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This came up in another thread, and I thought it might deserve a little attention of its own.

I've noticed on this forum (and others) what I consider almost obsessive attention to minute details, and have been wondering when does it matter, and when does it not matter.  Where is that 'line'?

I think, if you want to produce a great product, you need to be aware of all these details, but if it ultimately doesn't matter, how much of your time are you going to devote to it?

So...since I don't make violins...but I make other stuff...I am using a knitting example of my own.  I'm surprised at how well knitting compares to violin making...^_^

Quote

 

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I have been a casual knitter for 50 years (OMG! :mellow:). I can knit. My final product looks fine and functions as it should - but on close inspection it lacks that sometimes nebulous quality (because I didn't care enough to bother with the finnicky details) that separate amateur crafting from professional.  I recently decided to up my game and am busy trying to get caught up on a bunch of technique.

I just discovered that I knit "wrong". :mellow:

There are at least 3 common ways to knit. I don't use any of them. 

For 90% of what I do it won't matter - but it will affect the other 10%.

The other day I met an older woman who had studied design. She also knits  "wrong".   She was of the opinion that the internet and an acceptance of a given right and wrong way to craft is going to result in a loss of creativity and variation.

Is she right?

So yes...paying attention is important but realizing when it matters and when it doesn't and why - is also important.

 

So there are actually two questions mashed together:

1.  How much time should you devote to details?

2.  Has the internet (as a discussion/teaching tool) stifled creativity - since it leads to a consensus that there is only 'one' right way to do something?

Edited by Rue

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Nah, the violin world was,is already pretty set on what’s considered good, long before internet, if anything there is more creative development due to much more exposure to new ideas than ever before, Christians bass bar spring to mind ...as well as access to the established ideas of what clasical violins are all about. Of course the down side is there are less regional styles practiced , promoting the top of the list, but with some sorting through one can now make informed choices about the right way and wrong way to hopefully find THE way that works for you.....

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I think that people get way to hung up on the minute details and the notion of right and wrong. People have been doing things in different ways and achieving similar results since we as humans began shaping bones, sticks and stones into tools. I believe that there is a only a wrong way when you cannot create a functional end product. This applies not just to craft but to everything including language usage and raising children. Perhaps it is about the way people act on the internet that stifles creativity more. Everyone's so damn mean to each other. The question of how much time should you devote to details also is difficult because again, it really varies person to person. I can spend far longer on a detail to try and get it perfect when I know colleagues who can do the same thing, better, in way less time. So much like anything else, it's all just a balancing act and knowing yourself.

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Don't confuse wildness with creativity.  Some of the genuine creativity I see on here is concocting some method or tool to execute some fine detail.  One of the hallmarks of quality work is the presence of fine touches that the workman didn't "have" to do; things that the normal outsider would never notice or care about.  The one-right-wayness that forum communities appear to fall into sometimes, true, but that way usually isn't far from wrong :)  But I'm sure you can find a website that encourages whatever you want :D.   Violin makers' first violins are probably infinitely better than they were in the say the '80s.  I think it's due to the avaliability of information, not some stifling influence. 

 

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18 minutes ago, DonCarlos said:

I think that people get way to hung up on the minute details and the notion of right and wrong. People have been doing things in different ways and achieving similar results since we as humans began shaping bones, sticks and stones into tools. I believe that there is a only a wrong way when you cannot create a functional end product. This applies not just to craft but to everything including language usage and raising children. Perhaps it is about the way people act on the internet that stifles creativity more. Everyone's so damn mean to each other. The question of how much time should you devote to details also is difficult because again, it really varies person to person. I can spend far longer on a detail to try and get it perfect when I know colleagues who can do the same thing, better, in way less time. So much like anything else, it's all just a balancing act and knowing yourself.

Nice post Don.

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I think the analogy to knitting is an interesting one (my wife is an avid knitter). One key difference that I see is that almost every knitter I come across is concerned with functionality above all else. The creative side is an aspect, but it’s not the focus. Incidentally, my wife got started knitting because she felt that she wasn’t really a creative person, and following patterns would allow her to make things that she could enjoy as her own without the burden of having to come up with ideas from scratch.

In her view, creativity was what would be stifling, not its opposite. Obviously this is not a universal belief; however I think knitting is more popular than violin making with the general public precisely because creativity is less of a concern. People tend to view violin making as a high art form (understandable when the prices for good instruments are so high).

I tend to believe that great makers are systematic and often quite detailed, but what sets them apart from their peers is not so much their creativity as their ability to appeal to a wide spectrum of players. I think that appeal comes from things that might seem less creative on the surface, like the bridge cut, soundpost tension, fingerboard shape, neck shape, saddle height, string choice, graduations, etc. There are and have been so many “creative” makers and instruments that it’s impossible to keep track, but players at every level choose more conventional ones because in the end they care much less than they or we think about artistic expression than about practicality. Perhaps that would be different if fewer people made their livelihoods with their instruments, but I don’t see that happening with knitting, where there are scarce few strict professionals. 

I just want to add that this is not intended as a polemic against creativity or experimental makers, whose value are often underestimated. What I ultimately want to say is that I think we see creativity subjectively. Many people that we call creative don’t feel that way about their own work.   And I suspect that the most creative people find ways to be creative creatively—I’m not convinced that creativity can be stifled at all, let alone by detail. 

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9 hours ago, Muswell said:

Perfection is the enemy of progressB)

First, don't take my answer personally, you've enunciated a common logical fallacy, something which needs to be disputed, and very strongly. 

That statement may be true, IFF ("If and only if") the "perfection" is imperfect (false data, flawed theories, technically sub-optimum engineering solutions, etc.), and the "progress" in question is both measurably real and desirable within the context in question.  Otherwise, that statement is merely a rhetorically argumentative non-sequitur reducing to the sort of noise which comes from a belligerent young ape beating its chest in frustration at not already being the one at the top of the tree, able to show its posterior to the entire rest of the tribe.  Mere change is not progress.

I have pointed out more than once on this forum that violin-family luthiery (the wood-carving part involving the external appearance) is performed within an artistic canon which was closed centuries ago.  It is a game with rules, like the creation of any copy of an historical original of anything, making an item to a detailed contractual specification, the composition and playing of classical music itself, Olympic sports, chess, or poker.  If you have agreed to play the game, defiance of the rules is not creativity.  Defiance of the rules is cheating, and demonstrates a lack of respect for yourself and for the other participants. 

 

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6 hours ago, Rue said:

1.  How much time should you devote to details?

2.  Has the internet (as a discussion/teaching tool) stifled creativity - since it leads to a consensus that there is only 'one' right way to do something?

1. Details are important, but so is the broad view. The goal is that the sum of all the details will amount to something greater in total. 

2. I think Maestronet in general and the thread you mention in particular are as much proof as you need to show that your concern is unwarranted. There are a lot of smart folks here that don't always agree. I have yet to see anything resembling "consensus" on this forum. 

 

Edit: as to the title "Attention to detail and stifled creativity", I'd point to the artist polymaths of the Italian Renaissance and the Dutch Baroque. 

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

That statement may be true, IFF ("If and only if") the "perfection" is imperfect (false data, flawed theories, technically sub-optimum engineering solutions, etc.), and the "progress" in question is both measurably real and desirable within the context in question

...I think I might make a furtive-but-respectful grab for that second "F". If "perfection" is the act of perfecting rather than the state of being perfect, does it not - in most practical activities - come at the cost of progress (albeit of other things), given its elusive nature?

I don't mean to rustle too many leaves, with my rash tree-climbing, but this is how I have always read statements like that of Muswell: If I don't accept the flaws in my work, I will spend an eternity trying fix them rather than progressing the project as a whole.

Even if you're keeping that "F", I find it fascinating that so few words can be read so differently.

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Is the thread that was mentioned a MN thread on violin making  or from a knitting forum?

6 hours ago, Rue said:

This came up in another thread, and I thought it might deserve a little attention of its own.

I've noticed on this forum (and others) what I consider almost obsessive attention to minute details, and have been wondering when does it matter, and when does it not matter.  Where is that 'line'?

I think, if you want to produce a great product, you need to be aware of all these details, but if it ultimately doesn't matter, how much of your time are you going to devote to it?

So...since I don't make violins...but I make other stuff...I am using a knitting example of my own.  I'm surprised at how well knitting compares to violin making...^_^

So there are actually two questions mashed together:

1.  How much time should you devote to details?

2.  Has the internet (as a discussion/teaching tool) stifled creativity - since it leads to a consensus that there is only 'one' right way to do something?

Is violinmaking comparable to knitting?

 

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24 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

1. Details are important, but so is the broad view. The goal is that the sum of all the details will amount to something greater in total. 

2. I think Maestronet in general and the thread you mention in particular are as much proof as you need to show that your concern is unwarranted. There are a lot of smart folks here that don't always agree. I have yet to see anything resembling "consensus" on this forum. 

Yes

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2 hours ago, Violadamore said:

First, don't take my answer personally, you've enunciated a common logical fallacy, something which needs to be disputed, and very strongly. 

That statement may be true, IFF ("If and only if") the "perfection" is imperfect (false data, flawed theories, technically sub-optimum engineering solutions, etc.), and the "progress" in question is both measurably real and desirable within the context in question.  Otherwise, that statement is merely a rhetorically argumentative non-sequitur reducing to the sort of noise which comes from a belligerent young ape beating its chest in frustration at not already being the one at the top of tree, able to show its posterior to the entire rest of the tribe.  Mere change is not progress.

I have pointed out more than once on this forum that violin-family luthiery (the wood-carving part involving the external appearance) is performed within an artistic canon which was closed centuries ago.  It is a game with rules, like the creation of any copy of an historical original of anything, making an item to a detailed contractual specification, the composition and playing of classical music itself, Olympic sports, chess, or poker.  If you have agreed to play the game, defiance of the rules is not creativity.  Defiance of the rules is cheating, and demonstrates a lack of respect for yourself and for the other participants. 

 

That's an answer to the wrong question :). There's no question about playing to the rules., but how long do you spend on the details when they're not quite perfect and life is moving on. That's what engineers live with and why specialist advisors aren't engineers.

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2 minutes ago, Muswell said:

That's an answer to the wrong question :). There's no question about playing to the rules., but how long do you spend on the details when they're not quite perfect and life is moving on. That's what engineers live with and why specialist advisors aren't engineers.

In engineering (or other licensed professional consulting), once you've satisfied your own conscience, you spend enough effort on it before applying your "nutcracker" to the documents to justify your fee, positively impress any colleagues who might read the material, and avoid litigation.

This ain't engineering, and nobody's life's at stake, so you work to satisfy your own combination of ethics and OCD.  Anyway, my response was to the false platitude you posted.  Consultation time!!  :P:lol:

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Detail is everything. The eye of the expert will go to some parts of the instrument such as  the corners, the scroll (mainly the "eye"), the purfling, archings, etc

The eye of the expert will be looking for orthodoxy, he will try to see if  the instrument follows the  "grammar".

Of course there is space for creativity, but you will see that in small details, with the preservation of the grammar.

Makers have also some limitations such as string length, body length, etc.

You can produce a marvelous sounding violin, it it is not orthodox, players wil refuse to play it.

Violins that do not follow the grammar will be considered ugly.

I will quote the Hills:

"An ugly or even plain instrument, though excellent in tone, is again and again rejected. Many may view this statement with incredulity; it is nevertheless strictly true, and the statement is the outcome of innumerable experiences." (see the chapter on varnish on the book about Stradivari).

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I think that a well educated maker, if he makes his own instruments, and decides not to copy, will eventually find that a personal style developes. The little details that make his work recognisable will just arise naturally from the way he works, and the way his eye sees. These little quirks might take a great deal of time for another to copy, but for the maker himself they just happen. If creativity is measured by the individuality of the work, then it's probably not been fussed over too much at all.

Lots of makers over the years have come up with odd ways of doing things in an effort to make their instruments stand out. Usually, they do stand out, and for the wrong reasons. Innovations in style invariably look contrived.

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At what distance should these little different details be recognizable?

Are we talking about using a magnifying glass, using reading glasses at a foot away, arm's length, on a table, across the room, the back of a music hall or across the parking lot like mine?

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As far as detail goes ,strongly agree with the above sentiments.thouout my personal experience all the best craftsmen I’ve ever known and that’s quite a few, have all spoken of the de tails ....that’s what sets them apart from the heard, detail has been driven in from every approach and the very idea of violin has very specific rules and is about details....the more The merrier..it would seem... Now that’s not license to spend ones life perusing one or two”perfect” fiddles,,or to enslavishly copy, there’s degrees of freedom at each level of the build as well ... gotta have some brevity ...from splitting out blocks to final set up, it,s a whole lot of details all cleverly bound into one.

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19 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

At what distance should these little different details be recognizable?

Are we talking about using a magnifying glass, using reading glasses at a foot away, arm's length, on a table, across the room, the back of a music hall or across the parking lot like mine?

42

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