Quadibloc

How Do You Make a Violin More Responsive, More Expressive?

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23 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

1.  The problem I have with the masterclass at :58 is that I know where this lack of separation and clarity in notes comes from.

2.  Sure, a great violinist can do those things on a tin can,  but a great violin does separation and clarity on its own, for almost everyone. 

1.  If given the chance could you make her violin better?  Just by listening one time thru I get the feeling that she's using a slightly, heavy belly.  There wasn't much to get excited about with her high note playing thus my thinking she has a heavy instrument.  Maybe more meat on her arm bones and or maybe heavier bow could change things too.  Quadbloc wants to know how to makes things better and you or any other set up guru could provide expert opinion.

2.  She needs a better violin in regards to ease of playing.  Towards the end she was coming through with what the instructor wanted.   

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

...

The problem I have with the masterclass at :58 is that I know where this lack of separation and clarity in notes comes from. Sure, a great violinist can do those things on a tin can,  but a great violin does separation and clarity on its own, for almost everyone. ...

It is fairly bad by old-fashioned standards, a bit xylophone-like. Odd really since the tone factors (bow speed, weight, sounding point and hair angle) are all varied. The concept of sound, and the way the fingers hit the strings and vibrate may not help.

Whilst that fiddle may not be ideal for her, the implication that a better fiddle would solve the problem is less obvious. It is not that a good violinist can make any fiddle sound great: a good violinst can make any properly made and set up violin sound like they usually sound. If you think that by putting the Cannone into her hands, or one of your Cannone copies, the drawbacks of the performance you mention would largely be removed, then I must accept that, in spite of wondering whether it is over-optimistic about how much a fine violin can give.

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The problem here is that I have the opportunity to do such experiments--putting Strads and del Gesus, etc. in the hands of people who don't know it, then watching the results-- all the time, and do, so I sort of have an idea of what happens. Also, I'm not saying that my Cannone copies are virtual Cannones--I am far too aware of the shortcomings off the violins I make, sell, adjust, etc. I also get to hear excellent players trying to mash their way through variously crummy violins, looking for students, egging me on to fix what's wrong, and I hear what they don't like, then I look for it in the real world. There have been periods in my shop in the last few months where a player could play three del Gesus, a Strad, and an Amati in the space of five minutes, and you'd better believe that I suck everything I can out of these opportunities. So, yeah, I've seen lots of mid-range students pick up a fine violin I've slipped blind into a line-up of instruments they're testing, and seen what happens to the way they sound. The fun thing is that they mostly get it, too. Players really are not as stupid as Maestronetters think they are!

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2 hours ago, uncle duke said:

1.  If given the chance could you make her violin better? 

It's hard to tell. I don't think the post is fitting well where it is. I can imagine a couple of things to do to the bridge if they haven't already been done. I don't much care for the basic sound of it, though. I am wondering about the balance of the grads on the back--whether they are like 1890s French style.... I'd really have to hear and and touch it to know.

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On 7/3/2018 at 9:34 AM, Carl Stross said:

The reputation of Stradivari has no pernicious effects on the acceptance of violins from modern makers. Quite the contrary, it greatly helped modern makers - on who's shoulders do you think they climbed in order to ask $30k for $500 in materials and two weeks of relaxed work ? Remove the Strad myth and a violin becomes a $150 utilitarian object. Which is what it actually is for most intents and purposes. But not for all.

This is an interesting comment, as it looks at things from a perspective I haven't considered.

I would have assumed that with or without Stradivari, violins costing from $500 to $6000 by modern makers would have stayed the same. People would want, for musical purposes, violins that are better than a $200 student violin - and these prices for violins, unlike the auction prices for old instruments, are not inflated.

And what I think of as the myth of Stradivari is the notion that even, say, a decent Guadagnini is so vastly better than anything a modern maker could produce that there is no comparison. If that is a myth, then the violins by modern makers are unjustly dismissed. It is this myth, not the existence of Stradivari as someone who showed that great violins are possible, that I saw as detrimental.

The picture I'm starting to form is this:

Perhaps there are some modern makers whose violins are comparable to the old Cremonese ones. But they don't have to advertise that - and they don't want to be confused with the cranks who claim to have rediscovered Stradivari's secret. The reason is, since they're making good violins, they have long waiting lists.

But I'm still uncertain about parts of this picture. Many people dismiss Nagyvary as a crank. But he isn't just using mineral-saturated wood, he is using older wood. And one Swedish study found that a piece of treated lumber one modern luthier accidentally used was the one that fell into the range of properties that the wood in old Cremonese instruments had. So the notion that a reasonable wood treatment to protect from worms might also benefit the sound doesn't appear necessarily absurd to me - although the point recently raised, that spruce has an extreme difference between with-grain and cross-grain strength, and so any magic wood treatment would be equivalent to switching to some other wood makes sense too.

And while Dr. William Fry made some bold claims - which always raises the suspicion that someone is mistaken - some of what he has found makes sense.

And what of Carleen Hutchins? Sure, some elements of the violin octet may be misguided. The lack of concern for ergonomics dismays me - but, one must remember, it was designed before there were personal computers, so people weren't getting carpal tunnel syndrome from mice, and thus RSI awareness was much lower then. It is, in theory, a good idea to have an instrument filling the gap between the viola and the cello - but when will music be written to use this new instrument?

In any case, thanks to Suzuki, if we want an instrument between the viola and the cello, we just have to get a 1/2 size (or even 3/4 size?) cello, and put different strings on it.

But her efforts on plate tuning seem methodical and scientific. I suppose that if modern luthiers are making violins that are excellent by more traditional methods, chasing after Chladni patterns is a waste of time and effort - that's something they would know, but it's not something I know for sure just yet. It may be that like graduating from the outside, techniques like Chladni patterns can be used to make a prototype - from which the knowledge needed to use the simpler method of tap tones subsequently can be obtained.

A technique or set of techniques that lets ordinary luthiers, or beginning luthiers, proceed to making quality instruments without the opportunity to learn from a master would also be valuable. Which is why I had high hopes for Patrick Kreit's book.

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I don’t see why you would have “high hopes” for Patrick Kreit’s book unless you were planning to make a violin according to his method and then compare it with a Stradivari ...

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12 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

>

>I am far too aware of the shortcomings of the violins I make..

>

Do you have any theories on what causes these shortcomings?

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I don't quite understand either, why you would have high hopes for any violin book if you don't play and you don't make,, and mamma don't play and she don't smoke,,

are you in need of a cause? and like the legend of the unreachable star ,,,,,,,,,,,,the echelon of perfection,,,,,,,,,,

Are you are just a seeker for seekers sake?   It's all along the journey that perfection is found, not the end. You are shown the perfection at the end.

So to be on the journey is of paramount importance, for where there is no journey, all is already lost.     Fair enough.

Looking over the legend of Stradiveri, Del Gesu, Bergonzi, Amati, and their long lost list of camaraderie?  Is it true? Sure, I think so.

You would like to see the information on how to make a strad every time,,, spread to the world so that everyone that played would have a good instrument to play,,,, that is a noble enough cause, it would boost music and the ease of the performance of it, and make it easier and more pleasurable for those that perform it.

Rolls Royce is not going to go to KIA and say let us give you all of our top technology because we believe that everyone deserves a good car,, not gonna happen, not in the current spiritual state of this planet. Cars are much easier to make than great fiddles, they can be easily mass produced by the millions, all the same, over and over.

Violins are like nature, everything is different, snowflakes are different, billions of leaves,, yet they are all a bit different.

Every violin is a bit different, and to make a great one, the bullseye is always moving a bit, never exactly the same, but you know that you're in the right city and the neighborhood is one more block on the right,, now just have to find the right address and we're home. The target is larger the further away from perfection that you get, some only get to the state, some to the city, some to the neighborhood, and some go all the way home. It's really not an abc cookbook solution.

Kreits book has some amazing research I am sure, and to learn it is not going to hinder you, it will provide you with the knowledge to learn to control the properties of the wood. That is a good thing, will it make a strad sound? I am the wrong one to answer that question.

Is carleen H right,,, of course she is, right as rain, without it you die, she showed the building blocks of the structure that we built, the stiffness's, the weights,,, and experimented a lot with the manipulation of these,,,,,, Does it make the strad sound,, no,, no way.

Why?

You can get to the numbers with a million and one different graduations and arching schemes,  and the graduations do a lot more than just getting to a certain number. Some work well, some don't, but all with the same stiffness numbers.

Is Dunnwald real? Yes in a way,, he did find what he believed was a significant measurable difference, indicating that the sound wasn't just your imagination. The bottom line is duplicating those numbers don't necessarily give a good violin at all,,, especially a strad. In fact,,, if the numbers are all you are shooting for,,, you'll probably build junk. The pattern of numbers  is the artifact of their method,, not the focal point.

Any violin can sound sweet and any violin can be rough and harsh and all of them burn about the same. That's why violas are a better investment, they are harder to light,,, no fire wants to get caught burning a viola.

A tall arch does not equate sweet anymore than it always rains on Thursdays in the odd numbered months. A flat arched fiddle can be sweet,, I think that you mix up sweet and the actual frequency  make up.

How to improve the tone,,,

There are basic ways and information that is  available,,,but how will you prove them if you don't make?

Any way just rambling on about some of your questions,

Evan

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2 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Do you have any theories on what causes these shortcomings?

Great question, Marty. 

I think some of it is wood treatment and ground. At least I will continue to believe that for as long as I can see the differences between "their" wood and ground and mine. I am sure some of it is age, but I don't use that as an excuse as JBV and so many other makers have, and claim that in 100 years I will be recognized as equal or better than Stradivari, as JBV claimed. Some of it is structural, and I am constantly discovering new things in that regard, still. Thankfully, in my work I'm presented with a regular constant flow of great violins, and have made a game out of finding the ways that apparently very different violins from that period in Cremona are the same in ways that I haven't previously realized. You can't believe how important the understanding of that aspect of it--the commonalities of apparently radically different violins--is to reverse engineering the underlying concept of what they were trying to do!

Teaching the summer workshop for 13 years has been an unpredictable asset in this--I didn't realize until a couple of years ago how this has required me to formulate verbalizations for many of the things I barely intuited previously, or even to look deeper so that I could have an answer for student questions. A lot of time when they've asked "how did Stradivari do this" I've been forced to look at some new little twitch that I had always done by rote without thinking about the underlying idea, but which to explain I had to understand, and the understanding helped fill in a blank about Cremonese process. Sometimes students have just flat-out shown me things that I had never seen myself, and would never have found on my own, like the time a few years ago when a student mapped inflection points on her back arching, which gave me a whole new perspective on Cremonese arching (I guess someone from Oberlin is starting to explore this issue?)

Did you know that the upper point on nearly every Stradivari f-hole forms a level, not tilted, equilateral triangle of about 105 degrees, with a few exceptions? Small stuff like that come from directing students. A lecture I gave to the Michigan Violin Makers Association in May forced me to map out in photos, then try to understand, the transition in f-holes from Andrea Amati to Stradivari, which directly resulted in another interesting discovery that I had never noticed before.

I'm not claiming to be a great maker, by the way--just because I can see this stuff it doesn't follow that I can do it perfectly. :-) I think I'm a lot better coach than maker. It's also made me a lot better, more observant, expert in the context of being a partner in a  fancy violin shop.

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Nice ramble Evan. I like the location analogy. Right now I’m more of a look around and see where I am. Then see if I can get to a nicer neighborhood with set-up. 

You even through in a new viola joke. :lol:  Hey wait, I’m making a viola. <_<

Cheers,

Jim

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59 minutes ago, Evan Smith said:

I don't quite understand either, why you would have high hopes for any violin book if you don't play and you don't make,, and mamma don't play and she don't smoke,,

are you in need of a cause? and like the legend of the unreachable star ,,,,,,,,,,,,the echelon of perfection,,,,,,,,,,

Are you are just a seeker for seekers sake?   It's all along the journey that perfection is found, not the end. You are shown the perfection at the end.

So to be on the journey is of paramount importance, for where there is no journey, all is already lost.     Fair enough.

Looking over the legend of Stradiveri, Del Gesu, Bergonzi, Amati, and their long lost list of camaraderie?  Is it true? Sure, I think so.

You would like to see the information on how to make a strad every time,,, spread to the world so that everyone that played would have a good instrument to play,,,, that is a noble enough cause, it would boost music and the ease of the performance of it, and make it easier and more pleasurable for those that perform it.

Rolls Royce is not going to go to KIA and say let us give you all of our top technology because we believe that everyone deserves a good car,, not gonna happen, not in the current spiritual state of this planet. Cars are much easier to make than great fiddles, they can be easily mass produced by the millions, all the same, over and over.

Violins are like nature, everything is different, snowflakes are different, billions of leaves,, yet they are all a bit different.

Every violin is a bit different, and to make a great one, the bullseye is always moving a bit, never exactly the same, but you know that you're in the right city and the neighborhood is one more block on the right,, now just have to find the right address and we're home. The target is larger the further away from perfection that you get, some only get to the state, some to the city, some to the neighborhood, and some go all the way home. It's really not an abc cookbook solution.

Kreits book has some amazing research I am sure, and to learn it is not going to hinder you, it will provide you with the knowledge to learn to control the properties of the wood. That is a good thing, will it make a strad sound? I am the wrong one to answer that question.

Is carleen H right,,, of course she is, right as rain, without it you die, she showed the building blocks of the structure that we built, the stiffness's, the weights,,, and experimented a lot with the manipulation of these,,,,,, Does it make the strad sound,, no,, no way.

Why?

You can get to the numbers with a million and one different graduations and arching schemes,  and the graduations do a lot more than just getting to a certain number. Some work well, some don't, but all with the same stiffness numbers.

Is Dunnwald real? Yes in a way,, he did find what he believed was a significant measurable difference, indicating that the sound wasn't just your imagination. The bottom line is duplicating those numbers don't necessarily give a good violin at all,,, especially a strad. In fact,,, if the numbers are all you are shooting for,,, you'll probably build junk. The pattern of numbers  is the artifact of their method,, not the focal point.

Any violin can sound sweet and any violin can be rough and harsh and all of them burn about the same. That's why violas are a better investment, they are harder to light,,, no fire wants to get caught burning a viola.

A tall arch does not equate sweet anymore than it always rains on Thursdays in the odd numbered months. A flat arched fiddle can be sweet,, I think that you mix up sweet and the actual frequency  make up.

How to improve the tone,,,

There are basic ways and information that is  available,,,but how will you prove them if you don't make?

Any way just rambling on about some of your questions,

Evan

Going to print this out and stick it on my wall.

Evan, you may play the fool but you are on it!

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I guess I stand alone here in thinking that the idea that the whole of violin making is all a hopeless muck of conflicting factoids with no order or underlying system is somehow not very inspirational. or informative?

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Well no wonder my painting sucks! I don't use an Arabic Nestle ice cream container to mix my paint in!

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

I guess I stand alone here in thinking that the idea that the whole of violin making is all a hopeless muck of conflicting factoids with no order is somehow not very inspirational. or informative?

There does appear to be a tendency to look for a simple formula for greatness, and no shortage of folks trying to provide it.  I also notice that the modern makers known to produce consistently good instruments are not among those attempting to provide "the answer".  Some would claim that the good makers are keeping "the answer" a secret.

I see violin making as a problem with infinite variables and no known answer, therefore there is no simple formula.  The best makers know that, and have no secret to give that would help.  Most of what they know is already out there, somewhere in the muck, if you can filter it out.

My current formula:  Good wood.... good arching.... reasonable graduations.... don't ruin it with bad varnish.... and at least 10 years of experience with exposure to quality instruments and good players.

But really, the answer is: 42 :P

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I don't think that a system of making is a single formula, nor magical. Nor do I think that it's a blip in the randomness of the universe that Cremonese violins appear to be different and special, and a coincidence that they all have enough in common to be recognized as a distinct group.

But I will also point out that the finest violin makers through history even to the present do appear mostly to be looking there for hints, not to Fussen or Rome.

I wonder what it is in the personalities of violin makers that they so resist the idea that what they are doing is a craft, not an art, derived from a common design, not whim.

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59 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

what they are doing is a craft, not an art, derived from a common design, not whim.

That was precisely the point of the video I linked to ...

What sort of training and culture are required to arrive at that level of mastery?

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

I don’t see why you would have “high hopes” for Patrick Kreit’s book unless you were planning to make a violin according to his method and then compare it with a Stradivari ...

Well, one thing I might be hoping for is that there would be a rash of people who do make violins out there  that start turning out violins that compare well to a Stradivari.

Or, another way of putting it, I can hope that it delivers on its promises to the people who spent money on it for their sakes.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

There does appear to be a tendency to look for a simple formula for greatness, and no shortage of folks trying to provide it.  I also notice that the modern makers known to produce consistently good instruments are not among those attempting to provide "the answer".  Some would claim that the good makers are keeping "the answer" a secret.

I see violin making as a problem with infinite variables and no known answer, therefore there is no simple formula.  The best makers know that, and have no secret to give that would help.  Most of what they know is already out there, somewhere in the muck, if you can filter it out.

My current formula:  Good wood.... good arching.... reasonable graduations.... don't ruin it with bad varnish.... and at least 10 years of experience with exposure to quality instruments and good players.

I don't think there's a magic shortcut either. And I agree with you that claims to have found the Secret of Stradivari do seem to be the mark of a crank.

Maxim Vengerov may be an extreme case, but high praise has been given to the violins of Stradivari. Some of that praise seems difficult to dismiss.

So I'm loking for pointers to the information that will enable me to draw some conclusions on this issue. The characteristic in which Stradivari's violins are said to excell: how are good modern makers doing in that department, and how do they attend to it?

If a book like Patrick Kreit's could let people tell what wood is good, and let people graduate plates properly, even if they lack the opportunity to have extensive exposure to good instruments, or an apprenticeship with a master of violin making, that would be a good thing. But I don't see that as a shortcut - making a violin would still take work and patience. It does shorten one aspect of the process, by allowing certain knowledge to be wrapped up in a box and sent out, instead of being imparted directly and personally.

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3 hours ago, Evan Smith said:

A tall arch does not equate sweet anymore than it always rains on Thursdays in the odd numbered months. A flat arched fiddle can be sweet,, I think that you mix up sweet and the actual frequency  make up.

I don't claim that if you copy Stainer's arching, you will automatically get a violin that sounds like one of Stainer's. After all, look at how many student violins are copies of the Salabue/Mesiah Stradivarius, and they don't sound like a Stradivarius!

However, I had thought that part of the process of making a violin is to pick an arching - and a flatter arching like a del Gesu will make it easier to go for a violin that projects well, and a higher arching like a Stainer will make it easier to go for a violin that sounds sweet if you don't care about how it projects. Of course you will have to graduate the violin correctly too.

I presume the sound of a violin is a consequence of its frequency make-up and other physical characteristics. However, I certainly do admit that it's a complicated consequence of those things, so that you can't tell for sure if a violin sounds sweet by looking at a graph without listening to it.

But if it does sound sweet, the graph may make it easier for you to tell why.

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3 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

 

I wonder what it is in the personalities of violin makers that they so resist the idea that what they are doing is a craft, not an art, .....

Really? I don't run into much of that, and would say that it tends to be much more the other way around. Or more precisely, that most makers don't give a rip about which term people use when referring to them.

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2 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

Well, one thing I might be hoping for is that there would be a rash of people who do make violins out there  that start turning out violins that compare well to a Stradivari.

 

Do you have any actual evidence that this isn't happening already, with or without Kreit's book?

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1 hour ago, Delabo said:

What intuitive skill !

I can imagine Del-Gesu knocking out a violin in much the same intuitive way and then going to the pub :)

I didn't see a compass being used.  Apparently this ceiling artist doesn't use or understand geometric constructions.

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