violins 'for sale' recordings??

December 14, 2018, 11:39 AM · 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...

Replies (50)

Edited: December 14, 2018, 12:23 PM · 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.
p.s.- I'd also guess most talented luthiers can 'adjust' the tone/sound of an instrument within limits to suit a player
December 14, 2018, 12:55 PM · 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.

I don't know whether Joseph Curtin puts up recordings of his instruments or not, but we both live in the same town, so many people haven't found it hard to try them side-by-side. I really think that's the best approach.

December 14, 2018, 2:30 PM · 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.

Its interesting that several dealers have none of the inhibition of the luthiers and do provide sound samples. I find them very helpful.

December 14, 2018, 2:46 PM · 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.

For a contemporary maker, especially an in-demand one working on commission, part of the appeal is the ability to tailor a violin to a particular player's needs. So many in-demand makers don't even have an instrument on hand for a player to try -- and they don't need to, because they already have a huge backlog just based on reputation. (For instance, David Burgess's backlog is running seven years, if I recall a previous post of his correctly.)

December 14, 2018, 4:06 PM · Hello Elise,
Many reasons. Sound is so subjective and the as David noted, recordings can be “tweaked” to sound anyway anyone wants. You simply cannot count on recordings at all. Add to that the fact that most makers can’t play well enough to demonstrate the capabilities of their instruments so they are forced to hire a player. In order to provide an honest idea of sound, the player, venue, recording equipment, and sound engineers capabilities must all be very good. Hard to pull all that off never mind the costs. Operations with large marketing budgets do it, but what you hear should be taken “with a grain of salt”.
December 14, 2018, 5:06 PM · 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.
December 14, 2018, 10:55 PM · I may be too optimistic - but I feel you are a bit too much the other way Roger :)

As a tiny example, I have heard recordings of Curtin violins in many different venues and with very different players - and yet I can hear a Curtin character. Am I deluding myself? You are I am sure much more familiar with different luthiers than I - do you not hear a character to their instruments in recordings that may not be immutable yet is common? Can you not hear a style - if not then why are we seeking violins by certain makers at all?

Edited: December 15, 2018, 10:48 AM · 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'm basing this on having done quite a bit of recording and editing myself in the past, and also having a couple of friends who own professional recording studios. But you don't need to take my word for it. Ask anyone who operates a high-level professional recording studio.

Even more importantly: A major factor in violin choice is how the instrument interacts with the player, the amount of useful “feedback” it offers them, and how easy or difficult it is to get the instrument do what they want it to do. A recording will tell them almost nothing about that. While some players are really good at getting “their” sound out of almost any violin they play, a lot will come down how much of their total concentration envelope is required to do that.

So to me, offering recordings of violin sound intended to help one make a selection almost falls into the category of a “parlor trick”, or it easily could. And I haven't happened to run across any high-level violinists who make assessments using that method. All of the above are the reasons why I don't choose to do it.

But if one still wants to try to evaluate instruments that way, there are quite a few recordings using my instruments on Youtube, recorded and posted by other people. The owners are free to do as they wish with them. It just doesn't happen to be my shtick.

December 15, 2018, 6:58 AM · 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.

As far as recordings are concerned I do note that even the most established luthiers are happy to link to CD samples. Or does calling it 'client audio' make it somehow different?

https://josephcurtinstudios.com/clients/client-audio/

December 15, 2018, 8:11 AM · On the other hand, as far as I know, Sam Zygmuntowicz doesn't even have a web site.
December 15, 2018, 8:37 AM · 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...
December 15, 2018, 8:37 AM · listening to makers violins on CDs is a good method for buying CDs, but certainly not for buying violins!!
Edited: December 15, 2018, 8:54 AM · 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.

As it turned out, almost every viola O'Neill played sounded much more like O'Neill than having some significant maker signature; same with Goldstein, except for the ringer that was inserted in the lineup...a good Amati really did sound better than modern violas in a side by side comparison :-).

Curtin's client links look more like a statement about how many high level pros are playing and recording with his instruments.

December 15, 2018, 9:38 AM · 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.

I thought Elise had a post up many years ago on her search for a new instrument to play for a certain recital and that she had finally found that special instrument, but I could be easily confusing her with someone else here.

December 15, 2018, 11:23 AM · 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.
Listening on; your iPhone, Cheap computer speakers, DAC to a conventional stereo,........????

Not much to RELY on for objective listening on either side of the coin.

Edited: December 15, 2018, 12:27 PM · Elise Stanley wrote:
"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..."
_________________

I understand your perspective, and hopefully, you will also understand mine.

Back when I published an email address, much of my workday could be taken up by responding to emails (as many as 500 per day), rather than getting real work done.

People will tend to do what they need to do. My phone number is on my website, but my email has not been for many years.

In my limited experience, anyone seriously interested has been willing to initiate contact by phone, from anywhere in the world.

December 15, 2018, 11:58 AM · 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.
Edited: December 15, 2018, 1:58 PM · 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.

Many years ago, Charles Beare just left me alone in his instrument vault. Sure, that probably wouldn't have happened if he hadn't already known that I was working in the Weisshaar shop. So from his perspective, I probably wasn't a worthless "tire kicker", but someone who could actually be educated.

I wouldn't try to draw a solid line between makers and dealers. Some on both sides can be "hustlers", or really solid and valuable people.

December 15, 2018, 5:04 PM · 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.

(Client audio, I agree, is more a subtle brag about the clients one has, than it really is about instrument sound sampling.)

I find that there are more similarities between bows from the same maker, than there are between violins from the same maker. The difference is far more in the feel than in anything else, though, and even then it's not easy to generalize about makers. That would be especially true of commissions made to a particular player's preferences.

I would say that there are some instruments that will sound good in most players' hands. But your individual tonal production can make a huge difference in what you like in a violin, and it can really influence what comes out of the instrument, and therefore there may be instruments that are good for you that aren't necessarily good for everyone. Anyone wanting to compare violins from recorded samples needs to hear them recorded by the same player in identical circumstances. Dealers can sometimes do that for a batch of violins, but that's not viable for individual makers.

Elise bought an Alceste Bulfari a while back, I believe.

Edited: December 15, 2018, 6:58 PM · 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.

From my experience, this solo is an interesting balance judgment for the concertmaster. You're balanced against the brass, essentially, but it can be difficult to tell what your volume should be due to the distance between you and the brass players. In a portion of the solo, you have the entire string section behind you (you're in an upper register, though, so your sound gets to kind of float on top). The dynamic range has to span the impression of pp to forte, meaning that you need to keep some reserve; you're really changing colors sufficiently to maintain the impression of the dynamic range, more than greatly altering your decibel output. But it's not a solo where you should struggle to be heard.

Dicterow's style, from watching this video anyway, is to use a lot of bow rather than more weight on the string. He also tends to avoid playing near the bridge -- you can see him sometimes move the soundpoint towards it briefly, but he doesn't routinely play near it. He uses a change in sounding point and vibrato to alter the intensity and color of his sound, but there aren't major dramatic contrasts or big changes in volume. And he articulates most strokes, which gives another additional boost to projection.

About all you can say from the video is that the violin has enough projection to be heard above the orchestra in a big hall (note, of course, that the NYP also knows how to balance itself against that solo), and that it's responsive to Dicterow's approach. It tells you nothing about the level of effort involved or what it would be like in the hands of a different player. (In particular, I'd be curious how that violin would respond to a slower bow, more weight, nearer the bridge. Dicterow's approach looks like it requires expending a lot more energy.)

Nor does it tell you anything about what another Burgess violin might be like. (Note: I've tried exactly one of his violins and liked it, but would not venture to generalize based on that experience.)

Edited: December 15, 2018, 7:53 PM · 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.

But this is a very carefully-recorded disc on top-drawer equipment.

December 16, 2018, 3:27 AM · Jeff - yes that was me! And that's also the instrument that has had a rather bad accident :(
December 16, 2018, 3:33 AM · 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.

December 16, 2018, 3:51 AM · 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!
December 16, 2018, 4:00 AM · 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

https://brobstviolinshop.com/

They can't keep up providing recordings for all their violins, but they try. You'll find sound samples of half million dollar violins too.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 4:56 AM · Hi Lydia;
I agree that the “Live From Lincoln Center” clip is pretty useless from a violin comparison standpoint. Not only does it have the variables inherent to recordings that I have already mentioned, but it's not even good audio quality, since it was taken from a VHS videotape of that performance, then converted to digital, and I don't think it's even in stereo.

Regarding your other observations:
I know that Dicterow is certainly capable of “pushing” a violin with a slow bow close to the bridge, and that that particular violin can handle it, since I saw him doing it a lot when he was comparing a few violins in his studio. That capability seemed be a high priority to him, so I too was surprised to see him using a more lyrical style with a faster bow in the video. I presume it was an artistic decision, to get the sort of tone color he wanted for that passage, but never asked him about it.

December 16, 2018, 6:54 AM · 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.

It's probably worth noting that Dicterow was getting all the power he needed *without* having to go to the bridge, and that by itself is one of the hallmarks of an excellent violin. Indeed, if you are a player who is used to needing to choose a sounding point closer to the bridge in order to get enough power, it can take a while to get used to the fact that a great violin will get you what you want even close to the fingerboard. Such instruments have a much wider range of "valid" combinations of speed/weight/sounding-point, which is one of the things that give them a broader tonal color palette.

Brobst is one of my local shops. I've gone bow-shopping there in the past. Their choice of room to record in is interesting.

Elise, it's not that you can't hear the difference between two violins in the hands of the same player. There's a YouTube video of Elmar Oliveira playing a student violin, for instance, and it's clearly inferior, to take just one obvious example -- that much you can hear even without a consistent recording venue or sample of music. But when every variable is different -- player, bow, music, venue, recording approach -- you basically can't generalize in the slightest.

Violins are so personal to the player. And what works for you can change as your physical approach changes, too. My previous violin was great for orchestra playing -- easy response to my style of using a lot of fast, airy bows. My current teacher has gotten me to produce a more condensed sound -- slower bow, more weight -- and that's made a different violin and a different bow more attractive.

Elise, if I could suggest a single $20k-and-under luthier without a long waiting list to explore more closely, I'd look at Isabelle Wilbaux. She's Montreal-based, and it's possible she has inventory on hand.

December 16, 2018, 7:23 AM · 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.
December 16, 2018, 7:57 AM · Ms. Stanley wrote: " I have to argue that a luthier might want to have potential customers hear how nice their violin sounds!"

That is one reason I post clips, or links to a performer using my instruments. Another reason is that I like to hear my instruments being used well.

However, I agree with David Burgess and others about the inability to tell much about the instrument from recordings, for the reasons noted. I even tried an online comparison of several instruments (same player, same conditions), where the most preferred violin was made from firewood from Walmart. In-person, it was not good at all.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 9:19 AM · 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 :-).

I agree with Lydia's suggestion of Wilbaux. Also, in general I have the idea that with buying in Canada from the maker, pricing can be quite low relative to top makers here - we came fairly close to commissioning from John Newton and price at the time was something like $12K CAD which is an outstanding value for his experience and craftsmanship.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 2:39 PM · There are a few reasons recordings can be next to useless:

A microphone has it's own "voice" or frequency response. The type of microphone you would need to use to capture an absolutely "flat" frequency curve would be an expensive ribbon or "flat" small-diaphragm condenser designed specifically for that purpose.

In fact, the "voice" of a microphone is often used to intentionally color a sound. The Beatles famously used only a Neumann U47 tube microphone, which pushes and compresses the midrange frequencies. Steve Perry of Journey would only record with a Telefunken 251, which adds a silky sheen to the high-end of vocals.

As David pointed out, a recording can easily be pushed to sound a certain way by EQ, compression, reverb, or other means.

To me, a violin has a few "voices":

- under-ear sound
- sound on a recording (close)
- sound on a recording (far)
- sound in a small room
- sound in a large room
- sound in a good concert hall

And even within those, there is a lot of variation based on the room configuration and materials.

These are all things that one should investigate when choosing a violin, depending on the planned use.

I think the most honest thing one could do as far as recordings is what Don and David has done -- post some clips to performers using them in real scenarios with other instruments.

@Lydia -- I can attest that Burgess instruments (mine and the ones I've tried, at least) can be pushed, but they also will project in other ways if that is what you desire. This is what gives you a lot of tone color options, and what Dicterow is going for in that clip. (In ensembles I have to sometimes be careful to not get carried away and "poke" through. A good problem to have.) I think we're (relatively) close to each other if you ever want to try my fiddle (I'm in Pittsburgh).

Edited: December 16, 2018, 3:24 PM · One problem may be that many violin makers are either not very interested, or are not very skilled in conventional promotional techniques.

How about something like this:

“There you are on the stage, the audience giving their 15th standing ovation, and demanding yet another encore. It's been a wonderful tour. Ten concerto performances in 25 days. You think back a year ago, prior to purchasing your Biff Gobsmacker violin, when you were employed as the second violinist in a polka band. But this new violin has catapulted you to stardom, and wowed audiences and critics alike all over the world, just like it has for so many others, obediently carrying out your every musical whim, and more. It is so amazing, that you haven't even needed to practice since taking delivery from Maestro Biff.

Get your Biff Gobsmacker violin today while supplies last. Only 20 easy payments. Free set of spare strings and Gob-rosin included at no extra charge (separate shipping and handling charges may apply).

Special offer from Grandma Gobsmacker: AARP members, use coupon code “fossil" when ordering, for a 50% discount."

December 16, 2018, 7:11 PM · David WHERE CAN I BUY A GOBSMACKER!! I'm right on it...

Tom - thanks for the link, will check it out.

Douglas - thanks for the list and all - can't agree more. But how does one single out the, say, 10 makers to explore in detail? Buy a '6 month travel anywhere' airline ticket? That's the end-user's problem. I would love to get a violin from a young, future-star luthier's atelier - one that is solistic but that has a silky sound (and all the other trimmings of course). If anyone wants to recommend please do email:

elisepost@yahoo.com. [But please don't add me to any mailing lists, I get very upset and we have laws against spam up here.].

Incidentally Lydia - Isabell has been recommended several times and I look forward to trying one of hers and thanks for the idea.

Edited: December 16, 2018, 7:35 PM · There are two ways to go about buying a violin, in my view.

Plan A. Visit some reasonable number of luthiers (perhaps 3) and try some reasonable number of violins therefrom (perhaps 20) and buy the best from that group. Done.

Plan B. Make extensive travels (driving to Ann Arbor, flying to New York, DC, Cremona, Shanghai, etc.) trying innumberable violins until you've found your perfect soul mate.

There are those who would really genuinely enjoy Plan B and probably you'd end up with a violin that they absolutely worship. But that would drive me both insane and broke. I did Plan A and I wound up actually buying two violins, one of which is mine and the other my daughter's. And whereas I was prepared to spend $15000, both instruments cost far less. Now, it's possible I just have tin ears and wouldn't recognize a superior instrument if I heard one, but I don't feel that I'm a good enough player to be limited by what I currently have, and I've received a lot of compliments on it, including from professional players.

About recordings -- I dunno about recordings of violins. What I really want, though, are recordings of the same violin being played with different bows. *grin*

December 16, 2018, 7:47 PM · 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...
Edited: December 16, 2018, 8:34 PM · "Soloistic" and "silky" (at least under the ear) are almost mutually exclusive. Soloistic instruments have a certain edge under the ear.

Elise, violin exhibitions might be the way to go. VSA, the Reed-Yeboah exhibition, Mondo Musica, etc. Or a place that has a concentration of makers -- NYC, Cremona, Ann Arbor.

Douglas, thanks for the offer -- perhaps someday!

One of the reasons that I don't own a contemporary is that many of the best contemporary makers have multi-year waiting lists and no inventory on hand, effectively making them out of reach.

December 17, 2018, 2:02 PM · Not my ear Lydia, that's not the one that counts!

Unfortunately, I just missed the Reed-Y. I guess in addition to trying to find luthiers, I will visit some of the main dealers - again, if anyone has suggestions of the ones that are the most buyer-friendly I would appreciate it.

I was impressed by the 2017 playing comparison of 50 luthiers sponsored by V.com and listened through all of them. It was very interesting too to see the tester's (LA Phil Concertmaster Martin Chalifour) reactions after playing each violin. It seemed that the ones he was less favorable about he admired the one-piece back, the flaming etc etc :D

December 20, 2018, 12:02 AM · 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.

The audience and the player hear different things. The player may be wowed by certain instruments, (because certain things are only audible up close) but to the audience, no differnce.

Same effect when I play my electric guitar next to the amp....wow. But stand 50 ft away, that wow is gone.

December 20, 2018, 7:49 AM · 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 tend to get a lot of post-performance audience comments about my violin, often from people who are violinists themselves or used to play when they were younger. What wows them is the responsiveness more than anything else -- the way it can produce sharp and immediate contrasts, for instance.

December 20, 2018, 8:50 AM · 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.
December 21, 2018, 7:58 AM · 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.

Perhaps I'm alone here in thinking that yes, I can rule out a lot of makers just by listening to recordings - especially if you can hear several instruments. And yes, it is to both rule out the makers prone to harsh, nasal instruments but also those that obviously lack colour.

December 21, 2018, 10:11 PM · 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.)
December 22, 2018, 10:04 AM · "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!"
LOL!

Thanks Tom :) If one can't tell from recordings, what the heck is all the hoopla about for 'great violins'?

Edited: December 22, 2018, 11:09 AM · "what the heck is all the hoopla about for 'great violins'?"

It's not that differences can not, to a certain degree, be herd on a recording, but rather that all the variables inherent to recordings from different sources, conditions and sound processing makes them mostly an unreliable source of differentiation when subtle differences between one instrument and another are the differentiating factor.

December 22, 2018, 11:29 AM · 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.

And, second, nobody has suggested that it is sensible or even possible to select one violin over another based on the recordings. In particular, they may not give you an idea of how hard it is to evoke the sound (a big variable). That is not our intent. We are simply looking for a pre-screening method to maximize the chance what we will put our energies into finding the violin-of-choice from the gazillion examples out there. Will one make mistakes based on recordings - of course so - but are you going to argue that listening to recordings is a total waste of time - in which case go back to #1.

December 22, 2018, 11:32 AM · You can easily modify the tone of a violin by 1) changing strings, and 2) moving the location of the sound post.

Recordings let you narrow down instruments based on certain variables, such as clarity, sometimes power, and general tone (bright dark, warm, etc)

Then when you have a violin in your hands, you can determine 1) true power, 2) depth of color, 3) response, 4) performance higher up the fingerboard, 5) tone based on strings, 6) etc, etc, etc.

Once you've had the instrument for some time of ownership, you can tweak the sound by sound post adjustments or bass bar modification. To complicate things further, what the player hears is different from what the audience hears. But that's another matter.

If you believe recordings have no value, then go to the shop and try out lots of instruments. If you have to order instrument trials, then recordings are a starting point for screening.

December 22, 2018, 1:31 PM · Roger wrote:
"It's not that differences can not, to a certain degree, be heard on a recording, but rather that all the variables inherent to recordings from different sources, conditions and sound processing makes them mostly an unreliable source of differentiation when subtle differences between one instrument and another are the differentiating factor."
_____________

Exactly!

Edited: December 22, 2018, 1:41 PM · 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.
December 22, 2018, 1:47 PM · 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.

However, there are several dealers that DO offer recordings of the instruments.

December 22, 2018, 1:48 PM · 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.

Does that make sense or clarify?

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