Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Stradivari's secret was a concept?


Andreas Preuss
 Share

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

Andreas, I will simply repeat this because it was once mentioned to me: There are Strads without their tops, and they sound like Strads; there are Strads with replacement backs, and they sound like Strads. The same person who said this to me commented that before he actually had owned a Strad cello, he had always considered that they were magical. When he finally did get one, he decided that they were just really good. Then after owning it for six months, he said that he switched back to believing in magic. 

There are certainly a lot of ways to look at it. When I began making guitars, the person who taught me said that I should just wait and see what I made, because all of my guitars would inevitably sound like mine. The person who taught me violin making said the same. Again, I just repeat this because it was said to me.

Recently I have had the experience of getting very excited about a particular del Gesu that was in the shop for a day. That afternoon I cut a bridge for another instrument of no particular note, and it had exactly the qualities I admired in the del Gesu. Did something rub off on my fingers and end up on the bridge? Did I have the intent so vividly in my mind that I created that myself? I don't know.

Supposedly, players are able to kill a good violin with their playing. I have always attributed that to literal bad vibrations, but it might work to consider it in the same context.

One thing that we don't properly credit those old makers with was their genuine belief in magic, and the strength of their intent in what they did, as a magical practice. "To the glory of God" as they might have put it if asked, since that was their own context.  God? Magic? Intent expressed through fingers by experience?

Regarding the restoration: I know a restorer who manages to kill the spirit in a lot of his restorations. He himself is sort of a buzz-killer, as well, a man of no joy at all. I know a maker who's really a wild man, and makes cellos that sound that way too. It's an interesting problem.

Michael, there are certainly things in this world no scientist can find an explanation for. This is the magic and mysterious side of alchemical wisdom. 

Stradivari was a devout Catholic going to church every Sunday receiving the blessings of the priest and a man standing humbly in the face of God. If modern world deprived anything from humans on this planet it is IMHO standing humbly in this mysterious world. 

We tend to know and have explanations for everything killing the mystery where we can. 

In this sense my thinking about concepts is trying getting away from the explanation schematics and replace it with just an approach. I think on the way there are more things which were not at all discussed here, because they are beyond the comprehension of scientific and logical ideas: Work ethics, discipline and commitment.

This reminds me actually of a YouTube on Japanese swords. In the film they portrait the last craftsmen involved to complete a traditional Japanese sword. And each of them has a mini shrine in his workshop for the ritual morning prayer. They pray for enlightment in their craft, for the power of 100 percent devotion. 

Who can say today that he/she has it? I know at least that I am far away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 2.8k
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

3 hours ago, Violadamore said:

"Above mentioned practical considerations are out of the scope of this work and will not be analyzed here."  :lol:

For those who were frightened away, the linked paper amounts to an exercise in sophomore physics, showing that Gauss's method for calculating electric field strength at a given distance from the source can be applied to acoustic field intensity.  This is hardly earth-shaking (yep, there's a pun), as both are vector fields having divergence (meaning, in this case, that the sound waves can be thought of as being made of little points moving away from a source, like photons leaving a light bulb, where the points are moving away at an angle to each other, and getting farther apart, which is positive divergence), and the application of Gauss's method (which I'll leave the dedicated or deranged to look up) to divergent vector fields in general is well-known.  Compared to current professional level work (geophys seismology papers dependent on beam-tracing, for instance), IMHO, the paper is trivial.

What Quadibloc found is that, according to the paper, by carefully choosing the Gaussian surface used, at a distance close to the source, one can play with the divergence in such a way as to somewhat defeat the inverse-square law.  This fails at long distances.  Everybody here already knows that a fiddle doesn't sound the same under your ear as it does at a distance.  IMHO, by the time the sound reaches the first row of seats, the solutions will return to inverse-square.  :)

Also, IMHO, "what would be most thoroughly hidden behind the equations in the paper" would be that the authors were hunting for a simpler approach to designing loudspeaker arrays than what is currently being done. :rolleyes:

Just want to remind that Stradivari didn't know anything of this stuff...

... those Cremonese masters worked more with trial and error by feeling, a feeling which IMO got largely lost in our modern workshop practice. So the shape and position of the f-holes (just to take this example) came through practice, intuition, trial and error.

Concerning this, I learned from Rene Morel one life changing lesson. When I entered the shop, I was from my family background (my father was a experimental physicist) a very scientific minded person. Rene taught everyone in his shop to work with the hands and not with the brain. The hands and nothing else have the knowledge to restore instruments and creating pieces of art.  He was very consistent in his attitude going as far as writing in the 'Conservation and repair of stringed instruments and their bows' a small article going directly against the approach of the book, trying to describe problems and finding their solutions. (unbelievable!) He advocated the years and years of training to learn the skill at the bench, honing the art of a true craftsman.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Andreas, I will simply repeat this because it was once mentioned to me: There are Strads without their tops, and they sound like Strads; there are Strads with replacement backs, and they sound like Strads. The same person who said this to me commented that before he actually had owned a Strad cello, he had always considered that they were magical. When he finally did get one, he decided that they were just really good. Then after owning it for six months, he said that he switched back to believing in magic. 

There are certainly a lot of ways to look at it. When I began making guitars, the person who taught me said that I should just wait and see what I made, because all of my guitars would inevitably sound like mine. The person who taught me violin making said the same. Again, I just repeat this because it was said to me.

Recently I have had the experience of getting very excited about a particular del Gesu that was in the shop for a day. That afternoon I cut a bridge for another instrument of no particular note, and it had exactly the qualities I admired in the del Gesu. Did something rub off on my fingers and end up on the bridge? Did I have the intent so vividly in my mind that I created that myself? I don't know.

Supposedly, players are able to kill a good violin with their playing. I have always attributed that to literal bad vibrations, but it might work to consider it in the same context.

One thing that we don't properly credit those old makers with was their genuine belief in magic, and the strength of their intent in what they did, as a magical practice. "To the glory of God" as they might have put it if asked, since that was their own context.  God? Magic? Intent expressed through fingers by experience?

Regarding the restoration: I know a restorer who manages to kill the spirit in a lot of his restorations. He himself is sort of a buzz-killer, as well, a man of no joy at all. I know a maker who's really a wild man, and makes cellos that sound that way too. It's an interesting problem.

This maybe much more relevant than our modern viewpoint is inclined to acknowlwedge.

One very broad way of thinking about arts is that each media is shape by artists to make products of a certain nature. Paint to make paintings etc.  But the deeper part is that the media and the products are subtle enough and variable enough to capture not just the 'what' that the artist invests them with, but a much broader state of being that the artist also invests into the work.  So in a way the arts are like a subtle clay that can capture and communicate the subtle aspects and emotions of human experience.

And a violin is a kind of artisan object, and a tool for artists, and a media.  So these issues raised in your post may play a stronger role than are logical selves might readily acknowledge.

Certainly playing is somewhat that way.  There is sort of feed back loops of give the violin what it wants and getting the sound you want.

 

Etx.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

44 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Michael, there are certainly things in this world no scientist can find an explanation for. This is the magic and mysterious side of alchemical wisdom. 

Stradivari was a devout Catholic going to church every Sunday receiving the blessings of the priest and a man standing humbly in the face of God. If modern world deprived anything from humans on this planet it is IMHO standing humbly in this mysterious world. 

We tend to know and have explanations for everything killing the mystery where we can. 

In this sense my thinking about concepts is trying getting away from the explanation schematics and replace it with just an approach. I think on the way there are more things which were not at all discussed here, because they are beyond the comprehension of scientific and logical ideas: Work ethics, discipline and commitment.

This reminds me actually of a YouTube on Japanese swords. In the film they portrait the last craftsmen involved to complete a traditional Japanese sword. And each of them has a mini shrine in his workshop for the ritual morning prayer. They pray for enlightment in their craft, for the power of 100 percent devotion. 

Who can say today that he/she has it? I know at least that I am far away.

I believe in the primary importance of intent, that there is truth in tone...

All the empirical research I have presented was merely in response to questions, an attempt to provide for more empirical bents... none of the information had anything to do with the gaining of my ideas, which were purely gained through intuitive retroductive means and experience with my own hands. For me, this is the real magic, that one can achieve something great through careful intention, and science can only ever flail in frustration at this force of Nature...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, James M. Jones said:

The alpine fir , does it have the blister pockets like our American balsam Fir? Also what do you mean by meager? 

Yes it has blister pockets as well, they are small and if you want to get resin out of them you are gonna spend a very long time.

Meagre ? perhaps it is not the right word or not used properly, sorry.

What I meant is it  looses a big volume when cured and dried, it gives a much thinner ( meagre?)  layer once dry than when applied (fresh ).

It 's a very tough resin , even if collected fresh, it becomes hard very quickly at room temperature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

29 minutes ago, Pylorius said:

I believe in the primary importance of intent, that there is truth in tone...

...intuitive retroductive means and experience with my own hands. For me, this is the real magic, that one can achieve something great through careful intention, and science can only ever flail in frustration at this force of Nature...

I feel the same and agree on this

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Andreas, I will simply repeat this because it was once mentioned to me: There are Strads without their tops, and they sound like Strads; there are Strads with replacement backs, and they sound like Strads.

A Strad with a replacement back, I can believe. After all, the belly is more important. And so that guy on the Lawrence Welk show with his magic Stradivarius seems to be all right.

Being a materialist myself, though, a Strad with a replacement belly... surprises me.

To my materialist way of thinking, there are two possible explanations.

The Stradivarius secret is actually in the ribs, where no one thought of looking!

or

When someone is doing restoration work, with the original around to closely copy, then modern makers are able to manage to do what they can't seem to do on their own.

The second case makes it appear as if poring over those CT scans has a chance of being worthwhile.

Another possibility is that the back contributes some Strad-ness to the violin, enough to overcome the handicap of a belly by a modern maker. But then I'd suspect that this is combined somewhat with expectations, so that a little bit of the Strad magic is perceived as the whole thing. But depending on how it works, it doesn't have to be that way - for example, if the back and belly both provide guidance (some kind of feedback cue) to the player, then 10% of the effect in the violin could still become 90% of the response on the part of the player.

And, oh, if Stradivari knew how to make violins that helped violinists play better, how wonderful it would be if today's luthiers knew that secret.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most of the sound of a drum comes directly from the drumskin. So the drumskin is the most important part?

Certainly the drumskin is not the most defining part.  And it's not really the part that separates one drum maker from another.  A Ludwig drum is still a Ludwig drum even if the drum skin is replaced with another brand.

Even though we've identified the top of the violin as radiating the largest portion of the sound, it isn't automatically the only or necessarily even the most identifying part of a violin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Quadibloc said:

The Stradivarius secret is actually in the ribs, where no one thought of looking! 

A couple of days ago I was feeling for vibrations with my fingertips all over the violin while bowing different strings, and noted that the c-bout ribs had a definite vibration. Less so in the rest of the rib structure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

Since Dünnwald has found that the old Italian violins in question are distinguished by having particularly tall resonant peaks in one particular frequency band, to the exclusion of the "shrill" band below, and the "harsh" band above, we need to find a way for modern luthiers to duplicate this: we need to put our hands on the mysterious "lost secret" of Cremona, or a modern substitute, whatever it may be. Now that we know what we're looking for, I think our vaunted technology is equal to the task.

Dünnwald's frequency response tests strike me as believable though not proved. There is probably more going on in determining what the player likes in an instrument. I draw attention to the recent posts by Mr Darnton in this thread on the player's perception of a cloud of sound, the first being:

Whilst there has been research on radiation patterns, there does not seem to have been such research comparing the most expensive violins with others in terms of radiation patterns. Neither is it much talked about here.

Magic? I can accept that. And if I had a million dollar fiddle I'd probably spend longer practicing.

Another point rarely spoken of, is that whilst a professional should be able make any decent fiddle sound good, and many can, some violinists can impose their own sound on any adequate instrument, and others make a noticeably different sound with different violins and bows. Both kinds of player might still pick a Strad, other things being equal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, David Beard said:

Most of the sound of a drum comes directly from the drumskin. So the drumskin is the most important part?

Certainly the drumskin is not the most defining part.  And it's not really the part that separates one drum maker from another.  A Ludwig drum is still a Ludwig drum even if the drum skin is replaced with another brand.

Even though we've identified the top of the violin as radiating the largest portion of the sound, it isn't automatically the only or necessarily even the most identifying part of a violin.

This time I can't follow your analogy. A drum skin is not formed in any particular way.

A violin top however can have many shapes and even if we take a Strad arching as a kind of standard the logic doesn't work. With the wrong thickness this won't function. The wrong wood with the copied thicknesses won't function either.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

The secret concept might be have a lot of people around working on a lot of violins.  I think modern mass production might have most modern makers beat simply because of the experience and feedback one every couple of hours (or whatever the number is) gives, vs. one every month or so. 

We had one presenter at Oberlin who had received some significant accolades for making good sounding instruments. He said that most of what he had learned about sound came from having regraduated thousands of factory violins, at a previous place of employment. Lots of opportunities to experiment, and got paid while doing it. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread has been generating more opinions than I have been willing or able to keep up with, but I'll just add mine and then give up...

Professional magicians are the ultimate materialists.  They know there is no real "magic", but use basic physics, mechanics, and psychology ... and years of diligent practice to perfect their skills... to become a master of their craft.

Violins, on the other hand, are infinitely more complex in what they do, how they are used, and how they  are judged.   Quantitative analysis and measurements thus far only give a minimal understanding of what's going on, and even less about how to actually make a great instrument.  Latching onto any  of these results risks missing most of the picture.

In the end, it doesn't matter what concept you use... physics, alchemy, numerology, blessings from the church, singing while carving, or other mystical/magical ideas... as long as there is a solid way  to evaluate the results, and a willingness to reject things that don't work and adopt things that do.  

Trial and error, good evaluation, and lots of practice.

Regraduating thousands of instruments seems like a viable approach.   Learning from great makers, and thus absorbing their trial-and-error history, also looks good.

Personally, I still will delve into anything I can about the physics/acoustics, as it is just something I find interesting, and perhaps might help a little... but that's not to take the place of the bold, underlined thing above.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/6/2018 at 1:46 PM, David Beard said:

So in that light, your question becomes: why did the top rim of the sides tend to pull in?

This time I have a bit problems to understand that in English (not your fault). 

If I understand correctly the side of the ribs facing the top are 'pulled in' which means that they are leaning at a slight angle inwards. Is that what you mean?

Well, shrinkage of spruce is a possible explanation. From restoration experience I can definitely say that the top of instruments has a smaller overstand over the ribs and on some older instruments one can clearly see the 'leaning in effect'. (not only on Strad) I actually remember one instrument where this really puzzled me, because the whole ribs seen from below made a curve to align with the leaning in ribs.

On 6/6/2018 at 1:46 PM, David Beard said:

A possible reason might be one or more cycles of wetting and drying of this assembled unit before custom fitting a top to it.

Concerning the wetting I am not sure how much sense this makes on a top. I do it as long as the plate is thick and then I make it pretty wet. But the thinner I go the more cautious I become because wetting can cause serious cracks.

For the length, spruce is along the grain much more stable than maple, so in theory the back should become shorter, or not?(Scratching my head) 

Concerning Strad, there is no fixed rule to the difference in length. One problem is certainly that he might have not looked at the angle of the ribs at the top and lower block allowing some inaccuracies. In any case the equation goes 

top length =< back length and the differences (as measured in the 1987 exhibition book) on violins is between 0mm and 2mm.

This makes me think, it was not through wetting but more trying to adjust to get the measurements (or balance?) perfectly right. But at the same time this doesn't knock down the idea that plates were at some point wetted in the making process.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

. as long as there is a solid way  to evaluate the results

So in spite of the conciliatory words, you come down as a materialist at the end of it?

For quite a long time I have been blaming the Industrial Revolution for the downfall of violin making. Thanks to the present discussion, I am realizing that the rise of attitudes derived from materialist philosophy had an equal part in it. I guess the two factors really did have to work hand-in-hand to change the world. Never made the connection before.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

So in spite of the conciliatory words, you come down as a materialist at the end of it?

I don't see a need to choose between one approach and the other. If I have some post-Stradivari physics notions that seem to lead to enhanced outcomes, I'll use them. If I found that having instruments blessed by the church made them better, I'd do that too (as long as one didn't end up negating the benefit of the other). ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

To give the belly more importance than the back in sound production, is in my view, ridiculously simplistic. The whole violin works on every note. But the back, I think, is essential for the range of colour and volume available to the player. 

Conor, I made the experiment with two violin tops one sounded good the other bad. When I switched them the good one on the wrong body still sounded good and the bad one sounded bad. Both backs had good thicknesses. 

However only if a back is getting too thick and stiff the sound is getting small like a Chinese instrument from the 80s.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

We had one presenter at Oberlin who had received some significant accolades for making good sounding instruments. He said that most of what he had learned about sound came from having regraduated thousands of factory violins, at a previous place of employment. Lots of opportunities to experiment, and got paid while doing it. :)

Would be interesting to learn from this maker something about the most important trigger points on the violin.

(gives me some ideas as an employer. However I heard that the Japanese method is less time consuming: take the label out replace it with a sellable 'brandname'. )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Conor, I made the experiment with two violin tops one sounded good the other bad. When I switched them the good one on the wrong body still sounded good and the bad one sounded bad. Both backs had good thicknesses. 

However only if a back is getting too thick and stiff the sound is getting small like a Chinese instrument from the 80s.

 

 

that's very interesting and supports my simple yet slowly developing ideas about violins :)

of course the back is important too, but meaybe easier to get right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Furse said:

Having your instruments blessed by a certain church, or the elders thereof,  has certainly worked in the past . . .;)

yes, but which church and/or religion.. time for another double blind test?  :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Furse said:

Having your instruments blessed by a certain church, or the elders thereof,  has definitely worked in the past . . .;)

I think blessings don't make an instrument better. A blessing is more the acknowledgement for any efforts someone made and the encouragement to continue to become better. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, Emilg said:

that's very interesting and supports my simple yet slowly developing ideas about violins :)

of course the back is important too, but meaybe easier to get right?

Something like that. That's why I put the adjustment of the back as one of the later steps in my concept. As long as you don't thin down the center too much the back should work. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Professional magicians are the ultimate materialists.

That reminds me of James Randi, "The Amazing Randi", who went from being a successful stage magician to promoting skeptical thinking.

And, of course, there was Houdini, who devoted efforts to debunking spiritualists, who he saw as profaning the skills of his craft to defraud people.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...