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How objective is projection?


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How objective is projection?

Of course that some instruments project more than others, but its evaluation seems to be a bit subjective too.

I've seen tests in wich a cigar box projected as well as a fine instrument, perhaps because of the player's ability to make the instruments sound and project (of course the player was having a bad time playing the bad instrument). So, perhaps projection is not dependant only on the instrument, but also on the player.

The other problem is that the musician can't play and listen to the instrument at the same time (ubiquity is still impossible in the present state of the art), so he will have to have another player to assess projection.

It seems also that projection will depend on the room,  I remember Uto Ughi testing his Strad and Del Gesù prior to play a concert to decide which one he was going to play, and he decided that alone.  At that time he did that in every room he was going to play.

If I am not wrong, Melvin mentioned here that Vengerov was not able to make del Gesú's Cannon/Paganini project in a recital some years ago.

I also remember Roberto Dias playing about 30 or more violas in the Viola Congress in Cincinnatti and he made all of them sound about the same.

On the other hand most of the top players I've met made no point about the necessity of the  "concert room test".

It is said that the best way to evaluate projection is putting the instrument in competition with a piano or other instruments, but that is rarely done in such tests.

So, how objetive is projection?

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Just thinking out loud.  Decibels could easily be measured.  For a soloist competing with an orchestra, having a different sound so that the individual instrument can be distinguished from the rest of the orchestra by the listener would be perceived as having good projection whether or not it is actually louder at the back of the hall.  I guess that would make two aspects of projection, actual and perceived.


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1 hour ago, Michael.N. said:

It's simple. The greater the price tag that the violin carries the better it projects. Why complicate things with alternative facts?


Not necessarily. :P  I do feel that projection is closely related to planform used.  While most of my playing violins are deep-arched Amati or Stainer knock-offs, when I have to slice through booming organ accompaniment I use a low-arched Strad copy that projects much more powerfully.  I established what can do what by having a friend play my instrument while I listened from a distance in the venue to be used. :)

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Some evaluations cannot be more objective than the spokesman is, regarding their opinions about sound preference. No two people ever "hear" exactly the same thing, just as no two different people 'want' or 'like' exactly the same thing.  These differences are subjective, and will not ever give up their "secrets"  because there is no real "best sound" (projection included)  that will disclose a preference as if it were an incontrovertible fact.

What players want, they get. (meaning they will acquire) And what audiences like, they like. (or dislike).

An instrument (any instrument) is usually dependant on the musicians ability to extract exactly what he or she wants to extract from it - if you, an expert accomplished and able viola maker, cannot tell what makes an instrument better or worse, projection wise, then, perhaps such a question as this is fairly superfluous. 

What you like, you like.

It reminds me of the time that Jascha H told me (absolutely a true story) that, depending on which location he happened to be in - and what the climate was like - would always determine exactly which violin he would choose to play...

The magic was in the man ; more than in the instrument

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Just some random thoughts from attending concerts, listening to interviews and recording myself...

Some soloists seem to think that if their instrument can be played LOUD and SCREECHY, then they can project the sound. I bet most people who listen to a lot of contemporary artists can name one or two who subscribe to this idea.

There is solid psycho-acoustic science to support this, but ultimately the music just sounds loud and screechy, especially if one is sitting closer rather than further from the player. At some distance, enough of the high frequency dies off to get a brilliant tone, but eventually it decays to a barely audible whistle in the dark corners of the hall.

On the other side of the spectrum seems to be players who prefer violins that are LOUD and SONOROUS/BRILLIANT at close distances. The projection problem is then solved through the use of vibrato and tone variation (like sliding the bow in a controlled manner along the length of the string). Again, psycho-acoustic science tells us that the ears have incredible power to recognize rapid variations in tone. I have heard some moving performances from a distance where the ability to execute a wide range of vibrato and tonal changes made the music float though the hall.

If the question you are asking is how do PLAYERS judge projection so you can sell more instruments, then you might benefit from attending a course in salesmanship. From my long experience in the non-violin world, an quality product also requires smart packaging. Selling someone something that will give them real benefit frequently requires selling them what they think they want.


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I think it's important to clarify the terms a bit.

Obviously different instruments are loud or quiet. As VdA states, flatter arched violins tend to be louder.

The issue of "projection" is whether or not this relates to audibility at a distance or audibility in context (orchestra, recital etc). People who extol the "almost supernatural powers of projection" of some Cremonese instruments do so on the basis that this doesn't correspond to volume under the ear or decibel levels.

Christian and I were at the same blind testing in Paris where we listened to about 20 instruments in a hall with an orchestra. I suspect he heard greater differences than I did - in general I felt that the differences were marginal and not important in any other context than a blind testing session.

I am regularly involved in "shoot-outs' where professional orchestral players (not soloists) meet up in a hall with a bunch of violins and a player colleague/friend to see whether the sound carries at a distance. This is always done unaccompanied, and with the wrong person playing the violin or judging it. Such an exercise seems pointless and misguided.

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I'm inclined to agree with the sentiment put forth by a number of you here - that there is no objective solution to the issue of projection. It's a factor of decibels; a factor of overtone profile; a factor of player opinion, listener opinion; a factor of player technique (maybe the most critical, in my view). It's all of these things and more, like the persuasive powers of the luthier/dealer and, cynically, the price tag. A perfect storm, if ever there was one!

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When I play my electric guitar and jam with buds, sometimes, no matter how loud I turn my amp up, which is a 100w Marshall tube amp, I can't seem to cut through and be heard. Other times, I can leave the master volume on 1 or 2 and cut through just fine.  It's not a factor of decibels, per se, but a matter of frequency mixing. The right frequencies and overtones needs to be produced in order to be heard in a mix. 

Take my anecdotal evidence with a GOS. 

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This is absolutely right.

The tiniest sprinkling of 1.2kHz will make a vocal protrude from a mix. I'm sure the same principle applies with a violin in a concerto setting.

With a quartet or small chamber group, I think it's probably more important for each instrument to have a distinctive character, rather than "projection" per se.

For most jobbing musicians, I would think that bags of projection is exactly what they should avoid in an instrument. It does constantly amaze me how everyone goes shopping for a "soloist" violin even when it's going to make their life impossible. I recently had a session with the 2nd concertmaster of a rather good German radio orchestra who came over specifically looking for a violin that would allow him to blend. But when it came to trying violins, he just couldn't help but favour the big sound. It was quite odd to watch him trying to remind himself what he was meant to be looking for.


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IMHO, "projection" isn't just loud.  As someone pointed out in a previous thread, you can get loud quite easily by abuse of soundpost placement, but it usually sounds like crap.  To me, projection is a quality of sounding good and being clearly and easily heard to the limits of a hall.  It's also quite real. :)

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2 hours ago, Violadamore said:

To me, projection is a quality of sounding good and being clearly and easily heard to the limits of a hall.  It's also quite real. :)

I'd definitely agree with this, and add my unproven opinion that acoustically it has a lot to do with the fullness of the overtones, and not as much to do with amplitude.  There is just so much amplitude that you can get, but getting more of the overtones working for you is almost free power.  Although objectively determining projection from a response plot may be theoretically possible, it's not something that would be easy to prove.  I do believe that if there are broad dips in the response curve of an instrument, particularly above 1 kHz, you'd be losing projection.  

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11 hours ago, Violadamore said:

One other thing, IMHO, a better-projecting violin needs less bow.  Could you somehow measure the bow-stroke for a given output heard?

That would sound like a good plan, except that a slower bow stroke can itself increase the perception of projection.

Which came first, the chicken......

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