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Everything posted by Steve_W

  1. Quote: It doesn't look like Mittenwald to me. The fake neck graft, the antiquing and the shape remind me of the violins with Schweitzer labels. They're pretty common; I've had dozens of them and I was just working on one this morning. They usually also have fake cracks, but I don't see any on yours. I don't know exactly where they were made, but they're some sort of commercial German production probably about a hundred years old. I was also thinking that certain features (the fake neck graft and the aging, also the shape and workmanship of the scroll) look very much like like those on my "Schweitzer", which my violin guy says was a product of Markneukirchen. -Steve
  2. I tend to get into "long-term relationships" with my instruments, and also tend to accumulate them rather than trading them in! I still have my first full-size violin, an old no-name strad copy which my parents bought when I was 12 (a long, long time ago!); I still play it occasionally in situations like outdoor gigs where I'd feel uncomfortable taking a nicer instrument. I bought my next fiddle, an old Markneukirchen "J.B. Schweitzer" fictitious label Amati copy, about 17 years ago and have hung onto it despite feeling more and more over the past few years that it wasn't meeting my needs any longer. Just this week I purchased a new violin made by Peter Van Arsdale which has the tone, volume & response I've been looking for; I still haven't decided if I'll keep the "Schweitzer" as a backup or sell it. -Steve
  3. For anyone interested, the entire text of Spoon River Anthology can be found here: http://www.worldwideschool.com/library/boo...hology/toc.html . Reading through it I couldn't find any character that could be identified as "Red-Head Sammy" but I like the idea of him as an Irish dancer; I've seen a few myself that could be compared to whirlwinds! "Toor-a Loor-a" is a common nonsense phrase in trad. Irish songs; a couple of the best-known are The Jug of Punch and The Spanish Lady. The latter song seems to me like it might fit the tune Fiddler Jones is referring to. "And if the people find you can fiddle, Why, fiddle you must, for all your life." I love those lines! -Steve
  4. Very cool poem! Thanks for posting it, Jane!
  5. In the books Capt. Jack Aubrey wasn't much of a fiddler (despite owning an Amati at one point, I think) but I agree, when it's obvious that an actor can't play, it makes it hard for me to suspend my disbelief! Too bad they couldn't have used some of their computer enhanced special effects to fix that! -Steve
  6. Quote: Except that the others weren't new and unplayed. Yeah, sorry; I should have made that clearer. The other 2 were made by a local maker, were a couple years old and well-played in (and somewhat above my target price range). But even comparing it to my current fiddle, which is a Markneukirchen "J.B. Schweitzer" and probably worth only $1K or so, I felt there was no contest. -Steve
  7. Quote: I'm curious if you would be giving this violin a second thought if it wasn't "Italian" and "really pretty". If you're looking to award it extra tonal growth points, then to be fair, you should do the same for the others, in which case it's still coming out 4th, isn't it? :-) Actually, Michael, I don't generally like new violins, and the others I've looked at have been early 20th century, mostly American. People on this forum suggested that in my price range ($4-5K, although it appears to be inching upward!) I should consider modern Italians so I thought I'd try some. I know enough to realize that the appearance of a fiddle typically has nothing to do with its sound, except that decent wood, good craftsmanship and a pretty finish are sometimes indicators that the maker knew what he/she was doing; I don't much care what an instrument looks like since I won't be seeing it when I'm playing it anyway. What it comes down to is that a maker whose opinion I respect offered this one to me to try, and since it had a decidedly inferior response compared to other stuff I've played in that price range I figured I must be missing something! -Steve
  8. I tried out some violins yesterday and one of them was a new Italian workshop violin; it was a really pretty instrument but compared to my current violin and the other two I was comparing it with, it felt extremely unresponsive and quiet. This was a brand new instrument that hasn't been played much; can I assume that at least some of the deficiencies could be attributable to its newness, and that it would improve when played for a while? If so, how does one go about evaluating the potential of an instrument that hasn't yet been played in? Are there certain things to listen for in the tone, or is it just a gamble buying a new violin? -Steve
  9. Last week I played with a violinist who plays professionally in several dance bands here and I really liked the tone of his violin so I asked him about it. He said he'd found it while vacationing in China last year; his other violin's a nice French instrument but he'd left it at home and thought it would be nice to have a "beater" to goof around with so he went into the nicest looking violin shop in the city he was staying in (I think he said he was in Shengzhou but I'm not sure) to try some instruments. He came away with a beautiful locally-hand-made violin for around $800 which has a tone that he feels is far superior to his (formerly) main fiddle, which now stays in its case! I played it for a while and it seemed to have a tone that was at least as good as any of the violins I've been looking at in the $4K - $5K range! I'm sure this is a different situation than you'd find when looking for Chinese fiddles here, but apparently there are good ones out there! -Steve
  10. That makes a lot of sense to me, Steve. "...If you know where to look"--there's the rub for me! Are we talking Chinese here? So are you implying that mediocre players (like me) shouldn't even be considering an expensive violin with 'truly fine' tone because they wouldn't be able to make good use of it? (Sorry Flyboy, I know this is taking this thread further away from your original question!) -Steve
  11. Thanks for the clarification, Maeve. I have seen that branding used on other makers' instruments and it's offputting to me! -Steve
  12. Thanks Maeve, they do look like very nice instruments (I don't care for the branding on the back of the scroll, but that's my own preference). This brings up another question: how important do you guys think buying a fiddle from a local dealer/maker is? I'm leaning towards finding something in the SF Bay area (Berkeley in particular) because of the ease of accessibility of the maker or dealer in case of future problems or issues, but would be interested in hearing others' experiences. Do you find buying locally to be a good idea, or a non-issue? -Steve
  13. Thanks Peter, sent you an e-mail! -Steve
  14. Thanks for the advice everyone. Yeah, everyone who pointed out that the a l'ancienne fiddle is somewhat less than my target range is correct; I must have misheard the price. The fiddles that I preferred in the group I was given to try were an English violin by James Kesterbridge at $3500 and a violin by A. Masterman (from Los Angeles I think) at $4500, but neither really had exactly the tone I'm looking for. Knowing that the L'ancienne was somewhat cheaper than other fiddles in that range makes sense; it definitely wasn't in the same class as the others. Ray, I'll look up Peter Van Arsdale; I know he has a really good reputation with the people I play with; and I'll check out other makers in this area. I assumed that finding a good new hand-built fiddle was probably out of the question in that price range. -Steve
  15. I'm wondering if anyone here has opinions on Ifshin Violin's Jay Haide L'ancienne? This is apparently their top-of-the-line fiddle in that series; it's fairly highly antiqued (which I don't like) but uses a better grade of materials than their other models. I'm looking for a fiddle in the $3K - 5K range and this one was one of the ones they handed me to try. I wasn't that impressed with the tone and was leaning towards a couple of instruments made in the mid-20th century; however knowing that Jay Haide violins seem to have a good reputation in this area I'm wondering if I missed something. Also, I tend to favor older instruments rather than brand new ones, but at around $4-5k, are there other current makers I should be considering? Thanks for any thoughts. -Steve
  16. Hi Crystal, I don't know of any good forums but I do subscribe to a couple mail lists you might be interested in. The first is SCOTS-L, the Scottish Music and Culture list. This list is usually pretty quiet (under 10 posts a week) but there are a number of really knowledgeable and helpful musicians among the subscribers. Subscription info is at http://www.tullochgorm.com/lists.html . I also read IRTRAD-L, the Irish Traditional Music list; this one is quite a bit more active, with around 20 posts a day (I get this one in digest mode because it's just too much otherwise). A lot of good info on Irish music (like SCOTS-L, not specifically geared to the fiddle) but discussions can get off-track and can be contentious. To subscribe, go to http://www.lsoft.com/scripts/wl.exe?SL1=IR...TSERV.HEANET.IE . I hope this helps -Steve
  17. If you search in this forum for 'hygrometer' with the parameter 'posts newer than a year ago' you'll find a bunch of discussion from back around January or so. In short: no you don't put water in it (some cases do come with built-in humidifiers, which you do put water into, though); yes it measures relative humidity. The dial ones found in most cases are pretty inaccurate (the one in my case was off by about 20% as purchased). They can be calibrated fairly easily but still won't give more than an approximate reading, and if you're concerned about such things you'd want a digital one. Hope this helps -Steve
  18. This was discussed a while ago on the Strathspey list (Scottish country dance) so I know a little about it. It's originally 'Haud the Lass 'till I win at her' (alternately Ha'd the Lass...), a translation is 'Hold the Lass until I get at her' but I don't know what the sense of the title is. It's an old tune, apparently first published in Robert Bremner's collection (circa 1751). I hope this helps a little! -Steve
  19. Speaking of Kit Fiddles (boy, this thread has really morphed!), I've been interested in these for a while (especially since I'm into Scottish folk dancing as well as fiddle; I think it would be fun to be able to carry one of these around for impromptu dancing). Can anyone suggest any resources for makers/dealers, etc.? -Steve
  20. Thanks Neil Gow, I'll look for that one, and also the Willie Hunter CD (which I've heard a lot of good things about). Regarding Touchwood, I hadn't noticed a problem with the recording, but have typically been listening to it in lo-fi settings (on my computer at work, and in the car) so maybe I just haven't been attentive enough! -Steve
  21. A jig, strathspey and reel medley is frequently used for dance demonstrations (2x through each, usually in that order); My dance group will use that combo this weekend for an adjudicated set we're performing at the San Francisco Scottish Games; wish us luck! Regarding key changes, in my opinion you definitely want some variety, especially if you're playing several of the same type of tune. One rule of thumb I learned from a dance arranger which I generally use is to modulate by one sharp or flat at a time, e.g. go from C to G, E to A, etc., or modulate to the relative minor (or major) key of the previous tune. That's conservative but it's a simple way of getting in some variety while safeguarding against clashing changes! So regarding your tunes, crystal, I like the transition from the Marquis of Huntley to The Merry Making but I'd wonder about going from the Highland Jig (which I'm not familiar with) to the Marquis of Huntley; it seems like a fairly big change going from 2 sharps, major to 1 flat, minor! BTW, around here for Scottish country dancing, when we're playing 8x through, which is normal for a 2 or 3 couple dance in a 4 couple set, if we have 3 tunes the order is typically 12312321; if we have 4 tunes it's 12342341 (the first tune always gets played at the end for symmetry and--theoretically--as a cue to the dancers that the dance is coming to an end). [edit - I realized I probably should make it clear that this only applies to Scottish tunes, and specifically as played for Scottish country dance. I have very little knowledge of Irish or other practices] -Steve
  22. This is off-topic, but since this thread seems to have mutated, has anyone heard Touchwood, by Iain Fraser (brother of Alasdair)? It's really nice stuff, just fiddle with a simple cello accompaniment, playing 18th and 19th century Scottish fiddle music (fiddle and cello were a traditional pairing for Scottish dance music; the Gows were among many that used this combination. Much nicer to my ears than the accordian bands that are prevalent now in Scotland, but that's another topic!). There are some clips from Touchwood on Iain's site: http://www.iainfraser.com/ . I'd guess Iain has a conservatory background like his brother but I don't know for sure! Coincidentally (?), Alasdair's upcoming album (Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle vol. 2) is with Natalie Haas on cello, and I'm going to be very interested to compare and contrast their styles! -Steve
  23. Hi Ken, the subject of general dislike of The Irish Washerwoman did come up in one of the discussions recently (I don't remember if it was one of the Danny Boy-bashing threads or not). It didn't seem to generate the same passion and hatred that Danny Boy did; although a lot of people objected to IWW the consensus seemed to be that it's really a pretty decent tune if you can get past how overplayed it is! -Steve
  24. I do agree with you, Tom, but wanted to point out that using "Danny Boy" as an example probably isn't the best way to endear yourself to Celtic fiddlers! I subscribe to the IRTRAD-L mail list (Irish Traditional music) and there's always a long thread about "That #@&% Danny Boy" around the middle of March, being as it's one of those stereotypical tunes that people who know nothing about Irish music come up with as their favorite on St. Paddy's day (if I remember right, it wasn't even written by an Irishman). However, there are plenty of slow airs and laments that do want full bows, in my opinion! -Steve
  25. You're not alone, Paul; I also first learned triplets up/down/up, but when I started getting into Cape Breton tunes I found a lot of cases where that bowing doesn't work well because the triplets tend to come on a downbeat (for example, Crystal mentioned Jerry Holland's 'Brenda Stubbert's Reel'--wonderful tune!). I eventually learned to do them down/up/down as well, although I'm still a little more comfortable starting upbow, and it's my first choice if there's an option. I find that it's useful to know how to play them both ways, although I've heard it's more typical for fiddlers to use down/up/down exclusively. As far as exercises, I just started playing the triplets at a slow pace and gradually worked my speed up, trying to keep my wrist relaxed while doing so. For me the hard part was in getting from playing 3 distinct notes to that really fast reflex thing where the notes sort of blur together! It can be really frustrating at first but perseverance pays off! -Steve
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