martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. Bernie - I had a very good Donegal player in the house today looking for a fiddle. I had marked out one I thought he would go for, and he did eventually find it but wasn't convinced. It was a super sounding JTL Amati "V", and one of the best sounding French violins I've had ..... he may return tomorrow. He had a lot of difficulty finding anything which he preferred to his fiddle, which was a Maidstone (I kid you not) ... The neck angle was the lowest I've seen, must have been about 15mm to the top of the fingerboard. I think the top had been thinned out and revarnished. He used Helicore strings, but most interestingly he had absolutely no tension on the bow and was mainly playing on the wood as far as I could see. The sound of the fiddle was bright, very resonant, great to play but with no "tone" as such - everything was in the percussive start of the note. When he played slow tunes the fiddle sounded dreadful, but for fast dance music it was extremely effective. I played it quite a bit - I can tell you categorically that I would never have bought it, not even for £100. So I would say the major component of his (very authentic) sound was the almost complete absence of bow pressure, which in turn requires a very responsive fiddle with a lot of attack. It makes sense if you think of playing reels for 3 or 4 hours on the trot - you've got to make it easy for yourself. I use a lot of bow, and I'm worn out after 10 minutes!
  2. basically an inverted V cut in the bottom of a one-piece bottom rib to show the centre position (for situating the endpin hole!)
  3. Definitely not JTL, in my view this is a Czech factory violin (though I've seen a few such Czech violins with Daniel Moinel labels). Don't know who made it, but it looks most like a lower level Prokop-type violin. The varnish is typical, particularly how it finishes on the scroll and the shading on the back, also the heel and the scroll carving are consistent with Czech factories. Incidentally these bakelite latticed chinrests were made in Czechoslovakia, I would guess it's originalThese vioilins were bought and sold through department stores in the US, so the Sears & Roebuck theory is a good one. I wouldn't despair, this violin is in nice condition, the spruce looks good, and it would probably be £800 in my local shop. Soundwise these violins (which generally have "copy of Antonius Stradivarius made in Czechoslovakia" labels) can be pretty good, and maybe the re-graduation was very successful! Martin Swan Violins
  4. Hi Lyndon - do you use the Best Offer option or just set a "take it or leave it" price?
  5. OK thanks for so many replies! I didn't expect to get such a response - it's obviously a bone of contention, which makes me feel better. I should clarify that my position is that the neck should be level, and that's how we make our violins. After reading this thread I think I will stick to that, though I'm very interested in the argument for tilting down on the bass side. I got into a spat with a prospective customer who told me that the neck should be lower on the E string side, and that anything else was a sign of a cheap factory fiddle - I disagreed (a bit impolitely) and got in a big mess, we then parted company ... so I felt the need for reassurance. The argument can only really be about either playability or string tension (or I suppose bridge aesthetics if you're really anal). Playability : miniscule changes in the curve of the bridge will never make anything like as much difference to the bowing arc as a minor and un-noticed change in the tilt of the whole violin, so that's that argument out the window. Besides, as Jacob points out, bringing the E string nearer the table is a guaranteed way to mash the treble corners. As a player with very long fingers, I find myself nicking the upper corner with my index finger all the time - lowering the neck on the treble side would exacerbate the problem. Indeed I think the only argument you could make would be for a tilt in the other direction. Yes if the E string is higher at the bridge then it's slightly more accessible to the bow, especially if you're playing over the fingerboard for tonal effect. But then you have to consider issues of string tension! String tension : Assuming a competent bridge & soundpost position, I find that the single most crucial modification I can make to the sound of a violin is the height of the E string above the table (all the strings are relevant but the E seems to create as much downbearing on the bridge as the other 3 added together, and has a strong overall effect on the sound). Over time (not a lot I confess) I have found myself working with an ideal string height - this is measured up from the table and expresses itself in the height of the bridge. If the fingerboard and the action don't work with this string height I tend to change the fingerboard angle (though with problem violins I try to use string height/tension to make tonal corrections). This ideal string height is achieved most easily by having a flat neck surface on which a symmetrical fingerboard sits - a straight edge on the top of the fingerboard gives an elevation of about 28.5mm at the bridge position on a conventional table (ie not a blow-up Stainer-type thing). If I was to lower the neck on the bass side I wouldn't want to increase the tension on the E string, so I suppose the bridge would end up having less irregular sides. Are there any other advantages (sonic) to this beyond preserving the treble c bouts? I suppose that working on old violins requires a lot more pragmatism, and I do often end up with odd shaped bridges. But I feel most comfortable when there's a difference of about 3mm between the bass height and the treble height - am I normal? Martin Swan Violins
  6. Makers, do you fit your necks so that the top plane is nominally horizontal, or do you drop it down marginally towards the E string? If the latter, is the entire neck marginally rotated or do you just plane down the treble side of the top surface post-fitting? Thanks in advance for any insights. Martin Swan Violins
  7. Just bothered to look at the picture of the back .... oops. I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong! I don't think one-piece fronts are more prone to cracking - from a shrinkage/expansion point of view I suppose it would depend how far the wood deviates from quarter-sawn. Tangential shrinkage is at least double radial shrinkage (think I've got those the right way round) ... if you're using wood from small trees then you would have to joint in order to get a consistently quarter-sawn piece with minimal tendency for movement. A one-piece front with a bit of grain off the quarter might be unstable. But in the great "O Tannenbaum" forests around Mittenwald I'd think there would be lots of lovely slow-grown spruce logs with a 25cm radius if not 50cm!
  8. I've had well made and badly made violins with one-piece tops ... I couldn't say there were any common factors tonally. I think the myth comes from the fact that they're very common on basic Mirecourt violins (but these often sound great). There was a big thread recently about symmetry - the conclusion seemed to be that it was a nice idea but nothing to get too hung up about!
  9. But fiddlecollector's William Smith violin (Sheffield) had a one-piece bottom rib, hence the notch - or do you just mean William Smith cellos? Do you get one-piece ribs on cellos - I am pretty ignorant when it comes to cellos
  10. Or has it? Maybe a little crack on the edge of the button nearest the camera ....?
  11. Hi Tarisiofever, Jacob shows his usual mastery of all things Teutonic! I'd expect this violin to sound pretty nice - I try to find this kind of spruce for our violins, very even across the body and not too tight-grained. The fillet in the button - seen this in a lot of German workshop violins. I'm sure it was put in at the time of manufacture - because the neck won't have been made specifically for the violin, maybe the dimensions were a bit off, or maybe a bit of heel corner got chipped off when it was sitting in the "box of necks". Is the top one-piece? And does the crack emanating from the pin into the bottom block travel into the bassbar? Rather you than me! Interesting that the ribs have failed around the top block (while someone was clunking you over the head) but the button hasn't broken across the purfling line - there was a thread a couple of weeks back about this. regards, Martin Martin Swan Violins
  12. I'd have assumed that was a Mittenwald violin! I'd be fascinated to know more about William Smith - Sheffield's my home town. I know of a William Smith in London in the late 1700s ... is it the same fella?
  13. This is great - putting together something of a library here ... Thanks Anders and Addie. The immediate question which emerges is whether the tonal component of a particular bow is that relevant to the listener, although it's crucial to the player. The same question applies to violin tone of course!
  14. I feel that a bow is a simpler piece of design than a violin, and that its tonal attributes should be easier to map and control. That's not to say that the whole process of creating tone by bowing isn't extremely complex, as an initial dip into your various documents shows (I need to take a month off, not a few days, don't understand a word so far). However, there seems to me to be a saturation point with bows where all the major objectives have been met - then you get into a kind of "law of diminishing returns" scenario where to get a bow that's 5% better than a good Pfretzchner you have to spend twice as much, 5% better than a good Thomassin you have to spend twice as much etc. etc, before you know it you've spent £35,000 on a Peccate that's 5.8% better than the Pfretzschner!
  15. Wise words! Which comes first, the price tag or the acknowledgement of superior tonal attributes? Peccates are now fetching £35,000 plus ... I don't think spectrum analysis will follow far behind!
  16. OK that makes a lot of sense. I haven't spotted any Scottish Mittenwald notches (except of course on Thomas Craig's High Class Violins, some of which were made in Mittenwald!). One piece bottom ribs aren't uncommon in late 19th century Scottish work ... but notchless. I think your typical Scottish maker just took a nip of whisky for courage and stabbed a bradawl in the general direction of the endpin.
  17. Jacob, Where do you stand in relation to the so-called "Mittenwald notch" as seen on the bottom rib of this violin? I was taught that this was a valuable aid to identification, but since I got into maestronet I am questioning everything. By the way, clocked your caveat about early German spelling, you ARE the man!
  18. Georg Klotz labels are spelt Iser not Isar, other Klotzs too, and I'm sure I've seen Iser on other authentic labels, maybe Joseph Rieger? I don't think German spelling was in any way standardized at this time, and I wouldn't read anything into this spelling of Isar. Jacob Saunders could surely confirm this? It's not like a fake Italian violin "fato in Cremona 1937"! Still think it's unlikely to be a Michael Poller, but not because of the label. Could be better .... you never know .... Martin Swan Violins
  19. Yes, the bottom rib is classic Mittenwald, one-piece with a notch at the bottom to mark the centre point. I'll be very interested to hear what Peter Horner says - I'm sticking my neck out and saying not Poller/Boller, but early 19th century Mittenwald. Auction value £2000 ish if the condition's good. But does it have a repaired crack on the table below the treble f-hole? Looks like a bit of varnish doctoring here ... Martin Swan Violins
  20. Addie, Thanks very much for these sources - looks very interesting. I will take a few days off and try to understand them! I'd just like to re-state my question because we seem to have drifted slightly on to rosin - which is a sticky subject. In the case of violin making, there's a broad consensus (for whatever reason) that early Cremonese instruments have ideal tone, and everyone is trying to emulate that, nowadays using spectrum analysis etc to aid in that process. Given that bows have strong tonal characteristics, are bow-makers similarly obsessed with the ideal tonal attributes of Peccates (for instance), and trying to emulate that by means of spectrum analysis? Maybe there just aren't many bow-makers on this site ....? Martin Swan VIolins
  21. I like the look of this violin - it seems to be of that era or mor like early 19th century, it's very nicely made and the neck graft is very well done. It's just a matter of price - you can find a beautiful sounding violin for $1000 so I wouldn't spend a lot just because it sounds great. Lyndon gives good advice. The label looks a bit colourful for late 18th century, but it's worth sending photos to Peter Horner at Bromptons in London. Valuation form He will give an impartial (and in my experience very accurate) appraisal, and will give you an auction room estimate (which will be about 50% of retail, maybe a bit less). This service is free of charge. If it's a Boller he will recognize it. A lot of experts will give a verbal opinion and will only charge for documentation. There are a lot of Boller facsimile labels around, and an unidentified Mittenwald violin circa 1820 is worth quite a bit less than a Boller. Incidentally this violin Boller for $12,500 doesn't look much like the one you've got ... but I'm really no good at identification. Good luck! Martin Swan Violins
  22. The rosin and the hair are factors of course, but I handle dozens of good bows and always use the same hair and the same rosin. They have very different characteristics of weight, balance, spring and "grip", as well as varying degrees of granularity and differences in volume (not in any way connected to weight). But they also have tonal attributes which are not connected to any of these factors. That's what I'd like to understand. The player is the same (me!) ...
  23. I suppose my question is whether the inherent tonal emphasis in any given bow can be measured, rather than just dimly perceived by a player. From my point of view there are 3 or 4 different issues which influence my opinion of a bow - the inherent tonal quality is a big one, although the distinctions aren't as subtle as with violins. Do bowmakers aspire to an ideal of tone ... and if so, can spectrum analysis help?
  24. Thanks - do you know if this has been written up atall? Maybe it's in his book ....
  25. There's obviously a lot of fascinating work being done on how to understand the tonal response of a violin through spectrum analysis. Given that different bows give very different tonal results on the same violin, is anyone looking at this? If so, what's the methodology? I can understand how you'd make a violin vibrate (by hitting it), but how would you draw out the tonal characteristics of a bow? Martin Swan Violins