Violin Tone - What do you think about these?
Hi all, I came across this site since the beginning of the year, and would like to say that this forum has been a great help to me!
Ever since my 12yrs old boy “upgraded” from a 3/4 violin to full size violin this year, I have been trying to find a suitable instrument (or 2) for him. The problem that I have is trying to relate to the jargons around violin tone. I have heard terms like nasal, thin, bright, dark, focused, complex, 1-dimensional, powerful, dynamic range, deep/shallow, etc; but how to tell, for example, a violin is having complexity? Or how bright is consider bright enough without being shrill? How dark is dark without being called nasal or muddy?
I have tried searching the Internet for samples but they are usually of one tone or the other; and I cannot tell the acoustics and recording properties behind those samples.
I have four violins in which I am trying to setup a different sound for him so that he has the right horse for course, so to speak. Since I don’t have a reference point, they may very well all be considered to be bright and simple!!!! I would like to seek the folks here for your opinion, on what you would consider the tone quality of each violin.
These were recorded about 8 feet from the player using an iPhone. Pardon the terrible/inconsistency in playing, the boy has not touch Bruch for a while, but I found a passage in the 3rd movement that contains enough elements to compare.
Regit, it sounds like you are doing some serious homework. Good for you!
I suppose much depends on what equipment one is listening with. I used Bluetooth transmitting to my SONY headset that cost a couple of hundred dollars on sale about 5 (or so) years ago.
Yes, the recording and playback chain of equipment can make a big difference. Even the position of the microphone(s) in the room can make a huge difference.
As a student you don't want a violin that lays to your weaknesses, you want one that will expose and illuminate them. If you tend to play too sweetly, for example (as I do), then you don't want a sweet-sounding violin.
Let the kid pick the violin he most wants to play. What you think doesn't really matter. Pick one he doesn't like and you won't have to be paying for lessons anymore, if that's what you want. It doesn't matter if he does it based on varnish color if that's what it takes for him to enjoy playing and want to play more.
I agree with Michael. The player has to be comfortable with the sound first. What everyone else thinks is secondary.
I second Michael’s advice- whatever the reason, nothing is worth more than being inspired to practice a lot. If it isn’t the objectively best instrument, so be it. Nobody knows how he will develop, anyway. Maybe he will need a totally different violin, in a few years, anyway.
Well, I'll try, but with all the reserves expressed above..
@Michael Darnton. I agree 100%
Where’s the teacher?
I have been playing the violin for decades and I confess that I have no idea what "dark" means when applied to sound. Let alone the even more metaphoric adjectives listed in the OP's post.
To me "dark" simply means not "bright", and to some it also means with a lot of overtones, whereas "bright" might be associated with "pure" and "focused" sound. Much to do with personal preferences though, and an instrument may sound "bright" under the ears, but more complex to the distant listener, so there is nothing easy about the sound characteristics of an intrument. For me as a non-performer (solo that is), my preference was for the sound under my ears for the pleasure of listening to myself; I don't really care what it sounds like to others. If I were an aspiring student I might have different priorities. To complicate everything the choice of strings and setup of a particular instrument greatly affects how it sounds so what you hear when trialling may be very different depending on that (not to mention the bow that may be a better match to certain instruments), especially when comparing subtle differences. Therefore you need to look at other factors such as string balance (variable with quality of the setup), response especially up the finger board, wholf notes (very rare that there isn't a weak/wholf note here and there, find them) and how the instrument feels overall. Also an "easy to play" instrument isn't necessarily better and may be limiting when getting to more advanced levels, hence the importance of bringing in an experienced player able to push the limits of the instrument into the selection process.
Thank you all for the replies!
@Adrian Heath, thank you for your input. I now and then do refer to your descriptions between richness and complexity (the latter seems to gravitate towards the concept of wabi-sabi).
I think I like #4 the best. Not that what I think matters, it doesn't. Which one do YOU like? That's the one!
@Albrecht - for me the difference between "dark" and "bright" is most obvious when comparing violas. The present tendency seems to be to go for bright-sounding instruments, which may be appropriate in concertos but I always find disappointing in chamber music. My go-to metaphor would be "chocolatey" with "lemony" at the opposite end of this particular spectrum.
My €0.02's worth of vocabulary.
there really is no way to describe one's experience of sound in words that's accurate in an objective sense. My son and I used to joke around when I was building a tube stereo that "liquid" and "glassy" meant some part just substituted sounded 'better.' We picked those words cause they popped up in reviews a lot. It's fun to describe sound, and sometimes we say something that somebody else understands in the same way, but the words still don't re-create the experience of hearing the sound.
Different violins have varying abilities to amplify tones in the 195Hz to about 4500Hz range. The various descriptions of tones you mentioned refer to a violin's over emphasis, or lack of response, in different areas of this frequency range.
IMHO 'bright' means emphasis on higher overtones, whereas 'warm' means emphasis on lower overtones. Any agreement? Language means nothing without agreement on definition of terms...
@Tom Bop "I'm struck by op's saying the boy would rather play video games, and this process is fun for op..."
@Adrian Heath, @Carmen Tanzio, thanks for the pointers with reference to sound frequency. My phone has a spectrograph, so it would be a good starting point to see where the emphasis are when bowing a note.
Regit, if he wants to be a pilot, playing video games would probably be better for him than passively watching stuff. Modern cockpits already a lot like video games! Get him the MS flight simulator and a nice computer to use it on! At any rate, just saying it sounds like parent living through child, and maybe you should be the one struggling with the fiddle!
I'd pick #4 because he sounded the most comfortable on it. Nice playing!
It sounds like you enjoy tinkering with technology.
Plenty of advice already has been given, so I'll just give my preferences about the recordings.
Carmen, from multiple "googling" I think the higher "hill" is called the Bridge Hill, corresponding to the natural resonance of the bridge itself, or at least its filtering properties.
I guess just listening to the violin has become old fashioned!!
One reason I gave up trying to compare my violins' tone by recording their frequency spectra while playing was that it varies so much according to exactly where you place the bow. Of course when you think of the range of tonal variation you can get between ponticello and sul tasto that's hardly surprising. In my idle moments I'm thinking how a device to keep the bow exactly a given distance from the bridge might work. I'm sure many others have been here before me.
Lyndon, I'm just seeing if science can catch up with my ears!
This, to me, is an example of a "dark" tone:
Thank you so much all for your valuable inputs!
That is a good recording and think that your son has enough talent to pick out which one he can do best on. At least he didn't rush to decide and wish him the best with a music career.
They all sounded pretty good, but the fourth one sounded the best to me.
Hello Regit, I'll second what Peter says and go with the fourth violin, a nice bright sound and i suspect it's a fair bit more responsive than the others.
As an aside, he plays beautifully!