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In Blind Test, Renowned Soloists Prefer New Violins Over Old
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gwscheer
Pullman,WA, USA
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April 8, 2014 - 1:08 pm
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Washington — Ten world-class soloists put costly Stradivarius violins and new, cheaper ones to a blind scientific test. The results may seem off-key to musicians and collectors, but the new instruments won handily.

 

http://www.vnews.com/lifetimes.....s-over-old

"Make every note beautiful", Ivan Galamian

“To play a wrong note is INSIGNIFICANT; To play without PASSION is INEXCUSABLE!” , Ludvig Van Beethovan

"It ain't rocket surgery"

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Uzi
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April 8, 2014 - 1:25 pm
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... And since Hou is shopping for violins this week, one of the restrictions on the experiment truly bothers her: The scientists wouldn’t tell her who made the violin she fell for.

It was probably the FM Ming Jiang Zhu  -- but she may never know. 

 

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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KindaScratchy
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April 8, 2014 - 9:23 pm
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My husband and I sat in on one of Claudia Fritz's blind tests last year at Mondo Musica in New York City. Everyone in the audience -- including violin makers, professional violinists and amateurs like us -- got to fill out an evaluation sheet. Unfortunately, we never found out how our ratings compared to the professionals' opinions. Nonetheless, it was a very cool thing in which to participate.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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DanielB
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April 9, 2014 - 6:07 am
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Well, I think the test served well to demonstrate that there are good quality modern violins with sound that is very acceptable to even discerning ears.  

I wouldn't jump to any conclusions from this test other than that.

Perhaps the assumption that seems to be common, that the sound of antique Cremonese instruments are so distinctively better than anything made less than 300 yrs ago that the difference would be obvious to a player or listener.. may not be entirely correct.

But it may not be a matter of the Strads and other antique violins used in that test *not* being great instruments.

I have seen it mentioned that we may be in a new "golden age" for the violin.  That with number of trained luthiers making new instruments, the advances in analysis as well as tools and materials and techniques, and the sheer number of violins being made in our time, perhaps a certain number of violins made in our time may be gems in the rough that will also stand the test of time and be coveted perhaps as highly as some Strads and etc someday.

You never know. Maybe 150 yrs from now, some poor performer will be getting tazed so that thieves can try to run off with their antique "Fiddlerman Apprentice" that is worth millions. 

Ok, probably not.  LOL  But like I said, You never know.

"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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Fiddlerman
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April 9, 2014 - 7:55 am
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Is that why they ordered a Ming Jiang Zhu from us. :-)
Honestly though, I'm not at all surprised. I have played on multi million dollar instruments in the past and I've played on new ones that sound and react as nicely IMAO.
We just got some of the more expensive Ming Jiang Zhu's in our shop, the 907 and the 909 which actually comes with a signed certificate and I am seriously impressed. These are cheaper than what these experts are testing I am SURE!!!! I can't imagine them choosing anything but contemporary luthiers "bench" instruments. Probably contest winners such as Ming Jiang Zhu as well. A Ming Jiang Zhu bench violin costs over 30,000 and I imagine it's a bargain. He only makes 5-6 of these a year.

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

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rockinglr33
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April 9, 2014 - 10:03 am
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I'm not surprised by the findings of this test though i do find it funny. So many people are so obsessed with owning an old violin they fail to look at the beautifully made brand new ones that they can play in and really really make it theirs.....and oh lord if you mention it was made in china....i swear to some people thats the end of the conversation...its just good to know that todays instruments are holding their own :D

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Fiddlestix
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April 9, 2014 - 8:19 pm
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Personally, I'm not in love with the sound of most "Stradivarius" violin's.

I'll stick with my, " Fiddlerman, Concert Master " that I've had now going on two years.

 

violin-1267 Booga, Booga.

 

Ken.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
April 11, 2014 - 3:54 pm
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Fiddlestix said
......I'll stick with my, " Fiddlerman, Concert Master " that I've had now going on two years.

Yeeeeeeeeeee Haaaaaaaaaaaa !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thumbs-uphats_offdancingcheerleaderdrummerexactlyserenadeviolin-studentviolin_girlbananabunny_pole_dancerus-4240spike-1268violin-1267violin-1260

 

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

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Fiddlestix
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April 11, 2014 - 6:18 pm
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LOL, @ Fiddlerman.  I mean it.

 

cheersviolin-1267dancing

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Fiddlerman
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April 13, 2014 - 7:38 am
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Happy to hear it Ken. :)

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

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Hman
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April 13, 2014 - 11:00 pm
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This test means nothing to me, and it shouldn't mean anything to most of us on this forum. I cannot afford a "cheap" $30k violin. I can, however, state from personal experience that violins under $10k sound extremely better the older they are. 

Also, I work next to a luthier who believes this wholeheartedly. He both creates new violins from scratch and assembles/touches up new violins sent to him from other countries. I have a rare/semi-rare violin made by the Virzi Brother's in the 20's. I played it next to $3-$10k violins and it sounded so much better. I actually had to be somewhat talked into getting it as I wanted a new one based on them being in mint condition, but I couldn't pull the trigger because the sound just wasn't up to par with the old, used, broken in violin. I tested violins for a week or two before getting my old violin.

As a statistician I understand that my experiences are a moot point when compared to the collective. But this research is a joke when it comes to 99% of the population. Now that they have learned this about the expensive ones they need to do a test on violins under $10k and see if the results are the same. 

/rant facepalm

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Bunkei
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January 25, 2015 - 6:25 pm
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No disrespect intended, but you're saying that we should dismiss a test that features accomplished violinists and luthiers from around the world just because your experience with new vs old violins didn't yield similar results.  That's hardly a sensible argument.

The point of the test was twofold:  

1) Can discerning violinists and luthiers discern older instruments from new assuming they have a tonal quality that is unique due to their age.

2) Is the tone of fine old instruments preferable over that of fine new instruments

 

The answer to #1 is "not reliably" and the answer to #2 is "no".

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Uzi
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January 25, 2015 - 10:09 pm
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If anyone wants to really nerd out over differences between Cremonese vs modern violin wood check out this article on computed tomography where a number of Cremonese violin wood densities are compared to modern wood densities.  Related articles indicate that the wood the Cremonese builders had at their disposal didn't differ very much from what one could obtain today. 

Comparison of Cremonese Violins to Modern Violins

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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January 25, 2015 - 10:35 pm
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The way I see it is as follows. Well played fiddles/violins sound better as they age with continuous practice. Thus a brand new well made violin well sound very good within a few years. I'm willing to bet there is a cap to the tonal qualities of said instruments. Old well made violins can and do potentially sound similar to new violins yet the difference comes down to their construction and durability. Any violinist who is serious in this day and age would be best served buying a new violin. They are readily available, well made with modern improved varnish; just waiting for a dedicated fiddler to put in the work to make it sound beautiful over the course of several years.

50 years from now would you like an 350 year old relic violin or a nice 80 year old violin? Or perhaps you would prefer starting from scratch and build a new legacy from a brand new violin?

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Jacques
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January 25, 2015 - 10:55 pm
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Multi million dollar instrument have been passed down from fiddler to fiddler. Old master luthier crafted violins that have been practiced with everyday for the past 300 years. That is the top tier of instruments (assuming they have remained sturdy) 

Master crafted fine modern instruments ready to reach this tier after several years, decades of practice to reach the same tonal qualities as the multi million dollar professional hand-me-downs(as mentioned above)

Beginner instruments modern construction techniques and if they're well made and put to good use they too can reach master tonal qualities.

 

I own a $250 VL070 that I've been using for several SEVERAL hours everyday since September and the sound is without a doubt becoming full without fault or deminish until the bow stops moving. It doesn't die out as the bow slows but remains full and this should improve even still. there can be a wolf  note in the high C on the G string but that is the only problem. 

 

To talk acoustical theory bowing the violin and incorporating diligent vibrato one is able to improve the sound and resonance of his or her instrument. The wood represents life and your actions dictate it's tonal properties. Im testing the vibrato technique to burrow down that wolf note and make it clear as day. (This is why old instruments are said to be better [assuming the artisté practiced with such diligence through out the instruments existence])

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Oliver
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January 26, 2015 - 9:36 am
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How do you decide if your improvements are about your skills or the physical violin?

I have promised myself a new violin when I can "outplay" my present violin but I was fooled.  As I improved, so did the violin :)   But I think the improvements are really in my playing.  The violin could hardly "mature" in a few short years (?).  

(Who knows how a new violin will sound in 300 years from now?  Talk about level  playing field!)

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Jacques
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January 26, 2015 - 4:38 pm
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My curiosity is peaked at the molecules of the wood being used - simply deeply "flamed" or striated wood versus non striated or 'non flamded' typically found on cheaper instruments.

My theory is that hardened flamed wood is much harder to break compared to its less exotic counterpart.

lets say a master luthier crafted two instruments ie one flamed and one plain. Both instruments would be played at equal intensity for x amount of years. Which violin would produce a more desirable tone after a decade of consistent playing?

Hypothetically the flamed instrument would sound better at the beginning of the trial due to its matured hardness, but it's tone may not improve. 

Controversely the plain instrument can "break in" and mature over the same decade; while clarifying the tone as the wood simultaneously hardens.

 

This why folks examine the back of violins! To view the amount of resonation that has passed through said instrument. But I've never looked at a flamed violins back plate, however either I'm seeing things or the back of my plain violin is getting more and more exotic. It's not super impressive but after a few years the back should look beautiful and truelly represent the sheer amount of quality music that has passed through the f holes.

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Jacques
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January 26, 2015 - 5:02 pm
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Yet still they are other factors considering flamed instruments such as storage. 

Can sound resionation by itself shape dry wood?

Are flamed woods more dry than plain woods?

because vibrating/moving water CAN shape anything how does that play a roll in breaking in a violin?

What If a flamed instrument was stored with a humidifier and said instrument was used while remaining moist. Hypothetically sound can be shaped by the moisture caught inside of the Flamed instrument.

While plain new instruments who are less hard, naturally have a percentage of moisture still intact from its tree days.

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DanielB
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January 26, 2015 - 6:37 pm
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Any kind of figuring in wood/maple, be it flames, birdseye, marchestraw, is a section where the tree did not grow perfectly straight.  Cutting and planing straight across the sections where the grain varies is what produces the appearance.

All types of figuring indicate a piece of wood that is somewhat harder than a simple straight grain, and definitely is harder and more time-consuming to work.  So a thinner piece of it can be used to support a certain number of pounds of pressure.  An example would be bridges, where marchestraw figuring (commonly called "speckles" LOL) indicate a piece of maple that can be made into a thinner bridge. 

I would hesitate to say that it is automatically "better" in all cases.  In the case of a hand made instrument, the harder wood could allow the parts to be made a little thinner, and an experienced luthier could take advantage of that.  But with a factory made instrument where the plates will all be graduated the same without regard to the grain, it could actually result in an instrument that sounds no better and where it is simply a bit heavier than an identically made piece with straight (unfigured) grain.  It might even sound "worse". 

"Better" and "worse" with sound is a very subjective matter and what one player considers great, another may consider crap.  It has a lot to do with what sound/tone/timbre you are trying to get and what you can use effectively in your music.  I don't think there are any absolutes, in that regard. 

So far as the "playing in" time, what I was told by a guitar repair person years ago was that with a "fresh" instrument, the first year and the first 300 hours of playing are where most of the changes happen.  It was his opinion that the first 100 or 150 hours were the most critical time, since the changes are more dramatic at first and become less so as time/playing continue.  So he recommended keeping instruments strictly in tune during that time, and also considered it beneficial if you could get players that were better than you to spend some time on the instrument during that time. 

I can't say for certain how much of that is fact and how much is belief.  I can say that own observations over almost 39 yrs of playing guitar, I seems "true enough".

Moisture humidity does have some effect on the sound of an instrument, as is easy enough to tell if you have a hygrometer and listen for the differences as humidity changes. 

But fresh/new wood, water plays another role.  The resins in newer wood will be softer than older wood, and how they harden over time is a process of the molecule chains of the resins linking together in longer (stronger) segments by a process of eliminating water molecules between them.  I can't say for certain though, whether the relatively small changes in typical humidity will have a large enough effect to be noticeable in terms of how long it takes an instrument to "mature".

"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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mischa91
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January 26, 2015 - 6:50 pm
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Interesting discussion here!  Does anyone have an opinion about an older instrument that hasnt been played in along time? Would the sound from that instrument change after being played again?  Or has it had its break in period when it was newer?  

 

All this discussion about newer instruments maturing over time really makes me want to get a brand new violin so I can see this for myself.  Maybe after a few years I'll buy an upgrade violin and go for a new one. 

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