Sound Projection, Modern vs. Old Instruments
What decides the limit of sound projection you can achieve from your instrument? Is it strings, top thickness, tailpiece material or something else? Do Italian School instruments generally have a good projection suited to a soloist's instrument?
In the world of violin, the answer to a question like this is always whatever "seems most reasonable." It stands to reason that the most important part of the violin for tone is the nut, because that's where the vibrating part of the string exerts the most force on the instrument.
No, I don't think any luthier would agree that the nut is the most important part of the violin for tone.
I think player + violin + bow (+ strings + horsehair + rosin + fittings + etc. etc.) is a complex and dynamic system.
Paul, consider that very little of the vibration energy from the string is reaching the upper nut when the string is stopped, which is most of the time.
Guys, I think Paul deliberately omitted the /sarcasm tag...
Han, you didn't notice a significant difference in volume between the bowing points?
It's difficult to judge by ear the difference between "less powerful overtones" and "less volume". According to the sound pressure meter, the volume is about 2 dB(A) less at the nut than at the bridge for the G string; the difference is less than for the E string. (The needle is dancing quite a bit, so it's hard to do this accurately.)
"Guys, I think Paul deliberately omitted the /sarcasm tag..."
Han, yes, that's a tough one. Violin volume and projection are usually assessed by human listeners, rather than measuring devices. And the spectral distribution of the sound can have a lot to do with listener impressions.
I know the instrument has a lot to do with hearing a violin, but the player's skill may mean even more.
I changed my mind. It's not the nut. It's the GLUE they used. See, the old Italian masters used only glue made from the hides of deer hunted in the Carpathian Mountains of Central Europe which is perfectly matched, through many millennia of evolution, to the maple and spruce tonewoods harvested there ...
David, I'd be interested to see the results. I'd do this myself, but I don't have good recording equipment (anymore).
Paul is actually correct about the nut - but not that one. I remember my cello teacher telling me that the most important single item responsible for making a good tone is the nut at the end of the bow ;)
Surely it's the nut playing it?
"On a more serious note, I wonder if the limitation on projection is the thickness of the top. Don't you want the top to be very thin so that it can vibrate easily, but it has to be structurally strong enough to sustain the forces set upon it"
For violin instruments it is worth reading the two books by the late James Beament: "The Violin Explained (Components Mechanism and Sound)" and " How We Hear Music (the Relationship Between Music and the Hearing Mechanism)." According to Beament the important factors in projection are the way we humans hear different frequencies and the amount of sound instruments output in the 1 - 3 KHz band, where good violins have their important overtones (harmonics). The human hearing mechanism seems to be able to "reassemble" "pitch" from the overtones we hear. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell both books have become rare and expensive.
I'm a new-be to all of this but I think it must be the violin case. If you take a violin out of a $2K case, it invariably sounds better than the ones in the 50-dollar soft cases. To prove this, I plan on switching instruments case-to-case the next time I'm at a premium violin shop. That ought to prove it!
A lot also rides on whether or not one uses a cheap sponge as a shoulder rest. ;-)
Trevor I apologize for getting my two nuts confused with one another. Oh God. Now I have to resign from the Senate.
I think we need another experiment just to define projection! Player perception vs listeners perception vs instrumentation measurements.
The beneficial effect of vibrato on projection (or the ability of a violin to be heard above an orchestra) is at least partly due to co-modulation masking release. I won't attempt a proper explanation (it took me long enough to get my head round) but as Andrew says it's to do with how overtones "bind" together to reinforce the pitch of the fundamental. The problem is, how to recognise which frequencies we hear are overtones of the violin and which emanate from the orchestra? The clever thing vibrato does is to help the brain recognise which frequencies are varying at the same rate ("co-modulated") and therefore belong together.
Steve's comment on vibrato is just an example of how "projection" is actually a super complicated concept because there are so many other variables. What we are discussing is not something that can be mechanically measured because it is what happens inside people's ears.
It seems that we tend to dismiss instrument measurement of projected sound, wheras it is the only consistent and objective method of measurement and comparison. Human hearing is totally subjective and inconsistent at best, even for the same individual and the same day at different time, yet is the one we trust most as ultimately it is what matters most to us. This is perhaps what makes these listening comparative studies so darn difficult and inconsistent. For instance, some days my instrument sound different, yet nothing really changed. I attribute the change to humidity, temperature and whatever else other than myself, but in reality I (and my earing) am the most likely variable.
Roger, instrumented loudness measuring methods aren't terribly reliable either, because there isn't a set of agreed-on standards. For instance, should they be measured on the decibel scale? If so, should the A, B or C weighting be used? Or should one of the more modern industrial noise standards be used, like "sones"?
There is also the question of how many mikes, and where to place them: a violin emits much sound from all over its back plate, including high frequencies. I someone playing a violin for us turns slightly, the tone and projection change noticeably.
Personally I thought Paul's joke about the nut was a little too obvious;)
This is slightly off-topic, but what do we mean by "modern"? Any instrument built after, say, 1816 (when Storioni died)? My violin is 104 years old. Modern? Middle-aged?
I suspect the intent here was "modern" in the sense of "contemporary" -- by living makers.
Yes, I get that. I suppose my real question is, what do we call all those instruments made after the "golden age" but not recently by folks still living.
Since sound is the change is pressure, then theoretically the greater the distance/excursion of the vibration of the top plate, the greater the volume that would be produced. Same principle as a loudspeaker
I've heard from a professional orchrstra player that I respect a lot, that he commented a well known artist having a huge sound, but audiences said otherwise. He commented another artist having a modest sound output, but I heard the performance and he sounded huge and no single note that can't be heard.
In the world of automobiles, an antique is anything 50 years or older.
antique violin is 100 yrs old or older
Of course that some instruments project more than others, but its evaluation seems to be a bit subjective too.
I think projection is at least 50% down to the player. I once heard Oistrakh play the Brahms (admittedly from Row C, and he probably wasn't playing a communist violin) and he blew the orchestra away!
I envy you Steve, Oistrakh is my favorite violinist.
Mine too, then as well as now. I might have been in the orchestra but failed the audition and consequently got a better view.
And Oistrackh played the viola too!
Projection (which is interesting only for the handful of violinists who play solos in large halls) is surely fetishized as an excuse for paying over the odds for a great Cremonese fiddle. For the price of some of those instruments you could actually get a decent instrument, and build your own portable hall with acoustics which would put to shame the projection of any Strad or Del Gesu in a badly designed hall (such as Albert Hall, London). Ridiculous? Not at all. The violinist Rieu built a replica of Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, which is huge, and carted it round the world for his concerts. That is over the top but shows what you can do with a few million.
"If I am not wrong, Melvin mentioning that Vengerov was not able to make del Gesú's Cannon/Paganini project in a recital some years ago."
It seems that del Gesù's Cannon/Paganini requires a certain type of player to make it sing properly.
I told this story in another thread but it could date from the time Paganini ordered a minor repair to the Cannon while on tour in England. The luthier who performed it seized the opportunity of taking the front off to find out what made it tick, and according to Paganini its sound was never the same again. The luthier was George Craske who later made my violin. It projects pretty well!
I had a Craske for many years. Large, flat pattern. Not particularly big nor deep sound, but pleasant. How did Paganin find Craske, and why did he trust him? I though Craske was an amateur that made his violins in isolation, with his output only being purchased by Hill after his death.
You're right about Hill's, although with a total output of 3000 I think Craske must have sold a few instruments on his own account too. I guess Paganini was touring small towns in the north of England and had to take any luthier he could find.
John Birchall, Rieu also plays a 1732 Strad. ;-)
My teacher plays on a Guarneri, not a Del Gesu, but Joseph Filius Andreae. And lord, that violin SINGS and projects like nothing else, even when my teacher is just demonstrating a scale in a small practice room.
"John Birchall, Rieu also plays a 1732 Strad. ;-)"
Once you throw amplification into the mix, all bets are off. :-)
Why is there sooo much prejudice against German violins?
Oh, and I read somewhere Rieu’s castle nearly bankrupted him.
"Why is there sooo much prejudice against German violins?"
"Why is there sooo much prejudice against German violins?"
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