John_London

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  1. Bill Merkel's comments above point in a direction I personally support. Maybe it is best to start with a couple of more basic questions. Why would you want to use vibrato? When is it a good idea? Is there any jusification for the apprently crazy practice of trying to apply vibrato to every note? (I am not saying there is not a good reason, only that you should be able to state the reason rather than doing it blindly--is that fair?) I learned arm vibrato first because it came easily. Still does with a shoulder rest, but arm vibrato is challenging without a shoulder rest, which I abandoned owing to stiffness in the neck. However, I also did the arm vibrato without a musical intention or a clear idea why I wanted to use vibrato, other than the fact that respected players seemed to vibrate a lot. I was young then, so I may perhaps be forgiven the idiocy of trying to learn vibrato without understanding what it is for, and without being able to state in plain words why history's greatest violin teacher (Auer) was wrong when he said (in 'Violin playing as I teach it') that constant vibrato is a nervous fault requiring not practice to develop, but practice to cure.
  2. Yes, it is normal at some stage in learning the violin, that placing two fingers distorts the shape of the hand, and disturbs intonation. It is a problem for the teacher to sort out, because the shape in which you hold the hand with just one finger down may not be ideal and that should be fixed first, otherwise it worsens this and other problems.
  3. Italian music was different than German, more advanced and more difficult to play. Your thesis does not contemplate that makers may have been reacting to the sounds and preferences, and perhaps the relatively deeper pockets, of Italian musicians, rather than (or as well as) finding new paths themselves. Incidentally Stainer happened to be working near a town where a monarch who was prepared to invest in the best music, was hiring Italian musicians.
  4. Painting violins is not new. It probably does not harm sound much or at all. To my eyes the instrument is a monstrosity with or without paint, and I am fairly neutral about whether the decoration makes it better or worse. If you like it, and it is an instrument which could sound decent in your hands if had been left without the decoration, I would think you could still make it sound good with the decocration. Just my tuppence worth, I am neither maker, dealer not expert.
  5. I heard an organist describe an organ with a seat which split in the middle, and each side would slide away from the center to allowing the organist to rest on the left half of the seat and slide leftwards to reach the bottom of the pedal board, and to sit with his weight on the right half of the seat and slide rightwards to reach the top of the pedal board. Inevitably it was called the 'Nutcracker Seat.'
  6. This is hard to answer because you need a teacher. In fact you need the right teacher, since some are adamant that shoulder rests are essential and others are adamant that they are a terrible idea and not used by the great players of the past. In both camps there are multiple variants in the ways of holding the instrument among good players. Whichever way you look at it, holding the instrument is a significant skill in itself, and arguably holding the instrument without a shoulder rest, even if you accept that it the best way to go, is especially hard. This series of three videos is roughly similar to the training I had from one teacher, and holding the violin took weeks of practice. It is worth spending time on it as a good comfortable hold makes a big contribution later.
  7. I think it was in the Myn Kim book Gone which I reivewed on MN that a very ditsinguished dealer told the young violinist that 'there is no substitute for an old Italian.' The dealer must have known the to a lawyer are assertion is not actionable, whereas an inexperienced aspiring soloist may hear it as advice based on expertise. Teachers buy into, or at any rate sell into, the myth too. Fun fact: the idea that an aspiring soloist needs an aging Italian instrument is promoted in the Bergman film Sarabande, where the young woman's father and teacher wants to buy her a Fangola cello because she 'needs' something better than her passable German instrument to help her pass the conservatory audition.
  8. Yeh well... to be fair to the Americans, let us not elide the fact that the great European powers--and we have to include poor old Franz Joseph II, the last real Austrian Emperor when sharing out the blame with the Brits and the Germans and the Italians--brought the whole debacle of WWI, with the consequent rise of American hegemony, the decline of civilization, and the loss of South Tirol, on ourselves.
  9. Put me down for the MN tent of visitors to VSA competition. And if David Burgess is generously funding the visitors' air fares, I am am sure Danube Fiddler has sufficient sense of the laws of hospitality to express technical disagreements with the host with the utmost resepct, if at all. Bring a fiddle, and we can have a scratch orchestra. No snoring in the tent please :-)
  10. I suppose a treddle-operated tool is a power tool? If so, it raises the question of whether Stradivari belonged to 4. or 5.? The question may be unfair if the list is intended only to describe contemporary makers. But what is the point of the question? Lack of assistants sometimes reflects a philosphy, sometimes a preference for working alone, and probably in many cases that there are not enough orders to justify hiring an in-house assistant.
  11. Of course a directory of reviews published by The Strad will also be impossibly subjective, and some readers (especially makers who receive poor reviews) will feel it is too subjective to be useful. It may still be better than publishing the judges' reasons in a violin-making competition, because a directory can include judges' comments from competitions, look at several examples of a maker's output over time, look at makers who do not participate in competitions, will not be biased towards a geogrpahic region, can include comments of people who have lived with instruments long-term describing both playing qualities and mechinical reliability, can include comments on the level of after-sales service a maker includes and their setup ability, and so on. Pretty subjective, but so are directories in magazines discussing cars, fishing rods, or expensive hi-fi gear. For the directory, makers could be asked what machines they use, and if one maker's instruments are wonderfully resonant but have a habit of sinking arching, this could be in print. All things which currently are generally hidden, if only by a conspiracy of silence, from the buying public. Makers would then have no cause to reflect on what is fair to disclose.
  12. Sure, making violins is a romantic and respected role for various good reasons. Even making shoes the traditional way has some cachet (the trade to which actor Daniel Day Lewis is said to have moved after retiring from films). It would be fun to have a hand-made Bristol motor car in the garage. If I need a car or a motorcycle to do a job reliably and effectively, I'd pick a small Toyota or a small Honda. And hand-made shoes costing thousands? Most people would never know the difference. I can spot hand-made shoes because I appreciate hand work, and I know they fit and last well, yet the shoes I choose to wear were mass-produced in Thailand. A hand-made violin is nice as a romantic gesture. It is great that the tradition lives, and that there are customers who will pay for it. When making a violin or a car or a pair shoes for someone who just needs it to work, does it really matter?
  13. My comment about the ignorance of most buyers was directed to this point, because if the buyer asks about working methods the maker or dealer cannot legally lie or mislead, whereas he or she can legally stay silent.The ignorance of buyers, of violin teachers who advise them, and the difficulty of learning about violins, combine to throw a lot of trust onto the selling side of the trade. If I am buying a copy of Strad credibly believed not to be regraduated, as I have, and the maker tells me that he has good casts and thickness records, has chosen wood which in his skilled opinion will suit, and he thinks that the closest approximation to arching and graduation can be achieved by machine work--why not? However, a buyer might want to know such things, and if buyers were better informed they should be asking the right questions, and honest makers would not need this kind of conversation, asking themselves how much they ought to disclose, even without being asked, about use of automated machines, workshop assistants, or bought-in parts and instruments.
  14. In a trade where most violin buyers know little about the product, and students are sometimes advised by teacher on a (possibly secret) commission who understands less about evaluating a violin than the student supposes, buyers rely on makers and other sellers to self-regulate. I'd like to see a 'Which Violin' or 'Buyers' Guide' section in The Strad or one of its competitors, where experts on violin playing and making attempt to evalute the working methods and quality of work of all contemporary makers. Of course it is subjective, just like the hi-fi press. It might, however, draw back the veil a little.
  15. Indeed the description does not come across well. A more forthright and clear description would inspire more confidence.