Happy 4th of July: Download “America the Beautiful” and “American Pride” FREE!


DOWNLOAD: American The Beautiful

America the Beautiful is an American patriotic song. The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates, and the music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, “Pikes Peak”, first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. At that time, the poem was titled “America” for publication. [Wikipedia]

DOWNLOAD: American Pride

American Pride is an American folk song originally written by Thomas McGregor on July 3rd, 2016 to commemorate the long-lasting heritage that is part of the fabric of American sensibilities. The song is set to represent the strength and commitment that Americans hold so close. The original melody has a rhythm that mimics a march. This symbolizes the many marches that have taken place in American history. McGregor, an avid composer, designed the melody in a way that allows for the listener to sing along; singing, yet, another pillar of  the American historical story. []



What plants and violins of in common: You might be surprised!

There is no arguing that we take inspiration from nature. In biomimicry we mimic the way nature works in order to better facility and enable the use of technological advances. We look to nature to provide us with best practices and procedures so that we can gain benefit from the flow that nature showcases. When it comes to musical instruments, however, we don’t typically think of their design mimicking something in nature. Yet scientist have found a unique link between the shape of the violin and plants. The findings are very interesting and insightful.

This is a mosaic of a violin comprised of over 5,000 violin images derived from the 9,000 photographs used in this study. Credit: Dan Chitwood; CC-BY

“There are many parallels between leaves and violins,” says Dan Chitwood, Ph.D., assistant member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. “Both have beautiful shapes that are potentially functional, change over time, or result from mimicry. Shape is information that can tell us a story. Just as evolutionary changes in leaf shape inform us about mechanisms that ultimately determine plant morphology, the analysis of cultural innovations, such as violins, gives us a glimpse into the historical forces shaping our lives and creativity.”

As a plant biologist, Chitwood spends most of his time exploring genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying diversity in plant morphology, or in layman’s terms, understanding how leaf shapes are formed and what that means for a plant to grow and thrive. He also studies how leaf shapes change as plant species evolve to adapt in different environments. Research into why a desert-adapted tomato species can survive with little water, for example, sheds light on how leaf architecture affects the efficiency of plant water use.

Chitwood’s research involves the tools of “morphometrics,” which can be used to quantify traits of evolutionary significance. Changes in shape over time provide insight into an object’s function or evolutionary relationships. A major objective of morphometrics is to statistically test hypotheses about the factors that affect shape.

But his love of music, and his talent playing the viola, led Chitwood to ask how musical instruments, particularly those designed by masters, evolved over time. Could shapes of violins tell us something about the function of the instrument, or about which violin makers (luthiers) borrowed ideas from others? Could the factors influencing violin evolution be analyzed and understood using the same morphometric approaches used to understand evolution of natural species?

Violin shapes have been in flux since the design and production of the first instruments in 16th century Italy. Numerous innovations have improved the acoustical properties and playability of violins. Although the coarse shape of violins is integral to their design, details of the body outline can vary without significantly compromising sound quality.

Chitwood compiled data on the body shapes of more than 9,000 violins from over 400 years of design history using iconography data from auction houses. The dataset encompasses the most highly desirable violins, and those of historical importance, including violins designed by Giovanni Paolo Maggini, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, and Antonio Stradivari, as well as Stradivari copyists Nicolas Lupot, Vincenzo Panormo, and Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.

The results of Chitwood’s research were published in the article, “Imitation, genetic lineages, and time influenced the morphological evolution of the violin,” in the October 8th edition of the journal, PLOS ONE.

Chitwood found that specific shape attributes differentiate the instruments, and these details strongly correlate with historical time. His linear discriminant analysis reveals luthiers who likely copied the outlines of their instruments from others, which historical accounts corroborate. Clustering images of averaged violin shapes places luthiers into four major groups, demonstrating a handful of discrete shapes predominate in most instruments.

As it turns out, genetics also played a role in violin making. Violin shapes originating from multi-generational luthier families tend to cluster together, and familial origin is a significant explanatory factor of violin shape. Together, the analysis of four centuries of violin shapes demonstrates not only the influence of history and time leading to the modern violin, but widespread imitation and the transmission of design by human relatedness.

As with all scientific papers, Chitwood’s article was rigorously peer-reviewed, in this case, by some of the world’s leading morphometrics experts. The critiques prior to publication led to improvements in the morphometric techniques used in the final analyses. Chitwood is now applying his improved methods to his plant research program at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“This is a fantastic example of how advances in one field can help advance a seemingly unrelated field,” said Chitwood. “I’ll be a happy scientist and musician if by understanding violin evolution this helps lead to improved crop plants that are more productive and sustainable.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Donald Danforth Plant Science CenterNote: Materials may be edited for content and length. / 

Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel H. Chitwood. Imitation, Genetic Lineages, and Time Influenced the Morphological Evolution of the ViolinPLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (10): e109229 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109229
music, music education

Violin Acoustic Efficiency: Key design components boost the violins’ acoustic reach via centuries of master adjusting

I find this incredibly interesting: What design alterations have occurred over time to the violin that have made it the acoustic powerhouse it is today? We find that throughout the decades the violin master craftsmen have continuously altered the way stringed instruments are constructed in an effort to increase the sound efficiency of acoustic instruments. Furthermore, many changes to social environment, music venues and audience preferences have changes over time that have been the catalyst for design these changes.

From the 10th to 18th centuries, the sound holes of the violin, and its ancestors, evolved from simple circles to more elongated f-holes. Credit: Courtesy of the researchers

Some of the most prized violins in the world were crafted in the Italian workshops of Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri — master violinmaking families from the 17th and 18th centuries who produced increasingly powerful instruments in the renaissance and baroque musical eras. These violins, worth millions of dollars today, represent the Cremonese period — what is now considered the golden age of violinmaking.

Now acousticians and fluid dynamicists at MIT, along with violinmakers at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, have analyzed measurements from hundreds of Cremonese-era violins, identifying key design features that contribute to these particular violins’ acoustic power, or fullness of sound.

The team acquired technical drawings of Cremonese-era violins from museums, collector databases, and books, as well as X-ray and CAT scans of the instruments. They compared the dimensions of various features from one instrument to another, as well as measurements of acoustic resonances across instruments.

The researchers found that a key feature affecting a violin’s sound is the shape and length of its “f-holes,” the f-shaped openings through which air escapes: The more elongated these are, the more sound a violin can produce. What’s more, an elongated sound hole takes up little space on the violin, while still producing a full sound — a design that the researchers found to be more power-efficient than the rounder sound holes of the violin’s ancestors, such as medieval fiddles, lyres, and rebecs.

The thickness of a violin’s back plate also contributes to its acoustic power. Violins carved from wood are relatively elastic: As the instrument produces sound, the violin’s body may respond to the air vibrations, contracting and expanding minutely. A thicker back plate, they found, would boost a violin’s sound.

The researchers found that as violins were crafted first by Amati, then Stradivari, and finally Guarneri, they slowly evolved to more elongated f-holes and thicker back plates.

But were the design changes intentional? To answer this question, the researchers worked the measurements from hundreds of Cremonese-era violins into an evolutionary model, and found that any change in design could reasonably be explained by natural mutation — or, in this case, craftsmanship error.

In other words, makers may have crafted violins with longer sound holes and thicker back plates not by design, but by accident.

“We found that if you try to replicate a sound hole exactly from the last one you made, you’ll always have a little error,” says Nicholas Makris, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at MIT. “You’re cutting with a knife into thin wood and you can’t get it perfectly, and the error we report is about 2 percent … always within what would have happened if it was an evolutionary change, accidentally from random fluctuations.”

Makris stresses that while each violinmaker inarguably possessed a good ear — in order to recognize and replicate the violins that sounded best — whether they recognized the particular design elements that contribute to a more powerful sound is still up for debate.

“People had to be listening, and had to be picking things that were more efficient, and were making good selection of what instrument to replicate,” Makris says. “Whether they understood, ‘Oh, we need to make [the sound hole] more slender,’ we can’t say. But they definitely knew what was a better instrument to replicate.”

Makris and his colleagues from MIT and the North Bennett Street School publish their results this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: A.

There’s power in shape

Makris didn’t originally set out to study violin acoustics: His work is primarily in ocean exploration with acoustics, developing and applying technology to sense marine life and ocean phenomenon over large areas. But about a decade ago, he took up a new hobby, playing the lute.

“I’m an acoustics expert, but promised myself I wouldn’t think about the acoustics of the instrument, I’m just going to play the thing,” Makris remembers.

That thinking didn’t last long, as Makris started talking with lutemakers and players in an effort to better understand the instrument — which was once Europe’s most popular, but became effectively extinct for centuries before its recent re-emergence. The lute is much quieter than the violin: In addition to other design differences, its sound holes are circular rather than f-shaped, with elaborate interior carvings known as rosettes, inherited from the lute’s Middle Eastern ancestor, the oud.

Several years ago, a noted lute player approached Makris with an intriguing quandary: Do the carvings within a lute’s sound hole make a difference to the overall sound produced? Makris realized that the relevant frequencies of sound were in the range where airflow through the sound hole behaves nearly as an incompressible fluid, and enlisted the help of Yuming Liu, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The team modeled the airflow through a simple round hole, as well as a more elaborately patterned hole of the same diameter, and found that in both cases, the air flowed fastest at the hole’s periphery; its interior, whether open or partially filled, did not significantly affect the airflow.

Answering the musician’s simple question turned into a seven-year project in which the team examined the acoustic dynamics of stringed instruments through time, from the oud, lute, and medieval fiddles to the guitar and ultimately the violin — a period spanning from the 10th century to the 18th century. Analysis of the violin came at the urging of team member Roman Barnas, director of violinmaking and repair at the North Bennet Street School, an expert on the construction of early instruments.

Throughout the 800-year period the researchers examined, they noted an evolution in sound-hole shape — from a simple round hole to a semicircle, which eventually morphed into a c-shape that grew more elongated, ultimately assuming the f-shape of the violin. The perimeter of these shapes steadily grew, while the area of the interior void gradually decreased.

As with the evolution in length of the violin’s f-hole during the Cremonese period, Makris’ team found that the overall shape of the violin’s ancestors slowly evolved to be more powerful and more acoustically efficient — though not necessarily by design.

“We think these changes are still within the possibility of natural mutation,” Makris says. “All of these subtle parameters of shape, we’ve modeled, and are able to make very good predictions on what the effects will be on frequency and power.”

Makris says the group’s results may be useful for master violinmakers looking to design more powerful, fuller-sounding instruments — although he acknowledges that there’s more to producing a quality violin than adjusting a few parameters.

“Mystery is good, and there’s magic in violinmaking,” Makris says. “Some makers, I don’t know how they do it — it’s an art form. They have their techniques and methods. But here, for us, it’s good to understand scientifically as much as you can.”

This research was funded in part by the Office of Naval Research.

Sources: Science Daily / Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How I played violin for 10+ HOURS

Have you ever reach a point of great effort when climbing a mountain? Well, maybe you’ve never climbed a mountain but, metaphorically speaking, have you?

This same feeling occurred when I reached over 10 hours of playing the violin in a single 48 hour period. You might have some questions regarding the authenticity of this statement that I fully intend to clear up.

Playing Time Outline


Practice: 1 Hour

Video: 30mins

Performance One: 2 Hours

Performance Two : 2 Hours

Total: 5.5 hours of playing time


Practice: 1 hour

Video: 30mins

Performance One: 2 Hours

Performance Two : 2 Hours

Performance Three: 1 Hour

Total: 6.5 hours of playing time

Total Hour Accumulation: 12 Hours of Playing Time

Here is my tip to players of any age or level; pace yourself and concentrate on being relaxed.

Now, I would not recommend this type of behavior for any elongated period of time. But I think it still can be character building. Just like you wouldn’t want to climb a mountain every day, every once in a while will give your great insights to your strength and mental capacity. Playing violin for long periods of time allows your to understand your limits and how to push through them. As stated before, it’s imperative to keep relaxed and your posture intact as not to gain injury from this activity.

Throughout the process I kept thinking of new ways to play in order to establish a more relaxed approach to something I had played differently in the past. What this did is open my mind to new ways of thinking about each song that I play. In other words, playing for this long enable (or forced) my mind to open up into new ares of technical flexibility. Just like when you are working out and don’t think you can go any long. When you finally push through your perceived limits, you find new strength and energy you didn’t know you embodied. While playing, I found this same strength.

Intelligently, I kept known beneficial arm and hand stretches at the ready in-between each long jot of playing. This allowed my hands and arms to not stiffen when at rest, as sometimes can happen — muscle constriction after intense stress. I also maintained a steady diet of high protein and water. The protein was to keep my muscles building and nutritionally supported. The water was to keep flushing any toxins that may results from the stress of overwork.

I learned that you can do anything you set your mind to. Allow for proven tools to come into play and for better ways to establish. My major take-away here is that you are always ready to do and be more if you’ve prepared in a way that supports your dreams.
With Appreciation,


How to Teach Violin to a Toddler



Toddlers are interesting little human beings. They are SUPER creative, curious, and bright. Toddlers mean well, but still seem to leave a road of destruction in the wake of walking through a room. But regardless of their organization skills, they are still the light that illuminates our future. They too, need support in creative endeavors — like playing the violin!

Many people are trying to find out things that are of interest to their children and teaching them these things at a very young age. Because kids are like sponges, the earlier they can begin learning specific things, they better they are at them. You can use a DVD to teach violin to your toddler. You don’t even have to know how to play yourself. You can get a beginning violin instruction program and help your child learn at home. All you have to do is follow the instructions given in the program. You will know shortly whether your child has an interest in the violin or not.

Top 5 Ways to Introduce Your Toddler to the Violin

  1. Live concerts
  2. Music games with and instructor
  3. DVD of fun violin concerts
  4. Bring a Musician in your home to perform for your child
  5. Buy a toy violin for your child to try out

If they show an interest and want to keep learning, you can find a private instructor to help them develop their talent even further later on. If they don’t take to the violin, you can always introduce them to other instruments and outlets of creativity.

With Deep Appreciation,