What You Should Know Before You Buy That Strad.
Prof. Gary Scavone
Comments from attendees:
How hard it is
to be conclusive about an instrument's quality
representations of vibrations
good violinist can make a bad violin sound good
great! Thank you, next time a lecture on bows and their
importance to quality of sound
instruments are not necessarily better
1 - Please comment on what your
research has shown on the comparison between the old,
established violins and the newer ones?
The work we have
conducted thus far here at McGill has not directly addressed the
issue of "old vs. new". The aim of our studies has been to
better understand how players subjectively evaluate violin
qualities. Our first study focused primarily on
within-individual and between-individual consistency in
preference ranking of violins. A second experiment was then
conducted to investigate the origin of inter-individual
differences in the preference for violins and to measure the
extent to which different attributes of the instrument influence
preference. For our studies, we sought a broad range (age and
price) of instruments that would be classified as "decent" to
"very good." It would have been nice to be able to include some
vintage, old instruments in this study, but it was not necessary
and in general, it is very difficult to find owners willing to
lend out expensive, old instruments for a period of two weeks or
so (the time we needed to run that study). That said, given the
range of instruments we had (values between about $1.3K - $250K,
ages between about 1770 - 2010), we did not find any correlation
between age, value, and perceived quality. The 2010 study by
Fritz, Curtin, and Tao did directly to explore the "old vs. new"
question, using Stradivari and Guarneri violins, and their
results were similar to ours.
2 - How significant
is the bow and why?
The bow is a very
significant part of the instrument. Bows can have very distinct
behaviours and players try to find a bow that works well with
their instrument. The bow is in direct contact with the
vibrating strings and the bow-string interaction is an important
aspect of the "feel" of the instrument. The bow itself has
particular vibrational characteristics that influence this
interaction. For the moment, we have chosen to focus on the
subjective evaluation of violins but similar studies of bows
would be equally interesting.
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