Modern to Baroque conversion


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Hey friends,

As I've mentioned before, my fiancée wants to do graduate work in early violin. At it stands, her two instruments are both modern - at her request I did put a set of pirastro chorda on her second fiddle, but of course that's even less than a half measure.

I understand that some great classical instruments have been 'rehabilitated' in that they have been refit with straight necks, etc. I am interested in trying a conversion on an inexpensive factory instrument of some kind and would very much appreciate any suggestions you maestros and maestras might have.

As it stands, these are the things I think I would need to do, but am sure I'm missing things.

-make a new neck and modify the fingerboard to suit

-modify the bass bar

-adjust graduation, since I'll have the top off anyway

-new bridge and soundpost, tailpiece & gut

-gut strings

Thanks for your time!

Best always,

Jackson

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New top block.  Fill in mortice notch in top plate, and patch ribs. 

 

New bar.  Smaller sound post.  Early bridge.  There are quite a few stock models to choose from.

 

New neck, new fingerboard, new tailpiece. 

 

Sacconi has a nice picture of a nail from The Soil.

 

Baroque pegs?

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I would find out what type of music she is interested in. Consult the teacher she will be studying with. There is a big range set up of early violins, a 17th century set up is quite different than a mid 18th century set up.

 

Then build/buy a new instrument to the desired specifications, and go with a nailed neck. Retrofitted modern instruments are usually half-baked and require some compromise, especially the neck mortise/set.

 

Besides you will be take what is probably a decent modern instrument out of circulation.

 

These are just opinions.

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Gentlemen, thank you. I wondered about whether mounting a straight, baroque neck with the modern mortise was an acceptable practice or not, and I seem to have my answer.

Addie - would it be possible to modify the existing fingerboard to accommodate the neck/wedge, or would it be better to start with a fresh blank?

deans - I wouldn't dream of modifying one of Anna's modern instruments. They are both really lovely violins and very different in character, which Anna relies on for different repertoires. I would only do this project on an inexpensive mass produced Chinese fiddle, largely for the experience. I absolutely appreciate your note of caution, however.

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Thank you, Mr. Saunders. I hope someday to acquire a Stainer for her (that 1679 master Hargrave wrote about comes to mind), but I'll have to do some fundraising first. Of course I am also hoping to build an instrument for her needs at some point, but am curious about the feasibility of a retrofit project as a stop-gap measure.

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That's a Wonderful suggestion, Addie. Gives me a chance to practice my varnishing, too!

Then the only Saunders Compromise will be that the neck went on after the back plate.  Don't you dare compromise on anything else!  noe-smiley.gif?1292867646   :lol:

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Thank you, Mr. Saunders. I hope someday to acquire a Stainer for her (that 1679 master Hargrave wrote about comes to mind), but I'll have to do some fundraising first. Of course I am also hoping to build an instrument for her needs at some point, but am curious about the feasibility of a retrofit project as a stop-gap measure.

On a more serious note, your girl-freind no more needs a Stainer to play baroque, than she needs a Stradivari to play “modern” (althogh a modern Stainer and a baroque Strad would be just as good).

The most common mistake with “Retros” is making the neck dead straight with the rib-cage line, since you finish up with either a doorstep of a fingerboard, or a violin that sounds like a cardboard box.

There are far more still originaly preserved old violins than one thinks. Only this-afternoon I opened a Johann Georg Leeb, with original neck, upper block (with nail), bar, even saddle. One also comes across those that have been slightly altered, where one can work out how they originally were, and return them to their original shape. I repaired such a violin for the Oberösterreichische Landesmuseum in Linz 20 years ago, and put up my “Resaurationsbericht” here a while back. You might like to look through to see if anything is helpful for you:

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/330681-restoring-a-frank-violin-for-a-museum/?p=633602

Ps. I have never ever even met Addie (yet) never mind hit him-_-

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I realize a Stainer isn't necessarily a superior baroque violin, I just have a bit of a Stainer obsession. =D

I imagine she will end up playing on a loaned instruments while in school, which will give us some time to save for an instrument and some time for me to gain skill in violinmaking, hopefully to the point that I can produce a properly informed instrument of sufficient quality.

Thank you for the link, I will read it at once! I appreciate your time and expertise.

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I second Addie's suggestion for a white instrument, preferably without a neck set.  Not sure where to suggest that you look for one without a neck, but the International Violin Company has some European violins in the white that are decent.  I saw a couple a while back, but never saw or heard them finished.  I had one of the tops off in my hand, and it felt like decent spruce to work with as opposed to some of the excessively heavy stuff that is sometimes used in factory instruments.  I'm less inclined to rework a chinese white violin than a European one simply because you're more likely to be able to resell a European workshop instrument to pay for your labor.  For the extra few hundred you pay up front you make up more than that if you choose to sell it at some point even if the quality of the instrument were identical.  Chinese maple has such a stigma that it is likely to be immediately downgraded in the eyes of shops.  Whether or not that's justified I'll leave to others to debate.

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Not likely to find a "complete" white fiddle with detached neck, but the kits come that way. Normally back attached to ribs but no neck mortise, so you can do what you want. Bass bar not glued in, either, and top not glued (obviously). Stew-Mac kits seem to be recommended, and I'm sure the International Violin ones are good too, especially the Höfners.

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The most common mistake with “Retros” is making the neck dead straight with the rib-cage line, since you finish up with either a doorstep of a fingerboard, or a violin that sounds like a cardboard box.

First, your restoration report of the Frank was tremendously illuminating. Thank you! It is so refreshing to see such useful information freely shared.

Second, I see what you mean regarding the angle of the Baroque neck. A 90° seemed too extreme to be practical, but I suppose I'm not sure what would be preferred. Somewhere between 82-86°? Please advise.

EDIT: captainhook thank you for the suggestion. The select European kit from international violins looks potentially promising for 500 bucks. I'll call them on Monday and ask about the belly thicknesses. I would enjoy the opportunity to tune the plate personally.

Thanks again!

Jackson

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Second, I see what you mean regarding the angle of the Baroque neck. A 90° seemed too extreme to be practical, but I suppose I'm not sure what would be preferred. Somewhere between 82-86°? Please advise.

I'm afraid that I have always worked it out the other way around, i.e. that I want the neck to slope downhill about 2,5°

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Second, I see what you mean regarding the angle of the Baroque neck. A 90° seemed too extreme to be practical, but I suppose I'm not sure what would be preferred. Somewhere between 82-86°? Please advise.

 

Roger Hargrave has a nice article (? on his website) showing the components that contribute to the projections of baroque and modern necks. Remarkably similar.

 

Illuminating.

 

----------

Cannot find the diagram with side view of 2 necks.

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Jackson is saying 90 degree is too extreme.  Isn't the right way for baroque construction to use a 90 neck set and make the wedge accordingly?  Does width matter at the neck/edge join?  I would not like having my old lady or girlfriend hating me for a failed attempt though the intentions would be meant to be good. 

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Jackson is saying 90 degree is too extreme.  Isn't the right way for baroque construction to use a 90 neck set and make the wedge accordingly?  Does width matter at the neck/edge join?  I would not like having my old lady or girlfriend hating me for a failed attempt though the intentions would be meant to be good.

Uncleduke, Anna would never hate me if (when, more like) I hand her a hamfisted attempt at a baroque fiddle. She would just toss it on the fire and say "try again, my love".

I just read,at janito's recommendation, an article on Hargraves's site called " Period of Adjustment", which has absolutely rocked my world and launched me headlong into an existential crisis. Fantastic stuff! I hope I can meet him someday.

Jackson

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I just read,at janito's recommendation, an article on Hargraves's site called " Period of Adjustment", which has absolutely rocked my world and launched me headlong into an existential crisis. Fantastic stuff! I hope I can meet him someday.

 

That's the one!!

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I realize that this type of inauthenticity migt meet with consternation, but I really like Evan Smith's use of carbon fiber rods to reinforce necks. Instead of using a nail or a screw, could I insert a carbon fiber rod through the upper block and ribs into the Baroque neck? It seems that the stability and lightness could be advantageous, and provided outward form and function goals are obtained I'm all for hidden tricks for improving old design.

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Even though you are interested in a violin, you might try to check out the book called 'Baroque Cello Revival'  There are a couple chapters devoted to violin makers reasoning out the issues that revolve around neck set up and strings from different time periods. String technology as time goes by is  big deal you are trying to dot the I and cross the T. The book goes into string tension in various periods in depth.  From Monteverdi to Mozart there are big changes, and then again things got mixed up regionally, some areas were more cutting edge and some areas changed more slowly. So it really throws out a lot of notions of what actually existed with the reasoning that there is no historical normal, but regional sets of normal. 

 

It is not much different than today, right? We have umpteen companies to choose strings from, and while in past times there were fewer materials choices, there were changes in how strings were made thta make some difference in tension calculations. It  is really a crazy thing. any of the violin makers in the book so much as say there is no normal "baroque" set up so you have to research and come up with your best estimate of what to include for which time period. 

 

And in the end most of the professional cellists I have known or talked to say it is not super critical that every detail be met. In a case like say the performer wanted to work on Gabrielli ricercars or similar violin music from those years the set up would be fairly specific, and maybe not a strict  sense correct for Bach 100 years later. But a compromise set up could be arrived at, even though some strict people will say it is not period for Gabrielli,, but a hodge podge of time periods.  

 

Here is a link  to a group that worked out some very specific parameters for set up:  http://www.themonteverdiviolins.org/

 

Crazy stuff, you can get deep into specificity, or you can set up an instrument that over arches several hundred years of string making technology  ad still make something the player can use. I also know cellists who have two period celli one for Gabrielli  to Bach and the other for Mozart /Schubert a classical/ romantic cello.

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Thank you, Stephen! I have certainly gotten that impression from all I've read - Boyden's helpful but dated book comes to mind - the only 'normal' is regional normal within a set period.

Anna mostly plays the high Baroque, especially the Germans and French. On a bit of a Leclair kick at the moment. I've got a short bow being made for her and I'm sure she'll have a lot of fun with that on the gut strings I put on her German modern.

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