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Violin Sound Descriptions - A Question
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LyleA
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February 11, 2015 - 1:37 pm
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Ok, this may be showing my novice status off a bit to much, but on various online forms, shops, and sellers, I constantly hear violins and sometimes individual strings being described as:

Warm, Dark, Silvery, Shrill, Sweet, Syrupy, Bright, Golden, etc...

Some of these descriptions make sense (I think), but there seems to be no consistence with how they are used.  They get thrown around by everyone and even sometimes they seem to contradict each other leading to confusion on my part.  

So, what do these words, and others you might think of, mean to you?

Never mind maneuvers, just go straight at them.

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MrYikes
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February 11, 2015 - 1:54 pm
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If I like the sound, I try to give a reason.  If I don't like the sound, I try to give a reason.  We're musicians,,we make stuff up.  Myself, I'm trying to find a round sound.

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LyleA
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MrYikes said
If I like the sound, I try to give a reason.  If I don't like the sound, I try to give a reason.  We're musicians,,we make stuff up.  Myself, I'm trying to find a round sound.

How would you describe "round"?

Never mind maneuvers, just go straight at them.

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BillyG
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February 11, 2015 - 2:54 pm
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Interesting question @LyleA  quote : Warm, Dark, Silvery, Shrill, Sweet, Syrupy, Bright, Golden, etc... 

I have limited personal experience with violins - OK I have three of them - two are acoustics, one of which has been re-strung in viola tuning, and an EV.  They all sound different, clearly.  

What I maybe CAN help with is my own limited experience -

(1) instruments sound different with different strings - the synthetic Thomastik strings are "warm and rounded" to my ear on the violin they are fitted on.   They may well of course sound COMPLETELY different on a different instrument.  Here my use of the word "warm" to my mind probably refers to a lack of ( or not so present ) higher harmonics and overtones.  And my use of "rounded" probably refers to the fact that from string to string, even on OPEN strings which of course do ring longer, the "presence" doesn't alter that much.  ( i.e. some string sets may give you very "present" notes on the A string that seem "out of place" with everything else - although that may also have something to do with one of the common natural resonances to be found around Bb to C in the acoustic violin body - and to avoid it happening and having these notes sound over-present you (well, I, on my acoustics) learn to adjust the bowing pressure/speed/action on notes in that area....  etc)

(2) Playing action can change the "tonality" of any string/violin combination in my opinion.  Limited as I am yet, I know I can "adjust" the brightness of my FM Concert by using more "subtle" bowing.... and something that was perhaps "over-bright for a particular piece" can be "calmed down"....

That probably doesn't help much - I just found the post interesting because it is something I have become aware of, and can, in some limited ways - strings permitting - "control"....

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes.  

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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LyleA
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February 11, 2015 - 3:09 pm
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Thanks @BillyG for your input.

I completely understand that descriptions such as these are instinctual, and differ from person to person.  I suspect though that some kind of happy medium can be found between all the different interpretations and some loose form of consensus could be reached.

Mostly though, I am just curious.

Never mind maneuvers, just go straight at them.

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augustoad
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February 11, 2015 - 3:54 pm
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I usually classify sounds as either "bright" or "dark". A bright sound, to me, is a very sharp sound, usually louder; a Dark sound would be a softer sound, a bit smoother. For example, a Saxophone would be very Bright while a flute would be very Dark.

 

That's only how I classify stuff, though.

Skype: augustoad Email: augustoaguieiras@hotmail.com Phone number/whatsapp: +55 42 9861-4084. I'd be happy to talk anything fiddle-related to anyone! :)

 

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Fiddlerman
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February 11, 2015 - 9:23 pm
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Don't worry Lyle, even I wonder sometimes.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Uzi
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I'll take a shot at it.

Sound is composed of several variables including volume, pitch and timbre.  With any stringed instrument sound is composed of the fundamental note, plus some overtones which are sympathetic string vibrations that have less volume than the fundamental, yet are audible and contribute to the "color", "quality" or "timbre" of the sound produced.  The quality of the sound is what allows us to differentiate between a piano, a violin or a guitar even if played at exactly the same volume and pitch. 

Generally speaking, musical sounds produce psychoacoustic responses in humans. That is, our minds have an emotional response to the timbre of an instrument when it is played.  Over the centuries people have tried to describe the emotional responses to the sounds that they hear.  Hence, emotion-based labels and even colors have been used by people to describe the the "feeling" of the sound.

Scientifically, the sound is a waveform with the fundamental tone being the most prominent wave, overlaid with the waves of softer overtones. Generally, when the overtones tend toward the bass end that sound is considered "warm", when they tend toward the higher frequencies, that sound is called "bright."  Likewise, all of the other terms, in reality, describe where along the spectrum of the waveform the overtones are located.  Keep in mind, however that sound is subjective and as a result none of these descriptions has a non-subjective definition.  Some people (and even some software) will, for example, differentiate between warm and dark.  Will you be able to tell the difference -- maybe, maybe not. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Jacques
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February 11, 2015 - 11:58 pm
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The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician’s masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang -- ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.

 

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....story.html

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LyleA
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Thanks for the input everybody!

Never mind maneuvers, just go straight at them.

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Jerusha77
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I am sitting here trying to figure out how a "syrupy" sounding violin would sound.. 

I describe the sound of a violin by the letter it make when I draw the bow across the strings. Sometimes on open string it makes a "EEEEE" sound, which is not a desirable sound. The sounds that is desirable in a  violin is more like "AAAA", "AUUH" , or "OOO". I donno if that makes sense, but I always here a letter. Cheep violins I always here a "EEE" no matter what note they play. I might be confusing you some more so I will shut up now. 

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LyleA
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February 13, 2015 - 11:07 am
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Jerusha77 said
I am sitting here trying to figure out how a "syrupy" sounding violin would sound.. 

I describe the sound of a violin by the letter it make when I draw the bow across the strings. Sometimes on open string it makes a "EEEEE" sound, which is not a desirable sound. The sounds that is desirable in a  violin is more like "AAAA", "AUUH" , or "OOO". I donno if that makes sense, but I always here a letter. Cheep violins I always here a "EEE" no matter what note they play. I might be confusing you some more so I will shut up now. 

Haha, don't worry @Jerusha77, the damage has already been done.

Actually your description of sounds makes a lot of sense to me. 

Never mind maneuvers, just go straight at them.

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DanielB
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February 13, 2015 - 11:18 am
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I think what I need would be a sort of cherry cheesecake sounding violin, with a mocha latte low end to it.. Maybe just a hint of caramel syrup to that mocha latte.. yeah.. and in the very high end range maybe just a touch of lemonheads, for those fanciful moments.. Then I could sound awesome.  Or at least be bad for people's diet plans.

LOL

I've never been able to make much sense of the food type descriptions of sound.  Cool/warm, bright/dark, silky/husky, direct/complex.. those I can make some sense of. 

But I have no idea how to tell if a violin has just too much banana to it or anything like that.

dunno

"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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Uzi
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February 13, 2015 - 11:21 am
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DanielB said
I think what I need would be a sort of cherry cheesecake sounding violin, with a mocha latte low end to it.. Maybe just a hint of caramel syrup to that mocha latte.. yeah.. and in the very high end range maybe just a touch of lemonheads, for those fanciful moments.. Then I could sound awesome.  Or at least be bad for people's diet plans.

LOL

I've never been able to make much sense of the food type descriptions of sound.  Cool/warm, bright/dark, silky/husky, direct/complex.. those I can make some sense of. 

But I have no idea how to tell if a violin has just too much banana to it or anything like that.

dunno

Crap!  Now I'm hungry.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Uzi
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February 13, 2015 - 12:01 pm
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A lot of these descriptions of sound may have their roots in auditory synesthesia.  This is a condition where sounds are perceived to have a real association with other senses, such as touch, taste or color.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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