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David Burgess

Followup to the Indianapolis blind study

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What about Ultra Sound microphones? These things capture from 10K to 250k....damn why didn't I think of using that when I was locked up at the studios,,

Carlo, I think the issue (if there is one) is that measurements of acoustic performance, be it of violins or hifi components, are invariably carried out using instrumentation with very low levels of harmonic distortion and non-linearity. Our ears, by contrast are far from ideal transducers, with non-linearities that produce effects such as Tartini tones. Although effects like this come under the umbrella of psychoacoustics the "psycho" part shouldn't be misinterpreted as our faculties playing tricks on us, any more that the generation of sum/difference/second harmonic optical frequencies by a non-linear crystal is a trick. They are real physical phenomena.

In other words, we probably need worse microphones, not better ones... :D

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What about Ultra Sound microphones? These things capture from 10k to 250k....damn why didn't I think of using that when I was locked up in the studios,it would probably give me the air I wanted out of lots of things...,mad.gifohmy.gifblink.gifunsure.gifrolleyes.gif

Plus you would record all the whales around the boat having arguments about the real meaning of Moby Dick... ;)

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I agree with David.

As I understand it, Claudia Fritz is primarily interested in psycho-acoustics.

So in the case of this study, the primary subjects of study are the players and the audience, not the instruments (though that's obviously an important secondary agenda).

The issue of "projection" is one of perception, and we can't really study this with microphones since it's to do with perceived audibility in a given environment (an orchestra blasting away behind a soloist for instance).

I'm glad that the debate has centred more around what projection might be and less around how these researchers are conning us out of our tax dollars to investigate something that needs no investigation.

The biggest problem for me inherent in the subject is that there is very little agreement about what the phenomenon is in the first place, and the more discussion the better .... I would be very happy to invest some of my tax dollars in this!

I would propose that some violins have more definition than others in a given context - like Carlo I have spent a lot of my time mixing music (very often violins), and I know that perceived clarity has more to do with specific frequency content than volume. As he says, you can turn a bass signal up in the mix until the thing's twice the physical volume of a triangle, but the triangle sounds louder.

High frequency content is essential to pinpointing the source of a sound, and in a concert hall context it doesn't attenuate as it does in the open air. Very important to the experience of a violin concerto.

But this matter of frequency content is just the most basic observation - bowing technique, rate and breadth of vibrato, micro-tuning, playing ahead of or behind the beat, grimacing and emoting, these are all essential parts of projection or solistic behaviour, all with their origins in the need to grab attention and differentiate from the "accompaniment".

A good "voice-box" is a handy starting point, but I suspect many violins, at all sorts of price ranges, are satisfactory for a soloist who understands the issues of definition.

Perhaps it's equally important that the soloist be inspired by the instrument and believes in it, in order to really play "over it" and get the sound.

In that context, a hefty price tag and a sexy provenance can work miracles.

Going to be very difficult to separate out all of these things and investigate them individually!

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But should we really try finding a "non human" arbiter for violin sound ? Some prominent psychologists think we hit a wall in these efforts of ours to define things through measurement

and that some qualities are simply unexplainable. What David Chalmers calls QUALIA. Maybe, like the color "red", the sound of a good violin is "qualia" - a quality generated by our consciousness.

I think it is a waste of time to try to measure "goodness" in a quantitative way... but on the other hand, I think it is quite valuable to try to quantify the acoustic characteristics of violins that are considered "good". That may sound like the same thing, but only if you believe that "goodness" comes in only one flavor.

Modern technology can beat anybody's ear at detecting and analyzing sound. What it can't do is tell you if it's good, harsh, dark, mellow, or any other qualitative aspect. The human response is needed for that evaluation, and then you can form some concepts about what types of tones might elicit a particular response in a human listener. The problem is, not all humans respond exactly the same, so you can never nail anything down to the tenth decimal point. Or even the first significant figure sometimes. So the quality may be unexplainable, but there may be measurable characteristics that correlate to a particular percieved quality in some subset of humans. Not the most satisfying answer, but at least some progress toward understanding, I think.

Getting back to the thread topic... I'm happy for anyone to do any sort of evaluation tests. It's not an easy thing to do, especially if high-$ instruments are involved. I may or may not get anything useful out of it... but if it didn't happen at all, I'd definitely get nothing.

While I'm at it... I do have a pet hypothesis about "projection": I believe it has to do with whateveritis that the brain uses to identify a "note". And that stuff is a collection of frequencies, rather than just one. If you can barely hear 10 harmonics of a certain note, I think you can identify that much better than a very loud fundamental... especially when there's other instruments or noise. Think pattern recognition... which is the real specialty of the brain.

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I think it is a waste of time to try to measure "goodness" in a quantitative way... but on the other hand, I think it is quite valuable to try to quantify the acoustic characteristics of violins that are considered "good". That may sound like the same thing, but only if you believe that "goodness" comes in only one flavor.

Modern technology can beat anybody's ear at detecting and analyzing sound. What it can't do is tell you if it's good, harsh, dark, mellow, or any other qualitative aspect. The human response is needed for that evaluation, and then you can form some concepts about what types of tones might elicit a particular response in a human listener. The problem is, not all humans respond exactly the same, so you can never nail anything down to the tenth decimal point. Or even the first significant figure sometimes. So the quality may be unexplainable, but there may be measurable characteristics that correlate to a particular percieved quality in some subset of humans. Not the most satisfying answer, but at least some progress toward understanding, I think.

Getting back to the thread topic... I'm happy for anyone to do any sort of evaluation tests. It's not an easy thing to do, especially if high-$ instruments are involved. I may or may not get anything useful out of it... but if it didn't happen at all, I'd definitely get nothing.

While I'm at it... I do have a pet hypothesis about "projection": I believe it has to do with whateveritis that the brain uses to identify a "note". And that stuff is a collection of frequencies, rather than just one. If you can barely hear 10 harmonics of a certain note, I think you can identify that much better than a very loud fundamental... especially when there's other instruments or noise. Think pattern recognition... which is the real specialty of the brain.

You better prepare for the eventuality that the test results are at best inconclusive. It's not as if these sorts of tests haven't been carried out before.

Here's a not-so-bold prediction: You'll find that the instruments soloists play generally aren't in the top tier when it comes to projection in a collection of random instruments. What are you going to do then?

The trouble with these pageants is people only focus on one aspect and exclude pretty much everything else. The fact these people already announced that they're going to test for "projection" leave subjects primed, much like saying "I don't want you to think about elephants right now."

Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/health/doctor-panels-urge-fewer-routine-tests.html

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Here's a not-so-bold prediction: You'll find that the instruments soloists play generally aren't in the top tier when it comes to projection in a collection of random instruments. What are you going to do then?

I don't know about Don, but I'd try to give more focus to whatever factors are determined to be more important, without giving up any projection. :)

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Having skimmed the posts in this thread, and having no qualifications to enter the discussion, I'd like to say that I thoroughly approve of the attempt in question.

The more humans who can audit and render judgements (OK,opinions)on the instruments in question, the better. The inclusion of factory violins would be a truly excellent idea. Spreading the affair over a few days, and having several sessions, would also be useful.

While having a group of professional orchestra musicians render their opinions (OK, judgements) on the various instruments would be useful, it might be noted that, for the most part, they are seldom in the position of an audience; rather, they're submerged in a sound machine.

Having players judge instruments is also useful from any number of viewpoints, but we can't escape the fact that their ears are seldom more than a few inches from the violin. (Admittedly, there are a few with heads so expanded that this would not apply).

Having in the audience an actual audience might be amusing, and possibly even useful. While those of us who pay to listen are generally seldom in a position to render a sound judgement (not sorry for that), we do have skin in the game, as they say.

The more, the more varied, the merrier. Reality is a consensus hallucination, after all. Which of course begs the question of what the general lack of consensus I find here might mean, psychiatrically speaking. But I've always enjoyed my visits to the Big Asylum.

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all this talk about how hard it is to define projection, i think projection is the logical fairly rational measure of an instruments perceived volume at a distance, under ear volume is much less rational, if all instruments were truly omnidirectional, under ear volume and projection should match up perfectly, but theyre dont, because sound is directional; a violin that puts out a lot more volume from the top than the back, in the direction of the players ear, is perceived at having great under ear volume but its projection is no better than an instrument that puts out more volume from the back or sides away from the players ear, its seems to me projection is the rational measurement of what listeners are going to hear, under ear volume is a less rational measurement of what only one person hears, the player.

it seems to me players are obsessed with how loud an instrument sounds to them under ear, when in fact they should be primarily concerned with how their instrument projects or sounds to the audience, less so to themselves. obviously the player should enjoy the sound of their violin, but why does it have to be so loud, especially if the player is the only one that hears the volume because the instrument doesnt project well.

i mean imagine a player is auditioning two violins with their friends listening, both violins are good but one the player likes slightly less than the other, under ear, but all their friends say, at a distance the other violin sounds better, which violin should they buy???????

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I agree with David.

As I understand it, Claudia Fritz is primarily interested in psycho-acoustics.

So in the case of this study, the primary subjects of study are the players and the audience, not the instruments (though that's obviously an important secondary agenda).

The issue of "projection" is one of perception, and we can't really study this with microphones since it's to do with perceived audibility in a given environment (an orchestra blasting away behind a soloist for instance).

I'm glad that the debate has centred more around what projection might be and less around how these researchers are conning us out of our tax dollars to investigate something that needs no investigation.

The biggest problem for me inherent in the subject is that there is very little agreement about what the phenomenon is in the first place, and the more discussion the better .... I would be very happy to invest some of my tax dollars in this!

I would propose that some violins have more definition than others in a given context - like Carlo I have spent a lot of my time mixing music (very often violins), and I k :)now that perceived clarity has more to do with specific frequency content than volume. As he says, you can turn a bass signal up in the mix until the thing's twice the physical volume of a triangle, but the triangle sounds louder.

High frequency content is essential to pinpointing the source of a sound, and in a concert hall context it doesn't attenuate as it does in the open air. Very important to the experience of a violin concerto.

But this matter of frequency content is just the most basic observation - bowing technique, rate and breadth of vibrato, micro-tuning, playing ahead of or behind the beat, grimacing and emoting, these are all essential parts of projection or solistic behaviour, all with their origins in the need to grab attention and differentiate from the "accompaniment".

A good "voice-box" is a handy starting point, but I suspect many violins, at all sorts of price ranges, are satisfactory for a soloist who understands the issues of definition.

Perhaps it's equally important that the soloist be inspired by the instrument and believes in it, in order to really play "over it" and get the sound.

In that context, a hefty price tag and a sexy provenance can work miracles.

Going to be very difficult to separate out all of these things and investigate them individually!

Cool post Martin. :)

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While I'm at it... I do have a pet hypothesis about "projection": I believe it has to do with whateveritis that the brain uses to identify a "note". And that stuff is a collection of frequencies, rather than just one. If you can barely hear 10 harmonics of a certain note, I think you can identify that much better than a very loud fundamental... especially when there's other instruments or noise. Think pattern recognition... which is the real specialty of the brain.

Don,

I like your pet hypothesis. That's the ultimate psychoacoustic phenomenon, the relentless drive for the brain to look for and find patterns. When there is a rich context it is a feast of stimuli for the senses, baroque music or jazz, polyrhythmic, polyphonic , syncopation and surprise are the playthings for the brain. The same for the violin, the richer the context the more "outstanding" the violin.

Regarding identifying a note. Yes, clearly a collection of harmonics and their relative amplitude is what determines the timbre and quality of that note and that's one reason why, when designing a program to analyze violin acoustics, it is essential IMHO to include a musical context with resonant frequency distribution graphs. This is an insight that Oliver Rogers initiated when he observed that his instrument sounded much better playing one rather than another piece of music. The resonant frequencies more closely matched one piece of music than the other.

Oded

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Anders if I have a 100 watt speaker with a 150 watt amp, if I setup three of them doesn't it double the volume? Or am I mixing it up?

If you have three speakers at 100 watt with a sufficient amp each reproducing a incoherent signal like a pink noise signal, then the sum of these will be 10*log(3) = 5 dB more than each of them. Will sound a bit louder, but quite a bit less than a doubling of he perceived loudness.

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Thanks Anders, can't think where did I get that from...

Great Post Martin.

This is all very interesting and I enjoy learning from you guys but I'm still having a hard time understanding the final objective of the test.

If it's a follow up to Claudia Fritz Research: Strads vs Modern Violins, than it's still part of the comparison, as if it where a soccer match, whoever wins fights Mirecourt, and then the winner against the Roth's.

If it's to figure out why a violin projects more than the other, than lots of that is already known, lots of it posted in this thread, there is no sorcery in that, it appears pretty obvious to me why, any good set of ears can hear an instrument in familiar acoustics and have a pretty good idea of how it will perform. The problem of " instrument beneath the ear" is easily solved by a multitude of techniques. I don't understand moving mountains for figuring out sound projection.

Carl mentioned that different schools of playing will choose different instruments, Martin mentioned the fact that the way a musician makes his music influences lots of the final outcome and projection, but how do you study that?

At the end this is all about music, and music is what touches people's hearts, so let's say in the near future a brilliant violin player appears, but he plays really soft, chooses beautiful delicate pieces, plays with a dark sounding instrument, the conductor and orchestra adapt big time for all of that and beautiful music with a fresh sound is created, hearts are touched and lots of people feel great emotional moments in concerts. How do you quantize that?

His instrument seems to me in this context to be a loser.

Also it can not be a sales pitch for new instruments, there are so many better arguments than that, even to an amateur buyer.

Then again, what do I know? I'm not a maker, not a violin player, not in the scene, and not on planet Earth, I'm on planet Water, and it's raining a lot, oh my do I even exist?rolleyes.gif

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Modern technology can beat anybody's ear at detecting and analyzing sound. What it can't do is tell you if it's good, harsh, dark, mellow, or any other qualitative aspect. The human response is needed for that evaluation, and then you can form some concepts about what types of tones might elicit a particular response in a human listener. The problem is, not all humans respond exactly the same, so you can never nail anything down to the tenth decimal point. Or even the first significant figure sometimes. So the quality may be unexplainable, but there may be measurable characteristics that correlate to a particular percieved quality in some subset of humans. Not the most satisfying answer, but at least some progress toward understanding, I think.

Getting back to the thread topic... I'm happy for anyone to do any sort of evaluation tests. It's not an easy thing to do, especially if high-$ instruments are involved. I may or may not get anything useful out of it... but if it didn't happen at all, I'd definitely get nothing.

While I'm at it... I do have a pet hypothesis about "projection": I believe it has to do with whateveritis that the brain uses to identify a "note". And that stuff is a collection of frequencies, rather than just one. If you can barely hear 10 harmonics of a certain note, I think you can identify that much better than a very loud fundamental... especially when there's other instruments or noise. Think pattern recognition... which is the real specialty of the brain.

My worry is that because we don't know what is of real significance we run the risk of insisting too much on what we can measure similar to looking for the keys under the lampost. For example a lot of FFTs are done but while they do tell us something they don't tell us other things which might be more important. Here is a very good example :

Is this a Strad ? Does it "carry" ? We had a sound clip from one of our members with a very similar sounding new violin. I wonder if he's got the courage to stand up...

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Carlo, sorry for not answering your question better before.

The general quest of this group is to understand violins better. Some of them may mostly be geeks who like to understand things (I'm somewhat that way). Others may be looking for things which can be applied to making better violins. I'm that way too, so I can relate to both.

One of the questions which needs to be answered is, "What makes a violin good"? That would seem like an easy question to answer, but it turns out that not everyone agrees of what a good violin is. So they're trying to gather more data.

Past descriptions of a "really good violin" have included many different things. Among them is "projects well". This is variously described as being heard easily over an orchestra; seeming to have less drop-off with distance; being heard more clearly at the back of a large hall than other instruments. Some instruments are described as having this quality, even though they don't sound very loud up close.

This is one of the properties often ascribed to famous old Italian violins. That description alone is hard to do much with, so a next logical step would be to get more detail:

Does it even exist, or is it a myth?

Is it more about the player, or will instruments exhibit a big difference even with the same player?

Is it something about the sound spectrum which is easily identifiable?

Is it related to directionality of the sound?

So there are a bunch of descriptions associated with new violins, old violins, and superior violins. If one is going to try to create these qualities in a new violin, it might be helpful to first know if they even exist. For instance, if people claim that there are consistent differences between the sound or playability of new and old violins, and they can reliably tell the difference, let's find out if they really can. Not much point in going to the trouble to try to make a new violin sound old, if people can't tell the difference.

If people claim that Strads are superior instruments, let's mix them up with some others, remove most of the visual cues, and see if people can actually tell the difference, or if they actually rate them as superior. If they can (and also can tell new from old), let's try to figure out why.

Since car analogies are popping up here quite a bit lately, it's as if you were trying to build a fast car. Should you copy a Ferrari? That sounds like a good idea. They're fast. Just ask anyone. But it might be a good idea to test this belief first. When actually compared, it turns out that much less expensive cars will outperform many of them. So some comparisons would be wise, just like in the violin testing.

These are just a few of the simpler examples of what researchers are trying to learn.

You mentioned that the reasons behind "projection" have already been explained in this thread. There have been some possible explanations and theories, but the fact is that nobody really knows yet. If they did, the researchers could skip this step.

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My worry is that because we don't know what is of real significance..

Exactly. That's the first step.

we run the risk of insisting too much on what we can measure similar to looking for the keys under the lampost.

If I was looking for my keys in the dark, and they could be anywhere, I'd look under the lampost first. If that didn't produce results, I'd move on to more difficult areas. I wouldn't take the street drain apart as my first step.

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Thanks David for the great answer.smile.gif

As you know by now I'm here to learn varnish but can not help myself not to read and get carried away by these threads, I can't believe the time I spent yesterday here, bt it was a rest day, so it's all good, I've had fun and learned.

Many years of audio engineering and modern music record producing imprints ideas on my mind, none of them that I can call solid, they are more abstract things that i can badly explain, my engineering has never been the math path, same as most engineers out there - - as if engineering came from engine, the engineer being the guy that works the ship's engine room, same here. the engine is the mixing console and all that gear that is not made to work with each other. (actually it comes from ingenium - a machine, innate quality, talent, clever device)

So I'll humbly try to give my highly questionable view on each of these.

One of the questions which needs to be answered is, "What makes a violin good"? That would seem like an easy question to answer, but it turns out that not everyone agrees of what a good violin is. So they're trying to gather more data.

IMHO they will only agree what a good violin is if you gather people with similar musical taste, and for a specific musical passage, you change the passage, change the player and no the long strad with xx strings is not the best choice anymore, but the DG with xxxx string and x bow is.

Add a string section, it changes, change the style of music, can change again, piano, could be different, make the instrument as a accompaniment for a voice instead of solo, it can change again.

It's like for a ballad a Gretsch Broadkaster 18" Kick can be beautiful but when you get to the loud song, or even a loud passage in the same ballad the DW 22"x22" kick with extender will be the way to go, or you can keep it mellow, all with the 18", these calls are part of music/taste/concept/art/era/culture.

Past descriptions of a "really good violin" have included many different things. Among them is "projects well". This is variously described as being heard easily over an orchestra; seeming to have less drop-off with distance; being heard more clearly at the back of a large hall than other instruments. Some instruments are described as having this quality, even though they don't sound very loud up close.

I believe that is what I posted before, more soundwave creation in a higher end spectrum, and probably not so deep of a midrange scoop and filtered low end. Coupled with high compression of sound . That will do it. You can EQ and compress a PA cabinet with a violin going through it or a synth, just like that and it will have these properties.

This is one of the properties often ascribed to famous old Italian violins. That description alone is hard to do much with, so a next logical step would be to get more detail:

Does it even exist, or is it a myth?

In certain instruments.

Is it more about the player, or will instruments exhibit a big difference even with the same player?

Both.

Is it something about the sound spectrum which is easily identifiable?

Frequency spectrum? yes, but there is no standard. it can be accomplished in a million different ways and frequency curves.

Is it related to directionality of the sound?

Yes, does it change a lot from instrument to instrument?

The way I set up mic is simple, if it's a cardioid I close one ear, if omni or figure 8 both ears, than I move my head around the instrument, from close to the floor to high up, to all sides, sometimes I'll mark a spot with paper tape so I can go back to it and A/B (yes I do look like an idiot doing it). Find the right spot and set the mic, it's a starting point. What I usually hear, and that is with all instruments, is that it changes a lot, the relationships between room and instrument angle, player position, hight, floor, distance are so different, so if you follow that straight line of sound away from the player, it is still that same that sound, only more distant. with added reflections.

So there are a bunch of descriptions associated with new violins, old violins, and superior violins. If one is going to try to create these qualities in a new violin, it might be helpful to first know if they even exist. For instance, if people claim that there are consistent differences between the sound or playability of new and old violins, and they can reliably tell the difference, let's find out if they really can. Not much point in going to the trouble to try to make a new violin sound old, if people can't tell the difference.

If people claim that Strads are superior instruments, let's mix them up with some others, remove most of the visual cues, and see if people can actually tell the difference, or if they actually rate them as superior. If they can (and also can tell new from old), let's try to figure out why.

People telling themselves what the sound soul be instead of listening?

Or is it a matter of culturally imprinted taste? (and that changes with time)

No personal experience with old instruments here, I had a 1954 stratocaster, one of Leo Fender's prototypes, I had a new Fender stratocaster, amd a custom made stratocaster, and modern stratocaster (the one I carry with me) they where all great instruments, but they where different, that's all I can say, they all played great and had a great sound, but each one played differently and I liked each for a different sort of music, so it's up to the music and how someone plays and what they want to do with it, and if a musician records in the studio, I would say have several different ones, one will do better in each sort of music or passage. But I carry the modern stratocaster with me because I worked really hard on it with the luthier (he did the work of course) and it turned out a much better instrument for my needs because of that, we had already made an instrument a few years back and that was useful, I have modified it several times and it keeps getting better. But it is not an answer to all sounds, just a good overall instrument.

Since car analogies are popping up here quite a bit lately, it's as if you were trying to build a fast car. Should you copy a Ferrari? That sounds like a good idea. They're fast. Just ask anyone. But it might be a good idea to test this belief first. The fact is that much less expensive cars will outperform many of them. So some comparisons would be wise, just like in the violin testing.

For me a Ferrari is just about the worst car I could have, I'd have to find a safe parking spot, that's expensive, I won't be able to go into wild roads, it will cost me tons of money for maintenance, I'll lose my license because of speeding, and even worst, I'd have to go back working in the studios just to pay for insurance gas and all the rest, my wife would leave me, It would ruin my life.biggrin.gif

These are just a few of the simpler examples of what researchers are trying to learn.

coolsmile.gif

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My worry is that because we don't know what is of real significance we run the risk of insisting too much on what we can measure similar to looking for the keys under the lampost.

I prefer to use a flashlight, and look in the most likely spot. Much better than crawling around in the dark.

If I don't have a flashlight, perhaps the headlights from a passing car might help for a while.

If none of the above, the only way is to crawl. Or possibly pray to the gods of Cremona, who apparently could see in the dark.

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Exactly. That's the first step.

If I was looking for my keys in the dark, and they could be anywhere, I'd look under the lampost first. If that didn't produce results, I'd move on to more difficult areas. I wouldn't take the street drain apart as my first step.

In the lamppost joke he knew he lost the keys somewhere else...

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I prefer to use a flashlight, and look in the most likely spot. Much better than crawling around in the dark.

If I don't have a flashlight, perhaps the headlights from a passing car might help for a while.

If none of the above, the only way is to crawl. Or possibly pray to the gods of Cremona, who apparently could see in the dark.

I wouldn't look at all. Lots of people much brighter than I, looked hard and couldn't find the keys.

If time is of importance, I'd skip the car and walk or call a taxi.

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IMHO they will only agree what a good violin is if you gather people with similar musical taste, and for a specific musical passage, you change the passage, change the player and no the long strad with xx strings is the best choice but the DG with xxxx string and x bow is.

That may turn out to be a sticking point.

If so, the next step might be to try to find out if spite of the variances, there are still one or two or five things which violins having general agreement as being pretty good, have in common. And also look for things which none of them have, which show up in lesser violins.

To me, the process would be one of first trying to identify distinctions, and then seeing if any patterns emerge.

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I wouldn't look at all. Lots of people much brighter than I, looked hard and couldn't find the keys.

If time is of importance, I'd skip the car and walk or call a taxi.

If people much brighter than I were willing to continue the search for my keys, I'd tell them to have at it. While they were searching, I'd get back to work.

Hey, one of them might even have the bright idea of telling me to check my pockets. :)

That's kind of what I'm doing with violin research. Who am I to tell them when they should give up? If old methods have failed, they continue to come up with new methods all the time.

As I mentioned before, I'm really grateful to those doing all the varied research. If I was doing it all myself, even just scratching the surface of what they have done, there would be no time to make violins.

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