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How Good is Our Theory?


Michael_Molnar

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tap tone tuning is actually completely scientific in nature, its based on the idea that violin plates vibrating resonances in tune with the 12 musical notes will sound better than randomly untuned plates resonating mostly out of tune notes to the 12 note scale.

imagine an untuned violin top is like a steel drum that hasnt been carefully tuned into the tuned sections of the musical instrument steel drum, then two players one playing the untuned out of tune drum and one playing the carefully tuned drum with all the different notes, which do you think would be more musical

the same goes for the violin, the more you can make the plates vibrate notes not only in tune with each other but in tune with a 440 scale, or 415, then the more harmonic and less dissonant the sound will be than if you dont tune at all(and the law of averages predicts the majority of resonances will be between notes of the 12 note scale, not right on the notes, in other words out of tune, if you dont tune them)

if this idea isnt scientific, then i can think of some other science on this site that makes a lot less sense

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Whichever instruments light up the brain's fMRI the most would likely correspond to the superior instruments. You can also ask the players to give the instruments a score (without them seeing the fMRI). The scores could also be used to correlate the fMRI, to confirm that the most lit up brains corresponded to the highest scored instruments.

Alas, juicy hamburgers and lettuce leaves light up different regions of the brain - which would you propose to monitor?

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tap tone tuning is actually completely scientific in nature, its based on the idea that violin plates vibrating resonances in tune with the 12 musical notes will sound better than randomly untuned plates resonating mostly out of tune notes to the 12 note scale.

imagine an untuned violin top is like a steel drum that hasnt been carefully tuned into the tuned sections of the musical instrument steel drum, then two players one playing the untuned out of tune drum and one playing the carefully tuned drum with all the different notes, which do you think would be more musical

the same goes for the violin, the more you can make the plates vibrate notes not only in tune with each other but in tune with a 440 scale, or 415, then the more harmonic and less dissonant the sound will be than if you dont tune at all(and the law of averages predicts the majority of resonances will be between notes of the 12 note scale, not right on the notes, in other words out of tune, if you dont tune them)

if this idea isnt scientific, then i can think of some other science on this site that makes a lot less sense

I think this is bunk for the most part. By this premise, a good violin tuned half a semitone flat from concert pitch should sound absolutely horrible, but this is not so, The instrument still plays fine. I think there may be something to the interval relationships (ratios), but not to specific musical notes.

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sorry the science of it is just over your head, bill, and no i never said violins that arent tuned sound horrible, just not quite as good as they could if they were tuned. i mean lets be logical, two identical violins, one untuned, and one carefully tuned to musical notes, which one is going to sound better, worst case scenario they just sound the same, whether theyre tuned or not, however if there is a difference and i believe there is, its hard to imagine the untuned one could sound better than the tuned ones.

any way its kinda a mute point because all the unaltered old ones ive tested are tuned in some way, whether you like it or not, bill, i find it hard to imagine any new violin that is untuned having a chance to sound just like an old violin that is tuned

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i can sleep well at night and know over and over and over, the same 4 or 5 amateur builders, love to tear me apart, because they have nothing better to do, they dont have to make a living selling instruments like the rest of us, and they wear their ignorance on their sleeve, these same people im talking about rarely if ever have anything valuable to contribute or help budding builders/ repair people, but unfortunately they dont seem to have ever learned that old adage, "if you dont have anything constructive to say, don't say anything at all"

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"if you dont have anything constructive to say, don't say anything at all"

Good advice, in general. However, part of the process of verifying truth will have to be destructive of things that are NOT truth. Defending a theory by personal attacks on those who disagree is not very productive.

If you have evidence of this "tuning theory", please initiate another thread, post accurately measured data, and let's discuss whether there is scientific or empirical support for the concept.

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thanks don, i wasnt refering to you in my above post, im already planning a new thread on tap tones, unfortunately i just sold/my oldest italian violin, so any data i can pass on right now will have to come from newer instruments around 100-150 yrs old, the tap tone tuning system i am describing continues well into the 20th century on some better violins, like eh roth for instance

in short, my supposition, re anders buen, imagine the tuned resonances of the violins wood are just as influentual to the tone as the sympathetic strings on a hardinger fiddle, imagine listening to a properly tuned hardinger followed by listening to the same instrument but with the sympathetic strings tuned randomly, mostly out of tune

both ways are still going to sound like a fiddle, but i cant see how having the sympathetic strings out of tune can possibly be as good as having them in tune, perhaps anders could venture an opinion

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Alas, juicy hamburgers and lettuce leaves light up different regions of the brain - which would you propose to monitor?

There have been plenty of studies of fMRI of musicians vs. non-musicians. You don't need to pick a specific area of the brain to choose beforehand. You analyze the data and then draw your conclusions.

http://neuro.cjb.net/content/23/27/9240.full

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My question is: How much has our various pursuits improved making a superior violin? For example, how has "plate tuning" helped to produce a violin competing with a Stradivari or Del Gesu? Show me one area that truly produces an improved instrument? Are we scientists/engineers just blowing smoke?

A 'superior violin' is related to a context, to a musical tradition, a certain playing style and most likely taste. There may be different ways a violin can be 'superior', not just one.

I think many of the best contemporary makers use plate tuning in their effort to compete with great old instruments. Using 'plate tuning' can also contain many different strategies. I think it is possible to reach similar results using other 'measurements', e.g. bending and twisting the plates, weighing them, using graduations. All these factors correlates quite strongly. And the asessments may work better for those with extensive experience with great instruments in parts. I think it is possible to reach such knowledge without that experience too, might be a bit more labour.

On 'improved instruments': What do you mean with 'improved'? Are we sure we agree on what improved is?

I think there are some correlations between information that can be gathered from free plates and how the instrument work assembled. I think some of my work have shown that, and any maker with some experience will ba able to 'see' this without any statistics to back it up. I think we might see more along that statistics line. I hear Jim Woodhouse talk about 'data mining' now and have shown some data in a closed setting some months ago. And I am looking forward to seeing more.

Most of the best researcheres do not share their data and recent findings in any of the forums before they have published. There is thus a delay in the information that reaches us. We get it faster by attending the worshops and meeting the researches.

Most 'scientific' work on the violin has no founding. It is mostly done propelled by share interest and enthusiasm. A few are working on PhD grants and there are a few nations supporting musical acoustics research. France do have a few grants and groups working on musical acoustics, there are a little group in Canada. USA have nothing, to what I know. Woodhouse have a Chinese PhD student now. There is some good collaboration around the Oberlin Violin Acoustics workshop. Some of the researchers at grants come to Oberlin and share their results and include us in state of the art listening experiments. There are also courses in using 'tools' for engineering methodes in investigating instruments. Don held one practical lecture there.

I guess your question is more about practical applications of 'our theory'. And how good that may be. That point lie more in the hands of the makers than the researchers. The puzzling thing is that I think we may have just about any theory and it might be 'successful' no matter if it is correct or not. Most theories will never come to good scrutiny. Anybody can say just about anything and get away with it.

There are quite a few makers blowing smoke too.

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The main fallacy in plate tuning is the assumption that the individual plates behave the same way as the assembled instrument.

While 'tuned' plates may have certain common characteristics which may have some effect on the instrument, that effect is not consistent and not predictable and therefore not very useful.

There is a great deal more difference between a free plate, a bound plate, (glued down at the edge) and the behavior of a plate on an assembled violin. The string tension is compressing the plates end to end, the ribs are stretching the plate side to side, the torsion of the blocks is both twisting and stretching the back, the sound post and bridge have a complex set of effects on the plates. Think about how shifting how you hold a plate can change how it vibrates, what effect would all these other, much more forceful factors have on a plate's vibrations? Think about how a sound post adjustment changes the sound.

Besides, a violin radiates sound from the entire corpus, not individual plates, up to about 1KHz (~4th position on the E string)

It seems to me that there are still a lot of misconceptions about how a violin radiates sound.

We all enjoy looking at modal analysis showing the motions of a vibrating violin. Those animations can be very misleading. First of all, only a small fraction of the illustrated modes are actually radiating sound in the far field. Because the strings are generating a set of harmonics as well as some noise, many modes are occurring simultaneously. Visualize That! So the modal analysis animations never happen as shown in 'real life' They are idealized abstractions. And are often more misleading than illuminating. Then there is the effect of the bow which is unaccounted for in the modal analysis as well as the physical forces of the player. I've seen players exert some control of the sound of an instrument by how tightly they hold on to the neck.

I think it is useful to think about how the Cremonese built the violin. The evidence that the instrument was first assembled and then finished is convincing enough for me. This suggests that they thought of the instrument as a whole rather than a collection of parts. That's why I've chosen to look at the acoustics of the violin globally rather than fractionally.

The violin is more than the sum of it's parts. That's why, no matter how good the parts are, there is still an unrealized potential that is largely untapped by contemporary makers.

Oded Kishony

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There have been plenty of studies of fMRI of musicians vs. non-musicians.

Exactly.

You missed the point of my post: what are the regions that light up when a musician has pleasurable experiences versus less pleasurable ones, and can these be detected robustly when the differences between the experiences gets smaller and smaller (a very, very good violin sound versus a very good violin sound).

And, by the way, fMRI is a pretty crude technique given that the stimuli have to be pretty contrasting to be detected reliably. Also note, the differences that have been reported by various groups who appear to have used similar experimental paradigms to interrogate stimulus-response relationships.

So my conclusion at the moment is that a substantial amount of 'normative' fMRI data need to be collected in the 'judging violin sound' experimental paradigm.

ps - I have some experience in this area.

pps - A key aspect of 'robustness' of data is that the results need to be repeatable over time. (

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Sundry remarks:

Although I think most of plate tuning is akin to astrology, there may be usefulness in looking at plate pattern shapes in the larger violas and cellos to reveal lurking density knots. Also, I have used M5 with some success to adjust the bass bar and restore M5 reduced by the f-holes. But the jury is still out on this application.

As for body vibrations, my experience (along with reports from many experimenters) points to the importance of monitoring the vibration of the fingerboard.

Theorists must not forget that their model must make a prediction - one that can be evaluated by makers.

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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The main fallacy in plate tuning is the assumption that the individual plates behave the same way as the assembled instrument.

While 'tuned' plates may have certain common characteristics which may have some effect on the instrument, that effect is not consistent and not predictable and therefore not very useful.

There is a great deal more difference between a free plate, a bound plate, (glued down at the edge) and the behavior of a plate on an assembled violin.

Well, there are significant correlations found between free plate data and the assembled violin. I think one of the reasons why is that if you thin a free plate you also affect some of the properties of an assembled instrument. If something is done to a plate it will also affect the assembled instrument. E.g. a thinner plate will in general give lower signature mode frequencies.

Some predictions are indeed possible from the free plates. I think we will see better abilities in the future, e.g. where the transition hill ends up, how strong the bridge hill can become etc.

Even if the vibration patterns look different (for mode 2 and the top plate movement in the B1- mode they are pretty similar in shape) modifications to a plate or to an assembled violin will have an effect both on the free plate frequencies and mode shapes, as well as the assembled violin, to a larger or lesser degree. In the big picture I think plate weights and tap tones may be more effective than adjusting the instrument in the strung up condition, simply because it is possible to do more from the inside than the outside without harming the archings etc. In the microtuning scheme I believe your method might work better, Oded. But not in the 'big picture'.

The Operational Model Shapes taken from modal analysis are likely to look pretty much like the plates vibrations under real string excitation. The modal patterns will be a sum of the pattern at the fundamentals and the patterns for each of the harmonics. If the body did behave nonlinearly, we would have seen something different from a sum of each component. The violin body is in the normal playing range believed to behave linearly.

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As for body vibrations, my experience (along with reports from many experimenters) points to the importance of monitoring the vibration of the fingerboard.

If you are referring to A0/B0 mode matching, the effect of this matching has almost no tonal effect only a change in the feel of the instrument by increasing the shaking of the neck of the violin.

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One area of theory that seems to be getting less attention that it should is arching. The only treatment vaguely close (that I'm aware of) is the Woodhouse paper on confined modes of S-shaped steel, which does not appear to have much utility for violinmakers.

I have looked a little at the "ring mode" as described by Evan Davis, just to get some idea where we are on the frequecy-curvature field, and it looks to me like arching would have significant influence on mode shapes (and thus radiativity) even up at the higher frequencies.

The picture is complicated further by the nature of wood, where the properties can vary wildly depending on the angle of the grain to the surface. Some of that variation may contribute to good sound... or not... we don't really know. So advocates of plate bending, in an effort to maximize stiffness in all directions at all times, might not be aiming in the right direction... or might... we don't really know.

There is plenty of concern about total arching, long and crossarch patterns, cycloids, and the like, but not much of the "how" and "why" of the arching from a fundamental physics/acoustics view.

I'll put that on my "to do" list.

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If you are referring to A0/B0 mode matching, the effect of this matching has almost no tonal effect only a change in the feel of the instrument by increasing the shaking of the neck of the violin.

My assessment also. I had one violin where the modes were matched exactly. I added various weights to the end of the fingerboard to disturb the matching, and I could not hear or measure any difference in the sound, nor could I feel anything different. Granted, someone with ultra-acute senses might be able to tell, but it's definitely no big deal to me.

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If you are referring to A0/B0 mode matching, the effect of this matching has almost no tonal effect only a change in the feel of the instrument by increasing the shaking of the neck of the violin.

I do not think the vibrations in the neck region will be stronger, on the contrary, I think they become weaker with A0/B0 matching. The vibrations from the B1- and B1+ are, in my experience, stronger in the neck region than the A0 vibrations.

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One area of theory that seems to be getting less attention that it should is arching. The only treatment vaguely close (that I'm aware of) is the Woodhouse paper on confined modes of S-shaped steel, which does not appear to have much utility for violinmakers.

I guess you know Nigel Harris attempts in that direction, as well as Robert Zuger. I think arching supresses the vibrations you would get in a flat plate and push the resonances higher in frequency. There may be some interesting going on in understading how the B1+ and B1- modes are affected by the arching, bending versus breathing properties of the plates.

One interesting aspect is plate embossing as used in the automotive industry to supress certain vibration modes using plate shapes. That is metal, but maybe similar effects appear in the violin plates as well?

I think one of the major effects of the arching is dimensional stability and stability against humidity changes. It would have been interesting to see asessments on that in any form.

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I think we will see better abilities in the future

Funny, that's what Carleen Hutchins said 50+ years ago. Still waiting....

In the microtuning scheme I believe your method might work better, Oded. But not in the 'big picture'.

Depends on how big the picture is ;-)

The premise of my work is that the instrument must first be well made, good wood, good arching, good model, good construction and slightly too stiff. At which point adjustments made to the instrument can sometimes have a very dramatic transformative tonal effect with very little wood removed. At this time I'm working on, among other things,identifying what changes have the greatest effect.

Oded

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The premise of my work is that the instrument must first be well made, good wood, good arching, good model, good construction and slightly too stiff. At which point adjustments made to the instrument can sometimes have a very dramatic transformative tonal effect with very little wood removed. At this time I'm working on, among other things,identifying what changes have the greatest effect.

With that as a premise we will all make some great instruments using any approach. ;)

It would be interesting to see acoustics related documetation on what you are saying here, Oded. It should be pretty easy to make it, especially when there are dramatic changes experienced. In my experience dramatic changes can happen using different (style) bridges. But I am not as experienced a maker as you, and I work mainly with a different instrument.

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Funny, that's what Carleen Hutchins said 50+ years ago. Still waiting....

Since it is now seemingly ok to discuss this subject openly;

The interesting thing about Hutchins, for me, was that she never (apparently) marketed her results, or products - if she had, exactly what she was selling, might have been identified a bit sooner.

She was selling an idea, a clever, new, exciting, a seemingly scientific/poetic and a seemingly comprehensive - all inclusive acoustic method. Something vastly more attractive than a mere product.

Yes, it's too bad that the premise itself, right from the stat, was neither correct nor was it scientific.

As we can see, there are many staunch "converts" still... (ok, the most strongly convicted, amongst the non-makers, as one might expect) but - converts in any case

The most we can hope from plate tuning, in my opinion, is to utilize it as a tool - albeit an interesting tool, It appears to have a pragmatic function pretty much like any other tool..

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