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VMAAI competition 2012

Don Noon

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Coming up next week. I know Mike Molnar is going, and I'll be there too. I really enjoy the listening tests where you get to hear everything played. It's hard to get that opportunity without living in a busy shop. Any other MN'ers planning to go?

I'll post results and any other items of interest here next week.

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I'll bring along the Tascam digital recorder I got recently. lt's decent, I guess... especially compared to what I had before.

Hopefully I can figure out how to set it so I can record the whole session without running out of space or batteries, and I'll definitely try to get the entire Bob Wallace competition (playoff for the top 10 in tone) .

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Yes, I will be there and at the VSA. I just brought in my car for a checkup before the long drive to Cleveland.

Did you get the CD with the 2006 and 2007 VSA Proceedings? I put them on my Kindle Fire and found that I can read them by holding the Kindle horizontally. This gives for me the widest view for reading. The photos come out wonderfully because they are backlit.

BTW, I notice that my spell checker does not work any longer on Maestronot. :) Anyone else experience that?

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  • 2 weeks later...

It was nice meeting up with Mike Molnar again, and Selim showed up too.

For me, one of the most important parts of this competition is being able to hear all the violins played, and see how your own evaluation compares to what the judges think. If you don't look at what is being played, it is a reasonable blind test.

In the first round of gut string violin tone, I picked 4 (out of 33) that I thought sounded better than the others. One was my #9, and one was first in the judges' scoring (my #9 was fourth with the judges). The other two that I though were good didn't make the top 10. My #10 violin that I will enter at VSA I thought sounded somewhat poor, but the judges's scoring had it exactly tied with my #9.

Selim's violins (he entered 2) had a very distinctive G string. After hearing the first one, I was able to easily identify its brother by G string tone alone.

In the first round of steel string competition, I again picked 4 (out of 20) that I thought were much better than the others. 3 of them were mine: #8, #7, and the "ugly duckling". The judges scored #8 and #7 fairly well, but the ugly duckling and that fourth fiddle I liked didn't make the top 10. The scoring in the first round was very close, but the second and third round my #8 scored well above the others, and took first place in final tone of the steel string division. By the way, #8 is also known as the "high-Q fiddle", which is documented here: http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/324840-the-high-q-fiddle/

As I said at the beginning, the value for me is not winning awards (although that's OK too), but learning things. There is too much uncertainty in the tone evaluation process, so exact standings really don't mean much. However, I think it works fine for separating very good from very bad... in terms of what classical violinists want to hear.

What I think I found out:

- High radiation ratio isn't of overriding importance. My best sounding fiddle (in both judges' scores and my ears) had by far the lowest radiation ratio of anything I entered.

- My ears are tuned to my fiddles, in general. Judges (and any other non-me person) may hear differently.

- In the top 6 tone scoring instruments, there were tops of Sitka, Engelmann, and Italian spruce... and maybe something else. Make of that what you will.

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Hi Don,

Thanks for the report and I'm sorry that your instruments didn't score better than you may have wished. It sounds like a reasonably objective assessment on your part though, and ultimately a useful event of have been a part of.

I'm a little surprised to hear of the poor performance of the one with the high radiation ratio which I had been privately rooting for. I wish I could have attended, I have only been once. It's a long hike from here!

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Here is a distilled list of the great workshop talks and demos we had at the VMAAI.


Elon Howe – F-Hole Design. A nice explanation of Elon’s examination of the violin geometry based on classical Greek design theory.

Tom Carlson – Proportional Relationships: Re-occurring ratios found while laying out and improving fiddles.

Pablo Alfaro – Violin Peg Box Repair with a Carbon Fiber Ring: How to make and insert a carbon fiber ring inside a cracked pegbox. When done, the repair is essentially invisible. Way Cool!

Homer Hollensbe – Selecting Wood: Measuring the density to find the right tonewood.

Don Noon – Practical Acoustics I & II: A tour de force of how Don measures speed of sound, radiation ratio, and damping with a nice review of his results. Don’s steel string fiddle took first prize, so I guess, he knows what he is doing. I learned a lot from these two talks.

Kruno Kupresanin – Business Strategy: The issues a luthier encounters in setting up his/her own business such as getting paid, avoiding commissions, finding customers, and reducing expenses.

Peter White – Purfling Demo: A demo of how to make bee-stings and lay a purfling channel with a wonderful review of the recent Strad article on Stradivari’s corners. Very informative!

Chris Germain – Critiquing Workmanship: How Chris judges the workmanship of a violin. Immensely helpful for all of us.


I hope this answers the question about the usefulness of attending the VMAAI. This was a great experience and I look forward to next year.


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