Violin Tone and Playability
Violin tone, playability, and with it projection and sonority, appear to be dictated by an acoustic wave phenomenon that has previously gone unnnoticed. This is “new” physics and science. Previously suggested contriibuting factors such as age, wood quality, varnish, plate graduation, workmanship, dimensions, appearance, tap tone tuning, vibration modes, appearance, and regional origin seem to make little or no contribution. This shouldn’t be a surprise because the hallmark of a good scientic theory to explain is consistency and the ability to predict. Exceptions abound for all these suggested factors as hypotheses for good tone and playability.
Using one’s ears as eyes, this phenomenon can be “seen” and studied by tapping systematically and listening to the resulting sound on an instrument in playing condition . The phenomenon is dynamic. It responds to bow position, the fingering of notes, and the shutling back and forth of the soliton sawtooth waves generated by bowing. It probably has gone unnoticed because its nature and dynamic behavior are unexpected compared with what conventional vibration theory would suggest . However, with an understanding of its nature and behavior, the wave phenomenon can be modifed rather easily and consistenly by drawing on the outside of the instrument and/or (very!) lightly sanding on the inside to create “micro striations”. “Old Italian Tone” is easily achievable in any instrument.
All instruments have internal striations of some kind, be they from gouge, scraper, plane, sanding or other treatment. If they do not consistently define a “good” version of the phenomenon, the instrument is more or less “conflicted”. It can be hard to play, subject to change with time, the weather, setup, string choice, fittings and so on. Instruments can exhibit wolf tones, string whistling, aggresive high-frequency sound or other problems.
Excuse me, I'm gluten free - Does this word salad have croutons in it?
Chladni figures are not new at all in exploring violin characteristics. Not few luthiers use them to check their plates before glueing together all that stuff.
And no, it hasn't anything to do with lines from sloppy scraper work. These lines are completely irrelevant, compared to the structural inhomogenity caused by the annual rings.
To Nuuska M.
To Scott Cole:
hello, i would like to ask about getting free strings.
Leon, your comment seems to be irrelevant to the thread. You should make a new thread for an unrelated question. (The answer to your question, though, is that many local violin shops have "string tester" libraries where you can try out different strings they have.)
David, the wood doesn't matter. Let go of your tradition-based comforts and accept the new wave of science. Use plywood and draw lines on it with permanent marker. Amazon violins do it and they have 5 star reviews, so who are we to argue with what the people want?
Hmmm... Perhaps another crank or troll. I would expect someone with an engineering degree to be clearer and more revealing in their thought. I am not an Luthier, but to expect significant improvement in sound from very small scratches and lines is an example of magical thinking, analogous to homeopathic medicine.
Wait, is this implying that a VSO can be made to sound like a Strad by drawing on it with a grease pencil?
What is the subject of this discussion? Please tell me so I can decide to join or not.
To: David Burgess:
You really asked for trouble this time, David!!
Whoopee! Can we have it in an auditorium so that we can all watch?
Elise, aren't you pretty far away from Ann Arbor? ;-)
I used to know a Ted Sinoski - many years ago I played in a string quartet with him, another engineer and a grad student in the Wind Tunnel building at the University of Western Ontario. Although the claims are clearly exaggerated, if it is the same person, it is not impossible that he may have discovered something.
To Mary Graham:
To David Burgess:
To David Burgess:
@ Ted Sinoski
@ David Burgess
Mr. Sinoski, I'm not fishing for a response here about how you are calibrating your tests, but it needs to be said that anyone who makes this type of claim had better be having regular and consistent, and honest (most players when faced with someone they don't know showing them a violin will politely say "Bravo! Wonderful work" regardless of the quality of what they're shown. Your garbage collector could build a resume on such comments.) feedback from a relatively large number of people who actually do own the very best and play at the *highest* level the type of instrument one is attempting to emulate.
As an engineer with some 30+ years experience, my first take is that this "new physics and science" is complete BS. Physics and science of this sort is fairly well known... but very complicated. Throw in the fact that the evaluation of good/bad is made subjectively by humans, and there can never be a final answer to anything.
I don't have a problem believing that the violins under discussion meet the maker's own criteria. There's a maker who showed me a few violins a couple of decades ago who was claiming much the same. The warning sign for me was/is both makers' list of "bad" traits, which is a clue that they're heading in the wrong direction. A lot of what they claim to eliminate is exactly part of the criteria of a good instrument for good players, but are considered bad things by less-skilled players; some things on the list are simple setup problems. The person who showed me violins long ago had completely castrated them, so that they were even and balanced, incredibly boring, with no character and personality. However, for someone who didn't have perfect control, they were as tame as could be--no unpleasant surprises, every note exactly the same, no matter how they were played. One stop organs, and not a particularly good stop at that.
For anyone who doesn't already know, Davide Sora, Don Noon, Michael Darnton and I are actual makers. Don was previously an engineer with NASA.
continued--attempting some mind-reading here; "surface acoustic wave" (?!) Ted S. has a degree in electrical engineering, so maybe what started that line of thinking is; with alternating current, magnetic fields are generated that force the signal, the current, to the outside edge of the conducting wire. That mechanical/acoustic vibrations would do the same thing is interesting, but doubtful.
Hi...as per my understanding this is some kind of surface acoustic wave phenomenon and the grain in the wood has no apparent influence on its configuration and behavior. The wave "properties" can be completely determined by imposing directed striations or drawn lines on the body of the instrument.
@ Ted Sinoski
--I am neither a Luthier nor a scientist, so maybe someone can clarify: Are "Surface Acoustic Waves" vibrations traveling parallel, along, the surface, or radiating from the surface, like a drum head ?
@ joel quivey
Michael Darnton's point is very pertinent. Great violins often have, to quote Ted, "aggressive high-frequency" overtones and wolf tones. And they have a precision of response that rewards an extremely high degree of player control.
There is still a huge difference between "character" and "defects".
Christian summed it up.
Drawing lines on the varnished surface seems absurd to me.
Here's one for Adrian:
While you may be right, cynicism is the bane of genius. I am skeptical, but content to let the idea ride until proven or not.
On the other hand, almost all radical ideas, particularly violin-related, and particularly in conjunction with trying to promote something for profit, have fizzled out and gone nowhere.
Micheal, I actually bought Ms Spears book, not for the telepathic tone adjustments (which I find a teeny bit loopy..) but because she starts with blobs of Bluetack on the ribs, which makes sense to me!
Fair enough, but I would not describe myself as "gullible": I watched the video with due scepticism!
"Gullible" refers to his too-impressed violinist.
"...any expectation on the player's part can affect the resulting sound, so one trial with a gullible accomplice proves exactly zero."
OK, I shall have to extract the relevant "soundbites" to do a side to side comparison, and LTAS etc.
I have indeed done many FFT sound bite comparisons, and found that the variations in playing are too large to overcome when looking for small "improvements".
David, I realise that Fry explained what he wanted
I have recorded four-octave chromatic scales on my violas, with different bridges, mutes, and blobs, in the same session. (I didn't try multiple "identical" recordings, though.) I wanted to find if I could see in the LTAS what I heard, and vice versa. To a limited extent, yes.