Visiting the World Class Organ Makers

CB Fisk in Gloucestor, MA recently finished two church organs. Everytime they finish a new opus, they invite the public to share in their masterwork, before the pieces get dismantled and shipped to churches around the world.

Here are some takeaways from a recent visit:

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Finishing the Saga Mandolin Kit

When the Luthier told me-

This will become your main instrument, and you will like it more than the bowback mandolin.

I didn’t believe him. After a week of playing, its true. I love this Mandolin.

These came out well:
+ All the time spent on the project was enjoyable.
+ Tone & playability
+ Color and texture on the finish
+ Using Google Helpouts and having Hustler Guitar give advice on the build. In particular, his advice on the finish.
+ Having a Stubblebine Lutherie adjust the action on the frets&strings

These things came out less well:
+ Original action on the strings & frets were too high and hard to play.
+  The neck joint was a pain to put together, and the angle was a bit off.
+ Scratches around the neck joint. Too forceful with sandpaper.

Here is a video of the kit before I got started. You can order the kit on Amazon (affiliate link).

No Shortcuts to Quality

Beautiful musical instruments are timeless, and a few posts reminded us that there are no shortcuts to quality. Little details have the unique ability to amaze in both directions.

These reinforcements by Esq Guitars are super classy are should be celebrated. What makes an instrument go from Good to Great? MBAs study companies that grow contagious pockets of greatness. But for the craftsman, sharing small trade secrets is the key.

Looking Through The Lens Backwards: Great to Good

This provocative video compares a Gibson guitar to an imitation from China. Most youtube reviewers comparing imitation guitars aren’t as tough, but this guy colorfully explains how the little things making a Gibson guitar a special instrument, and why the imitation is rubbish.

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Best Musical Instruments on WordPress

Holidays are a good time to catch up with the family. Here at it was a time to look around our wordpress family to see what types of musical instruments people are making. Guitar makers continue to post beautiful photos that make you say ‘Wow’

RDS Guitars has a nice restoration project going with an acoustic guitar.

Ayers guitar is cranking out instruments from his shop. Including this gem of an acoustic guitar.

James Radcliffe types up a piece about why he makes music.

Material Alchemy posts his latest beautiful gutiars

LA String player provides a quick summary of violin acoustics.

5 things to look for when buying a ukelele

Peach Tree started a series on guitar luthiers

Try tunning your A-String to 432 Hz instead of 440 Hz.

This origami bass is tremendous. Somebody please 3D print this thing!

RimbaTubes rocks out to PVC tube jam.

Finally, check out the world of Black Midi. 3-minute midi songs with over 100k notes. Keep making beautiful things in upcoming year. We are still impressed with our last trip circumnavigating the world of music makers on wordpress.

A On Violin

Tuning a violin can be done in a few simple steps. Understanding how to tune a violin is essential for beginning violin. This post moves past violin basics and dives in to what violin strings are made of and how the tuning of a violin works. A on violin is 440 Hz, one of the easier pitches to remember.

How to Tune A Violin

This youtube does a fanstastic job of walking you through violin tuning. This simple online violin tuner is a handy tool for adjusting the pitch of your violin strings.

What Are the Strings on a Violin

The four strings on the violin are separated in fifths. The violin strings notes are G, D, A and E. The strongest argument for using fifths, is the increased playability of the instruments. Others argue, violins are tuned in fifth to provide richer overtones. Over the years, violin strings evolved to provide a good balance of tension and thickness to meet tuning in fifths of the four strings. But this was not always the case. In a nod to quality over features, the E string was dropped on many models during the second half of the 18th century. Instrument makers of three string violins felt the quality of that thicker string didn’t live up to the tone of the other strings.

Originally, violin strings were made of sheep guts. Since the 1920s, violin strings were available as different metals. The original steel strings resonated too strongly. Metal strings have since mellowed yet people claim “metal will always sound metallic”- synthetic materials have since been developed to compete with guts. For each type of string there are multiple manufacturers that provide different claims to timbre, reliability, longevity, dynamics and feel. Shapechanginginstruments has yet to do our own study on different violin strings.

Finally, its worth noting some violins do have 5 strings by adding a C. Electronic violins can add lower notes with a sixth or seventh string. Naturally, these versions of the instrument are used in more modern styles of music like jazz, country fiddling and swing. But the additional strings leads to compromises in tone that prevent these violins from universal adoption.

Introduction to the Physics String Vibration

Violin lengths, materials and thicknesses in general are chosen to have equal tension across the strings. Light gauge violin strings or heavy gauge violin strings can be both be used. The tension affects the decay of the note, the playability, timbre and amplitude dynamics of the strings. Heavily tensioned strings – on a certain style of bass instruments – require a large amount of bow force to start the attack on the string. The classic model for understanding string vibration is:

Freq = v / (2 * L)

v = standing wave velocity = sqrt( Tension / (m * L))

m = hanging mass of the string

L = String Length

T = String Tension

This provides enough background to adequately design materials for the well pitched strings and the violin neck that won’t break. But it likely lacks some of the non-linear affects that come from the coiling found in many strings. There is more in depth research on violin physics, but we have yet to digest it.