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Letter: Violin String Tension

Letter: Violin String Tension

by Ernest Nussbaum

Originally published in American Lutherie #9, 1987

 

Dear Tim:

I’d like to point out that the article “Fiddle Facts” contains at least two non-facts.

1) The author says that raising the pitch of a violin’s “A” string to 442 (presumably from 440) is an increase of 0.05%. Wrong: it’s 0.5%.

2) More serious: He says that string tension is thereby increased by 10%. He should have said 1%. (Raising the frequency increases tension according to the square of the raise, i.e., (442/440)2 which is 1.009 or about 1.01 — therefore 1% higher.

Maybe it’s bad for old violins to replace gut strings with steel. On ’cellos it seems to do no harm in most cases.

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Letter: Guitar Dimensions and Harmonics

Letter: Guitar Dimensions and Harmonics

by Joe D. Franklin

Originally published in American Lutherie #66, 2001



GAL Members,

The resonant chamber or soundbox on a guitar is the greater half of its tonal success. If the air enclosed in this box can resonate naturally at some harmonic of the speed of sound, then you have a winner. This is the only part of the guitar that is capable of maintaining polyphony at a level amplitude or volume throughout any given song.

Two designs from the past have met these standards, the 1864 Torres and the 1935 Hauser/Torres, and later the 1943 Hauser that used an inversion on the concept of where the fundamental bass might reside.

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Three Holes are Better than One

Three Holes are Better than One

by Robert Ruck

previously published in American Lutherie #91, 2007



See also,
“There’s a Hole in the Bucket” by Cyndy Burton
“Sideways” by John Monteleone
“Herr Helmholtz’ Tube” by Mike Doolin

Classical guitar maker Robert Ruck pioneered sideports for nylon string gutiars. He describes how the idea materialized out of several experiences going back to the begining of his career in the ’60s. A strong advocate, he now offers ports as an option on all of his guitars.

Since late 1999, I have regularly used sideports in my guitars. My experience with the resulting 150 or so ported classical and flamenco guitars with various designs is consistent, predictable, and all positive. There is an increase in loudness both for the player and for listeners. In listening tests with several fine players, we have concluded that the guitar is louder for the audience, too. The fundamental tone quality of the guitar stays the same, but it is louder, has stronger trebles, and has a more balanced quality for the player, opening up an area of sound around the player that is not normally heard. Since we as players sit somewhat asymmetrically to the guitar and the conventional soundhole is positioned to our right, there is an area on the left side of our heads that does not receive as much sound as the right side. We grow up hearing the guitar this way, so we never question it. Players comment that it’s as if one is hearing the guitar in stereo for the first time.

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Sideways

Sideways

by John Monteleone

previously published in American Lutherie #91, 2007

See also,
“There’s a Hole in the Bucket” by Cyndy Burton
“Herr Helmholtz’ Tube” by Mike Doolin
“Three Holes are Better than One” by Robert Ruck



Archtop builder John Monteleone is famous for his avant-garde approach to these instruments. He explains how sideports came into his mix.

The concept of incorporating the use of alternative soundholes in the side of my guitars came to me at an early age when I had built my first acoustic guitar, back around 1963. I would place my ear on the side of the guitar and wonder how I could make the guitar sound just like that. I figured that the only thing preventing me was the side of the guitar itself.

Even then I knew that you couldn’t just cut out a hole into the side of the instrument without inviting structural failure. There had to be some kind of reinforcement to permit it to happen. How could I make this happen on my guitar?

Some years went by before I actually got to revisit this idea and to address the best and most precise method of execution. While still in my old workshop in the 1980s I had done several drawings for this system of side soundhole placement but never got to build it. Then in 1995 Scott Chinery put the challenge to me to come up with a way to hear the projection of the guitar in a better and more effective way for my contribution to his Blue Guitar Collection. Scott, unbeknownst to me and the other blue guitar makers, had also challenged a couple of the other luthiers during this time by planting this seed with them as well. It seemed to me the perfect invitation, if not an excuse, to explore this avenue of tonal possibility.

Experimentation of design is historically not novel to the idea of trying to make improvements to nearly all musical instruments. A visit to the US Patent and Trademark Office will provide a staggering volume of inventions for fretted instruments alone. Many ideas never made it to fruition. But it is wonderful to see the many recognizable ones that did.

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This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

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