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What is the best instrument you’ve ever heard?


Arbos

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5 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

But the question is would anyone walk out of a concert because the violin wasn’t good or rather because the player didn’t perform well. 

My piano teacher's husband (not a musician, but an experienced listener) wanted to once, but she wouldn't let him. Later at a lesson she asked why they'd let someone with such a terrible violin play in front of a famous orchestra. 

And I almost walked out on a concert where even the players were giving each other the side-eye about the playing (and the instrument). There was no joy to be had, but I was too polite to walk. :-) A local music critic was the first on his feet yelling "BRAVO!" at that one. His glowing review (it was several running days of the same program) had been published the previous day, which made me wonder if he'd written it without listening first, or had he come back for a second taste?

So there's taste, and then there's taste.

Both players/violins have been mentioned previously here as examples to admire. So there's taste, and then there's taste.

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The Vuillaume’s I’ve heard and played have been consistently good instruments that did everything well but nothing magical. If it weren’t for his marketing and Hilary Hahn I think they wouldn’t rate as high. The one Lupot I’ve had the opportunity of trying was much better and interesting.

They are good investments of course, but most top tier moderns I’ve played were better tonally, at least for me (Kelvin Scott, Gregg Alf, Burgess, Curtin, Bayolo, Sora…the list is long).

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@Arbos   I never particularly liked Vuillaumes (HH's, also) because of that missing magical component. but then I played one of his apostles violins. It was more like a Strad than his Strad models--it was a literal copy in every tiny way and WhyTF didn't he do that all the time??? It was great.   

Same for Beckers-- I'm not a big fan, but was shown a Becker Strad bench copy once. It was a great literal copy down to the smallest detail, including the sound. Again, why did he insist on making his own idea, just as JBV did? No idea.

I guess the both thought they were smarter than Strad and the were wrong. Not an uncommon problem among violin makers. But they both could definitely do it. 

I've seen a few great Sacconi violins, and I'm also a big Ornati fan. Both were really good at getting the essence of Cremonese making without covering it over with their own nonsense. The best modern cello I've ever heard or played was an Ornati.

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For me, that would be Gil Shaham's Strad.  Either that or it was his Stradivarious, and he wasn't telling.

Best recorded instrument:  Jonny Gandelsman's Zygmuntowicz.  In a freakish lucent moment, before I had a clue what it was, I recognized the characteristic sound, correctly identified the maker as a Becker student, and correctly guessed the maker.

Best instrument played or close contact:  (1) French instrument (forgotten who -- Bernadel??); (2) Vuillaume Frère.

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16 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

In 2020 he switched from a long S to a later normal one. Do you know which? I thought he got along really well with the 1699 Countess Polignac but haven't heard the c1719 new one.

I’ve heard from a very experienced major SO member that he also plays on a modern instrument from time to time.  Whatever he was playing on a few months ago when he was in this area, that orchestra member was pretty disappointed by the sound of the instrument.  They do enjoy his playing though.

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

 

@Arbos   I never particularly liked Vuillaumes (HH's, also) because of that missing magical component. but then I played one of his apostles violins. It was more like a Strad than his Strad models--it was a literal copy in every tiny way and WhyTF didn't he do that all the time??? It was great.   

Same for Beckers-- I'm not a big fan, but was shown a Becker Strad bench copy once. It was a great literal copy down to the smallest detail, including the sound. Again, why did he insist on making his own idea, just as JBV did? No idea.

I guess the both thought they were smarter than Strad and the were wrong. Not an uncommon problem among violin makers. But they both could definitely do it. 

I've seen a few great Sacconi violins, and I'm also a big Ornati fan. Both were really good at getting the essence of Cremonese making without covering it over with their own nonsense. The best modern cello I've ever heard or played was an Ornati.

Something I’ve seen often in trials is, when the player knows they’re playing an old instrument, they want to work with it and if they force the sound they think it’s their fault, not the instrument’s. First thing they do with a modern instrument is try to choke it, so if it behaves like an old Cremonese they don’t like it. Maybe that’s why Vuillaume/Becker etc did what they did.

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In the listening session with the Landon Ole Bull delGesu happening at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2010 (?) we heard about 50 instruments and rated them sighted. I liked Michael Köberlings instrument, and a non conventionally looking, but good sounding, violin by a maker from one of the «Slovak countries». 

The winner violin of the VSA 2016 Convention had a especially ringy e-string. Otherwise good as well. I think it was a US taught Polish maker who had made it. 

Of Hardanger fiddles I had a good experience with a yellowish instrument made by the late Olav Vindal. Later I heard it after Håkon Høgemo had rigged it and played it on a concert. He is one of our best performers, very stable and have making skills as well. Good for a plyayer. Very even and powerful instrument. I think I tried it on the 2002 Landskappleik in Eidsfjord. 

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18 hours ago, Aston4 said:

 I think it's weird that all electric violins sound awful.  You'd think with all the advancements and millions and millions of dollars of research that have gone into making electric guitars sound crazy good, someone could come up with a way to directly plug in a violin that doesn't sound rubbish.

Electric guitars can sound wonderful, but... they sound nothing like a great acoustic guitar.  Too complex to imitate that sound, just as it is with a violin.

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1 hour ago, Mark Norfleet said:

I’ve heard from a very experienced major SO member that he also plays on a modern instrument from time to time.  Whatever he was playing on a few months ago when he was in this area, that orchestra member was pretty disappointed by the sound of the instrument.  They do enjoy his playing though.

A friend of mine is concertmaster in a professional orchestra.  Gil played with them recently (performance was incredible and I attended both shows).  He confirmed that Gil traveled with both the Strad, and a modern instrument, as I assume most soloists would do(?).  I wish I knew the maker of the modern one just for the sake of interest.  

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On 1/14/2024 at 11:37 AM, palousian said:

Electric guitars can sound wonderful, but... they sound nothing like a great acoustic guitar.  Too complex to imitate that sound, just as it is with a violin.

I agree, but the electric guitar is a different instrument, than an acoustic, and has its own sound(s).  Someone who plays one, can also play the other, but they are as different as piano and keyboard synthesizer.

 

Electric violin just sounds like a horrible acoustic version.  No one has made a violin, or any bowed stringed instrument, that is a different instrument than its acoustic counterpart, with its own sounds. 

 

I think one issue, is that MIDI protocol is old, outdated, and expects relatively simple triggers.  Bowed strings don't produce simple triggers.

Wound pickup coils are fine for steel strings on guitars, and make a teriffic sound that is infinitely modifiable to taste. For whatever reason pickups don't translate well to bowed strings.  Just sticking an acoustic mic on a violin - well that's not an electric violin.

I feel like there needs to be a breakthrough, an invention, brilliant leap of an idea, in the same way that pickups were for the guitar.  Something new.

 

ETA: Like shine an LED on the strings, and A/D convert photoresistor output, send that into a synth.  I can almost do that.  Might try...

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On 1/14/2024 at 11:25 AM, Michael Darnton said:

In 2020 he switched from a long S to a later normal one. Do you know which? I thought he got along really well with the 1699 Countess Polignac but haven't heard the c1719 new one.

It was after 1999, probably after 2005, and before 2017, so that narrows it down.  We heard it from the back row (literally), and it had a big, gorgeous tone.

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On 1/14/2024 at 12:06 PM, Anders Buen said:

Of Hardanger fiddles I had a good experience with a yellowish instrument made by the late Olav Vindal. Later I heard it after Håkon Høgemo had rigged it and played it on a concert. He is one of our best performers, very stable and have making skills as well. Good for a plyayer. Very even and powerful instrument. I think I tried it on the 2002 Landskappleik in Eidsfjord. 

As long as you're mentioning those, I don't get to play or hear many of those, but the best I've ever played was a Gunnar Gunnarson Helland made in Bø.  I thought that was a very great instrument.  I heard an Olav G. Helland that also seemed to be a great instrument with a big sound.  I've heard many of the great players, but oddly, I don't remember being blown away by any particular fiddle.

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I'm curious what clues you all use that let you know what is the instrument and what is the player.  I personally can't tell; when Roger Chase plays Lionel Tertis' "Montagnana", it sounds totally different, because they're such different players.  I'd guess that Tertis' instrument is a poor one, because it sounds tight and harsh, but it sounds responsive and loose when Chase plays it.  It's similar when Roberto Díaz plays the Primrose Amati, even though their styles are more similar; I can imagine that it might be the same instrument, but I probably wouldn't guess it if I didn't already know.  So unless you can hear the same player play several instruments with the same bow, having had a chance to prepare equally on each, how do you know it's the instrument? 

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I love James Dunham's da Salo that was also Karen Tuttle's.  I've only heard recordings of Tuttle playing on it, but it's an instrument that suits both of their styles.  Mr. Dunham always sounds fabulous playing it.

And I haven't heard it live (yet), but Amihai Grosz also has a da Salo that sounds absolutely divine.

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On 1/16/2024 at 8:52 PM, La Folia said:

As long as you're mentioning those, I don't get to play or hear many of those, but the best I've ever played was a Gunnar Gunnarson Helland made in Bø.  I thought that was a very great instrument.  I heard an Olav G. Helland that also seemed to be a great instrument with a big sound.  I've heard many of the great players, but oddly, I don't remember being blown away by any particular fiddle.

I have never played a Olav G Helland, but I have played several Erik Johnsen Helland fiddles of the large models. I have even restored one. They have been good, all of them. And they look intereting too. I think Erik is the greatest of the Helland-Steintjønndalen makers. He was creative, had a great talent at making new looks that worked, almost exclusive for each intrument and still you see he is the master. So he had has style in spite of doing it different every time.

There is a lot of fuss about O G Helland. No doubt he did nice work, but almost always the same patterns and thicknesses. Not really interesting in a inspirational making perspective. Gunnar Røstad also copied his own design, although some variation is seen. many prefer his instruments. He made them more like violins, with Erik Helland short soundholes and fairly often with softer wood in the backs. The Røstad fiddle Knut Hamre plays, once was Hølje Landsverks fiddle, one of my fathers teachers and friends from my home village Tuddal. Some of Olav Løndals recordings in NRK was done on Høljes Røstad fiddle. I guess we may say that this instrument is one of the great ones.
According to great grandpa John Tjønn used O G Helland graduations and principles for a while but he used his own models. O G Helland was popular and had his workshop at Notodden, the nearest city to Tuddal over all seasons. Rjukan is closer, but the mountain road is closed in the wither. 

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On 1/17/2024 at 2:51 PM, Anders Buen said:

I have never played a Olav G Helland, but I have played several Erik Johnsen Helland fiddles of the large models. I have even restored one. They have been good, all of them. And they look intereting too. I think Erik is the greatest of the Helland-Steintjønndalen makers. He was creative, had a great talent at making new looks that worked, almost exclusive for each intrument and still you see he is the master. So he had has style in spite of doing it different every time.

And not to mention that he was so influential.

Alas, it would be very nice to be there and hear many of these.

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On 1/17/2024 at 10:33 AM, Altgeiger said:

I'm curious what clues you all use that let you know what is the instrument and what is the player.  I personally can't tell; when Roger Chase plays Lionel Tertis' "Montagnana", it sounds totally different, because they're such different players.  I'd guess that Tertis' instrument is a poor one, because it sounds tight and harsh, but it sounds responsive and loose when Chase plays it.  It's similar when Roberto Díaz plays the Primrose Amati, even though their styles are more similar; I can imagine that it might be the same instrument, but I probably wouldn't guess it if I didn't already know.  So unless you can hear the same player play several instruments with the same bow, having had a chance to prepare equally on each, how do you know it's the instrument? 

Slipping through time here.

Violas in general are difficult to discuss. ...

Chase is a great example. Met him, heard him and the delivery is different ( and I love him for whatever reasons: a violist. ) A younger, very well liked ( not a violist, ) colleague was unimpressed when working with him.

Can not recall the instrument or strings Chase played.

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This should be a category by itself.

As a violinist, the pee- in- the- pants " mama, " might be a Strad.

I know that great brass and handbells are overwhelming.

What aspect is the art? The intersection of player and instrument should be, but again there might be the composer.

Stuck on an airplane, the cries of a baby are very difficult to tolerate. As a sound designer, the wails of people in great deals of hurt, are punishing. There is something in the upper midrange that is informative. If one does not hear this at the secondary level, they are disciplined.

The last two decades present us with some difficulties. Fewer people hear live music. Online is wonderful, and better than anytime in the past, but is still a fallacy.

I like hearing voices, the smell of broth, the spacial experience. Pre 2K, much time was invested in getting art goers to better experience art. Decades later, what remains?

Via Utube, Faust playing chamber music among others, but the engineers get credit.

I had a teacher with a Gagliano that was sweet and caring. The efforts he made... Still a wonderful instrument at a very personal level. And I heard it many times, performed. It was a intimate and expressive a hall of less than 200. One of the most brittle modern Italian instruments from the 20s. So difficult to play, but better than any Strad on stage or in Row F.

There are many more but somewhat pointless without the greater discussion of the whys and wheres?

When we critique an instrument, do the strings matter? ( Ed: of course ) Does the lit matter ( Ed: of course ) ... the venue, programming.

Any sane community should let Luthiers into concert for free. As a musician on stage, or teacher, or paying to get in, we get to hear a lot of stuff.

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On 1/15/2024 at 3:10 PM, Aston4 said:

Electric violin just sounds like a horrible acoustic version.  No one has made a violin, or any bowed stringed instrument, that is a different instrument than its acoustic counterpart, with its own sounds.

???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znI812KNrJA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka0a9HSNs_Y

https://christianhowes.com/2015/01/24/rocking-electric-violin-solo-video-and-commentary/

I'd say that the issue is that electric violin can be difficult to distinguish from electric guitar, except that it's much easier to play Hendrix-style and acid riffs.

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49 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znI812KNrJA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka0a9HSNs_Y

https://christianhowes.com/2015/01/24/rocking-electric-violin-solo-video-and-commentary/

I'd say that the issue is that electric violin can be difficult to distinguish from electric guitar, except that it's much easier to play Hendrix-style and acid riffs.

Exactly.  Pushed through an overdriven amp, it sounds like every teenager playing the billions of e-guitar solos every teenager has played over the last 50 years.  Boring beyond my ability to express.  I can do that garbage on guitar, or violin plugged into an overdriven amp.  It sounds the same.  It was incredible when I was 13 years old.  By the time I was 17, I was completely over it.

The problem with just plugging into an amp is that it completely annihilates the unique subtleties of the bowed acoustic string, the most subtle and expressive sound ever discovered on any instrument.   Plugging in to an amp diminishes that, even when set to clean.  Plugging into MIDI, or plugging into an effects box, diminishes too.  The only thing that arguably enhances, maybe, is a little bit of real cathedralish reverb - but too much of that mushes everything up too.

 

Given the choice between cathedralish and flat/dead space, I prefer a dead space, and any reverb to be from the instrument itself.

The idea should be to somehow enhance those subtleties of the bow.  I don't know how, but I feel like somehing is there, right in front of me - a way to do it, but I just can't see it.

 

Dobro violin?  I know about the Swedish fiddle, but it doesn't super impress me.  Laser Beam Bow maybe?

 

dobro fiddle

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