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  #1  
Old 11-10-2019, 08:36 PM
fregly fregly is offline
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Default Violin Maple vs Guitar Maple

What qualities in maple do violin makers look for and do luthiers look for same in guitars? Or do the instruments require something different? I have always wondered why Maple became the standard in Classical stringed instruments yet is somewhat of a rarity in guitars.
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Old 11-10-2019, 10:01 PM
Shuksan Shuksan is offline
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Maple back and sides are common on archtop guitars.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:18 AM
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I don't know this to be correct, but I suspect it's because maple was the most readily accessible good tone wood available in Europe in the middle ages, when the great string instrument builders were getting started.
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:41 AM
Bass.swimmer Bass.swimmer is offline
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I think it's a lot of factors. Back when Stradavarius was making violins, there was a lot of spruce and maple around, and because of the time, they didn't really have a logging and shipping industry like we do today. So, I suspect the great violin makers used what they had.

However, tradition is very strong in the orchestral instrument community (this is the way violins have always been made, so this is how they shall always be made). Also, people have found that spruce and maple give the tone everyone looks for in classical instruments. So maple is so popular because many people don't see a reason to use another wood.

However, with guitars, there is no narrowly-defined "ideal tone". So, different woods are used because of how they affect the tone (or because of the placebo effect if the wood doesn't change the tone citing the cardboard and pallet guitar).

And I just want to say, people are making violins with woods other than maple. However, more often than not, people call them fiddles and say they have no place in classical music.

In summation, violins makers use maple because violinists get the sound they want and therefore, see no reason to change. However, guitarists don't agree on the ideal tone, so there would be no consensus on the ideal wood.

Just my 2
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:47 PM
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TomB'sox TomB'sox is offline
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I would tend to disagree with the premise that maple guitars are rare though? There are many many maple guitars out there and I would almost say that the luthiers in our custom shop use quite a bit of maple. I have one and it is among the best I have I believe.

maple.jpg
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Old 11-11-2019, 08:56 PM
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Frank Ford Frank Ford is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomB'sox View Post
I would tend to disagree with the premise that maple guitars are rare though?
Attachment 29328
No kiddin' - so many Gibson instruments just happened to be made of maple -- including the mandolins, jazz guitars that defined their species, along with some lesser items such as J-200, J-185.

Interesting, though, that for those who would replicate the best of the old Gibsons look for Michigan maple, which grows near, er, Kalamazoo.

Violin makers look toward Cremona spend a fair amount of time working with Italian Alpine spruce and Italian maple.



What a coincidence. . .
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:29 AM
redir redir is offline
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I think violin makers look for a lower density maple then what you might find in a Vermont Sugar maple for example. I was talking on another forum with a very accomplished mandolin maker about my stash of Sugar Maple and my desire to use it for building a mandolin and he said if I do it will sound like "a drawer full of silverware tossed down a flight of stairs"

So my guess is that is similar to the violin world too.

Seems to me that you can get away with more choices on a guitar. I only ever built one maple guitar and that was sugar maple.
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:02 AM
John Arnold John Arnold is offline
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Quote:
I think violin makers look for a lower density maple then what you might find in a Vermont Sugar maple for example. I was talking on another forum with a very accomplished mandolin maker about my stash of Sugar Maple and my desire to use it for building a mandolin and he said if I do it will sound like "a drawer full of silverware tossed down a flight of stairs"

So my guess is that is similar to the violin world too.
Actually, Gilchrist uses sugar maple on his mandolins. I agree that sugar maple is more commonly used on guitars than on violins. It is the hardest, densest maple, and those qualities tend to work better on a steel string guitar than on a violin.
A lot can be said about the fact that popular hardwoods have been adopted for instruments, based on fashion and availability. Brazilian RW came into vogue in the early-1800's....which is when Martin started making guitars that eventually developed into the modern steel string flat top. Arch top guitars and mandolins were developed from violin family instruments, hence the use of maple.
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Old 11-12-2019, 01:37 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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The violin is so in-bred, in a sense, that you almost have to use soft maple. I'm sure the early violin makers settled on maple as 'suitable', and probably a better wood than either poplar or willow (both of which were used, even by Strad). Maple seems to grow with fancy grain more commonly, and that does actually seem to confer a bit of toughness to the wood. Anyway, makers continued to refine their designs, and since they were using soft maple they took it's properties into account.

Meanwhile, composers kept coming up with more and more difficult music to play on the violin, and each time they advanced the technique they put stronger constraints on the size and shape. Any significant departure from 'standard' at this point can easily render the instrument unusable for some part of the standard repertoire. To define a 'significant' departure, keep in mind that some players find a 'long pattern' Stradivari hard to play: the body is 1/8" longer than the 'G' pattern.

Rock maple is significantly harder and denser than the European soft maple, which is closer in properties to our local Red maple, or Broad leaf maple from the northwest. I've used Rock maple in violins: it costs some in terms of power, and, of course, it's harder to carve...

So far the best non-maple wood I've found for fiddles is Black walnut, and it has measurable properties that are quite similar to European maple. Another wood that seems to work well is apple, although I have not tried it yet.

Guitars are not nearly as constrained as violins, and there are lots of woods that can be used for the B&S of a guitar. What's interesting to me is that people tend to feel that darker colored woods tend to sound 'darker'. Thus soft maple is said to make a 'bright' sounding guitar, while walnut is felt to be 'darker', even though they have virtually identical properties. Go figure. Anyway, it's really not hard to make a good sounding maple guitar if you take it's properties into account. What's harder is selling it, since people listen with their eyes so much.
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:06 PM
fregly fregly is offline
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Alan, I have a Black Walnut guitar, so if I want a Maple guitar I should get one of the harder Maples since Europen is too similar to the Walnut, because I would prefer something more different complementary. What attracts me to Maple is the bright loud surgical clarity of some samples. Warm and easy going I can get with mahogany or whatever. For some reason I thought Flamed Maple was the harder variety, but many violins are flamed, and you say they are softer variety.
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:11 PM
fregly fregly is offline
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Double post
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Old 11-12-2019, 03:09 PM
redir redir is offline
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You can find the flamed or curly or any of those 'figures' in any of the types of maple. As far as I know it's still a mystery as to what causes curls in wood but you see it in any variety of maple and in many more hardwoods as well.
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Old 11-13-2019, 01:54 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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From what I've seen I think that curly grain is genetic. It tends to show up with a similar period in all parts of the tree. It may confer some resistance to splitting: I know it's harder to split curly fire wood than straight grained. 'Quilt' figure may be similar. My understanding is that nobody has yet figured out the origins of 'birds eye' figure. I seem to recall reading that it only shows up in North American rock maple, but I could be wrong. I know they used it on viols da gamba. It was not uncommon on 19th century German guitars.
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Old 11-13-2019, 02:47 PM
John Arnold John Arnold is offline
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The only North American maple that has the birdseye figure is sugar maple, but it also occurs in European maple.
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Old 11-15-2019, 01:38 PM
Alan Carruth Alan Carruth is offline
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Thanks John; I've wondered about that.

There's a USDA (iirc) handout on how to spot birdseye maple in the woods. It's mostly used for veneer, and fetches a high price for that, so it's worthwhile to know before you saw the log into fire wood.
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