statement?

 

 

It could have referred to a permanent acoustic feature, created by external graduation but unaffected by later regraduation, which is obviously nuts.

As to an external visual feature as proof of external graduation, it's far more plausable to me that they are just artifacts from cleaning up the outside after purfling.  Heck, I do my last external finish work at the last minute too, just before starting varnishing.  And I don't purfle at the body state, and I sure don't do it to tune anything.

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It could have referred to a permanent acoustic feature, created by external graduation but unaffected by later regraduation, which is obviously nuts.

As to an external visual feature as proof of external graduation, it's far more plausable to me that they are just artifacts from cleaning up the outside after purfling.  Heck, I do my last external finish work at the last minute too, just before starting varnishing.  And I don't purfle at the body state, and I sure don't do it to tune anything.

 

No, not nuts. The feature remains whether the plate is thinned or not.  (see illustration below) That the plate is now thinner (dotted line) does not fundamentally change the fact the the plate has been weakened (or altered) at a given point. If the plate were very selectively regraduated then it is likely that the acoustical nature of these features would have been compromised. But I suspect that in most instances the plates were more or less evenly thinned.

IIRC, Don, have stated that regraduating an instrument doesn't fundamentally change the sound. I think that could be true, depending on how the regraduation is done.

 

The fact remains that there exist some truly extraordinary violins from Cremona. No theory offered seems to satisfy. I think controlled, targeted, external graduation comes the closest. 

 

With material explanations ( the wood, the varnish etc) one would expect to see some evidence of special material and consistency in outcome. We see material properties very much like ours.

 

I'm open to the possibility of some special wood or varnish properties contributing the the outcome but I don't see it as the only determinant. I would think something would have become evident by this time. 

 

I also think that suggesting that the sound is a result of extraordinary craftsmanship together with a specific technique is consistent with everything else we see about the Cremonese.

You wrote in post #665

 

 ........  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.

 

 

 

That's exactly right. But those smaller scale arching and graduation changes cannot be random, they must be carefully selected.

 

 

I agree about the wood btw, but I'd include all the usual suspects ie wood, model, arching, graduation, sealer, varnish set up, strings and player ;-)

 

I'm not suggesting that every little scratch under the varnish is evidence of tonal adjustments but when you see obvious tool marks with varnish pooled into the toothed plane marks AND graduation landmarks associated with those tool marks, (as on Del Gesus' Il Cannone)  then assuming these are just "artifacts of cleaning up" is arbitrary and willful negativity.

 

I also think that it's significant and important that the Cremonese did, in fact, finish their instrument from the outside.

Voicing then, would fit completely organically into their working method.

 

I also want to remind you that Cremona was a very very competitive market place and just as now, the better sounding instruments were more likely to sell ;-) 

 

This isn't some fantasy of mine, I've been doing outside voicing going on ten years and I'm seeing more and better results.  

I'm not suggesting that it's easy. It definitely isn't. But then nothing about the violin is easy. It isn't easy to make, it's difficult to play.  

But it can be very easy to listen to, especially a good player on a good violin .

 

Oded 

post-95-0-88979000-1397333556_thumb.jpg

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The fact remains that there exist some truly extraordinary violins from Cremona. No theory offered seems to satisfy. I think controlled, targeted, external graduation comes the closest. 

 

And I think that theory has huge logic problems, if you're trying to explain why those extraordinary violins are extraordinary.

We've been over this before...

-many of the extraordinary violins have been regraduated, patched, re-barred, etc. so that the original targets would have moved all over the place.

-if a particular graduation causes greatness, certainly some of the gazillion attempts to copy them would have gotten it right, and become extraordinary

 

I'll offer my current theory, which I'm sure won't be satisfying, but I think there is accumulating evidence in its favor:

A.  Good craftsmanship... form, arching, graduation

B.  Age... stiffer, ligher, lower damping for the spruce... but some different age effects for the maple that damp out middle frequencies.

C.  Selectivity... good acoustic examples get selected by high-level professionals.  The clunkers stay in the vaults.

D.  The REALLY extraordinary examples started with very good (but not supernatural) wood.

 

This is just a present, working theory, subject to change as additional evidence comes in.

 

Let's have a little friendly contest:  you follow your theory, I'll follow mine, and see who gets to "extraordinary" first. :)

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And I think that theory has huge logic problems, if you're trying to explain why those extraordinary violins are extraordinary.

We've been over this before...

-many of the extraordinary violins have been regraduated, patched, re-barred, etc. so that the original targets would have moved all over the place.

-if a particular graduation causes greatness, certainly some of the gazillion attempts to copy them would have gotten it right, and become extraordinary

 

I'll offer my current theory, which I'm sure won't be satisfying, but I think there is accumulating evidence in its favor:

A.  Good craftsmanship... form, arching, graduation

B.  Age... stiffer, ligher, lower damping for the spruce... but some different age effects for the maple that damp out middle frequencies.

C.  Selectivity... good acoustic examples get selected by high-level professionals.  The clunkers stay in the vaults.

D.  The REALLY extraordinary examples started with very good (but not supernatural) wood.

 

This is just a present, working theory, subject to change as additional evidence comes in.

 

Let's have a little friendly contest:  you follow your theory, I'll follow mine, and see who gets to "extraordinary" first. :)

 

 

Yes instruments were regraduated rebarred etc. but of course not all the instruments are great.

 

You'll notice that I've chosen to focus on the Cannone. Because it is original and unaltered, because it is acknowledged to be a superior instrument and because I have several sources of data on this violin. And I've heard it live.

 

If I can demonstrate that Del Gesu, arguably maker of some of the greatest violins ever, voiced his instrument from the outside, I'd be perfectly content. It would show that this was most likely a Cremonese practice or at the very least Del Gesu's method. Good enough for me. ;-)

 

As regarding the many graduation schemes etc. This statement belies your complete misunderstanding of this method. The whole point is that a maker can analyze, pinpoint, critical acoustical areas which would be different for every instrument ever made. Like a fingerprint. 

 

I don't disagree with your method, there's certainly nothing new about it and every violinmaker should pay attention to all these things.

Now if you're complaining about the gazillion attempts over the centuries, certainly your list would  be quite familiar to makers from the distant past. It seems that makers are still looking for something more direct. A way to actually affect some control over the sound not just randomly poke in the dark.

 

We've discussed the great difficulty in establishing a clear cause and effect relationship when doing any kind of acoustics on a violin. One of the inarguable aspects of outside graduations is that you can immediately hear the result of your effort. A clear, unambiguous cause and effect

 

People often raise the question of the changes from the varnish. There are a couple of possibilities. One is to apply a clear sealer which would minimize the effect of the varnish. Another is to apply a minimum of varnish. I've noted the stains on the inside of the Cannone which seem to be a colored tincture, requiring far fewer coats of varnish (usually no more than 2-3 thin coats) . 

 

Finally one simply learns what acoustical effect to expect from one's varnish.

 

Yes, let's also have a nice pissing contest, haven't done that in a while ;-)

 

Oh Don, your hubris is showing :P  :lol:  

 

Oded

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Oded, thanks for pointing out my error.  It should have read:

 

... and these features are sensitive to wood properties and smaller scale arching differences.  Graduations don't matter nearly as much.

 

There.  Back into the dark I go.  B)

No criticism, could you elaborate. It seems obvious that graduations matter, this is impossible to deny because it is very simple to see that if you make extremely thick/thin plates you will get problems. Clearly this wasn't what you tried to say :huh: .

 

Are you talking about uniformly thinning the plates?

 

If you have a playable violin in white you can do an extremely simple experiment that clearly shows that at least some specific locations are extremely sensitive to thickness graduation.

 

- Play the violin and listen to the tone/colour.

- Thin the area between the top end (near the neck) of the bass bar and the neck block by 2 um. This corresponds to roughly 10 ... 20 light sanding strokes (the area is hidden by the finger board ;) so you can freely play around with it) back forth with sand paper roughness of 80. You have to make a sanding tool to reach this area.

- Play the instrument immediately after the change. The change is easy to notice as a distinct darkening of the tone. The effect will partly go away within the next 5 ... 10 minutes.

- Do the same operation at the other end of the bass bar again roughly 2 um change . The same number of sanding strokes (10 ... 20) and play immediately. You will notice a distinct lightening of the tone as opposed to the previous darkening. This effect will also partly heal when the surface of the sanded area hardens. Of course in this area you can easily scrape the surface very lightly if you prefer.

 

Notice that we are able to measure changes mechanically to within perhaps 50 um (5/100 mm). I am talking of a change that is easy to hear but it lies far below our measurement threshold. My view is that the reason why people get the impression that graduations aren't important is simply because taking the plates off and re-graduating is a very rough operation and there is no guarantee that you happen to land on a "sweet spot" after the change so doing it in that way is essentially trial and error.

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Please notice that I read Don Noon's posts with big intrest. He is well informed and I feel that his reasoning is easy to understand probably due to his technical background. My post above wasn't intended as an attac on Don Noon, I am really interested in his comment to possibly widen my own understanding.

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Please notice that I read Don Noon's posts with big intrest. He is well informed and I feel that his reasoning is easy to understand probably due to his technical background. My post above wasn't intended as an attac on Don Noon, I am really interested in his comment to possibly widen my own understanding.

It's not Don I'm worried about.

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