Peter Zaret's bass-bars

April 17, 2006 at 04:20 AM · I recently saw an article about Peter Zaret's "revolutionary" bass-bar. Has anyone had experience with it? Does this bass-bar really make as much of a difference as it claims? If so, is it worth the risk?

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.zaretandsonsviolins.com/aceofbass.html

Replies (18)

April 17, 2006 at 12:54 PM · I discussed this with a luthier whom I trust, and who is fairly open-minded. He said it can make a violin better in some ways, but not in other ways, and that it depends on the instrument, the player's taste etc.

If you feel your instrument needs improvement, I would suggest starting with more standard adjustments, e.g. having a competent luthier begin with a simple sound post adjustment, then maybe a new bridge, and on your own, experiment with different strings.

If Mr. Zaret has (as the saying goes) truly built a better mouse trap, then ultimately everyone will beat a path to his door.

April 17, 2006 at 03:12 PM · It could also possibly be that he is very good at promoting himself.

April 17, 2006 at 04:16 PM · I have played two examples, only. I didn't like what the bar did in both cases, but I can understand where an inexperienced player would like it, for a while.

There was quick, clean response, but it wasn't the best type--with snap, a bit of an impact on each note--but rather a sort of a quick, gentle and smeary start without any punch, like you might get on a very cheap violin with too low of a bridge, or a violin with a heavy practice mute. I thought the tone was plain, and the whole experience was like playing a bow without enough rosin.

There's a certain type of player that evaluates violins based on the lack of apparent defects, not how exciting the are, and that's who I think this would appeal to.

That is, really, a huge chunk of the market, and those people would get what they wanted, so I can understand why he can sell them.

April 17, 2006 at 05:10 PM · I always get suspicious of people talking down a Strad (in the link above) to promote their invention. It is mentioned that the improvement is particularly on the lower end instruments. I suspect that they don't come with a very well made bass bar to start with. Maybe not a very interesting comparison. I dont think that the bass bar is the answer to all problems in a violin. The bridge, post and especially the fingerboard curve is more important and changing all of those with a top craftsman is a lot cheaper than 1500 USD.

April 17, 2006 at 05:18 PM · How does the curve of a fingerboard affect the sound of the violin?

April 17, 2006 at 05:25 PM · As I understand it, when he began producing the bassbar, the idea was to install it in inexpensive violins with hopes of "improving" them. I agree with Michael, concerning what that these "improvements" were. Probably appropriate for some lower end student instruments... I guess. It's not the only way to "get there". A simple regraduation and good standard bar can yeild excellent (better, in my opinion) results if the arching is decent... but is more expensive.

As far as the bar being installed in better instruments, all I can say is that based on my own experience, I didn't like the results. In more than one case, players have asked me to switch them back to a standard bar.

I'm not convinced that these bars offer the correct support for the top, either (in other words, they may have some long term detrimental effects). To be fair, that's just an off-the-cuff observation. I haven't stress tested the design (as I wouldn't choose to use it anyway).

April 18, 2006 at 06:58 AM · A few weeks ago, I tried a Giovanni Pagani viola with Zaret's bass bar for a friend. The viola had a "big" sound, especially on the lower strings. The a-string was a bit too shrill for me, but my friend assured me that she could avoid the shrill tone with her bow technique. Anyway, it is difficult to judge the effect of the Zaret bass bar: I tried the viola with, but had not tried the same viola without that bass bar. Zaret's bass bar could be a good solution to improve student instruments.

Luke

April 18, 2006 at 10:54 PM · Greetings,

William

>How does the curve of a fingerboard affect the sound of the violin?

I don`t know if it affects the insturment directly. But, my previous instrument was a good Italian from the `20s the name of which I cannot remember until I have had another ten cups of coffee. It proved extremely difficult to set up to maximum beauty and power even working for days with one of the best `setter uppers ` in Japan. In the end we recognized that it needed a really high bridge but instea dof necessitating a change in the angle of the neck we decided to put on a fingerboard that curved up like a banana. This also kept the strings relaitvely close to the fingerboard . It wa sfascinating to watch a new fingerboard being carved from scratch from a block of ebony.

Now I am thinking about the topic I think their might be some slight tonal differences depending on the quality of the ebony. My luthier used a real expensive type which presumably was what ? Lighter? Less flawed? Denser? No idea really.

Cheers,

Buri

May 11, 2006 at 05:12 PM · STAY AWAY FROM THIS GUY! I sent him a violin, and didn't like the result, so I asked him to restore it to the original condition, which his website clearly states is his "money-back guarantee". When I first sent it to him, he was all action. The work was done quickly, and I got the violin back quickly. Once I told him I wanted the violin restored and money refunded, it was like pulling teeth. One excuse after another. I got the violin back after a couple of weeks, and sent it to my luthier/repair person for assessment, since I'm now considering doing a regraduation instead of Zaret's bassbar. The luthier told me the top had been very roughly handled. When they removed the Zaret bassbar, they basically just pulled it off, taking out chunks of the top wood with it. Fortunately, the top is thick, so a regraduation is appropriate and will remedy the damage. If the top had been of a normal, good thickness, it would be in need of hundreds of dollars worth of restoration work.

As for the refund, I kept leaving messages for Zaret asking when he was going to issue it (he was very hard to get hold of). I finally got him on the phone last Wednesday, and he said he would put it through later that day. I kept checking my credit card -- no refund. I called yesterday (Tuesday, almost a week later), and he said he the refund went through on Monday. Here it is Thursday -- no refund. I called my credit card company, and they have not received any requests for a credit to my card. I have now initiated a formal dispute with Zaret through my credit card company.

This bassbar may be helpful for some instruments, but it is definitely NOT worth the risk!!!

May 14, 2006 at 09:06 PM · A year and a half ago, I had four of Mr. Zaret's instruments on trial.

Frankly, they were all low quality instruments with his magic bass barr installed, and they had become low quality instruments at high quality prices.

I returned them all, and later found out that he had charged my credit card for the shippingof the instruments from him to me. Very unprofessional. Every other place I have used ships trial instruments on their dime, and it is your dime to return them.

He also gave me a reference who happened to be a teacher at my school. That reference was very iffy, and basically said, "Well, maybe, I dunno, give it a try."

I think there are much better options for the same money than a Zaret. Just my two cents worth.

May 18, 2006 at 03:14 PM · Interesting thread. I just had a discussion the Zaret bass bar with a luthier friend last night. Since I have never seen or heard one, it is still a mystery to me. My friend however, insisted the Zaret bass bar "made the violin sound like a viola."

Hmm, that bass bar may save the trouble of reading alto clef too?

May 21, 2006 at 06:58 PM · I remember when I was looking for a new violin from Zaret. Several of them have bass bars.

I think they're pretty good!

July 24, 2015 at 03:02 PM ·

.

July 24, 2015 at 04:31 PM · The link on the OP's initial post no longer works, but what I believe is its content is shown and discussed on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIHpI9Rcr5E

which is referenced on Zaret's website

http://www.zaretandsonsviolins.com

August 1, 2015 at 02:14 PM · Zaret seems to have modified his designs several times, but he seems to want a heavier but more flexible bassbar, with extra mass beyond each end.

I find the demo videos show fuzzy low notes, and "clunky" high ones (although it may be his bowing). In the rare before/after sound bites, I personally prefer the "before" version. Also, the numerous photos show the work of a poor carpenter, not a luthier..

In one video, he claims that what distinguishes a good violin is sheer volume. Oh dear..

August 3, 2015 at 09:23 AM · William and Buri, concerning the fingerboard, I don't know about curvature, but I have found that the thickness, and so the mass and stiffness, have a marked influence on tone of my violin and viola.

I suppose that a thicker fingerboard will stiffen the neck, transmitting more vibrations from the nut end, but also a thicker "overhang" will have its own resonance (try "twanging" the end of the fingerboard.

August 3, 2015 at 09:57 AM · Adrian raised a question about the level of craftsmanship involved. What if the bass-bar were to be worked on and developed by a luthier who is on the top of his game?

A couple of further points:

Zaret's bass-bar is patented. The not inconsiderable cost of patent protection is usually factored into the price of the product. One way to reduce patent costs is to get revenue from licensing, but that depends on the strength of the patent. Which brings me to the second general point.

A granted patent, a grant which depends, as far as a Patent Office is concerned, essentially on innovation and non-obviousness, is not necessarily a guarantee of technical excellence. The technical excellence is there most of the time of course, but in my career as a patent professional I regularly came across sad examples to the contrary, sad because hopeful inventors somewhere had spent a lot of money on patent protection that was not worth it.

August 3, 2015 at 10:22 AM · "Zaret seems to have modified his designs several times, but he seems to want a heavier but more flexible bassbar, with extra mass beyond each end"

Interesting.

All real success in sound improvement follows "reduce weight, increase stability".

If Z. does different,he will get some frequencies enhanced, but I think it won't do the overall tone any good.

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