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Is the research on violin acoustics a viscious circle?


Andreas Preuss

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Again I will say many of these recent post's go back to what I am saying/suggesting, that being that standardization to the best of our ability should be used during any of these test's and in order to get the most reliable predictable test's that are by all accounts still subjective , we should be using qualified EAR MASTERS to be the judges, people who have proven that they have they ability to discern between different violins in blind settings, have "credentials" of some kind generally through proof of contest against other "professional listeners" much like tone judges might be used in a vsa contest, quite sure there's a process to that,but that they are not "eliminating" in a contest to "prove" they deserve to be an ear master tester...just More Like , Hey, let's ask David again, he knows tone, he's won a bunch of Gold Medals, he's qualified...and I'm sure he is, but , still I think when it comes to the "famous" everyone will be talking about it for years to come blind "Italian" listening test's that people will quote, that a little bit more go into "who's doing the judging"

and that it may not be considered "research" but I do think the development of "pro bono" positions with fancy titles earned through contest should be a regular standard "thing" that we do for ourselves and that we develop regional contest for "ear master" positions, that x amount of them should be "crowned at any given time" for use in listening and judging contest , again somewhat like a group of tone judges that exist any particular violin maker contest....

I really don't think my suggestion is that out there, I think it's easy enough to do, it wouldn't really cost money, people would participate primarily for fun, maybe bragging rights and the chance to participate in these contests as they come and go, and well maybe it could get monetized in that certain modern makers could get "ear master" seal of approval endorsements in some grand yearly international tone only award

again if someone has a better way to determine superior hearing besides "that guy" is better at discerning and picking out different violins blind than all those other guys, I'm all ears :lol: get it, ehhh ya.

I do recall us discussing one of the bigger "Italian blind test's" and it had video that went with the post, and that they went into who was listening and all that, but in all that they did not do what I  suggest, pre qualified professional listeners

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6 hours ago, Dr. Mark said:

I think the mirror analogy is a good one.  I'm not passing judgement on your opinion or explaining any more, and I won't try to convince you.  Back to violins...

 

Here is what I am trying to figure out, in your own words:

Along with wabi sabi there's something about a bold, original design and new, perhaps unexplored, tonal and playing qualities.

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15 hours ago, sospiri said:

My observations on necks sinking is due mostly to the neck bowing upwards, a point Jacob has made.

I have measured the changes in several instruments. What is the solution? Will shaving the neck near the nut and reducing nut heights to get  the projection back down just make it weaker and more prone to bowing upwards again?

Sorry for not being more clear. I was talking about removing the neck and reinstalling it at a different angle. "Resetting the neck". It seems to me that this would be much more convenient and less destructive to do with a mortised neck, than with a nailed-on neck, particularly if it needs to be done multiple times over the life of an instrument.

12 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Just was looking if anything in the acoustic research had a broader picture to offer than examinations on the classic Cremonese construction method. Well, there is close to nothing. That’s fine with me. 

I think you are mistaken. Actually, there's been quite a lot of it. It's just that there's little incentive to publish, so you kind of need to "be there" to run into it.
Why? Think about the process of getting funding through something like a research grant: Do you think it would be easier to get funding for a project involving Stradivari (a violin which incorporates a lot of legend, fascination, mystery, and which pretty much everyone has heard of), or for a study about the acoustic results of putting violin strings on a bassoon?
Which do you think would be more widely read, and get more citations?

There's also another thing. Most of the people I know who love to experiment would much rather move on to their next experiment, than spend the time to document their experiment for public consumption, and promote it sufficiently that it can be easily found.

And yet another: If someone spends a bunch of time or money coming up with an improvement for violins, how will they recover that? For a violin maker, the easiest and most practical way is probably to incorporate it into their making, and not blab so much about it that others can easily reproduce it.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Actually, there's been quite a lot of it. It's just that there's little incentive to publish, so you kind of need to "be there" to run into it.

Good to know, but doesn’t help much. 
 

I think there are other hurdles to publish stuff than personal non-motivation. The exposure to the general public is a pretty tough decision. And it is tougher if you don’t swim in the same pool as the well known groups of researchers and violin makers.

1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Why? Think about the process of getting funding through something like a research grant: […]

That‘s nothing new and IMO part of the viscious circle. 

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A better question than "Is the research on violin acoustics a a vicious circle" is "what is the point of research on violin acoustics?" 

Personally, I think it would be very sad if some quantitatively measurable standard of "excellent violin tone" was settled upon and violin and bow manufacturers learned how to reliably mass-produce it.

Violins and bows, like human singers, have a wide variety of tones and timbres. It would be boring if all violins sounded and played the same, just as it would be boring if all singers had the same voice.

Violin makers have been making excellent violins for centuries. That problem has been solved. 

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42 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Personally, I think it would be very sad if some quantitatively measurable standard of "excellent violin tone" was settled upon and violin and bow manufacturers learned how to reliably mass-produce it.

Sad may it be, but that's where our technology is heading. So far no one grasped its possibilities but sooner or later... There were many other things that only humans could make in tha past and now we can mass-produce them.

42 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Violins and bows, like human singers, have a wide variety of tones and timbres. It would be boring if all violins sounded and played the same, just as it would be boring if all singers had the same voice.

Violin makers have been making excellent violins for centuries. That problem has been solved. 

Setting the standard doesn't mean one uniform tone. The standard would describe just the qualities that matter to excellent (vs. bad) not other qualities. This would remove singers that sing "badly" (out of tune or rhytmically or dynamically bad) from those who sing well.

42 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Violin makers have been making excellent violins for centuries. That problem has been solved. 

Some folks believe that excellent violins were all already made in Cremona coupla hundred years ago and no more of such will ever be made again. :)

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

Violin makers have been making excellent violins for centuries. That problem has been solved. 

Unless you define the "problem" as solving how to make even better sounding things that don't necessarily look like violins.  Since that's a nebulous goal, you can't solve how to get there.

51 minutes ago, HoGo said:

Some folks believe that excellent violins were all already made in Cremona coupla hundred years ago and no more of such will ever be made again. :)

That's a dangerous lead-in to the known vicious circle of discussing old vs. new.  Again.

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10 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Unless you define the "problem" as solving how to make even better sounding things that don't necessarily look like violins.  Since that's a nebulous goal, you can't solve how to get there.

The explicit problem that has been solved for hundreds of years is how to make excellent violins, not making "better sounding things" that are not recognizably violins.

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39 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

That's a dangerous lead-in to the known vicious circle of discussing old vs. new.  Again.

Since Slovakia isn't at war right now, and is no longer under heavy Soviet dominance, maybe he's itching for a little conflict to remind him of the good old days. :D

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10 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Here is what I am trying to figure out, in your own words:

Along with wabi sabi there's something about a bold, original design and new, perhaps unexplored, tonal and playing qualities.

...maybe add '...that appeals to me' at the end?  Dunno - I talk a lot.

 

Edited by Dr. Mark
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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

The explicit problem that has been solved for hundreds of years is how to make excellent violins, not making "better sounding things" that are not recognizably violins.

There are with no doubt visual limits. But within certain limits we have some freedom to create new models. 
 

Inventors in the past just came up with too radical designs. My rule of the acceptable limit is very easy. Someone in the audience sitting in the front row should not notice a difference to a classic model.

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Unless you define the "problem" as solving how to make even better sounding things that don't necessarily look like violins.  Since that's a nebulous goal, you can't solve how to get there.

If ‘loud’ always is achieved on the cost of lesser ‘flexibility’ then I would see there a pretty well defined goal. And maybe this can be achieved if throw some traditional aspects in violin making over board. 

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7 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

If ‘loud’ always is achieved on the cost of lesser ‘flexibility’ then I would see there a pretty well defined goal. And maybe this can be achieved if throw some traditional aspects in violin making over board. 

Yeah, I guess you could define the goal as "louder but with all tone and playability kept the same."  Unless you're talking about an amplified violin where you just turn the volume knob, there are limitations of bow/string-driven acoustic transducers where you HAVE to make tradeoffs and evaluations in one area or another.

I don't think it's difficult to define a goal that can't be reached.  Knowing what CAN be reached, how to get there, and evaluating the good/bad of all aspects... that's much more difficult, and the possibilities are infinite.

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6 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

There are with no doubt visual limits. But within certain limits we have some freedom to create new models. 
 

Inventors in the past just came up with too radical designs. My rule of the acceptable limit is very easy. Someone in the audience sitting in the front row should not noti" ce a difference to a classic model.

Well here's where I'm at with all that.

1. I am a firm believer that kids are drawn to what they consider "cool looking" so that is always my main underlying theme, trying to appeal to kids, not so much that they are going to drop 10k on an instrument as much as they may see someone playing "something cool/different" that inspires them to pick up the violin.

2. I am a firm believer that due to several factors string music has been in decline for many years, so my thinking is any eye candy that can draw them in is a good thing.

3. Things that I do on the regular that are visual as well as tonal experimentation that "function" very well

no corners

I make parquet backs with various exotic/domestic species of wood, including but not limited to

Bubinga,Jatoba,Walnut,Birch,Sycamore,Oak,Shedua,Mahogony,Lacewood,Cherry, Sapple, Amaranth,Bloodwood regularly use Redwood, Cedar for tops

create "windows" for balsa in tops and sides/ribs done with lamination

create hybrid wood/epoxy material generally by carving very thin then saturating with penetrating epoxy, it's kinda like carbon fiber wood

Use Balsa quite a bit in the interior

and then I never carve scrolls, I'm pretty much into dragons,animals or geometric shapes, no pegbox has a "floor" they are all open back

and I use  gold silver and gems to decorate lots of my work, use them for eyes, brows, scales, nostrils and what not

never carve FF's holes, I carve J holes or F/A holes

I'm in my own little world and I'm ok with that, I'm not trying to impress anyone but myself. It's nice when other people like it too, but I don't have grand delusions....well anymore at least :lol:

 

 

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For a violin to have its lowest note G below middle C - a six foot air wavelength - in such a small instrument is pretty remarkable. The success of this form and its endurance- nothing else I can think of from clothes to transport has technologically ‘stayed still’ like this. Suggests that the acoustic limit of a violin is the ability to make such low sounds, whilst holding a coherent chromatic voice to the upper registers. 

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2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

1. I am a firm believer that kids are drawn to what they consider "cool looking" so that is always my main underlying theme, trying to appeal to kids, not so much that they are going to drop 10k on an instrument as much as they may see someone playing "something cool/different" that inspires them to pick up the violin.

Alternate-appearing violins are certainly available, but for some reason, rather conventional looking violins still account for the overwhelming majority of beginner and student violin sales. Maybe playing the violin is unusual enough already, that playing something that obviously looks like a violin is cooler than playing something which is less recognizable as such?

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