Bow Testing - for Paul N. & co.
From this thread:
Nickel mounted vs Silver mounted bow - difference in tone?
I made a video:
Here's some information about this vide and what variables I could control, and what I couldn't:
First, the recorder is a ZOOM Q2 HD Handy Video Recorder. It's not super fancy, but it doesn't suck. I have it set to the highest audio recording quality, and placed it on a bar stool about 25 feet away from my position.
Second, the bows. They are (not in the order that I played them):
A. a CF bow from Shar. The mark has worn off the frog, but I believe it was called "Presto." I have had it rehaired, so these are not the original hairs it came with ;) but even so they are older than the other hairs in this group. The ribbon is still in pretty good shape, however.
B. a fine old bow stamped "KITTEL." It is unprovenanced, but possibly the real thing. The stamp is genuine, so if not a real Kittel, it could be a Knopf or Bausch or something along those lines.
C. an early 20th century bow by Albert Leeson stamped W. E. Hill & Sons.
D. a contemporary bow by Pierre-Yves Fuchs.
I did not feel like getting out the rubbing alcohol, but I cleaned off all the hair with my microfibre rosin-cleaning cloth until it felt slippery and the old rosin dust stopped coming out. Then I applied 4 strokes of Bernardel to each bow.
To the best of my ability I set each bow to the same tension, meaning that it felt like it took the same effort to push the belly of the stick all the way down to the hairs.
For the long notes I tried to keep the speed even, confine the bow to contact point #3, and let the natural weight of the bow create friction.
For the polishing stroke in the Kayser etude, so that you could hear how each bow responds to receiving energy from the hand, I bore down just enough on the stick that I could feel the springiness of each bow engage and push back against me.
If you feel like it, leave your guesses in the comments! :)
What's the question exactly? Be brief.
1. Do they sound different
Nate, first, thank you so much for taking the time, you're very nice. You deserve "best user of the month. Really, much appreciated! :)
Yeah, sure, I will thoroughly check for differences.
Very interesting, thanks! My appreciation of the bows:
Paul N wrote"
God, I love the violin, in general. I listened to you and just wanted to say that, hahaha. I liked your playing as well, fantastic.
I think number 3 is the carbon fibre bow, brighter than the others less warm
A snappy question deserves a snappy answer, but unless Nate gives us a selection of boxes to tick he won't get one!
The 3 seems to have a drier sound, but it seems to project well, in high register too.
Steve Jones point 2 is partially right, not entirely right. "...this requires a preconception of how a CF bow is supposed to sound"
Nate - by "snappy" I meant your question was quick and to the point, just as I requested! (actually I was being slightly rude about Paul's prolixity..)
I'm sorry for my Prolixity, it's simply that I need to explain myself as good as possible so I don't get misunderstood and someone cherry picks my words. Explaining as good as possible, due to the audience behavior, most of the times means you have to explain every single thing to the maximum reasonable details, if not, your ideas will get out of context constantly.
@ Steve Jones,
Yes, of course, that's another fair example. I was simply trying to explain that you don't need to know how the A note and E note sound in order to tell them apart. As I said, I must go further, you under any circumstance must not know what to expect from a CF or a wood bow, because that's destroying your judgment, you are setting yourself up to listen to those things you've been told must happen, you're establishing a base, a limit. In a correct blind test it won't work, no matter what you know, but it gives better, more clear results. Why? Because the reasons given in my experiment, if you don't know how a CF bow should sound, will be based entirely on your hearing, entirely on the facts, the reasons will be truthful about what you're hearing, and no prejudgments will take place. It's clear that if Lyndon says he's hearing a CF bow, the reasons given will be "bright" sound most of the time, because he supposedly knows information about what he has to say before doing the experiment. It shouldn't be a problem for honest people, but your mind will scream to you "you think it's CF so you most of the time must put what you know, not what you hear". He will still fail very bad the test if he does not hear any difference, but basically the reasons given will be made up mostly, influenced by external factors to the experiment.
Here we are:
From the first video, my preference was: 2, 4, 1, 3, with 2 and 4 being pretty close.
Listening to it with my PC speakers (less accuracy than with my headphones, but whatever). I absolutely can't say I heard any kind of difference in sound, only in your performances (3rd time you rushed like hell, hahaha), let alone notice a difference from previous strokes and observe that difference remains in the rest of the strokes. Heavy A-B test required for me to try to "guess", or should I say make up, a number, and even then, I would be very, very distracted by each different performance. After a lot of A-B testing, I'd get used and recognize some mistakes to differentiate between stroke 1 and stroke 3, in example, being the 3rd faster.
Sorry Paul, but you have demonstrated that your opinion has no credibility whatsoever.
@ M. D.
Where, and how, Lyndon?
How could I possibly guess the three pernambuco bows when I know next to nothing about them??? They all sound decent, there is that good enough for you.
Yeah, that's a bad designed experiment, it really doesn't lead to any solid conclusion, just like the TwoSet experiment.
LOL! OK Paul, I give!
Ever since I began lurking here, I've been noticing Lyndon Taylor frequently making personal attacks and snide remarks whenever someone disagrees with him. Just ignore his toxic comments. Wish there was a ban function like reddit...
Read my previous message as it is very important:
Exactly, we are testing something easier, that is if we can tell if it's bow A or bow B. I'll only let do the hard test to people like Lyndon that can clearly tell how a CF bow sounds, at least compared to pernambuco. He can say CF or wood instead of A or B.
Hi Paul, those are good questions. Here are some things:
Hahaha, this is endless, but funny, hahahaha.
In order to do this experiment to obtain valid results, one would need to create a machine that draws each bow across the strings at the precise point, speed, and pressure of the other bows. The device would need to be able to vary these parameters, and the digital recordings would need to be identically made.
Yeah, sorry if I was, too aggressive? I don't know if that's the word. I'll try to express the ideas in a more simple and relaxed way, I think.
OK, so a very simple question then. I'm open to be wrong, that's for sure, but here it is.
The answers! Spoiler alert, Carbon Fibre was bow #2. :)
Thank you Nate!
Well, not a lot of people participated, only partially doing the test 1.
Wow. In retrospect I'm glad I hedged with saying that I liked 4 almost as much as 2, but there's no running from the fact that I chose the CF bow as my favorite.
M. D. don't worry, even an expert as Lyndon couldn't tell a wood bow from a CF bow. Your ears are perfect, you should trust them under the right circumstances, like these. Well, not just Lyndon, but nobody. And I'm 100% sure he does the same experiment again and you would choose different favorites the second time.
Quite happy that the bow that I found the weakest turns out the CF bow :-)
I still believe number 3 was the CF bow!!
Don't worry Lyndon, it could be, Nate could be tricking us. Nate, did you say the correct answers, or was that message another test?
The original thread was removed. Thank goodness...
You're welcome, Nuuska. My question was answered with the very first reply. Most of what came after could have powered a wind turbine farm.
Yeah, I just noticed. Feel free to do the 2 remaining tests though. Good luck!
If I want to conduct tests devised by an unqualified beginner, I'll devise them myself.
Well, thanks for trying!
There are definitely violins that pick up a nice bright pep from a well-matched CF bow. It's not true that all CF sound is bad. In some cases it can loan extra projection due to its tendency to pull out the high frequencies.
OK, like Lyndon I thought No3 might be the CF bow, but that was based on what others have said in the past rather than my own experience so actually (like everyone else..?) I was right all along! Whatever sonic differences might exist due to the material of the bow are insignificant in comparison with the many other factors that make a scientifically conducted trial practically impossible.
I really enjoyed the conversation between Paul N. and Nate B! I understand Paul's excuse for the so-called "prolixity", but have found that most of the time a higher word count just gives more individual sentences to latch onto, so there's really no winning against cherry-picking. Luckily, Nate was a very fair partner in the discussion.
What's obvious under the ear to a player might not be obvious to an audience member or someone listening to a recording.
Let's keep it simple, it's enough with 2 bows, let alone introducing an orchestra. The premise of the others was clear: a bow makes the violin sound brighter, darker, sweeter, harsh, loud...
Oh we're still going!
Paul N. wrote:
The bow sound that makes a difference IS the sound that the player hears because that is the sound by which the music is guided to the ears of listeners.
Fascinating sheet, Andrew. Also, insane. Did you really count the individual hairs? Yikes!
On my previous violin, the tonal differences between bows was less stark, to the point where sound almost didn't factor into my choice for a bow for it. Then I tried an Arcus that Bernd sent me, and it was very harsh on my violin, but very good on a friend's dark-sounding instrument.
As long as we are moving toward specifics— sometimes the best bow today is not the one that was best yesterday. A change of humidity can affect not only the bow (esp hair length) but adjustment of the violin. And results surprise. I have one bow that is a little on the soft and dark side that I would normally use to make a fiddle more forgiving in cold weather. Its best moments as far as sound go during the dead of summer, when it often outperforms brighter-sounding sticks—especially on a Guarneri-model Croen, which is probably the darkest of my instruments. Even when I am traveling with only two bows, I will try each to see which is doing better that day.
Nate B, Yes I did count individual hairs and related the number of hairs to the stiffness of the stick and what seemed to me the best playing tension to achieve optimum strain in an individual (average) hair. It's all in the spreadsheet.
Andrew, not much to say to that except "wow!"
Conference, not conferences. It was one conference set by the "apparently" most famous bow maker locally, although then I've asked my three teachers over the years and none of them told me they had their bow rehaired by this bow maker. I didn't ask them if they knew him, simply asked to which one they went, and none was this man. The conference was about the history of the bows, how bows are made, and whatever the bow maker wanted to talk about, and of course the difference between CF and wood bows.
"A few hairs more or less." But you see, Paul, the bows I tested when working their best had a range of hair numbers from 133 to about 250 for (the decent) bows with stiffness ranging from 135 to 333 N/m (Newtons/meter). My point is if you hair all the bows the same amount you will not have optimized the performance of some, if any. The spreadsheet has the equation I derived for optimum number of hairs given a bow's stiffness and some other parameters (also in the spreadsheet) - it was a fair match to the numbers of hairs counted in the bows I tested.
Paul N wrote:
So are people here now claiming that the differences are not obvious in the recordings, but are for the player (which is obviously also important)?
So, let me get this right: you say bows have optimum values (I'm not gonna argue that), which are certain number of hairs and certain tension, of course with errors, but doesn't matter.
If you listen to the four bows in the recording, can't you tell a difference between them, even if you might be hard-pressed to say which you like better?
And speaking of rosin - it is actually the ROSIN that makes the sound happen. Try plying with a newly rehaired bow that has never been rosined and you will hear a faint whisper, at best.
+1 Lydia again!
The tension on a bow and the hair quality make a difference to the feel of the bow in the hand, but I haven't noticed this have a major difference on timbre. It may also make a difference if you're "bottoming out" a stick. When my bow isn't perfectly rehaired, it feels like the hair is overly stretchy, and the weight I'm putting on the string is flattening the stick against the hair, which results in a rasp in the sound.
"If you listen to the four bows in the recording, can't you tell a difference between them, even if you might be hard-pressed to say which you like better?"
Have you ever walked on the moon? If not, how can you believe that anyone else has?
I believe Paul's main point was that the differences are at least not as glaringly obvious as the reaction of some people to his original thread would imply. If things are very obviously different you don't really need all the rigorous isolation of factors. Bow differences, at least for the audience of a recording, seem to not be that obvious. It also does not follow, George, that if a difference is physically detectable that it is meaningfully detectable by the human ear.
Urban, I don't think you'll get snarky replies, unless you post multiple long-winded diatribes, repeating much the same thing over and over and over.
I won't repeat myself anymore, and I would need to do it because your replies and questions really show you either don't read my messages or don't understand them. Urban, you can substitute me because you are the only one that seems to read my mind when replying. I'm not agnostic, I'm 99% sure bows make absolutely no difference in sound, but since I don't fully trust myself I prefer to see if experiments prove me wrong. So far, total disaster, not even able to tell apart a CF bow from a wood bow, not even Maestro Lyndon. The 2 remaining tests are being totally ignored, and that's screaming what I think, so...
I have a question for David -- have any contemporary violin-makers and bow-makers deliberately made pairs, where a violin and bow are specifically made to complement one another?
Lydia, not that I am aware of. Can't say it hasn't happened. But most violinmakers and most bowmakers seem to be satisfied with the usual routine of trying a number of bows with a particular violin, and trying a number of violins with one or two favorite bows.
«After all the requirements told to me, I can assure you now that in order to develop the "bow detector", I need a $5000 violin (old italian if possible), $3500 bows, become a semi-professional (a beginners can't tell) and have been bow shopping. Yet, a non-violinist, non-musician mother can totally tell the differences. Yeah, this is what I'm dealing with.»
One question: if 3 extra hairs with 10% more age can influence sound enough to invalidate a test, why not 3 extra grams of pernambuco spread at random over the stick?
OMG, this is so tiresome.
The premise is that there is no difference in sound production from different bows. Whether I can identify CF bow from a wood bow is not really relevant. That a difference can be observed with a degree of consi5stency is all that matters. Basic statistical rigours is of course a must, and proper statistical analysis with a set degree of confidence (aka probability) will discern whether the null hypothesis (as stated above) can be accepted or rejected. The size of the sample necessary to draw statistically valid conclusion will be dictated by the test used (I vaguely remember 32 as the min sample size for T test, but I could be totally wrong and I am sure others will quickly point out which is the proper test and sample size). The test should be to play two bows (or the same bow twice randomly), and the listener (not through a recording, but live) must identify each time if the bows are similar or different. The right/wrong answers are then tabulated, and the statistical test applied to the data to determine if the number or right and wrong answers statistically different than that of an equal number of purely random determinations (flipping a coin for e.g.) i.e. two sets of data: one obtained from observation and one obtained from simply flipping a coin for each play of bow combination). The result of the data analysis of the two data sets will determine if they are significantly different from each other or not. If not, then and only then may you conclude that the null hypothesis is true, i.e. the bow's sound cannot be deemed to be significantly different from the listener's observations. That said, the result is only valid for the given instrument/bows/player/listener combo, so we'll be back arguing if one player can bring out the subtle differences, while another can't. Also some instruments possibly lack the degree of dynamic range and complexity necessary to react to the subtle nuances between one bow and another. You could eliminate the listener variable by repeating the test with 32+ listeners to determine if the results between listeners are significantly different or not with more sophisticated data analysis (e.g. variance analysis). This way you would be able to conclude if any given listener can reliably differentiate between 2 given bows, and whether several listeners can reliably achieve the same result and that for a given degree of confidence. Any one willing to take that on ought to write and publish an article!
There are already scientific articles out there that look at the sonic differences between bows, performed using a machine. Try this one for starters:
Lydia, it gets tiresome, doesn't it! The alternative would be to let misinformation go unchallenged, which carries its own set of negative consequences.
Miss-information spreading? Going unchallenged?
In my experience, people who are actually accomplished don't usually feel the need to use rude terms like "noob" to refer to people who are less experienced. This is name-calling in place of argument.
Paul N, didn't you write this four days ago?
Please, tell me you understood it was irony at its most elevated exponential. I was simply imitating an hypothetical "expert" that couldn't tell at all the difference in the blind test (failing it), but once they are told which bow is being used, suddenly all the differences pop up and are so obvious. I really hope you got the joke without this explanation.
Paul N., if you haven’t seen this already, you might find it interesting to read these thoughts from some highly experienced and highly regarded bowmakers:
Paul N, please go out and try some bows yourself, (which I think you said you have not done yet), rather than insisting that others need to "prove" something to you. Some us are very busy. You can also set up some tests for yourself if you like, and I would suggest that as the best way of convincing yourself.
I'm not "dug in" my test, I'm dug in facts and evidence. I designed that experiment real quick, and I'm sure it can be improved by an expert statistician, specially those that work with sense experiments.
"God, do the tests or design a better one and prove you can tell the differences. Else, you're just dodging and dodging the bullet with beliefs and words instead of facts."
Sorry Sean, not my intention to come up to you as rude, I liked you message and your tone, you're totally nice. I'm just exhausted to repeat myself to death, and argue about broad things that won't conduct anywhere, I feel it's simply a way to avoid answering the only main reason why this thread exists.
Paul W. wrote:
I meant you had plenty of time to test instead of reply with words, over and over, it was not at all a personal attack, and I hope you didn't take it as such.
Paul N wrote,
I reiterate, I think this kind of name-calling -- "cavorting in your noob ignorance" -- is inappropriate and unnecessary. Make an argument. "I know better than you" is not an argument. Even "I know better than you because I've been playing X years longer" is not an argument.
Jesus, I swear this is my last response, see David?
"The elephant and blind men parable doesn't remind (me of) myself at all."
Paul N and Emily B
@J I, I did not say that it's not worth it for a professional to have good tools. Obviously good instruments make it easier to play well. What I did say is that it's a cop-out to blame equipment for a bad sound. It can make it harder to produce a good sound, but ultimately a good player can produce a good sound even on an inferior instrument.
Paul N wrote:
Emily, I understood what you said, but to me a bad violin still reveal itself no matter who is playing it! It is especially noticeable in the higher positions. Now if we are talking about cheaper trade violin with good playing qualities but not quite the richness, then I agree. Hilary will absolutely sound good or even great on a cheap instrument but in the end it will not compare to her best.
Some really good violinists can certainly make a really bad violin (or bow) work and sound well. A lot depends on their distribution of available resources, and how much they are willing to devote to making a bad violin sound good, versus using them for other things.
I don't understand the few credulous voices here. Paul N has some kind of thesis, which is not well defined, and he has "designed" an experiment which will prove something, and instead of just following the scientific method, running his experiment, analyzing the data, publishing the methodology and results and bringing it to the scientific community and letting people be the judge, he sort of haphazardly critiques people with more experience for even bothering to humor his nonsense.
David B is describing a classic Dunning-Kruger effect:
Paul N, bow-sound skeptics (which include me) never survive these discussions without wearing a few eggs and tomatoes. Remember that the "industry" has a pressing material need to ensure that we keep buying their wares, and that includes bow- and violin-makers not to mention shops and dealers. Professional players and teachers, likewise, have a material interest in convincing the lay public that their knowledge and experience exceeds ours in a way that conveys monetary value. I believe it does have value -- but that's not the issue here. The issue is one of bias.
Paul Deck wrote:
I never said anyone was a scammer. It's just that kind of comment that represents a needless escalation of what might otherwise be a reasoned, civil discussion.
"Scammer" was my own description, and not anything I was attempting to attribute to you.
I'm voting for Christian Lesniak for president.
I don't find the test as useless as some of us do.
Assuming you mean the US president, then that would be a vast improvement.
I think he might be a pirate??
The costume was bestowed upon me by a very perceptive coworker, who I believe was trying to express some higher self that he perceived in me. I AM currently rocking the mustache, so I just need to get my eye poked out and get the bird, and I think enlightenment is probably around the corner. So, Rosemary, Lyndon's guess is as good as mine, but it seems like a pretty snazzy familiar to have around.
I think you mean "Ahoy, Natey!"
I got the pirate bit, but it’s an Australian bird, so not normally associated with pirates and wondered if there was some significance there
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