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DMartin

Fritz-blind test

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One of the factors he addresses in this test is projection. I think he is very right to do this. The test does not address this.

Have you read the article yet?

I can reveal that Projection is indeed one of the factors considered in the test.

Seems like the humble player has not read the article either.

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Isserlis's letter seems not to address any of the issues in the test, but is a knee-jerk reaction from someone totally steeped in the myths.

I think it's very understandable, especially since this has become a media story - it's being misrepresented and over-simplified, so the classical establishment is wheeling out the big guns.

If everyone tried to focus on the issue that would be good : seasoned players can't immediately distinguish old Cremonese master violins from good new violins when the only factors are sound and playability. Is anyone prepared to contradict these findings?

All the counter-arguments I'm hearing actually undermine the case of the person making them. For instance Isserlis talks of the need for a soundpost to be EXACTLY in the right place - if this is the case, then it holds true for the new violin as much as for the old violin. His implication is that these instruments can't have been set up properly (otherwise the Strads would have won!), and yet the modern violins did so well even with poor set-ups ...! I suppose he's a concert soloist not a logician.

if the study was not specifically designed to test projection, and if a complainant drones on about projection, this just tells us that the complainant doesn't like the results of the study!

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Have you read the article yet?

I can reveal that Projection is indeed one of the factors considered in the test.

Seems like the humble player has not read the article either.

Thanks... I am very happy to be corrected...please could you publish or send me a link to what I missed... All The Best, Melvin

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Thanks... I am very happy to be corrected...please could you publish or send me a link to what I missed... All The Best, Melvin

I believe Anders put up a link back in post #108:

And here is the published article: It costs $10 for a two day view access. Can be downloaded.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/02/1114999109.full.pdf+html Mase sure you also download the 'SI Text', it contains the details on how the tests were done.

And I think he's already working on getting a free version.

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I'm interested in exceptional ability and performance more than just the average.

We have reasonable evidence of the maximum speed at which humans can run and swim, and the heights they can jump for example. The data and sorting of ability are provided by an organized system of contests.

Already, there are contests for playing ability and making ability.

How about a contest for tonal discrimination with prize money?

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"How about a contest for tonal discrimination with prize money? "

How would you go about adjudication? No one even agrees about what they hear, and all insist they hear better than the machines...

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Fair enough, so I've done that. He wasn't one of the people involved in the test. Frankly, and obviously, his name is not one etched on my memory of great players.

So moving on, how do we evaluate his opinions? Has he submitted to blind tests to minimize factors involving human foibles? If not, is he willing to? If so, I might be able to set something up.

...........

EDIT....Apologies David I'm not comfortable with my initial response to your suggestion. It was overly negative and I am sorry if it read rudely. You make an interesting point/suggestion.

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Isserlis's letter seems not to address any of the issues in the test, but is a knee-jerk reaction from someone totally steeped in the myths.

I think it's very understandable, especially since this has become a media story - it's being misrepresented and over-simplified, so the classical establishment is wheeling out the big guns.

If everyone tried to focus on the issue that would be good : seasoned players can't immediately distinguish old Cremonese master violins from good new violins when the only factors are sound and playability. Is anyone prepared to contradict these findings?

All the counter-arguments I'm hearing actually undermine the case of the person making them. For instance Isserlis talks of the need for a soundpost to be EXACTLY in the right place - if this is the case, then it holds true for the new violin as much as for the old violin. His implication is that these instruments can't have been set up properly (otherwise the Strads would have won!), and yet the modern violins did so well even with poor set-ups ...! I suppose he's a concert soloist not a logician.

if the study was not specifically designed to test projection, and if a complainant drones on about projection, this just tells us that the complainant doesn't like the results of the study!

That's the way Isserlis's remarks struck me too.

His closing paragraph is especially strange:

"So finally – I am delighted if modern makers earn the recognition they deserve; but in order to make this happen, it is necessary to have a much more comprehensive test – and it is not necessary to belittle the magical genius of Stradivarius and his very few peers."

Is there anybody involved with the test who is trying to "belittle" Stradivari or other classical Italians? The results of the test are what they are. Apparently Isserlis doesn't like the idea that some modern or contemporary instruments can perform as well or better than some classic Italians. Does anybody who's been around violins not believe that simple truth?

There does seem to be a reaction of surprise from the mass media, with the mass media reacting (perhaps overreacting) by questioning the greatness of the classic Italians. But part of that overreaction is due to the mass media discovering that the simplistic mantra which the public has heard forever -- that Strads and del Gesus are the finest violins ever made -- is too general and simplistic and very much in need of qualification.

To give modern and contemporary violins their due does not belittle the classic Italians.

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Just heard on National Public Radio (east-coast USA) an interview with Claudia Fritz on her recent publication describing results of a blindfold playing comparison of new and old instruments. For the sake of accuracy,I won't try to recall details at this moment.

Linkman, we need you.

Claudia is well known to participants in the Oberlin workshops.

Doug Martin

Antonio Bassi • This is such a stupid test and I am surprised that the professional violinists that took part in it didn't say anything. You cannot do a test like this in a hotel room! It needs to be done in a concert hall because the big difference between a good Strad and anything else is the projection of sound, both in amount and quality. Also important are the different colors and the character the instrument has in the sound, which are possible to hear in a concert hall and not in a hotel room. I have played violins, including Strads, that sounded average under the ear but the result in the hall was amazing

Just read this on Linkedin and copy and pasted it, so as to be accurate.

Ben Podgor

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From one of those Internet critiques:

"A famous (and curious) feature of Stradivarius instruments is that their tone seems to increase with distance."

To which some wag posted the following answer: "Obviously - when you consider that these ancient instruments were built before the discovery of the inverse-square law." :)

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From one of those Internet critiques:

"A famous (and curious) feature of Stradivarius instruments is that their tone seems to increase with distance."

To which some wag posted the following answer: "Obviously - when you consider that these ancient instruments were built before the discovery of the inverse-square law." :)

Newton published the Principia in 1687, and he certainly knew about the inverse square law for gravity. In fact that was prior to Stradivari's golden period. It can only be argued that Strads got better following Newton's publication. :)

Next thing you know there will be rabid discussion whether the violin can be considered a point source, and how often it's played in open space.

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In my Strad article some years ago I wrote this about violin tests:

"... their progress invariably follows a well-trodden and predictable course. The trial compares new against old, ideally including some famous and highly priced classical instruments (the inclusion of a Strad will almost guarantee mainstream media coverage). The results show that new instruments stand up very well and often outscore their older, more expensive counterparts. The test is then discredited and dismissed as meaningless by the experts."

It seems I have no reason to revise my scenario. Forget the tests... you either believe it or not, and you can't argue with someone's beliefs. I thought the title they chose for the article was very apt... "Blind faith"

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Antonio Bassi • This is such a stupid test and I am surprised that the professional violinists that took part in it didn't say anything. You cannot do a test like this in a hotel room! It needs to be done in a concert hall because the big difference between a good Strad and anything else is the projection of sound, both in amount and quality. Also important are the different colors and the character the instrument has in the sound, which are possible to hear in a concert hall and not in a hotel room. I have played violins, including Strads, that sounded average under the ear but the result in the hall was amazing

Just read this on Linkedin and copy and pasted it, so as to be accurate.

Ben Podgor

Players participating in the test have indeed given some experiences. One is the host for the violinist.com Laurie Niles.

E.g. here: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=21663

I have also seen another player give a direct comment to one of the articles: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/01/02/violinists-can%E2%80%99t-tell-the-difference-between-stradivarius-violins-and-new-ones/ look for the comments by John Soloninka

Your issue about the type of acoustics used for the tests is addressed in the article. I have a hard time believing that violinists in general use concert halls for their typical asessments of instruments. I think most of them mainly does it at home or in a known practicing environmant if they have the ability to bring the instruments home.

I quote from the article:

This study explores player preferences under two sets of conditions. One set, designed to maximize ecological validity, emulated the way players choose instruments at a violin shop, where they typically try a selection of instruments before selecting one to take home for further testing. All six test instruments were laid out in random order on the bed. Subjects were then given 20 min to choose (i) the single instrument they would “most like to take home with them” and (ii) the instruments they considered “best” and “worst” in each of four categories: range of tone colors, projection, playability,

and response. These terms, all commonly used by players when evaluating instruments, were left undefined. If a term lacked clear meaning for a subject, he/she was told not to choose in that category. Although projection can, by definition, be judged only at a distance by a listener, players regularly estimate projection when testing a violin. They typically

acknowledge (as did many of our subjects) the provisional nature of such estimates and the need to retest in a large hall with trusted listeners. Note, however, that our experiment was designed to test not the objective qualities of the instruments but rather the subjective preferences of the subjects under a specific set of conditions.

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Next thing you know there will be rabid discussion whether the violin can be considered a point source, and how often it's played in open space.

Not really, because the directivity can be disregarded when the the sound level is measured in a line in the diection of the listener. Basically the directivity matter for the sound level in the nearfild around the source, in the so called reverberation radius'. In the far field the directivity is blended into the reverberant field which in good concert halls fall off only about 1 dB per 10 m distance in the hall. So the diminishing of the sound level in a concert hall is not very large. The inverse distance law works in the initial 3-6m, that is within the reverberation radius.

Not many players seem to be aware that good projection of the sound from a violin may also be a property related to qualities of the room acoustics at hand.

Edited by Anders Buen

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An opinion on this 'test' from one of the finest musicians of our time Steven Isserlis http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/jan/03/stradivarius-v-modern-violins-study

It is a great letter I think.....

Some quotes from the letter:

..And then there's the bow, which is almost as important as the instrument. Presumably the same bow was used for every violin in this test; but different bows react differently to the same instrument. It is the correct combination that matters most.

The comment is not correct. The players used their own bows as they usually do when testing new instruments in a shop. His last sentence is a hypothesis he will have a hard time proving the validity for.

Then, as mentioned in the article, the players themselves were asked to judge the projection. I can say quite categorically that it is impossible for a performer to judge with any certainty how their sound is carrying in a large hall, unless they know the instrument intimately.

I quote from the original article:

Although projection can, by definition, be judged only at a distance by a listener, players regularly estimate projection when testing a violin. They typically acknowledge (as did many of our subjects) the provisional nature of such estimates and the need to retest in a large hall with trusted listeners. Note, however, that our experiment was designed to test not the objective qualities of the instruments but rather the subjective preferences of the subjects under a specific set of conditions.

Furthermode from the blog:

But the chief failing of this test, as reported in the article, is that the players are not identified. Who were they?

The free supplementory information has detailed descriptions of the experiment, including background of the testers, the value of their own violins, and additional analysis of the results: http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2012/01/02/1114999109.DCSupplemental/pnas.201114999SI.pdf

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Isserlis's letter seems not to address any of the issues in the test, but is a knee-jerk reaction from someone totally steeped in the myths.

I think it's very understandable, especially since this has become a media story - it's being misrepresented and over-simplified, so the classical establishment is wheeling out the big guns.

If everyone tried to focus on the issue that would be good : seasoned players can't immediately distinguish old Cremonese master violins from good new violins when the only factors are sound and playability. Is anyone prepared to contradict these findings?

All the counter-arguments I'm hearing actually undermine the case of the person making them. For instance Isserlis talks of the need for a soundpost to be EXACTLY in the right place - if this is the case, then it holds true for the new violin as much as for the old violin. His implication is that these instruments can't have been set up properly (otherwise the Strads would have won!), and yet the modern violins did so well even with poor set-ups ...! I suppose he's a concert soloist not a logician.

if the study was not specifically designed to test projection, and if a complainant drones on about projection, this just tells us that the complainant doesn't like the results of the study!

Martin, the test is flawed on multiple levels

1. give your violin to a good player and let him play it rather well for a good few minutes, than take it back and play it.Same room same bow.Does it feel/sound the same?

If you're good enough player,and done this before you know the answer is NO

the reason is every player infuses an instrument with his own personal "touch" and is gonna try to drive it where he feels the synergy will be the best.Its an instinctive thing .The problem is not two players are alike,and each player will "drive" the violin in a different direction, based on personal taste, physicalities, hearing level etc.

the differences could be quite dramatic depending on the player/s

now on our test we have a bunch of players playing on violins left "infused" by the guy in front of them.What's the real sound/response then?

2.take your violin and play it in different rooms in your house.You are gonna like the sound/response the best on a particular room, and the worst in another room.Now suppose the test is done on the room where your sound/response is the worst, and against a violin which does better on that particular room.

For the Oberlin folks i propose you test my scenario scientifically so you learn a bit more about how a violin works, its really easy to do and doesn't take much time at all.I've done it and i know it works.

a ) take a bunch of players and give them a violin to play in the same room with the same bow.Take the fft response after each player plays it, and you'll see there's gonna be a difference in results after each player.

b; same player differnt rooms, take the response after each room.

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a ) take a bunch of players and give them a violin to play in the same room with the same bow.Take the fft response after each player plays it, and you'll see there's gonna be a difference in results after each player.

b; same player differnt rooms, take the response after each room.

Not very likely to be any differences.

In the Oberlin environment different rooms are indeed asessed as an influence factor. Claudia Fritz et al have done a series of similar tests and prepratations before the reported one now in different environments. There is much more testing done than what are reported in this work.

Being an expert on room acoustics, and a semi decent hobby fiddler I know that your belif in the influence from the rooms are somewhat exaggerated. We just aren't as stupid that we think we have a different fiddle in hand when we move to a different room. The sound will be somewhat different in different rooms, but not in the core. The source matters more than the room, especially so because the source is so close to your ears and body.

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did any one notice in the laurie niles link that when the audience picked the strad won 3/4 of the time!!!! ah but that wasnt done in a hotel room with blind folds on, how do you pick up several million dollars of violins from a bed with blind folds on, wait a minute is this some kind of kinky game??? maybe david burgess was involved

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Not very likely to be any differences.

In the Oberlin environment different rooms are indeed asessed as an influence factor. Claudia Fritz et al have done a series of similar tests and prepratations before the reported one now in different environments. There is much more testing done than what are reported in this work.

Being an expert on room acoustics, and a semi decent hobby fiddler I know that your belif in the influence from the rooms are somewhat exaggerated. We just aren't as stupid that we think we have a different fiddle in hand when we move to a different room. The sound will be somewhat different in different rooms, but not in the core. The source matters more than the room, especially so because the source is so close to your ears and body.

Anders

nobody's talking about a different fiddle,but the difference can be good enough to make one chose a violin over another,

thats what the strad vs modern test was all about, right?

If you are conducting similar tests like the ones i propose what are the results? Did Claudia proceed on the strad/modern test having conflicting results from previous tests?

the points that i make in my previous post are well known anecdotal facts among players,and im convinced that in a well controled scientific test they will prove true.

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Elmar Oliveira once told me that most players, even among the best, are poor judges of an instruments tone when playing it. That's because they haven't gathered enough experience of playing different violins, old and new. So the result may not be so strange after all.

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....... some modern or contemporary instruments can perform as well or better than some classic Italians. Does anybody who's been around violins not believe that simple truth?

In my Strad article some years ago I wrote this about violin tests:

"... their progress invariably follows a well-trodden and predictable course. The trial compares new against old, ideally including some famous and highly priced classical instruments (the inclusion of a Strad will almost guarantee mainstream media coverage). The results show that new instruments stand up very well and often outscore their older, more expensive counterparts. The test is then discredited and dismissed as meaningless by the experts."

It seems I have no reason to revise my scenario. Forget the tests... you either believe it or not, and you can't argue with someone's beliefs. I thought the title they chose for the article was very apt... "Blind faith"

Exactly. What on Earth is all the fuss about?

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Exactly. What on Earth is all the fuss about?

Indeed.

And was this really a 'double-blind' experiment, in which neither the researchers nor the subjects knew the identity of the instruments?

Or are people using that term as they do when they say 'double-check' - which most often simply means 'check'.

Andrew

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come up to my hotel room, youre going to have to be blindfolded, but youre going to be able to touch my stradivarius, sounds kinda creepy doesnt it

im actually a keyboard player, but i would think being blindfolded would totally throw things off, to where obvious differences might be not so obvious, i mean would you want to listen to a violin concerto with a blindfolded soloist

rudalls right about double blind, if the researchers in the room know which violin is which, its not double blind, is it, my dads a top grade micro-biologist and hes always complaining that a huge percent of funded studies arent even valid because their not properly using the scientific method, the media is full of these amateur science studies which claim a lot but dont prove anything, one of the obvious signs of a poor study is small survey size, then theres the question of who in their right mind is going to let their million+ strad be groped on a bed by blindfolded violinists.....

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