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Don Noon

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That didn't come out right.  Let me resharpen my criticism by telling the fictitious story about a weekly meeting of the M.I.T. men's dating group (M.D.G.).

 

After the minutes of the prior weeks' meeting had been read and approved, it was John's turn to present.  He stood up and described to the group his experience of having approached a pretty woman a month earlier with a proposal to go on a date.  At the time he made the proposal, he explained, he'd handed her a bouquet of red roses.  She rejected him.  Afterwards, it struck him that there may be a correlation between the exact color of the roses and the rate of success in getting dates.  So, he decided to formally analyze the question in a in a programmatic way.  He analyzed his bouquet and noted the RGB values were 103/9/44.  He then described how he'd methodically worked through a range of RGB values in subsequent invitations, and although he'd had no success yet, he still hoped that a color combination might be found that would improve the group's chances of getting dates.

 

At the end of his presentation the group applauded enthusiastically, agreeing that this was a rich area for study, and that much more could be done in this vein, including the color of pants and shirts worn when asking women on dates.

 

Next up was Tom.  He was a newcomer, and after introducing himself, showed the group his recent research interest, which was a study of the diameter of a woman's pupils at the time she was asked to go on a date vs. the response received.  He put up a chart, in which he marked the plots for the diameters of pupils in women he'd previously asked to go on dates.  There was no pattern to be detected yet, but Tom reminded the group that the sample size was small, and with more work a pattern might yet emerge.  (He also offered the insight that many of the women expressed various levels of irritability upon having his caliper put up to their eye, but he said their altered emotional state didn't invalidate the results, as the measurements were taken very very close to the exact moment the women had said no.)

 

Tom was warmly congratulated on the promising direction his work was going.  It was just this type of novel analysis, everyone agreed, that might bring the group closer to the day they could get women to say yes.

 

In other words, my problem isn't with Don.  It's with the idea that science is the best tool for solving all problems.  The best violins made 300 years ago weren't made by scientists.  The best ones today aren't made by scientists.  Science doesn't deserve a place at the front of the class in violin making.  It hasn't earned it.

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The best violins made 300 years ago weren't made by scientists.  The best ones today aren't made by scientists.  Science doesn't deserve a place at the front of the class in violin making.  It hasn't earned it.

 

... yet. :)

 

I see criticism, but no helpful suggestions, other than perhaps to live 300 years ago.  

 

In many ways, I don't disagree.  It has been my observation that the best makers today all come up thru the ranks... spending many years in top shops where great instruments and great players flow by in high volume.  

 

Science is definitely not the best tool for solving all problems, and making good violins is one of those problems.  However, I don't see that lacking the proper tools is a great justification for giving up all other tools and stopping progress altogether.  Neither is it a good idea to allow the limited tools to displace the ones of real value, whenever they become available.

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In other words, my problem isn't with Don.  It's with the idea that science is the best tool for solving all problems.  The best violins made 300 years ago weren't made by scientists.  The best ones today aren't made by scientists.  Science doesn't deserve a place at the front of the class in violin making.  It hasn't earned it.

 

  Perhaps you also feel that Sam Zygmuntowicz's scientific research is also misguided?  You're familiar with it?

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Don, you're a good sport.

As far as no helpful suggestions go, we have a big one swirling around the board right now. C cycloids. Darnton claims they're critically important. That's a suggestion, empirically based, with a practical achievability for a maker. Yet yesterday you said... You simply declared... That there is nothing about these arches that is special to the achievement of superior sound. Me, I'd be inclined to test that out?

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That didn't come out right.  Let me resharpen my criticism by telling the fictitious story about a weekly meeting of the M.I.T. men's dating group (M.D.G.).

 

After the minutes of the prior weeks' meeting had been read and approved, it was John's turn to present.  He stood up and described to the group his experience of having approached a pretty woman a month earlier with a proposal to go on a date.  At the time he made the proposal, he explained, he'd handed her a bouquet of red roses.  She rejected him.  Afterwards, it struck him that there may be a correlation between the exact color of the roses and the rate of success in getting dates.  So, he decided to formally analyze the question in a in a programmatic way.  He analyzed his bouquet and noted the RGB values were 103/9/44.  He then described how he'd methodically worked through a range of RGB values in subsequent invitations, and although he'd had no success yet, he still hoped that a color combination might be found that would improve the group's chances of getting dates.

 

At the end of his presentation the group applauded enthusiastically, agreeing that this was a rich area for study, and that much more could be done in this vein, including the color of pants and shirts worn when asking women on dates.

 

Next up was Tom.  He was a newcomer, and after introducing himself, showed the group his recent research interest, which was a study of the diameter of a woman's pupils at the time she was asked to go on a date vs. the response received.  He put up a chart, in which he marked the plots for the diameters of pupils in women he'd previously asked to go on dates.  There was no pattern to be detected yet, but Tom reminded the group that the sample size was small, and with more work a pattern might yet emerge.  (He also offered the insight that many of the women expressed various levels of irritability upon having his caliper put up to their eye, but he said their altered emotional state didn't invalidate the results, as the measurements were taken very very close to the exact moment the women had said no.)

 

Tom was warmly congratulated on the promising direction his work was going.  It was just this type of novel analysis, everyone agreed, that might bring the group closer to the day they could get women to say yes.

 

In other words, my problem isn't with Don.  It's with the idea that science is the best tool for solving all problems.  The best violins made 300 years ago weren't made by scientists.  The best ones today aren't made by scientists.  Science doesn't deserve a place at the front of the class in violin making.  It hasn't earned it.

I'm not sure Andrea Amati et al were NOT scientists.

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Don, you're a good sport.

As far as no helpful suggestions go, we have a big one swirling around the board right now. C cycloids. Darnton claims they're critically important. That's a suggestion, empirically based, with a practical achievability for a maker. Yet yesterday you said... You simply declared... That there is nothing about these arches that is special to the achievement of superior sound. Me, I'd be inclined to test that out?

Actonern, not that the following will matter to me in the future, you could make 2 violins however you see fit to make them.  1 could be templates traced from the internet or another form like a poster.  The next could be made using a long arch and 3 or 5 cycloid/cutate made by using your good instrument or a lessor violin.  Some think a 1 to 1.5mm in either direction can be all the difference.  Whoever said that knows from the past about sometthing.  Maybe a failed effort at a good sound.  I wouldn't expect you to listen or do what I suggest, but someone will eventally.  Will they tell everyone what they found out? 

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...yesterday you said... You simply declared... That there is nothing about these arches that is special to the achievement of superior sound. Me, I'd be inclined to test that out?

 

I think I was on solid ground when I declared that there was nothing in the theory that would suggest cycloids have any special advantage.  There was essentially one voice of experience declaring that CC's are key to superiority, yet many other voices of similar experience saying it's not so.  My own experience, with a variety of different arch shapes, as well as the underlying theory, says CC's are not a key to sonic success, therefore my time would be better spent investigating a wide variety of arch shapes and wood types to see what it actually does to the sound... which is exactly what I'm doing with these seemingly unprofitable trashbin tests.  

 

My goals are not just to find what works for good classical violinists, but also for fiddlers of several different styles and desires in the way of tone.  I think this might require looking into many possibilities that Cremona-centric makers would find pointless.

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"Actonern, not that the following will matter to me in the future, you could make 2 violins however you see fit to make them. 1 could be templates traced from the internet or another form like a poster. The next could be made using a long arch and 3 or 5 cycloid/cutate made by using your good instrument or a lessor violin. Some think a 1 to 1.5mm in either direction can be all the difference. Whoever said that knows from the past about sometthing. Maybe a failed effort at a good sound. I wouldn't expect you to listen or do what I suggest, but someone will eventally. Will they tell everyone what they found out?"

 

Perfectly reasonable suggestion.  Effectively I did the same thing, in a slightly different way.  When I first learned of the cc cross arch idea I began making instruments according to that method, using templates.  Doing this made me change the way I'd been shaping my arches by eye, in subtle but definite ways.  Right away musicians began to be more complimentary.  I've never put my story out there as evidence of anything,  because I know the "before" arches may have had a lot of things going on that even non-cc using makers would have spotted.

 

And to be clear, I didn't "succumb" to the cc idea because I'm a MD sycophant.  If DB had come up with it, or RH or any number of other serious makers I'd have tried it too...

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"Actonern, not that the following will matter to me in the future, you could make 2 violins however you see fit to make them. 1 could be templates traced from the internet or another form like a poster. The next could be made using a long arch and 3 or 5 cycloid/cutate made by using your good instrument or a lessor violin. Some think a 1 to 1.5mm in either direction can be all the difference. Whoever said that knows from the past about sometthing. Maybe a failed effort at a good sound. I wouldn't expect you to listen or do what I suggest, but someone will eventally. Will they tell everyone what they found out?"

 

Perfectly reasonable suggestion.  Effectively I did the same thing, in a slightly different way.  When I first learned of the cc cross arch idea I began making instruments according to that method, using templates.  Doing this made me change the way I'd been shaping my arches by eye, in subtle but definite ways.  Right away musicians began to be more complimentary.  I've never put my story out there as evidence of anything,  because I know the "before" arches may have had a lot of things going on that even non-cc using makers would have spotted.

 

And to be clear, I didn't "succumb" to the cc idea because I'm a MD sycophant.  If DB had come up with it, or RH or any number of other serious makers I'd have tried it too...

This doesn't prove cycloids are the answer. Only that they are probably better than the arches you were previously creating.

I'm not trying to be argumentative, really.

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Even if CCs are THE answer, if you made arching templates 1mm thick, you would need in excess of 350 templates to fully define the arch.  Otherwise, there is some fudging going on.  And although fudging may be the reality, it’s not good science.  

 

explanation-smiley.gif?1292867591

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Although I don't pretend to be the owner of this topic, I would appreciate NOT turning this into another cycloid thread, as we have plenty of that elsewhere.  My intent was to investigate more wide-ranging aspects of arching (and other things), as to how they affect tone, playability, or whatever, in specific ways.  Just arguing about what works good, better, or best doesn't get where I want to go.

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Another coat of ground is drying on my real violin, so here's the next item dredged out of the trashbin:

 

A 1963 Pfretzschner.  Mittenwald factory fiddle.  Extremely big, thick and heavy. 360mm body, 218 lower bout, 116 center bout, over 500g without chinrest.  Sounded horrid.

 

You'd think with all that size, the F spacing at the eyes would be large, but no... it's 36mm.

 

Arching (today's hot topic):  definitely not cycloids, and not very close to what I'd do.  Top and back appear to be fabricated on the same machine, with the long arch being a continuous arc, crossarching rather flat across the middle, turning down more sharply farther out, and going into what I'd call a rather deep scoop.

 

In disassembly, the idea of uniform plate fabrication seemed to be confirmed.  Both plates were 5mm thick in the middle, with very similar graduation patterns.  The bass bar was glued in, but very short.

 

I almost needed a crane to lift the top... 104.7 g with bass bar, tap tones of 116, 237, and 412 Hz for M1, 2, and 5 respectively.   Without the bar, 99.9g, 112, 214, 373 Hz.

 

After carving 27.2g out of the top plate, without the bar, it was 72.7g with modes of 74, 135, and 315 Hz.  Heavier than I'd like, but the taptone was getting lower than I'd like.  Limitations of the wood density and the size of the plate.

 

WIth bar:  77.7g, modes 81, 152, 353 Hz.

 

I also carved some wood out of the back, but I don't know the bare plate data, as I left the sides attached.  Its graduations were closer to what I wanted, so I "only" removed 23.1g of maple.

 

As you might expect from this much wood removal, the sound changed more appreciably than the LD Sitka regrad.  Below 600Hz, amplitude gained 6 - 12 dB.  That's a bunch.  Higher frequencies were less radically changed... just a bit more power lower down, and not as much power over 3500 Hz.  The E string seems only mildly changed, compared to the major changes on the lower 3 strings.

post-25192-0-46379700-1426462046_thumb.jpg

 

And a string-by-string comparison, with the original played first:

Pfretzschner before and after.mp3

 

Other than making a sortof-useful fiddle out of a horrid brick, the point was to learn something about wood, graduations, and arching.  The only things I tentatively conclude:

- The "bridge hill" frequencies are relatively weak, and might have something to do with the flat-ish arching.  Not good for violins, but good for fiddlers who don't want bright.

-The heavy, dense top isn't too bad; not as snappy and responsive on the low strings as the lightweight Low Density Sitka fiddle, but if you don't like snappy and responsive, maybe that's good.

-It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you start with something this heavy and stiff and take out a lot of wood, you'll get more low end power.

 

Oh... and one more funny thing... a beginner fiddle tried it out BEFORE I regraduated it, and he commented on how good it sounded.

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"But the graduations stay"

 

That's important, here again structural at the point of genesis with acoustical byproducts.

 

I think a good way to think of graduations is in a couple of ways. Some of it reminds me of tubular racing frames and "drilling" them out to loose weight yet still maintain integrity. Not all drilling patterns will yield the same strength. And I suppose in a certain way they are like the frames themselves that hold the skin of the body in place. Good graduation patterns exploit this and there are more than one, but some are definitely better than others. Thicker areas that create a "skeleton" bare the load, while the thinner areas are much more prone to excitation via vibration. Also thinner areas that are "surrounded by" or defined by thicker perimeters will have excitations directed to those thinner areas when compared to a constant "thin" graduation. By going thinner we impart extra or more elasticity in that specific area, therefore dictating a "hookes law" parameter area more prone to a bigger "throw" by the surrounding areas being thicker and less prone, the weak will give way to the strong and or the strong will support the weak, it will hold more still while the weaker more elastic area will "move" more. By defining areas within the "skeleton" {lungs} and then defining the "center" of those areas, with "proper" {tapered} graduations, center out, one can direct vibrational "force" to the thinner areas thus causing hyper spasmodic vibrational "peaks" or output in these specified areas.

 

It is not the entire "key" to great tone, not sure what that is yet, but certainly plays into power and volume.

 

At least that's my theory, for what it's worth, or some of it.

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Another coat of ground is drying on my real violin, so here's the next item dredged out of the trashbin:

 

A 1963 Pfretzschner.  Mittenwald factory fiddle.  Extremely big, thick and heavy. 360mm body, 218 lower bout, 116 center bout, over 500g without chinrest.  Sounded horrid.

 

You'd think with all that size, the F spacing at the eyes would be large, but no... it's 36mm.

 

Arching (today's hot topic):  definitely not cycloids, and not very close to what I'd do.  Top and back appear to be fabricated on the same machine, with the long arch being a continuous arc, crossarching rather flat across the middle, turning down more sharply farther out, and going into what I'd call a rather deep scoop.

 

In disassembly, the idea of uniform plate fabrication seemed to be confirmed.  Both plates were 5mm thick in the middle, with very similar graduation patterns.  The bass bar was glued in, but very short.

 

I almost needed a crane to lift the top... 104.7 g with bass bar, tap tones of 116, 237, and 412 Hz for M1, 2, and 5 respectively.   Without the bar, 99.9g, 112, 214, 373 Hz.

 

After carving 27.2g out of the top plate, without the bar, it was 72.7g with modes of 74, 135, and 315 Hz.  Heavier than I'd like, but the taptone was getting lower than I'd like.  Limitations of the wood density and the size of the plate.

 

WIth bar:  77.7g, modes 81, 152, 353 Hz.

 

I also carved some wood out of the back, but I don't know the bare plate data, as I left the sides attached.  Its graduations were closer to what I wanted, so I "only" removed 23.1g of maple.

 

As you might expect from this much wood removal, the sound changed more appreciably than the LD Sitka regrad.  Below 600Hz, amplitude gained 6 - 12 dB.  That's a bunch.  Higher frequencies were less radically changed... just a bit more power lower down, and not as much power over 3500 Hz.  The E string seems only mildly changed, compared to the major changes on the lower 3 strings.

attachicon.gifPfretzschner before and after response.jpg

 

And a string-by-string comparison, with the original played first:

attachicon.gifPfretzschner before and after.mp3

 

Other than making a sortof-useful fiddle out of a horrid brick, the point was to learn something about wood, graduations, and arching.  The only things I tentatively conclude:

- The "bridge hill" frequencies are relatively weak, and might have something to do with the flat-ish arching.  Not good for violins, but good for fiddlers who don't want bright.

-The heavy, dense top isn't too bad; not as snappy and responsive on the low strings as the lightweight Low Density Sitka fiddle, but if you don't like snappy and responsive, maybe that's good.

-It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you start with something this heavy and stiff and take out a lot of wood, you'll get more low end power.

 

Oh... and one more funny thing... a beginner fiddle tried it out BEFORE I regraduated it, and he commented on how good it sounded.

Don, I'm losing track.  Has the back already been thinned or it still the original thickness?

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Wait a month. 

Yeah, that's a problem with posting results too soon.  I definitely see plenty of measurable changes over time, especially in about the first month or so, primarily in the mid and high frequencies.

 

So why are some great sounding violins reverse graduated and some aren't? What is the logic here? It is interesting, though, that the back almost always has an identifiable island.

Apparently there is more than one way to make something sound good.  With the back island, my thinking is that it provides a mass to support the soundpost at the higher frequencies, thereby preventing losing some of that energy into the less efficient maple.

 

Don, I'm losing track.  Has the back already been thinned or it still the original thickness?

It has been regraduated.  The info is buried in there, on the 11th line.

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So why are some great sounding violins reverse graduated and some aren't? What is the logic here? It is interesting, though, that the back almost always has an identifiable island.

You know DGV by the time I realize that may be the case it's too late for me to try I anything else, so I just keep going.  I do make sure to move the acoustical center towards the sound post some, or from left to right.  But I found there are two methods for finding the very center of a plate, they're similiar but different.  

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You know DGV by the time I realize that may be the case it's too late for me to try I anything else, so I just keep going.  I do make sure to move the acoustical center towards the sound post some, or from left to right.  But I found there are two methods for finding the very center of a plate, they're similiar but different.  

......or right to left.

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Handy having junkers around for testing.

 

I had been perturbed slightly by the recent article on F-hole shape and power (see thread http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/332056-new-research-power-efficiency-in-the-violin/?hl=power).  My mental model was at odds with the results, but with a professor from MIT on the list of authors, I wasn't so sure of my model.

 

So I did a bit of a test with the low-density Sitka fiddle, detailed earlier in this thread (I decided that the low E string power was objectionably loud, so it was a candidate for destruction).  

post-25192-0-25720300-1427065768_thumb.jpg

I opened up the lower eyes into huge round holes, then covered up some of the rest until the A0 came back down to its previous frequency.  I noticed that I only had to cover a small area with tape to compensate for the rather large gain in area that I cut out.  The A0 amplitude was ~1.5dB higher than before.

 

Bottom line:  increasing area isn't very effective in changing A0, but length would be.  In general, lower A0 frequencies will be weaker, having to pump more total air to create the same dB level.  I'll post another comment in the other thread.

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