Violinists can't tell a Stradivarius from a modern violin


They can tell the difference, they just prefer the modern instruments.

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One of the objections to the 2010 study (What Really Happened in that Double-Blind Violin Sound Test) was that, under the conditions of their loan, the antique violins had not been tuned/adjusted or given fresh strings, whereas the moderns had. I wonder if that was the case here.


As I understand it, the secrets of the old violin making masters have been revealed through the use of modern 3D imaging techniques. These were thing such as varying wood thickness across the face and back.

Do the modern makers use those secrets?

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It seems a bit daft to suggest that modern acoustic analysis, standardized manufacturing techniques, and literally hundreds of years of continuous tradition are incapable of rivaling stuff made way back when. I would frankly be more surprised if they could tell the difference.


Ethel, did you actually read the article?

“Soloists … were unable to tell old from new at better than chance

Another flavor of the McGurk effect?

But just think how much better the instruments COULD sound if we only added a few knobs:

Actually,yes I did, the same thing by another source that indicated a distinct preference for the newer instruments, which is far more telling I think. All these years there was a general thought that playing the instrument, exposing it to music helped condition more then the old growth spruce (smaller rings) or finish.

Btw, JFC on a stick, I read the article. Just because I see more then most and make connections most do not is not proof of anything other then the world being narrow in understanding.

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Speaking as a former violin maker, I can say that there are too many variables of adjustment for there to be a truly scientific test. That said, no piece of wood is worth millions of dollars, other than as an antique.


There is an argument that it takes a lot more time and effort to find the best sound in a vintage instrument, while more modern instruments reveal themselves more quickly. So, it could be possible that these musicians’ opinions would change if they had a week or a month to get dialed in to a Stradivarius.

IMHO, that argument is probably bunk. However, at one point in my career a local burglar helped me to abruptly switch soprano saxophones, and it did take me months to feel comfortable and sound like myself on the new axe.

If you see more than most then you’d see that ‘then’ should be ‘than’ in all three instances you’ve used it.


From my experience in the field, violin making and evaluation are mostly bunk :slight_smile: I never saw a field more packed with BS, unless it was used car sales.


I’m not disputing the part about the violinists preferring the modern instruments. But the first half of your initial comment asserted that they can tell the difference between the old and modern instruments. The study (and thus the title of this post) made it clear that was not the case.

And maybe the reason you see more than most in this case is because you haven’t shared the URL of the “same thing by another source”.

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It would be a tragic mistake to conclude that there is no such thing as an objectively superior violin, or to imagine that modern makers know all they need to know to make great instruments. In truth, modern instruments are terrible because we know virtually nothing about how they actually work. They compare well to many Strads, Guarneris and Amatis because those priceless antiques have all been damaged and extensively modified over the past few hundred years and all are shadows of their former selves. They are broken and we don’t know how to fix them.
It is easy to see why dealers and investors perpetuate the romantic confusion and sheer quackery that pass for expertise in our field- they need to justify and inflate absurd market valuations- but why can’t makers confess to the undeniable futility of our profession? Every maker knows that how our violins sound is pure chance. We need to admit the obvious: we have no idea what we are doing. Disagree? No one on earth can modify a violin in any way and achieve a predicted, desirable outcome. All adjustments are the result of trial and error.

Just because I see more then most and make connections most do not

JFC on a stick, just because you enjoy being contrarian does not mean you “see more than most and make connections most do not” (what does that even MEAN?!) and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re smarter or better than everyone else, as you seem to be implying.

Are you talking about this recent study, or the 2010 study that I mentioned above?

How on earth do we know this? We might dislike old instruments in original form. There’s a reason baroque-style instruments aren’t preferred for modern performances: we like the brighter sound of newer instruments.

I always had the feeling the really tricky bit was the bow, anyway.

Yeah, but it’s not a true test of the best if they did not include a gold-plated Monster Violin in the study.

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Have you ever tried buying a piano?