Violin/the b note

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Mr Lashof-  Are there any violin maker-making technique that will enable  better sounding b notes on the g,d and a strings.  I made 2 violins with-in the last few years just to see if I could do it.  The 1st could be called the ugly duckling but there are no bad notes anywhere.  I like the sound.  The 2nd one has bad sounding b notes.  They just don't want to sound using the bowing I use while hitting other notes.  Perlon and steel have been used so far.  Another website mentioned good violins having bad b,c and f notes on various strings.  That made me feel a little better but why doesn't the first violin I made have the same bad note problem that the 2nd has now?  Both backs used a simple contour pattern for the inside carving procedure.  Same for the tops.  I realized now I maybe should of used a bulls-eye pattern for the inside backs but I didn't take the time to do more homework.  If there's a makers secret for getting rid of bad tones and you don't want to give any info. I'd understand.  I used western red cedar, red maple on one and silver maple on the other.  Other makers comments read elsewhere say violins made of cedar will have nice sounding lows and weak high notes.  Mine are totally opposite from what they say.

Answer
Bridge
Bridge  
Hi Duke

I don't think I will be of any help here since I have not had the issue you describe.  Possibly the reason being is that the woods that you have used are not woods widely used in violin making. US Maple that is primarily used is the Big leaf/Broad leaf maple from the western US or European maple from the mountains. Any of this of course also has to never have been artificially dried. I'm not saying that is where the problem is, but it's a possibility.

As far as graduation techniques go, I think either a "contour" or  "bulls-eye" pattern can work, I have used both, so I wouldn't jump to that conclusion.  I would have to know a lot more, like seeing the arching, the thicknesses used all over, the tap tones obtained, BO(body resonance), bass bar specs, sound before and after bass bar installation, "f" hole shape and location, neck angle and overstand and height and pitch, string afterlength and much more. Too much effects sound to pin it on one thing without a lot more information and investigation.

Adjusting the bridge in places might help - hear are some tips from a book I am writing, hopefully the image will come in clearly.

The thicker the bridge top is, the more muted the sound will be, keep it under 1.6 but no less than 1.2mm. As you thin out the top, the sound gets less muted but also picks up an unattractive scratchy sound.  A violin that doesn’t have a pleasant sound can benefit from a thicker top. Leave the central spine area (1) thick or power will be lost to the “D” string.
To brighten the D and G, thin the bottom half of the bridge.
The bass of the bridge can mute the instrument, but making it too thin doesn’t keep improving the volume. The lower limit to the leg and feet thickness seems to be around 4.2mm.
If the waist area is too thick, the sound will be more nasal, but too thin it will sound just like that – too thin.
To brighten the tone, remove material from the legs up to the waist. If one side needs to be brightened, a small amount can be removed from the outside of the kidney (5) on that side.
The kidneys should rise no farther than the bottom of the heart and the space between the kidneys needs to be left pretty much alone.   If too much wood is removed from the top of the kidneys, the bridge becomes extremely weak both in structure and in sound.  This is referring to the cutouts, not the plane of the surface (thickness of the bridge). Space between is the width between the kidneys and almost all bridge manufacturers make their blanks almost exactly 15.5mm so most makers simply leave that area alone
Remove most of the wood from the feet (8) as short legs enhance the G & D strings.
Chamfering the arm edges will reduce muting.
Chamfering in the tang areas (3) increases the clarity and response as does trimming the tang points as described previously.
Width decrease at (4) reduces brightness but also can weaken the arms.
Raising the top of the heart (2) will brighten the D string.
If there is a booming sound on the A string around the B-C area, remove a little wood in the bottom arch (6). Lowering the E and A strings will have a similar effect if there is room. Also removing wood from the bottom of the kidneys (7) will help with the boom, but may hurt the C on the A string.
String heights will affect the sound; more space between the fingerboard and the string will give a clearer sound, but at the same time adds tension and thus a brighter – harder sound.  Different brands and types of string materials also affect the sound, a steel string will be bright and harsh and compared to a gut string.  With the different string types, different heights might be needed. If cutting a bridge that will be supporting steel strings, you should make the string heights slightly lower.  My height measurements are based on the most widely used string type today – synthetic core or Perlon strings.

  When doing bridge adjustments for tonal purposes, the bridge will be removed and reinstalled many times. For this, so that you do not have to loosen the strings and tighten them all the time, which is hard on the strings and your fingers, a useful device, is a string lifter.

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David Lashof

Expertise

I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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