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Having run through the process once with the Ripple Fiddle, I was ready to tackle the cello, starting with a review of the “prototype”. I met with Mia and her colleague, violinist and musical improvisor Alisa Rose, who is interested in the project. They were both delighted by the fiddle in concept, and once Alisa established that the fiddle played well enough to be performed on, they set about exploring the tonal possibilities offered by its carved surface. We were also looking for aesthetic and functional changes to make on the cello.

The main changes that were made on the cello

VIolin. The sine wave shape is more true to the shape of natural waves on water, but it is more subtle visually and was lost without favorable light or when viewing from more than a few feet away
Cello. The wave shape was changed from sinusoidal to peaked, which shows better at a distance.

The Origin point of the waves has been switched to the bass side of the cello so that the wrinkled region at the leading edge of the wave, the Güiro, falls under the players bow hand. This Güiro area was increased per Mia’s request

The dimples between the wave peaks were made more elongated to try to enhance a feeling of direction and movement.
Using a peaked waves and elongated dimples made it easier to continue the wave pattern around the sides of the cello. Though I made the sides thicker than usual, they are still quite thin and don’t allow for very deep carving.

Cello top. The ripple section in the upper bout was extended to allow more use of the güiro or washboard sound.

We relocated some of the “raindrops” so that they would fall at some of Mia’s favorite tapping spots. The largest drop, just south of the bass bridge foot, is where she finds the biggest boom sound. The drop in the top bout is in a convenient place to tap while playing pizzicato. It was nice to have some real world constraints to work around.
I made the waves on the pegbox peaked and, in trying to blend those into the volutes of the scroll, I ended up with a seahorse design. This is not precisely following the waves and ripples theme, but it is still vaguely hydrological, and besides, I’ve been wanting to do a seahorse scroll for while!

A new sound for violins

The ripple section in the upper bout was extended to allow more use of the güiro or washboard sound. This is one of the few new sounds ever to have been added to acoustic bowed instruments. It is a violinmakers’ attempt to catch up with modern playing styles.

It’s been an incomparable experience for me to be able to work together with other creative people. Thank you Mia and Alisa!

Mia Pixley and Alisa Rose play their composition “Ripple” on the Ripple Cello and Ripple Fiddle