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RE: Cellular structure of wood?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Celarier, Dec 8, 2002.


  1. Celarier

    Celarier

    Sep 5, 2002
    Washington, DC
    OK I'm still a newbie on the DB but loving a new found passion. Speaking of passion, I recently read a forum response in which 'warming a bass' through playing it often and regularly improves the sound of the bass itself.

    My query - What does playing playing the DB do to the instrument to make it sound 'better'. My thought had been that it was me the player that was 'warming up' and not instrument itself. Upon greater focus and reflection - now I think this may untrue.

    Could it be that "waking-up" a DB does something to the wood cells themselves, thereby exciting the tissues that comprise it. In essence, when wood cells are dormant for a long time might they 'harden'. - the liquids in the endoplasm stagnate?

    So by playing more often it keeps them from coagulating - for lack of a better term. It keeps the wood cells liquified (like with shaken paint). These are only thoughts and theories. Wood sounds better when played often - but why?
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've heard that PBS did a show on this. I'd like to check it out.
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've always attributed this phenomenon to "psycho acoustics", since I never knew what else to call it. I'm still not sold, but haven't dismissed the idea either.
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    It's a fact that many string virtuosos have a student or orchestra member warm up their fiddles before they go on stage. These people have extraordinary hearing and they percieve a difference in the sound and playability between a "cold" and "warmed-up" fiddle. Therefore, we have to pay attention to the phenomenon. I've witnessed it in my own shop. What is the scientific explanation? Who knows. I suspect it has more to do with the strings than anything else. When clients ask me, I tell them it's magic. After all, music is just vibrating airwaves, yet it affects people's emotions with great power. Isn't that magic, too?
     
  5. kip

    kip

    Sep 11, 2002
    Sausalito, Ca
    The magic is wonderful and all powerful... there might also be an ordering of the nanocites
     
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
  7. kip

    kip

    Sep 11, 2002
    Sausalito, Ca
    you know, the alignment of happy buckyballs, all living in harmony with one another.

    but, Arnold, if you're ever down this way, don't order them at Chuy's.
     
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The PBS thing said that researched showed that it had something to do with channels opening up in the structure of the wood and certain molecules racing the length of the channels. This is a faint rememberance of someone's description, which is why I hesitated to mention it above. Psycho-acoustics I'll dismiss with the following anecdotal evidence, with which the luthiers can easily verify.

    When hanging out at a bass shop, you have your chance to get your hands and ears warmed up. From this point you can go from bass to bass and wake them up. I've experienced this tons -- and, incidentally, is how I found the bass that I have now.
     
  9. Celarier

    Celarier

    Sep 5, 2002
    Washington, DC
    Arnoldsnitzer seems to understand the query and it's significacance to the instrument. Thank you for your comments.

    Mr. Parker - Are you serious about the PBS explanation. If so, I work in television and can probably track down the program of which you speak and then my question will have been anwswered. I'll find it. Let me know any details on the program you speak of.

    BUT what I really think is that you responded with sarcasim and that does not help seroius questions about acoustics and the DB. Shrug the smug in this case.

    I have always taken your coments with extreme seriousness and respect, Mr. Parker, and will continue to take them in this way. I understand your dissmisal of bogus questions about bass A and B. All of your comments to Newbies are voyeristically ammusing at the least. Yet, my inquery is serious.


    Perhaps it's the website that could use a change. Make the Newbie site much more prominent in DB section thereby relieving stress in this forum. - Make it it's own button bar etc. That way more developed ideas could be discussed here. Is that the intent in this forum? I may be in the wrong here. This forum does not seem to be about ordinary questions on DB; rather it is intended for deeper questions about tones , airwaves, & woods.

    As for my question concerning wood and it's properties. Arnold might be right that is not the wood that is 'warmed up' but the strings. This concept makes sense. The strings 'warm-up' not the wood the strings become more elastic with warming or something. Mr. Parker is it the strings or the wood?

    Here are some quotes:

    "Still after a sh*t-ton of playing her since the purchase of October, 2000 (edit: not 2002), it still takes about a half an hour of hard playing to wake her up each day."
    Quote: Ray Parker

    and

    "I had only been playing a year or two at this point. After a weekend of him playing my bass, it would come back sounding like a million bux. Over a short time it would go back to sleep -- I wasn't getting enough sound out of the thing to keep it humming."
    Quote: Ray Parker

    The 'Humming' - that is my question! PBS?
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm not spoofing on the PBS thing at all. I wish I could remember who told me about that program. The only thing that I certain of is that it was aired on Public Television. I think the theme of the show had something to do with Strad fiddles, but now I'm digging too far back in my brain to be of much good.

    As for strings warming up? I know for certain that basses 'play in'. I went through similar 'newness' with a Juzek that I had after it had been restored, top off, etc, and it was about 70 yrs old at the time. I would also tend to dismiss strings warming up , at least for the most part, as cold v. warm for humans is barely noticeable in the world of metal. Where for us, 32F - 212F is the difference between solid and gas, for metal it doesn't mean a whole lot at all.

    I will give some credence to the player warming up, but I've dismissed this to some extent, giving my 'bass player loitering around the shop' example above. Even once I've warmed up, it still takes a bit of time to awake a bass.

    Also, add to this that if you let the average bass sit for a week or more, it might take a couple of days to get it sounding right again...

    (Edits: Mostly typos, and the combination of two paragraphs. Just ate dinner and all the blood must be around my midriff)
     
  11. kip

    kip

    Sep 11, 2002
    Sausalito, Ca
    "The great violin mystery" aired on Nova. Original broadcast date 10/11/1981.
     
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I see physicist Jack Fry mentioned a lot concerming all of this. Still looking for his work instead of just descriptions. This would be where the answer to this might be.
     
  13. I wouldn't put too much stock in what PBS shows when it comes to Stradivarius violins. It seems like every 5 or 10 years they come up with a show about some one what has found the "secret" of Stradivarius. There's one guy in Texas that has been on PBS/PTV three times. Each time, he has a new totally different version of the "secret".
     
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    It's not the Strad or its secret, but more the research that Jack Fry did -- this is the stuff that is undoubtledly laced throughout the sensationalism of PBS/NOVA.

    I poked around the web for a bit and couldn't get my hands on any paper that he wrote, which those scientifical types are wont to do. I think the bit that I heard about would be in that research..
     
  15. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    my bass takes less time to wake up in a warm room than a cold one, for whatever that's worth.

    a couple of observations on warming strings up:

    ray - i'm not so sure that the physical differences between metal strings at 50 degrees (where'd that degree symbol go?!) and 70 degrees are imperceptible to the ears and hands. seems to me that the differences in feel in a warm and a cold, say, piece of aluminum siding (i.e. brittleness, malleability) are perceivable.

    furthermore, the vibration of strings will cause friction on a molecular level (inside the metal of the string) which will result in heat. ' least i think that's what high school physics said. :) i can't personally perceive an increase in temperature of the strings as i play, but i believe it happens to a degree, which could affect sound and playability.

    sean p
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Some metal will act differently within our tempurature range, but for a string to go from 65-60 to 75-80 wouldn't do much, I don't hink.
     
  17. I recall reading in a violin acoustics book (Cremer) that only a small percentage of the total energy we put into the system (with bow strokes or pizz strokes) is actually transformed into acoustic energy leaving the instrument. The remainder clearly is transformed into heat. This heat is not only in the strings (with small mass, strings won't hold much heat - the wood of the instrument's body has the capacity to absorb the far greater quantity).

    I don't recall reading anything about how a warmed-up (literally) bass will behave differently acoustically, but I rather suspect its quite true. I think most of us experience this everyday, though it may be more noticeable on some basses than others.

    Obviously the hands warm up as well, and any instrument will feel (and probably perform) differently after your hands are warm (not sure if this is literally "warm" with hands, or just "in the groove"). But there is a way to be more sure that the apparent warming up of the bass is not just an artifact of the hands warming. Get your hands loose for an hour or so on one bass, then switch to a "cold" bass, and see if its sound changes after it's played for while. I am currently practicing on two basses at the same time, and do this regularly. I'm quite sure the bass itself needs warming up to speak easily.

    It'd be fun to actually try to measure the temperature as the bass warms up - maybe I'll do this some day. But that could only confirm that indeed it warms up, not explain how the acoustic behavior changes.
     
  18. Hey - I'm impressed. I've never been able to get all the way through the Cremer book without falling asleep!
     
  19. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Wood is a rotten conductor of heat. Any heat that the strings produce wouldn't get too far past where the strings touch anything. If heat was generated by the flexing of the strings, then that plus body heat would surely have to raise the temp of the strings to body temp, but I doubt that the strings ever get close to that. Otherwise the AF of M regulations would require a break after so long a set based on string players catching fire.

    I could be proven wrong, but I'd have to see the charts and graphs to believe it.
     
  20. I'm way over my head discussing the physics involved in playing, but regarding heat, could it be that by the sheer act of resonating, sufficient friction is generated within the wood to produce heat?
    Unwittingly, I used to leave one beautiful bass in an excessively dry, warm corner in the winter. Whenever I played it, it roared. Also, one day the top spontaneously split (Arnold: it was the Kaakstein)