Stradivarius' Powers Just a Musical Myth

Researchers show that even pro musicians can't tell the difference
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2012 12:10 PM CST
A rare 'Archinto' Stradivarius Viola is seen at The Royal Academy of Music on March 9, 2011 in London, England.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – They’re famed far and wide as the finest violins on the planet (one recently sold for $16 million), but do Stradivarius violins actually sound better? A study suggests they don’t, NPR reports. Researchers assembled a group of six violins—two Stradivariuses, a Guarneri, and three modern violins—and invited a group of professional violinists to try them out while wearing dark goggles that prevented them from visually identifying the instruments. They were told at least one was a Strad, and asked to guess which.

The results? Only three of the 17 participants got it right. Seven got it wrong, and another seven simply admitted they couldn’t tell. “There was no evidence that people had any idea what they were playing,” said one researcher. “That really surprised me.” What’s more, when asked which violin they’d want to perform with, two-thirds picked one of the new models—indeed, one of the Strads was consistently their least favorite. (Click to hear two clips and see if you can pick out the Strad.)

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