Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

82
Fiddle Lovers Online


Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Jul 10, 2020 - 10:58:58 AM
likes this
43 posts since 5/1/2010

We've all been to informal jams in outdoor venues where all kinds of acoustic instruments were represented around the campfire. Of course, banjos never have a problem being heard under any circumstances.
However, I've been to many acoustic jams where the fiddler simply cannot be heard, no matter how close you are sitting to him!
Over the decades I've had a bunch of fiddles of varying quality pass through my life. Most of them were sold because of economic hardship. I do remember one, given to me by a guy whom I helped move his furniture across town back in the mid-1990's, that was by far the loudest fiddle I've ever heard. No banjo could drown that one out! Unfortunately, that one fell victim to one of my periodic economic slowdowns.
Have you ever handed your fiddle to another player, backed off a considerable distance, preferably in an outdoor setting, and listened to see how much carrying power it had? It would seem to me that other than in a recording studio, with a big mic hanging right there, or amplified with an electric pickup, a violin with a lot of open-sounding power would be a desirable thing.
What makes some fiddles powerful, and some not?

Jul 10, 2020 - 11:12:22 AM

8405 posts since 3/19/2009

I do know that like banjos, fiddle are Directional in how they emit sound..When I play I always face the top of my fiddle into the jam .. What you might find fun to do is have someone play your fiddle and walk around them as they play and take note of what I'm referring to..!!
Once I was camping and late at night I could hear a banjo solo..coming from maybe 100 feet away..Eventually, I got up to go see who was playing. Well, it was a banjo, fiddle and guitar, but from 100 feet ( of course I have poor hearing) I could ONLY hear the banjo

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 07/10/2020 11:13:24

Jul 10, 2020 - 12:22:38 PM
likes this

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007

I don't really know what makes a fiddle loud, or even if that's the most desireable quality. I have a motley little collection of violins (most expensive one probably $125, not counting repairs). But when I play other people's instruments I'm often surprised how responsive mine really are - maybe I'm just used to them. For several years I played with Lee Sexton, who played his Mastertone as hard as possible, and I was glad I had my loudest fiddle. In fact that's the only comment anyone's ever made about any of them - a good fiddler once said "That fiddle's sure is loud."
Sometimes I think I should sell all of them and get something better, but I've played a couple by well regarded contemporary makers and thought they were good, but with my limited technique it still sounded like me scratching away.

Jul 10, 2020 - 1:37:59 PM

2264 posts since 10/1/2008

I expect it is partly the instrument and partly the player. Strings, a light or not touch with the bow, playing without a shoulder rest so the instrument is cradled against a shoulder and chest all may add to or detract from volume. Then there is the violins construction itself is it light, does it have a couple of millimeters of extra thickness where it detracts from the volume. There are so many variables that make a lot of small differences add up to a big one. I do like to hear better fiddlers play on my instruments . It encourages me and I get the occasional boost from a compliment on their quality. ...

Jul 10, 2020 - 2:23:18 PM
likes this

1742 posts since 8/27/2008

In my modest fiddle building career I've tried replicating my best fiddles. I made 2 fiddles at the same time once being careful to use the same trees and do everything the same, but they came out differently, with one lacking punch. As far as volume, that can be a good thing in a loud jam. What's more important is a balanced response from the low string on up. Also, some fiddles seem harsh and trebly on the ear and, while that might cut through in a crowd, I'd rather have a little gutsy oomph instead.

Jul 10, 2020 - 2:57 PM
likes this

846 posts since 8/11/2009

I think for the most part you have to have something that is pleasing to you under your ear. But one that is too quiet to carry to listeners isn't good either. Always tradeoffs I guess.

Jul 10, 2020 - 2:59:41 PM
likes this

8405 posts since 3/19/2009

  1. quote:

Originally posted by bandsmcnamar

I think for the most part you have to have something that is pleasing to you under your ear. But one that is too quiet to carry to listeners isn't good either. Always tradeoffs I guess.


Brian, I'll point back to my post.. No matter how good someone's fiddle sounds, if they point it away from you.. the sound quality/volume  will be diminished..laugh

Jul 10, 2020 - 4:13:39 PM
likes this

1996 posts since 10/22/2007
Online Now

Better to have power and not need it, than to need power and not have it. -Richard Petty & Farmerjones

I went to my favorite dealer. Tried a dozen or so, until i found the loudest. Then i had him play it back to me. He's plays symphonic classical stuff. He just about drove me out of the room. That's the one. Don't know why. Don't much care. Still play it.

Now, Micheal Cleveland has a banjer killer. But it's a 5 string. I think he bought it from Kenny Baker. I'll be honest, i don't know if i'll ever be ready for a 5 string.

Edited by - farmerjones on 07/10/2020 16:15:02

Jul 10, 2020 - 4:44:07 PM
like this

1742 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Better to have power and not need it, than to need power and not have it. -Richard Petty & Farmerjones
 

That's probably true. But sheer power isn't the whole story. An evenly balanced instrument that responds well to both light bowing and heavy bowing is best, I think.

Jul 10, 2020 - 5:10:19 PM
like this

169 posts since 3/1/2020

Listening to a violin from a distance is an important determining factor for a lot of players when they’re buying instruments. Some of the customers at the shop will take violins to the opera house or the concert hall or to orchestra rehearsals or concerts before making the decision to buy.

The source of power and projection in a violin is really the combination of several factors like wood selection, arching, setup, string choice, neck angle, bow, and playing style.

Having a violin with a commanding and powerful tone is important if you’re playing a lot of solos, but it doesn’t always work well if you’re playing in an ensemble. In an orchestra or chamber group, there’s more need to blend with the other instruments, so having one that overpowers the others can be a problem.

In fiddling, blend is less of an issue, and a lot of players struggle to be heard above the sound of the other instruments. That’s one of the main reasons steel strings are popular among fiddlers—lots of loudness.

Some violins can be deceiving under the ear. They can sound powerful to you but dead to the audience. Likewise some sound like they’re not that loud under the ear but carry right to the back of a concert hall.

If you’re trying to decide what kind of violins to own, it’s good to consider the intended setting for the instruments to help determine the kind of sound you’ll want.

Jul 10, 2020 - 5:36:42 PM
likes this

4724 posts since 9/26/2008

I'm with Rich. Lots of variables in construction and set up, and hard to tell how much projection by listening under the ear.

I have 4 turn of the century factory/catalog fiddles and one that was in the 800 to a thousand dollars class, new (in 2004), that I bought used a little while ago. I did a distance recording session one time and was surprised that the one that seemed quietest was clearly loudest 15 feet away. This was back when I got the modern fiddle. I play the modern one the most because, like Brian said, it sounds and plays best across all of the strings. Monday I recorded at an actual studio and that fiddle sounds much better with the room mic than it does in my ear. I like it even more now! 

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:04:40 PM
likes this

28 posts since 3/29/2020

I'm convinced that projection is more boosts in certain frequencies than just volume. How else do the great violins project "to the back seats of a concert hall," as all the violin nerds like to say?

I also think that steel strings are louder than, but don't necessarily project as well as good synthetics. Just strapped some PIs on my good fiddle, and do. they. ever. project. I did A/B recordings all over the house between Helicore heavy gauge strings and medium PIs, and there is no comparison.

An interesting aside, Helicores are much, much easier for me to play in tune. I don't know why. Anyone else experience anything like that? Perhaps a topic for another thread.

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:10:13 PM
likes this

28 posts since 3/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones


Now, Micheal Cleveland has a banjer killer. But it's a 5 string. I think he bought it from Kenny Baker. I'll be honest, i don't know if i'll ever be ready for a 5 string.


Michael Cleveland plays a Silakowski violin, aquired after the guy Silakowski made it for rejected it. M.C. had played it before it was delivered, and wanted it on the spot, but the guy had first chance at it. I often wonder how that unnamed gentleman feels hearing that killer axe everywhere after turning it down.  

Edited by - The Body Electric on 07/10/2020 20:12:54

Jul 10, 2020 - 8:26:57 PM

154 posts since 6/11/2019
Online Now

I consider power important. It's up to the musician to figure how to tone it down without a mute. Clarity is my second--I hate a stopped G string to sound like it's under water.

As far as banjers, they're on the bottom of the food chain, so just throw a corona mask at them.

Jul 11, 2020 - 10:30:10 AM

169 posts since 3/1/2020

I always tell people there’s a difference between loudness and volume. Loudness is more directional and equates to simply making a tone louder, but volume is an increase of richness along with volume.

As an analogy, consider the case of a marching band. The horns are directional, such that they sound quite loud when they’re facing you but quickly fade as they turn away. The percussion has more volume and fills the space more fully, so you tend to hear the drums better when the players aren’t facing you.

Another analogy is an amplifier. If you set the levels so they’re flat and turn the “volume” knob, you’ll get loudness. But if you adjust the levels so they’re not flat, you’ll get volume. That’s why a cheap speaker won’t sound as good as a good speaker when you turn the volume knob.

I think it’s volume that makes a violin carry better. To accomplish that, a violin needs to create a good range of overtones on the spectrum. It’s also important that there aren’t any overtones that fight against the fundamental and diminish its clarity.

Jul 11, 2020 - 1:02:13 PM

217 posts since 6/21/2012

I picked mine because it had a sweet singing tone. I’ve been told that it projects well, but that wasn’t even a consideration. I spent a few years playing mandolin in an Irish session while I was getting my fiddle chops together, and I never heard myself beyond the plink of the pick, and that was playing it as hard as I could. Anything was going to be an improvement over that.

Jul 12, 2020 - 2:03:51 AM

1393 posts since 4/6/2014
Online Now

I like the Jascha Heifetz quote (think it was him any way), after being complimented on the wonderful sound of his fiddle

He held it up to his ear and said "Oh really, I cant hear a thing".....

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 07/12/2020 02:04:42

Jul 12, 2020 - 3:56:11 AM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddleharp


What makes some fiddles powerful, and some not?


Depends what mean by powerful? Generally what makes them are very experienced and skilled luthiers.  laugh A lot goes into it, it's very complex... and $$$$$$$  pretty well relate to getting what some might define as powerful.   Of course you probably wouldn't be bringing those instruments around a campfire. For fiddles, thank goodness, generally don't need to actually be that powerful; should find something that works reasonably fine.

However, I've been to many acoustic jams where the fiddler simply cannot be heard, no matter how close you are sitting to him!

In my experience, I found those situations probably have much less to do with the actual instrument itself. Other than really junk VSOs, most fiddles should be sufficient to be heard.  But a few other important factors:

1. Certainly there are factors such as the set-up might be a factor. Bridge, bridge height, strings, tension, bow, rosin, soundpost...

but equally, of not more so....

2. simply is the player.... how they play; their ability to play in a way to be heard distinctively. It's about more than just a loud instrument. (more later)

3. the others in a jam... are simply making more sound than that fiddle can play over. (a) Sometimes due to too big, too many, wall of sound. (b) Sometimes it's others not really listening to the whole, the mix and ability to adjust their playing, ie they are playing too loud. A bit like trying to be in a musical shouting match, that is everybody is trying to play louder than everyone else, (the loudest instrument wins?) Related is (c) some of these saturating the sound space can make a mid-tone mud.  (d) Sometimes big jams are spaced too far apart. Simple physics of sound (such as inverse square)... indicate the inherent problem with hearing each other well.

Of course some players goal is not to stand out. If the player is playing in a way  as to blend in...just participate, add to the overall sound; it might not seem like you can hear them... often you might notice if they play wrong notes, on wrong beat/part... or notice something if they stop and start. Not just fiddles.

Of course, banjos never have a problem being heard under any circumstances.

That's not always true. Like fiddles, banjos, (and banjo players) can vary widely. Similar factors design, set-up, tone-ring, head, string, tension and playing style... and $$$.  Similar issues with jam sessions in 3 above. Many intermediate banjo players struggle to hear themselves, or think can't be heard by others; so also on quest for the dang loudest banjo they can find. (kind of compounds the jam issue though)

----------

The original premise "where the fiddler simply cannot be heard, " -  Is it the instrument you can't hear; or the player? 

Have you ever handed your fiddle to another player, backed off a considerable distance, preferably in an outdoor setting, and listened to see how much carrying power it had?

That can be a difficult comparison, unless their playing ability and technique matches yours. But might be a good test of - "is the instrument or the player?". That is have a good player play, might be amazed what they can get out of it, in terms of power or projection, as compared to a weaker player.

What makes a fiddler or any instrument be heard, or carry?  It's more than just how many dB or SPL is produced.  A lot is about timbre, tone; things like warm, dark, smooth, focused, brilliant, tight, biting, edge, cut. Things about nuance; accents, timing, transients, formants; attack ADSR envelopes... even be bit of attack noise can be involved. Relates to playing with others, standing out in the mix. That is, the instrument isn't that it can significantly produce more sound power, dB or SPL, over all the others; it's the player and tone controls.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/12/2020 03:58:37

Jul 12, 2020 - 5:52:57 AM
likes this

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

I always tell people there’s a difference between loudness and volume. Loudness is more directional and equates to simply making a tone louder, but volume is an increase of richness along with volume.

As an analogy, consider the case of a marching band. The horns are directional, such that they sound quite loud when they’re facing you but quickly fade as they turn away. The percussion has more volume and fills the space more fully, so you tend to hear the drums better when the players aren’t facing you.

Another analogy is an amplifier. If you set the levels so they’re flat and turn the “volume” knob, you’ll get loudness. But if you adjust the levels so they’re not flat, you’ll get volume. That’s why a cheap speaker won’t sound as good as a good speaker when you turn the volume knob.

I think it’s volume that makes a violin carry better. To accomplish that, a violin needs to create a good range of overtones on the spectrum. It’s also important that there aren’t any overtones that fight against the fundamental and diminish its clarity.


I agree that loudness and volume are different, but not in how you are indicating it, or perhaps using terminology.

Volume is simply physical amount of power... measurable is something like dB. Increasing the overall amplitude, power. It is no measure of richness.  (the cheap speaker has to do with ability handle the power, amplitude, clipping, square waves)

Loudness is psychoacoustic concept... perceptual, subjective...  in a comparative context. That is how much something "seems" loud.   (there is the dBA measure; which tries to approximate human sense of "loudness")

Sense of loudness is not proportionately distributed across all frequency ranges... and often achieved not by proportionate increasing amplitude of all frequencies... but rather shifting focus of certain frequencies to stand out. For example, for the solo violin, the frequency range centered around 3000 Hz. (that is also Hz that is attributed to projection). Loudness knob on amplification is often scooping the lower-mids. Compression is another trick for perception of loudness.  Edit to add... bright, nasal, or even harsh sound seems to give more immediate sense of loudness, even if less dB.

Directionality... simply affects the degree energy of sound waves, simply mechanical waves going through air; follows line of sight and inverse square. Pointed toward you, a straight path is least distance... so not just perception of loudness, it's physically more sound energy (volume) hits the listener; as compared with if away from; or if narrowly reflected.  

you tend to hear the drums better when the players aren’t facing you

Not that I've ever experienced with ears, and microphones. Drums are however often less directional, emit a lot of dB in most all directions, and offer more reflection angles; so might seem they fill the space more.

I don't think there is any solo violin capable of more dB than what an orchestra generates. My guess would be most fiddles/fiddlers overall probably don't produce as much overall dB as the rest of a band or jam with guitars, mando, banjo, flute, whistles, accordions, or with other fiddles. I agree that some aspect of the tone, timbre, overtone layout is part what is creating the ability to carry, or seem louder. Perhaps some difference in "big" sound vs tight focused sound? As mentioned in previous post, how much is the instrument, and/or setup; and how much is the player's ability and skill.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/12/2020 06:01:10

Jul 12, 2020 - 6:58:10 AM

169 posts since 3/1/2020

One might compare the difference between loudness and volume to the difference between weight and mass. Weight measures heaviness, but only insofar as it’s linked to the pull of gravity. Mass is a measure of the matter an object takes up regardless of forces in play on it. In that sense, mass is a more encompassing measurement. I think volume is similar—it explains how a sound fills a space in a more substantial way.

I agree that loudness is a mostly subjective measure, and that is why things can sound loud under the ear and weak at a distance.

The phenomenon of a single violin technique playing so that it’s heard above an orchestra is fascinating and quite complicated. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that the violin is narrowly focused on a frequency band that cuts through the other frequencies of the other instruments, but that idea breaks down easily. The violin can not only be heard, but it can be heard from all over the hall. Orchestration probably has a part in that it, but that alone doesn’t explain what occurs.

Jul 12, 2020 - 5:27:08 PM

1996 posts since 10/22/2007
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


The phenomenon of a single violin technique playing so that it’s heard above an orchestra is fascinating and quite complicated. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that the violin is narrowly focused on a frequency band that cuts through the other frequencies of the other instruments, but that idea breaks down easily. The violin can not only be heard, but it can be heard from all over the hall. Orchestration probably has a part in that it, but that alone doesn’t explain what occurs.


When i was learning about sythesizers, it was told to me higher frequencies sound louder. As a studio pianist, Leon Russell knew if he wanted to be heard, to play up high. Violinists know they can own the stage if they shift up. Venue is an important factor too. You'll get the most from an ampitheatre, less from a flat open field. 

Jul 12, 2020 - 6:45:49 PM

2525 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

One might compare the difference between loudness and volume to the difference between weight and mass. Weight measures heaviness, but only insofar as it’s linked to the pull of gravity. Mass is a measure of the matter an object takes up regardless of forces in play on it. In that sense, mass is a more encompassing measurement. I think volume is similar—it explains how a sound fills a space in a more substantial way.

I agree that loudness is a mostly subjective measure, and that is why things can sound loud under the ear and weak at a distance.

The phenomenon of a single violin technique playing so that it’s heard above an orchestra is fascinating and quite complicated. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that the violin is narrowly focused on a frequency band that cuts through the other frequencies of the other instruments, but that idea breaks down easily. The violin can not only be heard, but it can be heard from all over the hall. Orchestration probably has a part in that it, but that alone doesn’t explain what occurs.


I think you misinterpreted my comments. I suggested no such single technique, nor simply narrowly focused on a frequency band... and just presented general concepts and examples; explanation of basic physics principles.  (as well as mixing principles)  - My comments were along the lines of complexity of sound...  the concept of "loudness" (as relates to "being heard" in things like jams).

There are some common errors in how sound works that folks make, misattribute.  As well, there has been lots of research, studies of acoustical physics and psycho-acoustics that have been quite informative. 

FWIW - the 3000 Hz I referred to wasn't the "only" overtone range, but has been found to be significant... the singer's formant, that helps clarity and projection.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/12/2020 18:51:48

Jul 12, 2020 - 7:14:32 PM

169 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:

I agree that loudness and volume are different, but not in how you are indicating it, or perhaps using terminology.

Volume is simply physical amount of power... measurable is something like dB. Increasing the overall amplitude, power. It is no measure of richness.  (the cheap speaker has to do with ability handle the power, amplitude, clipping, square waves)


Richness was probably not the right word. I think fullness explains it better.

I think of loudness more like a two-dimensional drawing and volume like a three dimensional one. 

Jul 13, 2020 - 2:17:34 AM

1600 posts since 12/11/2008

If I could find somebody to play my three fiddles so I could find what they sound like at various distances I'd be a happy guy. But it ain't like trying to find somebody who can play a C chord on a guitar. To be sure, yes, when I purchased my best fiddle, a couple of fiddle friends went to the shop with me and we all played and listened to my top two candidates. The saleslady at the place played a bunch of them for me, too (and she was talented, I tell you!). But that was a good ten years ago at least.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.25