Scroll weight and tone
Earlier there was a discussion (now archived but linked below) of different woods for violin accessories such as pegs, tailpiece, and such, and the effect of these different woods on the tone of a violin.
In that discussion it was suggested that small changes to the weight of a violin's scroll can influence the violin's overall tone -- audibly, if perhaps not in wholesale fashion.
If that is true, then why don't violins come with a deep hole drilled down into the top or back of the scroll that you can fill with the material of your choice (think sand, lead shot, an aluminum rod, or just a wood plug to cover the hole if you want nothing at all) as a means of tonal adjustment? That would seem to be something the early masters of the luthier's art would surely have employed.
It's a balance thing--a violin can actually feel scroll-heavy because the body is light.
I could believe it, as adding a shim to the fingerboard when I bought my violin (in order to bring the too-thin neck up to a reasonable thickness) changed the violin tone quite a bit.
The scroll only vibrates appreciably in the lowest modes of the violin, primarily the B1- mode around G# - A. If the scroll is not there, the neck vibrates somewhat, which I don't think feels too good. The scroll mass keeps the neck vibration under control, and has some influence on the frequency and amplitude of the vibration.
Don, eventually it's not these frequencies themselves that contribute to the change in sound, but rather how these frequencies interfere with all those other vibrations from the body when they're transmitted onto there via the neck block? I could imagine that by these interferences, some part of the spectrum (and be it "only" in the overtones) might be inhibited, while others were enhanced. I can't present a complete theory on that, but I would boil it down to "no matter where you add or remove mass, it will have an impact on the vibrations of the whole system".
But yes, we're not talking about fundamental changes, for sure. Somehow like with rosin - in most cases it's just that last little kick if everything else (humidity, strings, bow, player / playing technique) have been optimized...
If the scroll does not itself experience vibrations of a given frequency, then it will not mechanically couple to vibrations of the same frequency elsewhere in the instrument. Is that not correct?
In my classical guitar days (far, far off!) it didn't take me long to discover that if I grasped the peg box tightly, or - and this is particularly relevant to violinists - had a tight grip on the neck, then either would deaden the resonance of the instrument.
Chuck Traeger, a New York bass luthier left quite a bit of literature on his research into the vibrating system of string instruments, including some discussion of mass by the scrolls. For bassists, c-extensions do affect the sound, although extension users do not want to admit it. That’s one of the reasons that I tune CGda like an octave cello- resonance.
By the way, the electronic ToneRite device does work and is significantly helping the sound of both of my back up instruments- the Roth viola and an abused and damaged Chinese Andreas Eastman 405 violin that I saved from Goodwill.
I have seen Howard Needham check the tap tones of scroll as well as all over the top and bottom plates. I think he wants all to be the same pitch, and for that to have a relationship with the sound of air being blown across the f-holes.
That would jibe with Carleen Hutchins’ work.
A strong advocate for the null hypothesis!
Cotton, I'm not sure how you think it's controversial that adding mass to a vibrating system could change its dynamics.
I also was a member of the null-hypothesis faculty. Then came the day when my sound wasn't mediocre anymore, but really boring. I still was in severe doubt. Until I switched back two days after. And my sound reimproved at a sudden. And all while my playing on my main violin as well as on my viola stayed the same.
With the scroll you can record it with, then chop it off and record it again. Compare, decide... :)
Gradually I am catching on, by reading other threads: don't mess around with any of this. . .the answer is always. . . . . . . different strings! :-P
Cotton wrote, "Maybe it's your playing?"
The number of windings around the pegs will be hard to adjust without cutting the string. What we will not do for obvious reasons.
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