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Violinmaking Schools in America...


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since i consider it perhaps the most important thing i learned in my 8 year apprenticeship, how about we skip acoustics and have instead a three month class in knocking on wood, how to tell good tone wood from bad by knocking on it, sounds primitive doesnt it, makes you want to pull out your test equipment and skip the class, but seriously all we know about strad and company, is that they selected first for tone and then for looks, and once in a while threw looks out the window and used plain wood that had great tone, im not saying it cant be done with test equipment, but tapping on wood is so much easier

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...since I'm contemplating on spending my time and money at one of the schools...in your opinion are the 3 schools offering the appropriate basic education for the needs of the market...on a scale of 1-10

1 being low and 10 being high...I'm not asking you to compare the schools

I don't think I'll try and rate them, individually or as a group. Above (first page), I wrote:

"All three schools probably are, or will, face challenges as the industry changes (employment and post-school training opportunities are different now than they were a couple/few decades ago)."

This is ongoing, and as changes in a school don't happen at lighting speed (they rarely end up ahead of the curve), it's probably safe to say (and it's my opinion) that all the institutions are naturally lagging behind what I might consider optimal. How this would affect any particular student depends on their willingness to stretch themselves beyond the program. There are certainly opportunities for this.

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Since the notion of fantasy has come up a couple of times, here's mine:

A school exists which consists of a top notch music performance conservatory, a great violin making school, access to the sciences related to string instruments, strong foreign language programs, great history departments both in art and political history. This school would also teach violin connoisseurship, ie, the history of the violin and the identifying qualities of various makers. All of those people involved with the violin, whether as performers, makers, scientists, historians or connoisseurs, would have easy access to one another in one institution.

(If the folks at Indiana University have any ambition at all, they'd work to establish such an institute. They're almost there already.)

The possibility of learning violin connoisseurship in such a school is especially appealing. Today, if you want to become an expert in violin identification, you pretty much have to acquire that knowledge as part of a violin dealer enterprise, as its owner or as an employee.

This fantasized school would allow for acquiring the knowledge of violin identification and appreciation (connoisseurship) without going down the dealer path.

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No doubt that there is nothing like tapping a piece of wood to get a sense of how alive it is. I like to rub my hand over spruce listening for the "rustle".

I wonder why the VSA does not have a hands-on display or workshop on selecting wood. Maybe that is something for the wood suppliers to think about. It's a good way to sell wood, I would think.

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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But...but... that sounds like at least eight years of college, and none of our parents are willing to pay a quarter-million dollars to educate us, unless we go into a "real" profession. :lol:

I don't think length of study is an issue. The Indiana University video I cited in post # 75 above shows that a student can earn an associates degree in violin technology in 2 years, or a bachelors in 4, and actual violin making, not just maintenance, does occur. That seems about average. Some students might want to stay longer and earn graduate degrees in such an institution, if graduate degrees were offered; others are happy with less.

For easy reference, here's the video again at Martens Violins website.

I'm not concerned about length of study or diplomas. What I find exciting is the possibility of all of the various people -- players, makers, scientists, historians, linguists -- with their various abilities and knowledge about the violin, all at one institution permanently, readily available to one another.

As I said before, the institution, right now, which comes closest to that goal is Indiana University.

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I will stand down for now, because there is so much "behind the scenes" information that I can't state publicly.

Jeffery's in the same boat, in case anyone is wondering why he hasn't put forth a specific action plan.

Sometimes information comes to us with the stipulation that it remain private. We try to find ways to put it to good use, like making hints, without violating agreements. And if we blurted everything we've been told, the information sources would dry up, and that would be even worse.

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Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is an interesting read, and perhaps relevant here. Quickly stated, his thesis is that reaching exalted pinnacles has less to do with a formulaic syllabus or even individual potential ability, but is more about belonging to a fortunate cohort, being in the right place from the right background at the right time with appropriate preparation.

The violin market is sparse enough that even mediocre journeymen may need a little bit of luck finding their way in, such as a shop that happens to need help, and a preceptor who is willing to work with the skill set a given individual may present. In my case it was a fellow recovering from some repetitive motion damage who needed rental setups and repairs done while he came back up to speed. Doing setups does leave some shavings on the floor... fit enough rental soundposts, and you will not be scratching your head about which end is up when a nicer violin appears.

As has been mentioned, becoming a well-rounded polymath, what you might call a Renaissance man, takes lifelong application. Acoustics is fun stuff, but getting fluent in the math needed for beamforming, convolution, and anisotropic material modeling may be over the top for a lot of bowed string workers.

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The title of this thread limits one's choice to America, but what would be the best school, world-wise?

Cremona maybe?

From 1525 to 1750 give or take a few years you'd be right!....In recent times, a bit of research on where experts you might respect send their willing children to learn violin making could be interesting.

The most important thing is to be a smart and proactive student as has already been said. Another question any student must ask themselves is 'Who is teaching me and why are they doing teaching rather than doing what they are teaching me to do? Very often teachers are sharers who want to communicate and give something back...But if they are teaching to supplement their income in the trade they are teaching you might want to ask some questions.

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I challenge anyone in the US to go look for an acoustics program or full year course at their local college or university. Here, I'll even help you out:

http://en.wikipedia....ms_in_acoustics

The first thing you'll notice is how dreadfully few schools even have an acoustics program of any sort. The second thing you notice, with a few possible exceptions, is that these are not among the top ranked schools in physical sciences or engineering. The most charitable translation for all this is: backwater.

The reality is large percentage of schools in the US are not equipped to teach acoustics even if they happen have faculty who have an interest in it. The supply isn't there, nor is the demand.

I don't know about you, but I have zero interest in playing my fiddle under water at the US Naval Academy. :)

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UT Austin has a graduate acoustics programs under the umbrella of mechanical engineering-though they make a point to call it interdisciplinary, as well.

I think I'd describe UT Austin a bit more charitably than 'backwater'.

edit: Universidad Austral de Chile isn't some hack rural university, either.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is no slouch of a school!

Seriously, some of the schools listed are pretty solid, and some are excellent. GA Tech? U.Washington? U. Miami? Penn State? Purdue? U.Texas?

Okay, sure. Washington's is probably more naval focused. As is the Naval Academy. But to say good universities don't have acoustics available to study isn't quite accurate.

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UT Austin has a graduate acoustics programs under the umbrella of mechanical engineering-though they make a point to call it interdisciplinary, as well.

I think I'd describe UT Austin a bit more charitably than 'backwater'.

edit: Universidad Austral de Chile isn't some hack rural university, either.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is no slouch of a school!

Seriously, some of the schools listed are pretty solid, and some are excellent. GA Tech? U.Washington? U. Miami? Penn State? Purdue? U.Texas?

Okay, sure. Washington's is probably more naval focused. As is the Naval Academy. But to say good universities don't have acoustics available to study isn't quite accurate.

Quite frankly I was looking pretty much only at the undergrad section of the wikipedia entry. The grad schools cited on that page are at least serious.

The reality for acoustics you'd need a solid background in math & physics (non-linear dynamics). Most people first encounter that course as seniors or first year graduate students. I just don't see most violin makers getting to that level (nor should they have to).

I have no doubt the acoustics that's being taught to violin makers in the Chinese system is some version of "acoustics for poets," the most math they get to is Fourier analysis.

I didn't say _all_ the schools on the wikipedia entry are backwater.

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Sure the good schools have all the engineering you could ever want. But I think technical colleges (and in fact high schools) could be successful if they taught how to make a living testing acoustical spaces and advising on how to improve them. I am convinced that most sound techies who set up speaker systems are deaf and don't know the first thing about sound and hearing. As a country, we are still mostly at the caveman stage... "just make it loud."

You don't need advanced engineering courses for this, but practical ones. A plumber doesn't need organic chemistry to install PVC. But he does need to know how, when and where to install it properly.

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All I'm going to say about this is that statistics and and a class on designing research projects were the two most valuable classes I took in college, and I would not be the person I am today without these tools to use in examining what I'm doing. All of the reading I've done in acoustics over the last 25 years could be flushed down the toilet, and my making wouldn't suffer one bit. A lot of what I read here on acoustics>violins, the people writing it would do well to go back and brush up on those two classes that helped me so much, because I think they must have failed them the first time.

I am inclined to think that the greatest violin makers--the ones who came up with the designs we imitate--didn't have a whole lot of college-level acoustics classes, and yet they seem to have done OK. How could that be?

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All I'm going to say about this is that statistics and and a class on designing research projects were the two most valuable classes I took in college, and I would not be the person I am today without these tools to use in examining what I'm doing. All of the reading I've done in acoustics over the last 25 years could be flushed down the toilet, and my making wouldn't suffer one bit. A lot of what I read here on acoustics>violins, the people writing it would do well to go back and brush up on those two classes that helped me so much, because I think they must have failed them the first time.

I am inclined to think that the greatest violin makers--the ones who came up with the designs we imitate--didn't have a whole lot of college-level acoustics classes, and yet they seem to have done OK. How could that be?

I can explain this one : they were industrious, focused and capable of paying attention to what mattered - for example they had a clear ideea what a good sounding violin is. Beats me how becoming proefficient in Reyleigh's "Theory of sound" would help one bit.

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but seriously all we know about strad and company, is that they selected first for tone and then for looks, and once in a while threw looks out the window and used plain wood that had great tone

Lyndon;

I certainly would assume that the anticipation of good tone was an important factor when the log was selected, but I'm not sure, past a point, I'd suggest the chicken before the egg.

There are exceptions, but it seems to me many Stradivari shop instruments of plainer Italian wood (and many by some other Cremonese makers) came during a specific period in Cremona (1720s)... If I'm not mistaken, this was at a time when the local economy/demand, political situation and competition may have left the market not quite strong enough to support only instruments made with high priced materials... then later in that decade, the fancy stuff seems to make it's way back.

Someone else (Bruce?) can certainly feel free to correct me if I seem to be in error.

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the point i would make, jefferey is just because we see a fancy piece of maple on a strad, we assume the grain has something to do with it, when in fact strad may well have rejected 10 other equally flamed or better pieces to pick the one with the tone he liked, ive repeatedly heard, in the literature, of violins with plainer wood, the choice of which cannot be explained on appearances, but quite easily may be explained if tone was a factor, the most expensive wood available in cremona at the time would have both incredible tap tones and incredible looks, strad being so rich, its no wonder that we see him using a lot of this grade, a lot of lesser, poorer makers use less flamed wood, but they still may not have been compromising on tone, only looks IMO

another point i was trying to make, its easy to tell the difference by tapping on the wood between a good piece of air dried spruce, and an often better looking piece of kiln dried spruce that has been tonally damaged by the kiln drying (i might add, that according to some suppliers, not all kiln drying processes damage the tone, certainly most agree the high temperature, vacuum kiln type used on most hardwood does do damage)

of course stradivari had the luxury of only selecting from air dried samples, methinks if he were alive today, hed be rejecting a whole lot of the kiln dried stuff, and low grade air dried stuff sold as tonewood today. another point, unless you can come up with tonewood of similar quality or better than strad did, you don't really have a chance at being as good or better than strad, in fact i personally think the model, which particular instrument by which maker you choose to copy is less important than the quality of the wood you use, my guess is if just for the hell of it strad had made a model copying ruggieri for instance it would sound just as good and like a strad, not a ruggieri

and in conclusion, and this is just my opinion, i dont think you can possibly hope to be as good as strad if you dont learn to tap on wood(and tune the plates, tap tones again)the way he did, its just as important as how you carve the wood, when it comes to tonewood shxt in, shxt out, as they say

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[

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

The shape and design of today's violin may be just a result of trial and error thing. How come it is so clever (design) ?

Why it does not look like a quitar (shape) ? (Flat top and back, look ugly )?

The thing about violin design that most impresses me is its simplicity at a time (late Renaissance through the whole of the Baroque) when visual objects, whether buildings or sculpture or paintings, were anything but simple. Everything was highly ornamented at the height of the evolution of the violin, ie, the first half of the 1700s, except the violin. There's a little bit of ornamentation in the classic fiddle design, to be sure -- fancy f holes, elegant corners, volutes carved just for their beauty. But given the times, that's pretty simple, understated stuff.

Those classic craftsmen were, first and foremost, making objects of utility.

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