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Elias Foppa

All spruce violin

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I have been wondering for quite some time about why maple is used for the back plate. Would making the back plate spruce give the violin better acoustic properties?

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4 hours ago, Elias Foppa said:

I have been wondering for quite some time about why maple is used for the back plate. Would making the back plate spruce give the violin better acoustic properties?

The top and back function in ways that are drastically different, so making them both out of spruce wouldn’t be an improvement. I saw a cello with a spruce back, and it was not something anyone would find desirable. I think it’s important to have a wood of higher density for the back. Maple works because it’s dense without being too stiff, so it rings well and carves well. 

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4 hours ago, Elias Foppa said:

I have been wondering for quite some time about why maple is used for the back plate. Would making the back plate spruce give the violin better acoustic properties?

If it did, makers would have figured that out 400 years ago... :D

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1 hour ago, Nick Allen said:

No 

Watch out, you're starting to sound like me. At least say why it wouldn't work, since you know why and OP does not. Maybe he should try it and see what happens.

:rolleyes:

This thread promises to be as fun as that guy living in the Appalachian mountains who wanted to make varnish out of deer fat and pine tar and was going to name his violin Thoreau. He was going to use only a few sharpened spoons and a penknife, and had the wood of some trees he felled in the deepest most 'Deliverance"-ish wilderness imaginable. Ok, that never happened. But it should happen. It's always at least a little bit fun to watch folks make something that has never been done before. Or at least, that they think hasn't been done before.

Apparently the all-spruce fiddle has happened. I bet it sounds like several pounds of cold butter thudding on granite after being dropped about two feet. But I don't know for sure.

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2 hours ago, not telling said:

This thread promises to be as fun as that guy living in the Appalachian mountains who wanted to make varnish out of deer fat and pine tar and was going to name his violin Thoreau. He was going to use only a few sharpened spoons and a penknife, and had the wood of some trees he felled in the deepest most 'Deliverance"-ish wilderness imaginable. Ok, that never happened. But it should happen. It's always at least a little bit fun to watch folks make something that has never been done before. Or at least, that they think hasn't been done before.

 

Hey, this is meant in as loving a way possible, but as someone who grew up in the deepest, darkest Appalachian mountains and is now working at a very good shop doing serious work, I’d love it if we could move beyond those stereotypes. I get as annoyed by a sloppy homemade fiddle as anybody, but those are not exclusive to any particular region, and the Deliverance references aren’t accurate or helpful. 

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I have an all spruce cello, but it seems very crudely built and never bothered getting it playable (it needs peg bushings at least). I did get it to make some sounds before the old pegs broke and the sound was not good.

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2 hours ago, Jack Devereux said:

 

Hey, this is meant in as loving a way possible, but as someone who grew up in the deepest, darkest Appalachian mountains and is now working at a very good shop doing serious work, I’d love it if we could move beyond those stereotypes. I get as annoyed by a sloppy homemade fiddle as anybody, but those are not exclusive to any particular region, and the Deliverance references aren’t accurate or helpful for anything. You’re better than that. 

The United States isn't just one place, that's what I like about it. But why not poke fun a little! Come on, I'm from the Great State of Kansas. I've heard all about myself and my part of the country from people who have never set foot here. At least I've been to Appalachia, and I even like it. I'm a sucker for all those gem mining tourist traps out that way. My grandma taught in Asheville and started to raise kids there. Asheville is rather more civilized than the surrounding area, but I have nothing against either.

You will always hear about Deliverance and I will always get Wizard of Oz and the Scopes II hearings (2005). On the first day of college biology my teacher sneered at me for being from Kansas. I didn't take it personally. I knew the biology teacher from Kansas in the middle of the b.s. One more sophisticated and romantic rube once brought up the free love movement history of Kansas, like, heyyyy....Kansas.... excellent.... I guess hoping I believed in those ways. I like where I'm from well enough.

No one's saying you don't do serious work. I know you do, I've heard of you. No need for the chip on your shoulder. Life is too short. Stereotypes have their place, but everyone can think past them too. I'm definitely not better than Deliverance references. I resent that you would suggest that.  That movie is more scary than anything I've ever seen, much like the entire decade of the 1970's in which it was filmed ((no, I never saw the 70's, but I am sure it was all hideous and terrifying)). But, ok, that concept would work in certain bits of Northern California, some areas of Florida or Louisiana, Montana... pretty much anywhere isolated. 

Anywhere with cities and you would expect amateurs to find a serious shop and ask some questions. And then, as a result of those serious answers, one would expect the all-spruce fiddle to not happen. I can only hope.

 

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About two thirds of the instrument's sound comes from the front half of the instrument and about one third comes off of the back half.  This forms a front to back output ratio of about two.

This happens because a high density maple back plate weighs about twice the weight of the low density spruce top plate so it doesn't vibrate as fast as the top plate thus it producing less sound.  Their weight ratio is the inverse of their sound output ratio.

This is an intentional outcome to prevent a lot of sound from being produced from the back where much of it would be wasted and not projected to the listener audience.  For a violin or viola much of the back plate's sound would be lost by being absorbed by the players shoulder, arm, and chest.  For a cello much of the sound would be absorbed by the player's body.   

If the backs were also made light by being made out of spruce both the top and back would produce similar amounts of sound and even more of the total sound would be wasted.

The same thing happens with guitars--the body and back are made relatively heavy and the top light so that most of the sound is produced by the top and the player's body absorbs very little sound producing vibration.

But sexually deviant players might prefer spruce backs.

 

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

About two thirds of the instrument's sound comes from the front half of the instrument and about one third comes off of the back half.  This forms a front to back output ratio of about two.

This happens because a high density maple back plate weighs about twice the weight of the low density spruce top plate so it doesn't vibrate as fast as the top plate thus it producing less sound.  Their weight ratio is the inverse of their sound output ratio.

This is an intentional outcome to prevent a lot of sound from being produced from the back where much of it would be wasted and not projected to the listener audience.  For a violin or viola much of the back plate's sound would be lost by being absorbed by the players shoulder, arm, and chest.  For a cello much of the sound would be absorbed by the player's body.   

If the backs were also made light by being made out of spruce both the top and back would produce similar amounts of sound and even more of the total sound would be wasted.

The same thing happens with guitars--the body and back are made relatively heavy and the top light so that most of the sound is produced by the top and the player's body absorbs very little sound producing vibration.

But sexually deviant players might prefer spruce backs.

 

That makes sense. Thanks for the insight.

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In addition to the mass issue, the ratio of longitudinal to crossgrain stiffness is vastly different between maple and spruce.  Using a spruce back would change the structural mode shapes and frequencies, and I suspect that the signature B modes might come closer together in frequency, perhaps close enough to make one big bad mode instead of two smaller ones.

In any  case, I think a spruce-back violin would sound and play differently.

And different is bad.

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11 hours ago, not telling said:

I bet it sounds like several pounds of cold butter thudding on granite after being dropped about two feet.

That’s the best simile I’ve heard since “when she dances she looks like a squirrel trying to cross a freeway.”

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I was always told that the body of a violin functioned much like a stereo speaker. The hard wood of the back pumped out the sound and the soft wood of the top amplified it like a woofer and tweeter( but I’m not sure what woofers and tweeters do so I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison.)

so a spruce back wouldn’t produce enough energy.

Is that a fair overall image?

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8 hours ago, not telling said:

The United States isn't just one place, that's what I like about it. But why not poke fun a little! Come on, I'm from the Great State of Kansas. I've heard all about myself and my part of the country from people who have never set foot here. At least I've been to Appalachia, and I even like it. I'm a sucker for all those gem mining tourist traps out that way. My grandma taught in Asheville and started to raise kids there. Asheville is rather more civilized than the surrounding area, but I have nothing against either.

You will always hear about Deliverance and I will always get Wizard of Oz and the Scopes II hearings (2005). On the first day of college biology my teacher sneered at me for being from Kansas. I didn't take it personally. I knew the biology teacher from Kansas in the middle of the b.s. One more sophisticated and romantic rube once brought up the free love movement history of Kansas, like, heyyyy....Kansas.... excellent.... I guess hoping I believed in those ways. I like where I'm from well enough.

No one's saying you don't do serious work. I know you do, I've heard of you. No need for the chip on your shoulder. Life is too short. Stereotypes have their place, but everyone can think past them too. I'm definitely not better than Deliverance references. I resent that you would suggest that.  That movie is more scary than anything I've ever seen, much like the entire decade of the 1970's in which it was filmed ((no, I never saw the 70's, but I am sure it was all hideous and terrifying)). But, ok, that concept would work in certain bits of Northern California, some areas of Florida or Louisiana, Montana... pretty much anywhere isolated. 

Anywhere with cities and you would expect amateurs to find a serious shop and ask some questions. And then, as a result of those serious answers, one would expect the all-spruce fiddle to not happen. I can only hope.

 

:-).

yes.

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The "all" thing does not work that well with bowed instruments, exception being cellos and or balsa instruments.

Works ok with certain guitars. 

As Don wisely points out, different ain't good in the viosphere, and actually the sound we have all come to know and love is generated largely by the interactions of the differences of the material properties. 

It's like "more" is less at a certain point....I like vanilla ice cream, but I do not want a dump truck to offload 1000 lbs on top of my head, that would be too much of a good thing.

Again there is no way to quantify any of this other than to just build things and see what you get. 

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56 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I was always told that the body of a violin functioned much like a stereo speaker. The hard wood of the back pumped out the sound and the soft wood of the top amplified it like a woofer and tweeter( but I’m not sure what woofers and tweeters do so I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison.)

so a spruce back wouldn’t produce enough energy.

Is that a fair overall image?

Just like with every single other thing in the world, 99% of what you know or think you know is not factual, including the 99% part

Sound is a "time event" during the event, in this case with a violin, there are moments in time where it may act like a speaker cone either in isolation or in conjunction with other properties but in general that is a pretty bad generalization that seeped into the group thinkology of the viosphere along with other great ones like "ff hole wings pool high frequency" 

I think it's great that lots of people have put solid time into scientific research into the violin. But I think at a certain point one needs to stand back and be realistic about precise quantification of data based on the reality of it being somewhat like working on a "quantum" math problem like "figure out where that particular water molecule will end up in a sloshing bathtub 1 minute from now".

 

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I have a Nippon fiddle that has a spruce top and back. Obviously either a mistake or an experiment. I would have thought that the back would have a soundpost crack by now, but in spite of it's age and wood is sounds surprisingly like a fiddle. Not too loud, but a pleasant sound.

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19 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

99% of what you know or think you know is not factual, including the 99% part

That’s a great line. I will use it constantly for the rest of my life. Occasionally I will share the attribution.

:-)

 Meanwhile, I’m grateful for your reply, but I’m a bit unclear about your explanation, which sounds as if you are saying that despite lots of research, no one knows exactly what happens, because no one can adequately( or completely, perhaps) determine exactly what is going on.

Rather as if the emperor and Mozart were both mathematicians, and the emperor waves off Mozart by saying, “too many variables, my dear Mozart.”

Did I understand you correctly? Or did I miss something?

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Is that a fair overall image?

As an image of actual acoustics, no.

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35 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

That’s a great line. I will use it constantly for the rest of my life. Occasionally I will share the attribution.

:-)

 Meanwhile, I’m grateful for your reply, but I’m a bit unclear about your explanation, which sounds as if you are saying that despite lots of research, no one knows exactly what happens, because no one can adequately( or completely, perhaps) determine exactly what is going on.

Rather as if the emperor and Mozart were both mathematicians, and the emperor waves off Mozart by saying, “too many variables, my dear Mozart.”

Did I understand you correctly? Or did I miss something?

I will answer with another one of my original ones....

"Often times in life what we want more than anything else in the world is the thing that is holding us back from becoming what we truly are supposed to be"

or...

In the quest for "one" to try to scientifically define "stuff" about the violin "one" may be actually holding themselves back from becoming a great maker by getting too caught up in the "gears" so to speak.

I know 99% may be  B.S but I do know that the Jessupe Goldastini theory of "Violin greatness" is the ONLY 1 true and correct theory about great sounding violins"

And it is a theory based on statistics plotted over x amount of years. quite simply, the more instruments one builds, odds are that xamount of those instruments built over a life time will be "great" increases.

The more you build, the more likely some of them will be very good. The less you build, statistically , the less chances of nailing it. The same logic could be used if one built only 1 instrument, what would the chances of that instrument sounding great be? very slim odds. 

But over all I think Don's tag line sums it up pretty well...to paraphrase, "Violin building isn't rocket science, it's way more complicated" 

so ya, too many interactions interacting with other interactions interacting with compound interactions and so on, like a fractal , let alone, we don't even have an established bechmark, other than "ya I want it to sound like a Strad" ...to which we say "which one and why? and can you tell us what that sounds like? and then the next thing you know someone is describing a lavish desert with chocolate, even though you can't eat sound. :lol:

 

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56 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

I will answer with another one of my original ones....

"Often times in life what we want more than anything else in the world is the thing that is holding us back from becoming what we truly are supposed to be"

or...

In the quest for "one" to try to scientifically define "stuff" about the violin "one" may be actually holding themselves back from becoming a great maker by getting too caught up in the "gears" so to speak.

I know 99% may be  B.S but I do know that the Jessupe Goldastini theory of "Violin greatness" is the ONLY 1 true and correct theory about great sounding violins"

And it is a theory based on statistics plotted over x amount of years. quite simply, the more instruments one builds, odds are that xamount of those instruments built over a life time will be "great" increases.

The more you build, the more likely some of them will be very good. The less you build, statistically , the less chances of nailing it. The same logic could be used if one built only 1 instrument, what would the chances of that instrument sounding great be? very slim odds. 

But over all I think Don's tag line sums it up pretty well...to paraphrase, "Violin building isn't rocket science, it's way more complicated" 

so ya, too many interactions interacting with other interactions interacting with compound interactions and so on, like a fractal , let alone, we don't even have an established bechmark, other than "ya I want it to sound like a Strad" ...to which we say "which one and why? and can you tell us what that sounds like? and then the next thing you know someone is describing a lavish desert with chocolate, even though you can't eat sound. :lol:

 

Ummm...I think Don’s answer was a bit more clear.

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I know I am coming late to this topic,but I would like to share my iconoclastic bent regarding violin making: if one searches You Tube for Joe Mangum,there one will find a luthier who crafted a rather good looking fiddle from wood he bought from his local Big Box store. Yup! No searching forests at midnight in the light of a full moon,or brewing of alchemical stews; just ordinary tools on ordinary materials.

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3 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

That’s the best simile I’ve heard since “when she dances she looks like a squirrel trying to cross a freeway.”

Uh...gee...thanks...I think. Both are evocative images, I guess. 

 

23 minutes ago, violguy said:

I know I am coming late to this topic,but I would like to share my iconoclastic bent regarding violin making: if one searches You Tube for Joe Mangum,there one will find a luthier who crafted a rather good looking fiddle from wood he bought from his local Big Box store. Yup! No searching forests at midnight in the light of a full moon,or brewing of alchemical stews; just ordinary tools on ordinary materials.

I think I mentioned before about the fine cello and violas and some violins that were made from off cuts of the pipe organ chests manufacturing process. My husband works at the pipe organ factory too, and naturally it pains him to see perfectly serviceable poplar, maple, and spruce thrown out. So he can't let that happen.

The wood was plain, but suitable for shop model instruments. So, a step up from altered factory instruments for sure, as they were handmade start to finish basically by one person only... and also, these were not meant to compete with the signature instruments from anyone at the shop. I've always wondered where they ended up. The dealer, a big one in Minnesota, always had a buyer before they were done. 

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1) The top pretty much is the fiddle. I once got to play a composite instrument -- most of it was a D'espine ; top was by Del Gesu. How that came about I have no idea, but it was freaking incredible.

Another example is one Charmian Gadd had for a while ; most of a Strad, with a top by Alesandro Gagliano (pretty unlikely shotgun marriage). Sounded like an AG.

2) That said, the back & ribs are critical for projection. Silverstein's late Del Gesu with the poplar back was delicious, but didn't project. Ditto the Cremonese budget 'cellos out there with non-maple backs. Wonderful quartet instruments (only).

There are enough illustrative examples of this principle in circulation to establish it as a non-speculative generalization.

FWIW

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