PDA

View Full Version : Interesting NPR Story



Paul December
01-02-2012, 04:23 PM
Interesting to think about how this article applies to Ukuleles ;)
Obviously low-end ukes stand out, but it may call into question differences between higher-end stuff beyond a certain $ amount, "sweet sounding" vintage ukes, and concepts like "opening up".
Do we hear what we expect-or-want-to hear? :confused:


Double-Blind Test: Can You Pick the Strad? (http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/01/02/144482863/double-blind-violin-test-can-you-pick-the-strad)

Hiddencross
01-02-2012, 04:40 PM
An interesting story, however you should probably provide just the links and a brief summary. The forums have gotten into some hot water over copyright protection issues in the past.

Paul December
01-02-2012, 04:45 PM
An interesting story, however you should probably provide just the links and a brief summary. The forums have gotten into some hot water over copyright protection issues in the past.

Consider it Done! :D

Gillian
01-02-2012, 08:16 PM
[QUOTE=Paul December;835274] Interesting to think about how this article applies to Ukuleles ;)
Obviously low-end ukes stand out, but it may call into question differences between higher-end stuff beyond a certain $ amount, "sweet sounding" vintage ukes, and concepts like "opening up".
Do we hear what we expect-or-want-to hear? :confused:

That was fun. I picked out the Strad. The lower notes sounded warmer to me.

Could I tell the difference between a Jake Signature Kamaka from a production Kamaka? or a multi-thousand dollar Martin from a newer $500 one? Probably not, but it would be fun to try.

ukeeku
01-03-2012, 04:51 AM
http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/01/02/144482863/double-blind-violin-test-can-you-pick-the-strad

Not about ukuleles, but I felt that it applies. Very interesting study.

poppy
01-03-2012, 06:57 AM
[
QUOTE=Paul December;835274
That was fun. I picked out the Strad. The lower notes sounded warmer to me.

.[/QUOTE]

odd I picked the strad but because of the ramp ,clarity and sustain of the high note.
but it aint a million dollars better lol.

OldePhart
01-03-2012, 08:18 AM
I picked out the Strad, too. To me, the difference was like night and day across the spectrum. The non-strad had kind of "rough edges" on everything while the Strad was clean and round at the bottom and very sharply defined at the top. I was pretty certain after a single listen which was which, or at least which I thought sounded nicer. Five more times through didn't change my opinion any.

The article reached some conclusions not really evident in the test, though. The article purported that the violinists "couldn't tell a difference among the violins." From the researchers descriptions, most of the violinists did have distinct favorites among the instruments - it's just that often it wasn't the strad or even one of the old Italian violins that appealed to them most. I can easily see where some might prefer the non-strad clip in the two given - not because they couldn't tell a difference but because that is the kind of tone they most like. Take myself and our lead guitarist - we both have completely different opinions about tone - when I'm playing electric guitar I like a really smooth, warm, "bluesy" overdrive while he actually prefers a fairly harsh (to my ears) overdrive. It's not that either of us "can't tell the difference" - it's just that we have different tastes.

John

mr moonlight
01-03-2012, 08:37 AM
[QUOTE=Paul December;835274] Interesting to think about how this article applies to Ukuleles ;)
Obviously low-end ukes stand out, but it may call into question differences between higher-end stuff beyond a certain $ amount, "sweet sounding" vintage ukes, and concepts like "opening up".
Do we hear what we expect-or-want-to hear? :confused:

That was fun. I picked out the Strad. The lower notes sounded warmer to me.

Could I tell the difference between a Jake Signature Kamaka from a production Kamaka? or a multi-thousand dollar Martin from a newer $500 one? Probably not, but it would be fun to try.

Both are great sounding violins but you have to also consider that not all Strads are equal just as not all Kamaka's or Martins are equal. The newish violin was also made over 30 years ago so it too while not being centuries old is still a well aged instrument. I do agree with the articles point though. A lot of what makes a Strad great is that it's a centuries old instrument with a lot of history. It's like playing one of Jimi's guitars. There are a lot of great pre-CBS strats out there, but there would definitely be something different about playing on a guitar that Hendrix did.

As for a multi-thousand dollar Martin vs. a $500 one. Yeah, you'll hear a very clear difference. Between a $3,000 and a $20,000 Martin, probably not so much.

garyg
01-04-2012, 03:41 AM
The placebo effect is well known in medicine and that's what's going on here. I didn't try the test but it's interesting that so many picked out the Strad - maybe uke players have more sensitive ears <g>. It bothered me a bit that they didn't describe the quality of the new instruments, maybe they're $250K modern violins in which case you have Moonlights comment that you can't tell the difference between high quality instruments based on price. And after posting multiple times about "are Martin uke models different functionally" the consensus is that there are no construction differences between Martin models 0, 1, 2, 3 and 5, only the bling is different (and the extended fretboard on the 3 & 5 models). Noone ever answered the question of whether there were differences in the wood though. Lastly we should remember the mantra of UU -- "Let your ears be the judge". cheers, g2

Hiddencross
01-04-2012, 06:31 AM
I didn't try the test but it's interesting that so many picked out the Strad - maybe uke players have more sensitive ears.

It is interesting that so many that posted comments picked out the Strad. :) I could definitely hear a difference. I wasn't sure which was the Stradivarius, however.

Drew Bear
01-04-2012, 07:49 AM
I don't know anything about violins, but don't the iconic ukulele 'brands' have a certain sound? Would a pro-level uke player really have trouble distinguishing a 2005 Kamaka from a 1965 Martin? That's just by listening.

The study in that article is talking about pros actually touching and playing the instruments. Even blindfolded and asked not to touch the headstock or explore the overall shape of the ukes, do you think Ohta-San, Jake, Kimo Hussey, Brittni, Aldrine, etc. wouldn't be able to distinguish between a '00s Kamaka/KoAloha/Kanile'a and a 50 yr. old Martin or Kamaka?

Another difference between violins and ukulele is that I'm pretty sure the most expensive violins are played regularly. Some of the most expensive ukes, on the other hand, seem to be stuck in collector's cases. I hope I've got the wrong impression.

lowstrung
01-04-2012, 07:52 AM
I recently bought a 40 year old Kamaka Soprano, and it sounds amazing. Does it sound better than a brand new one? I'm not sure. Maybe the newer bracing is different, or playablity, etc, but could I tell the difference based on sound alone?

mr moonlight
01-04-2012, 07:56 AM
In the end, both violins would sound amazing to all of us if played separately. For the listener it doesn't matter much if Yo Yo Ma is playing on his multi-million dollar Stradivarius or a high-end modern cello. It will still sound amazing. For the musician it's a different story since there's a more personal relationship when it comes to your instrument. An instruments age, looks, color, sound, tonal characteristics, who's played it, how long you've owned it, what memories you have with it, where that big scratch came from... all factor into how you play it.

pulelehua
01-04-2012, 10:31 AM
There seems to be a point missing here:

Do the people involved know what a Stradivarius sounds like?

I've been playing guitar for over 20 years. If you gave me a Guild and a Taylor, I couldn't tell the difference. I've played a couple Guilds. I've never played a Taylor. I would be guessing. Same with a Taylor and a cheaper Fender. I might think the "nicer" one was the Taylor, but that would be a guess. Maybe I don't like Taylors, but I've never had the chance to find out.

I own a Martin D-18. If you gave me a D-18 with DR strings, and any other guitar, I would be a lot more likely to be able to spot the difference, because one would be the sound I know. (Cos we all know manufacturer instruments all sounding identical, right?)

Can you imagine the immense difference between 2 Stradivarius violins, possibly made years apart, when he was doing things a bit differently, with different wood? All by hand?


Don't look at the answer until you've properly questioned the question.

algernon
01-04-2012, 01:56 PM
I have access to the original article. If anyone else has a subscription to PNAS you can see it here:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/02/1114999109.abstract

Otherwise you'll be limited to the abstract. I won't be able to post the article, as I'm pretty sure that violates many, many rules. Discussing it probably isn't a problem though.

The study was conducted at the 8th International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (which is apparently a big deal. Personal disclaimer being I haven't touched a violin since the 3rd grade so I know little of big deals in the violin world). They had 21 participants, most of whom were participating in the competition either as competitors, adjudicators, or symphony members. The overwhelming majority had advanced degrees (masters+) in music.

There were 6 violins that the participants were asked to review. 3 of them were considered "new" (between several days to several years old). The other 3 were considered "old" (2 Stradiveri, one from his 'golden age' and 1 Guarneri). The combined value of these 3 violins was 10 million dollars, approximately 100 times that of the new violins. Participants were visually and aromatically blinded (goggles and scented chin rests). Researchers were also blinded, making this a classical double blind experiment.

For their first test, they do a number of interesting metrics. Most notably they asked the participants to rate playability, projection, tone color, and response. Then they also asked which instrument they would prefer to take home. Throughout this entire evaluation period, the participants had access to all 6 violins, so they could compare between them.

The ratings were pretty much everywhere. The figure that they present doesn't seem to indicate much by way of trends for the most part, or at least anything the participants consistently agreed on. The real outliers in this was one new violin, which was consistently rated better than the rest in all categories, and the old stradiveri, which was consistently rated worse than the rest in all categories except projection. The worst projection rating was given to a new violin.

In the second evaluation they paired and old and a new violin, and gave each participant one minute to play each one of a pair. They would then choose one violin that they preferred.

As for results in the second evaluation, participants pretty much performed at chance, neither preferring any set (old or new) of violins over another. Except for one: the older Stradiveri was preferred consistently less when compared to any of the new violins (this effect was huge. 15-18/21 preferred the new to the old).

There was another figure that I didn't discuss, mainly because I don't think it adds much besides another way to look at the data from the first evaluation. If anyone has any other questions, I'll be happy to look at the paper again.

This was a cool link OP. Thanks for sharing. I'll let you guys make your own conclusions, but to me, this looks like a fairly well-done, controlled study.

rasputinsghost
01-04-2012, 02:54 PM
I couldn't tell. Whoops!

BlackBearUkes
01-04-2012, 03:17 PM
I once hosted a guitar listening session with 40 listeners present. I use 4 guitars for the test. One was a 69 Martin D-28, one a 50's Gibson J-35, one a 70's Takamine made of plywood and the last was a new solid cedar top with Koa back sides. All the guitar were the same size. First I played a single tune on each guitar with everyone watching. The comment was that this was going to be a piece of cake to identify which guitar was which. Next, I had everyone turn around so they couldn't tell what guitar was being played. I then played the same tune on each guitar and the listeners were to mark down what guitar they thought was being played in a given order. The result was that only one person was able to get the order right, and he didn't play a musical instrument. All the rest got it wrong. I then did the test with 2 guitars and again they got it wrong, even the person who owned one of the guitars.

You could try this with ukes, but I wouldn't bet on getting it correct.

Paul December
01-04-2012, 07:08 PM
There seems to be a point missing here:

Do the people involved know what a Stradivarius sounds like?

I've been playing guitar for over 20 years. If you gave me a Guild and a Taylor, I couldn't tell the difference. I've played a couple Guilds. I've never played a Taylor. I would be guessing. Same with a Taylor and a cheaper Fender. I might think the "nicer" one was the Taylor, but that would be a guess. Maybe I don't like Taylors, but I've never had the chance to find out.

I own a Martin D-18. If you gave me a D-18 with DR strings, and any other guitar, I would be a lot more likely to be able to spot the difference, because one would be the sound I know. (Cos we all know manufacturer instruments all sounding identical, right?)

Can you imagine the immense difference between 2 Stradivarius violins, possibly made years apart, when he was doing things a bit differently, with different wood? All by hand?


Don't look at the answer until you've properly questioned the question.

The construction, dimensions, and materials are far more standardized in violins.
It looks like uke manufacturers come out with new kinds of wood every year, not to mention construction greatly differs between manufacturers.

pulelehua
01-04-2012, 08:46 PM
The construction, dimensions, and materials are far more standardized in violins.
It looks like uke manufacturers come out with new kinds of wood every year, not to mention construction greatly differs between manufacturers.

As I understand it, he made violins one way in the 1680s (ish), changed during the 1690s, and settled into a different method for the next couple decades. And as any luthier will tell you, two instruments made in exactly the same way will come out differently. There's just too much variability.

My wife is a reasonably accomplished violinist, and has never seen a Stradivarius, hence my wondering about people's exposure.

I should point out that I'm happy to believe that a Stradivarius doesn't sound "better" than another instrument. We understand so much more about specific density of materials and how sound velocity functions. We've SHOULD be making better instruments, and I think any instrument will only adjust so much to environment.

Gwynedd
01-04-2012, 11:35 PM
I got it in five seconds. I used to go to concerts as a teen and could tell if it was a Guarneri or a Strad or neither. The sound has a mellowness, missing a tiny buzziness or shrillness in other violins. It was very clear in those clips. If you listen to the sample as it climbs up, you will hear the faintest buzz in the violin's tone in one of them--that's a NOT-STRAD. It will be missing from the other clip. That was nice, because one of my ears has gone wonky and has a hiss in it (finding out today if it's just damage to nerve or if I have something ON the nerve.) But could clearly hear the Strad. Cool article.

Paul December
01-05-2012, 07:47 AM
Interesting that actual trained violinists, playing the actual instruments, couldn't pick out the Strad...
...but the majority of respondents to the thread claim they could from a compressed audio file on computer speakers ;)

Bradford
01-05-2012, 08:10 AM
It is well known in the violin world due to a number of blind listening tests, that the audience is generally unable to distinguish between relatively inexpensive violins and very expensive ones. The players can usually tell instantly, because of the amount of work it takes to produce a good tone. In this case, everyone had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Put the Strad in with nine other quality instruments and see how many can pick it out.

Brad

OldePhart
01-05-2012, 12:04 PM
Interesting that actual trained violinists, playing the actual instruments, couldn't pick out the Strad...
...but the majority of respondents to the thread claim they could from a compressed audio file on computer speakers ;)

I think we're just not hearing from the ones that picked the other clip...until...maybe...now ? LOL

Seriously, the clips were distinctly different but, as I mentioned, I couldn't say with absolute certainty which was the Strad, only which was the one I'd rather own. ;)

As someone else has pointed out - in the article they actually tested...nine?...violins including other old Italian ones as well as recently manufactured ones. I'm guessing for the article they probably chose a clip as dissimilar to the Strad as possible. I suspect if we had to choose from among nine clips the percentage of folks "hitting" the strad would probably be far less.

John

Jon Moody
01-05-2012, 01:35 PM
Oy, this article is interesting but the debates it sparks is usually cause for headache. I'm glad no one has brought up the "If they can't tell, then it doesn't matter what price range of instrument we play" because I've read that ad nauseum on other forums.

As far as I'm concerned, this article shows something that I've witnessed firsthand which is that symphonic members are usually quick to judge a musician based on the name, age and value of the instrument they hold. Given that on many of these tests (especially the paired one where they chose the instrument they preferred to play), the Strad was mixed in, or not preferred.

For the two audio clips, I liked the sound of the second clip, which I found out was the Strad. Personally, I really didn't care what instrument it was; I liked the sound better.