I am trying out a violin at the moment, and it is:
- German/Austrian origin
- 8000 euros
- high arching on top and back
It has an amazingly deep sound like a viola, which I think is due to the massive airspace created from the high arching. Of course the downside is that the E string is not bright enough. For some reason the violin is setup so that the tailpiece sits further down on the violin, and therefore the afterlength is approximately 1cm longer than standard.
I changed from the loop end E string to a ball end in order to reduce the afterlength, because I felt that an entire cm of afterlength on a steel E would add a lot of pressure. Is this correct or am I wrong? I feel that the sound has slightly freed up, but I'm not sure if it's placebo or if I just getting used to this weird deep and dark E string sound.
So basically I just wanted to ask if anyone can explain scientifically how the afterlength could effect the sound and pressure of this instrument (or any instrument in general)?
Q: What is the string length (vibrating string length, nut to bridge)?
I recall reading numerous discussion done On maestronet stating that tailgut length is actually more relevant and has more tonal effect to violin sound. And tailgut material (stiffness or diameter) is also another factor as it determines how vibrant/stable a tailpiece could be in terms of sound transmission.
'The G string has little fundamental. It is a trick of our neuro-acoustics that fool us into thinking that it does, and this is from other, higher partials. Same with pianos and other instruments--our ear tells us a note is nice and low when there is actually little of that pitch in the sound spectrum. It's a weird phenomena.'
For the past 25 years I have set all my tailcords so that the afterlength one of my two lower strings is tuned (as exactly as I can) to the 2nd octave of the next higher string. It is impossible to tune more than one string exactly this way because of the effect of the top windings.
If you dare, nudge the bridge north until the string length is 327 mm. If you like what you hear, then find a longer tailpiece to fill up the space so that the afterlength is 55 mm. If moving the bridge up doesn't help, don't bother with the tailpiece, is my opinion.
I made and currently use a tailpiece with sliding adjusters that allows me to exactly tune the actual length of each individual string so that I could play around with this idea. Marco Brancallion also had a tailpiece like this.
Cotton, i'm very sad for you if you can't adjust the movable tailpieces in the proper way, so to have the right effect. I had told it was not immediate.
Zoran Markovic (ZMT) has (apart from his tailpiece) an adjustable endpin. It's very easy to experiment with afterlength with that endpin.
Do we necessarily want open strings to resonate so much?
"I had told it was not immediate." Marco, I appreciate all that you contribute here, always so thoughtful. But this particular claim is one that I am having trouble grasping. How can the effects of an afterlength adjustment not be immediate?
@Paul: i'm not saying that if you set the length right at 100% you can't hear immediate results.
in agrrement with Scott and Marco as my ears tell me that when adjustments are made to my instrument that the changes do not necessarily happen instantaneously and sometimes takes place over several days to a week. I have mentioned this experience on Mastronet and have been told just the opposite that any changes made in adjustment do happen instantaneously and it is my ears that are not registering the difference . Some very learned people have argued this point with me and while I do give them credence my ears are my ears in the end.
As I have said elsewhere, the 1:6 ratio only produces reliable results when the density of the string is the same on both sides of the bridge-- i.e., when you use unwrapped gut.
James, according to my violin dealer, my #1 violin is apparently late-18th century German (another luthier suggested it might be French - but I'm thinking German) and it has the same nut-bridge length of 330mm as yours. It doesn't have your high arching, though. The length of its back is 362mm, as opposed to the 355.6mm of a standard violin (e.g. my #2 violin), so is 1.8% longer. The bout widths and rib heights are pro rata slightly bigger than standard, which gives a larger interior volume. The G string in particular is indicative of this in that its fundamental frequency is now audible (just about!), and is visible on a spectrogram.
Adrian Heath on March 6 said: · "Do we necessarily want open strings to resonate so much?"
In my experience, violinists definitely have an "ahah!" moment when the afterlength is right, but I think the common measurements are simply ways to approximate that location, and that hitting that specific note on the G string is not what is happening. It's one of the many violin equivalents of "red cars are faster." Correlation, not causation. A lot of setup is that way, in my experience: someone does something and something else coincidentally happens because another, unrecognized variable has been tweaked, and the initial apparent effect becomes a rule when that cause really had nothing to do with what did happen.
>>> If you want to test the physics, play a fingered D note on the G string, being careful not to touch the open D string. Then play again, but damp the open D string.
Don meant that the open D will vibrate out of phase with the fingered D and reduce the overall volume. I don't see the afterlength having any effect on this scenario.
Keep on investigating with your own tunable tailpiece, and you will discover.
Any item on the violin that can be set to vibrate when the instrument is played (other than the played string itself) will have a similar effect: volume reduction, with after-ring. The effects will be narrower and more apparent if the damping is low, and also more apparent if the coupling to the bridge is strong. Afterlengths, open unplayed strings, tailpieces, chinrests, fingerboards are all included. The length of string between the nut and the peg isn't very well coupled to the bridge, so it doesn't do much.
I've certainly learned something today. In my ignorance I always assumed that playing a stopped D with the open D undamped would increase the amplitude of the sound, but careful listening and one minute with Audacity persuaded me that the opposite is indeed the case. On average the amplitude increase produced by damping looks to be in excess of 50%. Fortunately damping is the norm with my "fat" fingers and I suspect other people's fingers too?
"In my ignorance I always assumed that playing a stopped D with the open D undamped would increase the amplitude of the sound"
The piano analogy I don't think quite applies here, since all strings are driven together by an impact. Things would be very different if you energized one of the three strings with a bow. I also think piano strings are not tuned in perfect unison in order to give the note a slight vibrato effect rather than a dead-perfect note.
But I'm still struggling to understand the contribution of the afterlength. Sympathetic resonance would presumably cause some cancellation of the third harmonic and above, resulting in a dulling of the timbre. The tunable tailpiece is attempting to minimise this, but couldn't the effect be achieved simply by using a tailpiece that results in a string length/afterlength ratio of anything but an exact integer such as 6:1?!
You can't mantain a serious distance without a movable system. It's very obvious.
Steve, I haven't run across anyone yet who has been able to provide a solid technical explanation why the afterlength is so important. Yet, it seems that it is. Sometimes, observations lead to eventual technical explanation, even if not right away.
Thanks David, I was beginning to suspect as much. I just read the relevant section of James Beament's The Violin Explained. He seems to have been the most rationally-minded of any writer on the violin that I've encountered, with a convincing technical explanation for most things, yet all he has to say about the 6:1 ratio is that it's "conventional". A writer in the Haynes Violin Manual (!) on the other hand says that if the ratio is inaccurate the tone will be "off", which doesn't help much. Going back a bit, Edward Heron-Allen doesn't seem to mention the afterlength at all.
The best way to find out what afterlength does is to experiment. The kind of thing that Don is talking about is pretty much swamped by other factors that are more direct, like damping from the location and weight of the tailpiece and length of cord behind, all of which change along with afterlength and have greater effects on the tone. Worrying what the fifth partial of Gb is doing is about like throwing a cup of sand out in your backyard and calling it a beach.
I agree that the effects of tailcord free length (and material) are far more significant than the afterlengths themselves, and perhaps it can be misleading to think the afterlength is having an effect, when it's really elsewhere. Other tailpiece mode frequencies, if they are within the playing range, can be incredibly important too, and would be affected by a combination of afterlength and free tailcord stiffness... but have nothing directly to do with the "tuning" of the afterlengths.
Just one other thing about "tuning" the afterlengths...
> I suspect that the main attraction to this type of discussion is the hope that some number will pop out that anyone at home can set and achieve perfection. That ain't gonna happen.
On my current violin I have difficulty making a C# sound nice, whether it's on the A string or the D string. I've just noticed that the afterlength on the G string is pitched at C#. I wonder if that's a coincidence. The cavity is tuned to C#, but it is never boomy.
Maybe that's why sometimes the dampening device on the cello is affixed to the afterlength, Gordon?
Yes, Marco, it's a giant conspiracy by the violin cabal. LOL
No shortcuts, just the way the pros do it. Definitely a conspiracy! [gives David the Secret Handshake, and knowing look]
... yet i perceived a trembling in the Dark Side. (grin)
Marco, I appreciate your sense of humor!
The key is that everyone has the right to experiment, the right to even damage something, in order to learn how to do things by himself alone.
I think its more important to get the tailgut length correct, if getting the afterlength right involves an incorrect tailgut length, then its a net loss in my book.
I want to add a word of caution from a technical perspective between noticing an effect, and describing what causes it.
I always appreciate Carmen's fresh, scientifically-minded perspectives.
One thing that occurs to me— even if a D played on the G string has its energy sucked away by the open D, there is still the effect of vibrato. The not-pure-D portion of the note when vibrated might well end up sounding relatively more loud. That is a different timbre than, say, a C-sharp that is vibrated. Will it sound louder or project better even with the purest part of the note lessened in volume? No idea but that might be worth considering.
One of my favorite things in this line is the opening note of the Bruch. Notice, and try, how some players play the open G alone, some finger the octave G on the D string at the same time, and some vibrate that octave G. Try the variations, and hear for yourself the difference.
Stephen, pitch modulation, with ensuing loudness modulation can do some interesting things.
I think the opening of the Bruch sounds the best with a pure open G -- unmolested by weird octave vibrato.
To the posters in regards to vibrato: its true that when one adds a proportionate vibrato to the sound in relation to bowspeed and pressure, an instrument in general can be pushed beyond its cracking point. Some instruments will fare better than others, and its true that the set-up can also play a major factor.
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