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Old or new? Violinists can't tell which sounds better

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© 2014 AFP

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I do know that thanks to modern technological know-how, modern luthiers (violin makers) can now make violins that sound just as good as any Stradivarius violin. Scientists discovered that the wood from a Stradivarius violin were unusually dense, mostly because the wood used was of very dense quality due to the very cold winters Europe experienced the time the Stradivarius violins were made.

As such, modern luthiers duplicate as close as possible the density of the wood from a Stradivarius violin, and as a result we have a vast improvement the sound quality of new-build violins--the best luthiers today can make violins that sound essentially indistinguishable from a Stradivarius.

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You can't really draw any conclusions at all with a sample size that small. Maybe if all 10 had picked the new ones, it would be worthy of note, but a 4/6 split could easily be lost in the error from the sample size being so small.

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The thing about instruments is it is really a personal relationship with the instrument that makes the feeling in the musician and, ultimately, makes the music itself.

Based on this study, I don't think it says that musicians preferred new violins. I think it shows that these specific individual musicians liked certain specific individual instruments. The fact that they were buffed up to look old is not tricking them, so much as creating a more attractive instrument to play. This feeds the desire to play. Desire to play feeds ability to and desire to search for a good sound in the instrument. (Any instrument is capable of creating all sorts of sound qualities, and the musician has to find and bring out the "good" ones while avoiding the "bad" or un-useful ones). These feelings and desires are not based on looks alone, but the looks can be one "ingredient".

Further, four did choose the classic instruments. Since certain sound senses are really individual skills, not all "musicians" have the experience to know if it is a Strad or not. Therefore, this test of 10 may just show that 6 of them do not have that sense or experience, while four did.

Imo this test does not show what the headline claims it does at all, and the creators of the test and writers of the article do not understand music and musicians very well.

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