When to change bass bar?


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Having spent most of my career either making new instruments or doing restoration in shops where the decisions were being made by others I find myself now doing more repairs and restorations in my own shop and having to decide when to change things such as bass bars, graduations and neck angles which are original but not to modern specs. Some things such as neck length or fingerboard width are obviously better to change if needed but other things such as bass bars present questions. 

I am currently working on a decent but not terribly valuable violin from the 1920s which belongs to me and was opened to repair a crack. While the grads are good and the bar height fairly normal the width of the bar is only 4.5 mm. I am inclined to change the bar to my standard 5.8 but have not heard the violin and have no idea what it sounds like as is. 

My questions are have others found that bars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries tend to be this way (I have) and am I right in thinking that todays thicker bars should work better with modern strings and more aggressive players.

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Usually bass bar problems are because it is too weak,  or split. Either situation usually calls for a new bar. If the bar is ok, and the top doesn't show signs of caving in, I would leave it alone until it shows a sign of problems.

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I can see the reason to replace a bar, when the old one is in the way of repairing something else (cracks etc.). Otherwise one sees all sorts of bars, sometimes dating back to the 18th. C. where there is absolutely no need to make a new one, just because it doesn’t fit the measurements list one got in violin making school. Indeed the longer one repairs old violins, the more one realises that the measurements list one was issued with in school is completely arbitary, and there is no reasoon to believe that my new bar is any better than the old one. The old tenet, if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it

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I agree with all , and I will add some other reasons :

- integral bassbar (as attached image) 

- short bassbar .

- re-graduation the top plate for correct thickness .

- if the bassbar in wrong position (toward the center) or so .

- changing the material / the type of the wood it self ; (spruce or wollow ...) .

 

 

Integral bassbars _ fusk_lock .jpg

integral.bassbar.web .jpg

Bass bar question ____ www_maestronet_com.jpg

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I would like to point out, that an integral bar is not in and of itself a reason to remove a bar. It was the traditional regional method in some places, and some are done with consummate skill. The likes of Schönfelder etc. require no pseudo “improvement”. I illustrated two Seidel bars here

that are also beyond reproach, and are to be preserved. The very cheapest 19th C. Schönbach boxes are cheap and nasty in their entirety, not just the bars. In fact I have a lot of respect for the poor wretches that hollowed out these bellies in minutes for next to nothing. You should try thicknessing a belly within minutes like that without ending up with firewood. I made an integral bar once, and it took me longer that glueing one in afterwards

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3 hours ago, mood2000 said:

the bassbar in wrong position (toward the center) or so

I would point out the 1668 Stainer in the NMM, which retains it's original bar that is nearly parallel to the center joint - it can be heard on at least one prominent recording and clearly does not suffer from it's rather small and "out of place" bar.

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13 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

While the grads are good and the bar height fairly normal the width of the bar is only 4.5 mm. I am inclined to change the bar to my standard 5.8 but have not heard the violin and have no idea what it sounds like as is. 

I made a bass bar 4.0mm wide for one of my violins, and it was fine... but the bar was of .48 density Sitka, therefore about equivalent to a bar 5.5mm wide made of .35 density spruce.

Unless you know what the bar wood properties are, it would be hard to say anything definite about it.  

But since it is your instrument and not particularly valuable, putting in your own bar would mean that at least you know what you have... if you feel like doing that.  Whether it would be better or worse is questionable.

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If you believe that there was no real reason for the modern bar to evolve, and think that you might start making 4.5mm wide bars or baroque bars because "why not; there's no difference", then leave it. If you think that perhaps modern bars took over and no one does that any more because the modern bar works better for more people over the last 100 years or so than the old one did, and the people who replaced them weren't idiots, and you want to give your violin a better chance, replace it.

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

These days, I am tending to make really strong and massive bars. The  sound and playing properties will not appeal to someone who only knows how to tickle a string.

I am doing somewhat the same, but using very dense wood so the bars don't have to be so fat.

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This subject comes up, periodically.  Here is an old thread on the Zaret bass bar, the most extreme bar I have ever seen:  https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/12622/

I have seen early Zaret bass bars which are about 25 mm tall the entire length--how about that.  So what is the role of the bass bar--I think it acts as a support (fulcrum) for the bridge, and it does not need to be massive.   I do not know the best dimensions., but the existence of the Zaret bar indicates a lot of variation is possible.

I do not think bass bars get old and on the basis of that need replacement.  Wood keeps its mechanical properties for many many years.

Mike D

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This is the oddest that I have seen. When I showed it to a dealer, he said that they would replace it before they put it on the shelves. The violins was lovely and worked well tone wise, and I saw no reason to replace it.

 

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42 minutes ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

To broaden the discussion out a bit, what tonal/response problems would point to the need for a bass bar replacement?

I see no possibility how one could in any remotely scientific objective way, as opposed to some esoteric delusion, determine that

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1 hour ago, jacobsaunders said:

I see no possibility how one could in any remotely scientific objective way, as opposed to some esoteric delusion, determine that

That's what I think too, but I thought that this was maybe a deficiency on my part.

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3 hours ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

To broaden the discussion out a bit, what tonal/response problems would point to the need for a bass bar replacement?

2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I see no possibility how one could in any remotely scientific objective way, as opposed to some esoteric delusion, determine that

If a violn felt like it was jumpy and low-resistance under the bow, I might think that the bar needs to be heavier and need replacement... although it could be plenty of other things as well.

But if it WAS a bass bar issue, it would have been made that way, and nothing to do with the bar getting old and tired.

I'm OK with being delusional occasionally.

 

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7 hours ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

To broaden the discussion out a bit, what tonal/response problems would point to the need for a bass bar replacement?

My experience is that some instruments with “weak” bars are easy to play and sound nice but can’t be pushed as hard especially on the G string. Just had a French fiddle with a similar bar which was initially attractive to a good player but subsequently rejected. It was then purchased by a younger and smaller player who plays with a lighter touch. 

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11 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

How do you define or identify a "weak" bar?

One clue, for me, would be the playing properties Nathan mentioned. Sort of like a fiddle which puts out a decent amount of sound without much work, but then gives no more or gives out when the gas pedal is pushed to the floor. And like he said, different players can like different things.

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Not every player has a fearsome bow arm, even in pro orchestras there are ticklers.
As has been mentioned, not everyone will require, or be able to benefit from the extra support a new, or stiffer bar would bring.

A better question might be who should the bass-bar be replaced for?

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

One clue, for me, would be the playing properties Nathan mentioned...

But how do you know that these properties were due to a "weak" bar rather than something else?  And what would constitute a "stronger" bar?  Would it be taller?  Thicker?  Longer?  Denser?  Made of stiffer wood?  If it were to be made of stiffer wood, how would you measure the stiffness of the old bar to know that your wood for the new bar were stiffer?

It's all quite baffling to me.  There are too many variables.

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