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Violin back ?


H.R.Fisher

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  I would be interested in understanding more about the influence of the violin back.  In my limited experience it seems to me the top plate is the

primary or the more significant factor. So what are the tonal and playability contributions of the back ?

                                                 Thanks  Henry

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My understanding is it's influence is minimal. The hardness of the wood may play some role. I am interested especially in the back arching, how much influence it has. It's influence would likely have more to do with surface reflections of the sound being produced, and less on the resonance of the plate overall. Or, so I presume.

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Unproven logical speculation:

Since the body B modes have significant back participation, it should influence the B mode frequencies and perhaps some influence on amplitude as well.  Data correlations don't seem to be great, however.

At the higher frequencies, the back, through the soundpost, gives support near the bridge.  I would expect a stiffer, heavier back to give a more solid feel under the bow.  

I'd much rather hear from folks who have tried a lot of variations for their opinion... which I would trust more than speculations.  One variation you might want to see it what happened with an MDF back.  I haven't re-read it to see if it contradicts my speculations.

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11 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

I haven't re-read it to see if it contradicts my speculations.

I re-read it now.  I forgot about the mid-frequencies, where the back is also quite active.  With a back made of MDF, the properties are very extreme and the tonal effect somewhat obvious.  One maple back vs. another maple back I think would be much harder to tell the difference.

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Both Roisman's (Budapest Quartet) A. Gagliano cello and the GdG Silverstein (Boston) played have poplar backs. Both have (had) unusually warm, full voices but lack (lacked -- modern strings might change that) the focused  projection needed to be soloist war horses. This is par for the course with non-maple backs/ribs.

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Though the following experiment I made without acoustic measurements, it helped me a lot to understand how the sound works: I had made three Strad Model violins where I exchanged the top plates one with another. It was clear by the ear that a given top plate keeps its sound no matter to which soundbox it was attached. Of course, because all violins were built on a Strad model, the backs ribs etc. we’re pretty similar to each other. 

BUT if you would exchange normal ribs on any violin with an extremely thin rib garland it will for sure kill the sound and this to a bigger degree than ‘wrong’ thickness distributions of the back plate. I was also able to fix certain sound problems on violins by strengthening the linings on the top side, which acts as a kind of frame for the top. 

I made also experiments with trying to carve the thickness of the back plate from the outside. Overall effects are rather minimal. It only came clear that the stiffness around the c bouts is most sensitive and the whole center shouldn’t be too thin. 

I also experimented with a flat walnut back and found the result also less different than I expected. 

I see now the role of the back plate more like a ‘modifier’ to the sound. 

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