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Play-in device experiment
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DanielB
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Some people (myself included) believe that most acoustic musical instruments sound better after they have been played a while.  It is one of the reasons some people prefer vintage instruments, when they can get them.  "Playing in".  With other instruments that I am more familiar with, like guitar, I have noticed definite differences in the sound, particularly over the first couple years of playing.

There are devices out on the market that can be put on an instrument that basically send vibration through the bridge and claim that after a certain number of hours it will improve tone and/or dynamic range, like playing the instrument a lot every day does.  The main one is called ToneRite, and they do make a violin version as well as ones for guitar, mandolin and etc.

Does it work?  Well, most people that bought one seem to think so from what I've read in discussions on various musical instrument forums.  They aren't exactly cheap, but I don't recall seeing anyone who had gotten one talking about returning it for a refund.  As usual, most people who were explaining why it couldn't possibly work were not the people that had bought and tried one.

Before I'd ever heard of that, I'd seen this page:

http://www.dalemfg.com/acousti.....nt_021.htm

Some people seem to think some of this guy's ideas are a bit crazy, but most references I've seen seem to agree that he generally knows what he is talking about. 

In any case, the whole thing sounded like an interesting idea to me, so I've decided to experiment with it a bit. 

 

100_0350.JPGImage Enlarger

 

So here's the rig I Frankensteined together. 

I liked the one guy's thought that music could work better than just some steady frequency like the ToneRite uses, but I didn't like the idea of gluing anything to the bridge, and wanted something that was easy to put on and take off since I still want to be able to play the instrument every day.

I put together several hours worth of assorted music that is just violin or fiddle, and will use a laptop with some dj software to run the playlist.  I still need to make "before" recordings and get a place set up where this strange looking little rig can run without being in the way or needing to be moved often.

Will it work?  I don't know, that is what makes it an experiment.

I'll spare the details, since some folks on this forum are "attention span challenged", unless someone wants to know something specific about the theories, experiment or setup.

We now return you to your usual:

bunny_pole_dancer

LOL

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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RosinedUp
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Gosh, Daniel, I guess you know you are going to have to describe it.  And I am loaded for bunny.

What is that gray and red thing?  Something involving a speaker solenoid I expect ...

And how is it attached to the bridge?

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DanielB
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The grey and black thing is a little speaker/amp called a "Music Bullet" they sell for use with ipods and such.  Any similar thing or a separate speaker and amp would have worked, though, it was just one that was in my junk box.  I cut out the speaker "cone" so I could glue a thin steel cone onto the voice coil.  The steel cone is glued to a thin bamboo rod, which is glued to a small hardwood block.  The hardwood block has a slot cut in it so I can slip it onto the corner of the bridge for a fit that is snug enough but doesn't pinch the wood of the bridge enough to damage it.

Materials like the steel cone, the bamboo rod and where and how the block attaches to the bridge were all figured out by just trying everything I had handy to find the combo that gave the best and loudest sound.  I tried different cone materials and different sizes and types of wood rod and etc.  Of what I had onhand, this was definitely the best.  My logic is that the loudest and best sound coming off the top plate is what should give the most result.  The little speaker/amp rig makes very little sound unless the rod is touching some surface that can vibrate. 

The blue stuff is just cheap closed cell foam.  Soft enough to not risk scratching the violin, but stiff enough to mount the speaker/amp onto. 

It definitely works so far as making a violin act like a rather novel little speaker.  As to whether it will make any noticeable effect of "playing in", well.. Time will tell. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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TerryT
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Sorry Daniel, I lost it til I saw the pole dancing bunny!
What was that again about the..... Well, the what exactly?

Just jkg mate, very informative.

I was born with nothing,
and to my surprise I still have most of it left!

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ratvn
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What a great achievement you got there, Daniel, very creative.

I always admire people who come up with simple solutions to complex problems, especially with just basic available resource/material.

I was thinking about these devices the other day, reading your post about instrument time for playing in, but they are commercially expensive. This is regarding my $30.00 violin which I glued together. Wish I can borrow it for a test drive, lol, for now I have to do it manually (ie. pick up my violin and play it...haha, which I did not do often enough).

One question I hope you can shed some lights or correct me if I am wrong. Do the generated/sympathetic frequencies ever enter ultrasonic range? As vibrating in those frequencies breaks things/particles loose, it's used in cleaning equipment.

Great job, Daniel.

Robert

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DanielB
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None that I know of go that high in frequency, ratvn.  From what I understand, the ToneRite is actually very low in pitch.  I went with musical frequencies and specifically "violin only" music on the logic that it would be closer to actual playing in. 

But I have seen where some people have claimed that even an aquarium air-pump set on the instrument (which would be a 60hz or 50hz hum, depending on where you live) will get some of the benefits people claim they get from these sorts of gadgets.

@RosinedUp: I've been thinking of some ways to make this sort of gadget smaller, if I think I see any actual benefit from using it.  Ideal would be something small enough to safely run inside the case when it is closed, I think. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Barry
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very cool idea !!

 

I wonder if it will learn those tunes  rofl

 

sorry, couldnt resist , but seriously, great idea

thumbs-up

There is no shame in playing twinkle, youre playing Mozart

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ratvn
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Barry said 
I wonder if it will learn those tunes

It may as being a smart instrument, Barry, what happens if it does mistakenly listen to action movie musics/explosive sounds/thunderstorms.....lol.

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ratvn
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DanielB said
I went with musical frequencies and specifically "violin only" music on the logic that it would be closer to actual playing in. 

That makes perfect sense. For now, reading your post, my violin is on top of a fan/air filtering box getting some low vibrations. I feel it needed some as it does sound better and better with more playing.... and I did not practice much lately.

Thank you.

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DanielB
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Hey, it's worth a try.  Not like it is likely to hurt the instrument, unless one tried duct-taping it to a jack hammer or something. LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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ratvn
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DanielB said
Hey, it's worth a try.  Not like it is likely to hurt the instrument, unless one tried duct-taping it to a jack hammer or something. LOL

Not likely hurting the instrument but the super glue used in those seams. I know, don't yell at me, I supposed to use hide glue instead. It was a quick fix though, lol.

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I find this project very interesting.

You mentioned something small that would fit in the case.  I am pushing a design in another direction, for more power.

We were chatting on this topic say a week ago, and I believe you mentioned the possibility of attaching the driver vertically, from above the bridge.  In the following I hope I haven't stolen more than verticality from you.  I came up with a simple design in which the fiddle is placed top-down above the driver.  A small part of the weight of the fiddle would be supported by the driver, through its contact with the top of the bridge.  That weight I call the baseline force on the bridge.

The parts would be:
0) A driver made from a loudspeaker coil, the basic description having already been given.  The steel cone would remain, but the bamboo rod and wood block would be replace by a very short nail with a broad head.
1) A base or frame or bed: say a piece of 10"x16"x 3/4" plywood, larger if it is to hold a viola.
2) Four posts attached to the bed, to support the fiddle vertically above the driver and to retain the fiddle's horizontal position.  The posts would be moveable horizontally so as to accommodate fiddles of various sizes.
3) A system for adjusting the height of the driver (and consequently the baseline force on the bridge).  This could be as simple as a stack of sheet-like shims (say of metal or manila-folder material) placed between the bed and the driver.  The baseline force could be measured roughly by placing a sheet of paper between the driver and the bridge and feeling the amount of drag when pulling the sheet.
4) Optional: A digital scale big enough to hold the driver, precise to say 0.1 gram, for measuring the baseline force on the bridge.  The shims would rest atop the bed, the scale atop the shims, the driver atop the scale, and the bridge atop the driver.

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DanielB
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Sounds like a good plan, RosinedUp.  I like the idea of something portable that can be used in the case, but a rig like you describe would allow for more precision control over some parameters.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Kevin M.
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I have read a lot about this and who knows, people say it works. I commend you on your ingenuity of using a music bullet.

 

I was thinking of perhaps attaching a bow to my sawsall and then set the violin in a rocking chair.  This will allow the bow to contact all the strings.  If I push my foot on the rocker just right I could also play a tune. This way I can break in the violin and strings at the same time.

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cdennyb
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I'd like to have a sound sample before and after to analyze...cheers

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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I noticed, Daniel, in the other photo's in the article you submitted, the stick glued to the bridge is touching the bridge the full width, your's is only touching under the G string. Will the vibration's transfer equally to the full width of the bridge or primarily at the point of contact or doesn't it matter.

Before you get really started on this experiment, why don't you ask cdennyb if he will perform a sound analysis at the start and another after your "break-in" period and compare the two graph's.

I'm wondering if there is a "peak" point as to how good the sound will get. Example: Let's say there are 10,000 hour's of playing on a violin, would this be as good as the violin will ever sound or will it's sound continue to improve in, let's say 30,000 hour's.

Are the vibration's to the bridge affecting movement. Unless it's an illusion, it appear's that the bridge is closer to the right/bowing side of your violin, is it ?

Edit: cdennyb's comment was not visable to me yet when I posted my comment.

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RosinedUp
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Daniel, can you provide some details about how you made the steel cone and glued it to the speaker? 

What can you say about the power rating of the speaker you used?  Are you running it with battery or an AC adapter?

Can you give a rough estimate of the actual sound output of the setup---as a fraction of the sound that would have been output by the unmodified speaker?

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DanielB
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(Long post, all replies to questions.  Skip it unless you are interested in those.)

 

@Denny:  Absolutely.  One of the biggest 'question marks' I've had with all the talk I've read about the ToneRite has been that nobody (or few enough that I missed them) did any sound analysis or even before/after recordings.  Even Mr. Langsather, who had some great sound analysis gear put together from his tap tuning experiments didn't say something like "Ok, it did this to these frequencies..". 

That's one of the things that has always made me rather dubious about gadgets and setups for this sort of thing, dating back to knowing guitarists that would leave a new guitar leaning against the stereo speaker for some particular number of days or weeks to help it "play in" when they weren't playing it. 

This sort of thing isn't a new concept, people have done it one way or another for years.  But it is always kind of hazy about what it actually *does*, other than subjective stuff like "sounds much better", "improved tone and playability", "the notes just seem to jump right off the top now" and other such stuff that seems like it surely would show up in some sort of a way that could be traced.

 

@Fiddlestix: The one with the speaker that I gave a link to was actually glued tot he bridge to accomplish that.  I wasn't comfortable with that and how much "do and re-do" it would take to be able to actually play the instrument regularly.  I like playing my acoustic.  The ToneRite, even after reading the patent docs, it is a little hazy about exactly what part of the bridge it vibrates. 

The corner of the bridge there was a spot I tried, since I've seen some assorted research where they measured violins sound output or response and couldn't figure out why they put a pickup there when measuring antique instruments.  Trial and error showed why.  It's the spot on the bridge that makes the loudest and clearest sound.  My theory on it is that the sideways rocking of the bridge is what makes most of the sound of the violin, and the soundpost makes the treble foot side act more like a hinge, so it is the bass foot side moving that actually doe the most work. 

To be honest, I actually expected the movement along the length of the strings to be what made the most sound.  Experimenting and comparing showed it wasn't, though.

So that's why I did it the way I did.  I wanted something that wouldn't risk messing up the bridge, would go on and off real quick and easy, and that delivered as much sound as possible to the deck through the bridge.  This is what I came up with, though I may find a better way of doing it if it actually does anything I find good/desirable to the sound.

I had indeed hoped to get Denny involved with doing some traces before and then after a week or whatever.  But I know he's a busy guy, and I wasn't going to ask in public.  However, he's volunteered, so we're sterling. LOL

The bridge looking off-center in the pics is an optical illusion due to camera angle and etc.  I also took the precaution of making some light thin pencil lines around the outer edges of the bridge feet before I even started messing around with figuring out what point of the bridge to bring the vibration in at and how to mount the rig.  Can't see those in the pic either, but I can find them since I know right where to look and the light has to catch them just right.  Close enough to the bridge feet that they won't get wiped off when I wipe the violin down after playing. 

 

@RosinedUp: While I did make some cones of different materials that I tried, what ended up transferring sound best in terms of what I could hear for volume and frequency range ended up being a frosting tip used for cake decorating.  I had thought a lighter metal like aluminum or other materials like plastic or wood would work better, but trial and error showed the steel was the best.  I tried probably at least 50 different shapes and materials.  But second best was the bottle cap off a 2 liter Coca Cola bottle.  I don't know why those two worked best, but that sort of thing is why it is always worthwhile to experiment/tinker a bit and try even stuff that you think will not work well. 

I tried using the rod just attached to the original little aluminum diaphragm first, when I was testing different rod materials.  But it sounded louder/better with something to couple the rod to the diaphragm, so I tinkered to see what worked best of what I had lying around. 

I attached it with hot glue.  Maybe it will hold up, maybe not.  Time will tell.

That particular little speaker/amp runs off it's own internal battery that is recharged off a USB port.  It will run well for a few hours off a charge, and will also work fine without running down if the speaker is left connected to the USB port.  Since I am going to use a laptop computer to provide the sound feed, that made it a good choice for this project.  No batteries to change, no extra power supply to have to plug in.

I don't know the actual power rating on the speaker coil or the output power of the device, and I haven't run across specs on it.  Jut by ear and with a familiarity over the years with how amps large and small sound, I'd guess it at probably around one watt.  Could be as little as half that if it is very high quality, maybe twice as much if it keeps it's clarity when turned up due to some "headroom" engineered in on the amp power.  

Hooked up to the violin like this, it can go a bit louder than the speaker/amp could originally.  And (subjective observation) the sound seems to carry a bit further. 

For folks less technically inclined, when hooked up to the violin, it can go about as loud as a table radio or a clock radio.  Sound quality is actually better than a lot of those, though.  Very listenable.  Even if this doesn't actually do something wonderful for the violin's regular playing sound, it would make a unique and interesting music player for the house or apartment of a violinist/fiddler.  Quite the conversation piece.  LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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Progress report: 

Having discussed it with other members of the household, the location for setting this up has been settled.  The pantry is a nice quiet room that doesn't get too warm or cold and where a closed door will keep the non-stop music from being annoying.  That way it won't interfere with other folks music listening/playing or TV watching and etc.

That kind of consideration is important, unless you live alone.

I have agreed to continue to expand the playlist, since even the finest music can get to sounding pretty "stale" if you hear it too many times with no new material being rotated in.  As an old radio DJ of years gone by, I find that condition quite reasonable, understandable and do-able.  

The notion of some pretty music in the pantry where goodies are stored or put to cool a lot during the holidays had some attraction as a "mood element".  And nobody sleeps in a room that shares a wall with the pantry, so at least a reasonable little bit of volume will be ok.

So we have a location where it won't nee to be disturbed and where it shouldn't bother anyone.  Three of the walls of the pantry are "inside walls", and the experiment will be set up on one of those even though the pantry is not prone to sudden temperature changes anyway.  Since the case will be open, the hygrometer I have for the case won't be as useful as other times, but we have a hygrometer we use for the house anyway since some folks here get sinus troubles if air gets too dry in the winter.

There is the possibility that the violin may pick up some scent from being in there.  But if one catches the scent of fresh bread or pies or cookies or candy or spices sometimes when it is being played years down the road, I'll call that a "plus".  LOL

I did have a guitar year ago that got nicknamed "Cinnamon" because it picked up some scent from when I'd stash one of my mom's fresh cinnamon rolls in the accessory compartment to eat when I was skipping lunch to spend time in the high school rehearsal rooms.  Believe it or not, even 10 yrs after that, there still would be moments when you'd play that guitar and smell those cinnamon rolls, just like catching a whiff of them right after they'd been baked. LOL  I wish I still had that guitar, to be honest.

I do think that having the case open for what is likely to be a period of some weeks could be good.  The violin doesn't smell like the finish or glues aren't fully cured, but since it was a brand new instrument when I got it, you never know.  The natural resins in the wood drying and hardening over time is usually considered one of the good things that happen as an instrument ages, and that will happen a bit quicker with it being exposed to some free air flow in a room with safe temps and humidity.   

So having gotten all that figured out, I'm hoping to get the experiment started sometime today.  thumbs-up


@Barry:

Barry said

I wonder if it will learn those tunes  rofl
 

   I know that was meant as a joke Barry.  But.. Call it superstition if you like.. I'm not entirely sure that the music played near an instrument can't have some effect on what sort of music that instrument may eventually play well. 

I didn't take any chances, and made sure I only used pieces of music I liked and the sort of instrument sounds I might actually want to get out it it someday.

On one level, it doesn't make sense that an instrument could "learn".  But on the other hand, it has often seemed to me that the kind of music previous owners played on used instruments does matter some.  With certain people where I don't like their playing or their attitude, I tend to avoid letting them pick up my instruments.  On the other hand, musicians I respect and where they could play circles around me, I always encouraged to try a few songs on my instruments when I could.  Could be just psychology, but it has always seemed to me that sometimes some things were easier to play on an instrument after that.  

Could be psychology, could be some weird science to it, could be something "spiritual/supernatural".  I don't know.  But at the risk of sounding silly, some instruments I have met over the years did seem more "smart", "educated" or "experienced" to me sometimes.  So while I'm not going to go all "spooky" over it, I did make it a point to only pick music I liked and where it had  some of what I personally feel a violin/fiddle should sound like.   

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB said 
Hooked up to the violin like this, it can go a bit louder than the speaker/amp could originally.  And (subjective observation) the sound seems to carry a bit further. 

For folks less technically inclined, when hooked up to the violin, it can go about as loud as a table radio or a clock radio.  Sound quality is actually better than a lot of those, though.  Very listenable.

I'm very surprised at what you say about the power and the quality. Also surprised that you tested so many ways of doing it.  I'm glad I asked.  Thanks for a great thread---not that it's over yet, I hope.

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