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Best way to test projection of a violin


pigcat
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I've come across this subject recently. What is, in your exprience, the best way to test the projection of a violin, without going to concert hall?

What I did in the past 2 years is, playing with a grand piano with the lid fully open, and have somebody listen the whole playing from far away. The venue is usually a big piano showroom with low ceiling, upright pianos everywhere and carpet floor. You know, shopping mall shop lots kind of place, but of a big showroom. I miss my music college, where there're a few big auditorium with dry acoustic where I can do more tests but since I graduated I don't have time to travel back to the college again.

I always got a good feedback on my violin, where listening from far away, even a slight out of tune can be heard clearly all the time, despite the piano lid is fully opened and no dynamic piano accompaniment (f~fff playing). Can this be misleading?

I appreciate if you're about to comment that I don't need projection since I'm no soloist, I absolutely know I don't need that. But since don't have a chance to go to hall to play, so I'm just curious about it. :)

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Take 10 violins to a concert hall, ask a soloist to play the instruments, put a line of 10 judges at the back of the hall, and you'll get 10 different answers most of the time.

In other words, it's alot to with the player and the acoustic of the hall or room.

The sound proof practice studios at my old college where not the best acoustic for testing.

I think there's abosulte answer to your question, but some buyers and players do like to test in small concert halls to get more of a feel for the instrument.

What's your goal ?

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Take 10 violins to a concert hall, ask a soloist to play the instruments, put a line of 10 judges at the back of the hall, and you'll get 10 different answers most of the time.

In other words, it's alot to with the player and the acoustic of the hall or room.

The sound proof practice studios at my old college where not the best acoustic for testing.

I think there's abosulte answer to your question, but some buyers and players do like to test in small concert halls to get more of a feel for the instrument.

What's your goal ?

I've been going through old topics about projection thing. To me, projection is more about how the sound can stand out from a bunch of other instruments, than how the sound can travel. A concert hall, IMO, no matter how big it is, it's designed in a way that, even just simple speech, can be heard clearly at the back of the hall without any amplification. So I'm just curious, is the sound travelling thing has significant difference in such well designed hall.

Maybe I'll ask more specific question. If my violin is able to project above a grand piano setting I mentioned, is it a good sign?

I don't play in concert hall, but occasionally I play in acoustic setting without any mics, at small ballroom, hotal lobby, or places like that, basically more of private functions and sometimes public functions at shopping malls.

I don't have a specific goal as I'm no soloist so I don't need to be very fussy about my instrument, just my pure curiosity.

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" If my violin is able to project above a grand piano setting I mentioned, is it a good sign? "

Not really, it just means it's loud enough to do so.

Busking can be a good way of learning to project your sound.

When I was a poor young music student 18 years ago, I busked outside the Royal Academy or Arts.

The acoustic was excellent being sourounded by wonderful architecture and rich tourists passing.

On a good day I made $200, mostly playing the Sonatats and Partitas, on viola.

Since projecting your sound is harder outside, busking makes you play into the string.

I don't know what kind of player you are but Joshua Bell tried it once........

Also, it's much more fun with some good friends on a sunny evening.

Cheers & good luck.

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I feel that projection is a combination of several things. Not just volume, but where the volume is directed. I only have three fiddles so I can only speak from this limited experience. I use the sound of my fiddle reflecting off my surroundings to judge projection. If I can hear my fiddle reflecting off the audience, I know the audience can hear it too.

My first fiddle is not very powerful, and poorly focused. An oar paddle I use to practice. If I'm using it to play with a string band, I can barely be heard by other musicians around me. Not much projection.

My next fiddle is very loud under the chin but from 5 feet away it sounds like a bumblebee in a jar. All the sound is being projected into the players face and none is making it out to the listener. I've done everything I can think of to remedy this situation and it still does it. Must be something in the wood.

My last fiddle is very powerful. Banjo picker feels my sound in his pot skin from 25 feet away. Not so loud under the chin but I can hear it echoing off the rows of seats in an auditorium or off the parked cars around the outdoor pavilion. I think this is what you're talking about, eh pigcat?

Now, I've heard other fiddles that have a little different kind of projection. A quality that makes their sound stand out. Old time fiddlers like instruments with a chiming, tinny sound that will cut through the drone of the other instruments. Even though they're not loud they can still be heard. Their projection will depend on what they're being played along with. Change the combination and they could be covered up by something like a piano or tambourine.

I don't know how you'd go about measuring this projection other than to get someone to play "in ensemble" while you move around in the audience and decide for yourself how well the instrument projects. Not practical all the time but could be an experiement to conduct whenever the opportunity presents itself. I do this whenever I can convince another fiddler to try out my instrument. Differences in style usually won't effect the projection too much. These differences can be averaged out by listening to as many different musicians playing the same instrument as you can.

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I think your test with a piano is perfect. For one thing this is one of the most common duet combinations, a recital with piano accompaniment. I also agree with you that having an instrument that stands out is far better than one that is simply loud. There is another property to look for, I call it 'directionality' If you close your eyes it sounds like the violin is everywhere in the room, especially on the high notes. I don't think that playing a violin on a stage demonstrates much of anything unless there is something to contrast it with such as a piano or another violin that you're familiar with, one that is known to project well.

Oded

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I feel that projection is a combination of several things. Not just volume, but where the volume is directed. I only have three fiddles so I can only speak from this limited experience. I use the sound of my fiddle reflecting off my surroundings to judge projection. If I can hear my fiddle reflecting off the audience, I know the audience can hear it too.

My first fiddle is not very powerful, and poorly focused. An oar paddle I use to practice. If I'm using it to play with a string band, I can barely be heard by other musicians around me. Not much projection.

My next fiddle is very loud under the chin but from 5 feet away it sounds like a bumblebee in a jar. All the sound is being projected into the players face and none is making it out to the listener. I've done everything I can think of to remedy this situation and it still does it. Must be something in the wood.

My last fiddle is very powerful. Banjo picker feels my sound in his pot skin from 25 feet away. Not so loud under the chin but I can hear it echoing off the rows of seats in an auditorium or off the parked cars around the outdoor pavilion. I think this is what you're talking about, eh pigcat?

Now, I've heard other fiddles that have a little different kind of projection. A quality that makes their sound stand out. Old time fiddlers like instruments with a chiming, tinny sound that will cut through the drone of the other instruments. Even though they're not loud they can still be heard. Their projection will depend on what they're being played along with. Change the combination and they could be covered up by something like a piano or tambourine.

I don't know how you'd go about measuring this projection other than to get someone to play "in ensemble" while you move around in the audience and decide for yourself how well the instrument projects. Not practical all the time but could be an experiement to conduct whenever the opportunity presents itself. I do this whenever I can convince another fiddler to try out my instrument. Differences in style usually won't effect the projection too much. These differences can be averaged out by listening to as many different musicians playing the same instrument as you can.

Thanks for your very insightful post.

Well there's actually a story behind that made me start off this topic (that I should've mentioned earlier). It was about my violin that had the bridge cut down recently and the sound has become much more ringing and complex under the ear. Before that it was kinda quiet but the sound seems to cut through the piano accompaniment very clearly. So I bring my violin to the Italian Exhibition (check out my other topic at the Fingerboard section), and discovered it has lost the projection that it should have (a good friend of my who's also very good player played the violin). Also, while I'm playing I don't recall that I didn't notice any echo of my violin's sound (it was at the lobby of the concert hall, pretty large space there.

Mr. Sakamoto who's also a fine violin shop owner/person in charge of the exhibition had the soundpost adjusted on the spot when I was there. So after the adjustment I can hear my violin's echo being reflected after I stopped my playing, but the sound went back to how it was before cutting the bridge. So I guess I should stay on what I have now. :)

Anyway, I think you've made a very good point about the combination of the ensemble that a violin will play with. I think, ultimately the best violin that should be a violin that suits the situation where the player will most likely involved most of the time.

So in the end guess looking at audience face expressions is the best way to test the projection. :)

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I think your test with a piano is perfect. For one thing this is one of the most common duet combinations, a recital with piano accompaniment. I also agree with you that having an instrument that stands out is far better than one that is simply loud. There is another property to look for, I call it 'directionality' If you close your eyes it sounds like the violin is everywhere in the room, especially on the high notes. I don't think that playing a violin on a stage demonstrates much of anything unless there is something to contrast it with such as a piano or another violin that you're familiar with, one that is known to project well.

Oded

I've been reading and experienced folks like Michael Darnton said that sound being heard from far away doesn't have much meaning unless there's also accompaniment like piano or small emsemble or orchestra. So that's why I'm taking the advice and doing test with a piano, although it was not in a hall.

I've yet to go back to the usual place to test out my violin with my pianist friend (he's a pop pianist ha), only the experience mentioned in my above post right after adjusting the soundpost.

Hopefully it'll have the good'ol sound like before the bridge was cut. :)

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I've come across this subject recently. What is, in your exprience, the best way to test the projection of a violin, without going to concert hall?

What I did in the past 2 years is, playing with a grand piano with the lid fully open, and have somebody listen the whole playing from far away. The venue is usually a big piano showroom with low ceiling, upright pianos everywhere and carpet floor. You know, shopping mall shop lots kind of place, but of a big showroom. I miss my music college, where there're a few big auditorium with dry acoustic where I can do more tests but since I graduated I don't have time to travel back to the college again.

I always got a good feedback on my violin, where listening from far away, even a slight out of tune can be heard clearly all the time, despite the piano lid is fully opened and no dynamic piano accompaniment (f~fff playing). Can this be misleading?

I appreciate if you're about to comment that I don't need projection since I'm no soloist, I absolutely know I don't need that. But since don't have a chance to go to hall to play, so I'm just curious about it. :)

+++++++++++++

Sound decays according to frequency (high or low). One kind travels longer

when you say "projection" some violins produce more this kind (frequency). However, loudness has nothing to do with it?

(as some people believe) To me, if the sound once leave the violin in air, no one has any control of it. You may hear

the sound in one location say north but not south, or west but not east,entirely possible. You still say "good projection"

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The reason some violins sound loud under the ear but don't project very well has to do with a phenomenon called phase cancellation. Basically what happens is that adjacent surfaces of equal area vibrate and the air shuttles between them. They cancel each other out.

The ideal situation is for there to be surfaces of unequal area. This would cause the larger area to radiate sound outward rather than just having it bouncing back and forth.

Low frequencies travel further and around corners. High frequency sound is more linear, traveling in a straight line. Our ears are more sensitive to certain frequencies which changes our perception of loudness.

The perception of sound is referred to as psychoacoustics , a relatively new, fascinating and growing branch of acoustics.

Oded Kishony

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I recall a theory in circulation, which originates with the "Bel Suono" voice of singers. Apparently some tests were done and the carrying power of a singer's voice correlates with their ability to produce upper harmonics in the 3, 5 and 8 kHz ranges. The integrated energy stored in these upper harmonics can of course, rival that in the 50-2000 Hz area. Certainly instruments rich in these frequencies might stand out in the pack.

This folds well with Oded's and Yuen's comments. Of course the wavelengths at these frequencies become more sensitive to phase and intermod distortion near the violin as the wavelengths approach the violin's dimensions.

Check VSA XVI No. 3 Giovanni Lucchi.

Is anyone aware of any further research performed on carrying power vs frequency content for stringed instruments? I could not find too much out there but my resources are limited.

Fritz

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" If my violin is able to project above a grand piano setting I mentioned, is it a good sign? "

Not really, it just means it's loud enough to do so.

Busking can be a good way of learning to project your sound.

When I was a poor young music student 18 years ago, I busked outside the Royal Academy or Arts.

The acoustic was excellent being sourounded by wonderful architecture and rich tourists passing.

On a good day I made $200, mostly playing the Sonatats and Partitas, on viola.

Since projecting your sound is harder outside, busking makes you play into the string.

I don't know what kind of player you are but Joshua Bell tried it once........

Also, it's much more fun with some good friends on a sunny evening.

Cheers & good luck.

First of all I don't think my violin is loud, I've played several other good violins, and most of them are much more powerful, or simply louder than mine, that's when playing in a small classroom. However, when playing with a piano in the same room, it seems that my violin stand out the most, despite it doesn't have big sound compared to other violins when playing solo.

Busking huh, I don't think I have any chance to do that cause of the culture of my country, and the sun is very destructive, very hot and strong. Also the weather is very humid. My violin would have melt or bath with my sweats. :)

...maybe I should try playing at the subway stations where there're proper air conditioning. B)

+++++++++++++

Sound decays according to frequency (high or low). One kind travels longer

when you say "projection" some violins produce more this kind (frequency). However, loudness has nothing to do with it?

(as some people believe) To me, if the sound once leave the violin in air, no one has any control of it. You may hear

the sound in one location say north but not south, or west but not east,entirely possible. You still say "good projection"

Hmm, maybe it could be the violin doesn't spread the sound in multidirectional? Like, you can hear when the violinist's back is facing you, but not as clear as when hearing in front? :)

The reason some violins sound loud under the ear but don't project very well has to do with a phenomenon called phase cancellation. Basically what happens is that adjacent surfaces of equal area vibrate and the air shuttles between them. They cancel each other out.

The ideal situation is for there to be surfaces of unequal area. This would cause the larger area to radiate sound outward rather than just having it bouncing back and forth.

Low frequencies travel further and around corners. High frequency sound is more linear, traveling in a straight line. Our ears are more sensitive to certain frequencies which changes our perception of loudness.

The perception of sound is referred to as psychoacoustics , a relatively new, fascinating and growing branch of acoustics.

Oded Kishony

Thanks for this information! I've in fact study a little of the phase cancellation, but as quoted below, because of the size of the violin, I think it's pretty hard to deal with the shorter wave lenghts?

I really wonder how the old master do it, without such modern knowledge. :)

I recall a theory in circulation, which originates with the "Bel Suono" voice of singers. Apparently some tests were done and the carrying power of a singer's voice correlates with their ability to produce upper harmonics in the 3, 5 and 8 kHz ranges. The integrated energy stored in these upper harmonics can of course, rival that in the 50-2000 Hz area. Certainly instruments rich in these frequencies might stand out in the pack.

This folds well with Oded's and Yuen's comments. Of course the wavelengths at these frequencies become more sensitive to phase and intermod distortion near the violin as the wavelengths approach the violin's dimensions.

Check VSA XVI No. 3 Giovanni Lucchi.

Is anyone aware of any further research performed on carrying power vs frequency content for stringed instruments? I could not find too much out there but my resources are limited.

Fritz

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Well, I could have told you this was a complicated topic, pigcat. You file a little off your bridge and next thing you know, they bring psychoacoustics into it!

For me, projection means being heard. What do I have to do with my little acoustic box that will make sure others around me are aware I'm actually playing and not just waving my arms around. The subtle nuances that make the tiniest note shimmer and gleam above the din of the orchestra are lost on us bluegrass folks.

It's kinda funny, but I do make use of the "Bel Suono" thing. I think it's also called "the singer's formant." I call it narrowbanding and in bluegrass it's also known as "the high lonesome sound." A way for the vocalist to improve his projection. A way to get out and get heard over the thumping bass and the chorus of guitars. Narrowbanding drives more of your vocal power into the 3-6kHz range giving you a little more carrying power without having to scream.

Have you ever listened to a pond full of singing frogs? Next time you're out at night, stop and listen to the frogs as they make their sounds. Try to count how many different frogs you can hear. The surprising thing is you can hear them all pretty good. Frogs use all sorts of tricks to get their calls out and get heard. Each species occupies a different part of the audio spectrum. Each member of the species times their call to avoid being blocked out by another frog's call. They're not like a crowd of people all talking at once, you can hear each frog distinctly. Sometimes I use their example of how to find holes in the music through which to be heard.

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Just to throw in another complication...

I went to a talk at the recent Adelaide Cello Festival and one of the speakers was a scientist who had been doing studies on sound. He mentioned something that made me sit up and take notice (usually I am in a slightly sonambulistic state when these people are talking)... he said that sound projection is not equally spread around the performer like waves from a pebble thrown into a pond, rather there were "fingers" of intensity. In other words, your perception of projection will depend on where you stand in the hall.

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Hi Alan,

There are a series of 'acoustical pictures' that were done of a violin producing sound. These 'pictures' were done in an anechoic chamber, the violin, centered in the room, was made to produce a sound. An array of microphones was placed all around the violin. The microphones were connected to a computer which created a 3D graphic of the sound of the violin. At lower frequencies it looks as if giant globs of sound are coming off the violin. As you go up in frequency the globs become streams and rising in frequency again they become narrow spikes. As you change the frequency, even by a very small amount <.25cents the spike pattern changes. So that when a musician plays with vibrato, the picture turns into a spectacular laser light show. In a hall these spikes of sound would bounce off surfaces, creating the illusion of the sound coming from everywhere.

Yes, indeed, cutting a litle off the top of a bridge can cause very dramatic changes. Just as putting a little rubber mute on the bridge causes big changes. :) After all it's the bridge that connects the strings to the instrument, any vibrations that don't go through the bridge can't get to the instrument.

OTOH any vibrations that the bridge 'likes' become more amplified.

Most bridges from the great shops from the 19th century(Hill, Wurlitzer, Francais, B&F etc.) to modern times have a natural frequency around 3Khz -right in the 'singer's formant area (surprise!) :) :)

Oded Kishony

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Hi Alan,

There are a series of 'acoustical pictures' that were done of a violin producing sound. These 'pictures' were done in an anechoic chamber, the violin, centered in the room, was made to produce a sound. An array of microphones was placed all around the violin. The microphones were connected to a computer which created a 3D graphic of the sound of the violin. At lower frequencies it looks as if giant globs of sound are coming off the violin. As you go up in frequency the globs become streams and rising in frequency again they become narrow spikes. As you change the frequency, even by a very small amount <.25cents the spike pattern changes. So that when a musician plays with vibrato, the picture turns into a spectacular laser light show. In a hall these spikes of sound would bounce off surfaces, creating the illusion of the sound coming from everywhere.

Oded Kishony

Thanks Oded... that sounds exactly like what this person was doing as well. It did make me wonder about the value of taking a fiddle into a hall and getting someone to play it, while somebody else stands in one spot up the back trying to assess the projection.

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Good mewing.

Try to listen to your violin in the morning, when your ears are more awake.

Also, have the wax removed from your ears once a year.

For listening I recommend Cat Power, the rest is water under the bridge.

Oded, for visual-psycho-acoustics take a look at the giant mushrooms hanging from ceilings of the concert halls. They're reall, but a few glasses of wine before th gig does wonders for your sound projection.

Pigcat, I answered your question in my first post, btw.

Cheers.

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