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Outline of Violin and Effect on Sound


GerardM
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I’m curious about how much the outline of the violin has on the sound of the instrument. For example say a millimetre wider or narrower in the C bouts, or if one of the bouts was slightly out compared to its opposite side. I did read somewhere that some of the Del Gesu instrumentals were quite roughly made. It got me thinking about how a millimetre perfect violin would sound compared to an instrument that was all over the place with regards to the outline. Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical outline, all things being equal regarding wood arching etc. 

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Violins are already functionally very asymmetric due to the bass bar and soundpost, so I don't think perfect outline symmetry would be any big whoop.  

I view outline as very minimal impact in itself, but rather as something that allows the more important arching to flow more gracefully.  I also hold a view... totally unsupported by hard evidence... that the more gradual curves of the Guarneri-like C-bouts allow a lighter, stiffer rib structure compared to the more tightly curved Strad C-bouts, which could have some effect on the low frequencies and bow resistance.  Nothing big and obvious, though.

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10 hours ago, GerardM said:

I’m curious about how much the outline of the violin has on the sound of the instrument. For example say a millimetre wider or narrower in the C bouts, or if one of the bouts was slightly out compared to its opposite side. I did read somewhere that some of the Del Gesu instrumentals were quite roughly made. It got me thinking about how a millimetre perfect violin would sound compared to an instrument that was all over the place with regards to the outline.

I would expect that many of the other variables would prevail over plus or minus 1mm variations anywhere on the outline.

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Visually, small differences in the outline can matter.  And small differences can change the visual character from a geometry of circles arcs that are slightly assymetrically located to something different and non-classical.

But, I don't think small differences in the actual outline have big impacts on function at all.   And, particularly if relationships between outline and soundholes track along with the changes.

It's the basic shape character of things like the edges and the plates and soundholes within the outline that matter more to functionality.

IMO

 

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Recently I learned of cigar-box fiddles, purportedly made at home by American pioneers (pioneering in the upper American Midwest and points further west). I had never heard of this, before, and looked for a sound sample on YouTube. I didn't save the link, but it did sound fiddle-like. That astounded me.

So how does a rectangular-shaped body end up sounding fiddle-like? I'm not saying they are high-quality sound-producing instruments, but still recognizable, and not remotely violin-shaped objects.

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42 minutes ago, Regina3000 said:

Recently I learned of cigar-box fiddles, purportedly made at home by American pioneers (pioneering in the upper American Midwest and points further west). I had never heard of this, before, and looked for a sound sample on YouTube. I didn't save the link, but it did sound fiddle-like. That astounded me.

So how does a rectangular-shaped body end up sounding fiddle-like? I'm not saying they are high-quality sound-producing instruments, but still recognizable, and not remotely violin-shaped objects.

Lots of people are making these today but there are playability  problems of not having enough bow clearance and the upper right corner isn't comfortable so I don't believe they will find wide spread use in orchestras regardless of how great they sound.

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2 hours ago, Regina3000 said:

So how does a rectangular-shaped body end up sounding fiddle-like? I'm not saying they are high-quality sound-producing instruments, but still recognizable, and not remotely violin-shaped objects.

The F-shaped soundholes do quite a bit in shaping the response.  If you work at it, you could likely get the signature modes pretty close as well, but that's probably a secondary issue.

Then there's the bowed string, which on its own creates a spectrum of overtones.  A solid-body electric fiddle has no body modes of significance, but still is recognizable as a violin... kindof.

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2 hours ago, Regina3000 said:

Recently I learned of cigar-box fiddles, purportedly made at home by American pioneers (pioneering in the upper American Midwest and points further west). I had never heard of this, before, and looked for a sound sample on YouTube. I didn't save the link, but it did sound fiddle-like. That astounded me.

So how does a rectangular-shaped body end up sounding fiddle-like? I'm not saying they are high-quality sound-producing instruments, but still recognizable, and not remotely violin-shaped objects.

I have wondered about the application of these boxed-based designs in bowed instruments.

Certainly in plucked instruments like the ukulele and guitars, the novel uses of the "cigar" box designs are advertised. The decay of each plucked string is fast, so these designs are acceptable if not fun.

The basic sound of these box fiddle might be midrange-y ( the sound is emphasized by the lack of higher and lower frequencies. ) And they might lack dynamics. But regardless of the sound quality, if the fiddler is good, it can be listenable. But if we were to make test tones of an a- string or g- string, they'd likely sound uninteresting. If one comes across a good recording, it would be great to hear.

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1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

I have wondered about the application of these boxed-based designs in bowed instruments.

Certainly in plucked instruments like the ukulele and guitars, the novel uses of the "cigar" box designs are advertised. The decay of each plucked string is fast, so these designs are acceptable if not fun.

The basic sound of these box fiddle might be midrange-y ( the sound is emphasized by the lack of higher and lower frequencies. ) And they might lack dynamics. But regardless of the sound quality, if the fiddler is good, it can be listenable. But if we were to make test tones of an a- string or g- string, they'd likely sound uninteresting. If one comes across a good recording, it would be great to hear.

Arched viola plates don't significantly increase the number of cigars being held so carving arches is a waste of effort and wood.  It's better to use flat plates with a little higher ribs. 

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15 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Arched viola plates don't significantly increase the number of cigars being held so carving arches is a waste of effort and wood.  It's better to use flat plates with a little higher ribs. 

Can someone please calculate the CV (cigar volume) of a normal viola, compared to the violas the Cubans sell to the tourists?

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After having experimented with this 

image.jpeg

I can assure you that outline as such has only a minimal effect on the sound in general. The violin didn't sound when it was completed, but I managed to get a reasonable good sound on it with some alterations EXCEPT the outline. 

For the details i tried to post on MN the most important details here

https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/340067-andreas-preuss-super-light-violin-project/

If any measurement would have an influence on the sound at all it would be the ratio of internal length to the internal width. If we take Antonio Stradivari as an example, his instruments (just on averages) get wider in the center compared to the the length (which basically doesn't aalter over the years) But I think this must be seen in context with the fact that again on averages the  upper width of the f holes goes slowly up over the years. (maybe something like 39mm at the beginning to 43mm at the end)

I think it was Peter Greiner who said in an interview that he sees himself as 'the master of assymetry'. I am inclined to support this idea. I believe that assymetry can achieve a 'more interesting sound'. And I mean with this that it is some sort of 'quality’ players feel when playing the instrument which seems (still) beyond what can be measured with a microphone. 

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6 hours ago, Regina3000 said:

Recently I learned of cigar-box fiddles, purportedly made at home by American pioneers (pioneering in the upper American Midwest and points further west). I had never heard of this, before, and looked for a sound sample on YouTube. I didn't save the link, but it did sound fiddle-like. That astounded me.

So how does a rectangular-shaped body end up sounding fiddle-like? I'm not saying they are high-quality sound-producing instruments, but still recognizable, and not remotely violin-shaped objects.

We have to realize that in the end a violin IS NOTHING MORE than an empty box with two slot like holes at either side of the bridge with strings running over it and supported by a soundpost on one side and a wooden stick on the other side. This describes its bare functionality and there is no reason why it shouldn't sound like a violin.

 

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3 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I can assure you that outline as such has only a minimal effect on the sound in general. The violin didn't sound when it was completed, but I managed to get a reasonable good sound on it with some alterations EXCEPT the outline.

I don't think that tracks.

Controlling for a variable isn't the same as showing that variable has no effect, just that other variables have effect outside of the effect of the controlled variable.

One of the better empiricists might correct me.

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On 2/20/2021 at 2:17 PM, MMarsden said:

I don't think that tracks.

Controlling for a variable isn't the same as showing that variable has no effect, just that other variables have effect outside of the effect of the controlled variable.

One of the better empiricists might correct me.

I agree.

My experiment wasn't about influence of the outline anyway. I just wanted to show the OP that you can throw the outline completely out of balance and arrive at a violin with a normal sound.e

On the other hand, assuming that the outline was the major cause for the bad sound at the beginning, none of the other alterations would have had an effect. 

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On 2/19/2021 at 5:59 PM, Andreas Preuss said:

 ( ... )

I think it was Peter Greiner who said in an interview that he sees himself as 'the master of assymetry'. I am inclined to support this idea. I believe that assymetry can achieve a 'more interesting sound'. And I mean with this that it is some sort of 'quality’ players feel when playing the instrument which seems (still) beyond what can be measured with a microphone. 

That Greiner is "the master of assymetry?"

Having gone out of the way to hear Greiner instruments on stage and they are excellent, they are certainly not the top tier. To be fair, these artist played contemporary works with different orchestras, though I have heard them play solo works up close. But due to so many variables, it was not the instruments that were generally being critiqued. For comparison, Kavakos was amazing - for me - as the top sound the past five years. The most recent Bell also sounded quite good. Mutter was the best at 50 feet for mostly a sonata recital, in the past ten years, but that was with a piano, which allows for more colors to be observed. It is not the battle, we often hear, with the orchestra. 

I have digested that quote to express that his creations are as musically symmetrical as possible. Would you know where quote came from? Wonder what part of his career he was quoted. 

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Based on hi fi speakers, yes; shape has a massive effect on sound quality.  Most importantly, all speaker drivers are rated for a certain volume of box and size of sound hole.   Get that wrong and the speaker will sound terrible and the driver can even self destruct, overheat or be too powerful against too small a volume and deform.  This is certainly true of fiddles as well.  Most important to making them work is getting the interior volume right and the f holes right. Also the profile of the f holes is very important. A nice smooth, trumpeted profile can make a smaller f hole act like a bigger one.  Changing the profile will make a noticeable difference in sound, for better or worse.  Too big and sound is muddy.  Too small and it can hiss.  Just right and the sound will be crisp most noticeable in the bass.

 

Another big thing is that certain shapes are lava. Circles and parallel lines are horrible and tend to create standing waves like wolf notes.  The has to be a lot of asymmetry in design.  Speakers tend to be rectangular rather than cubes.  Having each dimension a little different helps break up standing waves.  Trapezoids even better.  The way violins have a larger lower bout section than upper makes it something like a trapezoid without corners.  Never seen a violin that is top/bottom symmetric but my guess is it would have a bunch of wolf tones.

 

Corners are good tone filters. Reduce high pitch sound but don't effect low pitch much. Modern violins have no interior corners, but old viol designs did.  These corners filter out the bad high pitch screech but also filter out the good high pitch pierce of a modern violin.  Getting this right in a violin is mostly in the bridge.  A good bridge produces lots of pierce and very little screech. 

 

I think the most influential area is the c bouts.  Lots of stuff happens acoustically when you constrict a wave.  Compare to an ocean wave hitting a beach.  Waves get compressed. The wavelength gets reduced.  Energy is absorbed.  Turbulence is created.  Like the shape of an airplane wing, tiny changes in shape can have a huge impact on turbulence, drag, lift and efficiency.

 

BTW, I've been working on an ideal shape for a fiddle and I've come up with this...

Which is remarkably similar to this old 1411? fiddle from a Spanish fresco.

It has near perfect cycloid "airfoil" c bouts.  Cardiod upper and lower bouts which is a nice shape that reflects and focuses waves but doesn't produce standing waves and tiny little exponential corners that should only filter the very highest frequencies.  Yes, and the neck is hollow, exponential transmission line.  Commonly used today in micro speakers to amplify the bass.

 

It's just a dream tho.  I've never built a fiddle.  I have a cello but really want a viol da gamba... so wish me luck.

 

fiddle3.jpg

fiddle4.jpg

Edited by Bran Latebarie
added 2nd picture.
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The original OP was talking about very small changes to outline.

Under that limitation, 'small changes', you can argue that sound is somewhat insensitive to the body outline.

But then the thread ran off as if outline doesn't matted at all.   Kind of a big leap?

Just look at extreme cases and you can see that outline does ultimately matter.  Where's the line between doesn't matter and does matter?  Who knows.

Soundholes however appear to be very sensitive to change of all kinds.

 

We seem to make over big leaps often around here.

Under circumstances 'A': If 'B', Then 'C'.

The above does not magically mean:

Always 'C'

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18 hours ago, Bran Latebarie said:

BTW, I've been working on an ideal shape for a fiddle and I've come up with this...

Which is remarkably similar to this old 1411? fiddle from a Spanish fresco.

A fiddle is by definition a bowed instrument, the instrument in the fresco is plucked. Very different driver, but good luck anyway :) 

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20 hours ago, Bran Latebarie said:

Based on hi fi speakers, yes; shape has a massive effect on sound quality.  Most importantly, all speaker drivers are rated for a certain volume of box and size of sound hole.   Get that wrong and the speaker will sound terrible and the driver can even self destruct, overheat or be too powerful against too small a volume and deform.  This is certainly true of fiddles as well.  Most important to making them work is getting the interior volume right and the f holes right. Also the profile of the f holes is very important. A nice smooth, trumpeted profile can make a smaller f hole act like a bigger one.  Changing the profile will make a noticeable difference in sound, for better or worse.  Too big and sound is muddy.  Too small and it can hiss.  Just right and the sound will be crisp most noticeable in the bass.

 

Another big thing is that certain shapes are lava. Circles and parallel lines are horrible and tend to create standing waves like wolf notes.  The has to be a lot of asymmetry in design.  Speakers tend to be rectangular rather than cubes.  Having each dimension a little different helps break up standing waves.  Trapezoids even better.  The way violins have a larger lower bout section than upper makes it something like a trapezoid without corners.  Never seen a violin that is top/bottom symmetric but my guess is it would have a bunch of wolf tones.

 

Corners are good tone filters. Reduce high pitch sound but don't effect low pitch much. Modern violins have no interior corners, but old viol designs did.  These corners filter out the bad high pitch screech but also filter out the good high pitch pierce of a modern violin.  Getting this right in a violin is mostly in the bridge.  A good bridge produces lots of pierce and very little screech. 

 

I think the most influential area is the c bouts.  Lots of stuff happens acoustically when you constrict a wave.  Compare to an ocean wave hitting a beach.  Waves get compressed. The wavelength gets reduced.  Energy is absorbed.  Turbulence is created.  Like the shape of an airplane wing, tiny changes in shape can have a huge impact on turbulence, drag, lift and efficiency.

 

BTW, I've been working on an ideal shape for a fiddle and I've come up with this...

Which is remarkably similar to this old 1411? fiddle from a Spanish fresco.

It has near perfect cycloid "airfoil" c bouts.  Cardiod upper and lower bouts which is a nice shape that reflects and focuses waves but doesn't produce standing waves and tiny little exponential corners that should only filter the very highest frequencies.  Yes, and the neck is hollow, exponential transmission line.  Commonly used today in micro speakers to amplify the bass.

 

It's just a dream tho.  I've never built a fiddle.  I have a cello but really want a viol da gamba... so wish me luck.

 

fiddle3.jpg

fiddle4.jpg

It might help to add some sort of f holes or C holes, with their eyes at the cardiod's focal points.

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