4strings

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  1. It happens I heard over the summer about a Barbieri available for sale within a couple of hundred miles from me. I met the owner this week at a concert where I was playing a quick ringer gig, and I have to say, I could hear her instrument quite clearly. When she let me have a quick run over it, it was big, colorful, and quick to respond on all the strings. Post concert and on the way to the case room, with the ops crew clearing the stage around us, is no place for a play test. Still -- very interesting. She herself bought it from a member of a nationally known string quartet, and now needs to let it go, for what seem to me valid personal reasons, and has been putting the word about privately. (This isn't a region where many people throw that kind of money at something like a violin. The market is minuscule, and she hasn't reached out to any dealers yet.) But she doesn't have a certificate, and was advised to send the instrument to Chicago to have it authenticated. I'll get to have it for a nice long trial over a concert block next week. But if it turns out to have a sound I don't want to live without, I'd really want a solid certificate, if possible. Can any of you advise as to who I should consult? Thanks!
  2. Well, this is interesting. Here I thought those who changed strings after three or four months generally did so because they like that "new string" sound, not because the old strings were actually shot. Thanks for this feedback -- J
  3. I've tried Vision Titanium in both solo and orchestral "strengths". I liked them both. I think the "orchestral" are easier to get started - easier to move, and perhaps easier for my neighbors in the orchestra to put up with ;-), since my violin is powerful in itself. I can blend better, but project just fine when it's necessary. If I only ever played solos, I would use the Vision Ti Solos. However, with both string sets there is a gradual decline in quality of the sound, and after about four months, there is a sudden drop down to absolute deadness, manifested in a reluctance to start producing sound, and complete lack of color and depth. I even thought maybe I had a seam open, the first time this happened, but here it is again, after a similar interval. I tried Evahs on this violin a while back, and they don't do as well as these Ti's. On the other hand, on my former violin, the Evahs were absolutely perfect, and the Ti's were absolutely gross. I'm going to get another set of Titaniums, probably the orchestra ones, for the time being. After all, they won't last but 4 months, tops, so I'm not committing for six months or a year. But does anyone know of a similar string that has a longer lifespan, and keeps all the color and power? Not maybe for a year, but for more than four months? This is getting pricey.... Thanks, Joan
  4. Welcome, Lilylynne. I think T_D's comments are right on, from his and your perspectives as leaders. He's writing about being the kind of concertmaster who makes me most comfortable, as a section player. From my perspective a stand or two back in the section, I'd say that I personally would not appreciate rehearsals being interrupted by other section players making suggestions to the leaders. There is no time for that, and it might make it necessary to waste still more time adjusting bowings for other sections. I think other players feel the same. I notice that when section players speak up in this way - it's very rare in our orchestra, as a more professional tone is set by the conductor and the attentive attitudes of section leaders - other players tend to stare at their stands or their instruments in embarrassed silence. Since your orchestra seems somewhat less formal now, maybe a slightly different tone could be set by the conductor. You might discuss the waste of rehearsal time with him, and ask that he respectfully intervene when your - ahem, "rivals?" - interrupt, and decline unnecessary "improvements" on your bowings, perhaps even with the explanation that there isn't time, if he feels he must explain. Or with whatever other disarming but quashing comment seems appropriate. You may be concertmaster, but the Conductor hopefully is qualified to be regarded as El Supremo, and needs to act like it, just as you do. Good luck! Hope your job gets easier. I think it's unconscionable that you have to bow parts during rehearsals. Joan
  5. There's a lot of great advice here already, but I want to add "hear, hear" to Lymond's shifting advice, and T_D's point about relaxing. When I have learned something well up to a certain speed, and have to get over the bump, I find it essential to slow my breathing and do some mental relaxation - close eyes, breathe deeply, open eyes, and with a spirit of calm, jack that metronome up one more notch and let the fingers dance on the end of a smooth-moving (not too excited) arm. It's almost foolproof.
  6. quote: Originally posted by: NeoScherzo Ill try to give the teachers on the list she gave me a ring, maybe one of them will be available. Get some of that word-of-mouth input and start calling the top recommendations!! Some music teachers don't like to "play favorites," or don't feel, politically, that they can, so they won't tell you if someone who's put themselves on the list really shouldn't be there. Personally, I have no compunction about it. I positively refuse to recommend any student work with a teacher who doesn't teach the very best technique. But as a private teacher, I have that liberty. You've got to check with other students. And if none of the top, say, three, has openings soon, then book yourself with one of them as soon as they're open. If you have to work with someone further down the list in the meantime, be sure you tell them how long you'll be needing lessons; if they don't like it, say you're sorry and move on. It's SO worth it to get an excellent teacher! I've taken students who are only going to be around for a few months, because they're moving on to other places, generally distant colleges. I just do my best to get them ready for the situation they'll be entering; it's understood from the beginning that I'm not going to be a long-term teacher for these students. Looking forward to hearing how it goes... J
  7. Neo, You're the kind of student I'd love to have. Yes, you can do it. You want to make music, after all. It's probably too late to get to the point where you could make a living at it (this is what most people mean when they say it's "too late to start"), but it is most certainly not too late to get very, very good indeed, and to enjoy yourself immensely. One summer when I was at Interlochen, long long ago, another girl there had started at the age of 14 and was playing in the upper division orchestra and doing very well, thank you. [Edit: she was maybe 18 at the time.] She worked hard because for her there was a lot of joy in the "work." It didn't feel like work. Even at 17, if you work at it, there's no reason that you can't become a string teacher yourself, if you want. Which is one way to make a living at it. First of all, I think you should find a teacher. Teachers (good ones) can help you get a solid foundation from the start, and see things you're doing that you won't know about, no matter how many videos you watch and how many instruction books you read, which will get in your way and have to be corrected later. Maybe you are lucky and the person running your school's string program is a good teacher. Watch him or her play, and you might be able to tell a lot. Go see this person after school, tell about your interest; I would be surprised if Teacher's eyes don't light up! This teacher might be willing to give you a couple of free trial lessons, to see if you like the experience. (I would.) Then you might be able to get lessons from this teacher, or maybe a referral to a good teacher in your area. Good luck! I hope you will let us know how you're doing. Joan
  8. Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of being a judge at a high school solo and ensemble festival, and worked with small ensembles. Bless their hearts, some were great and some were very unprepared. But my favorite performance of the day, one I will remember for a long time, was a bass and violin duet of a little Dancla polka-like piece. The violinist's technique was absolutely awful, but he somehow managed to play well enough in tune that I could tell what the true pitches were supposed to be, and he and she (the bassist) both obviously loved what they were playing. It was great stuff, and they made my day. I think (and told them) that with the joy they have in what they're doing, it seems to me that they have all the inspiration and kick they need to get to the next level; to make changes, one by one, that will allow them to develop what they want out of music. Bless the teacher who found them that piece, and who encouraged them to enjoy it with the technique they had, rather than belaboring them with technical issues as I (perfectionist of Nordic origins) most likely would have done. This was an eye-opener to me; I'll be thinking about the implications for some time now.
  9. Quick reply, just to say it was indeed an April Fool. Also, it is interesting (and good) to know the foam plugs have a fairly high attenuation - any idea how much? I think even though they're "just" foam, they saved my sanity a couple of years ago when I took my teens to a rock concert. The level of noise in there stimulated a fight-or-flight reaction in me, and only the ear plugs made it possible for me to endure. (Of course I made the kids wear plugs too.) I don't even like to listen to music turned up loud in my home. My husband wonders how I can stand playing in symphony, and thinks my sensitivity to sound coming from speakers is inconsistent. But I feel that in the orchestra, the sound feels more dispersed and less intensely directed. Probably I should still wear some kind of plugs, but as I'm on the outside edge of the firsts, it's not as bad as when I've been more in the interior of the group.
  10. Even "out-of-shape" teachers should be able to hold and use the equipment without gross errors, while personal idiosyncracies and adaptations made for physiological reasons should be understood and, if necessary, explained, since they cannot be applied to all students. Fundamentally flawed technique means this person cannot be a master teacher, or even a competent teacher, no matter how well he can explain, especially if he performs badly as well. I'm seldom so absolute in my opinions, but I've had too many students come from ill-informed backgrounds - students who have talent that could have been better directed, and who now have to slave at making changes. All of which should have been unnecessary.
  11. Thanks lots, Bob. The cannon thing was an April Fool's joke, as on second and third reading I decided it must be. I too tried to find that long thread, and tried two or three search strings, but couldn't seem to be clever enough to remember the right words to bring it up. So I thought I'd ask again. In spite of the lack of necessity for speed, I'm still going to go to Etymotic and look for some of those plugs. Thanks for that lead too. They should be useful for the occasional loud gig, not to mention the lawnmower...
  12. Just got an email from our conductor, who says the April "Ode to Freedom" concert, featuring Beethoven No. 9 and Wellington's Victory, is going to be staged with real cannons (Civil War re-enactment folks firing), placed in the boxes to the right and left of the stage, and therefore right above my head. He says they'll be supplying ear plugs, but I bet they're going to be those little foam plugs. These have certainly been helpful, as far as I can tell, when we've had guitar players with big fat amps in the middle of the orchestra. But I wonder how effective they truly are. This whole scenario scares me. Does anyone know what attenuation is attained with well-seated foam plugs? Should I hurry up and find somewhere to order more effective ones? Recommendations for where to get some, if necessary? I don't have time (or money) for a custom-fit appointment. I'm not worried about not being able to hear all the frequencies, or getting all the feedback I normally get from my instrument and those around me. I just want protection. Thanks in advance for the best practical advice you can give-- Joan [Who is wondering if this is our conductor's idea of an April Fool's joke.... but even if it is, it would be helpful to know how protective those foam plugs are....]
  13. 4strings

    Scales

    "Scales for Advanced Violinists," by Barbara Barber. Rather like a condensed Flesch and Galamian, and not too expensive. Also available for viola.
  14. Allan, What do you mean when you say, "the cheap ones are almost worthless, because when volume reaches a certain level they just close off." Close off? Does this mean the cheap foam freebies my orchestra keeps in the wings do not help at all when things get loud? It *felt* like they helped...
  15. I had a mentor once upon a time, an elderly and very experienced teacher, who felt no compunction about changing those fingerings to suit my smaller hand. I still attacked the etude using the given fingerings. After all, it was an etude and I figured I was supposed to learn something, or at least challenge and try to extend my technique. But the fingerings my guide suggested did make it go more smoothly, and if I were performing it, I'd use the modified fingerings, in service of the music. For an audience I think music is first.
  16. My favorite student is one who is both talented and seems to have the "touch," and who actively listens and tries to employ what I say, including asking questions, and comes back to the next lesson having made progress. I have never had such a student. The best students I've had have been either the talented, natural players who don't listen and don't practice; or the earnest, active learners who don't really have the gift. Either way, teaching is still rewarding, and I honestly enjoy the personal relationships even with the untalented who don't practice (!). To me they're all valuable. Funny, I've had several students who were really excellent at listening for pitch from Day One, but when finger patterns started to get a little more complicated, and bowing required some mental attention, began to "play by number." I find it difficult to write about ways to deal with this, because each student is such an individual; and even then, I find that my approach to such an issue will change depending on how that particular student is feeling on that particular day. It's what makes teaching stimulating though. It's why I enjoy it so much. The only students who really take it out of me are the ones with whom I have to address the same issues week after week, and indeed, month after month. I don't boot these kids because, as you say, they still seem to enjoy the idea of playing the violin; and maybe someday that idea will transmogrify itself into knowing that actually practicing may be worth doing. (I would welcome any success stories about similar students any of you have had.) Good luck with your new student, Ken. Long may it last! Joan
  17. I like your summation of the comfort/playing issues, skiingfiddler. Quite right. And the audience isn't going to be the first to notice issues that arise from my being not quite comfortable! Ha! That would be me, filling the practice room with blue smoke, wondering why I was so stupid... I went over to the Pegbox and looked at past posts regarding bow weight. One contributor suggested that heavier bow weights relieve the player of doing some of the work, because the bow sinks into the string on its own. Well, of course that's true; but then the player has to get the bow *off* the string, part of the time. It all seems to be a case of balancing characteristics to suit oneself. And one's instrument. I really love my violin's sound, so I'm going to wait for the bow that suits us both. As an aside, I notice that the dealers mention 58-62 or 63 grams as the range of bows that can be sold within a reasonable time; anything outside of that feels too light or too heavy to most people. I'm not too interested in carbon fiber bows right now. I tried some a few years ago, and while they were OK, I wasn't particularly impressed. They did seem to require a lot of technique changes. I remember a sense of lack of initiative from them - sort of like they wanted me to do everything, without contributing on their own part. The sticks felt sort of stiff, and while I like a stiff stick, it has to have a little spring in it. Not saying they can't work - just that they aren't as rewarding for me, though I own one as a spare/teaching/pit stick. I tried an Arcus, a couple of Codas, a Spiccato and a Berg. The feather-lightness of the Arcus was a little too extreme for me. I settled on the Berg as being most like wood, but now find it rather dull and lacking in attack. Thanks for the idea though-- (By the way, carbon fiber bows are not indestructible. I hit the tip of mine on a stand light and broke off the plastic [? whatever it is] at the very tip end; repair cost was HIGH. I am not sure the shaft of the bow would fare so very well either if it were to have the kind of accident that would break a wooden bow. I'd be interested to know anyone's experience, but that might be for another thread.) Joan
  18. So far, I have only checked bow weights after playing, as a way of telling if my impression of a bow's - well, weight, momentum, inertia - is correct. And so far, I have noticed that with this violin, the heavier bows do seem in general to make it sound better, and my lighter bow just is not cutting it. It wants power, and lots of it, and it seems to want it from the bow, not from me. Just playing with more weight on the stick doesn't answer. Do you think it might be the case that I'll have to give the violin what it wants, rather than make the violin put up with my preferences? On Monday I have to go play a violin for a friend who's shopping, and he wants me to bring mine to play for him too (he loves my violin under his ear), and I'm feeling regretful that I don't have that heavy Ouchard, because I just can't make my fiddle do its thing with the present equipment. Dang it. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to be less patient, and run out and get the first thing that is better than what I have! Ha! But I won't. Thanks, both of you, for your thoughtful responses. Much appreciated!
  19. I'm bow-shopping, it the upper-four-figures range; might go higher if I really need to, but I think I ought to be able to find something that works in this area! I have tried a number of different bows - Bazin, Morizot, a couple of Ouchards, Vigneron. They are all quite different. The Bazin I tried was a medium weight, around 61 grams, which is what I'm used to; it drew a nice sound, but the stick was too springy, and sunk down to the strings when ff was required. The Morizot was [and] felt heavy at 62.4 grams, and the stick was as stiff as a pipe; it drew a big sound, but got harsh easily. Vigneron, about 61+? grams, was tip-heavy, and I found with off-the-string bowings that the repetitious transfer of the weight/momentum to my little finger got tiring. One of the Ouchards was not a patch on the other, and I eliminated it immediately without going further. But the better Ouchard, though the weight distribution through the stick was fine, was pretty heavy overall, at 63 grams. It did everything well, but at that weight controlling its momentum was a challenge. I could tell when playing fast passages detache that additional energy was required to change directions. It felt like to use it effectively, I would have to use the muscles in my hand more actively, which I think could lead to tension... but maybe not? If I learn to use just the right amount of strength versus relaxation? My question to those of you who have some experience at these kinds of things, is whether I should be able to find a bow that plays as well as that Ouchard, with the immediacy of attack in fast passages, tone production through the length of the bow, and as much (or more) agility, at a lesser weight; say, a maximum of 61 grams. Or if, on the other hand, those characteristics just go with heavier bows, and I should learn to deal with it technically. I am willing to accept that challenge if necessary, but I'm not sure it *is* necessary, and I am prepared to be patient in finding the right bow. Comments? Joan
  20. I use a practice mute when I *must* practice and others in the household are sleeping. If you must be really quiet, get the heavy, metal practice mute. Teach Olivia to be very careful putting it on and taking it off; I have bad visions of dropping it on the surface of the instrument. Also, remind her not to forget about taking it off before closing her case. The large rubber practice mutes are not nearly as effective in stifling sound, but if you don't have to be practically inaudible, like in the afternoon or early evening, this might be a good and inexpensive choice. She probably won't be any louder than some hotel guests play their TVs! Practicing with a mute *will* kill overtones, period. As an antidote, try to find some other places she can practice without a mute - an empty classroom after school, for instance. Most schools won't mind about this. A church's Sunday School room during midweek is another possibility.
  21. Individual physical differences and peculiarities have to be dealt with by the teacher, in cooperation with the student, finding the right way for that student. If his thumb is generally relaxed, of course that's good. Unless the shape of that thumb knuckle is somehow causing a problem, such as making the hand keep an awkward shape through the length of a bow stroke, or somehow interfering with tone production, I'd leave it alone. In regard to getting arm weight into the bow stroke, I totally agree with everything Andy said. I would only add that I've had success explaining this to some kids by pointing out that turning the top of the arm in - toward the center of the body - transfers pressure automatically through that index finger, without causing the hand to tense up. They're amazed at how their sound changes, and I think they also feel the difference in how the bow clings to the string without them having to squeeze with their hands. If you just tell students that the arm's pressure comes through that finger, they often simply tighten up the hand, and then think they've employed your suggestion. Yet it doesn't feel good or sound good, and has nothing to do with "the weight of the arm." Many youngsters seem to want to set up their bow fingers perpendicular to the stick, instead of leaning into it. Obviously I don't know if your son is doing this; his teacher will know. But that kind of hand-to-stick orientation makes transferring the weight of the arm to the bow almost impossible. I don't think you'll do any harm by letting your son's arm weight issues go until he gets together with his new teacher, if he's frustrated with the scene as it is. Besides, the new teacher may have other priorities, before dealing with this. Good luck, in any case! Joan
  22. Dang, I was hoping there was some good reason for having a string tube in there. As far as I can tell, they mostly just clutter up the inside of the case, and depending on how the bracket/holder is set up, snag and break bow hairs. I generally don't get new strings until I need them, and they go straight on the fiddle at that point. Not much advantage sticking used strings in there either-- unless they're the same brand as the new strings replacing them, it can be hard to tell them apart. Re-labeling them is a pain, too. If I were ever to order a custom case, I'd have the tube left out, unless... anybody else want to say, "Yes, you really should use it?" Yep, I remember when the Best Strings were Eudoxas. My dad used to order them, and they came in tubes (he made violins and violas as a hobby). I still have some of those lightweight plastic tubes around here.
  23. What is the purpose of the string tube in a case? Is it better for strings than just leaving them in the envelopes they come in? Or does it just free up some storage space in the pockets? I did a search to see if anyone has commented on this, but I can't find anything on the subject. Joan
  24. I don't know for sure, but better violin cases always use silk velvet (read "Expensive") rather than other kinds of cloth -- supposedly better for varnish? Maybe some kinds of materials have harsh fibers, or don't stay nice over time, or something. I made sure to get a really fine case with the best of materials for my Very Last Violin Ever. So I'm seconding Stefan1's suggestion.
  25. Hi Thom -- My "local" luthier is 220 miles away. :-} There is one small shop in the area, but they don't carry every new thing on the market, or even samples; just the common stuff. I mail-order when I want to try new items, and hope for the best. I have to admit that things are far better nowdays with the internet, than they were before, when I couldn't even get any *information* about stuff that was available, let alone try it. I'm not complaining! Last time I wrote I hadn't practiced much for about 3 weeks due to work commitments. Now I find, after 3 days of practice, that I don't miss the old shoulder rest or chamois one whit, once again. Interesting. Being in shape does make a difference. I paid closer attention to how my violin rides when my hand is away from the scroll end. 4-5" sag was a big exaggeration. It varies more from 1-3", in fact. Not much. I can keep it horizontal if I want to. I do use good posture when I play--straight back and all that, no slouching, which I think helps. Not bragging here; it's just what I find is actually the most comfortable, allows me to play for the longest time, and makes me sound the best. I slouch plenty at the computer keyboard. Like now.