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Andreas Preuss

Stradivari's secret was a concept?

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8 hours ago, James M. Jones said:

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.

Yes, wisely said. Alchemy can be seen as a philosophy of life.

I am still wondering if there is a possible interpretation for the building process. But regardless of alchemy, I want to get away from those theory based ideas.

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Ceramics is exactly like the patterns and cycles James says. It has a natural flow. I also see that , and I see it right down to the way you move the tools over the wood. 

And the critical moments when you are voicing the top by taking less and less and analyzing were to stop is a time we don't spend all day with. All the prep work, sharpening, buys stuff, talking on the phone, joining tops, backs all that busy work is not spent in the critical minutes of the thicknessing. We do all this other stuff, and then comparatively spend very little time hands on at the most critical part.

If only I could sit most of the day  and voice a stack of tops and then see how they work, I'd learn a lot. I think this is why people turn to the idea of engineering  as much guess work out of making, because we don't live in that sweet spot of the mindfulness of voicing the top and then seeing pretty quickly what that meant. I'm not being facetious by saying this, but I think 'over experimenter' type makers operate from a place of fear, as much as curiosity. I know some makers who really not makers, because they mostly get off on testing stuff. They are gageteers who use gagets on instruments. Myself, I find it tedious. 

I learned to make a particular kind of instrument from a teacher who was part of a tradition and I did not question the traditional alchemy. Then I studied up on why it works and learned some empirical sets of values why the tradition works, not I use it, but not as much as intuition backed by experience of trial and error. I've never been afraid to the point where I had to line up a great deal of empirical sound information in order to make something. I've always stayed close to traditional ways and occasionally done some really stupid things. 

I've looked at this for a fairly long time and I think the over thinking is fear based, and sometimes even causes 'analysis paralysis' - on the other hand some of the people that are down i the weeds if that stuff come out with pretty  interesting discoveries about how instruments work. I think the ones I admire most at the makers who turn out lots of work and try to create sets of data. I certainly have benefitted from them. 

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The violin is a well known concept, developed over many hundreds of years. There is nothing new to discover - it's actually guite boring :huh: 

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While the subject is boringly old and nothing is new, still much has been forgotten and even more has fallen out of use.

And from my research into geometry methods, I'll venture to say that while there seems to have been no Strad secret in the sense that his methods are just slight variations within a common framework of methods that were used with complete consistency across the generations of classical Cremona making, still they did many things that are just not how people work now.

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7 hours ago, Peter K-G said:

The violin is a well known concept, developed over many hundreds of years. There is nothing new to discover - it's actually guite boring :huh: 

Something similar could be said about children, or many other things that have been around for millions of years.

Perhaps it is just the perspective of an old-ish retired person slowly descending into senility, but I find the simple-yet-complex things all around us endlessly entertaining and marvelous, and that includes violins and the wood they're made from. :)

Discussions about "the secret of Stradivarius" often get a bit tedious and boring, though.

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8 hours ago, Peter K-G said:

The violin is a well known concept, developed over many hundreds of years. There is nothing new to discover - it's actually guite boring :huh: 

I don't think so. I think the concept developed by a maker governs the general sound characteristics.

A del Gesu can support playing close to the bridge because it is heavier and weight was not the main concern in del Gesus concept. Strad on the other hand must have worked with weight trying to find the optimum balance between weight and stiffness. Therefore his violins need a lighter bow arm working more with bow speed.

In any case I see that both makers drifted away from the Amati concept which is different again. I see del Gesu actually as someone who developed the Amati concept and Stradivari as someone who deliberately abandoned some (but not all) rules in the Amati concept.

 

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I'm not sure this particular difference was necessarily planned or directly controlled as an intended concept.

Drawing a bow on a stringed instrument always involves striking a balance between a draggy and a flowing bow.  Any given instrument will tend to respond more naturally from one of these directions or the other.  So even in the absence of intention your instrument will likely land a bit to one side or the other of this continum.

Not to say these aren't great instruments, but coming up either heads or tails in a coin flip doesn't constitute genius.

Maybe they controlled this particular outcome with a particular intent.  But it is probably more likely that any tendency one way or other in this feature was just an unintended side effect of some other difference in their work habits.

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2 hours ago, David Beard said:

 

Maybe they controlled this particular outcome with a particular intent.  But it is probably more likely that any tendency one way or other in this feature was just an unintended side effect of some other difference in their work habits.


Personality, you got......personality.......hahaha 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Something similar could be said about children, or many other things that have been around for millions of years.

I was trying to find the error in that comparison, but I don't think there is one.  So, well said.  Except that children haven't been around for millions of years.

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6 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Something similar could be said about children, or many other things that have been around for millions of years.

Perhaps it is just the perspective of an old-ish retired person slowly descending into senility, but I find the simple-yet-complex things all around us endlessly entertaining and marvelous, and that includes violins and the wood they're made from. :)

Discussions about "the secret of Stradivarius" often get a bit tedious and boring, though.

That's a good one. I have made both, It's more pleasure to make one of the kind, but the pleasure is short :rolleyes: And I can't control the outcome, not one bit, the concept is written.

 

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5 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I don't think so. I think the concept developed by a maker governs the general sound characteristics.

A del Gesu can support playing close to the bridge because it is heavier and weight was not the main concern in del Gesus concept. Strad on the other hand must have worked with weight trying to find the optimum balance between weight and stiffness. Therefore his violins need a lighter bow arm working more with bow speed.

In any case I see that both makers drifted away from the Amati concept which is different again. I see del Gesu actually as someone who developed the Amati concept and Stradivari as someone who deliberately abandoned some (but not all) rules in the Amati concept.

 

I agree and I also think that contemporary makers have a tendency to fall into one of those old guy's "concept". I'm into Strad's concept, but I plan to test dG concept in the future. Maybe when I get older I'll try something new like you are (super light)

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I'd be very interested to hear how people define the differences in concept between the Amati, Strad, and Guarneri.

I know that might take a book or two, but just the very basics, if you had time.

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Personally I think we're going backwards a bit, at least from the start of the thread up to this point.  The last two pages anyhow seem to be less thought out and back to spitting out theories that are, for the most part, untestable/unprovable.  Not to say that my way of thinking is any clearer or less scattered, but these are the points I'd bring up:

-As far as northern Italian makers having access to super superior materials, namely spruce, it could be probably because of either a treatment, a la Andreas, or (more likely in my opinion) better wood selection.  There was an article in the Strad years ago (maybe 80s?) about harvesting spruce in the region and timeline of interest.  Supposedly, logs were cut in winter, then slid down the mountain on an ice track covered in a layer of ice.  the story goes that every now and then a log would ring loudly while being slid down the track, and these were set aside for instrument makers of various types.  I'm not sure if there's much, if any, documentation to back this up.  However, a few years ago I was visiting Tim Jansma, and he told me about a trip he took to Italy in the winter years before and watched the same process.  He told me he bought a few logs, some with the ring and some without, and the ones that rang clearly made far better sounding instruments that the ones that sounded dull, although they all had similar properties when he checked them.  I haven't heard of this from anyone else, although I did go up into the mountains a couple years ago to cut down some trees.  A woocutting permit for deadstanding trees (at least here) allows you to harvest up to five trees.  The two that rang clearly when I tapped them with a hammer are fantastic, and have made some of my best sounding instruments.  The other three were fine, but nothing out of the ordinary, either good or bad.

-Second, If we want to explore the magic log theory more, the most obvious thing on CT scans of the instruments from the log mentioned before is the difference in density in different parts of the top.  I don't have scans of all the instruments on the list, but I do have a handful of them, and they all have the split in density.  The middle section (racing stripe, I suppose?) has an average density of around .33, but the flanks are as high as .39-.41.  This pattern (drastically different densities within the same top) also shows up on scans of other instruments by Strad and other makers from the time that in my opinion are amazing concert instruments.  I haven't done anything resembling scientific tests about this sort of thing, but I have noticed that a lot my instruments, and other makers that I know well, have a density and/or stiffness gradient on the top.

-My next observation, again from both my own work and other makers instruments, is that varied or scattered thicknesses seem to sound better.  Not always louder, but more colorful, malleable, alive maybe?  At least for me, this comes from working quickly, and I suspect the same from the old Cremonese makers.  Similarly, mismatching tops and backs (dense top light back or vice versa, stiff top and flexible back, light and heavy, etc.) often sounds more interesting, although pushing it too far is a bad idea.

-Moving to varnish, since Andreas mentioned it in the beginning of the thread, seems like a bit of a progressions to me.  Looking at early Amatis, the ground usually looks to me as if it's just a thin layer of linseed oil, and the varnish looks like a simple oil/resin varnish.  I believe this also matches Brandmair's findings for instruments of this period.  Everything then seems to evolve slowly up through the 'Golden Period', although those instruments look like they come from the same varnish foundation, but with heavy experimentation along the way ending up with a much more refined product.  

Anyway, this is where my mind is going at 3am.  It might just be a jumbled mess.

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1 hour ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Personally I think we're going backwards a bit, at least from the start of the thread up to this point.  The last two pages anyhow seem to be less thought out and back to spitting out theories that are, for the most part, untestable/unprovable.  Not to say that my way of thinking is any clearer or less scattered, but these are the points I'd bring up:

-As far as northern Italian makers having access to super superior materials, namely spruce, it could be probably because of either a treatment, a la Andreas, or (more likely in my opinion) better wood selection.  There was an article in the Strad years ago (maybe 80s?) about harvesting spruce in the region and timeline of interest.  Supposedly, logs were cut in winter, then slid down the mountain on an ice track covered in a layer of ice.  the story goes that every now and then a log would ring loudly while being slid down the track, and these were set aside for instrument makers of various types.  I'm not sure if there's much, if any, documentation to back this up.  However, a few years ago I was visiting Tim Jansma, and he told me about a trip he took to Italy in the winter years before and watched the same process.  He told me he bought a few logs, some with the ring and some without, and the ones that rang clearly made far better sounding instruments that the ones that sounded dull, although they all had similar properties when he checked them.  I haven't heard of this from anyone else, although I did go up into the mountains a couple years ago to cut down some trees.  A woocutting permit for deadstanding trees (at least here) allows you to harvest up to five trees.  The two that rang clearly when I tapped them with a hammer are fantastic, and have made some of my best sounding instruments.  The other three were fine, but nothing out of the ordinary, either good or bad.

-Second, If we want to explore the magic log theory more, the most obvious thing on CT scans of the instruments from the log mentioned before is the difference in density in different parts of the top.  I don't have scans of all the instruments on the list, but I do have a handful of them, and they all have the split in density.  The middle section (racing stripe, I suppose?) has an average density of around .33, but the flanks are as high as .39-.41.  This pattern (drastically different densities within the same top) also shows up on scans of other instruments by Strad and other makers from the time that in my opinion are amazing concert instruments.  I haven't done anything resembling scientific tests about this sort of thing, but I have noticed that a lot my instruments, and other makers that I know well, have a density and/or stiffness gradient on the top.

-My next observation, again from both my own work and other makers instruments, is that varied or scattered thicknesses seem to sound better.  Not always louder, but more colorful, malleable, alive maybe?  At least for me, this comes from working quickly, and I suspect the same from the old Cremonese makers.  Similarly, mismatching tops and backs (dense top light back or vice versa, stiff top and flexible back, light and heavy, etc.) often sounds more interesting, although pushing it too far is a bad idea.

-Moving to varnish, since Andreas mentioned it in the beginning of the thread, seems like a bit of a progressions to me.  Looking at early Amatis, the ground usually looks to me as if it's just a thin layer of linseed oil, and the varnish looks like a simple oil/resin varnish.  I believe this also matches Brandmair's findings for instruments of this period.  Everything then seems to evolve slowly up through the 'Golden Period', although those instruments look like they come from the same varnish foundation, but with heavy experimentation along the way ending up with a much more refined product.  

Anyway, this is where my mind is going at 3am.  It might just be a jumbled mess.

Interesting points Advocactus thanks for posting them. What you suggest implies to me that the wood is not so hard to find amongst thousands of trees even if it's just one log in a hundred?

I have similar density variations in local wood I have and wondered the same thing? Does the variation in density give more tonal colour or is this just wishful thinking and is less variation in density actually more desirable, or is it impossible to discern or just subjective opinion?

I agree about the linseed oil ground, but this, I have found is absolutely not the current fad and has not been so for a while due to misinformation and fear and... well fadisim. Actually it was Echard, not Brandmair, she found a mineral ground, but since the book costs $500 then.. well.. that doesn't inspire my condidence in her claims. Echard says that what he found was simpler to describe than most other explanations and that gives me confidence in his findings because he seems to be debunking dogma and mythology? It also concurs with what others have been saying for over 200 years, and with my own experiments in varnishing and the tonal effects. A linseed oil layer in the wood either shallow 0.1 mm or deeper, gives a more responsive sound due most likely to the resilence synonyms: flexibility, pliability, suppleness, souplesse, elasticity, plasticity, springiness, give, etcetera that it imparts to the playability and tonal variety of the instrument.

 
59 minutes ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Here's the scan of the top of the Gibson Huberman with the contrast adjusted to show the variation in density.

Gibson top plate density map.jpg

sounds good too, but especially when Joshua Bell plays it:

https://rhapsodyinwords.com/2015/08/24/the-astonishing-300-year-history-of-the-gibson-ex-huberman-stradivarius/

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On ‎18‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 8:06 PM, 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.

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

Maybe? But what was the density of a .33-.35 sample 300 years ago 5-10% more dense? And does the wood have much variablity in density outside of the .33-35 parameters? Well obviously the late summer growth has much higher density than the spring growth, but how much of each in those instruments or if it is the case (which seems plausible) that particular log.

I have logs from the same tree with huge variations from about .33 up to .54 (not including knots where it goes even higher) and this gets me wondering...???

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2 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Here's the scan of the top of the Gibson Huberman with the contrast adjusted to show the variation in density.

Gibson top plate density map.jpg

Are these the views, seen from the mars ? Where did wou get it from ?

Very nice to see the changings from the outstanding low density-origin-top( purple) to the big higher density- breast patch ( blue-milky blue) - the also higher density spruce of post (milky blue)  - to  bridge feet - parts / a little maple postpatch (both green as also purflings ) until the red of ebony or another high-density-wood.

Is there anywhere reported, when and why it was necessary to do such a big patch in nearly the complete central area. It is fascinating for me to see, that the damages/ archings- sinkings and the needed repairs seem to have not touched the parts of instrument, essential for the great sound, they still have. 

An even much bigger breast-patch has the Plowden-Guarneri-del-Gesú, not preventing it from sounding unbelievable good ! Are the central areas really so unimportant for sound or did the restorers such an unbelievable good work, but unable to make complete new instruments, which also sound fantastic ?

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3 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

-Second, If we want to explore the magic log theory more, the most obvious thing on CT scans of the instruments from the log mentioned before is the difference in density in different parts of the top.  I don't have scans of all the instruments on the list, but I do have a handful of them, and they all have the split in density.  The middle section (racing stripe, I suppose?) has an average density of around .33, but the flanks are as high as .39-.41.  This pattern (drastically different densities within the same top) also shows up on scans of other instruments by Strad and other makers from the time that in my opinion are amazing concert instruments.  I haven't done anything resembling scientific tests about this sort of thing, but I have noticed that a lot my instruments, and other makers that I know well, have a density and/or stiffness gradient on the top.

Hi marsman, 

did you ever made density-controls of your own spruce - samples. The middle area of tops, monitored by you on your scans of Strads and other, should most probably be the sap-wood. It is well-known, that is has differing properties. The differences in density could i.m.o. increase depending on the point of time of log-cutting and a lot of things while transporting and drying of wood. I believe, the better the cutting point of time and the following things, the lower the density of sapwood, because of lesser quantities of remaining sap. Some time ago a maker told me, he would remove the sap wood before making the tops. My belief is, that he does very wrong.

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3 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Personally I think we're going backwards a bit, at least from the start of the thread up to this point.  The last two pages anyhow seem to be less thought out and back to spitting out theories that are, for the most part, untestable/unprovable. 

Here is what I think about 'testable/provable'. 

It is certainly interesting to read all those findings by scientists. I do read them too. But sometimes I get a kind of weird feeling. Years ago chemists blasted out the theory with minerals in the ground or varnish or wherever they found that stuff, and now all of a sudden everyone goes, that's old now we have better data and they were no minerals neither in the varnish nor in the ground. Both approaches have been scientific, both were applauded when they came out. But what is right???

For the sound there are similar trends. First violin makers thought Hutchins found out the trick and now everyone says 'We need too look at wood density, that's all.' (I am exaggerating a bit)

Aren't we permanently looking for a kind of 'scientific' proof which doesn't exist? In principle our 'proofs' are based on science which was developed to explain natural phenomena like gravity and so on. However violins are not nature-made, they are man-made. There are no physical laws on the whole thing which can be pinned down like measuring gravity. We are not looking on celestial movements. In fact it is by far more complex, because the material wood we use (as your pictures demonstrate quite visually) doesn't possess any uniform properties.

I think this is what in the end misleads our concepts in making instruments. We believe in a sort of theory,  whatever this might be, and fumble around to make a theory work. I'd rather forget about all theories and build a flexible concept to adjust my style of making to the material I am using to make the material work. 

 

What I was quoting at the top of the thread was simply a kind of 'thought provoker' to make people think in a different direction. There are certainly other possibilities and alchemy as such is quite flexible for its interpretation.

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5 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

I'd be very interested to hear how people define the differences in concept between the Amati, Strad, and Guarneri.

I know that might take a book or two, but just the very basics, if you had time.

From very limited observations...

Amati - speaker cone concept, thin at the edges with lot of recurve

Strad - as thin as possible, with arching and thickness adjusted to maximum efficiency

Guarneri - brawny

4 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

As far as northern Italian makers having access to super superior materials, namely spruce, it could be probably because of either a treatment, a la Andreas, or (more likely in my opinion) better wood selection.  

I too think that the skill of wood selection, and the availability of good wood to select from, are extremely important.  Also, 300 years of natural aging is a great "treatment".

4 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

He told me he bought a few logs, some with the ring and some without, and the ones that rang clearly made far better sounding instruments that the ones that sounded dull, although they all had similar properties when he checked them. 

If you can hear a difference, but not measure a property difference, then there's some important property that's not being measured.

22 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Aren't we permanently looking for a kind of 'scientific' proof which doesn't exist? 

Not me... I know it doesn't exist.

However, I'm all for using every bit of science (in addition to trial-and-error) to try to find out what is important to violinists and listeners, how to diddle with the arching, form, and materials to get the instrument to perform in a preferable way, and how to select or modify the materials for the desired result.  Notice that I didn't use the word "best" at any time.:) 

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On 4/20/2018 at 9:56 AM, Marty Kasprzyk said:

 

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. 

 

The effect of damping is very apparent when you compare the bowing of an open string note to the same note which is fingered on a different string.  The fingered  note is less loud but is  easier to bow correctly.  The player's finger tip adds damping which helps when fast passages are played.  The notes start and end faster and the music passage sounds clearer and crisp.

I suspect there is also is a trade-off compromise between loudness and playability of the violin body itself and there is an optimum amount of damping. I don't know if different players might want different amounts of damping.  Maybe players pick their violins to go with their finger tips.

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4 hours ago, Advocatus Diaboli said:

Here's the scan of the top of the Gibson Huberman with the contrast adjusted to show the variation in density.

Gibson top plate density map.jpg

Question to this photo: 

the colors indicating the density are independent of the actual material thickness, right? 

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

 

Not me... I know it doesn't exist.

However, I'm all for using every bit of science (in addition to trial-and-error) to try to find out what is important to violinists and listeners, how to diddle with the arching, form, and materials to get the instrument to perform in a preferable way, and how to select or modify the materials for the desired result.  Notice that I didn't use the word "best" at any time.:) 

Yes, I know. You are the type of 'Querdenker' 

(Traverse thinker)

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On 4/17/2018 at 4:03 AM, Blank face said:

If he had a concept, it might have been a more progressive than alchemy, rather something like this (and more elaborated used by his epigones like Vuillaume):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_fetishism

Actually, you're being quite unfair to Antonio Stradivari. His violins, when he made them, sold for about twice as much as those by Guarneri, who was struggling to get by, because customers liked them better. He was not a master of hype. If the concept you name is applicable to his violins, it began with Luigi Tarisio.

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3 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

His violins, when he made them, sold for about twice as much as those by Guarneri

But they still weren't as expensive or beloved as those of Stainer. ;) Again perhaps we have Tarisio to thank. 

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