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How does a violin reproduce overtones? - Theorizing a model


Andreas Preuss

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23 hours ago, David Beard said:

I think it's better to trust what we see in the classical examples.  Namely in the upper bout that is:

a) Comparatively wide channels.

b) Medium strong edge and lining work. (weaker than cBout area, but stronger than lower bout work)

c) Light or no bass bar extending very far into the upper bout

d) for top only, elevation of long arc sustaining partly or significantly into bout area. Meaning peaks of cross arches stay relatively high.

e) relatively thinned top plate in upper bout (perhaps patches of thinness instead of even theough bout)

 

Combined, these things leave the arched portion of the plate comparatively thinned and mobile and separated from moderately solid edges.

Hmmmmm. While I think that there are some good directions in those recipes, there are some important factors missing. First of all string angle. 
 

Would be really interesting to see a graph of your latest 2 instruments. 
————————

‘medium strong edge and linings’ 

That’s a very ambiguous description. I wouldnt say that there was some empirical rule   like ‘the narrower the width, the stronger the edge work needs to be = (weaker than cBout area, but stronger than lower bout work) Strad has the strongest linings, the other makers are often surprisingly sloppy for the inside work. So I wouldn’t make any conclusions from there.
 

‘Light or no bass bar extending very far into the upper bout’

IMO Invalid argument. The modernized old Italians work very well with a long bass bar.

Concerning the barrel arch type for the top I am almost inclined to think that it came from intended stress deformation. (For the moment nothing more than a unproven hypothesis) 

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On 7/28/2021 at 1:13 AM, Andreas Preuss said:

Which area do you mean precisely? The tightest curve of the arching is in area where you can see it, just above the ff. (red) 

if you are thinking more of the area marked in green the arching can be pretty flat already depending of how much arch height reduction you allow from the highest point. 652ECFFB-F370-4C7B-88F2-B74EE2FCFC36.thumb.jpeg.9fef1c5788dd384261e86d54fbc54a8b.jpeg

if it is the latter you can almost think of arch deformation as a cause(so in the end it is related to forces and stress) which deform a perfect circle segment line length arch into a an arched flattened under the bridge and bulging up under the fingerboard and tailpiece. 
 

But no matter what you do with wood, I think that all receipes based on some sort of calculations are short of the optimum. I am rather looking for something where (exaggeratedly saying) the string force can deform the entire structure to its best sounding properties. Repeated wetting is nothing I am trying to avoid.

This violin shape seems too asymmetrical.  It might look better if you folded in half down the middle and then cut the outline pattern somewhere  in between  your sketched outlines.

I also suggest you use a pencil for your sketches because unwanted lines can be erased or doing your sketches on over layers of tracing paper.

Bu maybe your highly asymmetrical shape will produce more sound.  The off center bass bar and sound post work by breaking up the plate's vibration symmetry so that the sounds coming from out of phase antinode vibrations don't fully cancel each other.  Your asymmetrical shape might enhance this effect.

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18 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

This violin shape seems too asymmetrical.  It might look better if you folded in half down the middle and then cut the outline pattern somewhere  in between  your sketched outlines.

This would make a perfect symmetric body outline. Might be fun to see what is coming out. 

 

18 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Bu maybe your highly asymmetrical shape will produce more sound.

I think the assymetry created by bass bar and sound post is sufficient. What I find more interesting is that the air volume is 25% smaller than a regular violin with a normal frequency around 270hz. this makes me wonder if less air mass can create a stronger sound. 
Secondly it might be possible that the assymetric design allows to build lighter instruments. But this might be more due to the fact that the center bouts are wider than the broadest Strad (il Cremonese 112mm, new concept violin 118, if it had the same edge overhang)

————————————

However…

…. the initial motivation was to make an ergonomic design trying to project the Cremonese tradition into its own future, would it have continued as before.
 

Some of the features of late Strads and del Gesus are slight assymetric outline, broader bodies, wider distance of f holes, eventually f holes of different length, longer stop length (up to 198mm), assymetric arching. Though all those points can be interpreted as less careful workmanship of one very aged master and a master with a presumably irregular and troubled life, we have in the late works of both masters violins of exceptional sound quality. 
 

Just in a logic sense it looks to me like this: if make violins with  the same concept as Strad and DG we will always arrive at the same borders as they did, but will never go beyond exploring new ‘sound territory’. 
 

To know what is possible, I thought that it might be very ‘educative’ to do things which are against the established ideas of violin making. New ideas always emerge from something everybody thought is impossible. Assymetric design is a sort of taboo in violin making, but seemed to me the most promising path to explore paired with the idea to make everything as light as possible.

The most useful lesson I learned from following a new concept (I certainly don’t need to tell you) is that building such an instrument is fairly easy but does not at all guarantee any success in terms of sound, the really important thing is to figure out how to calibrate the sound of an instrument following a new concept. (To me Niccolo amati, Antonio Stradivari, and Guarneri del Gesu had all different concepts based on the same tradition and each of them figured out how to calibrate their own concept.) 

Time will show if my experiment of the new concept violin will leave a trace in the long tradition of violin making.

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Time will show if my experiment of the new concept violin will leave a trace in the long tradition of violin making.

Judging by all of the breakthrough changes in violinmaking over the last 300 years, um...  I wouldn't keep my hopes up.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

Judging by all of the breakthrough changes in violinmaking over the last 300 years, um...  I wouldn't keep my hopes up.

Don, if you only read what kind of ‘breakthrough changes’ were made to ‘improve’ the violin, it is clear that almost every time someone made a theory and then explained the ‘secret’. In the end nothing was done to really change something. Most of those people were amateurs with big imagination trying to tell professionals what they don’t understand. (Not aiming at you.) To my knowledge none of them tried to build a new concept on repeated trial and error. The theory had to convince the audience not the tonal result. No wonder that all those violins with attached voodoo claims disappeared over time. 

However we don’t realize that there have been successful makers building their own new concept. Namely Pressenda who created his own model, and also Poggi with elaborating something which is still not explored in depth, and you can count in the same line Josef  Kantuscher and Joe Curtin. And I am sure there was a lot of trial and error involved we don’t really know about.

I don’t believe in a revolutionary breakthrough. I believe in evolutionary processes which lead to shifts of what we define as violin sound. There is absolutely no reason why the development of violin sound has to stop with Strad and DG. 

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29 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Don, if you only read what kind of ‘breakthrough changes’ were made to ‘improve’ the violin, it is clear that almost every time someone made a theory and then explained the ‘secret’. In the end nothing was done to really change something. Most of those people were amateurs with big imagination trying to tell professionals what they don’t understand. (Not aiming at you.) To my knowledge none of them tried to build a new concept on repeated trial and error. The theory had to convince the audience not the tonal result. No wonder that all those violins with attached voodoo claims disappeared over time. 

However we don’t realize that there have been successful makers building their own new concept. Namely Pressenda who created his own model, and also Poggi with elaborating something which is still not explored in depth, and you can count in the same line Josef  Kantuscher and Joe Curtin. And I am sure there was a lot of trial and error involved we don’t really know about.

I don’t believe in a revolutionary breakthrough. I believe in evolutionary processes which lead to shifts of what we define as violin sound. There is absolutely no reason why the development of violin sound has to stop with Strad and DG. 

This is where I start to run into an iceberg myself in all this....really I sit there and try to imagine what a "better" sounding violin sounds like. Does it no longer sound like a violin? or is it that it just sounds like the best Strad, just better? and what is better? or does some new tone element get introduced? 

Personally I want to create an instrument that utilizes the ability for a sympathetic response and incorporate some type of element under the bridge area to excite "chimes" or something like that so you would get a combo of the string sound with "bells" , or maybe a "skin" that contacts the bridge that would;d start to vibrate like a reed. I did have a tail gut one time curl down and just touch the top, it made this awesome sounding buzz along with the string sound, I almost left it, but it certainly gave me ideas for strange instruments.

One day I'd like to make a violin with a resonator, that could be neat.maybe? 

But again what does a "better" violin sound like I wonder.

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38 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

But again what does a "better" violin sound like I wonder.

I think it depends on the listener and type, type of music, and situation.  Soloist? Bluegrass fiddler amplified? First violinist in a quartet? Second violinist? Orchestra? Old-time fiddler?  Irish fiddler?  All of these likely have different things that are important, and even within each, there would be personal preference.

The only thing that I think would be "better" most of the time is to get more sound for the same effort... as long as it's controllable.  Even then, there are some who think normal violins are too loud.  Usually violists.

I'm not looking to invent a new wheel in a different shape.  The normal violin shape can work fantastically well (if not often), and discovering how to make that happen seems like a more attractive business model to me.

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2 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

1. I believe in evolutionary processes which lead to shifts of what we define as violin sound. 

2. There is absolutely no reason why the development of violin sound has to stop with Strad and DG. 

1. Who's "we" ?  What is the "definition" of present day violin sound ? 

2. In which directions do you think the violin sound (sic!) should be further developed ? What exactly, specifically, would require improvement on our best Strads/DGs ?  For example : what would you improve on the Soil Strad ? Lord Wilton DG ? etc.  And how do you know what needs improving - based on what exactly ? 

The thing I constantly notice on MN is the lack of any specificity - it's all vague statements of intent, going from nowhere to nowhere. Maybe the problem is not improving on Strad's best but improving the present day produce.  When it comes to classical music our ability to improve is (very ) limited for reasons not immediately obvious though none the less impossible to overcome. Certain conditions which helped create the exceptional of (many) decades past will never be seen again.

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2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

This is where I start to run into an iceberg myself in all this....really I sit there and try to imagine what a "better" sounding violin sounds like. Does it no longer sound like a violin? or is it that it just sounds like the best Strad, just better? and what is better? or does some new tone element get introduced? 

Well, somehow it's all of the above.... 

I think that's the spirit - asking questions, talking to people who might make good suggestions, lots and lots of critical listening etc etc etc. 

Wonderful post ! I must say I really enjoy your posts - always a different angle, something to think about.

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3 hours ago, jezzupe said:

{...}

 

       But again what does a "better" violin sound like I wonder.

 

For me, I'm entirely classically oriented, so it would be a violin that most of all sounds and plays like the violins people like Perlman and Vengerov treat as 'the best'.  So, like a very good and very happily set up and settled in Strad or DG.   If I could reliable deliver such instruments without the burden of an historical instrument price, I would consider myself to have achieve all the better/best I would care to aim for.

But, this goal is as much about the players feel and experience producing the sounds as it about the sounds produce.

Actual 'Better' would be about delivering wider range of player choice and command in tone color and articulation, greater player ease in reaching any expression they desire, and perhaps with better power, clarity, definition, etc.

 

 

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1 hour ago, David Beard said:

Actual 'Better' would be about delivering wider range of player choice and command in tone color and articulation, greater player ease in reaching any expression they desire, and perhaps with better power, clarity, definition, etc.

That's great.  Now for the tiny speedbump of figuring out what to do when making the violin to get all of that to happen.

About the only things the majority of makers might agree on is 1) Don't use lead for a top plate, and 2) Thinning the plates of a given violin will increase the low frequency amplitudes.  I'm sure some might even disagree with that second one.

 

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51 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

That's great.  Now for the tiny speedbump of figuring out what to do when making the violin to get all of that to happen.

About the only things the majority of makers might agree on is 1) Don't use lead for a top plate, and 2) Thinning the plates of a given violin will increase the low frequency amplitudes.  I'm sure some might even disagree with that second one.

 

Yeah.   Setting a goal is only a very limited kind of start.  But even that is usually hugely buggered.

 

My strategy for achieving this is to 'do as they did.'   So far I've made fair progress in seeing of the 'what' in their making.   Now, I'm just at front of learning how to use those things to make basically decent violin.  As this stage of work gets solid, I begin thinking about tinkering with my choices within the structured tradition to seek more pleasing results-- just as they did.

But it's a long slow journey.

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5 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

1. Who's "we" ?  What is the "definition" of present day violin sound ? 

We is the general audience. If we would take nowadays instruments back into the 17th century listeners used to soft toned baroque sound would probably be ‘disgusted’ about the bright and obstrusive sound. I think other music genres like rock pop and jazz (and maybe our sound polluted environment) have an impact on what we (the listeners) define as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. I see a trend towards a louder and sharper sound. 

6 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

2. In which directions do you think the violin sound (sic!) should be further developed ? What exactly, specifically, would require improvement on our best Strads/DGs ?  For example : what would you improve on the Soil Strad ? Lord Wilton DG ? etc.  And how do you know what needs improving - based on what exactly ? 

First, I am not trying to improve Strad or DG. That’s something I leave to others. (Don’t want to name anyone.)

Talking to performers about what they need and want is the key. Response, huge variety of possible tone colors, and a good projection are the main ingredients. (You could say ‘fun to drive’) Further development is about more playing possibilities. Just in my view this has a lot to do with overtones, the reason why I started this thread.

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8 hours ago, jezzupe said:

But again what does a "better" violin sound like I wonder.

I hope I didn’t say ‘better’ anywhere. All performers have personal choices and even on the top level of instruments there are instruments adored by some players and completely rejected by others. 

I am working on a sound which is rich and dense, flexible under the bow arm and crusted with overtones. Some performers will like this sound others won’t. I see it similar to the work of a composer defining his own unique style. I see in assymtric design new possibilities to define my own unique sound. (Or somehow I got tired in repeating Strad and DG.) 

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4 hours ago, Don Noon said:

About the only things the majority of makers might agree on is 1) Don't use lead for a top plate, and 2) Thinning the plates of a given violin will increase the low frequency amplitudes.  I'm sure some might even disagree with that second one.

The violin has a neck and ribs as well….;)

There was this rocket scientist who told me long ago that thin flimsy ribs don’t work and he was right. 
 

I learned from there that rib construction and neck setting can counterbalance low frequency amplitudes. And the top thickness matters more than the back.

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On 8/5/2021 at 8:31 AM, Andreas Preuss said:

This would make a perfect symmetric body outline. Might be fun to see what is coming out. 

 

I think the assymetry created by bass bar and sound post is sufficient. What I find more interesting is that the air volume is 25% smaller than a regular violin with a normal frequency around 270hz. this makes me wonder if less air mass can create a stronger sound. 
Secondly it might be possible that the assymetric design allows to build lighter instruments. But this might be more due to the fact that the center bouts are wider than the broadest Strad (il Cremonese 112mm, new concept violin 118, if it had the same edge overhang)

————————————

However…

…. the initial motivation was to make an ergonomic design trying to project the Cremonese tradition into its own future, would it have continued as before.
 

Some of the features of late Strads and del Gesus are slight assymetric outline, broader bodies, wider distance of f holes, eventually f holes of different length, longer stop length (up to 198mm), assymetric arching. Though all those points can be interpreted as less careful workmanship of one very aged master and a master with a presumably irregular and troubled life, we have in the late works of both masters violins of exceptional sound quality. 
 

Just in a logic sense it looks to me like this: if make violins with  the same concept as Strad and DG we will always arrive at the same borders as they did, but will never go beyond exploring new ‘sound territory’. 
 

To know what is possible, I thought that it might be very ‘educative’ to do things which are against the established ideas of violin making. New ideas always emerge from something everybody thought is impossible. Assymetric design is a sort of taboo in violin making, but seemed to me the most promising path to explore paired with the idea to make everything as light as possible.

The most useful lesson I learned from following a new concept (I certainly don’t need to tell you) is that building such an instrument is fairly easy but does not at all guarantee any success in terms of sound, the really important thing is to figure out how to calibrate the sound of an instrument following a new concept. (To me Niccolo amati, Antonio Stradivari, and Guarneri del Gesu had all different concepts based on the same tradition and each of them figured out how to calibrate their own concept.) 

Time will show if my experiment of the new concept violin will leave a trace in the long tradition of violin making.

There is no evidence that Stradivari made all the possible size and shape variations and combinations so there is no evidence his final violin designs can not be further improved upon.

He continued to make different size violins throughout his 70 year career.   His shape and size did not converge with just one mold design as seen in the attached plots of Woodrow's data.

This indicates that: The variations didn't make much difference and he just used the several different molds he had on hand or --the variations were important and players did want some different choices.

 

D. Woodrow, The Shape of Stradivari Forms and Violins, (Taynton Press, Oxford, 1991).

Screen Shot 2021-08-06 at 9.15.54 AM.png

Screen Shot 2021-08-06 at 9.14.09 AM.png

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13 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

1. We is the general audience. If we would take nowadays instruments back into the 17th century listeners used to soft toned baroque sound would probably be ‘disgusted’ about the bright and obstrusive sound.

2.I think other music genres like rock pop and jazz (and maybe our sound polluted environment) have an impact on what we (the listeners) define as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. I see a trend towards a louder and sharper sound. 

3. First, I am not trying to improve Strad or DG. That’s something I leave to others. (Don’t want to name anyone.)

4. Talking to performers about what they need and want is the key. Response, huge variety of possible tone colors, and a good projection are the main ingredients. (You could say ‘fun to drive’) Further development is about more playing possibilities. Just in my view this has a lot to do with overtones, the reason why I started this thread.

1. It's a long standing observation that "the general audience" doesn't know it's gluteus maximus from it's elbow. Not that tweaking orchestral instruments to the opinion of the general audience hasn't been done and with uniform bad results. Some still with us. A lot of classical music , including tone quality, is learned. Absent that people gravitate towards what they can actually sense pleasingly, usually not much and always uni-dimensional. 

2. I would triple check on those...

3. Never said you should. What I did was to ask  what would you improve. Do you find them perfect ?

4.  Talking to performers is an excellent starting point but I am afraid that unless yourself are an artistically accomplished violin player quantifying "fun to drive" will take a long time.

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56 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

1. It's a long standing observation that "the general audience" doesn't know it's gluteus maximus from it's elbow. Not that tweaking orchestral instruments to the opinion of the general audience hasn't been done and with uniform bad results. Some still with us. A lot of classical music , including tone quality, is learned. Absent that people gravitate towards what they can actually sense pleasingly, usually not much and always uni-dimensional. 

2. I would triple check on those...

3. Never said you should. What I did was to ask  what would you improve. Do you find them perfect ?

4.  Talking to performers is an excellent starting point but I am afraid that unless yourself are an artistically accomplished violin player quantifying "fun to drive" will take a long time.

1. No further comment

2. No further comment.

3. On Strads I wouldn’t change anything. That would be the same as trying to find the imperfections in a Rembrandt painting. I just have the suspicion that many of them are not calibrated to their maximum playing potential. Sound is not about being perfect. It needs to give the player what he/she needs. Many sound details depend on the way the bowing arm works.

4. Yes and no. You don’t need to play in tune to check the sound. You need to learn how to manage a really good bow contact with maybe two or three bowing techniques. Over time with some experience you get a pretty good feeling after only a few notes. A musician taught me how to listen to a g major scale to evaluate the sound. 

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7 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

It's amazing how radically orchestral instruments have changed since the ground-breaking Violin Octet was introduced over half a century ago.

NOT (even though I think the vertical viola sounds kinda interesting)

1. The explanation is simple : Carleen Hutchins was an accomplished classical musician with deep insight into the intricacies of modern symphonic scores. Her renditions of Bruckner's Works with the BPO are 2nd to none. She KNEW what's needed, she wasn't a deluded albeit excited moron. 

2. Anything sounds kind of interesting compared to violas.

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9 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

It's amazing how radically orchestral instruments have changed since the ground-breaking Violin Octet was introduced over half a century ago.

NOT (even though I think the vertical viola sounds kinda interesting)

Most of the octet instruments didn’t have music pieces written for their voice alone.  In the end composers were hired to write music for the octet. 

Then not enough makers jumped on the train to produce enough instruments to fill one orchestra. But even if that would have happened, it would have required to rewrite all the orchestra scores for the new octet string section. (Let alone to convince all string players in an orchestra to use different instruments) 

Last not least there were instruments in sizes that didn’t fit in normal instrument cases, only small sizes cello bags, not mentioning that some instruments needed special strings not regularly produced by string makers. 
 

All this was certainly not a good recipe for success.

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11 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

1. No further comment

2. No further comment.

3. On Strads I wouldn’t change anything. That would be the same as trying to find the imperfections in a Rembrandt painting. I just have the suspicion that many of them are not calibrated to their maximum playing potential. Sound is not about being perfect. It needs to give the player what he/she needs. Many sound details depend on the way the bowing arm works.

4. Yes and no. You don’t need to play in tune to check the sound. You need to learn how to manage a really good bow contact with maybe two or three bowing techniques. Over time with some experience you get a pretty good feeling after only a few notes. A musician taught me how to listen to a g major scale to evaluate the sound. 

3. That's good to know. Big weight lifted off chest.  Nothing I could say about them Strads being fuly calibrated or not. But I suppose there is always space for improvement. 

4. You might not need to play in tune but you need excellent ear to tell if the violin can. As to the "pretty good feeling" that depends a lot on what's being tested. I knew some violins which take tremendous bow control to get them going. An amateur won't scratch the surface there and miss tremendous tonal capabilities. There is also a great deal to be discovered upon the action of the left hand. Unless one spends hours every day polishing that action, all that is hidden. Very few present day players come remotely close to the kind of articulation the Old Ones had. One, of the top of my head.

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23 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I think it depends on the listener and type, type of music, and situation.  Soloist? Bluegrass fiddler amplified? First violinist in a quartet? Second violinist? Orchestra? Old-time fiddler?  Irish fiddler?  All of these likely have different things that are important, and even within each, there would be personal preference.

The only thing that I think would be "better" most of the time is to get more sound for the same effort... as long as it's controllable.  Even then, there are some who think normal violins are too loud.  Usually violists.

I'm not looking to invent a new wheel in a different shape.  The normal violin shape can work fantastically well (if not often), and discovering how to make that happen seems like a more attractive business model to me.

I agree with all that, then maybe the better/improved violin is one that could be modified on the fly to suit all the many different tonescapes , I don't think that is possible with an acoustic instrument, but then again that's why they "invented" soundpost and bridge adjustments.

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