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Everything posted by SteveLaBonne

  1. Banzai, no matter how little you have to spend, it's always beneficial to get to a good shop and try a number of instruments, if at all possible. Even individual inexpensive student instruments of the same make and model can differ considerably in tone and responsiveness, due both to inherent differences and to setup. Quality of setup, and availability of adjustments after the sale, also argue in favor of buying from a shop (provided it's a good shop of course). That's not to say that buying online is unreasonable, especially for modest instruments; just that I don't think it's ever the optimal way to go, rather it's making a virtue of necessity if you really don't have access to a decent shop. If you do consider buying online make sure there is a generous trial and return policy.
  2. Eh, the New Vienna recordings are OK. But really the Arditti is worth the extra outlay.
  3. The classic Juilliard recordings, infuriatingly, have still AFAIK never been issued on CD. So by default, Arditti on Disques Montaigne, beautifully played (of course) though not quite as dramatic and compelling as the Juilliard.
  4. I'm another fan of the Bon Musica. It's the first rest I've ever used that I've been so completely comfortable with over a long span (over 3 years now, I think) that I've never even thought of trying anything else (and I have the usual drawer-full of leftovers from previous experiments). The secret is the ability to bend it into a shape that fits your needs perfectly- i.e. it can be many very different shoulder rests for different people. For example I like the little extension that hooks over the shoulder but if you don't, you can just bend it out of the way. (P.S. I'm talking above about the viola- I don't need so much support for my occasional bouts of violin-playing, so on the violin I'm happy with a Playonair.)
  5. I've tried one Erdesz owned by a friend, a "normal" non-cutout model. Appearance was attractive, workmanship (as far as a non-conoisseur player can judge) by no means the neatest but in a nice sort of way if you know what I mean. (I gather that's pretty much the way his instruments are). Sound and response were wonderful- I was very jealous.
  6. Although it probably doesn't make much sense from a pure physics perspective, always thinking "arm WEIGHT" rather than "pressure" seems to be psychologically very useful. And think of the hand and fingers as a delicate arrangement of springs that's modulating that weight while transmitting it to the string.
  7. barsky- to clarify my comment on Helicore life, that was only in comparison to Zyex, which in my experience are really exceptional in thar regard. Compared to the general run of strings Helicores also sound good for a long time. For example- I know from experience that violin Evahs start to go "dead" fairly quickly, even more quickly than perlon strings like Tonicas in my opinion, and if that's also true for the viola version it would have to be a consideration given their steep price. Helicores (with a Kaplan Solutions A) sound wonderful on my daughter's viola, and they're pretty good on mine too, just not quite as good as Zyex.
  8. If your instrument needs a little warming up Zyex are great- they are extremely stable and very long-lasting, powerful, respond well, and feel good under the fingers. They probably would sound dull on a viola that's already dark-sounding, as is also true of Obligatos. Helicores are more "neutral" and sound good on a wide range of instruments, and are about the most responsive viola strings around. They are also quite stable of course, being metal. I haven't broken any but others report they break relatively easily, and they don't seem to keep their best sound quite as long as Zyex (rather than getting dead like syntehtic strings, they develop a "gritty" sound quality and then start to go false) though they probably last longer than Evahs and of course are a lot cheaper. Stay away from the horrible Helicore A string though (use Kaplan Solutions instead). I would recommend considering a tailpiece with built-in fine tuners if using Helicores; they're a bit of a pain to tune with the pegs (though certainly nothing like as hard as solid-core steel strings would be.) Personally, on my slightly bright Chinese viola, I love Zyex to death. I have no plans at all to try anything else. On my instruments the mediums go nicely with a soft Larsen A.
  9. Yes they do exist, solveg; not only are there many such materials developed especially for Suzuki students and prominently on sale anywhere the Suzuki books are sold, but there's also nothing stopping the teacher from supplementing the curriculum with other stuff that has nothing to do with Suzuki. A situation like the one under discussion sounds like a teacher doing it "by the numbers" and not making suffficient effort to supplement the Suzuki books. A good Suszuki teacher ought not to be making such a fundamental mistake IMHO.
  10. I just wanted to comment that the expensive, heavily-promoted "stars" are not the only superb musicians around. Some of the most satisfying concerts I've ever heard were given by people who are not household names and who are much more likely to travel to smaller towns. This is also the case with singers- good regional opera companies present a great mix of young up-and-comers, and fine experienced singers whose voices, though beautiful, wouldn't fill the cavernous spaces of the big opera houses. Let's resist the outdated, anti-musical "star system" instead of giving into it.
  11. Hi GV- I too would of course make an exception for an instrument of known good make that somehow slips through at that low a price. Doesn't happen too often though- most ebay stuff is overpriced junk. And after all the street price of a well-set-up STA017 from a good shop is still pretty painless, and with much less risk attached. I'd still recommend that as the best route for most people. Got tired of the political stuff on SA (frankly I can't even think about our Fearless Leader anymore without wanting to spit, let alone discuss him calmly with those who still insist on being dupes) and sadly the actual string discussions never really took off. Maybe I'll drop by one of these days.
  12. For less than $600 you can buy an amazingly good-sounding Chinese viola from a reputable shop that will be there for you for subsequent adjustments and repairs. Why mess with ebay "bargains"?
  13. Oh, I think you should save your assistance for those truly worthy of it, like Hahn and Vengerov among many others. Please contact them immediately so that they can start living up to their true potential.
  14. Apparently you don't know what a Poehland pad is- and it is well-documented that Oistrakh used one. (It would be hard to see in a video, it's small.) It is fairly thick and rather hard, a bit like a cloth-covered, crescent-shaped hockey puck. Such a pad is providing support, not just padding of the collar bone. The same could be said, for example, of Kreisler's turned-back jacket lapel. And of the extra padding sewn into the shoulder of Heifetz's jackets. It's amusing to see the anti-rest campaigners twisting themselves into "it's not a rest if I say it isn't one" positions when faced with such examples. I have tried playing without a rest, and- as I have mentioned on this board some time back, since you claim to have inspected my earlier posts- I can definitely do it (like many dedicated "restless" players I would need a little cushioning over the collarbone to do it for any length of time.) I choose not to, preferring the greater comfort and security of a properly adjusted rest carefully set up (at a pretty low height) to, yes, place the instrument against my collar bone in much the same position and angle where it would be restless, but also provide some support elsewhere. That is the proper way to use a rest. The fact that some people use them improperly in a way that may be detrimental to their playing is irrelevant to the pros and cons of correct use. Dogmatism is never a wise or productive state of mind.
  15. Of course incorrect use of shoulder rests is incorrect. Tautologies are always so enlightening, don't you think? Oistrakh used a Poehland pad. Have you ever seen or tried one? That is NOT a device which allows the "sole" point of contact to be the collarbone. Get your facts straight before ranting. By the way, I'm a violist, and you have no idea what I'm capable or incapable of doing.
  16. Zukerman talked in the Roth book about using a cloth-covered doorstop. That, my friend is a rest- a rigid object . And the distinction you draw is largely delusional anyway; the real difference is that a bridge-type rest doesn't mute the sound- which is why Galamian recommended them over pads, when something was needed. There's long been an awful lot of hypocrisy on this subject, especially from those who try to make it a quasi-moral issue. Many Maestronet threads ago it was already past time to give this topic a rest.
  17. Hmm, if Zukerman says to "lose the shoulder rest", how come the chapter on him in Henry Roth's book quotes him about using an old doorstop from Galamian's studio as a shoulder rest? I guess a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
  18. Ditto the Zyex and Helicore recommendations- at least one of the two is likely to work well on almost any viola, both seem to give a pretty consistent sound between strings on most instruments, and both are reasonably priced, very stable, and long lasting. (I wouldn't recommend the A from either set, however- Jargar or Larsen should work well.) My Chinese viola benefits from a little bit of mellowing, and Zyex (medium) does that nicely without sacrificing power and clarity. I use a soft Larsen A. Poppiviola- the Helicore A is reasonably mellow all right, but on both my viola and my daughter's it sounds like a rusty door hinge anywhere above 4th position or so. Perhaps it needs a fine instrument to show its stuff.
  19. Plenty of violists, myself as well as some infinitely more distinguished ones (Robert Vernon of the Cleveland Orchestra being one), like to play with a violin bow. A good strong violin bow works very well on viola if you happen to like bows that are on the light side; and it's likely to have a little more finesse in both tone and handling than all but the very best viola bows.
  20. I believe you'll find some by Googling Kohr K500 viola. But I would also advise not getting too hung up on brand names- if your local shop carries some other good-value Chinese or East European insturments, go try them out.
  21. I have found Michael Kimber's scale book, available direct from the author at http://m_kimber.tripod.com/mkmusic.html, to be very useful. Arpeggio fingerings are bizarre, but are fun to practice and do minimize string crossings.
  22. And when you try out bows, in my opinion the first, second and third priorities should be tone quality, then everything else. In the moderately priced range there are plenty of bows that are well-balanced and bounce well, but not so many that sound really good- plus, the sound can also be quite instrument-specific so you need to find what sounds good on your instrument (and the same bow might sound not so good on mine.) Play slow scales and passages and listen carefully, before evaluating the handling on more advanced strokes. Don't bother going to step 2 if you don't care for the sound.
  23. That's the high-end Chinese line from the Howard Core firm (better known for the bargain-priced Johannes Kohr K-500 instruments.)
  24. I would say that if even a gut string is too bright, you need to have a luthier look the viola over to see if there are adjustments that could help. Perhaps the post needs to be moved a bit, and also I'm told that sometimes a bridge cut a little thicker on the treble side helps calm down an aggressive A string.
  25. Shouldn't be hard to arrange one of my favorite Schubert songs, "Auf dem Wasser zu singen". Maybe not even arrange- just play as written in the high-voice version. I think it would sound lovely on the violin.
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