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Don Noon

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Yup, an ever-present danger in our business. Self-seduction. And I could use some more appropriately direct and descriptive off-color terms, if I wasn't so polite and refined. :lol:

 

This is a temptation in science, as well, especially in experimental design.  In instruments, I find it pretty easy to make some change or other, hear that change, and jump to the conclusion that it is an "improvement."  At the moment, one of my many projects is to make an evaluation checklist and then maybe a derived chart of tone and response etc characteristics with sufficient descriptors that I can isolate a range of characteristics to see where things start to clump.  An issue is getting enough "n" to show a pattern, something the researchers on MNet are doing better than I ever anticipated, with useful and interesting results.

 

Managing the baseline is difficult, too.  I think Simeon Chambers did well to select wood and have Chinese makers repeat the same arching with different graduation using approximately equivalent wood until he got what he liked.  It's a bit of a bulk approach, but that's what it takes sometimes.

 

Regardless, the process is as fascinating as anything I've seen in science and provides endless challenge and opportunity.

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Yup, an ever-present danger in our business. Self-seduction. And I could use some more appropriately direct and descriptive off-color terms, if I wasn't so polite and refined. :lol:

Great point about self-seduction. That is an easy trap to fall in. I am embarrassed to admit all of the dead-ends I've been down thinking that I (finally) knew the answer.  :rolleyes:

 

It's important to step back and look at the bigger picture with all of the evidence. 

 

An evil spawn of self-seduction is proselytizing, namely trying to convert others to one's new found religion.

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In the wine industry the effect is called "cellar blindness" which means if you drink enough of your own wine it will eventually start to taste good.

 

Interesting parallel.  

 

I know I fall into that trap (the violin version) when I string up a newly made violin.  I play it a lot, trying to listen to everything it's doing.  And, in playing it a lot, my ears and fingers get tuned in to it, so that if I pick up any other fiddle and play, it just doesn't sound or play "right".  Therefore, the new one must be better, or so the immediate impression would be.  I usually find that this halo effect wears off slowly after a few weeks or months, and sometimes the response plots and other tests can help making more objective evaluations before the effects wear off.  Of course, having a good, unbiased, honest player on hand would be better, but I don't have that.

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 Of course, having a good, unbiased, honest player on hand would be better, but I don't have that.

 

Even that can be deceiving.

A player can either like or not like your instruments, depending on his or her playing intricacies and peculiarities - his or her particular likes and dislikes...

I know this, because of the positive side of the problem... a fiddler that really liked my fiddles, and bought a couple of them - would come over and play for my wife and I, for some hours - some times... he loved them, and would play the most incredible music for us on them.

 

But... and this is important thing to consider - I had two concert violinists that would play them, and critique them, who were not very supportive of the tone of my violins.

It wasn't what they were looking for, and it wasn't "like" their valuable old historical instruments. Their critique was valid and important to me, because I felt that I understood their viewpoint, and exactly what it was they were looking for.

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Two summers ago, I had a fiddler try a violin I have for sale - which is a pretty nice violin all told...(just not great for position playing).  And the guy sitting beside me also had the fiddler try his personal VSO (which the guy had souped up...and which I thought sounded just awful).  The fiddle player (who was pretty good!) preferred the VSO.

 

I'm assuming there's a sound quality that fiddlers might prefer?

 

In other words...what I think sounds awful...isn't awful from their POV.

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Two summers ago, I had a fiddler try a violin I have for sale - which is a pretty nice violin all told...(just not great for position playing).  And the guy sitting beside me also had the fiddler try his personal VSO (which the guy had souped up...and which I thought sounded just awful).  The fiddle player (who was pretty good!) preferred the VSO.

 

I'm assuming there's a sound quality that fiddlers might prefer?

 

In other words...what I think sounds awful...isn't awful from their POV.

 

The (few) fiddlers that I know all play steel strings.  Did your violin have steel strings on?  They usually want something somewhat bright and easy to bow.

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Scientifically speaking, there is no one preferred "tone". Even if "some" people think there is.

 

Yes, this is pretty close to what I've found.

 

And just for the fun of it  - I only use Dominants for the strings that I; like, play, and sell the violins with.

They (my violins) are set up for classical players, as far as bridge height and all the rest of the setup goes.

 

But fiddle players tend to like them... more than classical players, (I find) and, they (the fiddle players, that is) often ask to have the bridge 'fixed' meaning, brought down, so that the strings are very close to the fingerboard, and the "arc" of the bridge - that curve on which the strings lay - is shallow... less curved.

They very often like to play many double stops. And, the violins play just as well, set up that way.

Steel strings? 

I don't like them much - but that is just a personal preference.

Competitions usually have both a steel and gut string division. And the difference is not so great as most would think. Having to judge either is an interesting experience. The steel string division isn't like all of a sudden you're hearing a less viable sort of violin (or fiddle)...

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So what are the tone judges looking for?  There must be "some" criteria for gold-medal worthy tone.

 

That's also why most competitions have more than one judge...

And why a high score usually continues on throughout most judging.

 

An outrageously good tone is difficult to hide, in my opinion.

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OK, so having lots of good players' opinions is the ideal... but one is better than none.

 

I'll surely agree with that.  

 

But I also think it's valuable to use our own products as much as possible -- the 'Eat Your Own Dog Food' idea from program developers.  The point is to be thoroughly intimate with the instruments we build.  The more we can personally experience and know what we've made the better.  

 

However, this does not replace getting reactions from players who represent your ideal customer.  Reactions from anyone, yourself or others, should be taken seriously, but with perspective.  A country fiddler, an orchestra section player, a classical soloist, a classical college student, a young student, the young student's teacher, and the young student's parents are all going to seek and see different things in an instrument.  All deserve some attention, but it's also good to exercise choice and steer toward the comments and reactions that will help you make the instruments you choose for the market you choose.

 

Another thing is that player reactions are not always straight forwardly expressed. Some will readily say what they like, but will find it difficult to articulate what they don't like.   In a real sense, that negative feed back is the most valuable.  So I also try to listen to what they don't say, etc.

 

 

 

Two summers ago, I had a fiddler try a violin I have for sale - which is a pretty nice violin all told...(just not great for position playing).  And the guy sitting beside me also had the fiddler try his personal VSO (which the guy had souped up...and which I thought sounded just awful).  The fiddle player (who was pretty good!) preferred the VSO.

 

I'm assuming there's a sound quality that fiddlers might prefer?

 

In other words...what I think sounds awful...isn't awful from their POV.

 

Scientifically speaking, there is no one preferred "tone". Even if "some" people think there is.

 

Different violins for different folks.   While there are some 'fiddlers' that prefer an Old Italian, I don't think that represents the norm.   It is certainly possible for some communities and some individuals to prefer a harder, tighter, brighter, louder sound, and not place so much value on the warm and dark potentials of sound -- as just a simple contrast of preference.    In that sense, fiddlers probably have a different ideal violin.   I don't believe that community is particularly driving the focus on or valuation of Old Italian instruments. 

 

Likewise, when people give feed back, it will drive toward the kind of instrument they favor.  A player with the skills and interest in drawing many kinds of sound from a violin will like the instrument that helps them freely draw that range of color.   Another player with perhaps less ability/interest in shaping different colors of sound might be more inclined toward an instrument that sort of 'auto pilots' to their preferred basic color.  Similarly, one player might hear 'power' as an open and carrying quality in pianissimo and fortissimo.  But another player might hear 'power' as a ready brightness under the ear.  Etc.

 

Quality with violins is not a simple one dimensional target.  Nor is it 'one size fits all'.

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