Andreas Preuss

Stradivari's secret was a concept?

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Some days I wake and kick myself and say: Dude, your life doesn't have enough bullshit in it. Better go over and read a Stradivari thread on MN for a bullshit infusion. :) 

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1 hour ago, Stephen Faulk said:

Some days I wake and kick myself and say: Dude, your life doesn't have enough bullshit in it. Better go over and read a Stradivari thread on MN for a bullshit infusion. :) 

I agree.

I don't want people here to talk Stradivari's secret BS.

I want people to talk concepts involving skilled craftsmanship.

 

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My take on Mr.Tony is that he benefited from 120 years or more of professional practice and culture of violin making that had coherence to a pretty good set of standards in Cremona and surrounding area; making a violin that everyone could agree on was in the air. And because regional flavor and design was not watered down by a faster moving world, the violin as Cremonese and other Italian's knew it developed with a high degree of continuity in professional practice. Stradivari somehow learned an extremely high level of fluency with hand tools and entered into the business with a lot of skill, which freed his mind to range over conceptual issues in design, sound and marketing ( It looks like he knew how to kiss royal ass really good.)  The making aspect, his skill was a the part that likely caused him to be organized, he must have had a mind like Henry Ford, he had it seems no shortage of native intelligence as an expert at finding the critical path through the work. That path was likely shown by his wood working ability; he was able to organize wood working to be really efficient. 

And then he was able to utilize all the discoveries and methods of a cohesive comprehensive school. He did not have to invent a method, he stepped into a school that was already well developed and maybe even teetering towards not being able to reinvent itself, it might have been in danger of begin coming over refined. I think one of his oddities, whether it is a strength or a weakness ( as Goldsmith points out) is that he was in the perfect position to extend the tradition and probably break with it because he seems independent, not beholden to a master other than himself at a fairly young age. He broke with tradition because he did not work under a master until he was say 35 or 40- I also think what Marvin said about the color is very salient. He sold sexy looking  violins to the royals who identified royalty with reds and purples. 

As for alchemy, I'd have to think on that more, I know what you mean about alchemy,but I think a lot of times alchemy is a metaphorical device, not really a practice.  One interesting intersection between alchemy and Stradivari is that in alchemical texts there is often a missing  key or parts that are written to mislead someone who finds the text. One has to be initiated into the use of a text by the alchemical master who created it. And that's the metaphor of Stradivari with alchemy, maybe the text is written to mislead? The idea that there's 'secret knowledge' is the 'key' that's meant to mislead. 

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Are you really in Tokyo? That godforsaken urban nightmare?  I can only think of two reasons to go to Tokyo, to see the national museum of art and the symphony, but why bother? Fukuoka has a better orchestra!! HA!  I live in Kyushu. 

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14 hours ago, James M. Jones said:

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. 

The inventor of modern science, Isaak Newton, was a very devoted alchemist and spent years of his life in serious alchemical experimentation.

I am not interested in the various attempts to transform materials. I find the general approach interesting.

We look on wood as a stable calculable material. accordingly we believe that all data received from measuring it are good to form a basis of knowledge. You can take what you want: tap tones, thicknesses, modal analysis. None of those data are set in correlation to material property. For example everyone knows that wood bending properties change measurably with moisture content.

Alchemy in its quintessence is based on observations. I am asking myself if it is not much easier to use observations to work around measurements and calculations.

 

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54 minutes ago, Stephen Faulk said:

Are you really in Tokyo? That godforsaken urban nightmare?  I can only think of two reasons to go to Tokyo, to see the national museum of art and the symphony, but why bother? Fukuoka has a better orchestra!! HA!  I live in Kyushu. 

Yeah, urban nightmare. LOL. Gives me nightmarish thoughts, right? Gotta meet some day.

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Alchemy and chemistry have a common root, "al khymia". Both deal with transformation of substances, but the difference is that chemistry works - the parts of alchemy that DID work have been absorbed into chemistry. I think Stradivarius' alchemy was in the transmutation of wood, glue, and varnish into salable objects.

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16 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

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.

:)

Evan, wood has already been extensively studied in connection with it's properties as a structural engineering material, including what happens to it with various kinds of treatments, and exposure to various environments. The proceedings of the 11th International IUFRO Wood Drying Conference alone number 404 pages. With the mountains of data and testing already out there, why try to start from scratch with your home experiments, and risk repeating all the things which have been shown to be problematic? Particularly, if it's something which will have your name on it?

https://www.iufro.org/download/file/5281/1962/50000-et-al-skelleftea10-proceedings_pdf/

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My theory is that old violin tops are full of cracks which were caused by repeated shrinking and swelling of the wood by humidity changes over many seasons.  These cracks might increase the wood's damping. This could  be the reason why Joseph Curtin's observed that tapping the top of an old violin produced a short "thunk" sound rather than a long ringy one that new plates often produce.

This increased damping should decrease the time it takes for a bowed string to achieve a steady state vibration. This would enable fast passages to be played clearly which might be one reason why players sometimes prefer old instruments.  This suggests that there is an optimum amount of damping. 

Others have already thunk this.

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Not sure about the explanation of how plates get that way, but tend to agree that dampening isn't automatically evil, and in fact can be a very good thing. And that ringing resonances with relatively defined pitch are probably not good.

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4 hours ago, francoisdenis said:

Do we have evidences that people traiting their wood achieved a better sound result?

Not that I'm aware of.

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5 hours ago, francoisdenis said:

Do we have evidences that people traiting their wood achieved a better sound result?

57 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Not that I'm aware of.

There can be many reasons...

1) The best makers either are hesitant to try uncertain methods, or use treatments but are hesitant to mention it.

2) There are infinite ways to "treat" wood.  Even the seemingly narrow label of "hydrothermal treatment" can be varied infinitely with varying temperature and pressure, and get varying results.

3)  Some of the more scientifically established treatment methods are not easy to do, and require expensive equipment and/or advanced technical capabilities.

4)  Commercially  available torrefied wood hasn't been widely available, and the selection of the initial wood (important) might not be "the best" (whatever that is).

5)  Define "better sound" in a way that can be agreed upon.  I dare you. :)

I can only offer an opinion:  when I make instruments out of torrefied wood, they sound more open and lively right off the bench compared to ones I have made from normal aged (10 - 20 yrs) wood.  I expect that the difference would narrow over time as the normal wood ages further.

 

3 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

My theory is that old violin tops are full of cracks which were caused by repeated shrinking and swelling of the wood by humidity changes over many seasons.  These cracks might increase the wood's damping. This could  be the reason why Joseph Curtin's observed that tapping the top of an old violin produced a short "thunk" sound rather than a long ringy one that new plates often produce.

I would keep a more open mind about this.  I haven't personally had a large number of old violin plates to thunk on, but I have heard other experienced opinions that the ring of old plates isn't all that thunky.  

And even if you  accept the idea that old plates have cracks that are either microscopic or unrepaired, they most certainly will be crossgrain cracks, and the longitudinal fibers will be intact.  The cracks won't just change damping... if they even do that.  The cracks would decrease the crossgrain stiffness, and change the mode shapes and stress distribution during vibration, with the logical result that more of the vibration energy gets stored in the longitudinal fibers... where damping is much LESS.  I think that free plates, with their free edges, can have their modes dominated by crossgrain compliance effects, and assembled instruments with glued edges not so much.

I attempted to measure damping vs. frequency in a Strad, and it varied a LOT.  Some modes were highly damped, others lowly damped.  I couldn't find any conclusive difference between it and a modern.  

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On 4/17/2018 at 6:34 PM, JacksonMaberry said:

I have a hard time accepting the "good log" theory. Among other things, it's dismissive.

I wouldn't accept a theory that says that Stradivarius violins were superior to those made in the 19th century because he used a log that was much better than any tree yielded since.

However, it is, according to my reading, an established fact that after Stradivari's "golden period", not only were his woodworking skills a bit less sharp due to advancing age, but also, due to unsettled political conditions in the area, and declining demand for violins from other causes, he was not able to afford wood of the same good quality as he had been previously used. I think it is this which the post to which you replied was actually referring to, not a "magic log theory".

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On 2018/4/20 at 9:00 PM, francoisdenis said:

Do we have evidences that people traiting their wood achieved a better sound result?

I don't like the word 'better'. Different, yes.

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22 hours ago, David Beard said:

Not sure about the explanation of how plates get that way, but tend to agree that dampening isn't automatically evil, and in fact can be a very good thing. And that ringing resonances with relatively defined pitch are probably not good.

Lately I started to question all this tap tone stuff. Could it be that we are barking up the wrong tree?

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Certainly not something everyone agrees about.

For my personal opinion I think in a very loose general way a tap can tell something aproximate to help in judging if a plate is thinned to an appropriate balance of weight and stiffness. I don't believe there the is a clear enough link between tap tones and results for it to be used meaningfully to guide a worker to making good or better violins. And certainly paying attention to tap tones doesn't spare people from making bad violins.

Still just talking personal conjecture, one of my concerms is that people aiming to 'tune' a tap will also tend to make the tap more clearly pitched, in other words they will make the resonance of the tap a higher Q. While I think the exact pitches of taps have little relevance, I thinking giving the resonances higher Q is a negative.  This means the resonances are narrower and spikier. While that makes the taps pretty in themselves, I think it's the opposite of what we want.

Very much just IMHO.

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I think there is a significant trap in thinking about higher damping giving a less peaky, smoother sound with about the same overall sound output.  The usual plots of amplitude vs frequency do show that... but with a given forcing function... where the force is fixed.  Hidden in the plot is the fact that more ENERGY is required to supply that force when the damping is higher, and I think that matters a lot to the player who is supplying that energy:  more difficulty getting the string to respond, and more bow speed required to keep the sound going.

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41 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

I think there is a significant trap in thinking about higher damping giving a less peaky, smoother sound with about the same overall sound output.  The usual plots of amplitude vs frequency do show that... but with a given forcing function... where the force is fixed.  Hidden in the plot is the fact that more ENERGY is required to supply that force when the damping is higher, and I think that matters a lot to the player who is supplying that energy:  more difficulty getting the string to respond, and more bow speed required to keep the sound going.

Excellent interpretation of the physics of damping.

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Big picture concepts, without directly relating to alchemy,   Time and energy..  working seasonally, winter for vigorous resawing , arching, plane work , the work generates heat to warm the workers, and the cold insures the dry. Glueing up and jointing stuff together. Arching in the early sunrise mornings and evenings with the low light of winter as well. Spring sun tan and detail, summer varnish, fall setup. Rinse repeat.         Also to stay busy, no time wasted on pondering,much more doing. I would not be surprised in the least if water soaking of rough timbers played a role , tried some experiments with ponding and it defiantly pulled stress out and a certain amount of materials as well. Another would be a trip through the cooling down bread bake ovens every town had.  Another concept could be a “waking up “process of working ,fairing  in the channel while the violin strung up in the white. All these ideas I think at least fall within the framework of alchemy, without necessarily enslaving with the doctrine.

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5 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I don't like the word 'better'. Different, yes.

Of course qualifications of "good" "better" "worse" are subjectives but one can do many thinks on a violin that one can say "it's different" . I guess that if you take time to  trait your wood it's at least to achieve a "better sound" or "the right sound" or "the sound you liked"...call that like you want but we need there a relative value . Different mean nothing in this case if you don't say in which way.

 

 

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OK then:  my treated wood gives better results than equivalent untreated wood.  According to me. 

Is that a better answer?:)

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9 hours ago, David Beard said:

Certainly not something everyone agrees about.

For my personal opinion I think in a very loose general way a tap can tell something aproximate to help in judging if a plate is thinned to an appropriate balance of weight and stiffness. I don't believe there the is a clear enough link between tap tones and results for it to be used meaningfully to guide a worker to making good or better violins. And certainly paying attention to tap tones doesn't spare people from making bad violins.

Still just talking personal conjecture, one of my concerms is that people aiming to 'tune' a tap will also tend to make the tap more clearly pitched, in other words they will make the resonance of the tap a higher Q. While I think the exact pitches of taps have little relevance, I thinking giving the resonances higher Q is a negative.  This means the resonances are narrower and spikier. While that makes the taps pretty in themselves, I think it's the opposite of what we want.

Very much just IMHO.

Total agreement ! Provided, that more sharp resonance - peaks really mean higher Q,  what can be questioned : I don´t want to play such peaky resonance curves.

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1 minute ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Total agreement ! Provided, that more sharp resonance - peaks really mean higher Q,  what can be questioned : I don´t want to play such peaky resonance curves.

I have said it wrong. Better : in every case I don´t want to play a very  peaky responsive curce. If such a curve would really allow to conclude on lower damping - then I want more damping 

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5 hours ago, francoisdenis said:

Of course qualifications of "good" "better" "worse" are subjectives but one can do many thinks on a violin that one can say "it's different" . I guess that if you take time to  trait your wood it's at least to achieve a "better sound" or "the right sound" or "the sound you liked"...call that like you want but we need there a relative value . Different mean nothing in this case if you don't say in which way.

 

 

There are other reasons not directly linked to the sound. 

After steaming the wood gets slightly lighter and most important for me it is not white any more saving the efforts to kill the white in the ground for making copies.

Without having any sound spectra measuring equipment, there is nothing I can say about it. Just by ear the sound is rounder and somehow more 'transparent'. The g string has always a kind of unique 'fullness' which I regard as positive. But I am sure that there are people who prefer a 'rougher' sound on the g string.

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