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What is this line across the top of my viola called?


Tchaikovsky
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Hi! I am new to this site.

I’ve been trying to find out what the line on my viola top plate is called. You can see it in the picture attached under the left f hole.

My teacher couldn’t recall what it is called, but he says that good instruments have unique things like this that reinforces certain frequencies and provides better resonance. I don’t know how true that is, but I’d still like to find out what this line is called. 

0EF14A87-819F-4BF3-BA03-0657952137F0.jpeg

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6 hours ago, Tchaikovsky said:

My teacher couldn’t recall what it is called, but he says that good instruments have unique things like this that reinforces certain frequencies and provides better resonance. I don’t know how true that is, but I’d still like to find out what this line is called. 

Sorry to ruin it for you, but that looks like a knot, which if I see it on my wood I would avoid using it on an instrument. But don't be too worried, as many of the most famous makers had that on their instrument as well. Many people don't like it, but overall you can consider it an "abnormality" on the wood pattern. It may make the sound better or worse, and you would never know.  ;)

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4 minutes ago, Wilano Cortignini said:

Sorry to ruin it for you, but that looks like a knot, which if I see it on my wood I would avoid using it on an instrument. But don't be too worried, as many of the most famous makers had that on their instrument as well. ;)

Thanks Wilano! Do you happen to know any examples from the big names that I can google and take a look at?

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29 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I wouldn't call it an abnormality, because it's completely normal.  I would call it an irregularity in the wood grain.

Thanks for clarifying. What I mean is it introduces disruption into the regular wood pattern, and therefore an anomaly (Just realized I used "abnormality", but "anomaly" is what I intended to use :), although irregularity is still a better word)  I am getting old. :(

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11 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I thought they were called “Hazels”( “hah-zel”) pwhich were knots in the wood, where a branch had broken off and the wood grew over the nub of the branch. They have no affect on resonance and are considered beauty marks.

Am I mistaken or is this not a Hazel?

If you're referring to Haselfichte (Bear claw) it's different. These "Hazels" aren't caused by knots or branches but are specifications in the wood. The reason for this phenomena is discussed, maybe just genetic.

Example of Haselfichte (first especially at the bass side):

16.08.2010 16-24-08_0001r.jpg

IMG_9721.JPG

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But regarding the OP viola... I agree that it's due to a knot in the tree near to where the wood was cut, so the grain is disrupted in the area and leaves this linear non-uniformity.  The properties of the wood will be somewhat disturbed in the area, but there has never been much success in connecting local properties of the wood to any acoustic outcome.  I would guess that the minor knot-related feature shown would have diddly to do with the sound.

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3 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

But regarding the OP viola... I agree that it's due to a knot in the tree near to where the wood was cut, so the grain is disrupted in the area and leaves this linear non-uniformity.  The properties of the wood will be somewhat disturbed in the area, but there has never been much success in connecting local properties of the wood to any acoustic outcome.  I would guess that the minor knot-related feature shown would have diddly to do with the sound.

Thank you, Don for this information! It would be interesting to see studies done on instruments with these anomalies. Glad it at least doesn’t hurt the sound :) 

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6 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

But regarding the OP viola... I agree that it's due to a knot in the tree near to where the wood was cut, so the grain is disrupted in the area and leaves this linear non-uniformity.  The properties of the wood will be somewhat disturbed in the area, but there has never been much success in connecting local properties of the wood to any acoustic outcome.  I would guess that the minor knot-related feature shown would have diddly to do with the sound.

Thank you. I’m not sure what folding over of the word means, but it’s clear that the description that I learned is incorrect. Thanks Don,, you’re a wealth of information and we are all grateful.

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9 hours ago, Tchaikovsky said:

Hi! I am new to this site.

I’ve been trying to find out what the line on my viola top plate is called. You can see it in the picture attached under the left f hole.

My teacher couldn’t recall what it is called, but he says that good instruments have unique things like this that reinforces certain frequencies and provides better resonance. I don’t know how true that is, but I’d still like to find out what this line is called. 

0EF14A87-819F-4BF3-BA03-0657952137F0.jpeg

It's probably a vertical-plane grain deviation from a nearby knot. I doubt that any knowledgeable person would be able to furnish evidence that it either helps or hurts the sound.

But since your teacher seems to be trying to paint a rosy picture of it, as if it is something to be desired, do you know whether or not your teacher receives a commission or kickback on instruments which students buy?

My preference would be to stay neutral on it.. probably neither a problem nor an asset.

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3 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

It's probably a vertical-plane grain deviation from a nearby knot. I doubt that any knowledgeable person would be able to furnish evidence that it either helps or hurts the sound.

But since your teacher seems to be trying to paint a rosy picture of it, as if it is something to be desired, do you know whether or not your teacher receives a commission or kickback on instruments which students buy?

I don’t think he’s trying to paint a rosy picture of it. It’s more likely that it was what he was told himself.

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To David’s point, There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your teacher if she gets a commission from the sale of instruments. If she does, she is legally bound to say so,( she’s actually legally bound to say so before the transaction as well, but many and many a teacher forgets that bit) and if she does not she won’t be offended by the question.
I can’t really comment on the quality of the instrument, but it looks pretty generic to me. I actually think the line is attractive, rather like a birthmark.

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1 hour ago, Blank face said:

If you're referring to Haselfichte (Bear claw) it's different. These "Hazels" aren't caused by knots or branches but are specifications in the wood. The reason for this phenomena is discussed, maybe just genetic.

Example of Haselfichte (first especially at the bass side):

16.08.2010 16-24-08_0001r.jpg

IMG_9721.JPG

Thank you! I did not see your comment earlier, and I am very grateful.

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In any case it is not really a detriment to your instrument.  Even a violin as famous as the Messiah Stradivari has a patch on the top (treble side, just right of the fingerboard).  Your viola is just fine and you should enjoy it in good health!  It does look a little like a very faint bear claw figure to me.

As my darling teacher David Holland always said " A coffee table is a coffee table, now go practice!"  ( He is very tall and played a very large viola, almost 19")

Onward!

DLB

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9 hours ago, Tchaikovsky said:

...

My teacher couldn’t recall what it is called, but he says that good instruments have unique things like this that reinforces certain frequencies and provides better resonance. ..

Anyone have any idea of what this teacher could possibly have been thinking of?

I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Looks to me like an area near to a knot from a branch because it is so straight. Hazel fichte or Bear Claw goes all over the place with different orientations and shapes. This undulation is more or less at right angles to the year rings which is the orientation of a branch.

I get the idea that the instructor didn't want to say anything bad about the instrument.

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If the teacher didn't want to say anything bad - but wanted to say something "interesting", why did they feel a need to make up something silly?

If they wanted to address the wood grain they could have said "cool wood grain!".

BTW, what bad thing could there be? If they didn't like the instrument they can say they didn't like the instrument.

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While agreeing that this is an irregularity in the spruce caused by proximity to a branch and not any kind of tone-enhancing or aesthetically pleasing figure, and while agreeing that there is probably no consequence one way or another for the tone, this is definitely a bad sign for me.

This kind of wood would be rejected by all but the most penny-pinching of makers, and is evidence that the entire instrument was finished before anyone applied any kind of quality control ie. that it's a factory instrument and not a particularly good one.

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