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Posts posted by scordatura

  1. I had a screw loose (not pun intended) on my Zeta midi connector. Nothing a small amount of blue thread locker won't cure.

    Regraduating a viola that has a back that must be rock/sugar maple. One step short of masonite. No wonder this instrument had no depth of sound. Preparing to give my wife's old viola to a student that cannot afford an instument. Working on the belly I keep hearing Hans Nebel saying "don't take too much off to allow for shrinkage" in my head. The things we remember...


  2. So where the heck are they??? :)


    Hey I didn't know that Justin Beiber played the violin too...Good use for a carbon fiber bow is to keep the groupies away :blink:

    What do you think of the Barbera Pickup? I think that is what that is on the fiddle.

  3. True...

    But then, what would I do about my fantasy of being on stage and playing a screaming rock and roll riff on my electric violin?

    And don't forget about all of the adoring fans and groupies...

    Agreed. I have had a design in my head for a while but can't find the time to build it. I was impressed by a steinberger one off that would be a nice staring point. I am lucky though I have a nice zeta 5 string to satisfy the solid body requirement. Been playing with the McMillen string port for a littke midi fun.

    It's all about the groupies...lol

  4. Dario D'Atilli

    Charles Beare

    Robert Bein

    Hans Weishaar

    Rene Morel

    All of the above have the reputation that if you have a certificate from them it means something. With the exception of Bein (now deceased) they all have one thing in common--the Wurlitzer shop. Wurltizer had many fine instruments come through the shop. There are very few places that have the means to purchase, sell, and consign significant numbers of important instruments. That is not to say that if you go a level down you do not find some people with a good eye and have seen enough instruments.

    If you really want to be world class do what it takes to get into a major shop and plan as others have said to spend decades aquiring knowledge. Outside of the rare instruments, companies like Shar have made a good business by not catering to the high end. Learn from the best in the trade and hope you get lucky. Study the mistakes (Machold). Good thing is you have time on your side.

  5. If I were in the "business" of selling my instruments. I would go locally to the music school or orchestra and get some feedback from the players. After all most players are always looking for the perfect instrument. We love to try fiddles. Even a concertmaster that has a strad might be looking for an instrument to teach with or god forbid play outside for summer gigs. Check your ego at the door and be open to suggetions. Make changes if needed. Loan your instrument to a big shot locally and hope it grows on them. The good ones have students that are good prospects.

    If you have the courage enter competitions like the VSA and throw the dice. If you are amazing like David Burgess, you will be banned from competitions! A good problem to have I would think ;)

  6. When I interviewed him for an article for our local violinmakers' group (SCAVM), the topic of varnishing was about the only thing about which he preferred not to give specifics. He did, however, admit to "sometimes" using minerals in a ground, and that he used no oil in the first few things that go onto the wood.

    Don is there a link to the interview?

  7. ctviolin you bring up some good points. Some years ago I approached Zigy. Hope he does not mind that name but I have to think too hard on the spelling. :D Does he even look at online violin boards? Anyway, I asked him how long it would be for a fiddle. From what I remember it was something along the lines of two years. I asked him if I could return the instrument for a refund if I did not like it and he said sure. I kept asking myself if I wanted to roll the dice and get in line. In retrospect I should have because the instruments were MUCH cheaper then they are now. From a pure business perspective I should have. I think this was before the $130K auction of the Stern fiddle. I did not because I wanted something now. I ended up settling on a modern maker that is a great players instrument but the price has not gone up much at all...Ironic isn't it.

    The book is very good because it enlightens the non making public about our little corner of the world. I have an extensive library of "fiddle" books. After being somewhat out of the making/repairing life for a while I went on an amazon buying spree. I read "The Violin Maker" in one day. I could not put it down. It was interesting from so many angles. My wife (also a player) worked with the Emerson quartet in school. I am a fan of Zigy's fiddles and a player and maker(of sorts) myself. Can you imagine a cronicle like this about Strad, del Gesu, Vuillaume, etc? (Vuillaume) "we opened the del Gesu that we got from Tarisio's estate. Unfortunately the repairman took too much from the top's upper bout in the regraduation. The violin went from stiff to hollow sounding. No matter we have a slew of Strads and Guarneri's to modernize...Besides I got one heck of a deal from Tariso's widow. All of those Christmas cards paid off".

    BTW I also picked up a copy of "The Countess of Stanlein Restored". For those who do not know it is the story of Morel's restoration of Greenhouse's Strad cello. Not nearly as good of a "book" as "The Violin Maker" but a good read for us fiddle junkies.

  8. Jezzupe your post above was exactly why I posted the original question. If you look back a few posts you will see i mention "the violin maker". That and I had not been too satisfied with some of my attempts in the past.

    What strikes me about the book is what a brilliant way to market his instruments. I am not saying that he said "hey I am going to find some guy to write about me". Even if he did good for him. After all how can a maker sell instruments? Win as many competitions as you can. Have customers with a big name. Partner with a well known violin business. It is not just about making great looking and sounding instrumets...but yet again I am "off topic". Back to the stain.

  9. It's an estimate, on the regrad, based on the weight of the plate and the thickness. On the other ones that I built, I measured the wood beforehand using accurately cut samples. Yes, varnish would make a difference of a few percent, but that's not a huge deal.

    What do you use for the volume number?

  10. Jezzupe nicely put. I am well aware of the blind test with Stern and Zukerman and others like it. I want to make something clear. I am not dogmatic about the ubiquitous nature of Strads and Guarneris. I have played some violins that are quite new that I would put in the outstanding sound category (Curtain, Zygmontowicz, Bellini, Becker and others). I have played a few Strads that were what I would call dogs. But the absolute best were Guarneris, Strads, and one Storioni that had the best E string I have ever played. As you say probably because they were played for a long time by good to great players. I would say that each time that I have had the opportunity to play on the expensive antique instruments part of me is excitedfor obvious reasons and because of my making/repairing background I almost wanted them to be ho hum. Additionally I knew that I was playing on instruments that I would never be able to own. I actually for a while quite going to shops or asking players if I could try their fiddles.

    Perhaps to bring this topic full circle the image below might shed some light on my original question. As I understand it Curtin uses low density Engelmann (correct me if I am wrong). I have quite a bit of his old spruce. Like I said before, I asked him why he was selling this wood as most of it does not have glaring defects. He said because we (I guess he was still working with Greg Alf) found something lighter. I have tried his instruments and for the most part liked what I tried.

    BTW thanks for warning me about my hands. Years ago I was working on a bass bridge. I was really going at trimming it. All of a sudden it let go and I drove a big splinter in between my fingernail and skin of my thumb. It came out ok after they cut off half of my fingernail and removed the splinter… a tad uncomfortable as you can imagine.


  11. Higher decibels only hurt people's ears more. Is the use of Low Density Spruce intended to jack up decibel levels even higher? :o


    Unfortunately yes. When audiences are used to hearing recordings where the mike is close it creates unrealisticexpectations. Only on one occasion did I play a violin that was hard to play softly enough (due to my handywork). I was the concertmaster and the conductor was always telling me to play softer. That violin has a huge sound but hind of one dimensional. Case in point I am playing a solo with an orchestra. I can assure you that I am going after it. Comment to me from someone in the hall after the rehearsal l" you need to play out more". At that time I was playing on a nice northern italian fiddle that had all of the quality but not enough presence. Thin slab cut back... The style of teaching since Galamian is largely focused on producing a big sound.

  12. "If (as seems likely) they did not sound very special when they were first made, then following their methods (whatever you think that is) does not hold much promise for success within the lifetime of the maker... some of them will sound fabulous long after we're dead. Personally, I'd rather try to make instruments so that ALL of them sound great NOW (or reasonably soon). That is a much different problem, and I don't think can be achieved just by following what the old guys did, assuming we could even know all the details of what they did."

    Don, with all due respect, the above doesn't make much sense (not any, really).

    Truth is, the present has a lot to learn from the past, and how to go about making a damn good good violin is but one.

    I kind of get what Don is alluding to. I have been told by very successful makers that their instrument needs to be played in. For those who have made instruments we say “of course”. But when that instrument really does not sound good from the start--there is a problem. I have read that in Vuillaume’s day he was being accused of artificially aging the wood , etc. and the instruments would lose their voice over time. I have heard this line of thinking about good sounding modern makers (Matsuda comes to mind). Interestingly enough I think Hilary Hahn plays a Vuillaume. Also Vuillaume’s instruments have seen a substantial increase in value recently. No I am not saying that ALL Vuillaume’s sound great.

    Barring what I would define normal playing in (I know… define that) an instrument that is a dud from the start will stay that way unless the problems lie in the setup (bar, bridge, etc.) or it can be thinned.

    We also need to keep in mind that the requirements for volume or sound projection have changed. Bigger halls require more decibels (volume). It is one thing to make an instrument that has what we would deem to have qreat color and nuance. It is another thing for an instrument have tone quality AND volume. Perhaps the 2nd generation Cremonese makers (after Andrea and Niccolo Amati) instruments responded to the changes in neck and string type (and the regraduation that people like Vuillaume did) due to lower and flatter arching. If we believe the accounts, the Stainer and Andrea Amati instruments were the ones to have. Is that because they had been played in or the their setup or sound requirements favored them?

    We also have to be careful of the few and far between sources in literature that describe Strads and others as being poor sounding early on. It reminds me of Baroque performance practice. How do we know how they played during the Baroque era? Yes the setup , lower pitch and bows dictate a lot but what do we have to go on? A treatise by Leopold Mozart? It is speculation at best. FWIW I like what is going on in the neo Baroque movement.

  13. I agree that short of empirical evidence for the ground--despite electron microscopes and spectroscopy (damn I hate it when organic compounds are indistinguishable)and old wives tales, you are right ctviolin we do need to make a choice and go with it. To me to get a good look to the overall picture; we need a proper wood color which is separate from the ground and varnish. I have found that time in the sun or a light box (I miss living in Hawaii for the sun but not the constant high humidity) sometimes does not yield what I want. I was reading the "violin maker" book about Ziggy and he uses what is called a wash that according to the author yields a cinnamon color (hopefully Marchese is not color blind--just kidding). "I washed it with a very light wash of pigment to seal it a little bit". This is before he put the ground on. This is what got my wheels turning about something before the ground was applied. Ziggys fiddles do look and sound good. My concern is that I do not want to fully seal the wood with a stain of some type because I want my ground to penetrate the wood. However the end grain absorption poses problems when using a stain. Notice Ziggy said seal a little bit. After all we should study this guy as he is an excellent maker. Besides he gets a pretty good price for his fiddles…all envious violin makers begin biting lip now ;)

  14. Tangent or not, I agree with the violinist. I feel that wood improves with age, but more importantly a good sounding violin that is played often will sound better in time based on "elastic memory". This also relates to our age old discussion about violins "breaking in". If I have a thin piece of rib material and start to bend it back and forth like a coat hangar, at first, as long as I don't bend too much in either direction, the wood will be stiff, but as I work it back and forth, the wood will heat slightly and become more pliable, some of this is due to the heat, but more importantly it is due to the fibers stretching and maybe tearing a bit {like muscle tissue}. All bending has a breaking point, but, much like our own bodies, if we work at flexibility, we can achieve it, slowly. Wood is exactly the same way.

    So, if every day I go to this piece of rib material, and I bend it, after sitting over night, it will be a little stiff from sleeping, but will be able to go right into "bend mode" and be able to hit its peak flexibility after just a few bends back and forth. If however I leave this piece for a long time, and do not bend it, over time it will become stiffer again. Violin music represents 95 possible notes deriving from the 21-note scale in five positions along the fretboard. For each one of these notes we could consider it a part of our body or a different muscle. Each individual note will excite the corpus in its own unique way. An open G string, think of it as bending over and touching your toes, and open A, think of it as reaching your arms over head, and so on, for each note we have a different "yoga" maneuver. A good violin that is constantly played, will remain flexible and ready to serve. I would not attribute this as a broad based explanation as to why these instruments{ the well know master ones}sound so good,but I certainly think it plays a role

    On an instinctual level I think there is something to this. Great violins tend to be played by great players. Over time this may contribute to chemical or even molecular changes to the wood or the binding materials that “glue” the wood cells together. One of the best sounding instruments I have ever played was the Kreisler Guarneri. One the greatest violinists ever (my opinion) played it. However, when I spent some time with the violin it was mostly unplayed (Library of Congress). I have to say that that instrument was almost limitless in its ability to produce a wide palette of color and the ability to withstand incredible amounts of bow pressure (vertical force). I would equate it to being restricted to using only primary colors to paint and then being allowed to mix those colors into infinite variations of color and hue. I kept asking more and more of the instrument and it went with me in almost every way. I walked out of there amazed, astounded and convinced that the greatness of these instruments was not a myth.

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