Stradivarius violin 'replicated' by radiologist

November 29, 2011 at 04:24 PM · A team of radiologists have "re-created" a Stradivarius violin using a CAT (computerised axial tomography) scanner and a CNC machine (computerised numerical control). The process and its results are described in this BBC News article.

The article includes comments by Ara Guzelimian, the Dean of the Juilliard school, and Sam Zygmuntowicz (his comment at the very end of the article is revealing).

Replies (92)

November 29, 2011 at 06:01 PM · did the ct match thickness, or density or both?

would love to hear the copy in action.

interesting implications for the maker field.

one giant step forward for technology, one giant step backward for artistry?

November 29, 2011 at 07:09 PM · Such inventions or methods etc. have always the shortcoming that they simplify the matter too much.

But worse, they offer a (questionable) answer to a wrong question:

"what is the secret of the stardivaris?"

This question is simply wrong, there is no secret, as we all know. No matter what the media, vain soloists, dealers or collectors say.

Strads are great fiddles, but contemporary makers aren't dumb, either.

And guys like Schleske, who claim to know more, make money with the tale.

November 29, 2011 at 07:28 PM · i think makers and researches are pushing in all directions to better understand the science behind the making of a better sounding violin. my bias is that the average performance of the modern makers is better than that of the past because of better understanding of the science of making which is more readily available.

it is a win win for makers and end users. just not sure about the tradition part:)

November 29, 2011 at 07:51 PM · I agree with Al. Modern imaging and fabrication technology will not ruin violin making, just as computers have not ruined the game of chess. Both merely offer exciting new levels of challenge to these time-honored skills. Is it possible, far in the future, that an automated process backed by sophisticated scientific research, could obviate hand-made violins? The issue of wood as a variable natural material seems quite difficult to overcome. To me it still seems possible, but I think the biggest hurdle in the end will not be the science but the problem of convincing a group of peculiarly emotional and sometimes downright irrational people -- violinists. :)

November 29, 2011 at 07:58 PM · Of all the scientific and technological attempts that I've read over the years to understand what makes a great violin great, this approach seems the the most credible and utilizes a technology that does not do potential damage to the instrument. I agree - it's a "win-win."

November 29, 2011 at 08:07 PM · Yet another 10,000 monkeys fallacy. Copying without understanding is useless.

Real makers are not threatened by this development. Anyone who has spent any time with the violin knows that there is way too much going on for a simple replication to change anything.

November 29, 2011 at 08:16 PM · True, but the more that newer technology can add even previously unknown miniscule details, the better the violin makers (which is certainly an art of the highest order) can incorporate it. No 10,000 monkeys will ever write Shakespeare (which someone once pointed out that the Internet has proven).

November 29, 2011 at 08:38 PM · "did the ct match thickness, or density or both?"

__________________

The CT scan gives information on shape, thickness and density. The shape and thickness information are converted into instructions for the carving machine.

The carving machine can't duplicate density. That happens during wood selection.

Shape and thickness, for some time, have already been factors which can be quite closely duplicated by makers, and makers often choose their wood based on density.

November 29, 2011 at 08:54 PM · thanks david. choosing the wood is thus a factor that requires human judgement.

the reason i asked that is because strad wood is clearly very old, possibly more than 400 yr old (my wild guess) and the wood used for this duplicate i doubt is that old, not to mention a possible different geographical source of it. so, there is an interplay between density and thickness due to the different nature of the 2 woods. for instance, does wood density change with time?

November 29, 2011 at 09:40 PM · Al, the jury is still out on the value of really old wood. Based on most of the feedback I've had from makers, it is either of no value, or of negative value.

Not that claims of using it can't have remarkable sales value. ;-)

Based on dendrochronological wood dating, Guarneri made violins from wood as young as three or four years. I realize this doesn't really answer your questions, but will try to offer what is fairly solid, and try not to venture too far into the realm of BS and speculation.

November 29, 2011 at 09:54 PM · see,,it is good to have guys like you to dispel rumors or quasi-facts.

i have had my eye on an old church down the road for some time. guess it is safe now.

November 29, 2011 at 11:24 PM · I think there is a place for CNC violins, kits.

There was a Zukermann representative in San Antonio that studied harpsichord voicing in Europe.

You buy a kit though him and when you get near the end he would voice it for you.

Now we cannot expect a good Luthier to graduate the plates on a kit violin for us, but what if you started with something a little bit close to specific models.

Plus if you have a big enough database you can offer specialized kits at a price. Say someone wants something like the Sear & Roebuck that grandpa had.

These would not be expected to produce high end instruments, but with sufficient skill and research an amateur might have a chance at something a little better than usable.

Plus if I want that puce violin with yellow dots I don't have to ask a caring professional to deal with it.

Just a thought.

Pat T cake

November 30, 2011 at 12:03 AM · "Now we cannot expect a good Luthier to graduate the plates on a kit violin for us, but what if you started with something a little bit close to specific models."

___________

That might be pretty good bang for the buck.

My team tried something like that about 25 years ago, in search of a superior cheap fiddle. We weren't able to produce anything stellar, but turned out some decent fiddles for the money. I suspect that more than a few modern "makers" use that approach.

November 30, 2011 at 12:32 AM · As cool as this is, it is next to useless for truly "advancing" the art of violinmaking. Enough strads--and other greats--have been apart frequently enough that pretty much all the important details have already been documented. Top makers have been challenging the old masters' work for a long time--arguably since Vuillaume!

I really don't think this is worth more than a yawn, in terms of real impact. Cool, yes. Historically useful: yes. Of extraordinary technical utility: nope.

However I'll add that were you to do this to a large number of Strads, you could do some really detailed statistical analyses. This could prove insightful. As a scientist but not a maker, I would find this very interesting. Again though, the great modern makers don't really need this information.

November 30, 2011 at 12:40 AM · There seems to be an obsession with wood density, and perhaps that is due to the fact that the CT scan can measure it. However, there are plenty of other variations in wood properties, even with the same density. To completely describe wood properties, you also need 6 modulus parameters and 6 damping factors. And then, the damping varies with frequency, so the variables are really infinite. And that's not even counting humidity effects.

November 30, 2011 at 12:43 AM · Don't mean to take anything away from the guys involved in the research. They're friends, hugely talented people, and working hard to advance violin making.

Edit, upon seeing the last post:

That describes Don Noon too.

When Don (infrequently) posts something on the tech front here, you can pretty much take it to the bank.

November 30, 2011 at 01:14 AM · Sometimes I miss something though...

I just checked, and it seems I forgot about the 6 Poisson's ratios.

Let's see... I think that comes to 19 parameters to describe wood at one frequency and given humidity. Looks hopeless...

November 30, 2011 at 01:31 AM · putting aside all the tech concerns, show us how this violin sounds like. where to get a sound sample?

November 30, 2011 at 02:04 AM · ...twelve elastic constants, nine of which are independent...six poisson's ratios....

Each species of wood has a range of densities, to which modulus of elasticity generally scales, but not perfectly! Some dense wood has a lower than expected modulus. Lots of variables. Haha.

What do fish (poisson) have to do with wood elasticiy?

That is the ratio of transverse contraction to longitudinal extension under longitudinal traction (e.g. external pulling applied to piece). Named after some dude named Poisson. (Too bad, really, that we don't learn more about these dudes. We learn about the science they helped create but except for Einstein, Oppenheimer, Newton, and Feynman, we rarely bother to learn who they were and about all the fascinating stuff they did! Poisson is interesting. Look him up...)

November 30, 2011 at 03:36 PM · The basic premise of exact copying is flawed. It's like saying that if I fly a plane and it crashes, it's because my copy of a pilot's uniform was not exact. Boring in with the most modern of scientific devices only proves the adage that we are learning more and more about less and less. I don't diminish the scientific effort. I studied with one of the great violin acousticians of the 20th century and I still do some research myself, but it helps to understand where all this knowledge fits in.

I also had the good fortune to take some classes with a famous wood researcher, Dr. Alex Shigo, at the University of New Hampshire. He showed us that two flitches of spruce that were neighbors in the living tree were remarkably different in terms of their density and other characteristics like bending stiffness. This means that even if the spruce pieces were carved into violin plates with excruciating accuracy and consistency that the resulting violins would not sound like the master model and would not even sound like each other.

This is good news.

November 30, 2011 at 05:47 PM · "He showed us that two flitches of spruce that were neighbors in the living tree were remarkably different in terms of their density and other characteristics like bending stiffness."

That is not exactly the description of fine tone wood.

November 30, 2011 at 06:01 PM · I'm just glad that our health care system is making efficient use of its resources and professionals (do they call it Obamanalysis?).

There's a reason Canadians and Danes are dropping dead in the street when they get a hangnail while we Americans are enjoying the best health care in the world!

Take THAT, socialized medicine!

November 30, 2011 at 07:21 PM · It's great that they can replicate a Strad to the nth detail, but what I'd like to see is for them to replicate $15.6 million so I could buy the real thing. :p)

November 30, 2011 at 09:48 PM · I think this will probably help Chinese and Corean factories to make better instruments, and give them a new sales argument. Beginning violin students have better access to decent instruments now than they had 20 years ago, and that process will probably continue.

When it comes to professional quality violins, I think most individual makers are in a process of fine-tuning their own concept of making violins, in collaboration with musicians. We're not waiting for any "secrets" to be revealed. We're creating the "secrets" of the "rare old violins" of tomorrow. And we don't want all violins to look and sound the same, do we? In that perspective I think this kind of exact copying has limited value. If you cannot copy the last 2% to make the instruments come alive - what have you accomplished? Standardization, I guess.

November 30, 2011 at 10:20 PM · By the way, I like Sam Zygmuntowicz' comment in the article. He's an intelligent and sensitive guy, and that's probably why he makes great fiddles.

But I dislike Ara Guzelimians comment that it's almost impossible to find a good instrument to build a first rate career with. It's of course implied that it would have to be an expensive old violin. It's that old attitude that makes violinists believe that they have to become antique collectors. Or make foundations or collectors lend any old mediocre fiddle to budding soloists. (I mean mediocre in the way they function and sound, not as objects of beauty and fascination)

Then he envisions that these CNC-machines could recreate Strads (hopefully the better Strads...), and that suddenly new violins would be interesting. Really insulting to all great luthiers of today!

November 30, 2011 at 10:28 PM ·

November 30, 2011 at 10:36 PM · "But I dislike Ara Guzelimians comment that it's almost impossible to find a good instrument to build a first rate career with."

I would tend to agree with him.

November 30, 2011 at 10:38 PM · I've worked myself up to a bit of a mood, and now I have to reply to Scott Cole's post about American health care. Last time I checked, the US was nr 37 in the world ranking of health care quality. Of course, you're nr 1 when it comes to health care spending per capita, but that's because you're sick more often, and you get ripped off by your doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Take THAT, commercial medicine!

(I'll remove this post when Scott removes his, since it's far off from the subject!)

November 30, 2011 at 11:34 PM · I have posted this before. It's not my finding, but a deduction. Having read that *almost all* the Strads, Guarneris, Guads, Bergonzis, etc. have been re-graduated at one time or another, in effect, the modern-day CT scan will never reflect the true measurements of the components - thickness of the front, back, ribs - of the instruments when they left their makers' workshops. This, in turn, would have an effect - adverse or otherwise - on the volume of air inside the instrument in question, correct? If so, the measurements would be indicative of the instruments as they now are, re-graduations and all.

It appears to be an ISO 9000 exercise.

December 1, 2011 at 02:41 AM · You can listen at NPR.org.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=142949546&m=142961315

If that doesn't work (I tried to link but that didn't work), just look around on the site. I heard it this afternoon but I'll reserve comment.

December 1, 2011 at 05:07 AM · my immediate thought was wow, if these measurements can be fed into a 3D printer to get a product of uniform consistency (ie removing the variations in wood and laquer from the equation), it should be possible to replecate the initial findings over and over (get the multiple copies of the original violin to sound identical)thereby demonstrating at least ONE of the factors in the overall product has to do with proportions, thickness, ratios and so on.

Other "secrets" like the individual properties of woods used, roles of biological agents like fungus, properties of laquers and the like might have to wait for another day, but if science can help the UNDERSTANDING of what makes one instrument sound a particular way over another, that's a great day's work.

December 1, 2011 at 08:34 AM · If luthiers anywhere in the world could buy exact arching copies of famous instruments, that'd be a lot better than the five transverse and one longitudinal profiles that are available now through books and posters. I think most luthiers and some musicians already have a pretty good idea of the effect of different archings on the sound, though. Some people already have access to plaster casts (a by-product of advanced repair work) and that has of course helped them to make copies when they no longer have the real violin in the workshop. Personally, I use machines quite a bit to save time, but I'll never buy a CNC equipment, I prefer to use my eyes, hands and mind.

When it comes to the thickness of tops and backs, measurements abound, so that's nothing new.

December 1, 2011 at 08:46 AM · There's a Strad in the Ashmolean that has never been played. Maybe they should copy that one, as it is entirely unaltered? Might be an interesting exercise. Wouldn't it be great if it turned out to be a shocker, after having been revered for so long?

Is anyone else just dying to sneak into the museum late at night and give it a quick 'Twinkle, Twinkle'?...

December 1, 2011 at 12:49 PM · "Personally, I use machines quite a bit to save time, but I'll never buy a CNC equipment, I prefer to use my eyes, hands and mind."

i think good luthiers will think like that, that there is certain level of pride and feel that should not be taken away.

on the other hand, a cnc product is nothing but one that saves time, how much i am not sure. there is still a lot of decision making left for a good maker to contemplate, before, during, after and way after.

in addition, this development imo does not take much thinking/learning to duplicate by others. hopefully you guys in the future can turn around repair jobs faster because you can allocate your helpers more efficiently. :)

interestingly, last night on the news there was a segment on a school in the USA that deters the use of computers in school. everything is hands on. gardens, workshops. 100% graduation rate.

here:http://dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/30/9118340-the-waldorf-way-silicon-valley-school-eschews-technology

one thing may develop with this cnc thing is that more likely than not, in the future, when the most precisely cnc produced plates are assembled, most of the end products will sound just terrible! :)

December 1, 2011 at 01:00 PM · Cargo Cult Science. That's what copying a strad be.

December 1, 2011 at 01:21 PM · Well said, Bill! :-) It might be hard for those outside the craft to understand this, but I have seen younger violin makers nearly come to blows arguing over a millimeter's difference in the width of a violin back. I think the other experienced makers haunting the forum can tell their own tales about such observations. There are those who, when they come across the best-sounding violin in the hall, will grab a tape and measure across the arching. What does this tell them? Absolutely nothing! It doesn't even tell them the width accurately because they are measuring across the arch.

Now if you get a multi-million dollar, laser guided,computer controlled, software-stabilized super MeasureMatic and get a measurement accurate to one ten-thousandth of a millimeter, what does this tell us?

As they say in Harry Potter, "nuffink."

December 1, 2011 at 01:25 PM · but bill, they have been copying strad from day one, just that they came up with yet another way.

December 1, 2011 at 01:26 PM · Yes, you are sort of right, Al, but that isn't ever what makes a good violin good.

December 1, 2011 at 01:31 PM · they are IKEAing the violin process, to follow those terrible europeans! :)

December 1, 2011 at 09:26 PM · Rather than IKEA, I was thinking more of McDonalds. We're talking about standardizing violins in the same way that Big Macs are standardized. The result might not be the best burger you've ever had, but at least it's consistent enough that you can go anywhere and get one. This is OK if you want a lot of entry-level or intermediate instruments, but you can't mass-produce the kind of quality that goes into something that's truly top of the line.

December 1, 2011 at 09:38 PM · There isn't one best violin sound, anyway. All so friggin' stupid.

December 1, 2011 at 09:38 PM · in theory, yes, from an artistic point of view, a painter should not get a black and white outline done by a computer and come in filling in the colors and do a little improv just to individualize it.

but, to have a machine to rather accurately shave off 95% of the wood from a block into a plate is not as bad as ikea or mcd, because it is the final 5% that counts.

this is not unlike a legal team of 20 junior lawyers working up a case for 2 years and then the top guy goes in court for 30 mins to seal the deal.

or having hospital triage more streamlined...

military functions better controlled for efficiency and min damage.

it is shock for sure to some, like emails when they came out. then came other social media...

glad you players are not being replaced by robots yet:)

December 1, 2011 at 09:49 PM · Using CNC to make fiddles ain't a new idea and already happens. There was a recent discussion of this and a number of makers wrote in with their experiences with this. It is standard in the guitar business, but at the high end just as in fiddles, it isn't as useful.

The issue in this thread is more specifically the copying of a particular Stradivarius fiddle, or perhaps a range of them of other "famous" fiddles as a method of somehow making better instruments. But you see, that is already the case. And the copying hasn't made astonishingly good fiddles, because the devil is in the details--a lot of them, and not just a few.

If you have ever been through a series of violin trials, had a fiddle worked on to try to achieve some improvement, or attempted to build an instrument, you pretty quickly realize that building a good instrument is a series of feedback cycles and compromises. And the final arbiter isn't particularly "rational" in that it is a feeling for the artistic beauty of tone and expression...in the hands of a player...and there isn't one taste for sound...

So no, CNC is not new and no, copying famous fiddles won't change anything in and of itself.

December 1, 2011 at 10:00 PM · If I play a $1k violin and Heifetz played the same violin you would know for sure who Heifetz was. If Heifetz played the same $1k violin and the David and you couldn't see the instruments you may not be able to tell the difference in the violins. A good friend has caused the sale of many violins because of what he can do with the violin as opposed to what the violin can do.

I do admit that good violins are great things. But the difference between a great violin and a mediocre (not awful) violin isn't but a fraction of the difference between a great talent and a mediocre one.

December 1, 2011 at 10:28 PM · I can tell every time my son changes from one fiddle to another in blind trials. I can also tell the change of a bow. And my family has been able to identify that I changed either a bow or a fiddle when I have done blind trials on them.

Every fiddle is different, whether "good" or "bad".

December 1, 2011 at 10:41 PM · Corwin- that's kind of how I feel about wines. I am fairly sure I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a £20 bottle and a £200 bottle. But I can pick out the £2.99 bottle from the £20 one easily- trust me, I just had some and it tasted like it had bits of ham in it or something.

December 1, 2011 at 10:48 PM · Ulf,

We Americans are often sarcastic, especially when it concerns our supposedly great health care system. At least the Strads are getting good care, though. I'm guessing the Strad wasn't charged $1000 for the use of the CAT scan....

Scott

December 1, 2011 at 10:58 PM · I'm surprised the doctor wasn't fired for using the CT without a proper billing code.

December 1, 2011 at 11:09 PM · During blind tests in relaxed situations, people seem to make accurate and consistent observations, both regarding violins and wine. But if prestige was involved, wine experts have sometimes failed to tell if a wine was red or white, and experts in the musical field couldn't tell the difference between a Strad and a factory made fiddle. So prestige seem to mess up peoples judgment.(not big news) When it comes to million-dollar violins, there's a huge amount of prestige going on, and things tend to go out of proportion, especially in the media.

December 1, 2011 at 11:12 PM · "...but, to have a machine to rather accurately shave off 95% of the wood from a block into a plate is not as bad as ikea or mcd, because it is the final 5% that counts."

_________________

Fair enough, but the final 5% is what takes 95% of my time.

General hogging out of wood goes rather quickly, either by machine or by hand

December 1, 2011 at 11:18 PM · Scott,

I'm relieved you were sarcastic - that's what I hoped. I'm new on this site, having a good time here and gradually getting to know different people's sense of humour, and reviving my English a bit I hope. So I'll probably make a few misjudgements before i get the knack of it...

And David,

setting up the machinery is tedious and time consuming too, don't you think?

December 1, 2011 at 11:19 PM · If you CNC the top, maybe you save 2 hours? If you race David with a chainsaw it is still a dead heat :-D

December 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM · i will ask a 3rd time and it is ok someone with the answer holds back: those of you who have heard this violin, how good does it sound? do i have to wait 30 yrs before it is declassified?

ok, now i feel more ready for bill and david:)

bill, i know cnc is not new but this cnc backed by ct is new and the gold standard here is a real strad. prior cnc on violin may use plans from ikea. every maker from day one of his career dreams to know as much as he can about strads, including among things the precise measurement and thickness (or density or whatever). if this violin sounds horrible, then there is more weight in suggesting that we are barking off the wrong tree. but if this violin sounds great, more research in this area may be warranted to verify the findings.

david, i understand you can do 95% in no time and spend a lot of time for the rest of the 5%. you are david burgess. others are not. your violins sound great and you have a reputation backed by real skills. others may not have as much real skills and this new approach may allow others to sneak up to your neighborhood in not so honorable ways if you will, with possible economical and ethical implications here, but at the end of the day, consumers want good sounding violins more readily available.

December 1, 2011 at 11:55 PM · But Al, you are missing the point: Hogging out ain't all that time consuming anyway. So if these also-rans can't tune up the plates right, that time saving ain't worth the skin off my nose.

And again I say Cargo Cult Science. If you don't understand *why* you are doing something, then you aren't going to get the best results.

As for Strad worship, I dunno. Carleen was rather taken by a particular del Gesu as I remember it...:-)

The recording of this fiddle, on computer compressed crap digital NPR audio, is "whatevvverrr" . Meaningless. Can't tell from a recording. Not that kind of thing.

December 1, 2011 at 11:56 PM · "And David,

setting up the machinery is tedious and time consuming too, don't you think?"]

_____________

Yup. Most of my experience with machinery comes from about 20 years ago, and a lot has happened in the interim. But I'm always looking for better ways, and when I think something better than handwork comes along (including speed), I'll be among the first to consider embracing it.

December 1, 2011 at 11:59 PM · "Most of my experience with machinery comes from about 20 years ago"

that is bull. i can introduce evidence to the contrary by way of couple youtube videos:)

December 2, 2011 at 12:19 AM · "that is bull. i can introduce evidence to the contrary by way of couple youtube videos:)"

LOL. Yes, I have some fun with my satirical Youtube videos, and so do some of my colleagues, like this one from my friend and respected colleague, Peter Goodfellow, about carving a violin with a chainsaw.

It's really worth looking at... this guy is super creative and funny!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2n1W5THyGQ

December 2, 2011 at 12:32 AM · But I like the one where you race him!

December 2, 2011 at 12:40 AM · In that one, I was racing a different guy, and it was my hand tools against his power tools.

We're both about ten years older now, but I'll wager money on my still being able to beat him. ;-)

December 2, 2011 at 02:01 PM · In my never-ending search to accumulate the greatest amount of trivial information possible, I sometimes stumble across some amazing connections. For example, we revere the craftsmanship of Stradivari, but how many know the time span between the end of his life and the start of the machine age (the so-called "industrial revolution")? It's much, much closer than you probably think. And there is also evidence that the masters of Cremona and French bow-making shops used lathes and fretsaws that were foot-powered. The use of proportional pantographs for scaling was also done much earlier than we probably think.

December 2, 2011 at 02:10 PM · lyndon said something of interest, which i have previously read, that the vibration from machine tools can affect the nature? of the wood.

has this been studied or is it as usual where those who believe stand on one corner and those who don't, another?

December 2, 2011 at 03:15 PM · Okay...it's early...and I've only had part of one coffee...

So feel free to point out the error in my thinking...

If power tools degrade the potential of an instrument (through vibration)...why does playing an instrument 'wake it up' (through vibration)...and why do do some suggest attaching electrical vibrating devices to new intsruments to hasten that process?

December 2, 2011 at 03:20 PM · my facetious ans to that is that the jarring noise from machine tools is not the same as good classical music used in post making awakening.

we really cannot afford to have the wood cell membranes develop bad muscle memories:)

December 2, 2011 at 03:21 PM · "has this been studied or is it as usual where those who believe stand on one corner and those who don't, another?"

The latter.

One study of machine-finished wood did show an effect... easily explained by the roughness of the surface.

There is no objective evidence to support Lyndon's belief.

December 2, 2011 at 03:45 PM · Hand sawing and band sawing both cut and vibrate wood....arguably with the same intensity...

what you feel in your hand, wielding a die grinder is not *exactly" the same as what the wood "feels"...

...when you chop a tree down, what do you use? How about when it is cut up into those cute little trapezoidal "blanks" purchased by luthiers and violinmakers?...

Oh, and grinding/abrading uses roughly one order of magnitude more energy per square inch of cut than does sawing...I suppose there are people who will argue that a cabinet scraper will produce superior sound...

Are modern wooden boats weaker than those built by the neohippies using only chisels and adzes?...

just some ideas, that's all

December 3, 2011 at 05:32 AM · I think the violins can be very good, but one thing that technology requires; you have to set the parameters in advance for them to be meaningful. If something is made by hand, by craft and intuition, then the maker can respond to things that are not cleanly formed questions or thoughts; kind of a gestalt state. It is as impossible for two pieces of wood to be an exact match as it is for a snowflake; they can, however, match in a finite number of measurable parameters. Does the difference result in a difference in sound quality? Perhaps.

But that 'Perhaps' is a very big and important 'Perhaps'. It makes it impossible to state unequivocally that the violin is of the same quality.

December 3, 2011 at 12:50 PM · lyndon, but you have not provided a physical explanation as to why the change. is it metaphysical then?

you did shave down some wood; is there a reason what you had heard prior should remain?

and there is really no basis to claim that if you had cut by hand that the ringing would have persisted. only i can guarantee that and get away with it if i am wrong:)

roland, i am not exactly sure where you are going with that post,,,a bit ambiguous. "you have to set the parameters in advance for them to be meaningful."

well, with this ct-cnc experiment, one can argue that the parameters were set pretty darn well but how meaningful it is remains to be seen because the test is how the violin sounds like which we don't know.

December 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM · There are lots and lots of new Les Paul guitars produced every year, both by Gibson as well as copycats. But the '59 still remains the holy grail. And it's just a freaking plank!

The old violins will continue to draw tremendous interest relative to knew. It is human nature...

December 3, 2011 at 01:01 PM · i just sent an email to this office to see if a sound file is available.

http://waddleviolins.com/index.php?contentID=86

hey bill, with violin i understand the plate's thickness is uneven by design. how about with your beloved guitars and mandos?

December 3, 2011 at 01:19 PM · There is a short clip of the violin being played near the end of this audio interview, at about 4:25. (There's an advertisement before the interview starts)

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=142949546&m=142961315

I'll be curious to hear people's reactions.

December 3, 2011 at 01:25 PM · thanks david, you never disappoint!

so the logical setup is to play this violin against the real deal in a proper setting with proper recording,,,

it will probably sound better in my living room is my impression so far:)

December 3, 2011 at 01:30 PM · My point with the Les Paul comparison is that it is a friggin PLANK. There is no "plate thickness." The shape is all style and not deterministically driven by sound. Perhaps it the shape shapes the sound somewhat, but obviously not like a fiddle or even an acoustic guitar!

The point is that (and this was somewhat tangential to begin with) the old greats will not be "dethroned" by any developments. I have a prewar guitar not because it is superior in every way, but because it is amazing, and also just totally cool to hold and play something like that--that smells like grandma's house.

My son's fiddle is much much older than the guitar, yet it is considered new and of relative unimportance historically. We can never get over the irony of this and rather enjoy it :-D

December 3, 2011 at 01:35 PM · Al the sound thing is also a rabbit hole. Yoru daughter is getting good enough that soon, you are going to have to deal with it: Some fiddles may not sound so great or offer up a desired response from most players, and yet give that fiddle to a pro and WOW!

What fiddle is best for you can in fact change--even when you get "good" like our kids are. They go up a couple of notches in their playing, and suddenly one of the fiddles they turned away from earlier becomes better now.

So comparing "Strad to Strad" as it were is not so clear-cut, either! And I will say that this is much more the case with fiddles than with any plucked or strummed instrument. The bowing feedback is so important--and requires so much skill, compared to the "touch" of a pick (not to denigrate the great pickers of course).

December 3, 2011 at 01:38 PM · oh yeah, there is no doubt about that. holding a genuinely 100% hand carved violin, old or new, should invoke a different visceral feeling from holding something knowingly made by a machine, unless, of course, one is an ardent IKEA follower:)

if i accidentally drop the former on the floor, i will feel more than the financial setback. even calloused me:)

December 3, 2011 at 01:42 PM · Haha!

Did you know that the (rare, but you can find them) all-wood Ikea bookshelves in my house are glued together with hide glue? That's right, I glued every joint when I assembled them--with the real stuff. So some Ikea shelves are worth crying over :-)

December 3, 2011 at 02:09 PM · when i was in college, we had couple pieces (bunch of us rented a house off campus so we can do things) I must say the simple line design are quite appealing.

I remember we had to use that universal wrench for everything to take care of those funny joints with a fat stubby screw on one surface and a thin long screw on another. always hate to read instruction and learned lessons the hard way:)

bad new is that if you move the furniture around after that, they tend to wobble and sway, haha!

imagine ikea issues packets of hide glue for the rescue!:)

December 3, 2011 at 08:30 PM · David:

The fiddle (on my laptop) doesn't sound too bad, at least not in ways that can't be attributed to mike choice, studio acoustics, bow, competence of player, etc. Not much more can be said than that. It might be really great in real life, or just another student instrument.

December 3, 2011 at 08:51 PM · It's pretty risky judging violins by recordings, isn't it? You've made some good points. Record that same violin in a reflective cathedral, or do a little post-processing of the sound file, and it might sound like the best violin in the world. The player matters hugely too.

December 3, 2011 at 08:54 PM · "Is anyone else just dying to sneak into the museum late at night and give it a quick 'Twinkle, Twinkle'?... "

I did try but the little stars were so bright I got caught after the first note. (It was a lousy fiddle anyway).

December 3, 2011 at 11:26 PM · It was pretty crap playing so who knows what the fiddle could sound like?

December 4, 2011 at 02:27 AM · I am probably one of the few nuts that quantitatively measures damping factors (i.e. the "ring") at many points in the process of building violins, I use a power planer, and have never seen a detrimental effect effect lyndon claims he sees every time.

December 4, 2011 at 03:46 AM · you are right lyndon that when i knock on wood it is for a different purpose:)

stop being condescending and then go on being charitable with your opinion next time,,,it hurts my feelings.

since a radiologist made the news in the violin field, perhaps one day a microbiologist with a high power electromicroscope can look into the intra-/intercellular damage you have been talking about.

lyndon, if a piece of wood (the size of violin plate) is cut into exact halves vertically, does each half still retain the same tap?

December 4, 2011 at 05:19 AM · It' s even worse if the electric power for the power tools comes from a nuclear plant.

Tone wood should always be processed at waning moon.

December 4, 2011 at 12:32 PM · no problem, lyndon,,,either i scold myself or someone else needs to do it! :)

it will be an interesting exercise, in this case, to cut "horizontally" and then take off equal amt of wood from each half, one by machine, one by hand, and see how the tap compares...

----------------------------------------------

oh btw, earlier i sent a request for a sound sample and the party responded promptly with the same clip that david had earlier provided.

December 4, 2011 at 11:56 PM · "the party responded promptly with the same clip that david had earlier provided"

And that I posted two days earlier, but nobody noticed.

Lyndon, do you really think that spruce 2x10 was sawed out and planed by hand? Lumber hasn't been processed that way for several years.

December 5, 2011 at 12:20 AM · Sorry about that, Lyle. I always try to refer to prior links, and place credit where it is due, if I'm sufficiently cognizant.

Reviewing the thread, you were the first to post the link to the sound file.

December 5, 2011 at 12:59 AM · sorry lyle it escaped my attention. i'm still looking for a better recording,,,considering how good the violin really sounds like is the crust of the matter here:)

December 5, 2011 at 02:06 AM · Re: splitting.

Would this not be because you want to prevent shortgrain? Splitting ensures that the blanks have surfaces parallel to the grain and also ensures the least waste.

December 5, 2011 at 05:50 PM · Wood splitting, hair splitting...I think this blog @ Scientific American sums it all up pretty well:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/2011/12/05/anatomy-of-a-stradivarius/

I didn't manage to get it to work as a link, so you'll have to copy and paste.

December 5, 2011 at 11:34 PM · Lyndon, who would you suggest? Every piece of maple "tonewood" I have purchased was sawed, not split. I have split some maple and spruce that I cut myself and cannot tell any tonal differences from the sawed pieces. Maybe my imagination is not as active as yours. And I've never seen spruce "tonewood" in the form of a 2x10. I must be using the wrong suppliers.

December 6, 2011 at 12:37 AM · That's because red spruce is better than englemann in most every engineering sense, not because some proto-hippie said "ouhhmmmm" rubbed it with a talisman, smoked some weed and split it with tender loving care using a neolithic axhead.

:-P

Species sp. grav. strength stiffness

engelmann 0.35 9300psi 1.3E6 psi

red 0.40 10800psi 1.61E6 psi

Spec stiffness engelemann = 3.71 E6

Spec stiffness red = 4.02 E6

Oh Bruce, you couldn't leave Lyndon room to rebut or comment!!!

December 6, 2011 at 01:27 AM · 100.

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