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Trapezoid violins.


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#1 polkat

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 07:27 PM

I have heard for years of trapezodial shaped violins (Savart style) and didn't pay much attention. Recently I had a chance to look at and play a few that a friend has, and was quite surprised by the tone (better then many standard student violins I've played).

Both plates on these things are flat (though some appear rolled over on the outside edges-but not carved in the traditional sense), and I got to wondering how they might sound if the plates were arched inside and out. There is at least one (older) book out on them, but I was wondering if anyone here has built one, or knows of any other info (on the web-whitepapers)? Thanks!

#2 Craig Tucker

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 07:38 PM

I have heard for years of trapezodial shaped violins (Savart style) and didn't pay much attention. Recently I had a chance to look at and play a few that a friend has, and was quite surprised by the tone (better then many standard student violins I've played).

Both plates on these things are flat (though some appear rolled over on the outside edges-but not carved in the traditional sense), and I got to wondering how they might sound if the plates were arched inside and out. There is at least one (older) book out on them, but I was wondering if anyone here has built one, or knows of any other info (on the web-whitepapers)? Thanks!



I built one (flat plates) after reading Heron Allens book for the first time way back in the early 70's.

It was a sort of joke for my guitar playing brother. A guitar-O-lin...
It did play fairly well, but I never had the desire to build another one.
If you make one with arched plates please post the results.

ct

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#3 Don Noon

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 08:12 PM

I made a flat-plate violin once, but violin-shaped. Sounded OK, but not quite the same as a regular violin. The main problem was structural... flat plates tend to arch inward under vertical pressure, and split.

Now I build arched, violin-shaped things, and they sound more like violins.

I would guess that you could mess around with the trapezoidal outline and make archings sound OK. I'm not sure why, though.

Making fiddles ain't rocket science...  it's much more complicated.


#4 Craig Tucker

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:04 PM

I would guess that you could mess around with the trapezoidal outline and make archings sound OK. I'm not sure why, though.



That was pretty much my take on the situation too.

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#5 violins88

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 10:30 PM

I have heard for years of trapezodial shaped violins (Savart style) and didn't pay much attention. Recently I had a chance to look at and play a few that a friend has, and was quite surprised by the tone (better then many standard student violins I've played).

Both plates on these things are flat (though some appear rolled over on the outside edges-but not carved in the traditional sense), and I got to wondering how they might sound if the plates were arched inside and out. There is at least one (older) book out on them, but I was wondering if anyone here has built one, or knows of any other info (on the web-whitepapers)? Thanks!

Thirty years ago (or more), I made one with an arched top and back. My brother, in Gaithersburg, MD, plays it in a few pieces as part of the cajun band. If you are near Gaithersburg, I will put you in touch with him.

#6 polkat

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 11:11 PM

I get the feeling that the general concenses here is that it's not worth the effort. Still, the tone as I experienced it was surprising. I thought they would sound like cigar box fiddles. They didn't. That's why I'm asking about building one with arches. I mostly repair now in a CA foothills community, so I have some time to play around with it. Think I'll give it at least one try. If something good results, I'll post about it.

#7 richardz

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 11:51 PM

Polkat:
Got any photos?
also I think I remember seeing pictures of one built by Herrington guitars in a picture book of their guitars...could be wrong but maybe not......

#8 Kevin Miller

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 01:10 AM

I built one of these as a physics project in college. It sounded like a violin; I wasn't enough of a player to say more than that, but I thought it sounded pretty good. I haven't heard it in years now, and I have a feeling that my better-trained ear might not be so generous today. The plates aren't actually completely flat, except on the inside. The outside surfaces have a slight arch, so that they're thinner at the edges. If you want to find more information about them, you could look at Félix Savart's Mémoire sur la construction des instrumens à cordes et à archet (in French; that book is the original source for most other discussion of these instruments). A more recent book which is basically a how-to manual on buiding them is Ronald Roberts' Making a Simple Violin and Viola.

#9 polkat

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 02:14 AM

richardz, google "Savart trapezoid violin images" without the quotes and you'll see a few. Kevin, wish I could read french. Is that book on line anywhere? Maybe it has pics. I found a website (then lost it) that claims the top plates were about 2mm at the edges and near 5mm through the center. That just seems too thick to me for any kind of top plate! Hummm...I'm thinking arched top plate and flat bottom plate.... hummm. Savart also ran his bassbar down the very center which strikes me odd (probably for support against string tension). There was also one claim that he didn't use a post, but I doubt that.

Yes, I have built 'real' violins (though I'm more of a repairer/player these days), but there's just something about these trapezoids that interests me. Goofy huh?

#10 Kevin Miller

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 02:59 AM

The link I put up for the Savart book should go to an online edition from the University of Michigan. It's also available through Google Books, but as far as I know there's no English translation. There's also a drawing and a list of measurements from Heron Allen's Violin Making As It Was and Is, which is also available free at Google Books. The Ronald Roberts book I linked to at Amazon.com is still under copyright (published in 1976) and as such there's no free online version, but you can probably track down a copy of it in a library. I also have a copy if there's anything specific you'd like me to look up for you. I wouldn't think of his book as anything authoritative. I don't think Roberts built any non-trapezoid violins, and as I recall he hadn't even been able to track down a copy of Savart's book when he wrote his.

I think if you're interested in a trapezoid violin, you might as well make one. Making a straight-sided box takes hardly any time at all, and on an instrument like this you can easily simplify the scroll without making it look out of place, so it's not much of a time investment compared to making a "real" violin. For something along the same lines but with arched plates you might also look at William Sydney Mount's "Cradle of Harmony" violin, described here. I've never heard one of these in person, but the concept seems interesting.

#11 Craig Tucker

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 08:38 AM

Yes, I have built 'real' violins (though I'm more of a repairer/player these days), but there's just something about these trapezoids that interests me. Goofy huh?



Goofy?

Not really - I never understand what it is that drives me towards a particular end, but unless I go ahead and do something about it, it doesn't let me rest...

Now that's goofy. (It's no wonder, at the end of the day an icy cold beer is needed - the hottest summer on record this year - I believe it was 58 over 100F days in a row)

Enjoy the process.

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The wise men share a joke;


#12 richardz

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 03:05 PM

Polkat:

Oops, that's Ferrington...Danny Ferrington (guitarmaker to the stars), and it's a modified trapezoid. Apparently he made a viola and cello too.
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#13 polkat

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 06:03 PM

Wow! That's unusualy. Almost seems like that design promoted the art rather then the function, and I get the sense that he studied the Chanot style as well. Which brings up another point. I wouldn't bring this up in a post where I asked a different question, but I think it relates. Questions on the function of the corner blocks has always been in the back of my mind. Classical appearance and some structional strength is there of course, but if you remove the top from any standard violin (which has real corner blocks) you find that the sound box inside is guitar shaped (much like Chanots are outside). So is there a necessary reason for corner blocks? Anyone care to comment on this?

#14 richardz

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 06:35 PM

He's got a whole different approach....he's a guitar maker (and I would say you'd have to hear the instrument to know how successful it is) Here's what he says about it (from Darol Angers website):

Danny Ferrington is a guitarmaker to the stars, a tireless experimenter, a gifted technician . His acoustic guitar designs mimic electrics, the electrics look like anything, with inlays of wood or formica, even a phone pole with frets. He has built a guitar from scratch in an hour.

"I thought it was funny... name something that hasn't changed: the fiddle! Before I built my string quartet, I went to UCLA and read everything they had on making violins. During Stradivari's time, nobody played above 4th position! Hardly anybody played above third. It was a great design then, but now people are playing way up the neck all the time. So I just removed the body on that side of the instrument."

The two violins, viola, and cello are close to identical, perfectly scaled, blond and blemishless. They look like sleek vehicles designed to be driven at highly dangerous speeds. Lightweight, too. I examine the smooth spruce of the top. Are these not carved?

"They're arched, bent spruce for the top and maple for the side and back. They're so easy to make...I figured I could produce a nice tone without carving the top.You know, Stradivarius and those guys didn't have resawing ability, the tools weren't so sophisticated so it was easier to carve the tops from a block. With a good bandsaw, you can cut the top thin, arch it and you've got something that's cheap to make, could be mass produced, something that could compete wtih a Stratocaster!...You know, if Strad and those guys woke up today, I bet they'd be over at the guitar booths checking out the carbon fiber composite materials- they'd be so bored with most violin makers! They'd say 'You're doing a good job, but we did it better.'" For the complete story, check Darol's article in the July '96 issue of Strings Magazine!

#15 Baiorin

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 04:18 PM

I found a website (then lost it) that claims the top plates were about 2mm at the edges and near 5mm through the center. That just seems too thick to me for any kind of top plate! Hummm...I'm thinking arched top plate and flat bottom plate.... hummm. Savart also ran his bassbar down the very center which strikes me odd (probably for support against string tension). There was also one claim that he didn't use a post, but I doubt that.


Been curious to hear what these sounded like. In toying with smaller instruments, someone pointed me to the Roberts book. It was inspiring enough to try different shapes and keep cutting them down. Low quality spruce guitar tops were available so they were used. One of the last experiments resulted in a peaked top (like a house), 2 or 3 string instrument (non-wound) with an 8 inch body length. No low g-string, no bass bar, no sound post. Might have a photo somewhere around - didn't think it was that informative, actually.

It didn't sound like a 1/10th-sized violin, which could be viewed as good or bad. It did bow fine, and it made sound. There was no real goal, but it showed some potential for a kiddie violin. If screw inserts were put into the blocks (at an angle), it would be possible to bend (arch) and screw a thin, synthetic top onto the body.

A VSO for school programs has been on a list of "must do-s." It's quite evident to me that those in wealthier areas are more likely to have a bowed instrument programs and that's just not fair. There is the insteresting problem though, that when talking to these little kids (and parents), they'd rather play something that looks like "the traditional violin." During these visits to 2nd - 4th grade school programs (which are not likely to be funded by the schools any more), Little Emily Engel was overheard remarking to her mother that the later "Gesu" corners were better to her liking, because they did not "hurt her thumb" during aggressive bow work at the "froggy."

#16 polkat

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Posted 13 September 2011 - 01:50 AM

Took a look at the book today...and saw a lot of room for improvements. Then, thinking about it...heck, I'd just end up with a regular violin.

One thing I thought was odd, he wrote that book with beginning makers in mind, yet he ignores any advice on carving the neck (other then the head stocks and dimensions kin the plans). Rather odd for a beginning maker book. Think I'll take a closer look at the Chanot stuff.




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