technology


Mackie – developer of the Tracktion3 recording software I use did a comparison physical abuse test of several prominent mini mixing desks.

The tests included yanking them off a table onto a hard floor, walking over them, then walking over them with a heavy weight, then driving and SUV over them, then driving over them with a heavy pickup truck loaded with several people in the back then finally dropping them from the roof of a three storey office building. The mackie desk survived all the tests.

Check out the video

As I start to use granulated hide glue, as opposed to liquid hide glue I realised I needed a heated glue pot – preferably with a double boiler or thermostat controlled warmer.

I had heard of people using a coffee warmer, and I had a small one lying around gathering dust that I had picked up from a swap meet a year or two ago.

I did a couple of glue mixes using just the coffee warmer plate and an old vegemite jar, which was ok, but I felt that the bottom would overheat leaving cooler (potentially gelling) glue at the top.

So I modified the top of the original coffee jug by cutting a hole just large enough to screw the vegemite jar in, raising it a little form the bottom of the jug.

Then I put water in the coffee machine, let it drip through into the jug, then placed the glue jar with glue dissolved in an equal quantity of water as glue, into the coffee jug, and the warm water now surrounds the glue, keeping the whole thing at the right temperature moderated by a thermostat to about 65C.

Viola! the whole thing cost about $5 for the coffee machine, and the jar could have been any glass jar which might otherwise have just gone in the recycling bin.

glue pot

Cheers
Jerry

Skype helped keep Michigan (USA) student Courtney Hutson from Mona Shores High school in touch with her violin teacher Becky Parks while the latter was on sabbatical in Switzerland.

Parks was able to make corrections to Hutson’s posture and fingering using a webcam on a computer in the school’s gymnasium, and one on Parks’ laptop.

Despite being half a world away Hutson was able to make a good preparation for her audition for the All-State orchestra.

Introduction
I mentioned that at the recording studio I had to do some impromptu raising of the bridge by inserting strips of cardboard beneath one foot to stop a slight string buzz. Well, back home I decided to fit a new bridge. When you buy a bridge from a music shop you will notice that the feet are quite large and the profile is slightly thicker than you might be used to. That is because the bridge needs to be fitted to your particular instrument. But it is something you can do yourself.

Step one – fitting the feet
You can see how the bridge’s feet are flat, but your violin has a curved or arched top. So your first task is to shape the feet to the arch. If you have a belt or drum sander you can get close very quickly, but that is not recommended for the beginner – you can take off too much wood too quickly. So just get a small sheet or disk of 180 or 360 grit sandpaper and lay it on your violin top – with the abrasive side up! Then loosen your strings just enough so you can lift the bridge with some effort (this is so you don’t take all the pressure off and possibly dislodge the soundpost). Now slide the sandpaper underneath and holding the bridge you can either move the bridge a little against the sandpaper taking care to keep the bridge vertical so you don’t round off the feet, sand the bridge until the feet match the profile of the instrument. The other way to do it is to hold the bridge still and move the sandpaper. Be patient – it takes time. But what you are aiming for is to match the feet to the instrument so there are no sound losses.

violin bridge

Step two – the top profile
You will see in the photo above that there is a pencil line and markings for the proper position of the strings. I just used the old bridge for a curve template, but slid it up a little because I wanted to raise the string height a little. I then sanded down to just above the profile. This is deliberate, because at this stage I haven’t cut V-notches for the stings to ride in. The important thing is to get the profile about right by refitting the bridge and trying it for string height. If it’s too high, make a note of it and reduce the profile slightly and try again.

You will also see in the picture above, that the bridge is still a bit fat. So take the bridge out and lay some 360 grit sandpaper on a flat surface – and reduce the thickness overall using a circular or figure eight motion.

Now using the old bridge as a template, mark where the strings should go – or if you have Bruce Ossman’s book use the bridge template in there. And using a Stanley knife or sharp knife gently notch the top at the pencil marks to about half the depth of the string, and make them a V-shape so the string beds in nicely without sideways movement. These are at most half a millimetre – so it’s not much – but now you know why you sand down to about half a millimetre above the pencil line. So you are nearly there. Just erase the pencil marks with a light sanding.

violin bridge

Step 3 – Thinning the top
In order to impart the string vibrations to the the bridge, without the thickness of the bridge dampening the sound, there is just one more step. What you will do is to taper the bridge profile on the side nearest the fingerboard. Again, it’s a bit more sanding, but in the end it’s probably not much more time involved than it has taken to read this post – and you have the satisfaction of being able to interact more intimately with your violin! This photo shows the taper – and the finished bridge installed. Tune it up and hear the difference :-)
violin bridge

Cheers
Jerry

After I made my pochette fiddle, I realised that I was lacking a couple of key tools – in particular, I lacked curved soled luthier’s planes to scallop down the sides of the belly rise, so I decided to do something about it at last.

I went on ebay and found a set of four lovely looking brass planes. But I wasn’t sure of the finish, how well made they would be, and whether I could get used to using them.

I put in what I felt was a reasonable bargain bid. And sure enough I was beaten to it. The next morning, however, I woke and checked my email, and there was an email from the seller offering me a second chance to buy it at my last bid price as the other buyer had pulled out. So I took the plunge.

Luthier planes

And when the planes arrived I was delighted. Not only are they of excellent quality, but I find them quite easy to use too. They will see a lot of use on my next pochette. The work with the grain or across it. But I may still look out for some serrated blades so they will plane in all directions equally well.

luthier's planes

Cheers
Jerry

So, you’re traveling around the place, but still want to capture CD quality audio tracks? Here’s my solution. The key is in the choice of technology. If you have the right gear, you don’t need much of it. Essentially, you need:

  • a means to collect sound at the highest quality;
  • a means to get the sound from audio to digital to get clean sound; and
  • a computer platform with good audio editing software, and be able to burn the results to CD

In my case, that means a studio-quality condenser microphone – The Tascam LD-74 is excellent and relatively inexpensive. This is connected to a Tascam US-122L audio/midi interface which connects by USB2 to a macbook running OSX (10.5 Leopard) and Tracktion 3.0 mixing and audio production software. The US-122L is powered by the same USB cable that connects it, so you only need one lead from the mic to the US-122L. Compact eh?

travel studio

The combined system is compact and works very well. The 122L provides clean (no hum) digital sound from the analogue mic, and the macbook is sufficiently quiet that there are no dramas having it in the same room as you are recording.

travel studio

You then just need the pochette so that the whole studio can travel in the same backpack as the fiddle!

Cheers
Jerry

Dutch researchers applied modern medical scanning techniques to determine that the wood used in Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins has remarkably consistent density with close growth rings and little variation – possibly the product of the mini ice-age that occurred in the early 17th century.

Many have suggested it was athe special varnish – but on most of the surviving strads much of teh original varnish has worn off or has been replaced – so it’s down to the timber.

The researchers used a CT scanning machine using software developed to measure lung density in people suffering form lung conditions to measure the violins’ density in a non-destructive way. The tests were performed blind with the instruments annonymised – and a viola thrown in for scale.

This news came from the Science Daily

Cheers
Jerry

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