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Violin "Hacking" with actuators

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So I would like try this; but my wife won't let me..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKIye4RZ-5k

In the video; this guy; obviously a audiophile; is making speakers out of acoustic foam and an contact sound actuator.  I "play" (I use the term loosely) a violin; but my question has always been; there are theories that a violin sounds better after long term playing; partly due to the certain frequencies making waves in the violin itself; creating tiny little indentations; as well as drying out younger wetter wood.  Of course; the meta-physics theory that a violin remembers a little bit of the music that was played on it; might actually be true if you think of it in terms of waves denting specific parts of a violin.

 

SOOOO...    What I would "like" to do is buy a cheap violin; play it; analyze it for sound quality etc.. and then buy an actuator; play something like 10,000 hours worth of music through the violin via the actuator; and see if 10,000 hours of "playing music" 1)  Does nothing  2)  Has a slight subtle improvement  3)  Has drastic improvements.  

 

I don't have a place that I can play music through a violin for say 6 months straight without my wife killing me; and I don't have an extra violin.  But I am hoping that someone out there is willing to spare a violin and buy an actuator and do this experiment!   

 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings..

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On 8/7/2020 at 4:21 PM, 2blink said:

So I would like try this; but my wife won't let me..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKIye4RZ-5k

In the video; this guy; obviously a audiophile; is making speakers out of acoustic foam and an contact sound actuator.  I "play" (I use the term loosely) a violin; but my question has always been; there are theories that a violin sounds better after long term playing; partly due to the certain frequencies making waves in the violin itself; creating tiny little indentations; as well as drying out younger wetter wood.  Of course; the meta-physics theory that a violin remembers a little bit of the music that was played on it; might actually be true if you think of it in terms of waves denting specific parts of a violin.

 

SOOOO...    What I would "like" to do is buy a cheap violin; play it; analyze it for sound quality etc.. and then buy an actuator; play something like 10,000 hours worth of music through the violin via the actuator; and see if 10,000 hours of "playing music" 1)  Does nothing  2)  Has a slight subtle improvement  3)  Has drastic improvements.  

 

I don't have a place that I can play music through a violin for say 6 months straight without my wife killing me; and I don't have an extra violin.  But I am hoping that someone out there is willing to spare a violin and buy an actuator and do this experiment!   

 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings..

This artificial "playing in" experiment has been done before.  There is a commercial product "ToneRite" which vibrates the bridge and if you do a Google search you will find many conversations regarding it.  Our own Maestronet had a discussion of this topic back in the December 2018 time frame.  Carleen Hutchins did a test about 30 years ago where she blasted music into a violin for a week or two in a closet.

My impression is that long time induced vibrations do "open up"  the sound of an instrument but that the effect is only short lived and not permanent.  

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The "memory" issue the least likely idea, given that pitches have changed over the years.  The Tonerite seems to have the biggest influence in those who are trying to justify it's purchase.

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16 minutes ago, dpappas said:

 

 The Tonerite seems to have the biggest influence in those who are trying to justify it's purchase.

Yup. I purchased the Toneright device, and didn't really notice any difference between before and after. So I sold it for about what I paid for it.

But I am still wearing the "free" T-shirt that was included in the original purchase, so perhaps I came out ahead? :D

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I've tried various versions including an off center motorized twirling device clamped to a cello bridge. It made a huge roaring racket. Didn't seem to help the instrument very much  (didn't hurt it either)

I met a vioinmaker, years ago, who connected a violin to  a radio via speaker driver with a stick glued to it, touching the side of the bridge. He claimed that when he first set it up he had to crank the volume all the way up to get any sound but over time he was able to reduce the volume setting significantly and the instrument worked very well as the 'cone for the speaker. Or you could try Micheal's gizmo.

I don't think it matters too much what you play through the corpus (Limbaugh will ruin it though ;-) but this is something you could do that will not offend your wife since it will just be another audio device playing.

Oded

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4 hours ago, David Burgess said:

But I am still wearing the "free" T-shirt that was included in the original purchase, so perhaps I came out ahead? :D

I’d say so.  Plus the shelf space you saved from having to store that paper weight. 

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On 8/7/2020 at 1:21 PM, 2blink said:

 What I would "like" to do is buy a cheap violin; play it; analyze it for sound quality etc.. and then buy an actuator; play something like 10,000 hours worth of music through the violin via the actuator; and see if 10,000 hours of "playing music" 1)  Does nothing  2)  Has a slight subtle improvement  3)  Has drastic improvements.  

Even with that test, you wouldn't know if the changes are due to vibration or to just being 6 months older.  So you'd have to buy 2 identical violins (good luck with that), and keep one in a closet.

Figuring that changes (if any) are likely to be most significant at the beginning and taper off with time, I ran a high-powered test (in an acoustic enclosure in the garage to minimize the noise, but it was still annoyingly loud)... and even with sensitive measuring methods, found no measureable changes after a few days.  So I stopped.

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I still have one of the original ToneRites - and I think I still know where it is (give or take  a foot or 2). I can't swear that it really did what it is supposed to, but it didin't hurt anything.

I have long felt that that device, lots of playing and other experiences the instruments have tend to improve the fit of bridge and soundpost (given that they are optimally located). It seems reasonable that many, many years of being played will lead the inner wood surfaces of string instruments to shed wood cells in those areas that already vibrate most (as opposed to the nodes that move less), thus enhancing the results of thickness graduations purposely created during fabrication. It also seems reasonable that areas of an instrument that are being vibrated but are too stiff might be loosened to vibrate more by significant amounts of "playing in.".

I don't know if these ideas are correct or not

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Ever experience  that playing-in has a negative effect? A couple of times I have resurrected a student grade violin and upon first play been pleasantly surprised. After a few days... not impressed. Cheers... Mat

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13 hours ago, Oded Kishony said:

Would your measurements reveal improved responsiveness? Did you check for that feature?

I'm not sure how you would check "responsiveness" before and after, when the process takes days.  In my mind, responsiveness is a combination of mass and frequency response.  Mass didn't change, and neither did the frequency response.  I did play the violin before and after, and didn't notice any significant difference.

12 hours ago, Mat Roop said:

Ever experience  that playing-in has a negative effect? A couple of times I have resurrected a student grade violin and upon first play been pleasantly surprised. After a few days... not impressed. Cheers... Mat

Whenever I finish a new violin, I end up playing it quite a bit, and usually think how fantastic it is and that it's so much better than all my others.  After a few days more of playing it and some of the other ones, reality returns.  I am absolutely certain it's all in the unstable bioelectrical equipment that is being used to evaluate sound, and nothing to do with the wood.

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59 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Whenever I finish a new violin, I end up playing it quite a bit, and usually think how fantastic it is and that it's so much better than all my others.  After a few days more of playing it and some of the other ones, reality returns.  I am absolutely certain it's all in the unstable bioelectrical equipment that is being used to evaluate sound, and nothing to do with the wood.

Nice answer, Don. Reality seems to be such a hardship for some folks, that many would rather not face it, or even attempt to sort it out, ever, when other paths can initially appear to be so much easier and more convenient.

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Reality seems to be such a hardship for some folks, that many would rather not face it, or even attempt to sort it out, ever, when other paths can initially appear to be so much easier and more convenient.

Careful... you are getting awfully close to the taboo topic of politics.:)   I guess people have the same tendencies that transfer easily from one area to another.

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So with Stupid COVID (not even gonna touch the subject) I yanked my daughter out of their "local" virtual school; and signed her up for another "virtual" online school..  Her local school had orchestra (she's going into 5ht grade) but now it's 100% virtual orchestra; which seems stupid to me.  But yesterday; we found a violin teacher we liked; and so we will probably start her up on lessons..  

I play a violin as well (if you can call it that) and I have a fairly decent violin; but now comes the debate of picking a violin for my daughter.  Amazon $199 violin; she's just at the brink of being able to use a 4/.4 (her arms grew almost 2.5" in less than year!)  January I measured her and she was definitely a 1/2 size; but measured her yesterday and right between a 3/4 and a 4/4; obviously I'd prefer if she can stretch a little; to buy a 4/4, 10000x the choices.

So two parts:

1)  Do I spend $199 and get her a student violin.. of which probably won't sound great; she might not be annoyed; but I might be?

2)  Spend like $1K for a violin she might not continue to play; but at least won't sound like nails on chalkboard to me..

(secret option #3)  Buy the $199 and hook it up to an actuator!!

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This is why rental programs exist. You can cycle through all the sizes using an instrument of a quality you wouldn't afford to buy, and you don't have to get rid of anything as you move up. The trick is to find a rental program that uses good instruments, and I will tell you that many use violins you could buy outright for $70.

If you can't do that, your second choice is to work with a good violin shop instead of Ebay and Amazon. A shop will take back what they sold, often allowing you what you spent towards the next one if you spend more. This way you build equity and quality with each successive move and by the time you get to 4/4 you've almost bought a good instrument already.

Buying Ebay and Amazon violins is like throwing money in the trash. The instruments are garbage, no shop wants them when you're done, and if you need a repair, no shop will touch them. Plus, because they're crap, your daughter won't enjoy playing them and you are effectively killing her interest in violin, forever. If that's your objective, then go for it.

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Michael, I don't have any sort of rental program, and never have. To me, it seems a little weird that a supposedly high-end shop would  need to rely on rentals. Most of the well-vetted high-end repairers and restores and maintainers I keep regular contact with are super-busy,

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Yes, that has been one strategy, and it may have been a better enrichment strategy than just pointing the buttheads toward the door, which Hans Weisshaar did from time to time.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Michael, I don't have any sort of rental program, and never have. To me, it seems a little weird that a supposedly high-end shop would  need to rely on rentals. Most of the well-vetted high-end repairers and restores and maintainers I keep regular contact with are super-busy,

We actually started with the rentals. The impetus was that my first partner was an active professional musician and college violin instructor and over the years had given workshops for children as well. He didn't want to start a fine shop--he came to me asking to train someone to set up 40 instruments because he'd been so dismayed by the low level crap that young students rented that he wanted to do something to counter that. He'd bought 40 Jay Haide 101s--hardly rental fare with a retail of around $800+ at the time---and wanted to get them out there so kids could play something nice. I told him I could set up 40 violiins faster than I could teach someone to do it (I am EXTREMELY fast at setup--at my peak, younger, that would have been one intense week of work, literally), so we started a business together, eventually hiring some staff to enlarge the business. After a few years of that he decided he wanted to be a fine violin dealer, so we moved into that. Now we're a fine instrument shop with a rental appendage that's low maintenance and brings in a steady cash flow while providing a definite high quality service (still using Jay Haide 101s). I have never been a snob about what I work on: though now I have "people" who can do the rentals for me, I enjoy doing them once in a while for a break and would rather do them myself quickly rather than move someone from what they're working on.

Regarding shop work load, most big shops eventually realize that big money doesn't grow from the shop except to the extent that the shop works on stock for sale. That's why in Chicago both B&F and Warrens spun off their shops and don't now have one under their direct ownership at all. We have an in-house shop, but do almost no outside customer work, since we're too busy with both previous customer maintenance and  internal work that will lead directly to sales. 

Wood Butcher's comment is accurate, noting that many teachers work not only with children but also with better students up to their going off to Conservatory and beyond, as well as with well bankrolled adults. That wasn't really the impetus for our business, however as any sales book will tell you, you need seven touches before a potential customer will even remember your name, so having parents come up to teachers after recitals asking why that teacher's students all sound SOOOO good, and what's Darnton and Hersh's phone number? has never hurt us.

In that same vein, working for kids' benefit instead of cash, through the years I've made a few small ones, a 1/8, a couple of 1/2s and 3/4s, for friends and relatives' children. Every time I've been told that it's made a huge change in the child's attitude to play on a good instrument, so I don't think this and the rentals are wasted effort at all.

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14 hours ago, David Burgess said:

 toward the door, which Hans Weisshaar did from time to time.

have you ever been thrown out of a violin shop would be an interesting thread

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My question would be about the advisability of attempting to rush the development of the sound of the violin. Do we know that exposing it to vibrations would actually accomplish the same thing as playing it for a century? Why not go for an instrument that is a century or more old then you don't have to do anything other than play it and enjoy it?

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23 minutes ago, Craig Cowing said:

My question would be about the advisability of attempting to rush the development of the sound of the violin. Do we know that exposing it to vibrations would actually accomplish the same thing as playing it for a century? Why not go for an instrument that is a century or more old then you don't have to do anything other than play it and enjoy it?

That strategy is perfectly fine for someone looking to buy and play an instrument.  From the standpoint of someone trying to make and sell an instrument, rushing the development of the sound is pretty dang important, as most buyers are wanting something that sounds good now... not in a century or more.

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On 8/19/2020 at 6:26 AM, Bill Merkel said:

have you ever been thrown out of a violin shop would be an interesting thread

Perhaps it would. One of Weisshaar's least favorite customers was a Las Vegas "show" player who routinely showed up wearing a purple suit, with a personality to match. Maybe that went over well on the Las Vegas strip, but none of us in the shop were very impressed.

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