Developing A Full Sound Vocabulary

Peter Paul Prince once wrote an article for the Journal of the Violin Society of America in which he listed some essential words that could be employed to describe the sound of a fiddle. Here they are: hard, mellow, even, nasal, open, ringing, muted, full, hollow.

Nornam Pickering, an acoustics expert compiled his own list of words for sound and it was much longer. “Rough, hollow, thin, pure, flutey, metallic, resonant, dry, somber, clear, even, uneven, brilliant, wolfy, elegant, lively, raw, sonorous, muted, dark, light, plumy, tubby, harsh, pinched, aggressive, silky, silvery, golden, nobel, constricted, smooth, mellow, bright, dull, piercing, shrill, nasal, fuzzy, scratchy, rich, full, weak, powerful, sweet.”

Those quotations come from “The Violin Maker” by John Marchese. It documents the work of luthier Sam Zygmuntowicz currently living in Brooklyn.

Words provide an amazing tool for understanding the things around us. How do you describe sound?