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I would like to ask what is happening, scientifically, when "playing in" a violin.

I have recently been given an old violin which had sat in a drawer for over 20 years, unplayed. Initially it sounded nasal and tight. I have been gradually breaking it in using various techniques, as follows -

1. Extensive use of scales in double stops, emphasising 4ths, 5ths, 8-ves.

2. Use of thirds, sixths, tenths, to generate "Tartini tones", also using minor 2nd and major 7ths to induce vibrational "pulsing"

3. Single note chromatic scales, using slow bows, playing as close to the bridge as possible, with as much bow pressure as possible.

4. Normal playing of regular repertoire, hours daily.

Since beginning this process a few days ago, I have noticed a distinct "opening up" of the sound. Several notes already "ring" better. This is anecdotal, however; I'm curious to know what is happening on a cellular level, and why.

--Are there micro-stresses or fractures happening in the wood? Creep? Settling in under newly strung setup?

--Are the vibrations generating heat within the wood cells resulting in change?

--Is breath generating a sort of mini humidity cycling?

Thanks for any insights.

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i think the opening up is caused by the wood becoming more flexible, and better able to resonate, wood does best what its used to doing, if its used to vibrating it resonates more, if its used to just sitting, it doesnt vibrate as easily

kind of like a jogger that runs 4 miles every day, its not that hard for him to get up and run 4 miles, but someone that hasnt run for a year, to get up and run 4 miles could be very hard

all through nature we see things that move and bend easier the more they are used, i suspect wood works much the same way.

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http://www.nytimes.c...ns-improve.html

"Researchers in England say that laboratory tests conducted on wood commonly used to make violins supports age-old claims by musicians that the regular playing of a stringed instrument improves its tone.

Dr. David G. Hunt of the School of Engineering Systems and Design at South Bank University in London says his studies with pieces of spruce show that continuous forced vibrations similar to those experienced with regular use of a musical instrument changes the nature of the wood.

In a letter published in the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Hunt and a graduate student, Emmanuel Balsan, said that wood vibrated in conditions of high humidity increased in stiffness and saw a decrease in dampening coefficient, a measure of cycles of vibrations emanating from the material. Both factors are known to help provide more pleasant tones in spruce, mature pine and other woods used in instrument sounding boards, experts say."

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Like many violinists, I've wondered about this too. I have one instrument that I use only in the winter (the varnish doesn't like summer heat). This year when I first took it out, it sounded dreadful--now it is outstanding. I find it hard to believe that it's all in my head.

Back in the 60's, I participated in a week of Master Classes with Joseph Szigeti. One very competent professional violinist with whom I was sitting pointed out to me that each time Szigeti borrowed one of the student's violins when he passed it back, for a second or two the student had Szigeti's distinctive sound. She attributed it to the violin and the fact that Szigeti had just played it. I thought I could hear it too. But I'm no longer sure.

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http://www.nytimes.c...ns-improve.html

In a letter published in the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Hunt and a graduate student, Emmanuel Balsan, said that wood vibrated in conditions of high humidity increased in stiffness and saw a decrease in dampening coefficient, a measure of cycles of vibrations emanating from the material. Both factors are known to help provide more pleasant tones in spruce, mature pine and other woods used in instrument sounding boards, experts say."

I think the study was sponsored by the UWSO ( Under Water Symph Orch ). As to "increase stiffness and decrease in dampening"..."help provide more pleasant tones" that's the basis for the delusion "musical wood musical violin makes" , an affliction reported since times immemorial.

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I think adaptation to a new instrument is an important factor. Mot happen in the head of the performer.

Then there are some creep in arching which may have an influence on the sound. But playing by itself probably does not have an effect on the instruments sound. This is, in my opinion, a myth.

Hi,

The critical question is: "how does the violin plate resonate with the note being played?" The answer to the question lies in the internal structure of the spruce (or other species used) If you can visualise the internal structure of the cell, especially the construction of the cell walls you will see that vibrations alter them. Perhaps study with electron microscope would prove it?

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its also quite possible some researchers have trouble hearing noticeable differences in sound because they have no scientific explanation for them, that and ear wax!!

when i take an instrument ive had strung up but hasnt been played for years, then loan it to a performer to play for a week, the difference in sound and volume after one week of playing can be so huge, youd almost have to be tone deaf not to notice it, not that tone deaf people dont deserve to have opinions too, just not ones about sound qualities.......

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Jack Fry's explanation of the breaking in phenomenon was the in the lowering of dampening through micro cracking of the varnish from the vibrations.

Being a super cooled liquid, the varnish would slowly heal the cracks during a period of disuse necessitating another breaking in.

I remember him trying to achieve the micro cracking effect through massive doses of X ray radiation at the local hospital, I believe successfully.

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Jack Fry's explanation of the breaking in phenomenon was the in the lowering of dampening through micro cracking of the varnish from the vibrations.

Being a super cooled liquid, the varnish would slowly heal the cracks during a period of disuse necessitating another breaking in.

I remember him trying to achieve the micro cracking effect through massive doses of X ray radiation at the local hospital, I believe successfully.

How do X rays crack varnish ?

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I would like to ask what is happening, scientifically, when "playing in" a violin.

Good question, and I don't have anything close to a definitive answer yet.

Something certainly happens, when violins are strung up after being made, restored, or not being under string tension for a while. People are in pretty good agreement on that, but not so much in agreement on the reason, and if the reason needs to involve playing or vibration.

Specific to the isolated playing component, a neurosugeon I knew (also a violinist) claimed that the player "plays in" more than the violin. In other words, it's more likely that a player learns how to get the most out of the instrument, than it is that the violin learns how to play.

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its also quite possible some researchers have trouble hearing noticeable differences in sound because they have no scientific explanation for them, that and ear wax!!

when i take an instrument ive had strung up but been played for years, then loan it to a performer to play for a week, the difference in sound and volume after one week of playing can be so huge, youd almost have to be tone deaf not to notice it, not that tone deaf people dont deserve to have opinions too, just not ones about sound qualities.......

What are you trying to say here? Your writing makes no sense

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its also quite possible some researchers have trouble hearing noticeable differences in sound because they have no scientific explanation for them, that and ear wax!!

when i take an instrument ive had strung up but hasnt been played for years, then loan it to a performer to play for a week, the difference in sound and volume after one week of playing can be so huge, youd almost have to be tone deaf not to notice it, not that tone deaf people dont deserve to have opinions too, just not ones about sound qualities.......

sorry melvin, typo error, what i meant to say is when i take a violin that HASNT been played for years, the difference in volume and tone from a week of playing is very noticeable, i hope that is not hard for you to understand

anders made the comment that the concept of violins improving when they are played in was a myth, and i speculated one of the reasons he thought it was a myth was because he couldnt explain it, or possibly hear it

my third job was working at a small speaker store selling, building and designing stereo speakers, my experience taught me that most people dont have very good ears and will consistently choose a worse sounding speaker just because it has more volume, or bass, or highs etc, a very best sounding(for acoustic music) audiophile speaker was also about our worst selling model, never underestimate the potential of most listeners to not hear the difference between good and bad sound

the problem comes when the people with "bad" ears are designing the speakers, or making the judgements about violins, hence the problems i pointed out with A/B listening comparisons, if we assume, as i do, that most people dont have good ears, then all listening tests are skewed to less qualified listeners opinions, etc

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Good question, and I don't have anything close to a definitive answer yet.

Something certainly happens, when violins are strung up after being made, restored, or not being under string tension for a while. People are in pretty good agreement on that, but not so much in agreement on the reason, and if the reason needs to involve playing or vibration.

Specific to the isolated playing component, a neurosugeon I knew claimed that the player "plays in" more than the violin. In other words, it's more likely that a player learns how to get the most out of the instrument, than it is that the violin learns how to play.

And the fact that one gets the result by simply placing the violin in front of a speaker did not dampen his spirits ?

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...despite the fact that they don't even discolor the paint on the film cartridges.

I said massive doses and we are talking about violin varnish not baked enamel.

I think one could similarly get quite a craquele by leaving their instrument too close to the ultraviolet light bulb

in their drying cabinet for an extended time but Fry was talking about microscopic cracks invisible to the naked eye.

The paint on those film cartridges could be badly microcracked .

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It is painfully obvious that nobody has been able to prove rigorously that anything happens at all. It is all anecdotal and conjecture... the first indication that there might not be anything real. I have tried many times to look for response spectrum differences before and after hard playing, and so far turned up nothing.

However, there is also some reasonable basis in physics and materials to believe that something might be going on in the way of lowered damping or possibly lowered crossgrain stiffness (increased stiffness due to vibration is not likely, IMHO). Hopefully I can get around to proving something (or nothing) with a high-powered bridge driver when I get around to making it.

Current opinion, for what it's worth: most of the change is in the player or listener, or settling-in of the static stresses of a newly strung (or re-strung) instrument.

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don, your opinion might be your current opinion, but its hardly the current opinion of the violin world in general, possibly of researchers, but certainly not the players

to add to what i said about most people having "bad" ears, musicians as a whole tended to do much better in listening tests than non musicians, at least for picking loudspeakers....

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And the fact that one gets the result by simply placing the violin in front of a speaker did not dampen his spirits ?

Maybe that happens, maybe it doesn't. We can observe and document changes over time, independent from vibration, but it's looking a lot more challenging to observe changes from vibration, independent from elapsed time.

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