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Stradivari's Secret


Roger Hargrave

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A wise master once sat in front of a cave. Whenever pilgrims seeking the secret of enlightenment came by, he would tell them "seek within". Invariably they would look inside the cave and find nothing.

There I go gettin all zen on ya heheh

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I have lately been making my first strad (the previous ones have been Guarneri types). What are your views on the top thickness in the areas around the sound post? It feels like this area should be fairly thin to get reasonable vibration amplitudes at the high frequence end. The limit is set by the need for mechanical strength. Essentially: Thick or thin? But why?

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I have lately been making my first strad (the previous ones have been Guarneri types). What are your views on the top thickness in the areas around the sound post? It feels like this area should be fairly thin to get reasonable vibration amplitudes at the high frequence end. The limit is set by the need for mechanical strength. Essentially: Thick or thin? But why?

Three mm thick, at the exact sound post position, with the sound post centered in an area at least the size of an American quarter dollar.

 

But then again, I'm using American Sitka Spruce.

You'd have to accommodate or alter the plate's thickness at that exact  point - depending on what wood you are using, how strong it is, how well it codons vibrational transference, (from the bridge)  and, how well it allows, or resists general bending.

 

The problem with copying a thickness from either an actual Strad or Guarneri plate directly, is that we are not working with their materials, nor do we know, really, either why or how they arrived at their particular working thicknesses. That copies of their exact working methods do not work for us or our particulars today, has fairly well been shown before with regularity.

You're as good guessing yourself, based on your intuition, as you are looking back at the thicknesses shown by the actual instruments in question.

 

I do wonder though, why are you asking the general public? Don't you have an idea for the model, wood, and working methods of your own? I believe that you'd probably know best, or most accurately, for the materials you're going to use.

 

What thickness are you thinking of making the sound post area of the belly?

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Thanks! I was thinking of experiences regarding the differences in sound and projection. It is obvious that one shouldn't go too thin because this will probably bring problems sooner or later ... when really thin probably sooner ;) .

What I was driving at is the fact that the high frequency drive of the violin, if I interpret it correctly, is a function of the offset between the E-side bridge foot and the sound post. This is why extremely small movements of the bridge or the sound post can have a large influence of the sound. The physical dimension of the driver area (the offset) is extremely small and changes of 0.1 mm are large changes in relation to the active area. It feels like it would be easier to effectively drive the area around the sound post if it is reasonably thin of course within reason ;). On the other hand it is extremely easy to come to wrong conclusions based on deduction, as Don Noon puts it ... It isn't rocket science ... it is much more difficult :) .

My question was really regarding practical experience, is the high frequency response improved when going thin in this area or does it get worse ... or isn't it influenced at all? Let's forget the mechanical problems at this stage.

Regarding what I have done with the present instrument is I made it ca. 0.2 mm thinner that my previous Guarneri copies. The thickness around the sound post is 2.4 mm and this is also the case for the surrounding areas.  It will be interesting to hear the result.

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My question was really regarding practical experience, is the high frequency response improved when going thin in this area or does it get worse ... or isn't it influenced at all? Let's forget the mechanical problems at this stage.

Regarding what I have done with the present instrument is I made it ca. 0.2 mm thinner that my previous Guarneri copies. The thickness around the sound post is 2.4 mm and this is also the case for the surrounding areas.  It will be interesting to hear the result.

 

Well, Strad or Guarneri copies, if you are copying the thickness of their plates in general, as they exist today, the greater mass of modern makers seem to think that thicker than what they have as their thickness in that area, for whatever the reasons, works best. (I believe)

So practically, not only my experience is around 3mm, but many violin makers seem to also go with a thickness that may well be over 2.4 mm.

Yes, I'll be curious also, whether or not you find that this thickness in that area works well for you. 

 

Please post your results.

You have already thicknessed this top plate? Do you mind telling what type of Spruce you've used?

And how well have your previous Guarneri copies faired? (tone wise, that is)

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What I was driving at is the fact that the high frequency drive of the violin, if I interpret it correctly, is a function of the offset between the E-side bridge foot and the sound post. This is why extremely small movements of the bridge or the sound post can have a large influence of the sound. The physical dimension of the driver area (the offset) is extremely small and changes of 0.1 mm are large changes in relation to the active area. It feels like it would be easier to effectively drive the area around the sound post if it is reasonably thin of course within reason ;).

 

That concept might ring true if the back and sounpost were infinitely rigid.  They aren't.  Everything looks like a spring at high frequency.  And, even if they were rigid, you could just move the soundpost slightly farther away from the bridge foot if the top is thick, and get the same input impedence.

 

My experience so far says that a localized thicker area around the soundpost does not hurt anything.  Also, moving the soundpost farther from the bridge foot does not seem to make the higher frequencies stronger, as you would expect if that dimension was behaving as an impedence regulator.

 

As usual, it isn't that simple.  It's more complicated.

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That concept might ring true if the back and sounpost were infinitely rigid.  They aren't.  Everything looks like a spring at high frequency.  And, even if they were rigid, you could just move the soundpost slightly farther away from the bridge foot if the top is thick, and get the same input impedence.

 

My experience so far says that a localized thicker area around the soundpost does not hurt anything.  Also, moving the soundpost farther from the bridge foot does not seem to make the higher frequencies stronger, as you would expect if that dimension was behaving as an impedence regulator.

 

As usual, it isn't that simple.  It's more complicated.

Jep! This is why I asked :) and hope to get different view points and hopefully also several good opposing explanations that all will ring true!

With your background you know that when you are able to formulate the correct question you often have a new invention within reach.

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My experience so far says that a localized thicker area around the soundpost does not hurt anything.  Also, moving the soundpost farther from the bridge foot does not seem to make the higher frequencies stronger, as you would expect if that dimension was behaving as an impedence regulator.

In my experiments, I also haven't yet noticed negative effects from increased plate stiffness running from post to bridge foot and and in some cases further north and south.

 

I haven't noticed any correlation between effective plate thickness and post location. In all my work, the post has always "migrated" to the typical distance behind the bridge foot — less than 3 mm gap. This even when the the effective plate thickness has been as much as 10 to 12 mm. 

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In my experiments, I also haven't yet noticed negative effects from increased plate stiffness running from post to bridge foot and and in some cases further north and south.

 

I haven't noticed any correlation between effective plate thickness and post location. In all my work, the post has always "migrated" to the typical distance behind the bridge foot — less than 3 mm gap. This even when the the effective plate thickness has been as much as 10 to 12 mm. 

I don't understand your last sentence.  I don't think you mean your top plate is 10 to 12 mm thick, so I must not understand what you mean by "effective plate thickness".

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That concept might ring true if the back and sounpost were infinitely rigid.  They aren't.  Everything looks like a spring at high frequency.  And, even if they were rigid, you could just move the soundpost slightly farther away from the bridge foot if the top is thick, and get the same input impedence.

 

My experience so far says that a localized thicker area around the soundpost does not hurt anything.  Also, moving the soundpost farther from the bridge foot does not seem to make the higher frequencies stronger, as you would expect if that dimension was behaving as an impedence regulator.

 

As usual, it isn't that simple.  It's more complicated.

  

In my experiments, I also haven't yet noticed negative effects from increased plate stiffness running from post to bridge foot and and in some cases further north and south.

 

I haven't noticed any correlation between effective plate thickness and post location. In all my work, the post has always "migrated" to the typical distance behind the bridge foot — less than 3 mm gap. This even when the the effective plate thickness has been as much as 10 to 12 mm.

This is my experience also. Within the realm of normal dimensions it is difficult to leave this area too stiff whereas quite easy to leave it to thin/weak. This was covered in the sound post thread a few months back. In old fiddles this is often one of the few really stiff areas in the top (a sound post patch is often fairly thick and the grains laminated relative to the grain of the top).

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, Strad or Guarneri copies, if you are copying the thickness of their plates in general, as they exist today, the greater mass of modern makers seem to think that thicker than what they have as their thickness in that area, for whatever the reasons, works best. (I believe)

So practically, not only my experience is around 3mm, but many violin makers seem to also go with a thickness that may well be over 2.4 mm.

Yes, I'll be curious also, whether or not you find that this thickness in that area works well for you. 

 

Please post your results.

You have already thicknessed this top plate? Do you mind telling what type of Spruce you've used?

And how well have your previous Guarneri copies faired? (tone wise, that is)

 

Regarding tone of the Guarnieris see private message.

The first sound tests have now been done on Strad#1. I posted raw spectral measurements on the instrument without any adjustments on my blog http://larsil2009.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/fiolbygge-experiment-med-omojligt-material-2/ . This is now the base for further adjustments. Gluing the top turned out to be less than perfect which means that I will have to open the violin and re-do the assembly. The positive thing is of course that I will be able the measure the top and bottom after internal adjustments. I haven't re-measured plate thicknesses after adjustments simply because I don't want to open a working instrument.

 

The next steps are:

 

- Make a new sound post. The present one is 1 - 2 mm too short.

- Adjust the tail piece resonance. It is presently ca. 120 Hz and I will increase it to 135 - 140 Hz by removing mass from the underside of the taipiece.

- Adjust the B0 resonance by adjusting the finger board.

- The amplitudes of the B1- and B1+ resonances are far lower than I want them. This will be fixed through adjustments to the top/bottom plates.

- The response in the 1000 - 2000 Hz nasal range is slightly too strong for my taste. This will be changed by thinning the C-bout on the E-side.

 

During the journey I will probably find further things to fix...

 

I will probably start a new thread for these adjustments when I have made a new sound post and have some additional data.

 

Notice!

The idea behind this instrument is simply to explore possible problems related to adjustments of "birds eyes" maple. My understanding is that many musicians see the material as beautiful but tone wise inferior ... don't buy an instrument of this type ;) ... My feeling is that my method for adjustment of the final instrument shouldn't have any problems with this material. Time will show.

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The next steps are:

 

- Make a new sound post. The present one is 1 - 2 mm too short.

 

I will probably start a new thread for these adjustments when I have made a new sound post and have some additional data.

 

Notice!

The idea behind this instrument is simply to explore possible problems related to adjustments of "birds eyes" maple. My understanding is that many musicians see the material as beautiful but tone wise inferior ... don't buy an instrument of this type ;) ... My feeling is that my method for adjustment of the final instrument shouldn't have any problems with this material. Time will show.

 

You cannot really say anything about a violin that has not had, or does not have, a soundpost that fits.

This is of course, a primary concern for any violin. 1-2 mm too short, will throw anything that you've measured with it, into the can as far as I'm concerned.

Do not continue until you get the post in and adjusted "perfectly"... (then too the bridge has to also be done this way) - why waste time ?

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And, oh yes;

the idea of using birdseye maple is or can be "slightly off" as you suggest.

"Inferior tone wise" - and etc.

The initial reaction by some people may be to be cautious of birdseye instead of flamed maple... But I have found that if and when birdseye is used properly (thicknessed correctly... & etc.) that the reaction will shift towards the response of the instrument itself and their attention will not tend to dwell on the birdseye. I've used it, and I have seen other makers use it, with equal success as using flamed maple. 

 

Your call here.

If you use it, then you're then "stuck" with the end product.

 

I am confident in your "thorough nature", that you'll not stop until you make this violin work as extremely as well as possible.

That's my opinion of using Birdseye.

Any further questions about Birdseye?

I'd be very happy to start in a bit on conversing about that subject.

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A separate thread on birds eye maple is a good idea - I would really question the notion that it's in any way inferior as a tonewood.

 

To return us to Strad's secret, I do find it very telling that a thread on this subject can run to 36 pages (maybe 37 now), and yet this little anecdote of mine on the Quality & Headgames thread received absolutely no comment, challenge, endorsement or even expression of curiosity, irritation or agreement. So much for putting the cat among the pigeons ....

 

"I did find myself last week in a room with the Molitor Stradivari, a very good Tononi, and one of the best Vuillaumes I've played (it didn't really cope with the illustrious company).

The Tononi was without doubt the better sounding violin from all points of view, character, projection, variability of tone etc. 

But the Molitor was a Strad!

I wanted it, though with my eyes closed I and everyone else there would have chosen the Tononi.

Conclusion -  the secret of Stradivari is that it's a Stradivari!"

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Lars,

 

You cannot fix Finnish early summer :) There will be shift in B1 modes +/- 20 - 25 Hz between winter and summer

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/328430-peter-kgs-bench/#entry590185

  

Is that like what we call "winter" here in Florida?   ;)  :lol:

The Finnish summer is funny ... last week saw temperatures of between 5 and 10 deg C but flowers are actually blooming. The big, known, problem is the change in humidity when heating of the house stops. The solution is to do small step wise changes. The instrument shouldn't be made too bright in the summer because it will get still brighter when dry in the winter.

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... 

"I did find myself last week in a room with the Molitor Stradivari, a very good Tononi, and one of the best Vuillaumes I've played (it didn't really cope with the illustrious company).

The Tononi was without doubt the better sounding violin from all points of view, character, projection, variability of tone etc. 

But the Molitor was a Strad!

I wanted it, though with my eyes closed I and everyone else there would have chosen the Tononi.

Conclusion -  the secret of Stradivari is that it's a Stradivari!"

...really good post-mortem marketing?  :rolleyes:

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