martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. Addie, you are too kind - but I'm waiting for someone to wade in and shoot me to pieces! I think the off-centre centre lines are always a sign of "economical" construction. Sometimes it's the same issue as the "extra bit" in the lower back - a nice piece of wood has been jointed, and then it's discovered that the thickness runs out a bit on one edge, so the centre line gets shifted slightly to cope. I am always worried by off-centre centre lines in the back too - if I see a button with an off-centre centre seam, I assume that sloppy work is the cause. I've never seen this on a really well
  2. This looks to me like a good quality German trade violin circa 1880-1890, Dresden or Berlin, very reminiscent of Alfred Moritz Stradivarius copies for instance, but older than most of these. The varnish is typical, as is the scroll carving - and the maple used for the back. The neck graft is genuine, but it's a repair and doesn't indicate any more than that the neck got broken at some stage. It's not a very elegant neck graft, pretty short on the angle - a good Beare's or Hills graft would reach twice as far up the pegbox, and would use heavily flamed maple for the new stock. This is the sor
  3. Yes I've always marvelled at how complicated it must to get right compared to a standard neck block - on cheap Saxon violins it always looks pretty gammy, ending up with ribs that don't follow the outline of top or back, and asymmetrical rib shapes. But when done neatly it's rather peautiful, leaving a lovely curved outer joint surface between neck and ribs. All the more surprising that it persisted with Scottish makers, and even more so that amateur makers (sometimes very good) tended to use this technique in preference to an easier method, even post-Heron Allen! Jacob is as usual calmly
  4. It's an interesting fact that a violin is heard in a fundamentally asymmetric and stereoscopic way by the player, but largely monophonically by a listener, at least at the distance of an audience member. I don't think this effect is as extreme with any other instrument, especially when you factor in the asymmetric jaw resonance. The voice of course is closer still, but it comes from the centre of the body so the issues are different. Many violinists have a lot of trouble acclimatizing to close recording techniques because they're being fed a mono signal into both ears (through headphones)
  5. I think guitar neck is a bit anachronistic as violins made this way were around before guitars made this way (correct me if I'm wrong - I'm sure you will, this is a forum!).
  6. To me the Strad sounds plummy and a bit self-important, but maybe that's because the player knows he/she is playing a Strad. The Nagyvary is a bit dirtier and more characterful, and the player is having a nicer time - in fact can't resist a little illicit slide somewhere in the 2nd octave. My point exactly - the Strad has a better sound, the Nagyvary is better to play, and I would have it even though it's a bit nasal and thinner. Fascinating - where do these samples come from? I take it it's the same player and the same bow?
  7. "integral neck block" or "baroque neck" are what I hear, although makers in Scotland used this technique right up till the end of the 19th century, and I see a lot of Saxony violins up to about 1870 with this kind of neck. From the perspective of a restorer they're a bit of a nightmare, like a "devil's tenon" in Japanese timber-framing.
  8. The reed has a percussive transient at the start of the note, it also has a far more complex waveform than a flute, tending towards "distortion". Distortion is a very important concept in music, being a harmonic confusion which creates the illusion of loudness. It can be caused by any number of things, but it's very useful, and is kind of the opposite of "good tone". We might also have a nice discussion about whether "projection" is anything more than an emphasis of carrying frequencies such as an opera singer develops in order to be heard over an orchestra. personally I think projection is
  9. Melvin, we are as one! I think so much of this type of discussion misses the point, but maybe that's because we need to separate out a few confused strands. Different levels of players require totally different things from violins. Learners or good amateurs need balance and a friendly sound, and not too much squeak when poor bow technique is employed. An absence of high harmonic content can be a great asset here. Also, such players are likely to choose instruments by listening to the sound, rather than listening to their playing. Better players favour completely different things, in fact the
  10. Anders, it's really a different thread and I hope to come back to it, but just in order to put the cat amongst the pigeons .....! I do think that when it comes to making violins for top level players, it must be a huge asset to play well and to be able to make adjustments through trial and error. If I'm setting up a violin, I always do a provisional "correct" set-up, then start moving things around as a result of playing. The same process should work for makers, and often does. The better you can push the instrument as a player, the more all-encompassing your fine-tuning will be. But this is
  11. Anders, I don't deal much with modern trade instruments, but I do have a lot of experience of early 20th century French trade violins, and I think your hypothesis is correct. Although the Mirecourt workshops obviously had a far more evolved & successful approach to thicknessing than the equivalent Bohemian and German factories, I imagine it was still a rather routine or mechanical process. The thing which interests me is that every now and then, one of these rather mundane factory violins will turn out to be wonderful. I've even come across a Medio Fino (allegedly the plates were steame
  12. I think it's a pity to sink the ship for a barrel of tar, and you'd probably be as well to start with a new fingerboard. It looks like you'd lose too much thickness by planing it flat again, though fingerboards are often quite a bit thicker than they need to be. I suppose it depends on whether your neck is svelte and sexy or a bit chunky! An average thickness of neck will feel good with a fingerboard that has a thickness of about 4mm on the edges, but given that yours has a warp that lifts by about 2mm at each end, that's what you'd have to remove from the centre point of the warp - think i
  13. Jeffrey, I agree with everything you've said. I frequently buy old violins with table soundpost cracks, patched or otherwise, and I factor in a devaluation of about 20% at the point of purchase and the point of sale. I'm a bit more negative with back soundpost cracks, but if the violin sounds good and the repair's neat I don't think it's the huge no-no that the trade seems to think it is. I've noticed that dealers tend to devalue by 50% when they're buying, but when they're selling, a soundpost crack is often "not really a factor"! However, I'd hold to my contention that Beare's and simila
  14. I'd hardly describe it as gambling since the bow is unquestionably not genuine. It's not even a genuine German fake! So you buy it, thinking there's an outside chance it might be genuine, you then show it to someone whose opinion you trust and they say "cheap chinese fake". Are you now going to re-list it as "cheap Chinese bow with a fake stamp", or are you going to leave it as "violin bow stamped Marcel Fetique"? The former would be honest and correct, the latter would be unacceptable in my view, since you now know the truth of the matter and might risk duping someone even more credulous th
  15. Beares are notorious for their truly exorbitant repair costs. £100 an hour and 10 hours might be appropriate for a Guadagnini, but a good restorer could do a soundpost patch in less than 5 hours without question, and £50 an hour is a lot to charge, even if you've been to Newark! My neck graft statistics are specifically for eBay "neck grafts", and I'm saying that 1 in 25 eBay violins with a neck graft, fake or genuine, is a pre-1800 violin of quality. Don't think you'd argue with that, though I know you're not buying them all ! Definitely agree that no-one would do a neck graft to save wo
  16. Like Jacob I am amazed that people obsess about neck grafts, as about 80% of the neck grafts out there are repairs. Fiddles fall down stairs, the necks break etc ..... On eBay the incidence of "neck grafts" seems extraordinarily high, and as the rather sullen Lyndon explains, a seller who draws attention to a neck graft is almost always dodgy. About 50% of neck grafts on eBay are scratched on, 40% are repairs on standard scale violins, and perhaps 10% are modernisations of baroque violins. Of the modernised baroque violins with neck grafts, 75% are rather indifferent early 19th century "Germ
  17. A violin is not a tool for producing sound, it's a tool for making music. The two things are quite different, and most of this thread seems to be taken up with a discussion of how design can affect sound production. This resolves itself into inevitable disagreement about how to evaluate tone as a listener. But when it comes down to it, that's not the issue with violins - the issue is whether a player makes better music on a particular violin, and really only the player can tell you this. If the player plays for their own pleasure, than it's the degree of pleasure that matters. If the pla
  18. John, you may be right, I'm not familiar with these automatic systems, but I suppose the key difference is that a legitimate set of rapid automatic bids would tend to put the bidder in lead position, whereas rapid shill bidding would probably end under the high bidder! Also this kind of shill bidding tends to be seen in episodes, maybe one lot early in the auction, another lot the next day, another lot nearer the end etc .... I imagine that people savvy enough to put in automatic bids would also do it in the last 5 seconds, whereas I'm observing this type of bidding at the mid-point of an auct
  19. There's a lot of debate about whether one should bid in the last couple of seconds or not. As an eBay seller, I couldn't possibly comment! But I would observe that most items sell for an amount decided by the seller - everyone sets reserves, some are visible & official (like mine), most are invisible. Discussions of bidding strategy tend to overlook this. Although I'm the first to defend eBay as a marketplace (with some major caveats, public feedback, return policies, paypal etc), the practice of shill-bidding is widespread, as it is in the major auction houses. Because buyers don't like
  20. In the case of the 2 bows cited they are definitely too good to be true, though in quite different ways. The "Fetique" is a modern Chinese bow with a fake stamp - these are sold in vast quantities, mainly through eBay US, but by the prices reached I don't think many people think they're genuine. Although mass-produced, they can be good players. The seller specializes in these bows and doesn't seem to be getting excessive prices for them. The "Sartory" however is an old German "copy" in slightly nasty brazilwood with very cheap nickel fittings, and it's just tatty and jaded enough that someone
  21. I don't have an "expert" opinion on this, however I have found that the single most important element in a set-up (assuming a reasonably sensible soundpost position and a tidy bridge sitting properly over the bassbar) is the string tension. This is determined by the make of string and the bridge height (which is in turn determined by the neck angle). Every violin requires a different degree of down-bearing on the bridge to make it sound its best, and it's futile to follow approved measurements. Given that a .5mm reduction in bridge height on the E string can make a big change to the overall so
  22. In Hungary everyone uses lipstick! This works in exactly the same way as Jacob's chinagraph penci, but it's soft and very easy to remove with a tissue. I get a bit embarrassed buying it, and am never sure exactly what shade to go for ..... Martin Swan VIolins
  23. did you notice it's located in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Cyprus? bit of geographical confusion all round!
  24. or the great and under-rated Irish maker Shaun Burke? not admittedly as good as Mark Newchurch but more prolific .....
  25. Hi Addie, here's another lovely listing for you ... Betts violins "Italian style" appears to mean a violin with f-holes, pegs, a scroll etc rather like a Stradivari! Henry Betts "believed to be brother of Arthur & John" must surely be half-brother by a German father - to describe this violin as English is just fraudulent!