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Peter Zaret---Patented Bass Bar for Violin

Instruments: What are your opinions ?

From Joe Fischer
Posted November 19, 2007 at 05:52 AM

Years ago Peter Zaret--a Juilliard graduate--patented a larger than normal violin bass bar.
The outcome is to give your violin "a more powerfull sound".
What are your opinions ?

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 07:34 AM
Here's the patent itself, in case anyone wants to read it. You can ignore the add to cart business unless you want a printed copy mailed to you I guess, and the pertinent stuff is under Background.
From Julie Slama
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 08:46 AM
A friend took the plunge, and reported himself satisfied with the results. He sold that instrument soon thereafter though, so I don't recall hearing the difference in a controlled situation.
They do cost about twice what an ordinary base bar does, though.
From andrew weinstein
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 12:08 AM
From Sung-Duk Song
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 11:25 PM
Installing/changing a bass bar is equivalent to a major surgery on your violin. There is always a chance that this could cause permanent damage and it would be unfortunate if your violin passed away.

I was curious about this patented bass bar so I consulted with some luthier friends of mine who I really trust. Their convincing argument was for me to not take the risk, unless if there was a money-back guarantee if not satisfied or if Mr. Zaret would be able to pay damage for your priceless instrument.

I do need to clarify: I am not accusing Mr. Zaret of a scam, etc. I along with many other luthiers are skeptical about this. If it sounds "too good to be true" then it usually is.

From David Burgess
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 11:35 PM
I've talked to Peter Zaret about his bass bar, and came away convinced that he truly believes in it.

Playing a couple of the violins, I'm less impressed than he is with the sound improvements. ;)

From Scott Cole
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 04:48 AM
Don't do it. This is what happened to me: I was in his shop and he convinced me to do it. My fiddle sounded rotten and I was vulnerable. He made a money-back guarantee. When he put in the bass bar, he also put in a poorly-fitted patch, covering open cracks I didn't know about. It was poor work and I demanded my money back and had the fiddle restored by a professional. How did it sound? Strangely low, like a viola. And because of the open crack, the violin whistled during a recital.
From Eric Horne
Posted on November 20, 2007 at 10:24 PM
I had one of Zaret's bass bar installed in my 1758 italian instrument. It was a BIG mistake to have the bass bar installed. The work to install the bass bar may have created some instability problems in the instrument. Currently it is in for some additional major repair and I am hopeful that the problems will be resolved once and for all. Oh, by the way, my luthier replaced the bass bar with a standard bass bar not long after I got the violin back from Zaret.
From Sung-Duk Song
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 12:12 PM
Eric: I don't know what your contractual or verbal agreements/conditions were on this transaction but if I were in your shoes, I'd get an attorney and file a lawsuit. Essentially, Peter Zaret has destroyed your one and only precious instrument. Don't you agree?
From al ku
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 01:25 PM
I don't know what your contractual or verbal agreements/conditions were on this transaction but if I were in your shoes, I'd get an attorney and file a lawsuit. Essentially, Eric has destroyed his one and only precious instrument. Don't you agree?:)
From kimberlee dray
Posted on November 21, 2007 at 03:33 PM
I just had a conversation about this with a luthier I'd been looking to buy from. My parents bought me a 1959 Mittenwald instrument from Mr. Zaret years ago. It's a great instrument with an excellent sound. Now I'm in the market for a new instrument and I want to trade up. The first thing the luthier asked when I mentioned my possible trade-in--Does it have one of his bass bars? It does not, fortunately, but the luthier assured me that if it did, he wouldn't take the instrument.
From Emily Cornelius
Posted on February 26, 2009 at 11:59 PM

I just came across this old thread and thought I'd share my own experience. I had Zaret's bass bar "surgery" done about two years ago on my 1790 violin and have been thrilled with the results. It is so much more responsive, resonant and projecting than before and simply easier to play. 

Interestingly, my old luthier was one of Zaret's biggest critics. She had heard me play many times on my violin and understood my frustration with its limited sound. After I had the bass bar put in I gave a recital in my hometown. My old luthier came to the concert, not knowing I had had this procedure done, and grabbed me afterwards to demand where I had gotten this new instrument that sounded so fantastic.

Just my 2 cents on what I understand to be a controversial issue! 

From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 12:24 AM

It is not a controversial issue on the most important violin shops:  the Zaret Bar is removed on the spot and substituted by a normal bar.

If your instrument sounds better with it, good for you!!!

www.manfio.com

From Joe Fischer
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 02:07 AM

Peter Zaret has based his musical life upon his bass bar,which he did invent....I've been to his shoppe  [the licence plate on his car is "bass bar"]......  "You do not wish your violin to sound wimpish"  ---he said to me  AND in many ways his bass bar really does add elements of a louder--more exuberant sound to violins... He said,"why even play when few can really hear you".

Peter Zaret's bass bar does have some credence for a fiddle that is not quite loud enough and "cannot be heard" in a public scenario---after all,we all desire to be listened to,don't we ?      Zaret has hundreds of fiddles at his shoppe,judge for yourself the volume of his "bass bar" to any violin,then decide...  About 10 years ago the price to "upgrade" to a Zaret bass bar was about $1,500 bucks....He may be onto something--a fiddle fitted with his bass bar really does project more and produces a more prounounced sound as compared to the norm.......

From Michael Avagliano
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 01:04 PM

If louder is better, then we should all be playing with amplifiers...

From Robert Spear
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 01:17 PM

You need to look at what a bass bar is and what it does. It is principally a structural component that must bear the full downward pressure of the strings for decades without allowing the top to deform. It is also an acoustic component, particularly for the lowest notes on a string instrument. As a comparitively hefty piece of wood glued across the most sensitive area of a violin, balancing these two requirements is not always an easy thing. Any piece of wood in any size and shape that is glued in this region can achieve the desired goal. It isn't always the bass bar as much as it is the skill of the luthier putting it in. If you have a Zaret bar in your violin and the instrument sounds awful, take it out. If the Zaret bar has been magical for your particular violin, leave it in.

From bill platt
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 02:15 PM

What a stupid patent!  It costs 30k to get a patent. What a waste of money.

From Marc Bettis
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 05:32 PM

Beware of thread necromancy.

 

PS-Most things that get patented are dead end ideas that don't work right or well. 

From bill platt
Posted on February 27, 2009 at 09:34 PM

LOL "thread necromancy"! Old thread.

From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 05:29 AM

Can't say anything about the Zaret bar, but my luthier instals his own version of bass bar.  Other luthiers have commented upon how the shape and size differs from the norm.  The effect though is great!  Really full powerful low register without sacrifice to the high.  So, there must something to this bass bar idea.

 

From Jim Jonah
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 01:19 PM
One smaller violin I heard at a recital my daughter played at was dramatically louder than the other violins. (I think it was a 1/2 size).
From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 01:42 PM

I've talked to Peter Zaret about his bass bar, and came away convinced that he truly believes in it.

so too were the inventors of the Yugonopity.gif No Pity image by TGrosjean

From al ku
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 02:12 PM
From al ku
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 02:21 PM

well, lets do a virtual experiment,,,

get a violin, open it up, take off whatever bassbar it has.  prepare a new bassbar, say, 10 inch long and 2 inch wide, trim and fit it onto the violin,  glue the violin back up and record the sound output.

open up the violin again, shave 5% off the bassbar by weight, still keep the "rectangle" overall shape, close up and record sound output.

repeat the above many times until the bassbar is almost all gone.

speculated findings:  the sound output of the "first" shave vs the "last" shave may be very different.  somewhere in the spectrum, one particular shave stands out, volume or quality, what have you. 

one major limitation here is that shape of the bassbar is taken out which is not realistic.  but the tradeoff is that it allows weight of the bassbar to be examined.  IF the finding of this virtual experiment suggests that different weight corresponds to different sound output, it begs the question when your violin is made, whether you like the sound or not,  to what extent has the luthier investigated this issue...

for some luthiers, the really good ones, it could be simply intuitive based on experience and feel, which is based on years of trials and observations.  to less trained luthiers, could it be a random act of faith?  perhaps.

the other issue is this:  if someone changes the bassbar of many violins, is there documentation somewhere the percentage of good, so so and bad outcomes?  since each original violin is different in one thousand ways,  it is questionable they all come out great, isn't it?  look around, the same thinking applies to heart surgeons and trials lawyers and baseball players.  until there is sufficient  and comprehensive data,  you just don't know the odds walking in.

in other words, it is not THAT difficult to make a difference.  but it is difficult to make significant, predictable difference consistently.

From Jerry Pasewicz
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 04:03 PM

  There are many really smart violin makers out there who have studied for decades to be able to make a great sounding bassbar.  There are no magic bullets to get around having to do the work.  This is the equivalent to a violin maker saying he could make anyone a virtuoso in 3 easy lessons.

 

From Eric Horne
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 09:29 PM

I had a bass bar installed on my 1758 italian violin. The workmanship was questionable. I ended up spending allot of money having the bar removed. I dont recommend them.

From Josh Henry
Posted on March 3, 2009 at 09:57 PM

by Eric Horne... "I had a bass bar installed on my 1758 italian violin. The workmanship was questionable. I ended up spending allot of money having the bar removed. I dont recommend them."

This is kind of a funny statement. It almost sounds like you are recommending that violins have no bass bar at all. While I agree that the Zaret bar is not a good idea for most violins, all violins do benefit in structural integrity and sound from a properly fit, shaped, and tensioned bass bar.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer
www.FineViolinBows.com

From Eric Horne
Posted on March 4, 2009 at 06:46 PM

To say that a violin does not need a bass bar is foolish. I was referring to the Zaret bass bar - I did not have a good outcome having it installed in my violin and would not recommend them.

From Michael Snow
Posted on March 6, 2009 at 03:24 PM

Here's my experience. I sent Zaret a violin (this is about three years ago), in which he installed his bass bar. When it was done, he told me "it sounds as good as any violin at any price." Quite a statement. When I got it, the G string was notable more substantial and ringing, the D string was OK, the high end (7th position on the E string and higher) was much smoother, but the A string was completely dead up to 6th position. The violin also had absolutey none of the "woody" character I associate with a great violin sound. So I told him I wasn't satisfied and want my violin restored to its original condition, which is his supposed guarantee. I sent the violin back and it took three weeks for him to get to doing the restoration (whereas it had taken him just a few days to do the installation). When I finally got the instrument back, my refund hadn't been credited to my credit card. After weeks of trying to get hold of him (he wouldn't return any of my phone messages), I finally got him and was told "Oh, I'll put that through tomorrow". Weeks passed with still no refund. I had to call my credit card company to get on his case before he finally credited the money back to me.

Next, I sent the violin to a great luthier I know, and he regraduated the instrument beautifully, which did a far better job of improving the sound than Zaret's bass bar had done. The whole instrument opened up, while retaining the woodiness and evenness of sound across all strings. The luthier also sent me pictures of what the top looked like when he removed it. It looked like Zaret just ripped the bass bar off. Chunks of wood were missing in several spots in the top. The luthier said "this is not the way to remove a bass bar", and said that if the top weren't 50% thicker than it should be (which made it a good candidate for a regraduation), I'd be in big trouble. If you want to see for yourself, click here.

So, be forewarned.

From Daniel Anderson
Posted on March 6, 2009 at 07:21 PM

The other night when I was rehearsing, the conductor commented on how much he was enjoying hearing my fiddle. Since he is a fiddle player as well, he of course wanted to play it. He mentioned that the violin has such a huge, rich, and responsive tone. It was a fiddle I had purchased from Dr. Peter Zaret's shop after looking at many fiddles in other shops in the area. I have consequently been in his shop many times and realize the work is done primarily through the f holes, and because of this no major "surgery" is involved. Athough Dr. Zaret is well known for installing bass bars in string instruments, he has found a better method of inhancing the sound. I would recomment Dr. Zaret's work to anyone who is seriously looking for a great sounding fiddle.

From Pat Jones
Posted on June 4, 2009 at 04:15 PM

 

Quote:  "PS-Most things that get patented are dead end ideas that don't work right or well."

Whoa!  I wonder what Thomas Alva Edison, Thomas Jefferson, or Nelson Goodyear would have to say!  (To name just a few inventors with great ideas....)

From Jeffrey Holmes
Posted on June 6, 2009 at 06:38 PM

I'm in complete agreement with Jerry P's post, so I'm quoting it again...

"  There are many really smart violin makers out there who have studied for decades to be able to make a great sounding bassbar.  There are no magic bullets to get around having to do the work.  This is the equivalent to a violin maker saying he could make anyone a virtuoso in 3 easy lessons."

In addition, I'll add that Mr. Zaret is by no means a violin maker.  I really didn't have too much of a problem when, early on, Mr. Zaret touted his design as a way to make really cheap instruments sound better.  Not sure it really did the trick, but who was it hurting?  I personally emplored him not to put the device in better instruments...  Guess what?  He did it anyway.

If you have a fine instrument, one should be cautious about who works on it.

Cheers.

Jeffrey

www.holmesviolins.com 

From Nate Evans
Posted on April 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM

 I know this isa revival of a dead thread, but I'm from Florida and was in Ohio on business.  I literally took a day to go from violin shop to violin shop within a 50 mile radius.  Well, I didn't goto Columbus.  As you can imagine, it took a good chunk of the day and his shop was one of the ones I stopped at.

 

  He seemed pretty insistent on getting me to play.  I haven't been playing that long, and although I have a fantastic teacher, I just didn't feel like playing.  I hardly play in front of my GF!  Anyways, he had two of the same violins, one with his bassbar, and one untouched.  I will say, that the G string was infact very pronounced, deep and projected.  But I did notice the other strings, meh....there was a difference, but I don't think $1000 worth of difference.  There's a larger difference in two violins with a price gap of $1000 than there was in his bassbar mod.

 

  Apparently also his method has changed, where he does not take anything apart anymore, and there are just little tab looking blocks that go on either side of the F holes that are painted black so they're not "easily visible" and the whole thing only takes 4 hours and is far less invasive.

 

  All of that aside, he is an amazingly hospitable/welcoming guy and can really wring some notes out of a violin when he messed around.  I will also say that out of the 7 shops I visited, his shop was the only shop with high end accessories and bows.  No other shop really had anything even at the $1k pricepoint in violins, let alone bows.

From Ronald Mutchnik
Posted on April 8, 2010 at 04:28 AM

For what it's worth, I had to replace my bass bar because of an unfortunate crack in my Landolfi. The procedure, along with replacing the bridge, fingerboard and repair of the crack in the top of the violin took nearly six months to do. An extra plaster cast was made and wood that  was , if I understood correctly, close to 50 years old was used for the bass bar and bridge. When I finally got my instrument back, I did recognize its "soul" so to speak but it took another month of fairly constant playing-in to bring the sound fully back to life on the lower strings. I take it from this experience that a change in a bass bar is not a thing easily entered into and I consider myself fortunate that the luthier with whom I was dealing worked very slowly and carefully. The long wait was worth it and my instrument is as I remember it before the crack occurred, perhaps, even better.

From Carole Lende-Svec
Posted on February 25, 2011 at 04:40 AM

Recently I was part of a group, 2 pro. classical players and a repairer, that sent a student Chinese but ok violin for alteration by Dr. Zaret.  It came back sounding much better, fuller with more overtones. I did not expect this.

Looking inside, there were 2 pieces of wood about 2' X 3/4" X1/2" glued on the outside edge of the bass bar. On the soundpost side was a piece of spruce about 2"X 2" X 3mm pressed and glued up against the top, presumably  putting stress on the top.

I can't believe that it really sounded better, but it did.  Does anyone have knowledge of how this could be?

From bill platt
Posted on February 25, 2011 at 04:59 AM

do a Chladni analysis and I think it will be pretty obvious.

I am not a luthier. I am an engineer. Just playing thought experiments.

Theoretically, if the bass bar is supposed to stiffen the top but isn't really doing a good job of it, then stiffening it more is a simple fix. Stiffer top should have less bass response and more in the upper ranges. The violin doesn't have much need for bass response--it gets a little bit from the cavity resonance, but it is a treble instrument. The G string doesn't make much energy at the fundamental--you "imagine" the sound of the fundamental because of the existence of the 2nd and third and 5th harmonics etc--they "imply" the note.

Of course you usually hear about how "regraduating" a top makes it better--sometimes. So why would a stiffer bass bar be good? Because the bass bar is supposed to be a stiffened area!

 

From Anders Buen
Posted on February 25, 2011 at 09:44 PM

I have seen a Zaret bass bar in the top of a Curtin violin once. There has also been a Strad article on the subject. I think the version in Curtins top was a balsa bar. Taller and wider than normal. Balsa wood is pretty soft, I am not quite sure if that bar stiffen the top more than a normal one. I'd guess it would make the mass higher and thus might pull the lower resonances in the violin lower in frequency, thus making the fiddle sound a bit more sonorous.

The bar was rectangular and not tapered, more than twice the dimensions of a normal bar. Balsa density is about half that of Spruce, so the top will become heavier with that bar.

Have never played a Zaret bass bar instrument, so my guesswork on how it affect the tone is basically speculations.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on February 26, 2011 at 01:31 AM

 @Bill Platt "What a stupid patent ..." 

There has long been a saying in the patent profession that more money is made out of bad patents than the good ones (which are in a minority, anyway), because most people who would wish to oppose a doubtful patent simply cannot face the prospect of patent litigation. The rule of thumb we used to advise clients in a difficult patent situation is to avoid the litigation route unless all other methods have been tried and have failed, and the life-blood of the client's firm is at stake.

Incidentally, 30k seems a bit on the high side for what appears to be a straightforward application that has gone through the USPTO procedure fairly swiftly, unless there are applications filed outside the US, which would bump up the costs considerably, or unless a patent's lifetime of renewal fees are in the equation (however, I have been retired from the profession for some years, so I am a bit out-of-date on costs and fees).  A general rule will nevertheless apply  – a patent application and its route to grant are always expensive to some degree and the patentee always tries to recoup the cost from the unwitting customers, unless it is a vanity patent and he has money to waste.   

From Peter Charles
Posted on February 26, 2011 at 09:02 AM

Trevor - I may have this all wrong but I have a feeling I could have met you in London? Did you in the past have an association or at least attend regularly the Sunday concerts at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square? I have a feeling I could have met you there - but it was along time ago.

From Trevor Jennings
Posted on February 26, 2011 at 05:30 PM

Peter, sorry, no, it wasn't me. I've never attended concerts in London, and the only times (quite a few) that I've been in London were on business or to attend meetings of my professional institute.

From Carole Lende-Svec
Posted on May 13, 2011 at 05:49 AM

 I've been expecting that the sound of the Zaret enhanced violin would gradually revert to being less resonant. So far it hasn't changed after 3 mos.

I assume that the added chunks of wood glued to the top next to the bass bar and also at the soundpost area have added extra weight but also extra tension. Is it true that when wood is under tension that it will gradually relax into the pull so that the tension is considerably reduced?

What is a Chladni test?

From Anders Buen
Posted on May 13, 2011 at 04:59 PM

 A Chladni test is a way to make vibration shapes visible by sprinking e.g. a violin plate with glitter, powder or sawdust that will bounce off the more vibrating parts of the plate and come to rest at the parts of the plate with little vibrations.

The plate is put on some soft pads or rubber foam bits in three or four corners over a loudspeaker sending out a pure tone at a high sound level. The pure tone is varied until a resonance in the plate is reached, the powder/glitter or sawdust will then start to bounce around on the plate and gather along the "silent lines" where the vibrations are at the weakest. One would then "see the vibration pattern" of that resonance in the plate.

From Scott Cole
Posted on May 14, 2011 at 04:45 AM

 The violin doesn't have much need for bass response--it gets a little bit from the cavity resonance, but it is a treble instrument. 

 

Bill,

Sorry, I must take issue with the above statement. THE major problem of most violins is in fact bass response. Just about any violin will produce a respectable A and E sound, but the D and G are a different matter and are why violins that have that response cost big $$s. As I've told a luthier friend of mine, I want a violin with a G that "growls like a jungle cat." The search continues...

Scott

From Ron Kovach
Posted on May 14, 2011 at 03:24 PM

This bass bar does not seem like a consistent performer. It's known that bad news will travel around the world before good news has the chance to put its shoes on, but I believe I've read enough negative reviews to warrant sticking with the bass bar that I already have.

 

I want a violin with a G that "growls like a jungle cat." 

I've always appreciated the same quality in a violin. So you know what I did? I put on medium tension G and D, and low tension A and E. This also gives a feel of nearly equal tension among the first three strings, which wasn't my intent but it just turned out that way anyway. A high tension G with medium tension D and A is another option that I've tried. Just a little food for thought...

 

 

From John Cadd
Posted on May 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM

If you were a Mathematician and a violin was an equation you might feel that the answer was not exactly right. Without us knowing exactly how a violin does what it does we are in that kind of situation. The equation may be wrong in a positive or a negative direction.So adding to the answer may get nearer the correct solution.OR it may make it worse.There is always a percentage chance that the alteration will make the answer better or worse.

So a different bassbar may improve some violins---Keep it in !.

OR it may make the violin worse---Take it out!      50 /50               

Good =True          Bad = False.                        QED.

If Strad was certain of his methods like a Mathematician his  Golden Period would have lasted for about 80 years.

From John Cadd
Posted on May 16, 2011 at 07:02 PM

Some famous players have found the new bassbar improves the sound. The only way to be sure is to record before and after. One good result will not prove much. Neither will one bad one.  Anyone seen Schroedinger`s Cat?

What does the added wood do to the air volume? Has that been calculated?   

If so, why ?      If not , why not ?


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