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dpappas

Make a Violin More Mellow or Darker

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My

Current instrument is powerful, strident, bright...and almost painful to play.  I love this fiddle quite a bit but I’m taking it in tomorrow for my luthier’s opinion and also to try out some other violins.  The G is edgy and the E is ear splitting and powerful. 

I know a powerful violin is a good thing so I’ve also been thinking about some reversible things one can do to mellow out or darken an Instrument for the time being.   Here are my instruments’s current “specs”

strad model, castel boxwood tailpiece and Guarneri chin rest.  Wittner finetune pegs.  After length 54.5 mm, 108 mm tail piece (so about 5 mm tail gut length), nylon Sacconi type tailgut.   Vision solo strings (not the Ti ones), a relative thin bridge (not abnormal, but not thick).   String length is 328 mm and the sound post is 2-3mm behind bridge and matches bass bar with respect to bridge foot.  
 

I put a magnet pair on the bass side of the plate right by the bridge and it seemed to “boost” the low end as a test.   
 

any suggestions?   Does Kevlar cut some of the high end?  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my opinion, if I had a violin that gave me an "ear splitting" e and an "edgy" G, I might screw around with the sound post and strings, see about a new bridge... but I would assume that would all be for nought.  I think you would probably need to seek a violin that sounded better from the beginning.  They're out there.

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2 hours ago, dpappas said:

I know a powerful violin is a good thing so I’ve also been thinking about some reversible things one can do to mellow out or darken an Instrument for the time being.   Here are my instruments’s current “specs”

Why do you think a powerful violin is a good thing? Not if it sounds to others the way it sounds to you! If you're into chamber music you'll need a violin that will blend in.

2 hours ago, dpappas said:

I put a magnet pair on the bass side of the plate right by the bridge and it seemed to “boost” the low end as a test

Huh?

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5 hours ago, dpappas said:

My

Current instrument is powerful, strident, bright...and almost painful to play.  I love this fiddle quite a bit but I’m taking it in tomorrow for my luthier’s opinion and also to try out some other violins.  The G is edgy and the E is ear splitting and powerful. 

I know a powerful violin is a good thing so I’ve also been thinking about some reversible things one can do to mellow out or darken an Instrument for the time being.   Here are my instruments’s current “specs”

strad model, castel boxwood tailpiece and Guarneri chin rest.  Wittner finetune pegs.  After length 54.5 mm, 108 mm tail piece (so about 5 mm tail gut length), nylon Sacconi type tailgut.   Vision solo strings (not the Ti ones), a relative thin bridge (not abnormal, but not thick).   String length is 328 mm and the sound post is 2-3mm behind bridge and matches bass bar with respect to bridge foot.  
 

I put a magnet pair on the bass side of the plate right by the bridge and it seemed to “boost” the low end as a test.   
 

any suggestions?   Does Kevlar cut some of the high end? 

Probably the tone is linked more to the construction details and the properties of the wood, so I don't think you can do much without worsening the overall response of the violin. In any case, I would exclude the kevlar tailgut, you would get the opposite effect. Maybe trying to shorten the afterlength up to 52 mm could help, or not. You could try a bridge with a softer wood, maybe one made of plane tree wood if you want to go to extremes, you can also try moving the soundpost far back up to 5 or 6 mm behind the bridge and see what happens. The drawback is that doing these experiments takes time and you should pay a luthier, taking responsibility and costs in case you may not be satisfied with the result and having to ask the luthier to restore the initial conditions. Probably an Obligato set would be the least expensive and most successful experiment you can do before playing with new bridges and soundposts.

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4 hours ago, dpappas said:

 I put a magnet pair on the bass side of the plate right by the bridge and it seemed to “boost” the low end as a test.  

This is interesting, could you say more about this experiment? Exact location of magnets? Weight of the magnets? Sound difference with and without?

I would be curious to know.

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Another string set you might try is Warchal Karneol.  :)

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23 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

you can also try moving the soundpost far back up to 5 or 6 mm behind the bridge and see what happens.

I always worry about the long-term effects of stress put on the top if the sound post is far back from the bridge. 5 or 6 mm seems like a lot to my naive mind.

Should I worry?

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

I always worry about the long-term effects of stress put on the top if the sound post is far back from the bridge. 5 or 6 mm seems like a lot to my naive mind.

Should I worry?

If the shrill sound is caused by a 3.5 or 4 mm thick top plate made off high-density spruce there is no need to worry.;)

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I hear that there's a new Cannabis rosin out that makes things really mellow, without making any changes to the instrument.  :D

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2 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

I hear that there's a new Cannabis rosin out that makes things really mellow, without making any changes to the instrument.  :D

Mellows the shrillness right out!

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3 hours ago, Fossil Ledges said:

Mellows the shrillness right out!

Yeah, but smells like a skunks butt!

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8 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

This is interesting, could you say more about this experiment? Exact location of magnets? Weight of the magnets? Sound difference with and without?

I would be curious to know.

Davide,

I don't have access to my lab (the University is still closed...) so I can't comment on the magnet mass but they are 3x3 mm rare-earth cube magnets, pretty powerful but small.  I used two on top and two on the other side (so 3x3x6 mm).  Putting them on the plate, right next to the bass foot of the bridge, say 3-4 mm from the bass bar, increased the bass.  I moved them all around, seeing where the extra mass changed the tone, it was similar to blue tack experiments others have tried.  

 

In the end, I took it in to my luthier this morning.  He moved the sound post to a position he liked.  I didn't tell him my complaint, I just asked him to adjust the post to his liking.  What came back was better than what I would have gotten had I prompted him.  The violin is back in working order.  It's powerful, but balanced now.  I can play a whisper pianissimo or a full fortissimo just by technique, which is what i want, but the shrill is gone.  

Oddly enough, the post is in the standard "sweet spot", more or less, but just slightly toward the bass bar (maybe 1 mm in from the "standard" starting point of mirroring the bass bar location, in the E-W axis.  N-S it's about 2.5 mm from the bridge foot.  Not where I would have expected it to be, but I'm happy with the sound.  I guess I was grossly misaligned before.

Thank you all for the replies.  I might try obligatos if I feel I want it a little darker, but I am a happy man today.  It's always good to let someone else work on your instrument, if they have the ears for it.

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What Dwight said, and Pro-Artes really are mellow IMO. Strings are always the first and easiest thing to try. A different tailpiece might help too, maybe try a heavier ebony Hill style.

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2 hours ago, dpappas said:

Davide,

I don't have access to my lab (the University is still closed...) so I can't comment on the magnet mass but they are 3x3 mm rare-earth cube magnets, pretty powerful but small.  I used two on top and two on the other side (so 3x3x6 mm).  Putting them on the plate, right next to the bass foot of the bridge, say 3-4 mm from the bass bar, increased the bass.  I moved them all around, seeing where the extra mass changed the tone, it was similar to blue tack experiments others have tried.  

 

In the end, I took it in to my luthier this morning.  He moved the sound post to a position he liked.  I didn't tell him my complaint, I just asked him to adjust the post to his liking.  What came back was better than what I would have gotten had I prompted him.  The violin is back in working order.  It's powerful, but balanced now.  I can play a whisper pianissimo or a full fortissimo just by technique, which is what i want, but the shrill is gone.  

Oddly enough, the post is in the standard "sweet spot", more or less, but just slightly toward the bass bar (maybe 1 mm in from the "standard" starting point of mirroring the bass bar location, in the E-W axis.  N-S it's about 2.5 mm from the bridge foot.  Not where I would have expected it to be, but I'm happy with the sound.  I guess I was grossly misaligned before.

Thank you all for the replies.  I might try obligatos if I feel I want it a little darker, but I am a happy man today.  It's always good to let someone else work on your instrument, if they have the ears for it.

Thanks for the explanation, much appreciated. I always thought that a mass increase on the bass side of the bridge area might be useful as a bass boost and the results of your experiment gives me an additional confirmation (I know, the sample is a bit small for statistical value, but anyway still indicative...).

I am glad that the visit to your luthier somehow solved your problem. In fact, it could have been due to too much tension of the soundpost and moving it more inward could have diminished this excessive tension improving things. It's just a guess because I don't know what your luthier actually did, if he just moved the soundpost or replaced it with a longer one or whatever. The important thing is that you were satisfied and I'm happy for him too (category solidarity:D).

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4 hours ago, dpappas said:

Davide,

I don't have access to my lab (the University is still closed...) so I can't comment on the magnet mass but they are 3x3 mm rare-earth cube magnets, pretty powerful but small.  I used two on top and two on the other side (so 3x3x6 mm).  Putting them on the plate, right next to the bass foot of the bridge, say 3-4 mm from the bass bar, increased the bass.  I moved them all around, seeing where the extra mass changed the tone, it was similar to blue tack experiments others have tried.  

 

In the end, I took it in to my luthier this morning.  He moved the sound post to a position he liked.  I didn't tell him my complaint, I just asked him to adjust the post to his liking.  What came back was better than what I would have gotten had I prompted him.  The violin is back in working order.  It's powerful, but balanced now.  I can play a whisper pianissimo or a full fortissimo just by technique, which is what i want, but the shrill is gone.  

Oddly enough, the post is in the standard "sweet spot", more or less, but just slightly toward the bass bar (maybe 1 mm in from the "standard" starting point of mirroring the bass bar location, in the E-W axis.  N-S it's about 2.5 mm from the bridge foot.  Not where I would have expected it to be, but I'm happy with the sound.  I guess I was grossly misaligned before.

Thank you all for the replies.  I might try obligatos if I feel I want it a little darker, but I am a happy man today.  It's always good to let someone else work on your instrument, if they have the ears for it.

Moving the post in also lessens the tension on the instrument and would basically "turn down the volume" . This can be easily confused with "mellower". Having said that it is also possible that your luthier did indeed achieve what you wanted and that the effect will last.

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Thank you all, it’s humbling to have so many professionals give advice.   I actually have a longer ebony tailpiece to try but since I’m happy with the post placement I’ll keep that and the thicker bridge on the back burner.  

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A bridge with more mass at the top would be expected to tame things down a bit.

Or a mute.

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2 hours ago, Davide Sora said:

Thanks for the explanation, much appreciated. I always thought that a mass increase on the bass side of the bridge area might be useful as a bass boost and the results of your experiment gives me an additional confirmation (I know, the sample is a bit small for statistical value, but anyway still indicative...).

I am glad that the visit to your luthier somehow solved your problem. In fact, it could have been due to too much tension of the soundpost and moving it more inward could have diminished this excessive tension improving things. It's just a guess because I don't know what your luthier actually did, if he just moved the soundpost or replaced it with a longer one or whatever. The important thing is that you were satisfied and I'm happy for him too (category solidarity:D).

David,

he moved the existing post.  Thank you!  

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

A bridge with more mass at the top would be expected to tame things down a bit.

I've had good luck with that too.  I'm beginning to suspect that each violin has its own optimum bridge.

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On 5/5/2020 at 2:15 PM, bkwood said:

Yeah, but smells like a skunks butt!

We ignore the skunk butt smell, harshes the vibe.

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On 5/5/2020 at 7:05 PM, Fossil Ledges said:

I, I can't smell it anymore...

Losing your sense of smell is a COVID symptom. :unsure:

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