Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Is the research on violin acoustics a viscious circle?


Andreas Preuss

Recommended Posts

Andreas, sorry for distracting from the thread with my above posts.

I wonder if the increasing scarcity and unavailability of some of the traditional materials essential to the violin will help stimulate and maybe even permit some innovation in violin making. 

If makers are forced to use 'unconventional' materials and have to alter some of their working practices to use them then these changes may give a sort of permission for some design changes to to follow? Especially if the new materials are not camouflaged to look olde style?

Also, I used to work at a music venue and it was quite alarming to see the age of the classical music audience steadily rising and the attendance dropping as the years passed. I wonder if some kind of innovation to instrument design would help a bit in interesting a younger audience? 

I admit I don't know much though so please be gentle on me!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 390
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

22 minutes ago, Andrew tkinson said:

I wonder if some kind of innovation to instrument design would help a bit in interesting a younger audience?

The younger audience got very excited about the cello when it showed up in the Netflix series about Wednesday Addams.

TwoSet have gotten people very excited about the violin in general, but in both old violins and newer ones by Kurt Widenhouse.

Younger audiences aren’t interested in reinventing the wheel. They’re more interested in learning about what makes a good one and not spending their money on wind-eggs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Andrew tkinson said:

Andreas, sorry for distracting from the thread with my above posts.

>

>

Also, I used to work at a music venue and it was quite alarming to see the age of the classical music audience steadily rising and the attendance dropping as the years passed. I wonder if some kind of innovation to instrument design would help a bit in interesting a younger audience? 

>

I noticed the people in the audience either had grey hair, white hair, or no hair.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, The Violin Beautiful said:

The younger audience got very excited about the cello when it showed up in the Netflix series about Wednesday Addams.

TwoSet have gotten people very excited about the violin in general, but in both old violins and newer ones by Kurt Widenhouse.

Younger audiences aren’t interested in reinventing the wheel. They’re more interested in learning about what makes a good one and not spending their money on wind-eggs. 

Hello, I do think that as new materials have been developed and utilised that different types of what is admittedly still a wheel have been made possible, which have opened up many options which would not really be available with a traditional wheel made from elm,oak, ash and wrought iron? I do think that traditional wheels and more modern ones can both be regarded as good each in their own ways?

What I was mainly suggesting was that possibly the use of new materials in instrument making to replace increasingly scarce  traditionally used woods may allow or even encourage some changes in design? 

(I should not have said anything about using novelty to lure in the youth to replace aging classical concert goers, that is another can of worms - or can of wind-eggs?  I'd better retreat back into my chicken coop now!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Andrew tkinson said:

David, I think this chicken topic should be moved to The 'Peckbox' message board!

As a Chickeneer and keeper of Leporidae I'd have a gander at that :D

"I wonder if some kind of innovation to instrument design would help a bit in interesting a younger audience? "

That has pretty much been my motivation behind what I do...

I just want kids to feel like I did when I was window shopping for guitars as a kid, except with violins

My thinking was "cool looking" instruments would draw them in with the looks and that maybe in time they might take it more seriously

meh' regardless, I'm just going to keep doing my thing,, cuz'....I'm a maniac,maniac oh' no'no...:lol:

Damn you Bill and your flashdance post :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don’t think the question is really about the materials in the fittings or accessories, and I’d say that people are generally much more open to trying out something like a titanium fine tuner, carbon fiber endpin, or plastic chinrest than they are to trying a violin that’s made out of unusual wood or in a weird shape. After all, the wood and the shape aren’t going to change for the life of the instrument, but a fingerboard or set of pegs can be replaced as many times as one desires. Wittner tailpieces and pegs have become commonplace, especially among instruments played by young players, and the Akusticus cello tailpiece was popular even before those.

If you’re committing to buy something irregular, there’s a certain amount of risk involved, as the irregularities make it harder to predict the long-term success of the item as a tool. You might end up with an instrument you’ll treasure for life, but there’s also the chance you’ll fall out of love and want to get out of it eventually. Experimental instruments are hard enough to sell initially, but even harder to resell. This isn’t to disparage makers from experimenting with their designs, just to point out some of the realities of the market. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been doing "irregular" things as experiments for years, but there's no need to make them obvious to onlookers. :-) The dichotomy of being traditional or being obviously off the wall is a false choice. I'd argue that it's more ego-driven than functional to make a lot of noise about being different.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/29/2023 at 5:51 PM, GoPractice said:

 

Been threatening to visit Maestro Raguse for a dozen years. ( His bows are a serious value again. ) 

 Been using one of Doug's bows personally for many years....

Doug moved to Jacksonville (Florida) early this year. I think I got his first (or at least one of his first) post move bows for the shop. Very nice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/1/2023 at 2:55 AM, Andrew tkinson said:

Also, I used to work at a music venue and it was quite alarming to see the age of the classical music audience steadily rising and the attendance dropping as the years passed. I wonder if some kind of innovation to instrument design would help a bit in interesting a younger audience? 

I’d say that’s more because for youngsters there is more interesting music around. All the genres like pop, rock, hip-hop, rap etc. etc. create social bonds and each of them also seems to fennel certain aggressions. 

But I see classical musicians who are aware of this. Maybe the first who raised to international fame was Nigel Kennedy. 

For violins it looks to me like this: if we research only the acoustics of classical makers, well then there can’t be ever anything else. But looking at the tools research has developed by now there seems to me the chance that we could ask different questions about violin acoustics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As an interested layperson following this forum out of curiosity, I wonder if the main benefit of using synthetic materials that could be machine-shaped for a violin would not necessarily be making a “better violin” but in acquiring the empirical knowledge to build better violins conventionally.

It would become easy to make rapidly multiple instruments that were identical in all aspects except one – for example top plate arching or thickness (including distribution of thickness). There would be none of the doubts introduced by knowing the pieces of wood used were inevitably different even if from the same tree, and the possibilities of subtle differences when hand-crafting. Differences in acoustical performance of the violins, even if assessed subjectively, could be attributed to defined differences in structure – and indeed analytic parameters (spectra etc) could be confidently related to subjectively desirable tonal qualities.

But then I am assuming this thought experiment would actually work…

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Jonathan B That's a good idea and when I first saw the idea of CNC I started researching the idea for making violins. Even on wood it would be helpful. But I guess it came too late for me to get up to speed.

Still, the process you outline is possible with wood, by hand, but less precise and a lot more work. The main problem has always been figuring out what you want to hear and what you want to change to get that. I get the idea (perhaps incorrectly) that after a few decades working together on it the people in the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop still aren't close to achieving even the first goal.

Aside from all of the hubub about !!!!LOOK: WE HAVE NEW IDEAS!!! what exactly do people with these !!!NEW IDEAS!!! want to accomplish tonally that will fill the seats in the hall? I mean, besides, !!!!LOUDER!!! ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Okay. What I find in your comment interesting however, you don’t mention any purpose of this next step. What will we be able to do better at the bench? 

The idea is that with a complete and accurate set of modelling tools, you could make a string-to-ear complete model, and with appropriate input (say an instrumented solid-body violin that would be used to measure bridge foot vibration forces as played by a good violinist), you could process that input to an equivalent acoustic sound in headphones.

You could then digitally vary the model, and hear and measure the effects, avoiding the time and effort of actually building physical instruments.  Still trial-and-error, but faster and cheaper (except for the making of the digital model).

There's still the massive issue of evaluating what's "better", but assuming you find something in the model that gets a change you want, then you "just" have to build it.

1 hour ago, Jonathan B said:

As an interested layperson following this forum out of curiosity, I wonder if the main benefit of using synthetic materials that could be machine-shaped for a violin would not necessarily be making a “better violin” but in acquiring the empirical knowledge to build better violins conventionally.

There are 2 main issues I can see with this approach.  One is that the material properties and physical shapes are not independent operators when it comes to acoustics.  You might get some idea what shape chages do... but change the material properties, and the effect might well be different.

Second, human evaluation of the resulting instruments would be murky at best, and possibly worthless unless you can get the material properties close to wood..

16 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

The main problem has always been figuring out what you want to hear and what you want to change to get that. I get the idea (perhaps incorrectly) that after a few decades working together on it the people in the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop still aren't close to achieving even the first goal.

IMO the second goal is even farther from being achieved.

Yeah, LOUDER is good, as long as the tonal balance is still good and it doesn't require excessive bow speed and/or pressure to get there.  That's my  goal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Don Noon 

OK, so here's what I see so far from attempts at !!!LOUDER!!! I see this universally.

Here's the history of violin played out by jello actors: Suppose you have some green jello, some red, some yellow, some blue, some orange. Each one is a small quantity. You need !!!MORE JELLO!!! so you put them together. Now you have a whole bunch of jello, but it's grey :-(

Loud violins that I have heard have been loud in rough proportion to their tonal simplicity. On good violins the volume may be less because the colors sit in the background waiting to be picked up and used, rather than all being dumped together into sheer volume. That's my model, anyway.

I remember reading once a comment by some acoustical person that the total sound quantity of most reasonably-good violins was about the same, that this seemed to be limited by the strings, but that there were different ways to get it out of the violin. My model and personal experience would tend to confirm that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Loud violins that I have heard have been loud in rough proportion to their tonal simplicity.

I don't quite get the jello analogy, but agree that going for LOUD (typically higher stiffness/weight, and lower weight) tends to enhance the mid frequencies more than elsewhere, and result in on/off dynamics.  

The simple solution would be to use solid-body electric violins and put the output thru a fancy processor.  Unamplified wooden instruments have limitations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Michael Darnton I do get the problem of defining what you want to hear. That is why I assumed any study would have to be empirical and start with subjective assessment of tonal qualities.

My very small knowledge comes from helping my daughter choose her violin from those available at the appropriate budget for an improving student. She tried about 40 instruments more or less systematically (using the same pieces which tested clarity of articulation in fast baroque writing and more expressive tonal possibilities in some slower romantic writing). We weren't able to define what we were looking for, but worked on the basis we knew what we liked when we heard it. It certainly wasn't the same as loudness - in fact one instrument that seemed to project extremely well when first heard turned out to be totally rejected because that loudness had the invariant tone of a foghorn (from memory it was a JTL or Laberte). The instrument eventually chosen was not especially loud but responded well to the bow, and in some strange way its sound seemed to come from a space larger than the violin.

But given it was clear that violin tone can vary widely, an ability to compare instruments differing in only one parameter might be informative. I am not sure whether you could "score" violin tone subjectively, while you can compare one against the other the most common description of those rejected was "boring".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some inconvenient truths;

1. tone is subjective, there is no "it" tone, there may be sound qualities that maybe even most might agree they like, but still there is no "best sounding violin in the world", and there is no way to describe it if there was

2. by placing early Italian violins on a pedestal {be it that you think they belong there or not} "you" will ALWAYS be comparing anything built to those violins

3. much of this discussion is in fact much more about human psychology than construction of wooden objects. Value perception virtually 100% of the time will distort opinions, only when true blind test's are performed do these "priceless" instruments show their place in the contest and over and over it is proven that these "old Italian" violins fare about as well as anything they are compared to, BUT only when no one knows what they are. That in itself is PROOF that the entire thing is group think psychology based on conditioning. "Strad" IS  group think  psychology , know it or not, since you were a child you have been "programed" by others who have been programmed to "think" that there is a magical superior quality of this LEGEND, when in fact this is all pre conditioning to the point of if you are a pro player/maker or if you can't carry a tune and never played anything, by the time you are 20 years old you have heard SO much pro Strad propaganda that you are conditioned, know it or not, to have a "pro" Strad is the best attitude.

edit: this is because Strad transcends the violin, music, woodworking, etc...and has become an iconic catch phrase/descriptor that is synonymous with "perfection, the highest quality, the best of the best, etc etc." and one should really take that into account when thinking about the psychological effect that has had on all of us particularly let alone all the "joe blo's" out there who don't give a rats ass about any of this YET they, even, still have the basic perception and have been subjected to the same "schpeel" as everyone else, it just seems to matter to us more for obvious reasons

4. Again the more we peel back layers the more we see a "loop of expectations" not necessarily based in reality, or preventing alternate realities from unfolding based on "traditions"

I think if we ask Don why he's no specializing in snakehead fiddles he'd probably say "because no one will buy them" as they too,the customers have come to expect "tradition" but that does not mean they would not be great instruments

5. there really might not be anyway to "improve" the violin just variations of alterations

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

I get the idea (perhaps incorrectly) that after a few decades working together on it the people in the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop still aren't close to achieving even the first goal.

Aside from all of the hubub about !!!!LOOK: WE HAVE NEW IDEAS!!! what exactly do people with these !!!NEW IDEAS!!! want to accomplish tonally that will fill the seats in the hall? I mean, besides, !!!!LOUDER!!! ?

Some of the people who have regularly participated in the Oberlin Acoustics workshop are very successful makers. Cause and effect, or coincidence?

Some other participants (many of then former engineers) are less interested in making instruments, but are more interested in exploring complex mechanical or vibrational systems, and of those, violins are among the most challenging.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Some of the people who have regularly participated in the Oberlin Acoustics workshop are very successful makers. Cause and effect, or coincidence?

Some other participants (many of then former engineers) are less interested in making instruments, but are more interested in exploring complex mechanical or vibrational systems, and of those, violins are among the most challenging.

Well I think people who like to think, think the violin is something interesting and complex to think about and that, that is one of the great things about it in that people with all kinds of different information from many different fields can share what they know, learn new things, think about different concepts and that one need not play or build them in order to be interested in and participate in discussions about "Le box"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, jezzupe said:

That in itself is PROOF that the entire thing is group think psychology based on conditioning. "Strad" IS  group think  psychology , know it or not, since you were a child you have been "programed" by others

That just describes any cultural phenomenon.  Recognize that the competing makers themselves copy Strad to the Nth degree, outline, arches, thickness, and even paint...

The tests only prove modern makers can sound not bad.  That's because the testing is sequential and aural memory is virtually non-existent.  A legitimate test might be if you could strap the jury into goosebump-o-meters and measure their instantaneous responses 

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...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...