Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Descriptors of Sound


Rue
 Share

Descriptors of sound:  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of the following words may qualify as unequivocal descriptors of sound?

    • Bright
      13
    • Dull
      11
    • New
      0
    • Old
      0
    • Woody
      2
    • Wet cardboard
      2
    • Rich
      10
    • Thin
      12
    • Chocolaty
      2
    • Dark
      10
    • Full
      10
    • Shrill
      11
    • Velvety
      6
    • Scratchy
      10
    • Lush
      2


Recommended Posts

Just for fun, the words listed are often (and some recently) used to describe the sound of an instrument.

Are they all valid? Are any universally agreed upon? Objective versus subjective?

Choose the ones you think the majority of listeners would agree on.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 66
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

All of those words can be apt for describing some particular sound.

The problem is that in skilled hands a violin doesn't and shouldn't have just one static sound.

I violin that can only do bright or dark but can't do both is useless for an artist.

A violin that can only make a pure clean sound or a thick husky sound but can't do both is again useless.

Again, a violin that can do harmonics and flautando but not also biting scratchy playing is limiting and useless.

Who wants a paint palette of one color, or a violin with a tone that is specific for you to pin down and describe in this way?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, David Beard said:

All of those words can be apt for describing some particular sound.

The problem is that in skilled hands a violin doesn't and shouldn't have just one static sound.

I violin that can only do bright or dark but can't do both is useless for an artist.

A violin that can only make a pure clean sound or a thick husky sound but can't do both is again useless.

Again, a violin that can do harmonics and flautando but not also biting scratchy playing is limiting and useless.

Who wants a paint palette of one color, or a violin with a tone that is specific for you to pin down and describe in this way?

You can choose more than one word. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always found "old sound" a very strange expression....  Let's repeat the mantra, "sound is subjective".... It is a fake mantra, but works, you will feel better with it. I have one viola here I am not satisfied with the sound, so I keep saying "sound is subjective" and feel much better on the spot!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

I always found "old sound" a very strange expression....  Let's repeat the mantra, "sound is subjective".

Sound is subjective if you ask people if something sounds old or not.  However, with objectively measured sound, there does seem to be some spectral features more common in old instruments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

36 minutes ago, Mark Norfleet said:

They all can be used, but none are unequivocal, which is why I do my best to speak as little as possible about sound qualities, especially with players I don’t know.

Ok. No need to shout.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Sound is subjective if you ask people if something sounds old or not.  However, with objectively measured sound, there does seem to be some spectral features more common in old instruments.

Spectral? Ya mean like spooky? Ghosts of players past?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think a few descriptors are fairly unequivocal. For example, bright or dull...probably most of us could agree that any given violin has that quality of sound.

But some of the others? Not so much.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

48 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Sound is subjective if you ask people if something sounds old or not.  However, with objectively measured sound, there does seem to be some spectral features more common in old instruments.

Are these spectral features good or bad?

Are they in the direction of wet cardboard?;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

47 minutes ago, Mark Norfleet said:

I didn't, it's just a small difference in font size that was carried on after I pasted unequivocal

Well maybe it's a hazard warnin?

RECALIBRATE YOUR EQUIVOCATION METER

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Jeffrey provided a large and extensive list of descriptive adjectives for sound and they were pretty logical, too.

I think any of the Words on your list can work, but in order for any of them to work, there must first be an example of a sound to fit the description; only then can someone understand what you’re talking about when you speak, for instance, of a dull sound.

I describe a piercing sound as a spear aimed at your chest, And a warm full round sound as a softball being thrown at you. And a weak sound as a whiffle ball or a pingpong ball. Those are all pretty easy to understand descriptions, I think similes or metaphors are better than mere adjectives

Edited by PhilipKT
Typos
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I describe a piercing sound as a spear aimed at your chest, And a warm full round sound as a softball being thrown at you. And a weak sound as a whiffle ball or a pingpong ball. Those are all pretty easy to understand descriptions, I think similes or metaphors are better than mere adjectives

A separate list of equivocations for synesthaesiacs?

A pink moon rising over a purple lagoon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Don Noon said:

with objectively measured sound, there does seem to be some spectral features more common in old instruments.

2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Are these spectral features good or bad?

It depends who you ask, and if they can hear it or not.  Blind listening/playing tests suggest that most people either can't hear it, or don't prefer it, or their expectation of "old sound" is something other than what it actually is.  As far as I know, there has been no testing specifically to see if there are individuals out there that can accurately hear the difference.  As with anything, I think that these spectral features, taken to an extreme level, would likely be less preferred by most listeners.  It's all in the balance and individual preference.

I offered to blind sort Joseph Curtin's spectral plots into what looked to me like old and new, but as yet he hasn't seemed very interested in that.  I believe I can do it with much better than chance accuracy, but only a good blind test would tell.  Anders Buen's more quantitative evaluation of spectral ranges might also be a good test.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chocolate calls to me. But I know the sound is only inside my head until I pop the Hershey Kiss it into my mouth. :lol:

Most of the descriptors you listed make my eyes roll when I see them used to describe the sound of a violin. I wonder if they even mean something to the person using them.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, ctanzio said:

Chocolate calls to me. But I know the sound is only inside my head until I pop the Hershey Kiss it into my mouth. :lol:

Most of the descriptors you listed make my eyes roll when I see them used to describe the sound of a violin. I wonder if they even mean something to the person using them.

 

I once had a customer come in for a sound adjustment, complaining that their old Italian violin was sounding "sibilant". Even after looking up the definition of the word, I don't think I was able to resolve his issue. Or maybe I was.

When a customer never comes back, it's hard to know whether the issue was permanently resolved, or if they moved on, in hopes of finding  someone who could. :lol:

There were lots of shops in the Los Angeles area, and some people moved between them  like a prostitute choosing their next date.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think most of the descriptors, the 15 in the fun poll, and the many more kindly provided by Marty for us (thanks!), will be defined differently by different people. Maybe not by a lot, but by enough that even if we're all reading the book, we're not all necessarily on the same page.

I suppose we'd need sound samples to go with words...

...and who's gonna agree to agree on those? :P

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I once had a customer come in for a sound adjustment, complaining that their old Italian violin was sounding "sibilant".

To me, that description makes sense... a hissing sound, atonal and high frequency.  The very high overtones of a note are so closely spaced that they can merge into an ill-defined hiss, so I would have looked to a heavier and/or more flexible bridge to fix it.

Or pour a glass of water in the F holes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

There were lots of shops in the Los Angeles area, and some people moved between them  like a prostitute choosing their next date.

Didn't some of them even eventually wind up in Ann Arbor?   :huh:  :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

To me, that description makes sense... a hissing sound, atonal and high frequency.  The very high overtones of a note are so closely spaced that they can merge into an ill-defined hiss, so I would have looked to a heavier and/or more flexible bridge to fix it.

Or pour a glass of water in the F holes.

Perhaps, Unfortunately, the guy was only looking to have his soundpost moved. Maybe I should have suggested a rosin change, or a rehair?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Didn't some of them even eventually wind up in Ann Arbor?   :huh:  :lol:

Sorry if I didn't make that clear. It was the customers in the Los Angeles vicinity (including Las Vegas musicians) who often moved between shops like a prostitute choosing their next date, not the luthiers.

Yes, some strange things have gone on in Ann Arbor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...