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CountryBoy

Lucchi Tester / Lucci Meter

36 posts in this topic

I have been browsing the forums here for a couple of days and find much of the information contained within quite enlightening to a layman such as myself. Thank you. I assure you that I will visit the sponsoring websites as a way to show my appreciation for the hard work and time involved in maintaining a successful board like this.

I was first introduced to the forum by a friend that is in the process of designing and building a traditional style 5 string violin for my 7 year old daughter. I am neither a player nor a luthier but the high price of purchasing quality instruments has piqued my financial interest thus bringing me to the following statement, question, and request.

My statement is this .. I understand that the makeup of the woods used in the art of making quality violins and bows plays a huge part in the tonal quality of the finished products. After doing some research I have found that by purchasing a Lucchi Tester (Lucci Meter) that I can determine if the finished product is made with such quality materials. Not being a player I am at somewhat of a disadvantage because I cannot "hear" how good a violin sounds or how good a bow will perform thus leaving me in a search for a technological advantage.

My question is this .. would anyone agree that by purchasing a Lucchi Tester that I would be better prepared for the purchase of a quality instrument.

My request is this .. Steve Beckley from BowWorks.com has informed me that the testers have been discontinued by Lucchi and sons, if anyone has a Lucchi Tester that they are willing to part with feel free to email me at fiddle@drt.us with your asking price.

Thanks again,

Don Roach

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What are you going to do if you find an instrument that you really like, but it does not meet your Lucchi specifications?? You need more information than just a Lucchi reading to select good wood. I do think they can be helpful to makers, though. How will you discern between a good instrument (bow) made with good wood and a poor instrument (bow) made with good wood? You can buy wood already tested. Unless you are dealing with a lot of wood, it is not (or should not be) necessary to have one.

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The answer to that question is why I turned to the forum for assistance.

I understand that both specific gravity and velocity of sound readings play a large part in the quality of the wood used in bows. (Which is my main interest at this time)

As I stated in my first post, I am a total layman with no experience at all in purchasing instruments other than the lower valued violins that my daughter has at this time of which I could have easily been taken advantage. Luckily three of the violins have been appraised well above the price that I paid for them, one that appraises lower is her favorite for fiddle tunes, and one of them has awesome tone according to all that have heard it, (thanks to a friend that adjusted it for her. I have been told that this instrument may be an authentic Becker by more than one person that has experience with Becker violins, however it has no label at all.) All the same, none of the bows that my daughter owns do any of her violins justice. When played with professional bows owned by friends of ours, the violins show their true quality. Even her Heberlein, which is one of her better violins, sounds better to me with a different bow, and I don’t have “the ear” for music.

Do you have a suggestion as to how to determine the specific gravity of the wood used in a bow that I may come across without submerging it?

Do you believe that with the knowledge of specific gravity and the Lucchi reading that I can be at some advantage when considering a purchase?

Thanks again for your consideration in reading my post.

Don Roach

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No, I think your idea is totally misguided. You have succumbed the worst kind unexamined of "more is better" advice. If all there was to making a good bow or violin was good wood, every modern bow and violin would be good, since modern makers have a mania about bow wood, and many of the finest old bows would be bad, because I understand they often don't really measure that highly on the lucchi scale. As for violins--I don't even think anyone has taken the necessary measurements or done the homework to make the conclusion. Probably something like carbon fiber would be even better than a Tourte on this scale. This is not the cause and effect relationship that will help you buy a bow or violin.

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Ok, I will give you that as I am inexperienced in this field and have been so desperately searching for a way to have the upper hand when considering a purchase that the research that I have conducted may have led me astray and a little to far to the technological side.

It would be greatly appreciated if someone could give me some sound advice on how to determine the quality of a bow for playing purposes by examining its physical characteristics. I understand that the scientific methods that I suggested may not suffice, but surely there are other attributes to consider outside of knowing what sounds good? I have heard that you can feel the vibration of a bow if you drop the tip into the palm of your hand, is there any truth to that? If so, what else can I discover by using other tricks of the trade?

Having the violins with me for comparison purposes at all times is out of the question. I hope that I am not led to believe that the only way to determine the quality of a bow is by developing "the ear" for music? I don't care if it is a Tourte, Pfretzschner, or whatever but I don't want to go jump on a $2500 bow just because of the name stamped on the side of it either, I would like to know that the money will be well spent and that the bow will do my daughters violins justice when the hair hits the strings. I assure you that whatever bow she gets will be well used and treated with respect but it will not be locked away in a show case or on a mantle.

Thanks again,

Don Roach

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The usual way it's done when someone's in your position is to enlist a trustworthy advisor in the form of a good player who really does know the difference. The most common accomplice in this type of thing is a trusted teacher. I've seen it done both ways--students taking their teachers shopping with them, and students collecting things they like, and bringing them to the teacher for advice.

The reason teachers are better at this than a lot of (even very good) players is that they often do a lot of testing for students, trying students' instruments, etc., and have a wider range of experience with different qualities of stuff that an possibly better player who only plays on his own equipment all the time would have.

Also, a teacher will know better what qualities in an instrument or bow will help a particular player: you want to find a violin or bow that perhaps sacrifices the things you can do well on your own, in return for helping the things you have problems with.... for instance, some players can bow really steadily with anything, and like a bow with a lively bounce, where that would be completely wrong for a player who has trouble controlling the bow. This is the type of stuff that a teacher's in the perfect position to assess.

It's hopeless to become better informed about this stuff than a player when you don't play at all. We all give up reponsibilities of this type all the time--I don't second-guess my car repairman or doctor, for instance, even though I do try to keep up with what they're saying and stay alert. When push comes to shove, though, they do the work, not me.

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Many many outstanding old Italian violins were made with wood that would be considered third rate today (perhaps the wood seller would burn it in his fireplace instead of trying to sell it).

Are you talking about a child's instrument? If so, the difference in sound achieved by using "tested" high quality wood will be ireelevant. And the 5th string will hardly sound, it hardly sounds in a full violin.

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Thank you very much for your reply. Every bit of it makes perfect sense.

One issue that I have with the method which you have suggested is that I may be traveling out of the area and find a bow in an antique store or at an estate auction. Without my daughters’ violins to compare sound quality to and no advisor or teacher present I might miss out on the "perfect bow". I realize that I am throwing in a lot of “what if’s”, but this is what I am considering to be the dilemma.

As well, as I am quite new to this I question whether a music store will allow their “higher end” bows out of the store on a loaner basis in order for my daughters’ teacher to evaluate them for her specific playability. I will be looking at a number of bows owned by a collector sometime in the near future, but at that time I will take my daughter and her violins along. However, this does not insure that I will not be taken advantage of due to my lack of knowledge.

There are a couple of specific physical characteristics that my daughter prefers. She likes a light bow with lively bounce. She plays a bow that is around 56 grams now with enough bounce that when I pull it across the strings it sounds almost like vibrato. She does however tighten the bow more for "hoedowns" and faster fiddling tunes.

Although I am starting to become concerned that there is no way for me to determine if a bow is good for my daughter without developing “the ear” and will eventually have to hire someone to purchase a bow for her, I really do appreciate your help.

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My daughter plays a 4/4 full size violin.

As far as the dimensions of the 5 strings you would have to talk to the luthier about that. I do know that it will be full size as well with the strings spacing set at 3/4 size to give the violin a smaller neck to facilitate her hand size.

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Personally, I think this issue has been blown WAY out of proportion by people using their _apparent_ righteousness for their financial gain. Here in Chicago, the supposed hotbed of this stuff, I've found very few teachers who wanted an undisclosed commission, and most usually they're a type of person I wouldn't want to deal with, anyway.

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That was an enlightening article, thanks.

Luckily, I am at least 60 miles from the closest dealer of fine stringed instruments and my daughters teacher is at least 70 miles from them. (St. Louis)

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Violin sound taste is developed. We know that this apple pie is good and that one is bad because we sampled many many of them, making a comparison table to judge apple pies. The same aplies to violin sound. I'm still learning about violin sound.

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Be aware that the STRINGS article quotes as a primary source about how nasty others in the business are one dealer who's lost several liebel suits, for spreading lies about other dealers, and subsequently been found in contempt of court for refusing to stop, and that the organization whose "code of ethics" they finish with had active as their Secretary, and listed on their webpage, a person who was at that time a federal fugitive who'd fled the country to avoid prosecution for stealing from his customers, to the tune of, if I remember correctly, hundreds of thousands of dollars!

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I am making a concerted effort to "sample" as many violins and bows as I possibly can in order to get the taste to which you refer.

Do you have a specific maker to which you hold the highest regard in bow making? In this I mean that the individual will not allow a lesser quality instrument to bear their name thus insuring that any bow bearing their brand is of the highest quality for playability without question?

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There is no best maker. Buy a bow that your daughter and her teacher likes, then if her abilities grow beyond that bow, buy another one. You don't have to keep a bow forever. Your daughter will develop a taste for the type bow she likes. Let her have some choice. As long as you buy a decent quality bow, you will have a good trade in on a new one. For the price of a Lucchi meter, you can buy a pretty good bow. You can try the AFVBM for a list of makers in the US, http://www.afvbm.com

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So am I to assume that all past and present bow makers have allowed lesser quality bows to leave with their mark on them, therefore no makers name is synonymous with absolute quality? I fully understand if this is the case because at the time that a new bow is sold it isn’t worth what it is after the artist/luthier has proven himself and a guy has to put food on the table. As well I am sure that every great maker has had counterfeit bows mass produced with the makers mark on them after the fact.

As for the Lucchi Meter, I am sure that I could find a use for it outside of purchasing one bow (which I do not now think I would use for that purpose). I have considered testing different wood types for feasibility of its use in the construction of a bow or even perhaps a violin at some point. I have a friend that purchased an entire pallet of Pernambuco wood at a fiddlers "swap meet" in the 60's. Perhaps I could test some of that wood and avoid paying the over inflated prices charged today and still get the best quality wood. I have another friend that has made a bow out of wood found locally and from talking to people that have tried the bow they have found that the material was of exceptional quality with good playability. Someone may invest a lot of time and effort making an instrument only to find that the material will not work for its intended application. If I am indeed able to purchase a lucchi meter I remain in hopes that it will take some of the guess work out of the equation.

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"If I am indeed able to purchase a lucchi meter I remain in hopes that it will take some of the guess work out of the equation."

I once had a ton of Pernambuco for sale, and various bow makers would come with their Lucchi meters and test the wood, and write their "results" on the sticks...

It was amazing to see how variable their results would be (dramatic is some cases), depending on the variables (I'm assuming) that were programmed into the machine...

Draw your own conclusions, but I've drawn mine. That is, that the Lucchi does not "take some of the guess work out of the equation"...

There apparently is still some "guess work" involved in this process, or else the results would be more consistant, no?...

Comments?

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Quote:

So am I to assume that all past and present bow makers have allowed lesser quality bows to leave with their mark on them, therefore no makers name is synonymous with absolute quality?


There is not one and only one standard for a good bow. Note how many violin cases have holders for four bows. Different players have different requirements. Different music has different bowing requirements. So bow makers make some of them heavy, some of them light, some more stiff and some less stiff. That does not mean the bows are inferior, they are just different. Then the player chooses the bow(s) they like best. Wood is wood. It is not a homogeneous product. Each piece is different. What you need to avoid are are the marginal bows, ones that the balance point, weight, and stiffness is outside normal limits. Buy one that is within the normal limits. Let your daughter's teacher decide how good a bow she needs. A good teacher should be able to evaluate bows, at least to the point that they know what is a good playing bow and which ones are duds.

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Froggie,

Thank you, now you are getting into real numbers hopefully.

What are the normal limits for balance point, weight, and stiffness?

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Don't take this wrong, but I believe it has to be said that a seven-year old child playing a 4/4-sized violin is not advisable. She might end up with technique problems that will take years to sort out.

Secondly, if I understand you correctly she already has three violins, including a probable Becker and that a fourth custom-made five-string fiddle is on order? This to me sounds like serious pressure for a very young child. Just asking...

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Alot of makers did make bows of varying quality,customers demanded low price bows as well as top quality bows.

That said depending on the maker ,a low price JLT bow would usually be markedly inferior to a budget model Sartory.

Though a budget price Sartory wouldn`t have a budget price today. Most makers would increase the price with different fittings nickel silver ,gold/tortoiseshell, etc... but their sticks might be of similar quality.

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CountryBoy,

I faced some of your same frustrations in the past. It sure would be nice to have exact measurements. Then we could put all bows and instruments into a neat spreadsheet and as a player progressed (precisely measured, of course) they could use the next level of bow or violin. Comming from an engineering background I can appreciate your desire to measure and quantify. If it were that simple, then we could treat wood with various techniques to achieve specific 'scores'. CNC machines would be able crank out instruments for each skill level.

That is what happens when you try to remove experience and art from the process and leave only the engineering. For over a hundred years we've seen factory production attempt that very thing.

I suggest you do one of 2 things:

1. Start getting your hands on instruments and bows and listend and read and learn all you can.

or 2. Research luthiers and teachers until you find one that you have confidence in to lead you.

Good luck (BTW, my 1st instinct was a Lucchi)

Regis

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Typically, 4/4 bows are in the range of 55-65 grams with 60 being the median for most adult players. The balance point should be about 9.5 inches from the grip end. Measure from the wood between the screw and with the frog forward. Balance point can range from 8.5 to 10 inches, but 9.5 inches is most preferred. Different people have different needs.

However your daughter is a child. She needs a fiddle and bow that fit her, not the median adult. She probably needs a shorter bow, smaller instrument, and the measurements would be reduced accordingly.

Think about this: Let her be a child. Get her a bow with some colored horsehair hair - red, green, orange. Change colors for special seasons. Something fun. Purchase a very nice factory bow and violin, then when she is older, give her something to look forward to, that special handmade instrument. When she is older, she can choose the one she likes. Take her to children's concerts and let her see other kids having fun playing. Don't bore her with facts on violins other than the parts and how to care for her instrument. Don't get her a five string until she has played a few more years... when she is a teenager. Buy the Strings magazine book on caring for instruments and you read it, not her (just yet).

Best of luck to both of you.

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That's it! Focusing in studying and in the music and having fun is the most important thing. I see a lot of anxiety in students about their instruments. I say them: "guy, if you get to play really well, somebody will borrow you a good violin". I did that many times.

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