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Elements of construction and responsiveness


Julian Cossmann Cooke
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Here's what I've gleaned from a Chrome-assisted search of the Maestronet threads vault:

One of two things usually is meant by responsiveness: how quickly the instrument "produces" sound  based on the bow's contact with a string; or how readily a player can draw from the instrument the range of sounds they want.  (Feel free to refine as appropriate.)

My question -- in either case -- is this: what are the considerations during the construction of the instrument that contribute to responsiveness?  Again, based on Chrome's results, I found references to the relative weight, flexibility, and Mode 2 tones of the plates.  As above, feel free to restate, amplify, or refute at will.

Maybe another way to state the question: If a customer wants a copy of their instrument but one with better responsiveness (once they specify one of the two definitions), are there any other aspects of construction that can be sources of non-responsiveness and therefore should be avoided?

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13 hours ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

One of two things usually is meant by responsiveness:

how quickly the instrument "produces" sound  based on the bow's contact with a string; or

how readily a player can draw from the instrument the range of sounds they want.

For the first item, I think quickness of response is strongly related to the lightness of the top, and to get a light top without getting too tubby, you need good stiffness/weight, which generally drives you to low density wood.  But quicker is not always better.  At some point, you lose control and dynamic range when the slightest touch of the bow produces and instant, loud response.

For the second item, you can only draw a range of sounds from an instrument that is capable of producing them... meaning the frequency response should be strong and even, without huge dropouts or peaks.  I think that's primarily a function of arching, but everything else can factor in too.

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Working in a fairly busy shop I get to see all sorts of things with various complaints involving response. One of the biggest influences on response I've learned and observed is all joints must be tightly glued, especially at the neck/upper block joints. 

Another observation I've made is that I replace more bassbars where the foot overhangs the bar too much, than not enough. 

Overall it's almost impossible to make generalizations when it comes to instruments. I have seen plenty of instruments that surprise me.

 

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10 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

I think arching is the most important element in response and power, and the thicknesses that go with it. I think a good arching can tolerate a wide range of thicknesses, and still work.

 

Also ground and varnish. But it's a huge question, and not one that I claim to have answered!

I have two questions here, first is that I had read that a difference between Amati and Strad was in arching, with Amati being much higher arching and Strad being lower, and that the Strap tends to be "louder" or to project more as a result - is my recollection correct, and is this accurate? 

And second is responsiveness tied to "ringing", which I take to mean how long the tone "rings" after you lift the bow off the string. Is this true? 

 

Thanks

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35 minutes ago, Janito said:

And that is better than using a less wide bridge?

And why?

This is just an observation, and on instruments my employer has acquired, not customers instruments, tho I note placement of the bar when replacing a customers bridge or post.

There is a range of standard full size bridge widths that can accommodate many bassbar placements, and I usually refrain from replacing a bassbar on the assumption that it's a bad placement because a violin could sound fine with a 38mm bridge overhanging the bar by 3mm, but it could also sound more like a 3/4 violin... 

as I stated above it's just an observation that I've noticed I replace more bassbars what are too far inside standard than outside standard. 

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On 8/14/2017 at 8:43 PM, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

Here's what I've gleaned from a Chrome-assisted search of the Maestronet threads vault:

One of two things usually is meant by responsiveness: how quickly the instrument "produces" sound  based on the bow's contact with a string; or how readily a player can draw from the instrument the range of sounds they want.  (Feel free to refine as appropriate.)

My question -- in either case -- is this: what are the considerations during the construction of the instrument that contribute to responsiveness?  Again, based on Chrome's results, I found references to the relative weight, flexibility, and Mode 2 tones of the plates.  As above, feel free to restate, amplify, or refute at will.

Maybe another way to state the question: If a customer wants a copy of their instrument but one with better responsiveness (once they specify one of the two definitions), are there any other aspects of construction that can be sources of non-responsiveness and therefore should be avoided?

My slow response (R) to your inquiry is due to the distractions of other weighty issues (m).

R = 1/m

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On 8/15/2017 at 0:36 PM, Mason said:

Another observation I've made is that I replace more bassbars where the foot overhangs the bar too much, than not enough. 

 

 

On 8/15/2017 at 2:45 PM, Janito said:

And that is better than using a less wide bridge?

And why?

 

On 8/15/2017 at 3:35 PM, Mason said:

This is just an observation, and on instruments my employer has acquired, not customers instruments, tho I note placement of the bar when replacing a customers bridge or post.

There is a range of standard full size bridge widths that can accommodate many bassbar placements, and I usually refrain from replacing a bassbar on the assumption that it's a bad placement because a violin could sound fine with a 38mm bridge overhanging the bar by 3mm, but it could also sound more like a 3/4 violin... 

as I stated above it's just an observation that I've noticed I replace more bassbars what are too far inside standard than outside standard. 

So why are you replacing all those bassbars?  

A 38 mm bridge overhanging the bar by 3 mm?  That would put the inside of the bassbar 10.5 mm from center.

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8 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

 

 

So why are you replacing all those bassbars?  

A 38 mm bridge overhanging the bar by 3 mm?  That would put the inside of the bassbar 10.5 mm from center.

Ha, yes that is an extreme example, but I have seen bassbars placed all over the map and it's something I pay a lot of attention to. 

Most of the  bassbars I have replaced have been because of damage and/or placement. I take a very conservative approach when deciding to take an instrument apart and change a bar because of position alone, but sometimes less invasive solutions don't achieve the results the boss was hoping for.

in my own instrument making, placement has a higher priority than shape, but my instruments aren't winning any awards, so take that into consideration when deciding if there is any validity to my observations. 

 

 

 

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17 minutes ago, Mason said:

Ha, yes that is an extreme example, but I have seen bassbars placed all over the map and it's something I pay a lot of attention to. 

Most of the  bassbars I have replaced have been because of damage and/or placement. I take a very conservative approach when deciding to take an instrument apart and change a bar because of position alone, but sometimes less invasive solutions don't achieve the results the boss was hoping for.

in my own instrument making, placement has a higher priority than shape, but my instruments aren't winning any awards, so take that into consideration when deciding if there is any validity to my observations. 

 

 

 

Pretty extreme indeed,  your example would call for a 1/2 size bridge for a full size instrument.  I am not sure my "map" is quite so large.

I suspect my definition of "conservative" might  be a little less liberal as well.

 

 

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46 minutes ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

Pretty extreme indeed,  your example would call for a 1/2 size bridge for a full size instrument.  I am not sure my "map" is quite so large.

I suspect my definition of "conservative" might  be a little less liberal as well.

 

 

My "map" wasn't so large until a few months ago... but that map never really surprises me. 

i suspect if I were "the boss" of the shop our definition of conservative would probably be pretty similar. 

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This is just speculation on my part but I would think that the thickness in the channel would be much more responsible for the responsiveness or overall timbre Aof an instrument than the edge thickness.  Again, just speculation but I wouldn't be surprised if the edge itself is, for all intent and purposes, acoustically "dead".

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19 minutes ago, Thomas Coleman said:

This is just speculation on my part but I would think that the thickness in the channel would be much more responsible for the responsiveness or overall timbre Aof an instrument than the edge thickness.  Again, just speculation but I wouldn't be surprised if the edge itself is, for all intent and purposes, acoustically "dead".

I guess i was thinking a thicker edge would inhibit the action of the channel.  Certainly, any longitudinal flex would be reduced (as opposed to flex across the channel).  But I may be thinking about it all wrong.

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On 8/15/2017 at 1:15 AM, Conor Russell said:

I think arching is the most important element in response and power, and the thicknesses that go with it. I think a good arching can tolerate a wide range of thicknesses, and still work.

 

Also ground and varnish. But it's a huge question, and not one that I claim to have answered!

 

On 8/15/2017 at 9:36 AM, Mason said:

Working in a fairly busy shop I get to see all sorts of things with various complaints involving response. One of the biggest influences on response I've learned and observed is all joints must be tightly glued, especially at the neck/upper block joints. 

Another observation I've made is that I replace more bassbars where the foot overhangs the bar too much, than not enough. 

Overall it's almost impossible to make generalizations when it comes to instruments. I have seen plenty of instruments that surprise me.

 

I'm just seeing this, since I've been very busy for a while.  I'm glad to see the question, but one reason I've quit making is because I really don't have a clue how to make what I consider a great violin.  :)

But playing them for so many years and being very aware of changes, I believe Conor's and Mason's points are right.  And I'd add that adjustment can effect the sense of response greatly.  More than once I got a violin back from a good adjuster to find that the notes tended to "snap into place" with much more definition and would feel better to the bow.

Regarding gluing seams,  as an example of the importance, I had one violin which all of a sudden sounded false and dull. This was years ago when strings were not always perfect, so I kept changing strings.  Finally, I found the top where the hand goes was quite open;  once glued the problem was solved.  

As for what constitutes a "good arch,"  I think that is the last secret to be found.  It seems as if there is some subtlety that most people (maybe all) haven't put their finger on yet.  Good luck.     

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I have heard violin makers refer to "resistance" when discussing the way an instrument can be played.  And I've heard players say a certain instrument "fights" them.  I assume the resistance means it takes more energy from the player to produce the sound but I have also heard violins described as resistant having wonderful tone, though it might have more sizzle or air to the tone.  Any comments anyone?

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37 minutes ago, gowan said:

I have heard violin makers refer to "resistance" when discussing the way an instrument can be played.  And I've heard players say a certain instrument "fights" them.  I assume the resistance means it takes more energy from the player to produce the sound but I have also heard violins described as resistant having wonderful tone, though it might have more sizzle or air to the tone.  Any comments anyone?

I think of "resistance" as mostly describing an initial and ideal amount of "crunch" at the initiation of a note, good for articulation and separating one note from another, somewhat different from an instrument being physically hard or easy to play.

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36 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I think of "resistance" as mostly describing an initial and ideal crunch at the initiation of a note, good for articulation and separating one note from another, nothing to do with an instrument being hard to play.

Interestingly that is quite similar to how Steven Gilchrist describes good tone of mandolins - he calls the initial attack "knock on wood" and from my experience you can feel it with the picking hand as slight "stiffness" of strings. And same here the instrument may "feel" sitffer but the final response is typically more than adequate to energy input. Some instruments feel very "floppy" under pick and sound smooth but lack of the atack makes them lost in fast passages in ensemble situations.

I wonder if one can adjust that "crunch" with general setup (bridge, post) on violins? My old player grade fiddle lost some of the atack after I shaved the bass bar a bit. I got easier response but less of the crunch on G and D strings that I'd like to get back (without changing bar if possible).

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I think this responsiveness has something to do with impedance matchings, which is  hardly discussed ever here.

Matching impedance of the strings to the impedance of the bridge.

And matching impedance of the bridge to the top and eventually the whole body etc.

There are thousands of plate tuning, how to make sound good, but not this topic.

I'm not sure even anyone studies these things.

 

Koo Young Chung

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