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top stiffness in old vs new instruments


baroquecello

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I've made a couple of observations lately and am curious if you can confirm or negate them, and if the former, if there is significance in them.

I'm talking of celli rather than violins. In new instruments, what I always see, but in varying degrees, is that the top f hole wings somewhat recede into the instrument due to the pressure of the strings on the top. In old instruments, I've seen some instances where this didn't happen at all. Instead, in old instruments often the top does show some buckling of the long arch in the centre, but this doesn't  seem to force the f hole wings down, but rather the whole top. Another thing I have observed is that it seems that on newer instruments, the sound posts are often set with more tension than on old instruments. They seems to need that more, sound wise, and on the other han, maybe this also helps against the sagging of the upper wings. When releasing tension of the strings, in old instruments this mostly leads to a falling of the sound post if the instrument is moved a lttle, while in newer instruments, it usually takes a lot more to make the post fall.

So I'm wondering: does the wood become stiffer and less flexible when it becomes older? I've heard that wood, in a way starts to petrify from the moment it is cut, as long as it doesn't rot. Does this mean that in older wood, the deformation that is cause by the string tension has a less local (between the f holes) and more spread out (over the whole top) effect? Does this explain why older instruments can sound well with a somewhat looser sound post than newer instruments?

I generally feel that instruments that sound well will looser sound posts sound, and especially play (feeling under the bow, articulation) superior in general. This would explain some of the myth around old instruments. (it not being a myth) But my experience is limited.

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Beyond wood hardness, don't forget the important additional factors of top thickness and the strength of the arching. You can't do anything about wood hardness, but these two are under the maker's direct control.

Also, your personal tastes may not be the universal standard, though I do understand where you're coming from. The "baroque" in your name may be the clue there. The "Chicago" in my location may indicate a different commercial requirement. ("Chicago, Home of the World's Loudest Orchestra", as they used to say in another shop I worked in.)

About 10% of the time I find cellos where I can't fit the post as tightly as I'd like and feel like if I kept pulling I could pull the post right out to the f-hole and take it out, but I couldn't divide them new vs old. That's always a bad sign, tonally, for my usual customers' tastes and therefore for me. Not because of the post tension I can achieve, but because of how these instruments invariably perform. I think if you have to depend on the post to hold the top up you may be doing something wrong. . . I think.

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