Michael Darnton

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About Michael Darnton

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    I cut for a living.

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    Check out my photos: http://flickr.com/photos/mdarnton

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  1. I'm sure that in 300 years some historian will be looking at a catalog from our time and try to make the case that because all of the prices are different, it proves that we didn't use money. :-) A sufficiently sophisticated concept can be utilized in more than one way. I don't have to say that the Cremonese used my curtate cycloid crossarches, but I can say that I can make many or most of their variations by using the same set of templates in different ways (specifically by placing the templates less or more inward (scoop placement) and using them on differing arch heights) and that those templates used that way do in fact fit many APPARENTLY different Cremonese violins. This is similar to what Roger Hargrave suggests in the Biddulph del Gesu books when he says he believes that all of the violins could have been generated with the same set of half templates, which is mostly true. Just extend that outward to Cremona in general. Further, it's possible to replicate the APPEARANCE of many different Cremonese makers by using those same templates in different contexts (outline, f-hole, edgework of particular makers). So I think the comment that they are different is basically a result of defective observation. Quite a few dealers can easily tell when they're looking at a "Cremonese arch", even if they don't know the maker yet, which is one indication of common features that are different from other schools.
  2. A year or so ago a new customer brought me a viola to adjust. She'd bought it new about four years previously, and then after less than a year it had "gone bad". She'd had it to two or three other shops, and they'd cut her new bridges and posts, and adjusted the heck out of it and it still sounded the same.. it was just OK, but she assured me that it had been much better when she'd bought it. I took it back into the shop and started probing round with an opening knife and discovered that the bottom block was virtually unglued to the top, except for the rib. The top block was the same. I kept the instrument overnight, glued the blocks back to the top. The next day she said it was back to the way it had been, and yes, it was a much better sounding instrument. I knew to do this because I have had the same experience more than a few times, to the point where it's something I now check right away. So I'm going to say it's necessary..
  3. I have only played a couple, but to me they all felt "soggy", sort of dull in the hand, which isn't too different.
  4. Exactly. What is between the two farthest apart flexible points doesn't matter.
  5. If we summed all the times someone on this forum has said they didn't either hear something or see it in FFTs, so it didn't exist, we would be forced to conclude that violins emit no audible sound.
  6. Only if you wanted the brightest possible simple sound. The OP seems to be asking for the opposite of what you are suggesting would be suggesting. But as with many things, the good answer is somewhere in the middle of the extremes.
  7. I didn't realize for quite a while (until an Asian teacher pointed this out to me) that it's common for Asians to play on the flat pads of their fingers rather than the tips because they don't have the fatty fingertips we have (notice, for instance, that Yo-Yo Ma does this). The idea is that the softer, fat part of the finger gives a warmer tone quality than a bony tip. I think that something similar is going on with hair spread, that the wider hair footprint tends to subdue the higher frequencies and internal string harmonics which involve shorter portions of the string and are more fragile.
  8. We actually started with the rentals. The impetus was that my first partner was an active professional musician and college violin instructor and over the years had given workshops for children as well. He didn't want to start a fine shop--he came to me asking to train someone to set up 40 instruments because he'd been so dismayed by the low level crap that young students rented that he wanted to do something to counter that. He'd bought 40 Jay Haide 101s--hardly rental fare with a retail of around $800+ at the time---and wanted to get them out there so kids could play something nice. I told him I could set up 40 violiins faster than I could teach someone to do it (I am EXTREMELY fast at setup--at my peak, younger, that would have been one intense week of work, literally), so we started a business together, eventually hiring some staff to enlarge the business. After a few years of that he decided he wanted to be a fine violin dealer, so we moved into that. Now we're a fine instrument shop with a rental appendage that's low maintenance and brings in a steady cash flow while providing a definite high quality service (still using Jay Haide 101s). I have never been a snob about what I work on: though now I have "people" who can do the rentals for me, I enjoy doing them once in a while for a break and would rather do them myself quickly rather than move someone from what they're working on. Regarding shop work load, most big shops eventually realize that big money doesn't grow from the shop except to the extent that the shop works on stock for sale. That's why in Chicago both B&F and Warrens spun off their shops and don't now have one under their direct ownership at all. We have an in-house shop, but do almost no outside customer work, since we're too busy with both previous customer maintenance and internal work that will lead directly to sales. Wood Butcher's comment is accurate, noting that many teachers work not only with children but also with better students up to their going off to Conservatory and beyond, as well as with well bankrolled adults. That wasn't really the impetus for our business, however as any sales book will tell you, you need seven touches before a potential customer will even remember your name, so having parents come up to teachers after recitals asking why that teacher's students all sound SOOOO good, and what's Darnton and Hersh's phone number? has never hurt us. In that same vein, working for kids' benefit instead of cash, through the years I've made a few small ones, a 1/8, a couple of 1/2s and 3/4s, for friends and relatives' children. Every time I've been told that it's made a huge change in the child's attitude to play on a good instrument, so I don't think this and the rentals are wasted effort at all.
  9. Eventually age will do the same thing. :-)
  10. This is why rental programs exist. You can cycle through all the sizes using an instrument of a quality you wouldn't afford to buy, and you don't have to get rid of anything as you move up. The trick is to find a rental program that uses good instruments, and I will tell you that many use violins you could buy outright for $70. If you can't do that, your second choice is to work with a good violin shop instead of Ebay and Amazon. A shop will take back what they sold, often allowing you what you spent towards the next one if you spend more. This way you build equity and quality with each successive move and by the time you get to 4/4 you've almost bought a good instrument already. Buying Ebay and Amazon violins is like throwing money in the trash. The instruments are garbage, no shop wants them when you're done, and if you need a repair, no shop will touch them. Plus, because they're crap, your daughter won't enjoy playing them and you are effectively killing her interest in violin, forever. If that's your objective, then go for it.
  11. Steph--it's common for rehairers to arrive at a hair count that makes the bow work the way the customer likes, then remember that from rehair to rehair, rather than just stuffing in the amount of hair the bow seems to be able to hold. There's also a "thing" where customers feel cheated if they don't get as much hair as possible, which is an unfortunate idea for them to have. Think of a weight hanging from one rope; the rope will be a certain tightness. If you use ten ropes, each one will be more slack,. supporting less of the weight. A player will feel this as a lack of tension and sprightliness in the bow, more sluggish. So you can moderate how lively the bow feels. A bow usually has around 150 hairs, and 15 more or 15 less can radically change the feel without much visual change. If a rehairer isn't considering this aspect and doing something random, you might think the hair is "bad" or that your bow was ruined when you get it back and it feels "wrong". That's why David is talking about all this. With a rehairer who's aware, this is an important adjustment, just like moving around a violin post.
  12. Worse yet, it's not actually Chicago but Skokie, land of 10,000 differently decorated garage doors, the town's most exciting feature when last I drove through for a tour some years ago (a fact curiously not noted in the tour books!)
  13. Spread the hair and hold it with tape? One way to test is with many bows over time to try to notice a general tendency, which is what I've done. I don't think this was originally my idea. . . I can't remember where ir came from, but it might have been from a conversation with one of the John Norwood Lee bowmakers regarding the differences between Tourte (narrower) and Peccatte (wider). I think it's interesting that OP made this observation on her own.
  14. A bow with more hair becomes gradually more sluggish. This can be an advantage if the bow is too lively. But this won't make the hair ribbon any wider, so I doubt it will give you what you want, since this is an effect of width, not hair amount in my experience.