violins 'for sale' recordings??
Hi all - been a while but my sudden need to find a 'new' instrument has brought me back all a sudden.
I've been perusing a lot of Luthiers and dealers pages and one thing is striking: while the former may provide recording samples of the violins, the latter never does. I have no idea why - there are gorgeous pictures of the varnish, workmanship and antiquing but nothing for the main reason a violinist at least wants to purchase the instrument - the sound.
I can't understand why - obviously a recording is subject to the quality of the recording device, the player and the environment and also violins differ. Counter to these are that if the Luthier does not provide a recording we are forced to rely on what may be a far worse one made, say, by a competition - some of which stink and take it out of the luthier's control. While even if the violins differ (such as by model) why not give a few examples. I find it does not take many to get an idea about the dominant style (compare Curtin to, say Burgess).
Please guys, give us some help - a few MP3s or even better direction to a youtube with the artist of your choice...
Luthiers (in your example) may be more honest? every violin sounds different in different hands, with different bows..great players can take a student violin and sound wonderful, opposite is not true. Different bows can bring out totally different ranges of overtones. If you're buying a nice instrument, only thing that matters is how it responds to you and your playing.
Elise, anyone who knows a little about sound editing can push the sound of a recording around any way they want, whether the overall sound, individual notes, or even small fractions of individual notes. That's the major reason I almost never put up recordings. Too much potential for abuse and misinformation.
Thats all very well David - but when you are at the early stage (as I am) and trying to get to know the current field of contemporary makers its VERY useful to have some recordings. The best is a recording of someone - maybe even an advanced student - playing the instrument in a few recitals [one luthier sent me exactly that. I learn a lot - and I've heard people sampling your instruments too (lovely by the way). Its also wonderful to see how much an expert violinist can get out of it. I think the lack of recordings is a mistake and maybe even a bit naive. If you are the screening stage and only see elegant photos you are very likely to move right on.
Unfortunately I'm not convinced that the sound sample recordings do a particularly good job of reflecting what the violins sound like, regardless. And so much of a good violin is the way that it responds to you personally.
Generally I find sound samples next to useless unless you can compare various instruments recorded in the same studio, with the same player, same bow, same strings and same tunes in a same session. Anything else is pretty much useless as comparison goes. For instance, one player can make an instrument sound dark whereas another makes it sound bright, so how useful is that? Ditto for strings, or bows.
I may be too optimistic - but I feel you are a bit too much the other way Roger :)
Because different violins are different. But the differences can not be accurately assessed from recordings. As I mentioned earlier, one can make a recorded violin sound pretty much any way they want. With editing functions in a recording program alone, one can change the tonal spectrum, the loudness, make it brighter or darker, add different sorts of space or ambiance to the sound, and easily change the sound of a violin to the point where one would think it was a completely different violin. It's not even difficult or expensive to do these days, using sound editing software that's widely available for standard home computers. And this isn't even considering differences due to the recording equipment itself, the player, the room acoustics, where the microphones are placed in a room, and their distance from the player. So recorded sound can easily turn into a competition between sound engineers, rather than fiddles.
I get what you say David and of course you would be crazy to buy a violin based on a recording alone. Also, I understand why recordings might be detrimental to an established luthier. However, that said, if I was a young aspiring luthier trying to get noticed in what seems to be a very competitive world of violin making, it might really help.
On the other hand, as far as I know, Sam Zygmuntowicz doesn't even have a web site.
Then I guess he reached 'Luthier Nirvana'. Perhaps the next stage is setting up bogus web sites so that the clamoring and madding mob can't find you...
listening to makers violins on CDs is a good method for buying CDs, but certainly not for buying violins!!
Elise, at the time I was shopping for a good viola for one of my kids, Metzler put up youtube videos of Richard O'Neill playing 30 different modern maker instruments side by side; the Viola Society did the same thing with Elias Goldstein at a Viola Society event comparing 9 instruments. Before hearing these my first thought was just like yours: narrow down who to reach out to because we can't fly around the country listening to 40 different violas.
I think sound clips of violins for sale are virtually meaningless. It is how if sounds under the ear and your own bow that seems to be what is most important to me and then to hear what it sounds like in the back of an empty concert hall is next on my list and sometimes logistics makes this a very difficult test drive to carry out.
David has reliably laid out the pitfalls of recording manipulation... the other side of the coin is the variability and pitfalls of on the listening side.
Elise Stanley wrote:
I think it's part of the mystique of individual makers to give them an edge over dealers. The mystery of what it sounds like coupled with the customer actually reaching out and trying it is a marketing edge over dealers. It's easier to sell a violin to the customer that is holding it in their hands as opposed to possibly scaring customers away by a recording that someone might not particularly like. The truth is, if an inexperienced player listens to a recording or live performance with slightly poor intonation, regardless if the violin tone is spectacular, subconsciously will turn the customer away. Additionally most makers aren't dealers and don't want to waste their time with people that aren't serious. If you are still dead-set on listening to a record of the instruments, a lot of makers have a list of professionals that play their instruments on their websites. Look them up.
Anthony, while I understand your perspective, I'd be reluctant to put it that simply. The bottom line is that I have benefited greatly from contributions by both makers, and dealer/experts. Many have "wasted their time" on me, knowing full well that it had little or no profit potential.
I agree with Stan. Listening to either Elmar Oliveira ("The MIracle Makers") or Ruggiero Ricci ("The Legacy of Cremona") will emphasize the player more than the instruments. You can't really tell the Strads apart from the del Gesus on "The Miracle Makers", even if you have a pretty high-end speaker set-up (and you need fairly high-end speakers or earphones to even hear the meaningful differences between the violins). The individual instruments do sound subtly if importantly different from one another, but it's hard to generalize about the makers.
This discussion made me curious, and I discovered that David Burgess does indeed have a sound clip on his website -- a "Live from Lincoln Center" clip that features the NY Philharmonic with Glenn Dicterow playing the second-movement concertmaster's solo from Brahms 1. It's both interesting to watch and totally useless for judging what David's violins sound like.
As far as The Miracle Makers goes, I have found that good speakers will make clear which maker is on tap. Good electronics will make clear which instrument the performer prefers.
Jeff - yes that was me! And that's also the instrument that has had a rather bad accident :(
In some respects this topic is a bit alarming for it seems to be implied that one can not hear the difference between two different makers when played by another violinist, it all depends on the player. If that is true - if they all sound terrific in good hands and awful in bad hands - why buy an expensive instrument at all? Put the money into lessons.
And if CD links are only to show of the client base then why link 10 or more from the same violinist? We already got your message. I find it odd that we are even having this conversation - that I have to argue that a luthier might want to have potential customers hear how nice their violin sounds!
You kinda have to know where to buy from. Go to this site and you'll hear lots of very high end violins being played for demo
I do like the fact that the clip is up there nevertheless. I was listening to it with computer speakers, so the quality of the audio wasn't really bothersome.
Mrs.Stanley, I enjoyed reading of your experience trying out new instruments many years ago and am sorry to hear that this dream violin is now damaged. Nice violins can drain our bank account yet still have the potential to cause much pain as well as giving us great joy from playing them.
Ms. Stanley wrote: " I have to argue that a luthier might want to have potential customers hear how nice their violin sounds!"
It's funny to me, Tom mentioned recordings at Brobst...they sent us a viola to audition before I was aware they did recordings. It was very very bright, uncharacteristically so, and went back in a few days. I'm pretty confident of our assessment because we heard two more by the same maker from different dealers and even ended up buying one of those. Interestingly, Brobst's recording that I heard much later also sounds uncharacteristically bright :-).
There are a few reasons recordings can be next to useless:
One problem may be that many violin makers are either not very interested, or are not very skilled in conventional promotional techniques.
David WHERE CAN I BUY A GOBSMACKER!! I'm right on it...
There are two ways to go about buying a violin, in my view.
I had my soul-mate Paul so now I can't compromise easily. Of course I will have to but at least at the beginning of the mission it has to one for the holy grail...
"Soloistic" and "silky" (at least under the ear) are almost mutually exclusive. Soloistic instruments have a certain edge under the ear.
Not my ear Lydia, that's not the one that counts!
After listening to those 50 violins, did you find that they mostly sounded the same? I did. Metzler's violin samples had the same effect. Only one or two stood out, and not by much.
I don't find that they sound the same, but it's hard to decide which sound *better*. That's something that's better felt than listened to, I think.
I think that to decide what violin sounds the best in your heart of hearts, you have to be playing your heart-of-hearts piece on it. If "The Lark Ascending" is your idea of the very pinnacle of violin music, then you don't want to be testing violins with Mozart. If your main goal is to blast your orchestral stand partner off the stage, then you want to be testing violins with Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture or Scheherezade excerpts. That's why recordings are useless. Of course you can rule out ones that are just horrible -- one's that sound like they're being played inside a coffee can or such.
Good advice on the testing Paul. With the problems with my primary fiddle I've pulled out my backup - a Wolf Brother's 1899 that my father bought me when I was 9. I've become re-aquainted and found that it really is a beautiful chamber instrument: sweet, expressive without being overbearing. I plan to keep using it for just that - and that frees me up to look for a soloistic instrument; one with more volume and responsiveness but that may not sound as good under the ear.
No, you're not. The fundamentalists will tell you the only way to truly know a violin is in your hands. The modernists will tell you youtube and sound samples. (At least as a guide or starting point.)
"YOU ARE NOT ALONE!"
"what the heck is all the hoopla about for 'great violins'?"
First, you can't have it both ways: either you need a superior (if you don't like great) violin because it allows you to sound better, or you don't in which case buy any old violin and put the money into lessons.
You can easily modify the tone of a violin by 1) changing strings, and 2) moving the location of the sound post.
It's interesting that I haven't found any online auction houses that feature recordings for all their lots. Perhaps recordings would scare away some potential bidders.
Thats not surprising - often dealers don't try the violin either before making an offer on it. The reason is probably that the cash value of an instrument depends rather little on its sound.
David - perhaps the confusion here is over the objective of recordings. All along I have said that my purpose is NOT to evaluate any individual instrument but to get a feel for the type of instrument a particular luthier produces. Thats the idea, to see if you want to test a few instruments from one particular maker.
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