Instrument Sound Perception...

Edited: September 12, 2021, 11:41 PM · Lately I practiced a lot with my new Vioweiss CatrPilar mute, which I like for the richness of the muted sound; however, when I took it off my instrument it sounded.. to me.. so different than before, like a completely different instrument. Nothing has changed other than me getting habituated to its muted sound. This has me thinking how much does our getting habituated to the sound of an instrument influences, not necessarily in a good way, our perception, hence selection of a new one? How much does the sound of one instrument in a group comparison affects the perception of the others? Like tasting wine where we eat something in between to sort of reset our taste buds, how do we reset our hearing during an instrument comparison? It sounded more like when I just put on new strings, so when new strings settling down how much of the difference is the string stabilizing under tension and how much is our hearing getting habituated to it? It's like the illusion that the moon is larger close to the horizon but it ain't. The reference point that is the horizon makes it look relatively larger. A similar thing happened when I removed the mute, which was the reference point.

Replies (10)

Edited: September 13, 2021, 4:57 AM · A friend of mine regarded it to be one of the fundamental characteristics of stupid people to believe that one can initiate actions without there being consequences. That is, basically, the denial of cause and effect.

Not to deny the problem of remembering sound, I would not automatically assume that playing with a mute has not changed the sound and behavior of the violin.

September 13, 2021, 5:33 AM · Muting my instrument for just half an hour changes the sound of my instrument for hours.

I very much doubt my ears and brain will distort my perception of the sound for such a long time after half an hour of playing with a mute...

So - mutting changes the violin sound for considerable amount of time.

September 13, 2021, 6:37 AM · Good observations, Roger.
September 13, 2021, 7:22 AM · I have seen references online that say that a mute does change the sound of an instrument, especially the heavier practice mutes. A google search should turn something up if you're skilled at searching.
September 13, 2021, 8:54 AM · Make a recording before the mute is put on and after it is taken off, and see if you can hear any difference then.
September 13, 2021, 9:20 AM · Apart from the "relative" nature of our perception, and disturbance to the instrument vibrations, I reckon that the mute allows clumsier bowing which the sounds awful when we remove the mute.

I find the heavy practice mute, has less residual effect than a normal mute. Odd.

September 13, 2021, 11:34 AM · Yes, our perceptions tend to be "relative" in nature, and of very short duration when it comes to super-accurate memory of both sounds and colors. Exposure to something different tends to "push the reset button".

Wear some rose-colored glasses for a while, and upon first removing them, things appear much more green than they normally would.

Edited: September 13, 2021, 12:29 PM · There was a similar thread 10 years ago: Click Here...
Edited: September 13, 2021, 3:16 PM · Consider the baseball player who warms up with a few swings in the on-deck circle. A lead doughnut is placed on the bat so that it will feel much heavier. Then, then the device is removed as the player steps into the batter's box and, suddenly, the bat feels much lighter and the player can swing for the fences.

Did the bat change? Did the lead doughnut cause the wood molecules to store up extra energy that will be released when the first fastball comes over the plate?

One has to ask whether the "residual effect" of using a violin mute is more likely to be in the instrument or the player.

Edited: September 13, 2021, 5:40 PM · There are those vibrating devices one can put onto the bridge of an instrument to "break in" a new instrument and open up its sound (perhaps a myth, but that's another topic). Typically it would run non-stop for days if not more and even then you "may" arguably get a very slight difference in the sound characteristics of the instrument. The point is, if it takes that much vibration to get hardly a perceptible difference, do you really think that playing with a mute for a few hours would have that much of a an effect on the acoustic of the instrument? I very much doubt so, much more likely a physiological phenomenon than a physical one. It could be partly hearing partly bowing, but physiological nonetheless.


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