Andreas Preuss

Stradivari's secret was a concept?

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8 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

I am not claiming that the "good log" theory is fact, but I have a hard time looking at this plot and not seeing something that looks like a pattern:

There are a lot of parameters that define the physical/acoustic properties of wood.  Infinite, in fact, when you consider that some vary with frequency.  In the end, the only things that define how a structure behaves are the geometry and these properties.  That's infinity squared variables, so sorting out what effects are derived from what variable is not going to be easy.  Density is only one variable.

You can have a recipe or a process for something, but if that is some externally-derived recipe that is fixed, I think it is a recipe for consistently poor results unless the recipe is magically mystically perfect as it has arrived from the gods.  For improvement, there has to be some allowance for variation or experimentation, and evaluation of what works and what doesn't, so the baseline recipe can be changed.

In other words, the simple old "trial and error".  It works.

I see now what you mean with log theory. I have to chew on that.

For the recipe procedures I am permanently thinking about how to get information from the wood. For example I used a weight to bend a thin strip taken from the center of the top. The flexing depth would be my inside arching height. Didn't bring the result I intended but I think still that there is some development or refinement possible.

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20 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

I am not claiming that the "good log" theory is fact, but I have a hard time looking at this plot and not seeing something that looks like a pattern:

5ad745bfb6d23_Densityvsyear.jpg.eb297faf2540d29800c360d4fa2829da.jpg

There are a lot of parameters that define the physical/acoustic properties of wood.  Infinite, in fact, when you consider that some vary with frequency.  In the end, the only things that define how a structure behaves are the geometry and these properties.  That's infinity squared variables, so sorting out what effects are derived from what variable is not going to be easy.  Density is only one variable.

You can have a recipe or a process for something, but if that is some externally-derived recipe that is fixed, I think it is a recipe for consistently poor results unless the recipe is magically mystically perfect as it has arrived from the gods.  For improvement, there has to be some allowance for variation or experimentation, and evaluation of what works and what doesn't, so the baseline recipe can be changed.

In other words, the simple old "trial and error".  It works.

Peter Ratcliff might want to chime in here? Those instruments were most likely from the same log?

And looking at the spread of data suggests there was no ideal density. Unless your subjective opinion is that the supposed 'Golden Era' was an actual thing?

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38 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

this plot

An undeniably interesting plot.

29 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

What differentiates "Golden Era" Strad violins from his other violins?  Do they look or sound better?

 

I can attest that they taste better.

25 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

While we're at it, who coined the term "Golden Era" and when?

Sounds like classic Hill propaganda.

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

What differentiates "Golden Era" Strad violins from his other violins?  Do they look or sound better?

 

The term 'golden period strads' came from 19th century dealers. For people going into details those instruments have a certain beauty which certainly doesn't have anything to do with the sound. But because the term cane Dom dealers it is clear that they knew it would trigger buyers buying behavior. 

If I had a chance to ask AS only one question I would ask him what HE thinks is the best instrument he ever made? We'd most likely very surprised about the answer.

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I'm sure he'd be surprised at what we've done to most of his instruments over the intervening centuries, and how we've made them to sound like versus what they sounded like when they left the shop.

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Interesting discussion , looked up alchemy , some pretty cool history , goes way back and is essentially the foundation for modern science, much of the same sort of goals ,metals play an important ,almost  singular role in it,s development as a way of thinking.that of exploration and experimentation and formulas to guide ,. Unfortunately it can not be a panacea ,as all makers were basically under the same influence, the lens of perception, distorting some aspects of the truth of nature ,yet reveling details never before observed. 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I see now what you mean with log theory. I have to chew on that.

For the recipe procedures I am permanently thinking about how to get information from the wood. For example I used a weight to bend a thin strip taken from the center of the top. The flexing depth would be my inside arching height. Didn't bring the result I intended but I think still that there is some development or refinement possible.

I get information out of the wood by measuring a few properties... primarily to decide on what wood to buy, and what wood might be appropriate for different desired outcomes.  Lighter, higher stiffness/mass wood for larger bodied violins and violas, and perhaps more power and responsiveness.

My "recipe" for construction is mostly what I think Strad did:  decide on an arching height depending on whether I want sweet and nice vs powerful and maybe a little more crude.  Then just use the arching known to work well, and graduation pattern known to work well... going a bit thinner if it's dense wood.  I measure all kinds of taptones, weights, and stiffness... without seeing much in the measurements to make any  real difference yet.

Maybe Strad flexed the plates by hand to decide what's thin enough, but to me, I haven't seen anything in Strad's instruments that conflicts with this simple, pragmatic workshop method that needs a more exotic explanation.  If you want to go by sound, then you have to filter out the effects of age, which is impossible to do (in addition to the impossible task of defining what the sound is).

 

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6 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I don't think so but what if, provocatively said, all those parameters don't matter to the degree we think?!

 

Exactly that is it, what I wanted to say.

6 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

An example from my own experience. Not so long ago I made a copy with wood I thought is sub-optimal, because it was not split and a kind of heavy.  But when the instrument was finished it turned out to perform extremely well.

For another violin I chose the lightest most robust split material and when finished the violin didn't sound that great (and actually still sits in my workshop for making experiments now)

 

I am not at all surprised by of both of your examples.

Why ? I dont´know any publication, showing, which direction of some physical properties is resulting in a better violin sound.

1) more split - better or worse ?

2) soundspeed - higher better or lower better ?

3) density ? ( as Dons diagram shows, Stradivari could also make instruments with spruce-densities of 0,44 -  many would reject such a wood )

4) less damping - better or not ?

I don´t say, that these properties are unimportant. However 1) they could be unimportant    or at least    2) they are not seriously explored concerning their influence on violin sound.

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2 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

What differentiates "Golden Era" Strad violins from his other violins?  Do they look or sound better?

 

Appearance, I'd say. Strad was at an age where he'd had time to highly refine his style and technique, but had not yet started to suffer the challenges of old age.

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I always envision a family that cut wood, boiled it,  seasoned it using the modern alchemy of the day, then traveled around in a quaint wagon loaded to the hilt, making the "circuit" selling various grades of it to instrument makers. Some of the wood was fresh when used, something was done to it to shrink it and make it stable or everything would be all cracked up or flattened out a bit. I have cut a lot of wood and I don't see how they would have had time to do that and make instruments too, unless part of the apprentices jobs was to prepare the wood.

Of course using alchemist methods , that was the cutting edge thought of the times,, always make it better,, the way of man.

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10 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

This is the question. Our thought frame is clearly science. We argue with amplitude, damping, calculated factors, spectra etc. 

i am sure makers in Cremona had their own thought frame, but I am asking myself how this looked like.  

But when it comes to our work, are our thoughts framed by science?

Mine aren't. So I've never had any reason to think that the old maker's were all that different to me.

Could it be that because of your own scientific approach to making you look for something similar in theirs?

 

I happen to think that most well trained modern makers could sit in to one of the old Cremonese shops, do what they were told, and get on with the work. Likewise apart from some annoying oohing and aahing over the bandsaw for an hour or so, the old lads could sit in to one of ours.

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1 hour ago, Evan Smith said:

I always envision a family that cut wood, boiled it,  seasoned it using the modern alchemy of the day, then traveled around in a quaint wagon loaded to the hilt, making the "circuit" selling various grades of it to instrument makers.

Why boiling? Many studies have shown that both boiling and concentrated steam exposure markedly reduce the strength of wood.

" Some of the wood was fresh when used, something was done to it to shrink it and make it stable or everything would be all cracked up or flattened out a bit."

I'm not aware of any of these instruments without some repairs, and most have undergone much more heroic and extreme restorations.

 

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5 hours ago, sospiri said:

Peter Ratcliff might want to chime in here? Those instruments were most likely from the same log?

And looking at the spread of data suggests there was no ideal density. Unless your subjective opinion is that the supposed 'Golden Era' was an actual thing?

I posted this in another thread some time back. The chart is from Jöst Thone’s Stradivari Volumes. All these famous players’ Stradivari violins came from the same log. I believe that log was ~.33-.35g/cc.

8910A6EE-44B3-445C-96C1-15B554290B63.jpeg

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12 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

This is the question. Our thought frame is clearly science. We argue with amplitude, damping, calculated factors, spectra etc. 

i am sure makers in Cremona had their own thought frame, but I am asking myself how this looked like.  I have only the vague feeling that this hadn't anything to do with what we call today acoustics. 

1 hour ago, Conor Russell said:

But when it comes to our work, are our thoughts framed by science?

Mine aren't. So I've never had any reason to think that the old maker's were all that different to me.

Coming from a background of science, and plenty of familiarity with acoustics, modal analysis, damping, etc., I naturally am interested in those aspects, and it is not too much effort for me to make measurements and analysis.

However, to be perfectly honest, if I had a set of wood and only Strad's tools, I am convinced that my result would be no different than if I used all the technology available.  And all the technology doesn't decide if the result is good or not... playing and listening does that (also likely no different from Strad's day).

When it comes to wood properties, I think the technology might help in both understanding what you have, what you'd like to have, and how it might be "improved".

31 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Many studies have shown that both boiling and concentrated steam exposure markedly reduce the strength of wood.

Boiling I agree... disaster.  However "torrefaction" involves exposure to steam, and generally stiffness is increased and density is reduced, depending on the details.  "Strength" is a different issue.

This brings out how difficult it is to make "improvements" to wood, and I am more than a little skeptical that the Cremonese or Strad came up with some secret process that actually did something beneficial.

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We still need an explanation why these old makers also made mediocre violins.  If they were all great I would concede they possessed some skill or knowledge we don't have today.  

What did they do--wake up some days having forgotten everything they knew and then the next days remembering it all?

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4 hours ago, curious1 said:

I posted this in another thread some time back. The chart is from Jöst Thone’s Stradivari Volumes. All these famous players’ Stradivari violins came from the same log. I believe that log was ~.33-.35g/cc.

 

I'm not seeing how we can determine that these all came from the same log. Couldn't they have also come from different logs in similar growing areas?

I've cut off as much as two inches in the centerjoint area, either to get rid of defects, or to get a more pleasing grain spacing. Haven't you?

So, depending on how much wood I remove from the centerjoint (the outside of the tree), precise dendro-based wood harvesting dates could vary by as much as 50 years.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

So, depending on how much wood I remove from the centerjoint (the outside of the tree), precise wood harvesting dates could vary by as much as 50 years.

This would be a question for dendro-experts. However I don´t believe, that you need the last 50 years of a log, to recognize an identical log. I assume this is only needed to verify the cutting date. However, I believe, in dendros never are given cutting data, but the "last" and "first" year on the examined sample/ violin top. If the last visible year is later than the makers time of death --> fake.

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Many studies have shown that both boiling and concentrated steam exposure markedly reduce the strength of wood.

" Some of the wood was fresh when used, something was done to it to shrink it and make it stable or everything would be all cracked up or flattened out a bit."

I'm not aware of any of these instruments without some repairs, and most have undergone much more heroic and extreme restorations.

 

Many studies,,,,,

sure if you drop green wood into boiling water it can crack up because the pressure has no where to go to, put it in a hot oven and it will explode loudly as the moisture vents,,,

shall I say ,,,, they started with tepid bathwater then slowly increased the temperature till the frog was numb, two days later they cranked up the gas and the magic began!

I've cooked wood for weeks and have seen absolutely no damage done in fact it is better lighter and cleaner and cuts better. The maple can change so drastically that there is almost no comparison the the original product. It is lighter, stiffer and looks better, it can develop a nice silver glow about it that I really like.

 

Many Studies,,,,,

Evan studies too.

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Until now, I believed, that most makers say : there was no secret !

What has happened ? Do the secrets have a comeback ?! 

Is it because of the completely not yet published examinations of Bruce Tai ?

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8 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I am not claiming that the "good log" theory is fact, but I have a hard time looking at this plot and not seeing something that looks like a pattern:

5ad745bfb6d23_Densityvsyear.jpg.eb297faf2540d29800c360d4fa2829da.jpg

 

Hi Don,

thank you very much for showing this great chart !

 

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23 minutes ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Until now, I believed, that most makers say : there was no secret !

What has happened ? Do the secrets have a comeback ?! 

Is it because of the completely not yet published examinations of Bruce Tai ?

"The Secret of Stradivarius" can never die, because it is impossible to disprove that he had a secret.

Similarly, "Strads are the best violins" can never be disproven either, but for slightly different reasons.  You COULD prove Strad had a secret if you found a verifiable notebook with the details.  You CAN'T prove Strads are the best, since that's all opinion.

 

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Stradivari's secret is the sales skills of the 19C/20C/21C French and English dealers

Stradivaris secret in his own time was in making show violins for prestigious owners and events with new bright fashionable colours.  These are not some  improvement on the Cremonese tradition as time goes on. They are all a demonstration of his disconect from the tradition and the tradition's death.

Is there any evidence of him being closely connected to actual  musicians rather than patrons? It's very apparent some other Cremonese have this and Guadagnini  actually shared his house and was recorded  intimate with the best musicians of his time

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14 minutes ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

Stradivari's secret is the sales skills of the 19C/20C/21C French and English dealers

Strardivaris secret in his own time was in making show violins for prestigious owners and events with new bright fashionable colours. 

Is there any evidence of him being closely connected to actual  musicians? It's very apparent some other Cremonese have this and Guadagnini  actually shared his house and was recorded  intimate with the best musicians of his time

Hear, hear!

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2 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Until now, I believed, that most makers say : there was no secret !

What has happened ? Do the secrets have a comeback ?! 

Is it because of the completely not yet published examinations of Bruce Tai ?

Secrets don't have a comeback. Slowly we are getting a better picture.

Sacconi was the first to look on the 'secret' as a more complex thing and his biggest achievement was to go back in history and pinpoint many factors which make a Strad a Strad. Later people like Roger Hargrave continued from there looking into more details and proof techniques at the bench instead of a piece of paper. Literally everything is like putting pieces of a puzzle together. So let's forget about secret and think rather about concept and we are going to discover more about this legendary violin maker.

IMHO if we a kind of understand the mindset of Antonio Stradivari we can not 'reproduce' his work but gain a very different understanding on how to 'construct sound'.

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1 hour ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

Stradivari's secret is the sales skills of the 19C/20C/21C French and English dealers

Stradivaris secret in his own time was in making show violins for prestigious owners and events with new bright fashionable colours.  These are not some  improvement on the Cremonese tradition as time goes on. They are all a demonstration of his disconect from the tradition and the tradition's death.

Is there any evidence of him being closely connected to actual  musicians rather than patrons? It's very apparent some other Cremonese have this and Guadagnini  actually shared his house and was recorded  intimate with the best musicians of his time

He was very ambitious and had the goal to surpass Niccolo Amati. 

When I was in Cremona a few years ago I met a man from a gallery selling old prints. He told me that it is known that Stradivari apparently had a very close connection to the catholic church and all documents concerning purchase of property were co-signed with a priest. If this is really true it makes me seriously wonder if he wasn't using the church connections to build his business. And if this was the case we can scratch our heads and think was his success (regardless of the high quality of his instruments) build on a kind of Scientology scheme??

I'd say one of the first dealer who recognized the selling power of instruments with stories was Tarisio. I wouldn't be surprised if he was the first who had the word 'secret' in his moth to sell Strads for an exaggerated price.

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