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About llowman

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  1. "Could you spell it out (again), in black and white for all to see (again): Are there any cracks on the front of the viola?" I did not really want to make my final posting on this journey on this point again. But to be courteous: no, there are no cracks on the front of the viola. In fact, there have never been any cracks on the front, back, side, neck, scroll, tailpiece, fingerboard, pegs, button, bridge, anywhere. Now, to end on a more positive note, this has been a wonderful journey for daughter and dad! My daughter has gained a great musical gift now and for her future, and we are thankful for Gregg Alf's skill and craft. Lane Lowman
  2. I wanted to let you know how my daughter performed at the 38th Annual International Viola Congress. She was not chosen as one of the 5 to compete in the finals. As a parent, I just know she would have been selected if they had chosen 6! Regardless, she performed extremely well and I am proud of her! And, it was a great honor for her to have been selected as one of twelve (in the world) to perform and compete. On the viola front, I feel her Gregg Alf viola sounded wonderful in the hall. (Also, we had time to compare the Alf to other makers at the Congress; my daughter kept saying "I still really like my viola more than anything I have tried here".) Just a quick note about her bow. About a year ago we had about 18 bows shipped to our home from among many gold medal winning modern makers (12 different makers in all). Our final choice was a Steve Salchow bow from New York. Unfortunately we had to return the bow since we were unable to sell my daughter's old viola at the time. In addition, I lost my job and was out of work for 9 months. Fast forward to a month ago: I asked if Steve had a bow we could rent in time for the competition. He did not have any in stock. However, a couple weeks later Steve Salchow let me know that a dealer was sending a bow back and asked if I would still be interested in using a bow for the Congress. He added a P.S.: "did you keep track of the bow number when you tried my bows a year ago?". In fact I had. Lo and behold, the bow available was the same bow we loved! Now we were set with a great viola and bow match for Cincinnati! A HUGE thanks to Steve for his kindness. Wow, what a wonderful gracious thing he did for my daughter! I highly recommend his bows and recommend Steve as kind soul to work with. Also, I want to offer a GREAT thanks to Joshua Henry, a bow maker that is attending the Viola Congress and offered to take receipt of the bow on his way to Oberlin next week and return it to Steve. Josh was SO HELPFUL and allowed us to also test drive a couple other makers bows, as well as his. (Josh graciously offered to take some bows from other bow makers to the maker's exhibit at the Congress, on their behalf). Joshua Henry's bow sound fabulous and are a great value. I heartily recommend both makers. Thanks again for following our posts. I guess we are at the end of this story. A big THANK YOU to those of you that offered so many encouraging remarks. -Lane Lowman
  3. These pictures were taken on the day of delivery so no cracks, scratches, anything. These items would be reflections. Gregg's varnish and finish has a beautiful reflective quality and must be catching reflections either from the strings or other light sources. Sorry about that.
  4. We love the Solo Vision G and C. Extremely warm but project well with little to no break-in time. We found they go very well with a Larsen A and Obligato D. Recently they started selling Solo Vision viola strings individually.
  5. I hope he would not mind the single purfling but I think it an improvement!
  6. I apologize for the nearly 2 year delay! I would like to wrap up our viola hunt with some final comments and post some pictures of my daughter's Gregg Alf viola. History: We took delivery of the 15 1/2 viola in August 2008. Gregg made the delivery date a priority and handed the instrument to my daughter on her 16th birthday! In short, Gregg was wonderful throughout! It was great to be able to visit during the process. We received continuous hospitality invites and had hours of questions answered. I really enjoyed our time getting to know Gregg and the ability to see his work in process. In fact, he invited my daughter to put a message inside, along with his, before assembly and varnish. What a great memory. How did it turn out? It is beautiful! You can read back about the design elements but again, Gregg attempted to get a 16+ inch viola out of a 15 1/2 design. The primary goal was to have an ergonomic viola without sacrificing sound. Success! The G and C both sound much larger than others I have heard at this size. Break-in Time: Over the next 6 to 12 months, we were enjoying the big full sound of the lower strings but the A sounded pretty "tight". Eventually we decided to try different strings. Gregg had set it up with short scale strings. We tried regular length strings from different makers and in different combinations and voila! The extra length seem to relax the top and loosened up the A and D. Now the A has a big and sweet presence with a beautiful sounding D twin. The Bottom Line: Since my daughter has performed and auditioned with her new Gregg Alf viola, she was accepted into the Walnut Hill School (a high school arts boarding school near Boston that is integrated into the NEC music program) and the Music Institute of Chicago Academy program (which she entered) in the same summer. The MiC program has an excellent chamber program gaining attention for taking the top honors at Fischoff over the past few years. Most recently she was selected as a semi-finalist to compete in the International Viola Congress solo competition next week in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please find some pictures attached. Thank you for your kind patience and great comments!
  7. "...this are some pics of "Nannerl" (after Mozart's beloved sister), my latest one" -Manfio The pics you posted are beautiful! However, they take up a lot of space on the discussion page. Would it be possible to upload them as links? Thanks! -Lane ----------------------------- Manfio: thank you for editing your page but I do want to restate how beautiful your instrument looks! I see there are more pictures at http://www.manfio.com/index_files/Page341.htm. From what I can tell you are in Brazil and now wonder where you get your wood? Absolutely beautiful! -Lane
  8. "But in your case you need a small, good sounding viola, so a comission was a good way indeed! Keep us informed!!! " -Manfio Manfio, you hit one of the main issues I started this discussion on regarding getting a "small, good sounding viola". Those two things are often not found in the same instrument. I am hopeful Gregg Alf can pull together these two major design elements in a way to meet the needs, not only for my daughter, but for many other violists out there. I would think there is a significant need for a great sounding smaller viola, not just for smaller people(!), but for players who want to avoid possible injury which can happen when playing a large instrument. Why not have a more comfortable instrument? And what about a more comfortable instrument that enhances the playability of the virtuosos out there? I read recently that the Stradivari B-form mould for his cellos (regarded as an optimal size) was settled around 1710, later in his career. Before he developed this design, cellos were a lot larger. So with this smaller form it was large enough to give a full and rich sound but small enough to be manageable for virtuosic music. I would think the same need is there for the viola. In comparing herself to violinists, my daughter often says she has a greater challenge (in the physical sense) since she has to contend with a longer instrument (further reach) and thicker strings (no thin E string). Anything to enable her to perform with greater ease on a quality instrument therefore sounds like a good idea to me. She also says that she has 1) the music, and 2) the instrument on which to perform. What she wants and needs is an instrument that does not get in the way or make it more difficult to perform the music. The music may already be challenging. She does not need a challenging instrument as well. I think she has a point. -Lane
  9. "you may wish to repost this on the pegbox...." -jezzupe Thank you for the suggestion. I will give it some thought... "your creating a little future history..." "somewhere 200 years from now....."yes, its an alf....its the "lane" you know" -jezzupe I hope so! :-)
  10. "Your own excitement is obvious and ther enthusiasm is contagious." -Omobono Having a forum like this is a great place to share the experience and is easy to get enthusiastic! This is a very experienced group as well so the input is very helpful. -Lane
  11. Here are some Q&A's exchanged with Gregg on some of the central issues on design including: 1) what is the actual string length of a typical 16 inch viola compared to this viola? 2) how is the "sweet spot" marked on top? 3) are the notches put in place on the ff holes after it is found? 4) with this taper rib design, does that put tension on how the back or top are glued to the ribs? Q: WHAT IS THE STRING LENGTH OF A 16" VIOLA? IS IT 375mm? ALSO, WHAT IS THE INCREASE IN LENGTH THAT YOU ACTUALLY ACHIEVED ON THIS PROJECT OVER A TYPICAL 15 5/8" VIOLA? A: The actual string length on your viola is projected/planned at 14 3/8ths (366mms). You were fairly clear that the 16" number you quoted was meant as the string length for a 16" viola not 16" length of string itself. Violas do not have fixed string lengths. [There was a] 'movement' to standardize the 375 measurement but it really varies with each instrument and even then the "sweet spot" on the top for bridge placement, and hence the eventual string length, is often only honed in on by actually playing an assembled instrument --be it 1 day or 400 years old. That said, I am guessing that you about had it correct when you wrote that the string length you are getting is similar to a 16" to 16 1/4" instrument even though the body is a cm shorter. The 375 standard length is for 16 1/2 " violas more or less. Subtracting 6 mms in body length from the upper part of the model that affects string/stop length will bring an additional 3 mms of neck shortening (using the 2/3 ratio relationship). So my design at 16 1/4 would approach the standard 375 SL. Bottom line... in a situation where there are only averages and approximations I would guess that you are picking up the equivalent of 3/8th to 5/8 inch of comparable body length. Q: ABOUT THE "SWEET SPOT" YOU MENTION. ISN'T THIS INDICATED BY THE NOTCHES IN THE F HOLES? IF SO, WHY DON'T YOU PUT THE NOTCHES IN LATER--AFTER YOU STRING IT UP? SEEMS LIKE YOU COULD STRING IT UP, MOVE THE BRIDGE AROUND A BIT, FIND THE OPTIMAL SWEET SPOT THEN INSERT THE NOTCHES TO MARK THE OPTIMAL BRIDGE PLACEMENT. ALSO, I REALIZED THAT THE SHORTER HEIGHT RIB IN THE UPPER TREBLE BOUT MEANS THAT EITHER THE TOP OR THE BACK PLATE MUST CURVE TO MEET THE LOWER RIB HEIGHT, CORRECT? IF SO, IS THIS A CURVE YOU CARVE INTO THE PLATE OR SOMETHING THAT IS SOMEWHAT MOULDED TO THE RIB UPON ASSEMBLY? AND, WOULD THIS PRESENT ANY LONG-TERM GLUING CHALLENGES IN THAT AREA? WOULD THERE BE CONSTANT TENSION WHERE THE PLATE(S) MEETS THE LOWER RIB? A: Funny, I just answered the notch question for my assistant Walt. The new shorter SL brought up what has not appeared with the standard setup we normally use. So, how long an answer do you want? Bottom line is that ff hole notches have nothing to do with stop length or sweet spot. In fact on most Cremonese violins the ff hole notches are not even level. The reason is that in the Cremonese system the neck root was nailed to the ribs before the outlines were done. Then the neck would be centered when the outline was traced. The work had to be done this way because the nailing on process of Baroque violins resulted in an unpredictable centering. The more undisciplined a maker was, think Guarneri, the more centering correction had to be made. This correction (cranking the neck centering to the bass or treble) would result in one or the other cc bout shifting up or down ...try it sometime. Since the ff holes were placed according to the cc bouts and the notches fall exactly in the center of the ffs (another reason we cant just mark them out afterwards), centering the neck resulted in unlevel ff notches. So in practice, ff notches are unrelated to stop length. Del Gesu notches fall at around 192 down but his sweet spot is around 195. Strad and Guarneri violins are very similar in set up even though they look different. But because they are the archetypes for everything in the violin biz, their set-up specs become standard spec for all violins, a mistake, and even general procedures applied to other instruments. In reality, especially with violas where the SL is sometimes shortened (tenor violas), the notch can be very far from the stop. About the rib assembly: The gluing edge of both the top plate and the back plate falls in a complete plane. The plate is not bent over the edge. The Cremonese did bend the plate over the ribs for reasons still unknown. In fact it is not even agreed if they bent the top or the back. But I do know how I laid out my ribs. I made an even taper, the lowest to the upper treble bout, which raises to the lower bass bout.
  12. Here is a particularly interesting shot of the ribs, also taken by Gregg Alf (permission given to share). It clearly shows the taper. The lower base bout rib is the largest. The upper treble bout is smallest to make it easier to reach the fingerboard. This is a composite set of pictures (same viola). -Lane
  13. I thought it would be easier to manage our topic on the commission of a Gregg Alf viola if we started a new chapter as it were. So here is the beginning of Part 2. I have some new pictures of the design from the back (called a "bowl of spaghetti" by Gregg), after the maple was tanned ("toasted"). I am including a number of great shots of the scroll as well (also toasted). These were taken by Gregg Alf and have his permission to share them. Enjoy! You will recall that this is a copy from the Gasparo da Salo "Kievman" sub-16 inch viola except, for one, we went with single purfling on the top and back. I decided to call this "inspired" by this instrument rather than a copy. I should restate though that the original instrument was the starting point then Gregg made some changes: string length, cc bout length, rib height, slope of the upper treble bout, etc. I look forward to your comments. -Lane
  14. Thank you for the comments and the encouragement for my daughter. It is all greatly appreciated. I meant to mention earlier that although this is an instrument inspired by the Kievman Gasparo da Salo viola, we decided to go with single purfling on the back and top. We preferred the more common look yet wanted to keep the design on the back. I have attached a close-up of the design on the top of the back. This picture also give a good look at the grain in the single piece back. I really like the way Gregg intertwines and overlaps the purfling.
  15. Chris Burt said: "Oh, by the way. Your photos show that Gregg is using very nice wood. If you get pictures of the scroll when it is further along, please post pics. I love the Brescian style scroll and would love to see Gregg's interpretation." Here are some additional pics of the scroll Chris. They are not real clear because I cut them from a few other pictures. I hope they give you a better idea of what Gregg did with the scroll. -Lane