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Secret Knowledge and violins


Craig Tucker
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Good luck with that line of thought. I've been playing that tune here for years. To the science guys if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist and it doesn't matter.

Scientist may approach things in the order that they seem most important. If the hype about Strads is mostly the listener experience, then it would make sense to look at that first. I don't know of any scientist who believes it is all that matters.

I was still working on a response to Michael's comment. I even had it written out but then I saw yours and it is more concise.

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The respect that science enjoys is largely due to the successful practical application of theoretical understanding.

Want to level Hiroshima? "We can do that!" Want help with that diabetes? "roll up your sleeve!" (etc).

It seems to me that the science on forums like this is more ambiguous in outcomes... traces and plots and whatnot, but it's quite possible still to be in the forefront of violin making today and not pay any attention to science at all. As long as that's true, some guarded skepticism about the contribution that science brings to our craft is warranted, no?

Best regards,

E

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I can't speak for Andrea Amati or even Antonio Stradivari, however, I'm very humbled by how far advanced their understanding of stringed instrument acoustics may have been ...

I wonder too - being that not all of their violins are great-sounding - whether they should have any credibility problems today. :blink:

Do you observe any incongruities between these two sentences? If not, then we might as well write you off as a troll.

My first sentence acknowledges the advancements in acoustic design achieved by Amati & Stradivari.

Understanding how relatively little violin design has progressed since their departure AND that only a limited number of Amati & Strad fiddles are great-sounding, my second sentence simply ponders the thought of how these fine gentlemen might be treated today if they didn't cough-up enough information to satisfy the current Maestronet crowd's obsession for reference/source information which is what Anders was suggesting, i.e., you ain't credible unless you cough-up more references, etc. [and that was with respect to the 1000-1800Hz nasal range reference I gave].

Jim

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My first sentence acknowledges the advancements in acoustic design achieved by Amati & Stradivari

As if you have shown any clue about that.

..my second sentence simply ponders the thought of how these fine gentlemen might be treated today if they didn't cough-up enough information to satisfy the current Maestronet crowd's obsession for reference/source information which is what Anders was suggesting, i.e., you ain't credible unless you cough-up more references, etc.

You're just pissin' into the wind and sidestepping. Any number of people would be satisfied if you did anything even remotely like what Strad did, like make one or more decent fiddles.

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From my perspective, I think many of the science guys are perhaps simply measuring the wrong things, hence the current lack of 'objectivity' and the limited number of great-sounding fiddles.

Perhaps, but it's a pretty flaccid argument if you can't improve on what they have done, or even make a fiddle.

Perhaps one day soon, you too will test your lutherie skills making a new 21st century violin 'Model'. Will double-blind listening tests be needed to determine its 'great sound'? That depends on one's 'objective'.

Jim

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Great, guys! Since it's all about the listener's experience, not simply what you can measure, tell me who the scientist is who's doing analysis of the extent of the variety of different tones a player extracts from a good violin rather than trying to define the single sound of a good violin in charts along the line of Dunnewald's, and I'll eagerly follow what he's doing.

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Perhaps a little nasal, but all in all, pretty darn impressive for a coffee can and a stick. I've heard conventional violins that sounded far worse.

Part of this might be related to the native speaking of people. Our ears get used to certain sounds that we might consider more pleasing because of the way we speak. I don't think it sounds nasal to Asian people.

But the girl is impressive with her Erhu. I bet even Gitlis would be surprised by this rendition of Saint Saens!

It reminds me this amazing accordionist who played the tchaikovsky concerto, not a piece you would expected to be played with the "suspenders piano".

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Great, guys! Since it's all about the listener's experience, not simply what you can measure, tell me who the scientist is who's doing analysis of the extent of the variety of different tones a player extracts from a good violin rather than trying to define the single sound of a good violin in charts along the line of Dunnewald's, and I'll eagerly follow what he's doing.

Just about all the scientists, since evaluating measurements is mostly based on how the measurements have tied in to listener experiences.

When a Strad is analyzed, it's to try to find data which corresponds to the positive player or listener experiences associated with Strads.

Dunnwald parameters also have their basis in listener experiences. It's not like they just pulled their interpretation out of the ozone. Listener reactions to various instruments were taken, and this was what was used to provide meaning to the graphic data

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Great, guys! Since it's all about the listener's experience, not simply what you can measure, tell me who the scientist is who's doing analysis of the extent of the variety of different tones a player extracts from a good violin rather than trying to define the single sound of a good violin in charts along the line of Dunnewald's, and I'll eagerly follow what he's doing.

FWIW, I count the Player as a 'listener' too. To me, Amati's and Stradivari's acoustic advancements gave Players more freedom to extract tone colour, but, perhaps they too got lost in empirical modifications along the way [why all those violin 'Models'??]. I'm a math/geometry guy [not a scientist per se].

Jim

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Just about all the scientists, since the validity of measurements is mostly evaluated on the basis of listener experiences.

Respectfully commenting, I don't see interest beyond one sound, some sort of perfect sound, not the range of sounds and colors. I can think of at least one way to test that, but I haven't seen anyone filing any reports about it. Again, point me to some research, if there is some.

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It's not susceptible to measurement and can't be repeated according to a formula.

Good luck with that line of thought. I've been playing that tune here for years. To the science guys if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist and it doesn't matter.

It seems as if you two have decided beforehand that some important qualities can't be measured. Is this based on your measurement of every possible acoustic parameter and every way of interpreting it, or is it based on what has been seen so far, or is it based on the fact that it is so complicated that it makes your head hurt?

As a player, I too have experienced the vast differences between instruments, only to hear almost no difference when I record them and play the sound back. Some of the things I hear when playing DO come across in spectral measurements (with the right interpretation), and some do not... yet. For now, I'm willing to allow that many of the important features might be hidden in things that are difficult to measure... transients, phase relations, admittance curves, local frequency response that affects what the player hears, body vibrations that the player feels but does not produce sound, or other stuff I haven't thought of. And measurements alone are not enough... they need to be interpreted, and that is the most difficult part, IMHO.

Maybe it's just me, but I prefer to know what's going on so I can figure out how to do something about it, so I'm not willing to give up looking.

Respectfully commenting, I don't see interest beyond one sound, some sort of perfect sound, not the range of sounds and colors. I can think of at least one way to test that, but I haven't seen anyone filing any reports about it. Again, point me to some research, if there is some.

There does seem to be a heavy leaning toward defining "good sound" in published research, which filters out too much of the flavors, I think. Please elaborate on your idea for testing, unless its a secret.

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The problem with using science with regard to violins is that we know very little about how the violin really works. With all the unknown factors and variables, it's hard to piece together any kind of meaningful equation where if the variables are reproduced, the outcome will always be the same.

As of yet, this hasn't happened, because there are more variables than what we understand, and probably far more variables than what we even know exist. I think with the analysis that has been done to date has only scratched the surface of the way a violin works.

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Respectfully commenting, I don't see interest beyond one sound, some sort of perfect sound, not the range of sounds and colors.

Having been around it quite a bit, I think there's plenty of interest in the whole picture. The "perfect" sound, whatever that is, may understandably have the broadest popular appeal.

Again, point me to some research, if there is some.

Try attending Oberlin Acoustics, or one of the other major violin acoustics conferences. I don't think much of it gets published. This isn't to suggest that everything has been nailed down (probably far from it), only that I think there is interest in everything which makes a great fiddle a great fiddle. The challenge is in extracting it from the existing data, or coming up with different tests which will reveal it in a way which makes it understandable.

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Respectfully commenting, I don't see interest beyond one sound, some sort of perfect sound, not the range of sounds and colors. I can think of at least one way to test that, but I haven't seen anyone filing any reports about it. Again, point me to some research, if there is some.

All of the spectral measurements asssume that transients have decayed. I don't think that these transients are negligible to the player or listener.

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As a player, I too have experienced the vast differences between instruments, only to hear almost no difference when I record them and play the sound back. Some of the things I hear when playing DO come across in spectral measurements (with the right interpretation), and some do not... yet.

When I read this it struck me that so much of what the player experiences (minus the bow arm which is another story) is through bone conduction. I've never seen any analysis done that tries to explore this, to mimic bone conduction. Shouldn't be too hard to do. (famous last words ;-) Or perhaps a combination of bone and aural inputs.

Have there been any papers on this?

Oded

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Perhaps it would be simpler to eliminate bone conduction and have a player's ear still close to the same position. See if it really sounds a lot different. Set up an isolation layer of some sort, that would not dampen the instrument, but also not conduct sound to the jaw and clavicle. Seems doable...maybe it has been done?

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Perhaps it would be simpler to eliminate bone conduction and have a player's ear still close to the same position.

OK the point is to reconstruct what the player experiences. What's the point of eliminating bone conduction? Do you believe it has no effect?

I mean, put on a heavy turtleneck sweater and you'll eliminate most bone conduction.

Oded

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I did some work with an audiologist that was doing some experimental work for the deaf. He had special headphones built with a contact transducer in the headband to directly drive the top of the skull. When testing these I found the majority of the audio spectrum I was sensitive to was all the lower fundamentals. After about 400 Hz the sensitivity seemed to roll off pretty quickly. These were also conventional headphones too, and you could vary the drive between the ear transducers and the skull transducers in 3 db increments; it was an interesting thing to experience.

With a violin, the majority of the bone conduction is through the jaw bone. I think this would have a similar rolloff to whatIi experienced through the skull. That being said, bone conduction would offer the musician sensation of a more powerful bottom end, and rolling off once you hit the A string and up.

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OK the point is to reconstruct what the player experiences. What's the point of eliminating bone conduction? Do you believe it has no effect?

I mean, put on a heavy turtleneck sweater and you'll eliminate most bone conduction.

Oded

But, is that really the point? Or have we simply sidestepped the main issue?

I'm not Chet, but I believe I can see where he's coming from.

If, to the trained listener and to the trained player alike, there is a perceivable difference in the tonal quality of some particular violins, it might indicate that, although conduction through the bones does exist as a phenomenon, the fact is that it will inevitably contribute mainly to the players experience of the instrument.

But not in a limiting manner. So, it's a bit like the original idea that, since listening and playing are valid conclusions in and of themselves - having to prove that some particular facet exists (which, in the case of bone conduction, we can, for all practical purposes suppose that it exists for a "fact" - and that it is present - at least for the player) the fact itself doesn't contribute much, other than adding a complex variable that can in a sense be factored out of the equation since it exists equally in any and all violins, and isn't universally perceived (in that, it isn't even really a factor for the listener - though the difference in tonal quality might be equally detected by the listener and by the player).

Perhaps we can acknowledge that it does exist, and that it might somewhat alter or color the perception of the instrument from the players perspective, but we might also be able to agree that just because it has been isolated and identified, doesn't include it as a "causative" factor for tonal superiority...

Think?

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Bone conduction consideration leads to a deadend street. Go that route and you'll end-up trying to account for differing jawbone density, psychoacoustics, etc.

Analyzing phase relations, however, will account for what's heard differently by Player and listening audience. What's changing is the distance & time between frequencies ['cause different frequencies move at different velocity] as violin soundwaves expand away from the instrument. The whole concept of 'timing" [phase relations] is lost when measuring dBs vs Frequency.

Jim

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"What's the point of eliminating bone conduction? "

Well, perhaps it is wrong-headed thinking, but my thought was that if that changed everything somehow, and that suddenly the instruments sound just like the recordings (I really doubt that will be the case), then the reason no one could measure the differences might be because they were looking in the wrong place.

From the testimonies (here on MN) of those who have played a lot of the Cremonese Old Master instruments, I really think there is more to it than that. But it might be a place to start. Do you think something as simple (and cushiony) as a thick turtleneck will stop the bone-conducted sound and yet not dampen the violin?

It seems to me that the ease of response may be hard to measure, too, as well as the thing about the surround-sound effect, which I have never observed, so may or may not understand. I am finding, as I get older, that I have an increasingly difficult time pinpointing the source of a voice, say, than I used to experience...so maybe that part would be lost on me.

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Respectfully commenting, I don't see interest beyond one sound, some sort of perfect sound, not the range of sounds and colors. I can think of at least one way to test that, but I haven't seen anyone filing any reports about it. Again, point me to some research, if there is some.

Meinels PhD work showed individual note spectra. Dunnwald also worked on individual notes.

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