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Dwight Brown

Back to basics

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OK......so I was reading a nice article on by John Dilworth on Andrea Amati.  He was writing about how lovely the scroll was and how it was superfluous .

 

 

It got me to thinking about a violin/viola design that only includes that which contributes to the sound, ergonomics, preservation, and stability of an instrument.

 

I was thinking of this in a number of ways:

 

 

1. Simpler instruments for students.

 

2. Better Ergonomics

 

3. Easier Building

 

4. Improved Sound

 

5. Lighter Weight

 

 

What would you leave on, what would you leave off.  Think of it as a streamlined Art Deco violin, or minimalist, or anything you want.  just include only what you think is really important.

 

 

While we are at it how about bows.  I am a big fan of Gilles Nehr and his Tete Beche bows, he even has a new, really beautiful titanium tip in the works.  I would have given anything for Glasser to leave the sharp point off student bows when I was teaching roomfuls of 4th graders every day.

 

 

I realize we all love the damn things just the way they are, but I love to deconstruct and simplify things sometimes.

 

Also almost any deviation from the norm does effect sound, just change chin rests !  So that can be a real problem

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I think you can strip most things down...but who wants the Lada version of a Mercedes? Or even of a Ford Escort?

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I like really ornate things and really striped down simple things.  Each of them has their own niche.  Sort of I enjoy cars from all eras Benz, Mercedes SSKL, Jaguar XKE, Bugatti Type 35, Lotus 7, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Belly Tank Lakester, Etc.  I am just feeling a sleek modern design with simple lines, but still artistic with a great sound and improved ergonomics and playability.  This is not even sort of a new idea, but my pea brain is filled with odd ideas and I am so fortunate to have you guys to talk about it with as it bores the hell out of my cat.

 

You may want to leave out as much as possible or change things a great deal.  I was thinking of a very simplified head with a straight bent back peg box with no or other simple scroll if it is needed.  

 

Purfling in the back may not really be all that helpful as it is in the top, or maybe just edging like a guitar.  Just one idea.  

 

Probably some of our greater lights could do a CAD drawing or hand drawing and post it here.

 

One down side to all of this is when you alter anything it does effect the sound, and to move away from the accepted norms makes the sound different from our classical Stradavarian ideals so in some ways this may be a self defeating exercise .  Shroedinger's Cat lives....or doesn't :-)

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I like your idea of at least running through the possibilities.  As I know you know already, people have been messing around with this for generations already.  But what the heck, it's a fun exercise.  

 

If you start dwelling on the scroll, you wonder how it arrived;  it seems very odd (at least it does to me).  If it is truly unnecessary for functional reasons, then it came about from a human need to decorate that area.  An artist could probably make a case that it stops the eye and redirects it back toward the body of the instrument.  Scrolls weren't new with violins.  Incidentally, just to point it out, even the cheapest instruments of early times didn't get rid of scrolls in order to provide a cheaper product.  Interesting! You'd think that would have been the first place to start.  Why, if the Testore only inked on purfling, did they still go to the trouble to craft scrolls?

 

The shape of the violin, too, comes from pre-violin bowed instruments, which over several centuries began to indent more and more in the middle to allow the bow to get to the string without banging into the body.  Even corners were not new with the violin.  You could take out the bouts and corners and save a lot of time, leaving a guitar shape; it's already been done.

 

You can't take the arch out, though that would be a great thing to do for convenience in building.  But let's say you COULD take the arch out:  you'd still have to mess with the plates, like bracing a guitar, or finding some other way to make the plates function properly.  So you wouldn't be saving much work.

 

For kids, or even adults, lighter is always better, but since a violin is only about a pound, I don't know where we'd want to go with that.  IMO, there needs to be a certain heft for psychological reasons if no other.

 

But if your goal is to provide better violins—particularly for students—or less expensive ones, then it is a worthwhile endeavor.  I'll be interested to see how creative our MN family is.  I'm certainly not.   :)

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There are already $44 Chinese violins.  (See Don Noon's trashbin, for example.)  There is absolutely no need (and no way) to make violins any cheaper.

 

But if you are paying a local luthier to make a decent violin/viola for less dough, I think the corners and the scroll are where some work can be saved.  Purfling is not hard to do if one is not allergic to using a router.  However, such an instrument might be hard to resell.  Who would pay a few thousand dollars for a scrollless and cornerless violin?

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Will, you have it exactly right.  I could even entertain the idea that the scroll or something like it is nessicary to be a counter balance or a sonic damper or something of the like.  I agree that the shape is useful and not just a decoration.  Lighter may be more important with bigger instruments (Viola,'cello,bass).  

 

DLB

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Not really cheaper, just simpler, cleaner, more repeatable, more durable. 

 

Like MezzoForte or Luis and Clark carbon fibre violins/violas/cellos?

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May\\

 

Like MezzoForte or Luis and Clark carbon fibre violins/violas/cellos?

Maybe, I was thinking sort of along those lines.  Maybe also mechanization of the production where possible to have finished or semi finished parts made with less labor so as spend more time of the finishing, set up, and adjustment.  Just one possibility .  Maybe a good replacement for pegs or even an improved chin rest - shoulder rest system. Perhaps a simplified varnish treatment, but alas that would border on ugly if taken too far and nobody wants ugly.

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Not really cheaper, just simpler, cleaner, more repeatable, more durable. 

I keep typical string length, string spacing, bridge curvature, neck length etc. for my violas. 

I'm aiming at players who have had injury problems from playing traditional violas who don't want to give up playing.

post-44223-0-24496600-1424455385_thumb.jpg

post-44223-0-15722100-1424455415_thumb.jpg

post-44223-0-77821200-1424455432_thumb.jpg

post-44223-0-48322900-1424455461_thumb.jpg

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I keep typical string length, string spacing, bridge curvature, neck length etc. for my violas. 

I'm aiming at players who have had injury problems from playing traditional violas who don't want to give up playing.

WOW!!  I had not seen these!  I am really wanting to know how the tailpiece eliminator works out.  The shoulder rest is very nice as well.

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May\\

 

Maybe, I was thinking sort of along those lines.  Maybe also mechanization of the production where possible to have finished or semi finished parts made with less labor so as spend more time of the finishing, set up, and adjustment.  Just one possibility .  Maybe a good replacement for pegs or even an improved chin rest - shoulder rest system. Perhaps a simplified varnish treatment, but alas that would border on ugly if taken too far and nobody wants ugly.

 

Interesting questions. Given that the Chinese already machine carve almost every part on the violin, one wonders why there still aren't any Ikea violin kits.  The violin kits that one can buy still require a lot of work.  In any case, the closest machine-made semi-decent-sounding violin is the 3D printed violin that I saw on YouTube a while back.  I think it'll be a matter of time before 3D printing can print acceptable instruments cheaply.  It will probably happen long before I retire.  This might be good news for players and bad news for makers.

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I keep typical string length, string spacing, bridge curvature, neck length etc. for my violas. 

I'm aiming at players who have had injury problems from playing traditional violas who don't want to give up playing.

Looks way too cool. Any sound sample?

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Here are a couple of practical reasons for not having volutes, just peg boxes, on violin heads:

 

1. You'd be reducing the length of the entire violin by about 1.5 inches.  If you got a correspondingly shorter case for a violin without bow, you would have a more acceptable airline carry-on.

 

2.  That volute is at the very end of the violin, where its weight has the most effect, the maximum leverage, of defying the player's attempts at holding the violin up.  Holding a violin under the chin would be easier if the volute weren't working against you.  This is especially true if you play without a shoulder rest.

 

Later edits: 

 

I just saw Marty's post, and it made me realize that the two points I made would be especially applicable to violas.

 

You could take point 2, above, a step further and get rid of the pegbox at the head, too, and instead have just a non-adjustable attachment for the strings  a short distance beyond the nut at the (former) head end in a very much shortened and reduced pegbox.  The string would instead be wound to proper length and pitch at the tailpiece end.  You would have a rather elaborate tailpiece, containing "pegs" adjusted by an allen wrench, which would not stay permanently attached to the instrument.  These tailpiece pegs could be combined with fine tuners, so that everyday tuning is done with the fine tuners, while initial attachment of strings to the tailpiece is done with the small pegs driven by allen wrench.

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I'd be loath to make a violin without scroll or corners - they're the parts where we can leave our personal stamp.

 

I have made lots of Testore model violins, often with very plain wood, flat backed heads, and no back purfling. You still get a real violin, and I often think that to make something beautiful, quickly, and with simple lines and plain materials is a very worthwhile challenge.

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...now...wasn't that what the Vuillaumes were originally -in part - all about?  Cheap and last forever?
 
See post 89:http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/332094-what-is-she-playing/page-5

 

;):lol::ph34r:

 

Seriously...the only reason I see for a stripped down 'better' instrument would be for music programs in underprivileged parts of the world.  Maybe in the tropics where things fall apart quicker.  And then all the kids would be on level playing field (pun intended).  That in itself is an admirable goal.

 

The other reason would be an artsy one...a minimalist high-end instrument...but I'm pretty sure we already have those.  Many of the electric violins have that look already....

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...now...wasn't that what the Vuillaumes were originally -in part - all about?  Cheap and last forever?

 

See post 89:http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/332094-what-is-she-playing/page-5

 

;):lol::ph34r:

 

Seriously...the only reason I see for a stripped down 'better' instrument would be for music programs in underprivileged parts of the world.  Maybe in the tropics where things fall apart quicker.  And then all the kids would be on level playing field (pun intended).  That in itself is an admirable goal.

 

The other reason would be an artsy one...a minimalist high-end instrument...but I'm pretty sure we already have those.  Many of the electric violins have that look already....

 

Carbon fibre violins are perfect in extreme climates. The only problem is that the Chinese aren't making cheap versions of these instruments (yet).  Chinese carbon fibre bows are already quite good and cheap.

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My Rolland $500.00 carbon bow is much better than it has a right to be.

 

 http://gillesnehr.com

 

Is one of my favorite outside the box thinkers.

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153035971914519&set=ms.c.eJwzNDA0NTYwNrU0N7Q0NDE1tNQzhIsYGRpgiFigixgZWQJFAP~_0DkM~-.bps.a.10153035971514519.1073741831.772479518&type=1&theater

 

his new titanium bow tip.

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I keep typical string length, string spacing, bridge curvature, neck length etc. for my violas. 

I'm aiming at players who have had injury problems from playing traditional violas who don't want to give up playing.

Marty, you are one sick dude!  I had no idea. I like it!  Very cool; and a breath of fresh air.  Fresh thinking like Dwight was thinking of.  

Ken

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I find this all very interesting.

Marty's viola is too different to appeal to me, although I'd love to try it out! :)

Yet I like something a little different. I would go for a dragon :wub: or lion head scroll for example...but (caving to peer pressure) those are considered undesirable...

 

I can develop a taste for certain minimalist instruments...but it would take me time...and isn't my preference.  I prefer an antique look...a little fancy...but not over the top.

 

However...for that minimalist look...I find the Yamaha wave...or Squidolin are visually appealing...

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/wave-electric-violin

http://www.tuvie.com/squidolin-features-a-beautiful-contemporary-violin-design/

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I find this all very interesting.

Marty's viola is too different to appeal to me, although I'd love to try it out! :)

Yet I like something a little different. I would go for a dragon :wub: or lion head scroll for example...but (caving to peer pressure) those are considered undesirable...

 

I can develop a taste for certain minimalist instruments...but it would take me time...and isn't my preference.  I prefer an antique look...a little fancy...but not over the top.

 

However...for that minimalist look...I find the Yamaha wave...or Squidolin are visually appealing...

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/wave-electric-violin

http://www.tuvie.com/squidolin-features-a-beautiful-contemporary-violin-design/

 

What about a scroll like this? :D

post-77580-0-46758200-1424548202_thumb.jpg

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Here are a couple of practical reasons for not having volutes, just peg boxes, on violin heads:

 

1. You'd be reducing the length of the entire violin by about 1.5 inches.  If you got a correspondingly shorter case for a violin without bow, you would have a more acceptable airline carry-on.

 

2.  That volute is at the very end of the violin, where its weight has the most effect, the maximum leverage, of defying the player's attempts at holding the violin up.  Holding a violin under the chin would be easier if the volute weren't working against you.  This is especially true if you play without a shoulder rest.

 

Later edits: 

 

I just saw Marty's post, and it made me realize that the two points I made would be especially applicable to violas.

 

You could take point 2, above, a step further and get rid of the pegbox at the head, too, and instead have just a non-adjustable attachment for the strings  a short distance beyond the nut at the (former) head end in a very much shortened and reduced pegbox.  The string would instead be wound to proper length and pitch at the tailpiece end.  You would have a rather elaborate tailpiece, containing "pegs" adjusted by an allen wrench, which would not stay permanently attached to the instrument.  These tailpiece pegs could be combined with fine tuners, so that everyday tuning is done with the fine tuners, while initial attachment of strings to the tailpiece is done with the small pegs driven by allen wrench.

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Here are a couple of practical reasons for not having volutes, just peg boxes, on violin heads:

 

1. You'd be reducing the length of the entire violin by about 1.5 inches.  If you got a correspondingly shorter case for a violin without bow, you would have a more acceptable airline carry-on.

 

2.  That volute is at the very end of the violin, where its weight has the most effect, the maximum leverage, of defying the player's attempts at holding the violin up.  Holding a violin under the chin would be easier if the volute weren't working against you.  This is especially true if you play without a shoulder rest.

 

Later edits: 

 

I just saw Marty's post, and it made me realize that the two points I made would be especially applicable to violas.

 

You could take point 2, above, a step further and get rid of the pegbox at the head, too, and instead have just a non-adjustable attachment for the strings  a short distance beyond the nut at the (former) head end in a very much shortened and reduced pegbox.  The string would instead be wound to proper length and pitch at the tailpiece end.  You would have a rather elaborate tailpiece, containing "pegs" adjusted by an allen wrench, which would not stay permanently attached to the instrument.  These tailpiece pegs could be combined with fine tuners, so that everyday tuning is done with the fine tuners, while initial attachment of strings to the tailpiece is done with the small pegs driven by allen wrench.

 

Almost everything was done to reduce stress on the left hand, wrist, arm and shoulder.  I have reduced weight by using low density materials: Paulownnia wood for the top and back plates and the upper block (s.g. 0.26g/cc) and Douglas fir for the neck and fingerboard, spruce for the ribs.

 

I've also reduced weight by getting rid of as many parts as I could: corner blocks and bottom block and the scroll and made the pegbox slender and open bottomed and eliminated the heel on the fingerboard. 

 

It is also helpful to reduce the distance to the various weight to reduce the downward moment (distance X weight) so I make the violas with a short body (equivalent to about 15 1/2 inches for a conventional viola) so the weight is in closer to the player's body.

 

The weight at the lower end isn't nearly as important but I still reduced it  much of the shoulder rest and clamps.  Some things were done for player comfort such as eliminating the chin rest clamps and end button. 

 

Some changes were made to make playing easier.  The corners were removed to get more bow and hand clearance.  The upper right bout width was reduced to make reaching to high positions less stressful to the left hand and arm.  Getting rid of the tail piece allows the player to place their chin in different locations.

 

Some changes were done for acoustic reasons. The bulgy look comes from trying to keep a large plate area and volume that larger violas have.   The elimination of the tail chord attachment eliminates the longitudinal compressive load on the top which in turn allows flat plates to be used.  The flat plates are less stiff than arched ones so they have lower resonance frequencies which is helpful for making a small viola sound like a big one. 

 

One thing I don't like about it is the Wittner geared pegs are heavy.  Players like them very much but I would like to find a way doing the string tuning on the other end like you have suggested.

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