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Kallie

Does these tailpieces really "Enhance" tone?

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To further prove my point I just did a little experiment. If you pluck the d-string on a violin then press down on the string behind the bridge you can simulate a faint vibrato (with the note going sharp). I think this is because the bridge is moving. If you do the same again and pull sideways on the string in the pegbox the pitch doesn't change, because the string isn't moving in the groove at the nut.

 

Actually I can get the pitch to change a bit by pressing behind the nut but the effect is much more subtle than behind the bridge. Obviously it has to move at some point or we could never tune the string.

 

Also, I noticed that when you press on the string behind the bridge the string will stay in tune. However, when you press on the string behind the nut it will not. 

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This is a comment to many earlier comments ...

 

When looking at the influence of the tailpiece I think it is useful to look at two different extreme cases.

 

  • A tailpiece that almost touches the bridge (or a tailpiece where the bridge only supports the tailpiece).
  • A zero length tailpiece where all strings go over the lower nut.

The first case would surely influence the low register by restricting the string movement side ways. It would also be seen as a large increase of the effective mass of bridge and thus also restrict the high frequency response of the instrument. I have never seen a violin like instrument with an extremely long tail piece touching the bridge. There is probably a reason for that.

 

I haven't tried the zero length alternative. My feeling is that it changes the high frequency response of the whole system. One simple way of testing the influence of the tailpiece would be to attach all strings to a ring connected to the end peg with all strings going cleanly over the nut. I would then make a number of simulated tailpieces with different masses that could be clamped to the long after lengths of the strings but movable length wise. This would provide a movable mass for all strings a little bit like the movable wolf eliminator on a cello. I have no idea of how audible movements of a reference mass would turn out to be ...

 

I third point regarding the mechanics of moving strings and excitation of a violin that seldom is mentioned is:

 

  • The variable bow slippage/hold cycles leading to a mechanical rocking of the bridge side ways is only one part of the story. 

When a string is excitated at high amplitudes the effective tension of the string changes which causes a varying vertical force component essentially going through both bridge feet. This vertical excitation has a frequency that is the double frequency of the tone being played (why :) ). This vertical force will thus boost the first harmonic. The speed of sound in the instrument is so high that the whole instrument will flex and thus trying to only look at "fixed" strings is a very rough simplification of the real situation.  

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When a string is excitated at high amplitudes the effective tension of the string changes which causes a varying vertical force component essentially going through both bridge feet. This vertical excitation has a frequency that is the double frequency of the tone being played (why :) ). This vertical force will thus boost the first harmonic. The speed of sound in the instrument is so high that the whole instrument will flex and thus trying to only look at "fixed" strings is a very rough simplification of the real situation.  

please explain in  more detail.

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When a string is excitated at high amplitudes the effective tension of the string changes which causes a varying vertical force component ...

 

Yes, but I don't think this is an effect to waste time thinking about too much.  This only would apply when strong bowing makes the fundamental pitch go sharp, which usually is only obvious when overdriving steel strings.  The tension will be increased (slightly) when the string reaches its most stretched position... i.e. the Helmholtz kink is in the middle of the string, which happens twice per fundamental cycle of the string.  How this slight added vibration mixes in with the bridge force (which is a sawtooth with a peak when the Helmholtz kink hits the bridge) might get complicated... but I think this is all a red herring anyway.  If your bowing makes the string go sharp, you've got a bigger problem.

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  If your bowing makes the string go sharp, you've got a bigger problem.

 

Hmmm... Not really.

Experienced players play by the sound they hear, and/or the tone they hear when playing, and automatically adjust for both sharps and flats by their finger position.

 

Those type of technicalities might bother us some - but an experienced player? Those type of things are natural for people who play the instrument much, and their is an automatic compensation in the finger positioning to keep them in whatever 'pitch' they want. And they can and do play right on target.

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Hmmm... Not really.

Experienced players play by the sound they hear, and/or the tone they hear when playing, and automatically adjust for both sharps and flats by their finger position.

 

Those type of technicalities might bother us some - but an experienced player? Those type of things are natural for people who play the instrument much, and their is an automatic compensation in the finger positioning to keep them in whatever 'pitch' they want. And they can and do play right on target.

Everyone has to adjust- some just do it faster than others........ I can't remember where I read about that.

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Everyone has to adjust- some just do it faster than others........ I can't remember where I read about that.

 

Well... all you have to do is start playing a violin, to see (and experience) this firsthand.

 

Yes, basically it is because we are playing an instrument without frets. And so, the notes are not nailed down by anything but finger positioning.

Changing your finger position behind a fret, can and will change the character of the note being played - ever so SLIGHTLY - on a fretted instrument.

But generally, with a fretted instrument, you are stuck with the fretting to establish the basic noting,(sp?) and the presence of sharps or flats. I'm talking about a standard fretted fingerboard here, and not anything with a 'whammy bar' or, playing with a slide, or the like.

 

Adjustment for playing sharp or flat becomes second nature to a string player. Changing the finger positioning ever so slightly to compensate for dis-harmonies inherent in playing, becomes automatic.

And, yes, you have it right, it is this mastery of the fingerboard that determined the quality of the music played - and if what you hear is in tune or not.

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Try playing an open G very loudly on a heavy steel string.  The only way to compensate for that sharpness is to tweak the tuning peg.

 

In any case, I still stand by my statement that going sharp is a bigger problem than whatever is going on with the second harmonic due to amplitude/tension variations.

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Won't strong bowing make the note go flat? 

 

Nope... unless you're talking about the force dragging the string past the nut and changing the at-rest tension.  

 

String displacement = higher tension, higher tension = sharp

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Try playing an open G very loudly on a heavy steel string.  The only way to compensate for that sharpness is to tweak the tuning peg.

 

What if you had a small spring that connected the g-string to the tailpiece?

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Adjustment on the fingerboard while playing, as explained from the accomplished player I was reading about, was about the first playing tip I picked up when I started learning the violin.  I convinced myself to concentrate more on the sheet music rather than just finger placement while just fiddling around making noise.  Just because I hit a c or d doesn't mean I hit it spot on- gotta make any adjustments quickly before anyone notices.

 Maybe the bridge moving somewhat towards the fingerboard causing sharp notes possibly.  I wouldn't have anyway of telling while playing, though I do notice some of that sharpness happening.  

 

I still have no desire to go back to guitar Craig.  The violin is good.      

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What if you had a small spring that connected the g-string to the tailpiece?

 

Assuming the spring is more compliant than the string segment it replaces, sure... that would reduce the sharpening effect, but you might create other problems with the spring vibration modes.

 

You'd also get a lot of funny looks.

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As Don Noon explained above a fundamental tone will will generate two force maxima (a maximum amplitude towards the G-side and on the other half of the period towards the E-side). The geometry of the neck angle/strings will translate into a vertical force that obviously is mixed with the fundamental side ways rocking movement of the bridge.

 

The reason I brought this up is simply that looking at lot's of spectra one notices that the first harmonic (octave) at double the fundamental is often surprisingly strong when the instrument is played forte. I have a feeling (no calculations) that this effect could explain some of the changes in timbre when going from pp ... ff and playing at the same distance from the bridge.

 

I think this is an interesting thing to think about. How useful ... I don't know :)

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Nope... unless you're talking about the force dragging the string past the nut and changing the at-rest tension.  

 

String displacement = higher tension, higher tension = sharp

 

I had to test, so yes strong bowing makes the note sharp. Helicore open G collapse totally, goes sharp, but on the way down it sounds flat. 

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