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Stradivari's secret was a concept?


Andreas Preuss
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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

 

But how about this as another hypothesis: If he did indeed use some kind of heat treatment for his wood (as oral history indicates), and some kinds of heat treatment result in reduced equilibrium moisture content, could that have made them less susceptible to distortion (even though they seem to be more susceptible to cracking)?

There's quite a lot of reference material about this - I think I read it in the Millant book. Vuillaume experimented with torrefied wood, but abandoned it because the tonal benefits weren't long term.

Unfortunately the book and I are temporarily separated ...

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well I haven’t done blind tests but I am absolutely convinced of the essential inferiority of the average Vuillaume when compared to the average Strad

but Michael Darnton’s point was that almost all modern makers have somehow found themselves copying Vuillaume rather than Classical Italian making.

wasn’t it?

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36 minutes ago, martin swan said:

well I haven’t done blind tests but I am absolutely convinced of the essential inferiority of the average Vuillaume when compared to the average Strad

but Michael Darnton’s point was that almost all modern makers have somehow found themselves copying Vuillaume rather than Classical Italian making.

wasn’t it?

I don't think I've ever run across a contemporary maker who said that they were copying Vuillaume. However, if some of them were making a more rounded long-arch on the top, I can see how someone might be inclined to interpret it that way.

Wish I had a chance to examine the instruments used in the Fritz et al studies, and see if any patterns between arching,  and player/listener preference are evident.

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fullsizeoutput_f3.thumb.jpeg.966197d7ecd443a7d8d7a48cdf72d19c.jpeg

Here's an arch of mine. The back arch is skewed in the photo. The lens is even with the belly's edge.

I expect the belly's long arch to change from the string tension. As you can see it's not a catenary curve. I think that some might have the false impression that the long arch should be a catenary due to my use of a chain. But it doesn't have to be that way. 

I should add that it's up to the makers' choice how much to dig away in the extreme portions of the belly, near the end blocks. For this I have chosen to stay fairly close to Sacconi's illustration no 68 on page 72 which shows the internal long arch.

It's my interpretation of Cremonese arches as they were originally. Due to the difference in thickness, the back arch is more curved than the belly.

Now you can judge.

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Why do some Vuillaumes seem to show less distortion on the top? I mentioned earlier the possibility that having had a chance to observe 200+ years of deterioration on old violins, Vuillaume made the top archings different in the first place, in anticipation of future distortion. This was around the same time that mortised (rather than nailed necks) started being used, probably because it made resetting necks much easier, the need for which is also an artifact of distortion. So some things about distortion were being noticed, and compensations made.

Vuillaumes are much younger than Strads and Amatis.

But how about this as another hypothesis: If he did indeed use some kind of heat treatment for his wood (as oral history indicates), and some kinds of heat treatment result in reduced equilibrium moisture content, could that have made them less susceptible to distortion (even though they seem to be more susceptible to cracking)?

My interpretation is another

The great Cremonese masters have been the least anxious ones about top-center-stability. Exactly by this same reason they also didn´t see a need for a big central arch-elevation but concentrated on other needs (e.g. of more acoustical nature). 

Most other makers, even those of Venzia of the same time( more german-school-influenced), and many following generations of makers in the whole world were and are more anxious - they believed and believe to must protect their central top-areas ---> more central thickness and more central curved long-arching.

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4 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

The great Cremonese masters have been the least anxious ones about top-center-stability. Exactly by this same reason they also didn´t see a need for a big central arch-elevation but concentrated on other needs (e.g. of more acoustical nature).

The arch on a Stainer is generally believed to be there for an acoustical reason - not because Stainer anticipated the much higher string tensions that would come to be used by much later players, but to help get the sweetness of tone for which his instruments were much admired.

Also, the way you have phrased this - I don't think you are necessarily making this mistake - seems to put the cart before the horse. Maybe the great Cremonese makers wanted to protect the arches of their violins from caving in under pressur as much as anyone, but they felt themselves compelled to compromise on this point in order to achieve the sonic goals they could only achieve in this way.

So I am saying that one shouldn't give a careless reader the impression that first the Cremonese makers were lackadaisical about the structural integrity of their violins, and then later made the happy discovery that this allowed them to make the violins sound better. I feel sure the sound came first.

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2 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

The arch on a Stainer is generally believed to be there for an acoustical reason - not because Stainer anticipated the much higher string tensions that would come to be used by much later players, but to help get the sweetness of tone for which his instruments were much admired.

Also, the way you have phrased this - I don't think you are necessarily making this mistake - seems to put the cart before the horse. Maybe the great Cremonese makers wanted to protect the arches of their violins from caving in under pressur as much as anyone, but they felt themselves compelled to compromise on this point in order to achieve the sonic goals they could only achieve in this way.

So I am saying that one shouldn't give a careless reader the impression that first the Cremonese makers were lackadaisical about the structural integrity of their violins, and then later made the happy discovery that this allowed them to make the violins sound better. I feel sure the sound came first.

Yes, you are right : I overpronounced or formulated bad. Most probably the old Cremonese masters only made a different weighting between stability and sound. The sound came first, as you have said.

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On 6/10/2018 at 7:05 PM, Jerry Pasewicz said:

1. My point being, to learn and understand the the lessons from the past BEFORE the new ideas, and not dismissing them out of ignorance.  

[...]

2. This I disagree with strongly. [...] Someone worthy of the term “master” In my view is a teacher that has every desire to have students surpass her/his expertise in the field, and sees the teaching as an essential part of that expertise which also needs to be mastered.

Let me answer your second point first, Jerry.

In the ideal case you have a teacher who wants you to develop gain experience under his supervision and guidance. No question about it. They will teach as well the lessons they have learned of trial and error which makes our most valuable assessment: Experience. Not every one is fortunate enough to have such a teacher. In the end you could actually say that the true problem in our craft is the lack of engaged teachers especially outside of violin making schools where you gain real life experience.

Concerning the first point I would actually like to hear some  examples what lessons and how you learned those lessons from the past in making new instruments.

I see that we often take something as written in stone which prevents us to re-think it for getting a better understanding.

Did Strad get approval from Amati for changing things up to 1688? Unfortunately we don't know. What had the great masters in mind when they made changes to the things considered as 'normal' in their days? Would we see a Strad G mould and a Strad style f-hole paired with a new ideas for the arching if he hadn't evolved from the Amati way of doing things?

Maybe lessons in the past were different in the time of Stradivari but still today we live in a world where music evolves slowly creating new demands and I don't see any point why this should simply stop at thinking of better set-up.

And this brings me right back where I started this thread. Aren't we doing all too often changes without thinking of a whole concept? Isn't the fundamental lesson we can learn from Cremonese violin making just that working with a flexible concept works better than trying to interpret all sorts of data starting from caliper measurements up to computerized data?

As Michael Darnton has pointed out it might be no coincidence that the decline of violin making started at the dawn of industrial revolution created by the advance in all sorts of scientific fields.

 

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58 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

  Isn't the fundamental lesson we can learn from Cremonese violin making just that working with a flexible concept works better than trying to interpret all sorts of data starting from caliper measurements up to computerized data?

Yes.

 I read where this one maker was trying his hand at steaming belly wood instead of the Cremonese way of carving.  Then I think there was going to be a pine neck instead of maple neck for the pegbox graph.  The scroll appears to be a real nice piece of work.  Flexible concept on his behalf?  So far, yes.

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15 hours ago, martin swan said:

but Michael Darnton’s point was that almost all modern makers have somehow found themselves copying Vuillaume rather than Classical Italian making.

I certainly agree that modern makers use Stradivari, and not Vuillaume, as their model.

However, those who believe modern makers cannot measure up to Stradivari will, I believe, lump them and Vuillaume together as makers without access to the secret of Stradivari.  Some may think that Vuillaume is still better, as he still had other aspects of craftsmanship we've lost, and others may prefer modern makers, as they have had the oportunity to rediscover a few things from Stradivari that Vuillaume did not know: but since I don't know if Stradivari's reputation is fully deserved, I'm not ready to go on to worry about this other question.

I don't know about Michael Darnton, but somebody seems to have been claiming in this thread that modern makers ought to be copying Vuillaume's arching in order to better copy Stradivari's arching: the flattening of the top arch is not how the violins were made, it is just how they have collapsed under the pressure of the bridge. Whoever it is that is advocating this, I don't believe it for one minute.

It seems obvious to me that the reduced rise in the middle of the arch as viewed from the side is intentional, as it is highly symmetric, and the effects of collapse under bridge pressure, as illustrated by a photo in this thread, can be distinguished from that.

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I think you have misunderstood the debate.

If I understood Michael's interjection correctly, he was saying that while almost all modern makers copy the Classical Cremonese, very few have noticed what the table arching actually looks like, and instead use a constant curve "a la Vuillaume" (though of course not invented by Vuillaume).

When we talk about "model" in violin-making circles, we are largely talking about the outline or the form or mold, though there would be an expectation that the arching would make some attempt to emulate the original.

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

I think you have misunderstood the debate.

If I understood Michael's interjection correctly, he was saying that while almost all modern makers copy the Classical Cremonese, very few have noticed what the table arching actually looks like, and instead use a constant curve "a la Vuillaume" (though of course not invented by Vuillaume).

 

I think it's erroneous to make such generalizations about modern makers. Some try to make copies of Classical Cremonese, others do not. Some have copied Classical Cremonese archings as we see them today (and there's quite a wide variety there to choose from), and some do not. Should we be copying archings which have gone swaybacked on the top, or the cross-arching asymmetry on the back which comes from soundpost pressure, easily seen on CT scans? My feeling is that we should not. We don't have any of these instruments fresh-off-the-bench, so even when one is trying to do a copy,  it will involve some judgement calls.

A convenient example of the error in trying to lump all modern makers together can be found right here, with Andreas Preuss, and his super-light-violin project. When a maker decides to do something differently, It may have nothing whatsoever to do with failure to notice how things are on classical Cremonese instruments. One can also find his thoughts behind the instrument he entered in the Moscow competition, which I and the other judges found highly impressive.

Another example, which can be found right here on this page, is Torbjorn's arching strategy. Could the outcome be considered to be "a la Vuillaume", to some people, if they were intent on seeing it that way? I suppose. Not all makers approach things the same way, so what value is there in pretending that they do?

Something interesting to consider about Vuillaume, though: The classical Cremonese instruments he had to copy, were much fresher than what we have to copy today.

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On ‎6‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 3:07 AM, Michael Darnton said:

Vuillaume, of course, wasn't in this tradition, didn't have it's problems to undo, and added to that he was a genuinely great expert with immense exposure to Cremonese instruments, AND total respect for them. In particular, his Cannone copies are commonly acknowledged to be among his very best work. It doesn't surprise me at all, especially since I have handled some great violins of his, that a great Vuillaume would beat most and perhaps all modern makers, in a general way. Of course, specifically, some Walter Dumpsch violin may beat some Antonio Stradivari violin in the hand of some particular player on some day, on some music in some hall. But I'm talking about the mass of evidence and preference here, since that IS what this discussion is about: overall concepts.

Vuillaume vindicated. Thank you Michael. I think he is an easy target for unjust criticism.

I think David Beard's point about a wrong turn in some luthiers' arching concept since Vuillaume should be perhaps descibed in the context of JBV greatly helping in making Both Stradiviari and definitely del Gesu household names and inviting some bad interpretations of supposedly classical Cremonese arching? Perhaps this is your interpretation too? It is a reasonable one I think.

 But I also think that the whole issue of arching is open to interpretation and that all the great makers did not have a rigid arching concept at any point in their career. They didn't have time to overthink it, they worked quickly and effectively and every instrument had slightly different arching.  I also believe that the arching must change over time due to the effects of high and low humidity, string pressure and cross grain shrinking.

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44 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I think it's erroneous to make such generalizations about modern makers. Some try to make copies of Classical Cremonese, others do not. Some have copied Classical Cremonese archings as we see them today (and there's quite a wide variety there to choose from), and some do not. Should we be copying archings which have gone swaybacked on the top, or the cross-arching asymmetry on the back which comes from soundpost pressure, easily seen on CT scans? My feeling is that we should not. We don't have any of these instruments fresh-off-the-bench, so even when one is trying to do a copy,  it will involve some judgement calls.

A convenient example of the error in trying to lump all modern makers together can be found right here, with Andreas Preuss, and his super-light-violin project. When a maker decides to do something differently, It may have nothing whatsoever to do with failure to notice how things are on classical Cremonese instruments. One can also find his thoughts behind the instrument he entered in the Moscow competition, which I and the other judges found highly impressive.

Another example, which can be found right here on this page, is Torbjorn's arching strategy. Could the outcome be considered to be "a la Vuillaume", to some people, if they were intent on seeing it that way? I suppose. Not all makers approach things the same way, so what value is there in pretending that they do?

Something interesting to consider about Vuillaume, though: The classical Cremonese instruments he had to copy, were much fresher than what we have to copy today.

I accept all that - I was trying to explain to Quadibloc what was actually being discussed, rather than taking a position myself! 

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21 hours ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

fullsizeoutput_f3.thumb.jpeg.966197d7ecd443a7d8d7a48cdf72d19c.jpeg

Here's an arch of mine. The back arch is skewed in the photo. The lens is even with the belly's edge.

I expect the belly's long arch to change from the string tension. As you can see it's not a catenary curve. I think that some might have the false impression that the long arch should be a catenary due to my use of a chain. But it doesn't have to be that way. 

I should add that it's up to the makers' choice how much to dig away in the extreme portions of the belly, near the end blocks. For this I have chosen to stay fairly close to Sacconi's illustration no 68 on page 72 which shows the internal long arch.

It's my interpretation of Cremonese arches as they were originally. Due to the difference in thickness, the back arch is more curved than the belly.

Now you can judge.

Do you really think the lengthwise belly arch can visibly sink in? Lengthwise spruce fibers are extremly stiff and resistant so I would assume the sinking-in during the stretch-in period (first 5 years or so) is almost invisible. 

 

 

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53 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Do you really think the lengthwise belly arch can visibly sink in? Lengthwise spruce fibers are extremly stiff and resistant so I would assume the sinking-in during the stretch-in period (first 5 years or so) is almost invisible. 

 

 

Original arching template, versus the arching after some humidity cycling under string tension:

archingdistort.jpg

Jeffrey Holmes and I know of one highly-acclaimed restorer, who does some mild arching correction on a particular cello every few years (it goes flat or swaybacked in the center), because that's what it takes to get it sounding  good again, and keep it on the performing circuit.

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9 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

>

As Michael Darnton has pointed out it might be no coincidence that the decline of violin making started at the dawn of industrial revolution created by the advance in all sorts of scientific fields.

 

I think the decline in violin making started when violin restoration became more lucrative than violin making.

 

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58 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I think the decline in violin making started when violin restoration became more lucrative than violin making.

 

:lol:   I think you might be right. There was a long period of time when the money just wasn't there, for a good maker to do their best work. Sacconi could make a pretty nice fiddle, but made very few of them. He was primarily a restorer.

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

I accept all that - I was trying to explain to Quadibloc what was actually being discussed, rather than taking a position myself! 

And what I imagined I saw may not have arisen from a post by Michael Darnton, but by one of the replies taking issue with him.

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

 

3 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Do you really think the lengthwise belly arch can visibly sink in? Lengthwise spruce fibers are extremly stiff and resistant so I would assume the sinking-in during the stretch-in period (first 5 years or so) is almost invisible. 

 

 

Original arching template, versus the arching after some humidity cycling under string tension:

 

So your original arch shape descended all the way to edge with no channel???

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