ToneRite: a real thing or a placebo effect?
It was a long-standing question. Not many people I know have used or even know about ToneRite. I found it first in a stringed instruments shop (2 of them working tirelessly) and then a violin collector and very good player strongly recommended despite my scepticism. I wanted an unbiased opinion, ideally from professionals with deep understanding on the craft. Finally, I reached out to 2 violin makers - one in North America and other in Europe. Both were very favourable and this came as a surprise as they are very conservative, and have very strong opinions about “foreign” devices on instruments.
There are also reviews and strong opinions at v.com
Ok, I wanted to give a try but it was quite pricey for something I still doubt its effectiveness. Then I eventually found an used one in good a condition so why not to give it a try?
Well, the results were noticeable on my two violins. One is 2 years old and the other is >100 y/o. After a couple of days they resonate better as the woods seems to vibrate more freely and “longer”. It improved the sound projection (not the volume but the capacity of spreading the sound). I also noticed a slightly sweeter tone.
Disclaimer: there is no intention to promote any product with this post but just wanted to share my own experience after being highly skeptical.
Have you also tried it? What is your experience?
Breaking in has had many discussions here before, whether natural or technologically assisted.
I’ve tried it on a number of instruments and find that keeping it on certainly makes a difference, but not nearly as much as does playing for the same number of hours.
"...but not nearly as much as does playing for the same number of hours."
I tried one for a while on several different instruments. Couldn't perceive that it did anything beyond the sorts of changes which occur in instruments anyway when they are just sitting there under string tension, so sold it to someone who believed they did.
I wonder if the device produces a small amount of heat, and dehumidifies instruments slightly. For new instruments made of wood that is not properly dried, maybe it could have some such effect.
Paul, I don’t think that’s what I’m perceiving. You are, of course, entitled to your beliefs.
I usually season my violin over night. No need to get fancy; a judicious use of Old Bay opens it up nicely.
It will not make a miracle, but I find it helps playing in my recently built violas.
If it can't be tested using a control against objective criteria, then there can be no proof that it does anything, good or bad.
In the violin world "proof" is non-existent. That's why we produce so much inconsequential debate.
A good instrument will sound good from the very begining, that means, balance, quick response, clarity, good basses, generous dynamic range, easy to play. A bad instrument will never get good with playing or with Tonerite.
I think its fair to say an instrument that's been sitting for 50 or 100 yrs can open up a bit from playing, I have witnessed this
Set-up can make a good violin perform poorly. String brand and string condition (new, broken-in, or dead) also change tone. Changes in temperature and humidity can also measurably change the dimensions and hence the tone of a violin.
What is incredibly stupid is to demand that judgments about sound be objective when by nature sound is completely subjective, obviously some people are ignorant of that fact.
I disagree Lyndon. Dynamic range is very objective, the instrument must play from ppp to fff and all between that. Volume and sound color changes are clearly noticed (and hard to find) and you just can't make music with a too-narrow dynamic range. When you draw your bow from the end of the fingerboard towards the bridge and increase the bow weight a dramatic difference in volume and sound color must be noticed, that happens only in very good instruments, and that is very very objective.
I think there is some middle-ground between the positions taken by Luis and by Lyndon. To say that the change in a violin's tone color with the sound point of the bow is a matter of objective measurement is only partly true. Sure there will be *some* change, but each player and listener will perceive that differently. Then, what one person calls subtle another will call extreme. What is true is that everyone is taught that there *should* be a significant change, so we are all exposed to many of the same sources of bias in what we hear.
Christian - I tried the Old Bay violin treatment. It worked - the violin is terrific for a hot tango - but now I have an almost irresistible urge to crack open its body and eat the white meat inside...
Make sure to butter your bow first!
Nicely put Paul. The chief reason why there have been no truly objective scientific tests of a violin's sound quality is that a violin doesn't actually make any sound without human agency and that agency isn't a fully controllable "constant".
If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Changes in tone can be objectively observed and measured using electronic instruments.
George - changes in the sound envelope and frequency spectrum can certainly be objectively observed by electronic instruments. The trouble is I can produce a whole range of such changes just by slightly altering the speed/pressure/contact point of the bow. Unless and until such factors can be controlled we have no chance of obtaining objective proof of changes due to use of the Tonerite. That's not to say it isn't a "real thing"!
Steve, I don't disagree with what you wrote, but your concerns could potentially be controlled in testing.
Well yes, but that's a lot of work to obtain each data point. Then you'd need to test two groups of at least 6 instruments, one group untreated and randomized so the player doesn't know which is which.
I suspect it all boils down to what Stephen said.
Steve: Yep! :-)
As described in this thread:
Gordon Shumway wrote:
David: if he has to ask.
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