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Michael Darnton


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Now I know what has happened to Craig Tucker and I pray for his speedy return to good health. Can anyone tell me what has happened to Michael Darnton or did he just decide to cure himself of the same computer addiction that Craig says he was afflicted with? I will and do miss both of their postings tremendously.

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Two possible suggestions:

(1.) go to his forum (and register), where he IS posting (gives you a partial answer to your question), and, where POSSIBLY he will answer you personally, or,

(2.) go to his workshop where you can look him in the eye and ask...and he still may or may not choose to discuss it.

BTW, the workshop is really worth every penny.

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The person in question may well be amused at all this.

Although he does not contribute any more

he does monitor the forums and you will sometimes

catch his light illuminated which means

he has taken the trouble to log on

rather than simply browse anonymously.


(having said that he will probably never appear again!)

I'm sure we all wish you well, Michael,

should you be reading this thread,

and again thank you

for the invaluable knowledge you shared

with us here at Maestronet.

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All I know from looking through Michael's final posts is that he started a countdown T-7, T-6... until he reached "T-1 and holding" in his final post. He also has a post count of 9999, so I presume he was counting down to post #10,000. What a shame his departure should coincide with such a momentous occasion. He was among the best contributors here, so his absence is a real shame.

I can't help wonder what it is that prompted him to leave Maestronet. He'd done so in the past, but never permanently.

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Since we're on the subject of MD, here is a repost of one of my favorite Darnton takes. I copied it to be able to refer to it often, which I do.

Michael Darnton on

Great violins

--respond instantly. Each note starts quickly and cleanly, without any initial noise at all (not even an icy harshness), with almost an initial pop. In quick passages each note stands out individually, not smeared into the others, even in slurred passages. It's difficult or nearly impossible to make a bad attack--what you hear in the audience is an unusual cleanliness to the beginning of each note and separation from the previous one (which stops sounding instantly without lingering into the next note), and that's something that's particularly easy for a listener to catch, once you tune your ear to it. It's also a major contributor to higher playing quality in a player, since he doesn't have to spend energy making sure all his attacks are just right to compensate for the violin's own lack of good temper. When I was selling violins on a daily basis players would use the same several pieces for testing, and I grew accustomed to internally cringing in anticipation of several specific notes in each piece that seemed universally difficult to execute cleanly and beautifully. Not a problem for a great violin, though, which would sail through those notes perfectly. [One of the problems with listening tests is that a good player will automatically compensate for those notes, which are the same ones every time, and you'll never know how bad a violin really is--that's why someone like Kreisler could play on anything and make it sound great.]

--lack dissonance. Every note is clear and clean, internally (the harmonics) in tune and smooth, without anything dirty or extraneous. That's also something listeners can pick up, though it's harder--it's a little like hearing an in-tune piano vs an out-of-tune one (where one of each of the three strings that make a note is slightly out), but much less obvious.

--have presence. This is the hardest thing to hear. It expresses itself in the violin "appearing" to the ear to take up a lot of stage territory, and it can be slightly difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the violin. A side component of this is a particularly enveloping beauty of tone that's very subtle and difficult to characterize. I have heard a lot of nice violins, but I have *never* heard a violin that wasn't Cremonese that did this last thing, and this is also the most difficult aspect to hear.

--can be heard. This is not ear-painful volume, which may or may not carry; it's genuine carrying power: the ability to stand out against a number of other instruments. Generally raw, dissonant, or bright violins may appear to have more volume, but against other instruments, tonal purity and higher output in a particular small band of harmonics around 2500hz wins, even though the violin may see inadequate or even veiled on its own.

I don't much like listening to recordings of violins for the purpose of listening to the violin itself. I rarely get an impression from a recording that's even vaguely similar to the real thing.

Oded knows I'm suspicious of the type of test he suggests because I understand too well the failings of the instrumentation involved. :-)

I believe I've mentioned here before (maybe even in this thread? It's been going on soooo long...) that I have a friend who has a number of nice violins and bows, of the type under discussion, and we've done the following a numer of times: he plays each violin with each bow, and we both pick our favorite. Then when we have the best bow for each violin, we rank the violins, using the best bow on each. We always are entirely in agreement, all the way through the process, including our descriptions of what we're hearing. We do this in a large living room (small-concert size) that's very bare. I have another friend who is nearly infallible in being able to say if a recording is of a Strad or a del Gesu. As far as I'm concerned, the types of tests being discussed are for people who can't hear this type of thing (and they almost always, while claiming to be unbiased, have a clear bias: they want to see tests because they don't hear the difference and they refuse, therefore, to believe there is one.) I've participated in enough of this type of exercises that the difference is totally clear to me. And obviously I'm not the only one. You can hold a hearing at the school for the blind on whether the sky is blue, but please don't invite me.

Much of the published work I see using instrumentation attempts conclusions way beyond the abilities of the tools used. If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, as they say. I guess I'll mention, in passing, the Nagyvary Nova program from around 1985. He played a Strad and one of his violins into a computer, pulled out printouts, and said "see, they are the same". Unfortunately, it was really obvious when he was playing them that they weren't at all--not even close. Convincing yourself that you're a great violin maker is much easier if you can't hear, isn't it, and a lot of violin makers have that problem, which they use to great advantage in promoting themselves.

I think that doing a "fair" test would be nearly impossible, though--the first thing you'd have to do is collect a group of people who actually (rather than claiming they do) have the skill of knowing, which has, as I said, never been done. Usually you end up with people like one local prestigious teacher, who plays a semi-decent modern violin that's definitely less good than he is. After hearing his colleagues complain about his sound for a while, I took a Strad up to him, just for fun. He'd told me tales of all the great violins he's played, in all the great shops, and how good his ear was, and how lucky he was to have his own violin. He played the Strad against his, and his comment was "see, my violin's just as good." Well, it REALLY wasn't, and that was painfully obvious. This is the type of guys who end up at listening events.

Oded's seen this list, which was generated by audiophiles. It's the best set of descriptions I've seen, even though it differs from what violinists say. The source is here: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/AudioFAQ/part2/

Airy: Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good reproduction of high-frequency reflections. High-frequency response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

Bassy: Emphasized low frequencies below about 200 Hz.

Blanketed: Weak highs, as if a blanket were put over the speakers.

Bloated: Excessive mid-bass around 250 Hz. Poorly damped low frequencies, low-frequency resonances. See tubby.

Blurred: Poor transient response. Vague stereo imaging, not focused.

Boomy: Excessive bass around 125 Hz. Poorly damped low frequencies or low-frequency resonances.

Boxy: Having resonances as if the music were enclosed in a box. Sometimes an emphasis around 250 to 500 Hz.

Breathy: Audible breath sounds in woodwinds and reeds such as flute or sax. Good response in the upper-mids or highs.

Bright: High-frequency emphasis. Harmonics are strong relative to fundamentals.

Chesty: The vocalist sounds like their chest is too big. A bump in the low-frequency response around 125 to 250 Hz.

Clear: See Transparent.

Colored: Having timbres that are not true to life. Non-flat response, peaks or dips.

Crisp: Extended high-frequency response, especially with cymbals.

Dark: Opposite of bright. Weak high frequencies.

Delicate: High frequencies extending to 15 or 20 kHz without peaks.

Depth: A sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.

Detailed: Easy to hear tiny details in the music; articulate. Adequate high-frequency response, sharp transient response.

Dull: See dark.

Edgy: Too much high frequencies. Trebly. Harmonics are too strong relative to the fundamentals. Distorted, having unwanted harmonics that add an edge or raspiness.

Fat: See Full and Warm. Or, spatially diffuse - a sound is panned to one channel, delayed, and then the delayed sound is panned to the other channel. Or, slightly distorted with analog tape distortion or tube distortion.

Full: Strong fundamentals relative to harmonics. Good low-frequency response, not necessarily extended, but with adequate level around 100 to 300 Hz. Male voices are full around 125 Hz; female voices and violins are full around 250 Hz; sax is full around 250 to 400 Hz. Opposite of thin.

Gentle: Opposite of edgy. The harmonics - highs and upper mids - are not exaggerated, or may even be weak.

Grainy: The music sounds like it is segmented into little grains, rather than flowing in one continuous piece. Not liquid or fluid. Suffering from harmonic or I.M. distortion. Some early A/D converters sounded grainy, as do current ones of inferior design. Powdery is finer than grainy.

Grungy: Lots of harmonic or I.M. distortion.

Hard: Too much upper midrange, usually around 3 kHz. Or, good transient response, as if the sound is hitting you hard.

Harsh: Too much upper midrange. Peaks in the frequency response between 2 and 6 kHz. Or, excessive phase shift in a digital recorder's lowpass filter.

Honky: Like cupping your hands around your mouth. A bump in the response around 500 to 700 Hz.

Mellow: Reduced high frequencies, not edgy.

Muddy: Not clear. Weak harmonics, smeared time response, I.M. distortion.

Muffled: Sounds like it is covered with a blanket. Weak highs or weak upper mids.

Nasal: Honky, a bump in the response around 600 Hz.

Piercing: Strident, hard on the ears, screechy. Having sharp, narrow peaks in the response around 3 to 10 kHz.

Presence: A sense that the instrument in present in the listening room. Synonyms are edge, punch, detail, closeness and clarity. Adequate or emphasized response around 5 kHz for most instruments, or around 2 to 5 kHz for kick drum and bass.

Puffy: A bump in the response around 500 Hz.

Punchy: Good reproduction of dynamics. Good transient response, with strong impact. Sometimes a bump around 5 kHz or 200 Hz.

Rich: See Full. Also, having euphonic distortion made of even-order harmonics.

Round: High-frequency rolloff or dip. Not edgy.

Sibilant: "Essy" Exaggerated "s" and "sh" sounds in singing, caused by a rise in the response around 6 to 10 kHz.

Sizzly: See Sibilant. Also, too much highs on cymbals.

Smeared: Lacking detail. Poor transient response, too much leakage between microphones. Poorly focused images.

Smooth: Easy on the ears, not harsh. Flat frequency response, especially in the midrange. Lack of peaks and dips in the response.

Spacious: Conveying a sense of space, ambiance, or room around the instruments. Stereo reverb. Early reflections.

Steely: Emphasized upper mids around 3 to 6 kHz. Peaky, nonflat high-frequency response. See Harsh, Edgy.

Strident: See Harsh, Edgy.

Sweet: Not strident or piercing. Delicate. Flat high-frequency response, low distortion. Lack of peaks in the response. Highs are extended to 15 or 20 kHz, but they are not bumped up. Often used when referring to cymbals, percussion, strings, and sibilant sounds.

Telephone-like: See Tinny.

Thin: Fundamentals are weak relative to harmonics.

Tight: Good low-frequency transient response and detail.

Tinny: Narrowband, weak lows, peaky mids. The music sounds like it is coming through a telephone or tin can.

Transparent: Easy to hear into the music, detailed, clear, not muddy. Wide flat frequency response, sharp time response, very low distortion and noise.

Tubby: Having low-frequency resonances as if you're singing in a bathtub. See bloated.

Veiled: Like a silk veil is over the speakers. Slight noise or distortion or slightly weak high frequencies. Not transparent.

Warm: Good bass, adequate low frequencies, adequate fundamentals relative to harmonics. Not thin. Also excessive bass or midbass. Also, pleasantly spacious, with adequate reverberation at low frequencies. Also see Rich, Round. Warm highs means sweet highs.

Weighty: Good low-frequency response below about 50 Hz. Suggesting an object of great weight or power, like a diesel locomotive.

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I think that Michael Darnton is a nice, a passionate and a

special person always ready to help the others and to share what he

knows and tried.  I've never met him but I think that he has a

lot of energy and that he tried a lot of things during

his life.  He should be a model for a lot of violin makers or

simply for a lot of humans.  I hope that I will have the

chance to meet him in the future.

I deeply think that this forum is a really exciting way of

exchanging information and passions and that it's simultaneously

easy and dangerous to get addicted to it.  This is why

that I am reading some of the threads but not sending a lot of

posts.  I will unfortunately never get the number 9999 on the

counter like Michael .  

It's already a big task if someone wants to read every single

message.  It needs a lot of time in a day to read all this

nice stuff and to reply to all those interesting threads

and funny jokes .  It takes more time and it's more

complicated when english is not you're mother language (It's my

case and the case of many contributors on this forum I


I was starting to get addicted to Maestronet I think and I've

decided to concentrate myself a little more on my personal life and

on my work (I am still making exceptions...).  I can

understand that someone wants to cut the link with this forum for

different reasons.  I see more and more Maestronet has a

reference guide like a good old dictionary or encyclopedia.

I don't know why Michael's gone away but I don't think that

it's a great loss for the forum if he's not there anymore because

he already shared a lot with us and that this huge amount of

information is still here for everyone to consult.  He let a

lot to all of us on this forum like many other contributors (I am

thinking of Craig Tucker and of many other contributors that are

still active on this forum).  

We just have to use intelligently, with respect and with

conscience this great gift that everybody created

together for the violin making community and that this monster

of information is expanding every day....  


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Originally posted by:

Michael Darnton is an active member in other foruns.

And so are you, Luis........

I see your name popping up everywhere.

I realise it is your profession (one of them)

and getting your name around is important but....

Where do you people find the time?

I think I spend a lot of time (maybe too much)

on Maestronet alone but after 8 years(?)

I've only clocked up less than 2000 posts.

Michael D's 9999 is a phenomenal volume

even Manfio coming up to over half that at 5555.

Your energy amazes me.

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Ciao Omobono! I write quite quickly and have a good memory... and I have a computer nearby almost the whole day. But I've been out of that forum in Italian...

But, well, I was thinking about quitting too... but one thing I really like in these foruns is contacting people from all parts of the world and exchanging ideas. This is one thing that keeps me here.

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henry peacham, Thanks for posting Michael's article on "Great Violins". I had not seen it before. Among his many skills and talent, he is also a great writer. Being able to put

his thoughts and feelings into words, about how a great violin should sound. I have never

seen this elusive subject explained so clearly. I hope he is enjoying his rest from the Forum.

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Scrachybow, This is the crux of the matter, Michael Darnton is a

great writer. In this age of information he has offered great

clarity. Perhaps because of his newspaper background or because of

his work with the much more open guitar field he has demystified

many of the every day challenges of this work. I applaud his

honesty, integrity in approach , and willingness to help. I too was

taken to print out the aforementioned post. At 9999 posts we all

could benefit at searching the archives for his voice. He hasn't

left Maestronet, he is the great bulk of it. Their are a great many

teachings in the classroom, but they are paled to those that

rest in a library. Michael in his constant input often

approached certain topics multiple times, though I found refinement

in his repetition I am sure it created tedium and often apparent

frustration for him. Some one posted that he won't likely post here

again. Please, lets not feed that. Give the man a well deserved

sabbatical. In time if anything is to bring him back it is honor

and respect. Now, I am not saying that there aren't other guiding

lights here as well, as we whitness from the illness of CT, we are

very attached to this fellowship of learning and the many great

generous teachers aboard who sustain and inspire us.

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