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Source: Frankfurter Rundschau, Thursday, 9 November 1995, p.26

"A canticle to a de-iced tuba"

The musician and engineer Emil Weiss owns a patent on sound optimization.


"The bass range is now full and soft, the sound warm and striking", praises a musician his instrument. "The trebles sound rich and beaming up to the highest ranges", describes a jazz musician the changes of his guitar and expresses his gratefulness for the "small miracle". The name of the miracle worker is Emil Weiss, and he owns a patent on a sound optimization method.

NEU-ISENBURG. The American musician Leo Kottke is said to always put newly purchased twelve string guitars in front of a loudspeaker box in order to activate them, or, to put it more aptly, to make them oscillate so that they can develop a good sound. Mr. Kottke was on the right way with that simple experiment of sound optimization. One who further developed that method is a guy called Emil Weiss.

The jazz musician raised in Bratislava/Slovakia calls himself a passionate "against-the-grain thinker" and is a personality with a well-balanced mind. And, this is the very condition the instruments should be in that leave Emil's small workshop located in Heussenstamm (close to Frankfurt/Main) after a treatment of three days.

There are a number of tuba, saxophone and piano players who consider Emil Weiss to be a master of sound. In spite of the mostly positive echo of his clients, the professional mechanical engineer and jazz player remains a down-to-earth person. "I can't turn a plywood violin into a Stradivari", says he. But, what actually happens to the instruments?

According to Emil, it is not easy to understand the contents of his patent. Inventors likely to enjoy talking about their secrets or recipes are hard to come by, aren't they? The only information Emil is willing to reveal is as follows: Using mechanical devices attached to the musical instrument being treated, the instrument is made to oscillate. With this method the normal process of "removing the mechanico-acoustical dampening" of an instrument will be emulated in a technologically precise manner and within a short period of time; at the same time, a detailed measurement protocol of the process and its results will be prepared. The age of the instrument is of no consequence to the outcome of the treatment.

Emil Weiss gets the optimum performance of any transverse flute, harp, clarinet, or trumpet without changing the appearance or damaging the instrument in any way. Only the proper playing of, let's say, a guitar or a horn allows the instrument to "fully evolve its features". This adverse phenomenon is known to every musician and instrument maker. And precisely this phenomenon, which Emil Weiss also calls "collecting of experience by the instrument", is shortened by the man from Bratislava who founded an "Institute for Applied Acoustics".

Just as Leo Kottke, the guitarist, Emil Weiss, too, makes the cello or bass to oscillate in order to improve its sound performance. Exclusively by acoustic means without resorting to any chemical or thermic methods, improvements can be achieved that are open to objective tests.
On the one hand, the typical character of the instrument will be retained, but on the other hand, the response will be easier, the brilliance improved and the sound more attractive. In short, after the treatment in Emil's laboratory, the instrument will be a more harmonious entity.

That's what any of Emil's client will confirm. All of them praise, among other things, the enlarged note decaying time and the optimum balance between the strings. "I even achieved the subcontra Bb2 that is not listed in my table of finger positions for bass tuba." One musician even sang "A Canticle to a De-iced Tuba".

For example, all the various materials a guitar is made of will never oscillate in the same way and thus hamper one another when the a note is being generated. According to Emil, this is true even in the case of a well-tuned guitar because of the high "exciting energy demand". Emil's sound optimization method could be compared to a group-dynamic process within a team that is supposed to work together smoothly.

Fir wood, palisander or plastic materials of an instrument are capable of generating a common good sound only if they are on the same wave length, so to speak, i.e. if they show "team spirit". In this connection, a memory effect will occur. As soon as a "harmonious togetherness of the materials" is achieved, this state will last forever, and the instrument will always be balanced for the rest of its service life.

What you can hear with your own ears is often much more convincing than thousand words. And, therefore, Emil Weiss has been working together with "none - records, design, multimedia", a company based in Neu-Isenburg. In the sound studio of the company a CD is to be recorded that shows the sound of an instrument before and after undergoing sound optimization. In addition, the creation of a sound archive containing the improved sounds is intended.

Finally, music schools could benefit considerably by resorting to Emil's sound optimization method. For, beginners would have much more fun in playing optimized instruments than normal ones and thus the drop-out rate would probably decrease.

By Achim Ritz

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