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Is the research on violin acoustics a viscious circle?


Andreas Preuss

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1 minute ago, Don Noon said:

I see two major problems remaining:

1)  Acoustic properties of arching curves are strongly dependent on the speed of sound of the material.  Thermoplastics are very low for speed of sound.  Making a ribbed thermoplastic would not help this aspect.

2)  Damping.  Plastics are very high damping, and I think this variable is hugely important in the tonal balance and the judgement of the listener or player.

Hello Don, as you can tell, I am no scientist! 

I was only thinking about the idea using plastics for experiments, possibly removing the confusion and argument about the results associated with the variability of real wood. But it seems from what you say that it would not be useful for even experiments as the materials are too unrelated in properties. Thanks for even reading the nonsense I hastily spout!

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I'd like to see more study of how skilled string players make instruments work for them. Often, fine players will sound terrific on almost any instrument they use. It may be much more work for the musician, but most listeners find the results are indistinguishable. Does this influence listening studies so that some conclude there is no difference? There is a difference, but how important is it to the musicians and the audience?

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What I gather from players is that when they don't have to work so hard to make the instrument behave they can pay more attention to making the music. In some sense the better the musician the less this matters because neither technique nor interpretation is a strain for them.

I think this only works up to a point, though. I have been to concerts where it was really obvious to many of the people in the room that the violin was not a good one. And equally, some in the room were totally oblivious, as you might expect. I can think of four players in particular who play on more recent violins and where the difference can be crystal clear. Notably, these four have better reputations among audiences than among musicians. That probably (certainly?) reflects the relatively different experiences of the two groups in knowing how to critically listen.

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59 minutes ago, Christian Pedersen said:

I'd like to see more study of how skilled string players make instruments work for them. Often, fine players will sound terrific on almost any instrument they use. It may be much more work for the musician, but most listeners find the results are indistinguishable. Does this influence listening studies so that some conclude there is no difference? There is a difference, but how important is it to the musicians and the audience?

Some of the studies have responses from both the listeners and the players. The large differences in the scores of the different instruments strongly suggest that both the players and the listeners perceived substantial differences between most of the instruments.

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3 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Some of the studies have responses from both the listeners and the players. The large differences in the scores of the different instruments strongly suggest that both the players and the listeners perceive substantial differences between most of the instruments.

And then there are also large differences in scores of the same instrument by different players and listeners.   But somehow, the same makers regularly float to the top.

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14 hours ago, Don Noon said:

And then there are also large differences in scores of the same instrument by different players and listeners.

Yes, it's not unusual for different individuals to have different preferences.
But collectively or averaged among the players, or among the listeners, there are also usually large differences between most of the instruments.

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5 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Some of the studies have responses from both the listeners and the players. The large differences in the scores of the different instruments strongly suggest that both the players and the listeners perceived substantial differences between most of the instruments.

So, do you think this is a fruitless direction of inquiry?

I wish I could remember the name of one of the tone judges at the 2018 VSA competition. When he played instruments in the competition room they all sounded similar but also his ability to pull a gigantic sound on everything. I know many players with this ability.

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3 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

^When a player makes everything sound the same how are VSA tone awards made?

I very much doubt that they sound the same to the judges. I don't think I've ever heard two instruments which sounded exactly the same, even when played by the same player. And I don't think that I've ever heard a VSA tone judge comment that two instruments sounded the same.

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2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Psychoacoustics. The same mechanism that convinces modern makers that they are Stradivari's equal. :-)

Since all the instruments in VSA Competitions are modern, and no one competing is a judge, how is that applicable?


Regarding the phychoacoustic mechanism: Is that what convinces some folks that all Stradivaris, along with most old Italian violins, are superior?

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51 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Just turning your own arguments over the past back against you, David. I guess I should have added /S when I was done.

Sounds like you've gotten tangled up in your own churn. :D
When have I ever claimed that I was Stradivari's equal?

Was I involved in the January 6th insurrection in Washington, too? :lol:

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2 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

Two wizards throwing lighting bolts at each other from distant mountain tops :)

Well then I got dibs on Golem :D , see, the Ring, it is a viscous circle...

Well whatever you do and however you do it , research or not, "you" should pat yourself on the back for being here and trying to engage something that involves more than rubbing two brain cells together.

I will simply say that I feel the most important advancement any of us can make is trying to move the violin forward to the next generations, so, traditional or not, as long as its going in the right direction, that's all that matters

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On 6/3/2023 at 12:24 PM, Andrew tkinson said:

...we just have to read Dr.Marks statement above to see that he, like his fellow Doctor, Dr. Doolittle is able to talk to the animals, in this case speaking fluent chicken! 

My good friend Dr. Cucumber is teaching me to speak to the vegetables, but if you think I'll repeat what the rutabaga had to say about it then buck buck, buck buck buck brrrawwk.  The biggest mistake I see is owning up to having a special gift.  Would you like the 'Eternal Rest' or the 'Sleep in Peace' model coffin, Sir?  Or, we have a new model: 'Awaiting Vindication' if you have unfinished business....

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This topic is quite a can of worms. The question of superiority of old instruments has not been scientificially confirmed yet, but scientists do center their research on those instruments beacuse everyone repeats the same "truth" and usually the owners of those instruments are wealthy patrons who might be profiting from keeping the "truth" strong and alive.

Very few researchers study how the tone is connected to properties of material and it's shape (arching, thickness etc.) independently from those old instruments and I don't think it will produce any results applicable by common luthiers anytime soon. Actually without defining exact parameters of tone all this is shooting in the dark.

In some sense the resarch centered on the group of Cremonese instruments is indirectly enforcing the (unproven) general sense of their superiority over modern instruments, people thinking "why would they invest to much money into their research if they are not superior?" and journalists will always connect the old hearsay with any scietific results into one article and sometimes the scientists themselves will do it  which creates a vicious circle of a sort.

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3 hours ago, HoGo said:

This topic is quite a can of worms. The question of superiority of old instruments has not been scientificially confirmed yet, but scientists do center their research on those instruments beacuse everyone repeats the same "truth" and usually the owners of those instruments are wealthy patrons who might be profiting from keeping the "truth" strong and alive.

Very few researchers study how the tone is connected to properties of material and it's shape (arching, thickness etc.) independently from those old instruments and I don't think it will produce any results applicable by common luthiers anytime soon. Actually without defining exact parameters of tone all this is shooting in the dark.

In some sense the resarch centered on the group of Cremonese instruments is indirectly enforcing the (unproven) general sense of their superiority over modern instruments, people thinking "why would they invest to much money into their research if they are not superior?" and journalists will always connect the old hearsay with any scietific results into one article and sometimes the scientists themselves will do it  which creates a vicious circle of a sort.

The evolution of the violin happened long before 'scientific research'. So I disagree with your points here. 

The famous quote may be applicable to some modern makers:

"If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, sospiri said:

The evolution of the violin happened long before 'scientific research'. So I disagree with your points here. 

I'm pretty sure HoGo is talking about contemporary research, not research in the 16th or 17th century.

This more modern research was largely founded on the belief that these famous old instruments were inherently tonally superior, and that there was something special about the sound. As things progressed, it was discovered that the sound of these instruments was actually "all over the map", and that the sound of some new instruments was preferred to the sound of some of these old instruments.
That created quite a dilemma: "Since it has turned out that there isn't a specific type of sound to recreate, what do we do, now?" default_ohmy.png

I think the emphasis now has shifted more in the direction of,
"If we have a better and more thorough understanding of how violins work, the greater the likelihood will be that we can tweak individual  characteristics as desired."

 

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

I'm pretty sure HoGo is talking about contemporary research, not research in the 16th or 17th century.

This more modern research was largely founded on the belief that these famous old instruments were inherently tonally superior, and that there was something special about the sound. As things progressed, it was discovered that the sound of these instruments was actually "all over the map", and that the sound of some new instruments was preferred to the sound of some of these old instruments.
That created quite a dilemma: "Since it has turned out that there isn't a specific type of sound to recreate, what do we do, now?" default_ohmy.png

I think the emphasis now has shifted more in the direction of,
"If we have a better and more thorough understanding of how violins work, the greater the likelihood will be that we can tweak individual  characteristics as desired."

Yes, I understand and agree with all of that, but my points still stand. 

The obvious reason why instruments are "all over the map" soundwise is because the inherent properties of the wood, which can't be tweaked to achieve some ideal sound. Same then as now. 

I doubt these things were more mysterious 300 years ago to the best makers than they are to the best makers today.

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8 hours ago, HoGo said:

This topic is quite a can of worms.

Shouldn’t be. The thing is if we want to make a can of worms out of it, it will be a can of worms.

8 hours ago, HoGo said:

Actually without defining exact parameters of tone all this is shooting in the dark.

Well, it seems to me that Dünnwald tried to do so. But on the other hand we can ask ourselves if we need to do so. Instead of asking ‘what is the best sound?’ we could also ask ‘what are the minimum requirements for the best sounding instruments as a group?’ The difference is that the answer to first question needs to pre-define a specific sound of a specific instrument and then the goal is to clone the sound, the second has more freedom to ‘design one’s own sound.

 

8 hours ago, HoGo said:

In some sense the resarch centered on the group of Cremonese instruments is indirectly enforcing the (unproven) general sense of their superiority over modern instruments, people thinking "why would they invest to much money into their research if they are not superior?" and journalists will always connect the old hearsay with any scietific results into one article and sometimes the scientists themselves will do it  which creates a vicious circle of a sort.

In a certain way this happened. I think this also acts as a justification for certain price tags. Or, it adds something to the recorded history of famed fiddles, something no new instrument can beat. 
 

But my point is also that if we accept the Cremonese way of building instruments as a given concept, than it is clear that to this specific concept must be certain boundaries. So if we really want to go beyond those boundaries we must change the basic concept. Research is IMO caught in not recognizing this problem.

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