No Shortcuts to Quality

Beautiful musical instruments are timeless, and a few posts reminded us that there are no shortcuts to quality. Little details have the unique ability to amaze in both directions.


These reinforcements by Esq Guitars are super classy are should be celebrated. What makes an instrument go from Good to Great? MBAs study companies that grow contagious pockets of greatness. But for the craftsman, sharing small trade secrets is the key.

Looking Through The Lens Backwards: Great to Good

This provocative video compares a Gibson guitar to an imitation from China. Most youtube reviewers comparing imitation guitars aren’t as tough, but this guy colorfully explains how the little things making a Gibson guitar a special instrument, and why the imitation is rubbish.

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Sweet Vibrations on your Phone

Remember the last time a doctor listened to your heart with a stethoscope? Well, imagine bringing that stethoscope for a walk, listening to objects on the street, and playing the results through your iPhone/Android device.

Mogees-Tree

What if  you built that idea years ago? That idea was only your starting point, and afterwards, you worked to constantly improve it every day. Along this journey of invention, you crossed paths with some of the greatest musical minds of our generation, and convinced them to join your team.

This is how you end up with a Kickstarter project like this:

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Learning to Play the Mandolin Better

Playing the mandolin is now my favorite hobby. I write a lot about making musical instruments, but the end goal of it all is making music in a meaningful way. Learning the mandolin has been a lot of fun, and allowed me to reconnect with music in ways I never even imaged. My wife sang along to Christmas carols, I started learning songs by ear and discovering new genres. It re-energized my musical pursuits, and gave back way more energy than I put in.

Image via The Black Apple

I wanted to share my roadpath for learning the Mandolin. My goal with this post is to transform your thinking about learning the mandolin, share my favorite resources, and ask your feedbacks for tips to become a better Mandolin player.

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A On Violin

Tuning a violin can be done in a few simple steps. Understanding how to tune a violin is essential for beginning violin. This post moves past violin basics and dives in to what violin strings are made of and how the tuning of a violin works. A on violin is 440 Hz, one of the easier pitches to remember.

How to Tune A Violin

This youtube does a fanstastic job of walking you through violin tuning. This simple online violin tuner is a handy tool for adjusting the pitch of your violin strings.

What Are the Strings on a Violin

The four strings on the violin are separated in fifths. The violin strings notes are G, D, A and E. The strongest argument for using fifths, is the increased playability of the instruments. Others argue, violins are tuned in fifth to provide richer overtones. Over the years, violin strings evolved to provide a good balance of tension and thickness to meet tuning in fifths of the four strings. But this was not always the case. In a nod to quality over features, the E string was dropped on many models during the second half of the 18th century. Instrument makers of three string violins felt the quality of that thicker string didn’t live up to the tone of the other strings.

Originally, violin strings were made of sheep guts. Since the 1920s, violin strings were available as different metals. The original steel strings resonated too strongly. Metal strings have since mellowed yet people claim “metal will always sound metallic”- synthetic materials have since been developed to compete with guts. For each type of string there are multiple manufacturers that provide different claims to timbre, reliability, longevity, dynamics and feel. Shapechanginginstruments has yet to do our own study on different violin strings.

Finally, its worth noting some violins do have 5 strings by adding a C. Electronic violins can add lower notes with a sixth or seventh string. Naturally, these versions of the instrument are used in more modern styles of music like jazz, country fiddling and swing. But the additional strings leads to compromises in tone that prevent these violins from universal adoption.

Introduction to the Physics String Vibration

Violin lengths, materials and thicknesses in general are chosen to have equal tension across the strings. Light gauge violin strings or heavy gauge violin strings can be both be used. The tension affects the decay of the note, the playability, timbre and amplitude dynamics of the strings. Heavily tensioned strings – on a certain style of bass instruments – require a large amount of bow force to start the attack on the string. The classic model for understanding string vibration is:

Freq = v / (2 * L)

v = standing wave velocity = sqrt( Tension / (m * L))

m = hanging mass of the string

L = String Length

T = String Tension

This provides enough background to adequately design materials for the well pitched strings and the violin neck that won’t break. But it likely lacks some of the non-linear affects that come from the coiling found in many strings. There is more in depth research on violin physics, but we have yet to digest it.

Why we support @instrumentsLab #kickstarter Musical Instrument

Moving beyond the Magnetic Resonator Piano, Andrew Macpherson joined a team to make Touchkeys, a kickstarter project that brings  multi-touch add-on to keyboard controllers.  Touchkeys allows every key on a MIDI controller to have individual X-Y location mapped on the keys. Keyboardists will instantly become more expressive and creative with this add on. Here at Shapchanginginstruments.com, we think this will be a historic project.

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