Quadibloc

How Do You Make a Violin More Responsive, More Expressive?

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After making my previous post on this thread, upon further reflection, I think I have found my problem.

Evidently, I seem to believe that the limited supply of Stradivarius violins and the like is seriously impairing the production of concert soloists. And this, no doubt, is a problem because the current Five-Year Plan requires that there be at least a string quartet in every oblast, so as to show our glorious free-enterprise system is raising the cultural level of the masses!

But since it is the glory of the free enterprise system that is being sought, one might pause to ask a question: is the demand for classical music exceeding its supply?

Once I ask that question, it becomes clear that the high prices of Stradivarius violins are merely the market's way of telling would-be concert soloists to do something more productive with their lives.

Some people have an inner child; I seem to have an inner Soviet bureaucrat I need to deal with.

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39 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

After making my previous post on this thread, upon further reflection, I think I have found my problem.

Evidently, I seem to believe that the limited supply of Stradivarius violins and the like is seriously impairing the production of concert soloists. And this, no doubt, is a problem because the current Five-Year Plan requires that there be at least a string quartet in every oblast, so as to show our glorious free-enterprise system is raising the cultural level of the masses!

But since it is the glory of the free enterprise system that is being sought, one might pause to ask a question: is the demand for classical music exceeding its supply?

Once I ask that question, it becomes clear that the high prices of Stradivarius violins are merely the market's way of telling would-be concert soloists to do something more productive with their lives.

Some people have an inner child; I seem to have an inner Soviet bureaucrat I need to deal with.

The idea that you need a Strad for a solo career is plainly false, though it is often repeated, including by a small minority of those who should know better. Curiously, the supply and demand of Del Gesus seems more out of balance than that of Strads, although you have not expressed an interest in Del Gesus. No doubt some of the Strads are among the best violins you can find for whatever reasons.

Just to prod the question of expressiveness a bit more, how can a violinist make his or her playing more expressive (given a violin and bow of reasonable quality)?

Who is your favourite violinist? Do you prefer the legendary players of the generations covered by the Art of Violin documentary, or contemporary players? Thinking over those quesitons may be illuminating and interesting. 

 

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50 minutes ago, John_London said:

Curiously, the supply and demand of Del Gesus seems more out of balance than that of Strads, although you have not expressed an interest in Del Gesus.

That, at least, is an easy enough question to answer. To the extent that "old" instruments are preferred to "new" instruments, I'm interested in what makes all the "old" instruments special - a del Gesu and a Guadagnini as well as a Stradivari.

As to the kind of music I personally listen to for enjoyment, well, no answer is to be found there. While many violins are used to produce that music, generally there's not a Stradivarius to be found in the bunch.

Think of, oh, "A Summer Place" by Percy Faith and his orchestra, or the sound tracks of Star Wars and the Star Trek movies and the James Bond movies...

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Quad, the old instruments that are special have been very, very well cared for, and well-repaired, and played well. I have played a half dozen Strads that did not play or project well-- that, beyond their obvious aesthetic beauty, and value as examples of a great career-- weren't in any shape to compete with decent new making. I think you can look at the modern makers that become important to a community of players, and are taken to fine shops with masters of setup and restoration for their upkeep and repair, and also see the special examples cracking eggs on important solo stages across the world.

Sam z said something like 'great new always beats mediocre old.'

Another wrench in the pudding is the fact that the fine Strads are often too much machine for a violinist of my caliber. bow point, pressure, and bow speed are SENSITIVE, and a feeling of almost-glory can come over me as I notice the fiddle trying to give more than my technique can utilize. I have played an Antoine Nedelec, a Ryan Soltis, and a few Andy Ryan Strad model modern violins that also take me to the same place. there is a reason we copy basic dimensions of the makers that have achieved violins worth keeping special. Strad is actually notable for his prolific output-- they aren't scarce, as almost any other maker is. He was an amazing maker. But we have had more than a few of those hanging around now, and in the intervening years...

 

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26 minutes ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

a Ryan Soltis, and a few Andy Ryan

For a minute there, I thought: isn't this a name I'd heard before?

Indeed, it was, but Andy Soltis is famous for something quite different from making violins.

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On 7/7/2018 at 5:42 PM, Evan Smith said:

Actually Insanely busy, at that moment I was waiting for varnish to set for another coat,,,, and glue to dry,,and taking a break from a project that a friend had for an insane last minute, working all nite 4th of July float,, I ended up not feeling well at all and not eating anything for 5 days,,,,,,

,Wow I feel great now,, at least 30 years younger!

Joints are smooth again, all of that old man stiffness is GONE!

Not kidding one bit, if you have never done a water fast,, they are great,, I'm just too stupid to do it a bit more often,,, God knows I needed it and I was forced into it! After so many days of not eating I decided to go ahead,, the first two days are the hardest,, it really a science and needs to be studied a bit but it is fantastic,,the brain gets very sharp, you grow new neural networks the memory greatly improves ect,,, probably not if you are really unhealthy with lots of garbage clogging up the body,,, I'm not,,, so I have results fairly fast,,, pun intended,,,

Have a good one Dwight!

Evan very thankful!

I am sorry you have been feeling bad. the essay was very educational. I hope to see you in Tuscon.

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On 7/6/2018 at 9:14 AM, David Beard said:

The only people fiddle quality actually matters to are the few who PLAY VERY WELL and are DEEPLY DISSATISFIED  by ALMOST EVERY FIDDLE they try.  If that isn't you, then you have no need or use for better quality violins.   If that is you, then the few fiddles that are a deep pleasure to play are going to seem very special to you.  No matter their provenance.

Well, I don't plan to run out and buy one, even if it's only $3,000 instead of $1,000,000.

But I don't need to be one of those people to be concerned about those people, to be concerned that their needs are being met.

Because people like that are more valuable than a Stradivarius: they, and the music they give us, are what makes such violins useful and important.

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I also wonder if one can truly hear all the "expressiveness/tonal resources/voices", or it's a bit of the stories that get told to justify the price tag and continue the mythos.

As an analogy, my wife and I were picking out wall paint and the amounts of cream/pale yellow/off white with a warm hue were astounding. I'm still not sure I see all the differences, but when the chips were laid next to each other, I could see some of the differences but they were still so tiny. Never having played a Strad nor having a good enough ear to hear perhaps, I still wonder if these expressive differences/voices are also so subtle as to require direct comparison to really appreciate.

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If she sees a difference and you're color blind, does her difference not matter?

 

Again, if a fine player experiences a difference in using the instrument, it doesn't matter if the audience directly hears a difference. The player experience remains the actual point. And if 9 other players don't get the same kick using that instrument, that again doesn't matter to the one player who does.  

The issue is entirely about how significant that advantage is to that player who does experience and care about it.  If playing is their life, such a difference might be very meaningful to them.

What some other individual doesn't experience (including you perhaps), is entirely irrelevant.

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14 minutes ago, David Beard said:

If she sees a difference and you're color blind, does her difference not matter?

 

Again, if a fine player experiences a difference in using the instrument, it doesn't matter if the audience directly hears a difference. The player experience remains the actual point. And if 9 other players don't get the same kick using that instrument, that again doesn't matter to the one player who does.  

The issue is entirely about how significant that advantage is to that player who does experience and care about it.  If playing is their life, such a difference might be very meaningful to them.

What some other individual doesn't experience (including you perhaps), is entirely irrelevant.

That is part of the issue/myth.

When the audience is told about the "magic" of a Big Name violin they expect to hear it during a performance.

But what the hear is the talent of the performer.

Only s/he gets to hear all that subtle magic - maybe - in a hall backed with whatever accompaniment and random extraneous noises.

But the audience doesn't want to know that because they want to think they hear the "magic" too.

And - yes - establishing a relationship with one's instrument is very important. Having confidence in your equipment translates into performance confidence.

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I agree that the audience wants to believe they hear the magic too; what if it's no different with players? We assume their experience is objective and not also a psychological or psycho-acoustic change that comes with the idea of playing a good Strad. Yet there are these studies that suggest how pouring cheaper wine into bottles with  only change the perception of wine ("I'm enjoying it more") to actual physiological responses ("fMRI shows more activation in the nuccleus acumbens"). 

I'd be curious how you measure the different "tonal voicings/color/timbres" because if they exist in the supposed number that they do in a good Strad, they might to translate into different frequencies.

In response to David Beard, the difference is that I'm not color blind. I could see the variations, but I needed a direct comparison to appreciate them. I also don't think I have a tin-ear. I like Hilary Hahn's Vuillaume, and it's not (not yet at least) valued at a million. On the other hand, I've also heard Anne Akiko Meyers in concert. I've also heard her describe her Strad rapturously in an interview as soaring like a cathedral and also rich like chocolate on the G string. None of those words I would use to describe the sounds I heard from her concert. Has she bought into the mythos? Hard to say. 

I realize my opinion as a non world-class soloist, mere mortal audience member is, as you say, "entirely irrelevant" even though collectively we help fund part of the salaries of these soloists. Yet I still would love to hear more unique instruments by unique makers with maybe just one voice instead of a few very slightly different voices on one Strad. The variation amongst cellos, for example, and violas, I find more interesting.

 

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Again, if you don't experience the difference between two violins as glaringly clear to you directly, then whatever difference there is or isn't between those violins doesn't matter to you.  But there may very like be a difference present that completely matters for someone else's direct experience.

 

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1 hour ago, David Beard said:

Again, if you don't experience the difference between two violins as glaringly clear to you directly, then whatever difference there is or isn't between those violins doesn't matter to you.  But there may very like be a difference present that completely matters for someone else's direct experience.

 

I experience obvious differences between any two violins I play, but IMHO, not all differences are operationally significant.  Anyway, if every fiddle in the section emitted identically, what a lackluster sound we'd make.  :)

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10 hours ago, dabenno said:

 

As an analogy, my wife and I were picking out wall paint and the amounts of cream/pale yellow/off white with a warm hue were astounding. I'm still not sure I see all the differences, but when the chips were laid next to each other, I could see some of the differences but they were still so tiny. 

Ha-ha - just had the same experience at the cool/blue end of the white spectrum. In order to maintain my credibility as a hard-nosed sceptic I have to say I can't tell the difference.

 

4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

I experience obvious differences between any two violins I play, but IMHO, not all differences are operationally significant.  Anyway, if every fiddle in the section emitted identically, what a lackluster sound we'd make.  :)

That too. Surely it's not the existence of tonal differences we're disputing here but responsiveness/expressiveness. I still maintain my violins are all equally inexpressive (unless they serenade each other when I'm out of earshot) but responsive? I do have one that.seems to require a little more time and care with the bow before it starts to sing. Is speed of response a measureable factor that comes into the calculation of any of the violin makers here?

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1 hour ago, matesic said:

Ha-ha - just had the same experience at the cool/blue end of the white spectrum. In order to maintain my credibility as a hard-nosed sceptic I have to say I can't tell the difference.

Ha, know the feeling. Can't let them know we can see, otherwise we might be consulted on more detailed, lengthier versions of such questions :lol:

 

7 hours ago, David Beard said:

But there may very like be a difference present that completely matters for someone else's direct experience.

 

Despite my better judgment, (and advice of favorite XKCD comic https://xkcd.com/386/) I can't agree with that statement. That is what I mean by buying into the mythos. Behavioral economics studies with wine suggested that the perceived cost of the wine not only influenced psychological perception of wine (I like it a lot and can tell a difference, when in fact, there was no difference) but also the actual neurocognitive machinery (I like it a lot and fMRI scans show more activation in the nucleus accumbens).

Look at Ms. Meyers now describing her new violin, a Guarneri, as being able to mimic lightening, birds, drunkenness and having tonal colours like an ocean. It also happens to be one of the most expensive violins in the world. 

I agree with your point that player experiences takes precedence, but what I'm questioning is the OP/players stance that these old Strads  tend tohave more expressiveness than any other maker. I wonder whether the mythos of the Strad lead us to perceive that they simply have more voices/expressiveness/tonal colors.

 

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On 7/11/2018 at 1:39 PM, Quadibloc said:

But I don't need to be one of those people to be concerned about those people, to be concerned that their needs are being met.

Bear in mind that 'The only people fiddle quality actually matters to are the few who PLAY VERY WELL and are DEEPLY DISSATISFIED  by ALMOST EVERY FIDDLE they try. ' is a small subset of very good violinists, violists and cellists (the neurotic ones--but how many violinists are not neurotic?).

I see it differently. We all strive to make a beautiful rather than an ugly sound when we pick up a fiddle. If you have harsh strings you are going to struggle, or a poor setup, or bad bow hair. A dreadful fiddle is also a hinderance, and a properly made one a help.

As for the Strad mythos, it is clear that a strong positive reaction to a violin exists only in the mind of the player. Of course it is influenced by the way the instrument responds under the bow, its appearance, and its price tag and prestige. Stradivari has nailed all three.

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