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Old vs 10 new... tone test


Don Noon
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A very fancy and nicely done final tone competition, with full orchestra in a big hall.  Hopefully the link will work for you all.

To my ear, the 10 new violins all had a lot of similar tonal qualities, and the 1710 Pietro Guarneri reference instrument sounded distinctly different.  In my attempt to put words to it:  moderns were loud and buzzy; the old one less loud, rounder on the low strings (not buzzy), and very clear on the higher strings.  To me, it was absolutely typical of what I expect from good old vs. good modern.  Some day I'll nail down exactly what causes this.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=241752077743513&ref=watch_permalink

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9 hours ago, Don Noon said:

 In my attempt to put words to it:  moderns were loud and buzzy; the old one less loud, rounder on the low strings (not buzzy), and very clear on the higher strings.  To me, it was absolutely typical of what I expect from good old vs. good modern.  Some day I'll nail down exactly what causes this.

Da oil ground varnishing (not varnish) method?

Hasn't this been 'lost' and 'rediscovered' and lost and rediscovered over and over for 270 years depending on who ya talk to?

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So bridge distortion has no effect on tone? We know that even the smallest adjustment of sound post will change the tone, and the z-axis distortion is even greater here if we had a slice where the sound post is to look at.

The sound post isn't there to hold up the top, it acts like a second bridge that directs the higher frequencies to the upper boutsviex_bridge.jpg.240a27034bc5eeeb50f26982613f7d4a.jpg

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A comparison of n=1 old vs. n=10 new (random? non-random?) samples is hardly sufficient to decide if "old" versus "new" are somehow "different." 

If the 10 new violins were selected non-randomly to compete in this phase of the competition by a panel of judges based on tone, then it negates the "new" versus "old" comparison entirely. 

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This is the finals of a violinmaking competition, NOT any attempt to make a statistically scientific test of old vs. new, which can never be done to everyone's satisfaction anyway.  There is some pre-screening of the new ones to filter for the better sounding ones, and who knows how and why that one Cremonese violin was selected as a "reference".

However, I still think that the tone difference is quite distinct, and typical of my experience listening to many examples of old and new violins.

2 hours ago, avandesande said:

So bridge distortion has no effect on tone?

Although I don't think anyone ever said that, I have a hard time believing that distortion of any kind would produce the sound and spectral response curves that I've seen.  Copy a distorted arch, and I don't think you'll get a good tonal copy.  IMO the physics is elsewhere.

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5 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

There is some pre-screening of the new ones to filter for the better sounding ones, and who knows how and why that one Cremonese violin was selected as a "reference".

The "pre-screening of the new ones to filter for the better sounding ones" simply reflects the bias of the evaluators as what constitutes "better sounding," right? 

It would suggest that if they had a similar selection of random "old ones" to select from, they would likely pick the ones with the same "better sounding" characteristics as the new ones they selected.

Maybe they prefer "loud and buzzy." ;) 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Was anybody able to listen to the whole thing? I used to like Max Bruch.  I felt sorry for the musicians playing the same thing over and over.

                       

Feeling a bit tortured are we Marty?

I looked at the time,,,  listened thru the "infamous" first part,, you know,,,,

The "one" we've heard a bazillion times before, about 20 seconds after that I yanked the ripcord,,

went look'n for the wife to see what kind of mood she might be in,

That first line of the Bruch,,, does it to me every time.

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4 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

1. A comparison of n=1 old vs. n=10 new (random? non-random?) samples is hardly sufficient to decide if "old" versus "new" are somehow "different." 

2. If the 10 new violins were selected non-randomly to compete in this phase of the competition by a panel of judges based on tone, then it negates the "new" versus "old" comparison entirely. 

1. True. I wonder what was the reason for the "comparison". I see two possibilities. :)

2. Aren't they always......   ?

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Perhaps the judges preferred a more focused and less occluded sound than that particular Guarneri? Hard to say, unless we know what the violins which didn't make the finals sounded like, and if any of those which didn't make the finals were more similar to the Guarneri.

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I have only listened to a couple of the new violins and randomly chose #2 to compare with the "old".   To my ears, the old is sweeter but #2 is more powerful with more dynamic range.   I prefer #2 for this piece.

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On 5/13/2021 at 9:23 AM, Don Noon said:

the 1710 Pietro Guarneri reference instrument sounded distinctly different.

Old instruments do have a different sound quality. Material treatment is one thing which IMO needs to be looked at closer. But I assume to a certain degree this might come from 'vibration-fatigue' as well.

On 5/13/2021 at 9:23 AM, Don Noon said:

Some day I'll nail down exactly what causes this.

Let me know if you need a hammer.:rolleyes:

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16 hours ago, Don Noon said:

This is the finals of a violinmaking competition, NOT any attempt to make a statistically scientific test of old vs. new, which can never be done to everyone's satisfaction anyway.  There is some pre-screening of the new ones to filter for the better sounding ones, and who knows how and why that one Cremonese violin was selected as a "reference".

However, I still think that the tone difference is quite distinct, and typical of my experience listening to many examples of old and new violins.

Although I don't think anyone ever said that, I have a hard time believing that distortion of any kind would produce the sound and spectral response curves that I've seen.  Copy a distorted arch, and I don't think you'll get a good tonal copy.  IMO the physics is elsewhere.

Making distorted arch wouldn't be the same, but perhaps distortion could be accelerated with ammonia or something similar.

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8 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Old instruments do have a different sound quality. Material treatment is one thing which IMO needs to be looked at closer. But I assume to a certain degree this might come from 'vibration-fatigue' as well.

What is "old?" What is "modern?" What is "new?"

If "old instruments do have a different sound quality," then "different" compared to what?

"Old instruments" cannot be compared to what they sounded like when they were new. The number of hours they have been played is highly variable, and cannot be determined. Trying to mimic the effects of playing using mechanical devices has not been shown to have any effect, positive or negative.

There is really no proof that "old" instruments have a different sound quality than "modern" instruments, or, furthermore, that a "different sound quality" (if possibly proven to exist) could be attributed solely to age or the hours played.

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23 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

There is really no proof that "old" instruments have a different sound quality than "modern" instruments, or, furthermore, that a "different sound quality" (if possibly proven to exist) could be attributed solely to age or the hours played.

I would suggest that you listen to the Mendelssohn recordings of the Emmerson SQ. One quartet was recorded with the Strads the usually played and a second recording of the same piece was made with instruments by one of the most prominent contemporary makers. I could hear the difference by exactly what Don Noon described.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I would suggest that you listen to the Mendelssohn recordings of the Emmerson SQ. One quartet was recorded with the Strads the usually played and a second recording of the same piece was made with instruments by one of the most prominent contemporary makers. I could hear the difference by exactly what Don Noon described.

It only shows that the Emmerson  Quartet sounded different when playing different instruments.

Eight (8) non-random samples from two (2) makers played by four (4) people is utterly inadequate to prove the general statement that "old" instruments have a different sound quality than "modern" instruments, particularly when "old" and "modern" are not even well-defined terms in this context.

We clearly view this from different perspectives.

 

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8 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

is utterly inadequate to prove the general statement that "old" instruments have a different sound quality than "modern" instruments, particularly when "old" and "modern" are not even well-defined terms in this context.

Sure you will find old instruments which don't have the round mellow timbre. That's not the discussion point here anyway.

What interests me and many makers is what is the thing which makes the sound timbre of 'Definition: Old Cremonese instruments before 1745' so special. If this is better or worse than modern instruments is a different question, and tests by Claudia Fritz suggest that there is a preference for the sound of modern instruments. 

How much science can find out about why the sound of old Cremonese instruments made before 1745 is so particular seems to be a very tricky task because much of this sound depends on who and with what sort of bowing abilities the instrument is played.

-------------------------------

I am looking at things as a maker. I am exaggerating here a bit but if a Scientist takes a Suzuki and puts it under artificial vibrations for lets say even a year and it doesn't change thats no miracle to me. But if there is vibration fatigue in other materials a similar effect should sooner or later appear in violin wood. Not 1000 hours or so much more. I don't want to know how many hours some Strads have been played in their lifetime.

For wood I simply know that treatment has an influence. Tried and tested often enough. If for the better or worse is a completely different question.

The thing about the Emmerson SQ is that in the booklet they claim exactly what you are saying i.e. that you can't hear a difference. However....

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24 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

What interests me and many makers is what is the thing which makes the sound timbre of 'Definition: Old Cremonese instruments before 1745' so special.

Unless and until anyone can show that "the sound timbre of 'Definition: Old Cremonese instruments before 1745" is "so special," then "the thing" you are searching for will be as elusive as a leprechaun. 

So, yes, it is a tricky task.

In other words, if one can find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, then one can probably find the leprechaun who put it there.

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21 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Unless and until anyone can show that "the sound timbre of 'Definition: Old Cremonese instruments before 1745" is "so special," then "the thing" you are searching for will be as elusive as a leprechaun. 

Nothing is better than a Strad is what I adhere too.  Even if we all agree so and so's tone is better than a Strad the agreement means nothing.  Why?  Because nothing is better than a Strad.

Who said nothing is better than a Strad in the first place?

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25 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Unless and until anyone can show that "the sound timbre of 'Definition: Old Cremonese instruments before 1745" is "so special," then "the thing" you are searching for will be as elusive as a leprechaun. 

Nothing is better than a Strad is what I adhere too.  Even if we all agree so and so's tone is better than a Strad the agreement means nothing.  Why?  Because nothing is better than a Strad.

Who said nothing is better than a Strad in the first place?

Better or at the least being close to Strad to me means what do these pieces of glued together wood enable over a little bit of time, not to say what will happen over a few hundred years or hopefully less than a few hundred.

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4 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

There is really no proof that "old" instruments have a different sound quality than "modern" instruments, or, furthermore, that a "different sound quality" (if possibly proven to exist) could be attributed solely to age or the hours played.

I suppose scientific "proof" would require taking all old instruments and all modern instruments and having everyone on Earth judge their sound quality and take scientific response plots and do a lot of statistical analysis.

There will never be "proof"... at best there will be evidence that each person has to decide if it's convincing or not.

Using my ears while playing or listening to recordings, and using the spectral plots I've taken, and the spectral plots Joseph Curtin has shown, and the measurements/analysis by Anders Buen, and the plots in the 1991 article by Dunnwald, all of these bits of evidence point in the same direction:  there is, on average, a difference in tone.  It is sufficiently convincing for me, unless some new contradictory evidence shows up.

Deciding what sound is preferred, or if most people can detect and identify the difference, and what might cause the difference... that's another vat of arguments.

 

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

There will never be "proof"... at best there will be evidence that each person has to decide if it's convincing or not.

In the absence of proof, each person will decide if they want to choose to believe it or not. 

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6 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

In the absence of proof, each person will decide if they want to choose to believe it or not. 

Well one can demand scientific proof, available or not, it does not negate the science of statistics and science of statistical opinions. 

So there may be no proof that Cremona master made violins sound "better" scientifically, but there sure is tons of scientific statistical information, pre-dating Paganini , that professional players prefer Cremona master made instruments.

I suppose we could chalk it up to a multi generational mass delusion and marketing, but something tells me it's more than that. 

Believe me, I'm no champion of "Strad'itis"  and feels that "Cremona'itis" has done more to damage the modern violin maker than just about anything else,{yet given us all that we have at the same time} but one must at least stand back and look at the stat's related to "preferred"  vs everything else.

But then again George you seem to be the fly in the ointment so I'm sure you'll find something to counter that opinion about science and statistics 

Does George H. believe that the majority of successful solo artists going back 200 years have all primarily played master made violins? victims of marketing and flowery opinions about antiques coupled with high values? or?

Admittedly I prefer Hillary's violin over any of the Italians , I will always point to that instrument as one of my favorite sounding ones, whereas Don for example I know doesn't like the tone

So I think we can all have different preferences and opinions, but I do feel that there is "science" in a collection of opinions from people who had dedicated their lives to mastering an instrument. And if there is no science in the tone, there certainly is a science in the volume of people who prefer A. over B.

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