Violin Sound under the ear is misleading?

February 19, 2005 at 06:44 AM · I've been trying out violins lately at the Cremona show in San Jose and noticing a huge difference in terms of violin sound under my ear, but not hearing much when the same violin is played by another player. This is especially true concerning some of the higher frequency shrillness, harshness, and brightness sounds. You can hear these loudly under the ear, but not notice it at all when someone else plays the violin. A warm and smooth violin sounds comfortable under the ear, and again the difference from 3 feet away is not that noticeable, at least to me.

The audible difference is slight (for me) even among two violins that sound opposite under the ear. Does one go for comfort and liking the sound under the ear, or tolerate some discomfort in terms of brightness in hopes that the violin will project better?

What do professionals prefer in terms of sound, and how much does the under-the-ear sound factor into their selection of an instrument? If the under-the-ear is uncomfortable, do you wear an earplug in your left ear?

Replies (39)

February 19, 2005 at 03:05 PM · In my opinion this is the violin topic with the most widely circulated untruths floating around. One hears people talk about Heifetz sounding scratchy up close and beautiful at a distance...nonsense!!!!...I heard him both ways, and he sounded (as everyone does) different at two different distances, but he sounded incredibly gorgeous both ways. You hear people (often dealers) say that a violin may sound ugly up close, but don't worry, it will sound beautiful at a distance...not so. A violin should sound wonderful under your ear! If it sounds loud, like a loud necktie, you don't want it. This is not a powerful violin, it is a screaming ugly violin!!! What makes a violin carry is the same thing that makes Pavarotti's voice carry: richness of overtones. If you would stand next to Pavarotti when he sang in an opera performance you would not want to cover your ears!!! You would not say of his voice: "This sounds ugly, but it will sound good in the hall." A voice, or a violin, doesn't sound the same under the ear as it does at a distance, but this difference is not a harsh/beautiful difference. The same applies to the technique of performing in a hall: Experience teaches us how to best articulate, support the tone, and render the rhythm so it is distinct and not jumbled by the reverberation; but woe to the violinist who makes ugly sounds that violate his sense of beauty, in the vain hope that this ugliness helps the sound of his performance at a distance.

February 19, 2005 at 01:46 PM · Hi,

I wish there were stars in this thread to give to Oliver for that post! All I can say, is that's the Truth, with a capital T!

Cheers!

February 19, 2005 at 01:47 PM · .

February 19, 2005 at 02:13 PM ·

I've heard plenty of nasty violins that didn't go far, but on the flip side, I've heard *many* that sounded like they were stuffed with cotton that turned out to have fabulous--better than usual--projection and tone at a distance.

I remember a Stradivari cello that I and everyone who played hated to play: it felt and sounded as if it was stuffed with towels. One day I was in my office and heard the most heavenly cello sound. I walked to the playing room, and a symphony cellist was playing that one. When I stepped closer than about 20 feet the sound turned to mush; step back, it cleared right up. Another instance is a player who borrowed a del Gesu for a couple of weeks. When he brought it back he complained that he couldn't hear it, but that people around him were trying to hush him up. My impression of that violin from playing it was that is was rather quiet, and had no sparkle at all.

It's my experience that peoples' perception of sound doesn't resemble the actual harmonic output of an instrument--something that's revealed by electronics, only. There are certain harmonics that are very important to carrying, and they're not the ones that create a sense of "loundness" under the ear. Nor does it work that way in a hall, either, because a lonely "loud" violin can be completely swamped by an orchestra if it's tonal output is in the wrong ranges. There are "holes" in the frequency output of the normal orchestra, and that's where, to a big extent, great violin sound lives: if you don't fill those holes, you're not heard. A violin that hurts the ears can become intensely inaudible with other instruments.

Add to that that the violinist hears mostly what's coming off the lower left of the top, whereas the entire body of the violin is projecting sounds off in all directions that come together in the distance to create the whole violin sound. Different, critical, frequencies are coming off parts of the violin far away from the player's ear: even off the sides and back of the violin. The violinist may or may like the sound he hears, but it has nothing at all to do with what's happening for the audience.

February 19, 2005 at 04:17 PM · OK, I'm confused. On first reading it appears that Oliver and Michael are saying the opposite things. Is there something that binds the two into one comprehensive view? A blanket impression is that violins don't/do sound the same at various distances. If I read more carefully, I get that there can be a humungous difference in volume/quantity/"thickness" (??) of sound, but no difference whatsoever in its qualitative nature. Harsh and ugly stays harsh and ugly no matter where you stand. Stuffed with towels, however, can turn into amazing projection elsewhere in the room. Did I get that right? Would the acoustic properties of a room interact differently with violins having different properties, I mean besides the ones we usually think of? (This is actually fascinating.)

February 19, 2005 at 04:31 PM · I'm curious too, because as I've experienced it, a soundpost adjustment can make all the difference in how the player experiences the sound, as well as the audience. So, I'd have a tendency to take the stuffed towel instrument to a good adjuster and say, "Make my cello/violin sound right again."

And, I have to add... if you stand next to an opera singer in performance, you would eventually cover your ears no matter what the quality of sound for the sheer ear-splitting volume of it. I have always wondered how singers doing love arias singing right into each others' faces come away from the experience without being deaf. Pavarotti had the most volume of all. I think I heard him say in an interview once that singing is just sustained shouting. In my experience, a good violin, adjusted well, does that under your ear too.

Lisa

February 19, 2005 at 05:14 PM · I'm still trying to interpolate between what people tell me, what I hear when I play and what I hear when others play.

I've been told that the most strident shrill bright sounds under the ear have carrying power to the back of the hall. There were a few violins at the show that I could not play without a left earplug (Piccinotti and Conia come to mind), it was that screeching, but assuredly when I put the earplug in, the sound coming into my right ear was quite nice, and close to the sound that another player would make. Presumably since the right ear is pointing away from the violin, it is closer to what the audience hears?

Interesting that this may only apply to brand new violins. I got to try two J.B. Vuillaumes, a couple of older Italians from early 1900s, and they sounded very smooth and comfortable. The Vuillaumes had a booming undertone.

Usually, players immediately reject violins that sound like stuffed cotton, they call them quiet, muted, closed, boxed-in. So I guess the only way to get an opinion is to take it home and have your neighbors complain, or have your 4 year old slam the door because he can't hear his cartoons.

Again, does this only apply to brand new violins? Presumably an old violin has opened up by now. And the question is whether a new screecher will smooth out when it gets older.

I also noticed a trick that some violins had which was that the soundpost is < 1 mm under the bridge, making them sound loud under the ear. Ouch!

February 19, 2005 at 07:45 PM · Clare wrote:

"I've been told that the most strident shrill bright sounds under the ear have carrying power to the back of the hall."

Bright maybe. Strident and shrill never, in my experience! Here's where words become very tricky. When musicians and others use the word bright, they are speaking about frequencies in the higher range of the spectrum, so certainly they don't mean bassy, but the word bright could be used to describe the most gorgeous, crystalline, thriling, liquid, super-refined Strad tone, or it might reasonably be used in describing the most repulsive fiddle you ever heard in your life. An interesting exercise, in the difficulty that many commonly used sound adjectives present, is to listen to a recording of a male speaking voice which is being played through a graphic equalizer. Starting with the equalizer set to flat response, we hear a natural sounding man's voice. Boosting the 100 Hz band of audio frequencies, the voice takes on a stronger and more manly timbre. However, boosting the 200 Hz. band instead gives the voice a drummy, muffled character. Therefore, a word like "bassy" is painting with too broad a brush. Both frequency boosts fit into the category of "bassy", yet they are totally different sounds.

I don't think there is much, if any, discrepancy between what Michael and I are saying. Strads often sound shockingly quiet (but heartbreakingly beautiful) up close, yet able to carry superbly over an orchestra in a hall. One way of looking at this might be to say that the sound is all musical!

I'll say it again: for evaluating a violin, and for playing a violin: always strive for the greatest beauty. Of course one's idea of what is beautiful is something that is cultivated and developed by experience. However it seems to me musically immoral to make any choice which violates one's sense of beauty. On the contrary, one must fight to preserve it!

February 19, 2005 at 07:41 PM · Hi,

Oliver, wonderful post yet again. And yes, I think that both Oliver and Michael are right. The violin has to sound beautiful under the ear, and ultimately, you can only tell about an instrument's carrying power in a hall. Strads are especially so. They sound beautiful both ways, but the biggest difference is a Strad (or any good violin for that matter) in a room and in a hall. A good fiddle just resonates more. And I think that you can hear that under the ear too when you play if you know how to listen.

Cheers!

February 19, 2005 at 08:04 PM · Oliver and Michael's posts were extremely informative to me. But I just want to ask... of course there will be violins that sound like they're stuffed with cotton under your ear AND out in the hall right? So pretty much the only way to tell is to play it under your ear and have someone else play it and have it sound beautiful both ways?

February 19, 2005 at 08:10 PM · Michael's post worked with what my teacher tells me. He says that Dorothy Delay used to say if you can get a Bernardel violin and a Hill bow, you're set for life and that the Bernardel's are very thickly made and don't sound great up close but will sound great in a hall.

February 19, 2005 at 08:39 PM ·

I agree with Oliver--the point often has to do the the non-musical component of the sound. In my experience, though, most players in the new instrument market don't have the ears to sort that out and know how much is there.

Enosh--in my experience, most cloudy violins clear up at a distance. Usually when listening to players saying "this one's not clear enough" I don't have the foggiest idea what they're hearing, because I don't hear it. Then after they leave, I check, and under the ear I hear it. This whole business of testing violins is hard on makers, because the deck is stacked against us. That is, every little thing that might be understood differently in a different (and more important) context, or in a different room, with an hour of playing-in and practice, or with a slightly different approach in bowing, becomes a non-recoverable demerit and a really fine violin moves over to the slag heap of the rejected. I'm happiest when there's a knowledgable teacher or influencial friend involved who can just cut through it all and say "THAT ONE; BUY THAT ONE!", based on a neutral but informed viewpoint.

February 19, 2005 at 08:57 PM · Enosh,

Possibly what Michael describes as "stuffed with cotton" and what I describe as "shockingly quiet" is the same thing.

One's concept of tone, one's taste, is an evolving thing. The more beautiful examples one experiences, the more one's taste develops. The thing I mean to emphasise is: regardless of what point one is along this track of developing his concept of tone at a certain time, it is never acceptable to violate one's sense of beauty. (To do something because someone else will like it, but not me. To do something which fulfills some verbal idea, but it pleases me less.) Never do the smallest thing that sounds less beautiful to you personally at the moment. At some later time one may have a different concept of what is most beautiful, but one must never do other than what is most beautiful to him at the moment. When Heifetz was asked what qualities go into making a great violinist, the first thing he said was: "Integrity".

February 20, 2005 at 05:06 AM · Thanks Oliver and Michael. I don't have stars to hand out, but it's been really helpful, Oliver from a professional play viewpoint, Michael from a professional maker side.

I no longer have any doubts about my contemporary Cremonese Italian. It has a beautiful under the ear sound, that does not cause hearing loss, but my family complains about the volume. I've been led to worry that violins that don't kill my ears will not project or carry and that one must SUFFER for the art or pleasure of the listener. It seemed easy to find the screamer violins that are loud and shrill. Last year when I bought my violin I must have played 30+ violins to find the sound that I liked under my ear. The closest violins to the one I bought was an Etorre Soffriti and a John Harrison. The other violins I tried were harsher, shriller and more nasal or more viola-like dark. But then this past year I kept thinking that the screamers would somehow sound better at a distance than mine. I even had my teacher play mine against one that was undisputably loud under my ear. And guess what? I could not tell the difference at 20 feet at all. I went to the Cremona show and asked the assistant to play my violin against a loud screamer, and still could not tell! The funny thing is that my violin sounds smooth and warm when I play it, but bright and strong when the assistant played it. Of course he is a WAY better player than I. But at least now I have a better understanding to not tolerate a violin I need earplugs for! Besides, my teacher said that it's more a problem on how to get a violin to play softly with good nuances and dynamics than to just scream.

February 20, 2005 at 05:06 AM · "This whole business of testing violins is hard on makers, because the deck is stacked against us. That is, every little thing that might be understood differently in a different (and more important) context, or in a different room, with an hour of playing-in and practice, or with a slightly different approach in bowing, becomes a non-recoverable demerit and a really fine violin moves over to the slag heap of the rejected."

Michael:

I believe this is because of the adjustment. If you have a fine violin but one player finds its tone and can adjust their bow arm and another can't but leans towards liking the violin, all you have to do is adjust it for that particular player's bowarm. When that happens, then no matter how they play, the violin will respond to their playing and they will be able to get the maximum from it.

Lisa

February 20, 2005 at 07:30 PM · That really only deals with one of many facets of the problem, though.

February 20, 2005 at 10:04 PM · True, all things being equal, but it addressed your statement that a violin in one player's hands will sound but not in another player's. In that case, it is not adjusted to the player. I think many luthier's don't place enough value on this and don't realize the huge difference it makes in player variation. (I'm not saying you don't - I don't know you.)

Lisa

February 20, 2005 at 10:59 PM · I understand adjusting to a player, but hey, don't put it all in my court. I can't work miracles when the player refuses to make an attempt. There's a joke in my end of the business that many players end up with the same instrument they had before, with all of the things they hated, but louder, and there's a reason that's true. Some expect the instrument to do all the work, and that's not realistic. I can make a good violin, but I can't make a lazy violinist into Kreisler.

Speaking of whom, you're reminding me of the time I had with me, incidentally, a Bergonzi that had belonged to Kreisler and Perlman, amongst many. I was visiting a class, and the teacher asked if I had anything to show her student. I handed over that violin, without comment, the student played about five notes, said "I don't like it". I said "It was good enough for Kreisler and Perlman." And the student, sticking her nose up in the air, said "It doesn't work for ME!" Like there was something wrong with the fiddle. The teacher agreed, saying "she doesn't sound good on it". Right there, had I been the parent, I'd have left and never come back. To be able play on a violin like that is a gift, and a real teacher would have explained how to make it work. When players can't lift a finger to come to an instrument like that, they deserve a job pumping gas, right along side their teacher, in my opinon.

February 20, 2005 at 10:58 PM · Well, I don't know about that, Michael. But the same violin in the hands of Kreisler, Milstein, Elman, Heifetz, etc. would have to be adjusted for each of them. It isn't laziness to play a different way from someone else. Many players cannot adjust their playing that well (in terms of bow speed, weight etc.). Personally, even though I can, I still want my violin to be adjusted to take the weight that I like to put into the bow, etc. That is possible with any instrument.

Lisa

February 21, 2005 at 12:40 AM · I think I'll completely agree with Michael. Any relationship - especially one that is testing for marriage - requires thought, work, and an open mind.

I'd disagree that every violin can be adjusted for every player. There are certainly players I'm at a loss to adjust anything for.

February 21, 2005 at 01:32 AM · Violins are adjusted to players who are worth the investment of adjusting for them. Didn't Perlman have a neck reset when he played Heifetz's last violin? It's just that famous people have access to people willing to do their adjustments for them. Imagine if Perlman were shopping for violins, wouldn't all the shop owners immediately drop everything they're doing to make sure each violin he tried or showed interest in was perfectly setup, and even think it is a privilege to have him interactively try soundpost setting, and find out his likes/dislikes and other factors such as hand size, bow arm weight, etc...

Like Steve said, there are some people he doesn't think any violin adjustment would help. But hopefully the average player can be helped by adjustment. The matter is more of finding someone who is willing to experiment with you or doing it yourself through trial and error.

Back to the thread about under-the-ear sound, did we conclude that:

a) we sound different up close and at a distance,

b) that up close sound must be as beautiful as possible (no compromise),

c) that some violins that are shockingly quiet up close are loud and projecting at a distance [but only SOME],

d) that shrill shriekers are just loud and ugly, and don't turn from ugly duckling to swan with distance. Typical shop owner ploy to getting someone to buy one is to tell them, "don't worry, it'll sound better at a distance." or "don't worry, after it breaks in, it'll sound great."

Hence we can trust ourselves for beautiful sound under the ear, and are responsible for that. But we need a trusted 3rd-party to tell us about projection and competition from other instruments. And that makers with stuffed-cotton violins that project great are at a disadvantage as the player is not sure who to trust, being unable to trust his own ears for that particular quality.

February 21, 2005 at 01:51 AM · Michael:

I see you added that second paragraph after I posted. Hmmm... that sounds like a difficult situation. I don't know how old or advanced the student was, so I really can't comment. Of course, students need to be taught that violins are to be respected no matter who played them! But how much more special when there is an instrument like that. :0)

I know my students are just learning how to control the kinds of factors you need to be able to find the sound of an instrument. It takes a long time to be good at that. Of course, a teacher should try to help them get it too - BUT you would be amazed at how many teachers don't know how to do that themselves, much less explain to anyone else how. And, equally (maybe more so) there are luthiers who have NO clue that a soundpost is the soul of the violin - and does not just belong in one exact spot under the bridge.

(Here's one story only without mentioning names. I took my violin to a well known shop here in LA several years ago. It badly needed an adjustment but the luthier, who would play the instrument himself, would only adjust it to his belief of what the correct measurements were (by doing that he moved it even further away from where it needed to be). It was a fight to get him to listen to ME play my own instrument, and then a bigger fight to get him to adjust the violin the way I knew it could sound. I didn't win that one. Some time later, I saw Rene Morel at a seminar. When I played the violin for him, he wondered what had happened to it. Needless to say, it was put back where it needed to be to sound.)

My Testore is hard to play, so I can imagine that someone else trying to play it would struggle with that, and it is adjusted for me and I have a very strong bow arm, so that would make it even harder. But, it could equally be adjusted to someone else and made much easier for them. Maybe instead of blaming the teacher or the student, you could have offered to adjust the violin to her playing and sold an instrument...? Just a thought.

I have watched Rene Morel in Francais' shop more hours than I can count adjust instruments to players. He listens for about one second and takes the instrument and knocks that soundpost a hair and hands it back. Presto, a different sound and the look of relief and joy on the player's face to have their instrument speak the way they need is really fun to see. I have never understood why he doesn't have luthiers knocking down his door to learn that skill he has.

He once told me a story of Milstein's last scheduled concert that he cancelled. Milstein's wife called Rene and asked him if he couldn't manipulate Milstein into letting him take a look at his violin. Milstein and his wife came to see him and Milstein was complaining of his hand hurting, which is why he cancelled the concert. Rene was able to then say, "let me have a look at the violin." He adjusted it to where he normally put it for Milstein and Milstein played. He was surprised to find his hand no longer hurt (he had been trying to get the violin to sound and couldn't because it was out of adjustment). He made the comment that had his violin sounded like that, he could have played the cancelled performance. It was his last.

Rene told me that Milstein was not one to think about a violin's adjustment the way Elman did (almost everyday). So it never occurred to him to realize that was the problem.

Anyway, I am not saying that every instrument can be made perfect for any person. But I am saying that they can be adjusted to sound their best according to the player's style of playing.

Lisa

PS. Clare: the opposite is true: all the violinists I know, and all the great ones I saw in Francais' shop all felt it was a privilege to get an adjustment from Rene. It is sort of an understood code to give the utmost respect to a person with that skill.

February 21, 2005 at 02:06 AM · Greetings,

yes. I was caught out once. A fine player recommended a luthier to me and I travelled ahuge distance to meet them at great expsnes. They told me to go shopping while they fixed things and when I came back I felt the instrument had been destroyed, no matter how corretc it supposedly was.

Menuhin once said there are only a hanful of people inthe world capable of adjusting a Strad.

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2005 at 03:48 AM · Hey Lisa, I had stars earlier and gave you one, but I wish I could give you one on the Milstein story. I too would consider it a privilege to have someone of that caliber adjust my violin.

The ones we have here go strictly by measurement. soundpost 2-3mm back of bridge, 1 mm inside of bridge, bridge positioned for 328mm stringlength and 55 mm afterlength. I recently had a new bridge/soundpost done on an old violin I acquired at an auction. The luthier said he never plays the instrument, goes strictly by measurement and doesn't think that playing the instrument would make any difference to his adjustment. Maybe I should have left, but my other options were no better. At least this luthier thought my violin was valuable enough to cut a bridge and soundpost for. After I got my new bridge/soundpost back I found a wolf tone on the c natural high up on the G string and a stiff-wolfy tone on the same c natural on the D string. Since the luthier already said that he would not waste time in sound adjustments, because you would have to pay his hourly labor rate to have him work with you, I decided not to go back and waste my breath arguing. Instead I bought a new tailpiece, a Sacconi tailgut, and moved the stringlength to 327mm and afterlength to 51mm, soundpost stayed put so it is now 3 mm in back of bridge. This solved the problem and my violin plays wonderfully now (with non-standard measurements).

Buri, yikes, ruined by the luther. Does anyone think it might be worthwhile for us players to learn soundpost and bridge cutting/adjustments?

February 21, 2005 at 03:03 AM · Greetings,

I think one should leave adjustements to the professionals. Generally i think players are reluctant to take the isntrument to the shop enough- probably for finacial reasons.

Didn`t Rene Morel just shuffle on to a better world?

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2005 at 04:08 AM · Clare, I don't think a neck reset is part of adjustment. Chances are the angle had gone bad in the years between the two players, and the reset was not simply a quirk of Perlman's idea of a good setup.

February 21, 2005 at 04:18 AM · Aww.. Clare that sounds like a terrible experience. But I know how frustrating it is. I don't know a thing about all those measurements. I bought my violin from Francais' and other than that one bad experience (cured for life), I've never taken it to anyone other than Rene. Now I'm teaching at a violin shop owned by friends of mine: Jim Brown. He's got a great ear for sound and we've played around with adjustments a bunch. (hehe I'm almost ready to let him adjust my violin!) He's got the touch and the ear for it! I do know other violinists who do all that themselves, but I've always been scared to and probably never will learn. If you are ever in LA, email me and I'll tell you where to go to have your baby better taken care of. (that sentence came out weird.)

Buri:

NO! Are you sure??? I just talked with him a couple of months ago and he was feeling good! Francais died last year... maybe that is what you are thinking? I would be very sad to learn this. Here is the link to his shop where he has his soundpost adjuster ready to go! http://www.rareviolins.com/histframe.html

(I really hope that isn't true.)

Lisa

February 21, 2005 at 04:40 AM · Lisa, I won't make excuses for bad adjusters, but I also certainly can't accept excuses for bad teachers who can't teach their students how to handle a violin, either. Neither concept works for me. It strikes me as a bit unfair for you to want me to pick up the slack for all the semi-unskilled teachers of the world who can't teach their students to play. To me, extracting different sounds from a violin is what it's all about--if it isn't, a synthesizer might as well do the job.

February 21, 2005 at 04:36 AM · Rene Morel better be alive! I have an appointment wtih him this week for a sound post adjustment.

PF

February 21, 2005 at 04:46 AM · Michael:

Not all of them in the world! But it was a thought of what could have been done in that moment. I'm totally with you on the violin teacher thing.

Peter: I'm jealous. :0)

Lisa

February 21, 2005 at 05:21 AM · Greetiongs,

sorry , wrong bloke. I resurrect him immediately.

Peter, don`t touch him with your enema tools- he is a valuable asset to the violin world,

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2005 at 05:25 AM · A persons head type also changes the sound. The chinrest transfers a considerable amount of vibrations to the jaw.

February 21, 2005 at 05:37 AM · Buri, you mean Peter's compressed air, what he used for his dog? I just worried about it too... LOL

February 21, 2005 at 05:41 AM · Greetings,

yes. But if Rene is reading this he will at least be forwarned and not turn his back.

Cheers,

Buri

February 21, 2005 at 06:18 AM · I just read Michael’s post about the student, the teacher, and the violin that had been played by Kreisler and Perlman. I’m appalled by the lack of respect of both the student and the teacher. When the teacher said that the student didn’t sound good on it, I expected the teacher to attribute this to the lack of experience of the student. I was surprised that she thought that the problem was the violin.

February 21, 2005 at 02:14 PM · Hi,

Lisa and Michael: Interesting thoughts. I am with you on the teacher thing. However, I can see how an unformed student couldn't make a great fiddle sound. I think that it takes a great player who knows how to play well to make a great fiddle sound great. And, it is much harder to play a great instrument IMO. I also thinks that it takes a while for one person to develop enough to handle a great instrument. Think of how many mediocre players first try a Strad and it sounds bad simply because they can't make it sound! I've seen the surprise.

That said, a good teacher should be able to teach a person how to make a good sound. A little story of my own here... I came to my last famous teacher (who shall remain anonymous here...) and told him that I needed a better violin. So he asked: Give me your fiddle. He played it and then shoved it back at me saying: "You have a great fiddle. You just need to learn how to get the sound out of it!" And he was RIGHT! I did learn, and it's an amazing fiddle. So...

Cheers!

P.S. Also, for the above story: Perhaps the teacher wasn't saying the violin was the problem, but the student?

February 21, 2005 at 05:45 PM · I just saw Rene Morel in his shop last week and he looked to be in great shape.

I am envious of the violin that sounds beautiful AND projects! I seek for that high and low, near and far...shall I find it? (I suppose it costs a lot of money.....)

February 21, 2005 at 06:12 PM · Christian:

I totally agree. Sounds like you had a great teacher! :0)

Lisa

February 22, 2005 at 05:27 AM · Interesting thread.

Oliver, I agree with your basic sentiments, in your many posts above. However, I have to dissagree somewhat when it comes to practical application.

I have been a recording engineer for 25 years, and have recorded countless violinists. I am now also an amateur player, and have had the same questions run through my mind.

I found that, when both choosing a bow, and when working on my bow technique, whay my left ear heard was somewhat decieving. Putting a mic 3-5 feet away, and playing with headphones on, revealed the true sound.

Here is the rub: A violin has different formants in its various different parts. the sum total of these formants gives the total sound. It would be foolish to think that the sound just to the left of the chin-pad was balanced, or even beautiful on all good instruments. On some, yes, on others, no.

When you heard Heifetz close up, I assume you did NOT have your ear 2" away from his violin's top plate.

And so.....

In all seriousness, if you are audtioning violins, have no recording gear with you, and have no-one else to play them for you, it might be beneficial to play tem between your knees like a cello, at least when making sonic judgements.

Personally, I recommend recording them, even if only on a cheap boombox. -And try to always be in the same type of room. As we all know, the room can make a huge difference, which could greatly skew your decision making.

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Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

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