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stradel

Sound development of a new violin

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I've always though the notion of violins and their related instruments to be some kind of "magical, unexplainable creatures who behave in mysterious ways" to be a bit out there. Has anyone ever been able to fully explain the process (with hard imperical data) of a violin opening up, Or waking up, or being played in?

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Has anyone ever been able to fully explain the process (with hard imperical data) of a violin opening up, Or waking up, or being played in?

 

Fully explain, no.

 

However, I do see a consistent pattern of increasing high-frequency response over time. I have never seen or heard anything that I could reliably attribute to short-term playing or vibration.

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The reason why I asked about your take on the meaning of "core sound" is that I'm finding two different ideas from a few players.

 

Some of them think "core sound" refers to the basic sound character of the violin which seems to be like what you're describing.  But other players think of "core sound" as something that is good to have or bad not to have.  They might make a comment like 'Your violin does't have enough "core sound" or 'Your violin is loud enough but it doesn't have enough "core" in its sound.'

 

When I'm making  apple pies I throw out all of the apple cores.  When I'm making violins I must be also throwing out the sound cores whatever they are.

 

For me, when a player says something like "the g-string lacks core sound" it means that the sound doesn't have a strong fundamental tone to the note being played. It may be big sounding and full of overtones but it lacks focus and definition of the actual note. 

 

A good example of a player using this term:

https://youtu.be/R3LkIY2fDYg?t=2m43s

 

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See I've always referred to that sound (core sound) as having "balls" so to speak.

"That violin 's got balls." Not just being loud, but you can really feel the note. I hate to be so subjective.

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Maybe "sound development" and an improvement in response are two different things.  I don't see that anyone should discount the experience of practically every violinist who ever played in a new violin.  Instruments do change, yet it might be that we sense the basic tone is changing when it is primarily an improvement in response.

 

I'm not convinced that tone doesn't change, either for the better or worse,  but I do agree that the basic tone may not change as noticeably as the feel and function.

 

I'd like to know what everyone thinks of the violin in that video.  

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I recently read a paper where mode shapes were charted using a laser system. It was a new violin finished with an oil varnish. They could see shifts in the node lines of major modes over time. The speculation was the shifts were due to the long term drying of the oil changing the stiffness and mass distribution of the plate.

Linseed oil finishes are known to measurably increase in mass, volume and stiffness over the near term time as oxygen is absorbed and molecules crosslink, then very gradually liquefy and evaporate over a great many years due to additional oxidation breaking down the molecules. Is there a great Strad or dG still performing that hasn't been varnished multiple times over the years?

I wonder if anyone has experience with new violins finished with spirit varnishes? Shellac based, spirit varnishes reach near full hardness in a very short time, hours to just a few days depending on application. Are tonal changes over time just as noticeable as new violins finished with oil varnishes?

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Like I said earlier, who is playing the instrument will make quite a bit of a difference.

Someone like Kremer will open up the violin faster. And players of his caliber are rather rare.

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I recently read a paper where mode shapes were charted using a laser system. It was a new violin finished with an oil varnish. They could see shifts in the node lines of major modes over time. The speculation was the shifts were due to the long term drying of the oil changing the stiffness and mass distribution of the plate.Linseed oil finishes are known to measurably increase in mass, volume and stiffness over the near term time as oxygen is absorbed and molecules crosslink, then very gradually liquefy and evaporate over a great many years due to additional oxidation breaking down the molecules. Is there a great Strad or dG still performing that hasn't been varnished multiple times over the years?I wonder if anyone has experience with new violins finished with spirit varnishes? Shellac based, spirit varnishes reach near full hardness in a very short time, hours to just a few days depending on application. Are tonal changes over time just as noticeable as new violins finished with oil varnishes?

Excellent post.

1. Were the shifts only positive? If they were measuring shifts, I'd expect fluctuations.

2. I have a spirit-oil (or that is what I have been told) varnish violin and think the open-up time is not too different. However, I'd guess that spirit varnish is more fluid and amenable to vibrational changes. I will have to double-check in this, though.

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I watched the video.

I wonder...if I held a seance...do you think I could get the spirit of DG to come and bless my Plowden copy?

*runsandhides*

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I recently read a paper where mode shapes were charted using a laser system. It was a new violin finished with an oil varnish. They could see shifts in the node lines of major modes over time. The speculation was the shifts were due to the long term drying of the oil changing the stiffness and mass distribution of the plate.

Linseed oil finishes are known to measurably increase in mass, volume and stiffness over the near term time as oxygen is absorbed and molecules crosslink, then very gradually liquefy and evaporate over a great many years due to additional oxidation breaking down the molecules. Is there a great Strad or dG still performing that hasn't been varnished multiple times over the years?

I wonder if anyone has experience with new violins finished with spirit varnishes? Shellac based, spirit varnishes reach near full hardness in a very short time, hours to just a few days depending on application. Are tonal changes over time just as noticeable as new violins finished with oil varnishes?

This is the sort of thing that makes me despair of having a general answer to the question.  OK, we have some data for oil varnish (one formulation only).  How about data for all the different ways to compound it?  What about the effect of different wood parameters?  Then, what about all the spirit varnish formulas, cashew varnish, urushi varnish, ad nauseam?  Now let's look at glue drying and aging..for all the glues in violin creation........ et cetera, et cetera.  For more fun, Don's input about the 300 year old beam says that stack aging is different from aging after construction.

 

IMHO, the answer overall is a very qualified "Yes", but with the understanding that no two cases are alike, and nothing can be proved.  A few more threads like this, and we might invent a new religion. :lol::ph34r:

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And while i'm at it, I might ask a question about the "new violin".

How new are we asking about? Most of my own violins, I will not let out of the shop, until about six months after completion. Because they always take a certain amount of 'time' to resign themselves, to being freshly or newly made.

 

It always takes a certain amount of time.

 

No way around that one.

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I thought the G string fundamental is too low for the violin box and what you hear as the G fundamental is a combination for the lower overtones.

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How new are we asking about? Most of my own violins, I will not let out of the shop, until about six months after completion. Because they always take a certain amount of 'time' to resign themselves, to being freshly or newly made.

 

That has been my experience, more as a player than maker because I've bought a lot more new violins than I have made.  Maybe we should be more careful to state whether we are talking about a new violin finished within the last few hours, days, or weeks, or a contemporary instrument which may have been around for a few months or years.

 

When I complain about growing pains I'm referring to new violins probably being effected by the mere act of being put under tension for the first time.  But I don't know if that is what others are talking about when they ask about "sound development of a new violin."

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That is a very valid point.  I had the opportunity to play my good violin in the white for a couple of weeks.  It sounded great.  It sounded great, but a tad different when varnished.  I've had it 4 years now.  Still sounds great.  Strings and season make a huge difference to sound, but it always sounds good.

 

I also have my two Yita instruments. From the label date they are also new.  I don't notice a sound difference, but I don't play them as often.  My other viola was a couple of years old (still new) when I got it...again, have never noticed that is plays 'better' or not.  Sounds the same.

 

I know that I am always a bit stiff or tense when I first start playing - and that affects sound.  So I think it's me, not the violin.  When my teacher plays my violin, it always sounds 1000% better than when I do.  So I assume that my poor playing hasn't adversely affected my poor violin  ;) .

 

I haven't noticed anything different with my 1910 German fancy violin either. Sounds the same whenever I play it.  Same with my VSO (I haul it out once a year to listen for anything new that I might have developed an ear for in the interim...or to see if I can draw more out of it).

 

That's my take based on my limited sample size.

 

Will:  How many violins have you made?  How many have you bought?  What do you play on now?  Photos?

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Were the shifts only positive? If they were measuring shifts, I'd expect fluctuations.

The term "positive" would not apply to the results. They simply noticed that the node lines of prominent modes were changing shape and position between tests over periods measured in days. Whether the shifts improved or lessened the sound would be a subjective analysis.

I have a spirit-oil (or that is what I have been told) varnish violin and think the open-up time is not too different. However, I'd guess that spirit varnish is more fluid and amenable to vibrational changes. I will have to double-check in this, though.

I am not sure I understand your use of the term "fluid". If you mean soft, then that might indicate a high visco-elastic content and increased dampening of the vibrations. If you mean lower stiffness, then that would suggest a varnish that might lower modal frequencies instead of raising them.

Oil varnishes tend to be a bit soft and pliable. Resins are added to for a variety of reasons. One is to increase the hardness of the finish so it is more resistant to wear due to handling and cleaning. So while a shellac spirit varnish might be stiffer and with a harder finish with a pure linseed oil finish, by adding certain resins to the oil one could make it stiffer and harder than the shellac.

I do not see an easy oil-vs-spirit analysis when trying to determine the effect on the tone over time because there can be a wide range in physical properties depending on the formulation one uses. Most of my experience is with spirit varnishes that cure in a fraction of the time required by typical oil varnishes. I am wondering if anyone has any anecdotal or formal test experience that shows the curing of oil varnishes over time noticeably affects tonal performance in some way.

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This is the sort of thing that makes me despair of having a general answer to the question.  OK, we have some data for oil varnish (one formulation only).

When dealing with complex systems, I've sought to master the things that I can both understand and control, and eliminate or isolate the things that are beyond my understanding or control.

My takeaway from the varnish discussions is that master makers have spent years perfecting the application and look of their oil varnishes. If there is some truth to the long-term curing of oil varnish audibly affecting the tone, then some investigation in in order to give them to a way to isolate the effect so they know what will happen and can make some corrections during construction and setup. It might be "my oil formulation requires 1 month dangling from a rack so the oil stops influencing tonal changes. Then I can complete the bridge and sound post setup."

Linessed oil has been used in both fine varnishes and common paints for many centuries. There is a wealth of scientific research on material property changes as it ages. We also have a good understanding of how layered materials, like a wood shell covered with layers of varnish, respond to static and dynamic loading. I suspect the two can be combined to come up with some estimate on how long it takes for newly oil-varnished violin to achieve stable physical properties.

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Will:  How many violins have you made?  How many have you bought?  What do you play on now?  Photos?

 

I've made 5.  4 more are in various states of finish; I'm not sure I'll finish those.  I bought about 20 for my own use over the years, ranging from my first "student violin" which was a Jackson-Guldan, to a decent Nicolo Amati which I should never have bought...but once I did I should never have sold it.   :)   I dealt instruments for quite a while so I probably bought another hundred or so and sold many more on consignment.  

 

Currently I rarely play.  I still have around 10 instruments at home or out on loan; when I have to play a job I choose from among those. The rest are up for sale in a few shops.  The violin I usually use these days is a "Wilton" copy made by Neil Ertz.

 

I have been meaning to figure out how to post pictures on MN.  I would like to get comments, even though I'm not sure I'll be finishing another violin. So there's not much reason to get advice; but since I open my mouth so much on MN I should be willing to present my work for criticism.  I'm not hiding anything, I promise.   :)   I'm just living in the last millennium.

 

I do want to post pictures of the Ertz on another thread to show the wild overhang of an accurate copy of the "Wilton."   

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I am duly impressed! You can do it all! I am also jealous! :)

You should ...most definitely...post photos.

You can:

1. Link from Photobucket...or similar site.

2. Upload from your computer.

3. Upoad from your smartphone.

Which would you prefer?

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I thought the G string fundamental is too low for the violin box and what you hear as the G fundamental is a combination for the lower overtones.

 

 

The fundamental is there but has lower power.

 

The G fundamental sound at about 196hz on a violin is mostly synthesized by the brain-ear hearing system, from the harmonic structure above. We can remove all traces of sound at 196, experimentally, and listeners will still "hear" that G. But we can do that with most any other note too. That's just one of the many fascinating tricks the human hearing/brain system plays on us.

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The G fundamental sound at about 196hz on a violin is mostly synthesized by the brain-ear hearing system, from the harmonic structure above. We can remove all traces of sound at 196, experimentally, and listeners will still "hear" that G. But we can do that with most any other note too. That's just one of the many fascinating tricks the human hearing/brain system plays on us.

 

 Would you happen to know a website or two that demonstrate this? I would really like to experience this myself.

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