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An unusual way to get "the tone"

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner [DB]' started by Steven Ayres, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Here's a story sent into Kaybass.com some years ago. Our correspondent registered a first-year Kay Concert that had belonged to his father for 50 years, and mentioned a story from the original owner, a Mr Price, who also lived in Wisconsin:

    “Back in the ‘30s or ‘40s Mr Price had a gig in Dubuque Iowa, and tied the bass to the top of his car. It rained enroute, and the bass took in quite a lot of water. They drained it out, dried it and played the gig. After that they reported that the tone was much improved. It still has a great sound.”

    The bass would probably have been less than five years old at that point. I have to wonder whether one approach to breaking in a new plywood bass might be a nice cold bath.

    Don't try this at home, kids!
    oldNewbie and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  2. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I read an article about a luthier who got thousands for his stringed instruments. His secret was to find wood that what been submerged for an optimal period of time underwater. He would remove the wood, and then let it dry out before building instruments with it. he said the tone was amazing. Which was why he got so much for his instruments.

    Could the water bloat the fibres, which then never contract to their original shape, thus allowing for greater resonance?

    I also read about a unit you attach to the bridge. You plug it in, and it sends vibrations through the bridge for a couple weeks. It simulates hours and hours of playing, apparently improving tone across the spectrum of tones produced by the unit.
  3. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    NW Mass/SW VT
    The submerged lumber theory (as sending logs down the river and storing them in the pond at the mill) is one I've heard proposed (not proven) as a component of why "real Strads" are so good. I have no idea if it's correct and have no stake in it, and the speculative reasons are all very well (I think one was something to do with some sort of mold in the pores?) but lacking proof are mere speculation.

    I know a guy who was a physics professor and got into building violins for a while. He found benefits from putting sound through the instrument (not just the bridge) for a while, though his opinion was it didn't really matter if you strapped on a transducer and played music or strapped on a transducer and played square waves. IIRC you could also do the same without a transducer as such, just putting it very close to a nice loud speaker.
  4. Or, perhaps strapped to a car driving from Wisconsin to Iowa in the rain?

    I purchased an early 1900s "Swiss" pocket watch from a mountain antique store a few decades ago, and noticing that it didn't work asked the clerk if she could recommend a tinker to work on it... She said "Just put it on the washing machine on washing day for a couple of hours." I did. By the time my clothes were washed, the pocket watch was running. it has never stopped since then.

    Vibration, no matter the source is pretty interesting stuff.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
  5. Another fun anecdote related to this...

    My teacher has another student who had a decent bass that was on its side (E string side down, G string side up) in the basement. The basement flooded and the bass was submerged up to about the bass bar. After the flooding, the family had insurance covering the instrument and the damage, got a check, plus bought the bass back at a HIGHLY discounted distressed rate.

    Everyone thinks the bass sounds 100 years older, has some phat cushion now, and after getting it check out apparently had no major structural damage. Can see the water level line on the inside.

    I think he also played flute and ended up selling the bass and using the insurance check towards a flute and college I believe... guess he was fed up with the jokes... :rollno:
  6. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I believe I had read where the logs that Stradivarius purchased/used were "shipped" (floated) via river to the port-city of Venice, where the logs were gathered and stored in a "lagoon" of partial saltwater which "pickled" the wood (fibers?).
    Or, not.
  7. tubedude

    tubedude Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2015
    There was a luthier in Collingswood N.J. that made violins from wood that was aged in liquid after cutting. The theory was the sap that normally clogs the ends of the fibers was dissolved and removed. I saw Itzak Perlman on the tonight show say he used the instead of his Strad as it had 95% of the Strad's response.
    The luthier had a day job that gave him access to an electron microscope. Analyzing shavings from Strads from repairs, he found the fiber tubes were hollow. No dried sap.
    carl h. likes this.

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