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H. Anderson

Neck length of pre-1780 violins?

25 posts in this topic

Is it true that pre 1780 violins had short necks? Did A. Stradivari ever make a violin with a modern-day neck length?

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: Is it true that pre 1780 violins had short necks? Did A. Stradivari ever make a violin with a modern-day neck length?

Yes. Necks changed in both length and angle. According to what I have been told by various luthiers, it happened around 1800. New necks were made and the original scroll was grafted onto the new neck. Copies/fakes have even had grafted scrolls to appear authentic.

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Yes, but the best date to use is pre-1714. A. Strad. had developed the

"Modernized" violin to the point where it differed significantly from

the "Baroque" design of Amati (his teacher and boss) Baroque violins

had straight necks with a wedge shaped finger board, where-as Stradivarius

angled his neck downward, thereby making a thiner and lighter fingerboard.

This placed increased strain on the sound board so he increased the size of

the bass bar, and thickened the sound post. It beacame the vouge to convert

violins to Stradivari style with a neck replacement, scroll graft, and

bass bar replacment. Many Stainer, Amati, and Guanerius

violins were retrofitted to match the Strad. design. If you find a short neck

violin, look closely to see if it was poorly "moderized" to the Strad. style.

Some fiddle shops simply pulled the neck and refit it at an angle. It pays to look closey

because I have found 2 Origional Baroque period violins that were bastardized

this way, and with alittle effort, they were restored to their origional

condition.

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The information quoted below is contrary to absolutely everything I have ever seen myself or heard anywhere. I would be interested in knowing the source.

: Yes, but the best date to use is pre-1714. A. Strad. had developed the

: "Modernized" violin to the point where it differed significantly from

: the "Baroque" design of Amati (his teacher and boss) Baroque violins

: had straight necks with a wedge shaped finger board, where-as Stradivarius

: angled his neck downward, thereby making a thiner and lighter fingerboard.

: This placed increased strain on the sound board so he increased the size of

: the bass bar, and thickened the sound post. It beacame the vouge to convert

: violins to Stradivari style with a neck replacement, scroll graft, and

: bass bar replacment. Many Stainer, Amati, and Guanerius

: violins were retrofitted to match the Strad. design. If you find a short neck

: violin, look closely to see if it was poorly "moderized" to the Strad. style.

: Some fiddle shops simply pulled the neck and refit it at an angle. It pays to look closey

: because I have found 2 Origional Baroque period violins that were bastardized

: this way, and with alittle effort, they were restored to their origional

: condition.

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: The information quoted below is contrary to absolutely everything I have ever seen myself or heard anywhere. I would be interested in knowing the source.

:

Referneces:

1. Italian Violin Makers, Karel Jalovec, 1958

2. An Encyclopedia for the Violin, Alberto Bachman, 1925

3. The Cambridge Companion to the Violin, Robin Stowell,

Cambridge University Press, 1992

Hope this helps.

steveg

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Dear Steve,

I'm with Michael on this... lower neck angle, increased pressure thinner board.... I'll look into the references you mentioned, but with posts (and their limited range of expression) is it possible I'm misreading what you were saying? I recall reading or seeing nothing like this, and from the patterns available in reference materials (Sacconi, Biddulph/Pollens, Hill)and from personal experience I am not seeing what you are referring to... Strad was inventive but the "improvements" to his model seem mainly to be in the outline and arching. I've never thought of him as the inovator of the modern neck.

I have seen references that several necks were repalaced on "new" strads in the early 1700s by French luthiers, but these were baroque style to baroque style. Apparently the players found that Strads necks were too short even for this period.

As I understand it, the modern neck (morticed into a top block, not attached to eterior of the rib and nailed... longer, higher angle, etc.), seems to have emerged around 1800, although there may be some examples earlier that I am not aware of. French luthiers were responsible for the alteration af a number of the old Cremonese during the 19th century. The practice seems not to have gained acceptance world wide instantly. Some players in various countries were slower to change over.

The longer/higher/stonger bassbar seems to have developed starting from the mid 1700s. The Hills note original bassbars in Gagliano instruments which approached the dimensions of the modern bars of the time.... (Stradivari, his Life and Work).... and I've seen some Milanese bars which show this trend as well.

I may chirp in again once I dust off my copy of the Jalovec book.

All the best.

Jeffrey

: Referneces:

: 1. Italian Violin Makers, Karel Jalovec, 1958

: 2. An Encyclopedia for the Violin, Alberto Bachman, 1925

: 3. The Cambridge Companion to the Violin, Robin Stowell,

: Cambridge University Press, 1992

: Hope this helps.

: steveg

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It is my understanding that A. Stradivarius perfected the

"Modern" violin during his "Golden era" between 1695 and 1730.

The now standard form of the modern violin is based upon the

"La Messie" or "Vuillaume" Stradivarius. Photos of this and

the Hilton Strad clearly show an angled neck. These instruments survied

to the present day unmolested. We have to realize that after his death,

his instruments became very prized, and other violin schools wanted to

capture some of the sales volume for instruments copied after Stradivarius. Not only

did his designs produce a stronger sound, but more money for the shops that copied the design.

By the end of the 18th century, shops were being kept very busy by people converting

their staight neck violins to angled neck violins. Stradivarius was an experamentor, it is estimated

that he built over 3000 violins, of which how many ??? 120 or so survive to this day. Yes he built straight

neck violins, but he also experamented with angled necks, shorter bass bars, bass bars farther back on the

sound board, flat arches, high arches and so on. The reason Antonio Stradivarius is so famous is that his design was the

perfect one. Do you honestly think that some unknown fiddle shop worker put a neck on crooked and said "Hey lets try this

for a change." No, it took design, and trial and error.

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: It is my understanding that A. Stradivarius perfected the

: "Modern" violin during his "Golden era" between 1695 and 1730.

: The now standard form of the modern violin is based upon the

: "La Messie" or "Vuillaume" Stradivarius. Photos of this and

: the Hilton Strad clearly show an angled neck. These instruments survied

: to the present day unmolested. We have to realize that after his death,

: his instruments became very prized, and other violin schools wanted to

: capture some of the sales volume for instruments copied after Stradivarius. Not only

: did his designs produce a stronger sound, but more money for the shops that copied the design.

: By the end of the 18th century, shops were being kept very busy by people converting

: their staight neck violins to angled neck violins. Stradivarius was an experamentor, it is estimated

: that he built over 3000 violins, of which how many ??? 120 or so survive to this day. Yes he built straight

: neck violins, but he also experamented with angled necks, shorter bass bars, bass bars farther back on the

: sound board, flat arches, high arches and so on. The reason Antonio Stradivarius is so famous is that his design was the

: perfect one. Do you honestly think that some unknown fiddle shop worker put a neck on crooked and said "Hey lets try this

: for a change." No, it took design, and trial and error.

I thought some 700 strads survive today...I remember reading that 36 cellos survive (both figures I THINK from the Hills' book)

Just a thought--I could have sworn i read 700 or 750.

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Steve -

I'm going to throw in my two cents on this subject again. Strad's perfection of the modern violin deals with it's overall shape. His necks were what a modern-day player would consider "Baroque."

One of the prime reasons for the change in neck length and angle was the standardization of the "A-440" tuning pitch. It was not actually set at 440-Hz until 1955 but it was between 435-Hz and 450-Hz from the late 1700's on. Handel's and Bach's "A's" were approximately 422-Hz and it went as high as 451-Hz at La Scala in the 1850's (I checked my notes from Music History class, lo those many years ago.). The typical Baroque neck could not handle the increased tension of the strings brought about by the raised pitch. Hence, the change in design.

Regarding the number of Strad intruments that survive today, my understanding is that it's slightly more than half. He made approx. 1200 instruments and there are about 650 out there now.

D

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Photos of the Hilton and Messiah show modern angled modern necks because they _are_ modern angled necks, not the original settings. These instruments are hardly "unmolested" by your meaning of the word. The few necks which have not been modernized clearly show the original straight setting. This is all well-established, and concretely understood in the violin world. I really don't understand how you have drawn many of your conclusions, since they are contrary to all evidence. I suggest you dump the other books, which really aren't authoritative, and start with Hills' book on Antonio Stradivari, which is available as a Dover reprint. Though written in 1902 it is still considered one of the very best authorities on the subject, with almost no factual errors.

: It is my understanding that A. Stradivarius perfected the

: "Modern" violin during his "Golden era" between 1695 and 1730.

: The now standard form of the modern violin is based upon the

: "La Messie" or "Vuillaume" Stradivarius. Photos of this and

: the Hilton Strad clearly show an angled neck. These instruments survied

: to the present day unmolested. We have to realize that after his death,

: his instruments became very prized, and other violin schools wanted to

: capture some of the sales volume for instruments copied after Stradivarius. Not only

: did his designs produce a stronger sound, but more money for the shops that copied the design.

: By the end of the 18th century, shops were being kept very busy by people converting

: their staight neck violins to angled neck violins. Stradivarius was an experamentor, it is estimated

: that he built over 3000 violins, of which how many ??? 120 or so survive to this day. Yes he built straight

: neck violins, but he also experamented with angled necks, shorter bass bars, bass bars farther back on the

: sound board, flat arches, high arches and so on. The reason Antonio Stradivarius is so famous is that his design was the

: perfect one. Do you honestly think that some unknown fiddle shop worker put a neck on crooked and said "Hey lets try this

: for a change." No, it took design, and trial and error.

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: Handel's and Bach's "A's" were approximately 422-Hz and it went as high as 451-Hz at La Scala in the 1850's

Fun trivia: Helmholtz (_On_Sensations_of_Tone_) gives a table of values for 'A' found from old descriptions,

tuning forks and organ pipes; even ignoring the descriptions and considering only existing organ pipes,

the numers are all over the place from 374 Hz (Lille, organ of l'Hospice Comtesse, circa 1700) to 505 Hz

(Halberstadt, Saxony, circa 1361). My two favorite entries in the table are:

"503.7 Hz, 1636, Paris, Mersenne's 'ton de chapelle' with G=112.6 on the French four-foot pipe, this

being the lowest note of his own voice."

"489.2 Hz, 1688, Hamburg, St. Jacobi Kirche, ... played on and approved by J.S. Bach, pitch determined

from an old pipe preserved in the organ case. Herr Schmahl the organist is

accustomed to transpose all music at sight one tone lower, which brings it

to French pitch."

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can any body give me the full name and title of " the Hill book",

and possibly an ISBN number so I can order it.

thanks

steveg

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Dear Steve,

I believe the title is:

"Antonio Stradivari; His Life and Work"

My copy is at the office, so I don't have the numbner for you. You shouldn't have trouble if you contact Dover Press.

Best wishes,

Jeffrey

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Oops, I just noticed that the table I mentioned above is from an

appendix added by the English translator of Helmhotz's book,

Alexander Ellis.

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: "489.2 Hz, 1688, Hamburg, St. Jacobi Kirche, ... played on and approved by J.S. Bach

Bach's organ pitch (Chor-Ton) at Leipzig and Weimar was approx. A=480-Hz; whereas, his chamber pitch (Cammer-Ton) was approx. A=410-Hz. Quite a drastic and dramatic difference.

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I understand that it was about this time that necks were starting to be developed with some trial and error in to the modern design, but wasn't it not until the early nineteenth century that the 'modern neck' (that is what we have become accustomed to) become set in stone, and that most of the conversions of older instruments occured in the same century. I have heard that you can be quite sure that the instrument is pre-1820s if it has an original scroll but a grafted neck, unless some accident caused the need for a graft. Could you clarify this for us if you find the time to make the post, Mr. Darnton?

ADean

: Is it true that pre 1780 violins had short necks? Did A. Stradivari ever make a violin with a modern-day neck length?

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:

: Yes, but the best date to use is pre-1714. A. Strad. had developed the

: "Modernized" violin to the point where it differed significantly from

: the "Baroque" design of Amati (his teacher and boss) Baroque violins

: had straight necks with a wedge shaped finger board, where-as Stradivarius

: angled his neck downward, thereby making a thiner and lighter fingerboard.

: This placed increased strain on the sound board so he increased the size of

: the bass bar, and thickened the sound post. It beacame the vouge to convert

: violins to Stradivari style with a neck replacement, scroll graft, and

: bass bar replacment. Many Stainer, Amati, and Guanerius

: violins were retrofitted to match the Strad. design. If you find a short neck

: violin, look closely to see if it was poorly "moderized" to the Strad. style.

: Some fiddle shops simply pulled the neck and refit it at an angle. It pays to look closey

: because I have found 2 Origional Baroque period violins that were bastardized

: this way, and with alittle effort, they were restored to their origional

: condition.

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Dear A. Dean,

I know I'm not Mr. Darnton, but I'll throw a few cents out there anyway. I mentioned (below) that the use of the modern neck was not universal instantly. The practice seems to have started near the turn of the century (19th that is), but (as an example) we are presently restoring an early Kennedy cello (about 1830) which retains an old style neck.

On the other side of the "date line" I've seen French instruments retaining original modern style necks made very close to the year 1800.

All the best.

Jeffrey

: I understand that it was about this time that necks were starting to be developed with some trial and error in to the modern design, but wasn't it not until the early nineteenth century that the 'modern neck' (that is what we have become accustomed to) become set in stone, and that most of the conversions of older instruments occured in the same century. I have heard that you can be quite sure that the instrument is pre-1820s if it has an original scroll but a grafted neck, unless some accident caused the need for a graft. Could you clarify this for us if you find the time to make the post, Mr. Darnton?

: ADean

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You would understand that the concept of "quite sure" depends on no one doing anything outside of his proper period, or fraudulently. The first thing a faker might do, however, is to put a graft in a new violin to fool those who would use that rule: in fact I have a friend who makes new cellos with grafts just because he is making "antique" copies of a maker who did not make his scrolls of maple, but my frined (and everyone else) likes a nice curly maple neck. He's not the first to get this idea, of course.

I'd prefer to think of it the other way: if a violin of any age has its original neck, that's cool. If it doesn't, we really can't have any idea from that one fact if the neck or violin is old, new, original or whatever. The only case where an unoriginal neck would be a point of expertise, then, is when it's known that the original maker (my friend, for instance) did grafts originally, in which case it becomes one of very many possible clues leading to a particular maker.

> I have heard that you can be quite sure that the instrument is pre-1820s if it has an original scroll but a grafted neck, unless some accident caused the need for a graft. Could you clarify this for us if you find the time to make the post, Mr. Darnton?

: ADean

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: can any body give me the full name and title of " the Hill book",

: and possibly an ISBN number so I can order it.

Antonio Stradivari - His Life & Work (1644-1737)

W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred E. Hill

ISBN 0-486-20425-1

xxvi+315 pp. 68 illustrations. 30 full-page plates, 4 in color.

Dover Publications

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When I said 'quite sure' i should have stipulated 'apon verification that the instrument was cerified original, belonging to the same maker as the scroll, and that the maker was not known graft his own necks, however, I don't see why a maker would purposely graft a neck unless they were making a copy, either for fraudulent reasons or at the request of a client. I guess what I should ask is this, after what point in history can one be sure that a violin with a modern neck that hasn't been grafted must have been made, assuming that the neck is indeed, original?

: You would understand that the concept of "quite sure" depends on no one doing anything outside of his proper period, or fraudulently. The first thing a faker might do, however, is to put a graft in a new violin to fool those who would use that rule: in fact I have a friend who makes new cellos with grafts just because he is making "antique" copies of a maker who did not make his scrolls of maple, but my frined (and everyone else) likes a nice curly maple neck. He's not the first to get this idea, of course.

: I'd prefer to think of it the other way: if a violin of any age has its original neck, that's cool. If it doesn't, we really can't have any idea from that one fact if the neck or violin is old, new, original or whatever. The only case where an unoriginal neck would be a point of expertise, then, is when it's known that the original maker (my friend, for instance) did grafts originally, in which case it becomes one of very many possible clues leading to a particular maker.

: > I have heard that you can be quite sure that the instrument is pre-1820s if it has an original scroll but a grafted neck, unless some accident caused the need for a graft. Could you clarify this for us if you find the time to make the post, Mr. Darnton?

: : ADean

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I'm not really sure an exact date works--like the development of the modern bow things floated around a bit before they stabilized. I believe the Mantegazzas were involved in putting new necks in, which might make dates of 1780-1800 be sort of a rough range, but, as I said, I'm really not sure. Probably the guys back in the woods came later to the realization of what was going on than the folks in Milan and Paris, for instance.

: When I said 'quite sure' i should have stipulated 'apon verification that the instrument was cerified original, belonging to the same maker as the scroll, and that the maker was not known graft his own necks, however, I don't see why a maker would purposely graft a neck unless they were making a copy, either for fraudulent reasons or at the request of a client. I guess what I should ask is this, after what point in history can one be sure that a violin with a modern neck that hasn't been grafted must have been made, assuming that the neck is indeed, original?

: : You would understand that the concept of "quite sure" depends on no one doing anything outside of his proper period, or fraudulently. The first thing a faker might do, however, is to put a graft in a new violin to fool those who would use that rule: in fact I have a friend who makes new cellos with grafts just because he is making "antique" copies of a maker who did not make his scrolls of maple, but my frined (and everyone else) likes a nice curly maple neck. He's not the first to get this idea, of course.

: : I'd prefer to think of it the other way: if a violin of any age has its original neck, that's cool. If it doesn't, we really can't have any idea from that one fact if the neck or violin is old, new, original or whatever. The only case where an unoriginal neck would be a point of expertise, then, is when it's known that the original maker (my friend, for instance) did grafts originally, in which case it becomes one of very many possible clues leading to a particular maker.

: : > I have heard that you can be quite sure that the instrument is pre-1820s if it has an original scroll but a grafted neck, unless some accident caused the need for a graft. Could you clarify this for us if you find the time to make the post, Mr. Darnton?

: : : ADean

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Steve -

First, thanks for posting. Even though you are almost certainly mistaken according to the best references we have available, you and others have learned what the prevailing opinion is, and you caused some to re-examine their own knowledge. Always useful when not taken to excess. But here are some related factoids that may help set the date for the acceptance of the 'modern' neck:

Guarneri 'del Gesu' worked around the corner from Stradivari, and it's unlikely that innovations in the Strad shop went unnoticed by him. Strad died in 1737, yet the 'Cannon' Guarneri built in 1742 had a baroque neck. The original neck is still on the instrument, there is no graft at the scroll (at least I don't recall seeing one), but a wedge was inserted at the heel of the neck to give it the proper cant. Further, most or all of the Guarneri's at the '94 exhibition had had the buttons enlarged by the addition of ebony, probably to provide a broader base to support the modern neck, which also seems to have a larger footprint. These may be original additions but I sincerely doubt it - they are typically ugly and out of context on the instruments. Finally, Guarneri had the habit of not color varnishing under his fingerboards - implying that the fingerboard was on the instrument when the varnish was laid on - but also, the unvarnished areas correspond to a much shorter fingerboard much more in line with the baroquye set-up. Related to this is a large blotch on a Guarneri violin (I don't recall which) which was partially removed, I'd guess by the maker. It occurs right near the end of the unvarnished region and make sense if he was staining a baroque fingerboard and got sloppy, as he tended to do. There are other possible reasons for the size of the unvarnished area and etc., but it seems to back up the use of a baroque set-up by Guarneri. The 'Cannon' neck is pretty convincing to me however, though an isolated observation.

MAF

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All I can say is holy shit !!! what a fire storm. I have seen

19th century violins with baroque measurements and grafted necks,

and 18th century violins with Stradivari measurments and intact necks.

I have seen bass bars from 7 inches to 12 inches long. I have violins that

look beautifull on the outside, with flawless purfling, and exact dimensions,

but are completely rough and unfinished on the inside. I have violins that are

"Ugly Ducklings" Rough and course on the exterior, but smooth and well measured

on the interior, with great sound and projection.

I checked the string tension of the "A" string when tuned to different frequencies

as suggested by other writers. I read the Hill book.

But the question still remains......

Who developed the 1 cm longer and angled neck ?????

steveg

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I have two old violins, one just the body says Amati inside. The other says Steiner. I run a music store, not someone who has found it in his attic. I am very interested in finding the value of these, what I should be looking for, size, shape, size of f hole, etc. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

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