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Andreas Preuss

Bass bar thickness 4.5mm?

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Recently I opened a violin and found that the bass bar inside was only 4.5 mm thick. It's length was rather long with 280 mm and the other dimensions quite normal. At the ends 4mm and in the center 12mm The sound especially on the lower registers was full and clear. 

So, does a bass bar need to be 5.5 mm thick? 

 

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I think the fact that one asks this question, is even more reason to leave it as it is. Viennese bars of the late 18th/early 19thC. are generaly 4,5 to 5mm thick and +/- 8 or 9 mm high, and contrary to popular predudice not neccesarily any shorter than today. People Play these to full satisfaction in all the major synphony orchestras here. A different thing I have noticed is that they often used wider grained Wood, with very hard annual rings in contrast to belly Wood of very much closer rings. I have always wondered why.

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16 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I think the fact that one asks this question, is even more reason to leave it as it is. Viennese bars of the late 18th/early 19thC. are generaly 4,5 to 5mm thick and +/- 8 or 9 mm high, and contrary to popular predudice not neccesarily any shorter than today. People Play these to full satisfaction in all the major synphony orchestras here. A different thing I have noticed is that they often used wider grained Wood, with very hard annual rings in contrast to belly Wood of very much closer rings. I have always wondered why.

Interesting, Jacob.

I have the suspicion that the wider dimensions came from the belief that the bar must withstand more downward pressure from strings with higher tension and it is somehow easier to glue. 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

So, does a bass bar need to be 5.5 mm thick?

That's a good question, but there are enough variables as it is that I'm not sure I want to know the answer...

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4 minutes ago, Kevin Kelly said:

That's a good question, but there are enough variables as it is that I'm not sure I want to know the answer...

It seems that certain measurements are simply hammered in our heads. So much that we think a tenth of a millimeter less might destroy everything.

It might be worth the experiment to make a 3.5mm bar which goes literally from one end to the other.

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34 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

 A different thing I have noticed is that they often used wider grained Wood, with very hard annual rings in contrast to belly Wood of very much closer rings. I have always wondered why.

Because they didn't want to waste it?

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19 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

It might be worth the experiment to make a 3.5mm bar which goes literally from one end to the other.

Let me know how it turns out  :ph34r:

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

I think the fact that one asks this question, is even more reason to leave it as it is. Viennese bars of the late 18th/early 19thC. are generaly 4,5 to 5mm thick and +/- 8 or 9 mm high, and contrary to popular predudice not neccesarily any shorter than today. People Play these to full satisfaction in all the major synphony orchestras here.

A while ago I had an unspectacular, but well preserved 18th Füssen, the neck modernized but with the original bass bar of roughly this dimensions. I gave it (asking a very moderate prize) for a trial period to a customer who like it very much in the first moment. A week later he called me to say that a certain South German maker had told him that there was still a "baroque bar" inside and that it would be absolutely necessary to change this for a cost of 1 000 Euro. If I could do this? After having asked if there was something wrong with the sound or another issue, he denied but still insisted that the man had told him this bar definitely had to be modernized. I took the violin back, saying that I couldn't see any reason to change a bar which had worked fine for 250 years and added the next time a bit to the price for "still having the rare original bass bar". Worked well.

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3 minutes ago, Blank face said:

A while ago I had an unspectacular, but well preserved 18th Füssen, the neck modernized but with the original bass bar of roughly this dimensions. I gave it (asking a very moderate prize )for a trial period to a customer who like it very much in the first moment. A week later he called me to say that a certain South German maker had told him that there was still a "baroque bar" inside and that it would be absolutely necessary to change this for a cost of 1 000 Euro. If I could do this? After having asked if there were something wrong with the sound or another issue, he denied but still insisted that the man had told him this bar definitely had to be modernized. I took the violin back, saying that I couldn't see any reason to change a bar which had worked fine for 250 years and added the next time a bit to the price for "still having the rare original bass bar". Worked well.

We do tend to sanctify our dimensions, don't we?  It seems we're more or less ready to accept the notion that plate graduation numbers need to accommodate the properties of the wood.  I'm not sure why we wouldn't see the bassbar as an extension of the plate in that sense.  As in: the bar stock is prepared before arching and graduating the plate, maybe to the Heaven-sent 5.5mm thickness.  Then the plate is arched and graduated.  Flexibility assessed.  Bar is too thick for the desired flexibility.  Bar thickness is adjusted.  Seems like 4.5 is just the ticket!

I agree that when we speak in terms of tenths of a mm, it begs the question as to why 5.5 is not 5.6 or 5.4.  Maybe its the measurements related to aesthetics that drive our precision in measurements related to mechanics.  We rigidly adhere to them in the first case, and that rigidity just spills over into the second case.  After all, you can see fractions of mm in a corner with a trained eye.  But is that same fraction in graduations/edge thickness "visible" to the forces that move the instruments component parts?  

Maybe someone here can dispel these naive notions of mine.  Then again, they are just notions and not assertions of fact, so...be gentle, my friends!

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1 hour ago, Kevin Kelly said:

Let me know how it turns out  :ph34r:

The 3.5mm bar can bend laterally more easy and it is most likely necessary to glue guiding studs to get it absolutely straight. Setting bass bar clamps on the narrower surface might as well require a bit more patience especially when the bar is fitted with tension. (Tension is actually another theme where I tend to believe it is not necessary)

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Well for what is is worth, most of my bass bars are on the not as wide and are a longer that standard numbers.  Got ideas from the acoustic workshops, added my twists and ran with it, but do not think I have done below 4.5.  I do the lengths from 275 to 280 depending on several things. 

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37 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

The 3.5mm bar can bend laterally more easy and it is most likely necessary to glue guiding studs to get it absolutely straight. Setting bass bar clamps on the narrower surface might as well require a bit more patience especially when the bar is fitted with tension. (Tension is actually another theme where I tend to believe it is not necessary)

are you shooting for a twenty page thread?

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3 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Recently I opened a violin and found that the bass bar inside was only 4.5 mm thick.

So, does a bass bar need to be 5.5 mm thick? 

Not too long ago I put in a 4.0 mm wide bar in one of my new violins.  It was .48 density spruce.  If I had used .36 density, then it would have had to be 5.5mm wide to get similar weight and stiffness.

Just focusing on dimensions is like having blinders on, and you can't see everything that's happening.  Likewise, looking at the bar alone (even considering density, weight, and stiffness) fails to consider the rest of the instrument's construction.

And then, if you don't listen to how it all works together, then, umm... what's the goal, anyway?  To me, it's to make stuff that sounds good.

IMO the answer is NO... the bass bar does not need to be 5.5mm thick, if results matter rather more than dimensions.

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3 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Not too long ago I put in a 4.0 mm wide bar in one of my new violins.  It was .48 density spruce.  If I had used .36 density, then it would have had to be 5.5mm wide to get similar weight and stiffness.

Just focusing on dimensions is like having blinders on, and you can't see everything that's happening.  Likewise, looking at the bar alone (even considering density, weight, and stiffness) fails to consider the rest of the instrument's construction.

And then, if you don't listen to how it all works together, then, umm... what's the goal, anyway?  To me, it's to make stuff that sounds good.

IMO the answer is NO... the bass bar does not need to be 5.5mm thick, if results matter rather more than dimensions.

I am with Don here....  For my violas, I use a 6 mm wide bar  (low density spruce) that is very high, unshaped (I leave it straight) and adds from 10 to 12 grams to the top. But that with my model, wood, archings, etc.

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7 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Recently I opened a violin and found that the bass bar inside was only 4.5 mm thick. It's length was rather long with 280 mm and the other dimensions quite normal. At the ends 4mm and in the center 12mm The sound especially on the lower registers was full and clear. 

So, does a bass bar need to be 5.5 mm thick? 

 

If the instrument is even and full, there is no need to change the bar. There is a possibility that a wider bar would improve the sound, but it can become a reductio ad absurdum to hunt for the “ideal” sound. 

I do think that the desired dimensions for thickness and length have changed over time as a result of changes in string technology and playing technique. I have seen a trend toward thicker and longer bars. It’s not unlike the trend in bicycles: more stiffness and aggressiveness are key.

I will say that it’s quite common for me to encounter instruments that are anemic and unbalanced and to find that the bars are thin, short, and poorly shaped.

For new making, it certainly doesn’t do anything harm to experiment with different shapes and dimensions. In fact, that sounds like a great project for the Oberlin acoustics workshop. But when I have customer instruments on my bench, I’m much more conservative don’t want to take any risks. 

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1 hour ago, MANFIO said:

I am with Don here....  For my violas, I use a 6 mm wide bar  (low density spruce) that is very high, unshaped (I leave it straight) and adds from 10 to 12 grams to the top. But that with my model, wood, archings, etc.

Maestro Manfio is helpful to me in this discussion.

Maestro Preuss, is it worth mentioning the quality of the bassbar wood?  I was curious about this while reading the thread.

Of the instruments played the last dozen years with taller, narrower ( longer ), bass bars most have been very nice. Of those, the impression was that they played more powerfully than expected while just a fewer were very smooth tonally for a new instruments. I also believe that the graduations were likely to have been a bit thinner overall with longer f- holes. The Bassbar was very visible from the f- holes. Long term, i have not seen any of those instruments recently, but the one i owned for 2 years kept getting better and better. Optimizing the strings helped as did post adjustments along the way.

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In from the sidelines of not knowing anything at all - what about the old integral bass bars? They were used for a very long time, and must surely have worked well enough? Was there a standard thickness for those too? 

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43 minutes ago, Felefar said:

In from the sidelines of not knowing anything at all - what about the old integral bass bars? They were used for a very long time, and must surely have worked well enough? Was there a standard thickness for those too? 

They worked "well enough" because the goal was to hack out instruments as fast and cheaply as possible... with acoustics being very low on the priority list.  If you have seen a few of them, you'd know that there was no standard whatsoever., and usually the plates were left very thick so that the bass bar was of less importance.

Which brings up something worth repeating:  anything vaguely resembling a bass bar will get most of the job done that bass bars are supposed to do.  If you want to get to the higher levels of performance, then all of the details matter more, including the particulars of the bass bar.

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8 hours ago, Don Noon said:

They worked "well enough" because the goal was to hack out instruments as fast and cheaply as possible... with acoustics being very low on the priority list.  If you have seen a few of them, you'd know that there was no standard whatsoever., and usually the plates were left very thick so that the bass bar was of less importance.

 

I have seen a few also. One was from a 3/4 with 5 mm thick top and some sort of ridge left in the wood that had to resemble a bass bar. It did not sound like a 3/4 Del Gesu funny enough, could have been the bass bar :rolleyes:

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8 hours ago, Don Noon said:

They worked "well enough" because the goal was to hack out instruments as fast and cheaply as possible... with acoustics being very low on the priority list.  If you have seen a few of them, you'd know that there was no standard whatsoever., and usually the plates were left very thick so that the bass bar was of less importance.

That's only true for mass produced instruments. There are enough carved or integral bars worked out so neatly that one can't decide at first look how they were done and this at also neatly worked out plates, and some of them I've seen worked also well for more than 200 years. It was just the traditional way to do it within some schools. OTOH there are Mirecout made violins for example with a glued in bar looking more like an unfinished broad log at accidentally chosen places.

Jacob gave several times the example that it took him more time to carve out a neatly bar from the plate than it had taken to make it seperately and then glue it in.

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I have never encountered a well-made violin with an integral bass bar, but I see no reason why it would perform observably different from a glued-in bar.  I say "observably" in that a slightly angled glued-in bar should be slightly better at preventing cracks.  There's also the issue of grain direction... with an integral bar, either you orient it along the top grain, or you  angle it and accept some small runout.  I don't think either of these would be observable to the player.

Although I have never tried to make an integral bar, regraduating thick student instruments (which I have done frequently) is a clue to what it would be like... and if there is significant wood to remove, I have always found it easier just to waste the bar and put in a new one later.  

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I have never encountered a well-made violin with an integral bass bar, ... and if there is significant wood to remove, I have always found it easier just to waste the bar and put in a new one later.  

All Saxon instruments, good or bad, were made with an integral bar, also Salzkammergut and probably several of the other schools using the through neck/built on the back method could have used it. One reason why they aren't seen more often actually at well made instruments of this origin might be that they were regulary replaced with "proper" i.e. seperately glued in bars during repairs or just because someone thought this would be the right way.

From what I remember and have saved at photos the usual way was to carve them following the grain, even if this meant they were paralell with the joint line. Interestingly I've rarely found cracks along or over the bar if they were done neatly, only the roughly carved examples have often deep knife cuts at their sides (to make the carving more easy) which are supporting the development of cracks.

I won't be either dogmatic in any way, if a repair or a regraduation needs to carve out an integral bar I'm doing this without hesitation, as well as I'm leaving it alone if everything is well.

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