VSA Oberlin Acoustics Workshop – June 10 – 17, 2017
Fatu class

Photo: Cristian Fatu

The VSA-Oberlin Acoustics Workshop
Co-Sponsored by the CAS Forum
June 11-18, 2016

The VSA-Oberlin Acoustics workshop brings together violin-makers and researchers for a week of hands-on projects, talks, and demonstrations. Now in its 15th year, the upcoming session will run concurrently with the first week of the violin and bow making workshops, allowing opportunities for joint projects.

Space in the workshop is limited. If you are interested, please contact Fan Tao at Fan.Tao@Daddario.com as soon as possible to reserve a space.

Below are three topics for hands-on exploration this year. Please let us know which interests you most, or if you have a project of your own you would like to pursue.

Tonal Diagnostics

Following the success of our last session, we will again focus on a recurring question faced by every violin-maker: How do I improve the playing qualities of this particular instrument? Traditional workshop practice provides a wealth of guidelines, but it offers no objective way to assess acoustical behavior, or how it changes.

This workshop does. Rigorous blind-testing and acoustical measurements are used to diagnose a set of project violins. Participants then work in teams to optimize the instruments. Joseph Curtin and George Stoppani will be on hand to consult on strategy. Measurements are done at each step of the process, and final results are evaluated by a second round of blind tests.

All participants are encouraged to bring potential project instruments. Priority will be given to those which (1) can be taken apart, re-graduated, and reassembled during the workshop, and (2) come with information about their tap-tones, plate masses, and arching heights.

The Loudness Project

How loud are violins? How loud do players want them to be? How does loudness relate to projection? How can you make a violin sound louder? These questions will be explored through experiments and demonstrations.

Measuring Cellos

We now have well-developed methods for measuring violin and viola sound radiation using an Impact Hammer Rig. This summer, cello-makers Chris Dungey and Jeffrey Robinson will lead a group in developing a rig for measuring cellos.

Faculty Bios

This year’s faculty include include George Bissinger, Joseph Curtin, Evan Davis, Claudia Fritz, Colin Gough, George Stoppani, and Fan Tao. Resident violinists to be announced.

George Bissinger, is Emeritus Professor of Physics at East Carolina University and as Director of the Acoustics Laboratory, developed the most comprehensive violin measurement system ever put together. Based on impact hammer excitation, it uses a scanning laser vibrometer for modal analysis, and an array of microphones for radiation measurements. His VIOCADEAS project is a comprehensive vibrational and acoustical characterization of a set of quality-rated violins, including two Strads and a Guarneri del Gesu. Bissinger was the research director for the Strad 3D Project.

Joseph Curtin, co-director of the Workshop, is a violinmaker, writer, and researcher whose interests range from traditional violins to experimental instruments using alternative materials and architectures. Curtin has collaborated with many researchers, including Gabriel Weinreich, Claudia Fritz, and Charles Besnainou. He lectures frequently on violin acoustics, is a regular contributor to The Strad, and wrote (with co-author Thomas Rossing) the chapter on violin acoustics in the recently published textbook from Springer, “The Science of Musical Instruments. In 2005 Curtin was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

Evan Davis is a Technical Fellow at the Boeing Commercial Aircraft Company, where he leads their structural acoustics research group. Davis is a recognized expert in the field of Statistical Energy Analysis, a method for modeling and analyzing complex structural acoustic responses in the mid-to-high audio frequency range. His early fascination with guitars led to the construction of several instruments, and to a PhD in guitar acoustics from the University of Washington. He joined the Catgut Acoustical Society in 1976, and recently joined the Editorial Board of the VSA Journal and Proceedings. Davis has worked with some of world’s leading guitar builders on ‘out of the box’ projects. He performs with several bands as a jazz drummer and a gypsy jazz guitarist.

Claudia Fritz is a CNRS-researcher in Paris, and a member of the Lutherie-Acoustics-Music team at the University Pierre & Marie Curie. Following her post-doctoral work at the University of Cambridge (UK), she has been investigating the correlations between player and listener perceptions and measured acoustical properties. Her recent work with double-blind studies involving new and old violins has gained widespread international attention.

Colin Gough is an Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham, England, where he headed the UK’s largest interdisciplinary research group on superconductivity. An avid amateur violinist, Gough led the University’s Hayward String Quartet and many other local chamber and orchestral groups. He has enjoyed a long-term interest in violin acoustics, and in the factors determining sound quality. In addition to teaching Musical Acoustics, he has published major research articles on vibrating strings, the wolf note, and vibrato, from both the scientific and the player/listener’s points of view. In 2001, Gough received the annual Science Writing Award for Professionals in Acoustics for an article about violin acoustics. He wrote the Musical Acoustics section of a major Handbook on Acoustics published by Springer, and is currently writing a book on violin acoustics.

George Stoppani studied Literature at York University before turning to instrument making in the mid-seventies. He currently builds baroque and modern instruments, has a thriving business making period strings, and is involved in acoustical research, including modal analysis of stringed instruments and software development. Stoppani has given talks at numerous conferences and workshops in the United States and Europe, and has written for Strad Magazine, Early Music Today, the BVMA newsletter, and the CAS Journal.

Fan-Chia Tao, co-director, is Director of Research and Development at D’Addario & Company, where he works on bowed-instrument and guitar strings. His interest in violin acoustics was fostered by his mentor Norman Pickering. An accomplished violinist and violist, Tao is an avid chamber music player. He holds electrical engineering degrees from Caltech and Princeton University. He is a Trustee of the CAS Forum (formerly Catgut Acoustical Society) and is the President-Elect of the Violin Society of America.

General Information

When: Plan to arrive Saturday June 11th for a 6 PM welcome dinner and an introductory meeting. Full activities begin Sunday morning. The session finishes with a wrap-up lunch on Friday June 17. Departure is Friday afternoon or Saturday.

Where: Oberlin, Ohio, a college town about 30 miles from Cleveland, and a half-hour drive from the Cleveland International Airport. Shuttle service is available to and from the airport. Workshop activities (lectures, projects, sleeping) take place in the air-conditioned Kahn Residence Hall.

Meals: Participants share dinner every night (Sat-Thu) at the next-door Stevenson dining hall. An optional cold breakfast is provided for a small additional fee. Nearby restaurants are available for breakfast and lunch.

Fees: $1,100 includes tuition, an air-conditioned single dorm room, and six dinners. Participants must be current members of the Violin Society of America. Contact the VSA at www.vsaweb.org or call (972) 233-9107, ext. 224 for membership information. A $375 deposit is due by April 15th, and the balance by May 15th. Credit credits accepted. Oberlin College will contact accepted participants with payment instructions. (Please do NOT send checks to Fan Tao!)

Financial Aid: Please contact Fan Tao with inquiries.

Again, space in the workshop is limited. If you are interested, please contact Fan Tao at Fan.Tao@Daddario.com as soon as possible to reserve a space. If this is your first time, please send contact information and a summary of your background. Preference will be given to experienced violinmakers and researchers, especially those with unique experiences they can share with other participants. If accepted, you will be contacted by both Oberlin College and Fan Tao.

Fan-Chia Tao
R&D Director
D’Addario & Company, Inc.
595 Smith Street
Farmingdale, NY 11735
T: 631.439.3270

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