Andrew Victor

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  1. Intonation of Double-Stops?

    Notes that sound in tune in melody may not sound in tune in harmony (i.e., in a chord). This is one of the challenges of ensemble playing at the highest level (for example, how to "tune" a string quartet). Some years ago I played in a string quartet that hired a coach for 4 sessions and he worked on us with this "tuning the quartet" issue - specifically in Mozart's "Dissonance Quartet" that was one of the things we were preparing to perform. In the purest sense, fixed-pitch instruments, such as pianos, are tuned to be (more or less) as in tune as possible in all keys, but not absolutely in tune in any key. But if you play music on your bowed string instrument with a piano, you will have to adjust your tuning of some notes to those of the piano to match closely enough.. Cellists and violists actually have to tune (i.e., detune) their lowest ( C ) strings to the pianos if that note will have to be played. If you are "lucky" you might not be able to tell the difference, but unfortunately for them, some people in the audience will. In other words, the OP's teacher was right. My most memorable experience involving double stops went on for a few years about 50 years ago. I was first violinist in a string quartet that played together once a week. We always played at the cellist's house (he was the oldest of us) and he had a large boxer (dog) who growled the first time I played a double stop. Charlie (the cellist - who played all 4 bowed instruments and had played double bass in the National Symphony when he was younger) then informed me that the boxer always growled when first violinists played double stops out of tune. I just quit trying to play double stops when we practiced together.
  2. J.S. Bach, a temperamental guy?

    I've always considered this just to be the "convention" for such things that depends on the basic key of the music. Also - when chords are involved, this convention can eliminate crowding of the written notes (it is easier to write a third than a second). Finally, intonation-wise it makes no difference for keyboard instruments. For string instruments exact intonation depends on the key, something that anyone who has tried to "tune" harmonies in a string quartet knows.
  3. Viola scale length vs. short pinky

    I certainly found Manfio's remarks about bridge location very interesting - especially since it is an opinion I have long held - that some makers have not always placed their f-hole notches appropriately for the acoustics of their instrument (or for the length of the neck). In my opinion 380 mm is a typical vibrating string length for a 15-1/2 to 16 inch (body length) viola. The required hand span is reduced somewhat the more the instrument neck is pointed to the left when playing it (but that is also a function of the upper (right) arm length for convenience of straight bowing). Cellists make up for the awkward finger spacing required in low positions by doing a lot of "hand dancing." That has to be done on viola for some awkward passages - depending on what is awkward for the player.
  4. Whats the best way to clean an old bow

    I think it may depend on the value of your bow. Frankly, I doubt that violin varnish cleaner would hurt a bow stick - but you should probably remove the frog first to keep the goop of the bow hair. If you have already tried using violin varnish cleaner unsuccessfully contact a luthier - if your bow is worth the effort. 15 years ago, when i was still earning money and had all my instruments serviced, my luthier cleaned "baked on rosin" off a violin that had accumulated it in the 4 years of its' life before I owned it (since it needed no other servicing at all). I had tried to remove that crap using regular violin cleaner, but it never worked. They charged me $75, but they got it clean - but since they had not asked me if they should do that I resented it for a few seconds. If you have a bow worth thousands of dollars start out by just trying to rub the old rosin off with a cotton or microfiber cloth. If that doesn't work and your bow has high value it would be worthwhile to contact a professional luthier. I have several 19th century bows and microfiber or cotton cloth has always worked. Now I always wipe my bow sticks clean whenever I notice rosin dust on them and I wipe off my instruments under the strings every time I return them to their cases.
  5. Bow Holds???

    I do not believe it is appropriate to select a bow hold because one likes its name or "nationality." And, in fact, I would go so far as to say - at least for adult students - it is not appropriate to select a bow hold because it is the teacher's favorite. There comes a time in one's life when one's muscles and joints may become too inflexible to conform to certain bow hold principles and one should either quit or find some other hold that works as well as possible. Cellists hold their bows quite differently than violinists and violists. I think the extremes of violin bow holds (for those who need to go in that direction) could aim in that direction.
  6. Chinrests - where is your chin supposed to go?

    SORRY ABOUT THIS - I JUST CHECKED BACK AND SEE THAT I HAD ALREADY PARTICIPATED IN THIS THREAD 6 MONTHS AGO! To answer the OP's question, I think the over-the-tailpiece chin rests have become ubiquitous because violins kind of look better with them and so are sold that way. I've seen a lot of people struggle to be able to play with those chinrests and attempt to find a cure with one shoulder rest design or another. Those O-T-TP chinrests tend to be a good bit heavier than the side-mounts. I am old enough and have been playing long enough to have been quite fascinated the first time I ever saw an over-the-tailpiece chinrest. I tried some - but they did not fit the shape of my jaw. Also, some 50 years into my violin playing I befriended a violin maker and would often try/test his newly made instruments (often in the white). Those tests as well as similar ones with my one violins tended to sound better to both me (player) and him and one of my adult student friends (listeners) with side-mounted chin rests. The best fitting chinrest for me (after I finally discovered it some 30 years after my first lesson) is the "Original Stuber," made in Germany (the Asian-made ones available now are not the same shape and you will probably have to send $100 to the UK to get a hand-made Stuber model). I finally gave up on the Stubers about 30 years later when I found (on line) a seller who had designed a differently mounted chinrest with a plastic (instead of cork) isolator from the violin that made a slight, but detectable, improvement in tone - it is slightly different in fit to my jaw than the Stuber, but tolerable, and I've been using those for the past 18 years. (I have not found that seller on line to be able to link for this post.) Those chinrests are actually made of a very cheap rest with a slightly different (and isolating) contact with the instrument and a quadrupled price. On violas I use the lowest chinrest I could find to keep the jaw-to-collarbone distance the same as it is with my violins.
  7. Severely Hearing Impaired or Deaf Violin Students

    Why would anyone want to play music they couldn't hear? I now wear digital hearing aids all day long for everything I hear - except the telephone. With the aids my best hearing is down 15 or 20 db; without them it is down 45 to 50 db out to 2 KHz and drops off a cliff at higher frequencies - but with the aids I can get the important range of violin partials (I think). I don't think I would want to play any of my string instruments now without having regained the electronically aided hearing I now have. I play in a morning chamber orchestra (30 pieces) - therefore many of our players are retired (and old - but good enough to do this - many music teachers and ex-teachers, some ex-pros) and some now have severe hearing disabilities - even much worse than mine, even with their hearing aids. This causes some failure to "keep the beat" and to play in tune - even those who were HS concert masters 65 - 70 years ago. If you can't hear it, how do you adjust, how do you vibrate properly for the musical style- and worst, for a classical orchestra, how do you play softly enough when needed to. Some of those will be "spoken to soon." Piano is a good choice - play by the numbers. Maybe percussion - read the book "Sticking It Out," by Patti Niemi, Julliard graduate who has been a percussionist with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra for many years. She is a hearing person, but when tested back in high school she writes that she tested at the 99th percentile in rhythm and the 1st percentile in pitch recognition. Interesting book! Playing xylophone or marimba OR piano - intonation is provided by the tuner or the manufacturer. Tympani are another problem!
  8. Fresh violin music

    In the early days, before WW-I, my father-in-law and his two brothers formed a piano trio (piano/violin/cello) that played a silent movie theater in New York. I think they were still in their teens - then came army service, influenza, college, work, marriage - kids - LIFE. My father-in-law continued to play cello as an amateur all his life - at least into his 70s, although professionally he was an ichthyologist who raised and sold goldfish in Maryland. The pianist, Frank Tresselt, became a music executive at 20th Century Fox in Hollywood. The third brother moved to Texas and worked for a paint manufacturer. Their father was a professional violinist who had immigrated to New York from Germany as a teen in the late 19th century and made his living in NYC playing violin in his own "orchestra" (band?). I got my start as a "cellist" when I was still 14 substituting once for my father-in-law-to-be in my "father's string quartet." My cello lessons started about a month later - after they found a teacher. I had already been playing violin for 10 years by that time. Piano trio is a marvelous medium for making music of all sorts (the cheapest "orchestra" you can find). I first realized this when I heard the piano trio during my one visit to Luchow's restaurant in NYC in 1969. My "own" piano trio got started a few years later and I have had one (different personnel from time to time). I was the violinist in that one for 20 years - and now I've been the cellist in the one I have now for the past 16 years - and now wearing out our second pianist in this one. The pianist really carries the load in this ensemble (the way she does in most "violin sonatas"). You can hear that in the film.
  9. How to play with long fake fingernails

    When I was teaching I kept a fingernail cutter in my violin case to "help my students out!" It's probably still in one of my cases even though I quit tacking a decade ago.
  10. Cello is Squeaky

    Good advice from FrankNichols -- but I would never "flick" a bow to remove rosin from the hair! I mean you might be holding a stick (potentially) worth thousands of dollars (with luck, someday you will), you should not treat it like a bamboo fishing pole. Even as a 4 year old I was taught to treat my instrument with such care and respect that the few times in my life I have held a Stradivarius violin I found there was no other way to treat it than the way I treated my own --and the same with bows! I have seen people flick bows - I have also seen people break bows! It is fine to wipe the hair with a paper towel or a microfiber or cotton cloth. It is also OK to clean the hair with alcohol (being careful, as Frank said about alcohol-cleaning of strings, to keep liquid away from a valuable stick - and especially away from tip or frog where you don't want any liquid to get to the wedges that hold the hair in place). I've been doing alcohol cleaning of strings and hair for 5 decades. I've learned to use the alcohol pads sold in drug stores to completely eliminate danger of dripping on to instruments-also hold the instrument vertically when doing this so the strings (or hair) are never above the wood. If I bow is in such bad shape that your next choice is a re-hair, there is absolutely no risk in alcohol cleaning first. It works for me-repeatedly. Cellist David Finckel advocates using lots and lots of rosin; most other professional cellists don't. My experience is that using lots of rosin is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy - the more you use, the more you need to use ---- until you need to clean up the hair and start again - but it can give you that powerful sound that you get when the amount of rosin on hair and string are perfectly matched. Over the years I have used dozens of different rosins (only ever used up one - my first cake (of Thomastik cello rosin) that was probably 20 years old when I started on it in 1949 - and it actually was still around in 2001 when my granddaughter lost it). The best rosin I have found for cello in the chronological order I thought they were best have been: Liebenzeller, Tarisio/Andrea, Magic, Leatherman (my current choice for all my instrument types). Many others, however, are quite good (and less costly). For me a major factor is that when I am playing in an ensemble, I don't want to have to re-rosin during a 2-hour session because my sound "goes off" - and that started to happen at about 90 minutes for me 15 or so years ago with Liebenzeller (both gold and meteoreizen). Of course, I don't really know if that happened because the rosin was "fading" or because I was and my bowing was starting to get sloppy. Another important factor regarding rosin choice is ambient temperature - rosin is a glassy substance that softens with increasing temperature and hot-weather playing can require a different rosin than does colder weather. And rosins that are good for violin may not be as good for viola or cello.
  11. Hearing the notes

    I recall reading many years ago that one learns intonation from one's mother's singing and if one's mother sang out of tune one may have a real problem to overcome. So - one way to approach this is to play familiar tunes such as children's songs one already knows as a check on intonation. The early Suzuki books are a good intro to this because they start with such songs and also have recordings that one can use for intonation matching. At least it's a start, although getting to the point of "predicting" the sound of the next note when sight reading may take years of experience. But as long you are not playing contemporary "classical" music the context of the music is often a good clue to the pitch of the next note.
  12. Chinrests - where is your chin supposed to go?

    I was so surprised the first time I ever saw a violin with a center-mounted chinrest. That was probably more than 50 years ago, I thought it looked so pretty and powerful. But I was never able to find one that worked for me. I know that virtually all new violins now seem to be sold with center-mounted chinrests and many players go through hell to continue using them instead of seeking a better solution. It seemed to me that all the great players of my childhood (during the first half of the 20th century) used side mounted chinrests. I think Heifetz's violin still had such a chinrest the last time I saw it during its summer vacation at a San Francisco art museum a few years ago. There was a decade 20-30 years ago when I was closely associated with a local violin maker and we would test his newly made violins in the large sanctuary of his church - and we would also try side- and center-mounted chin rests. Almost always the side-mounted sounded better to everyone, including me, the player. The same is true for all my violins, which we also tested at that venue. It's probably been 50 years since I finally (and accidentally) discovered the chin rest design that actually fit my jaw perfectly - it was an "Original Stuber, made in Germany." I think I eventually bought 4 of them. However, by 20 years ago, when I tried to buy more they were all gone, and the only "Stubers" for sale were imported from Asia and they did not fit me. In order to find a Stuber that did fit, I had to order a custom-made one from England (for over $100) - and it has that Hill hardware (fittings) that I hate because of the way they cut into my neck. Tough world!
  13. "Bolero" anyone?

    I read somewhere that Ravel said "Bolero is a piece for orchestra without music!" Seems an accurate description to me. It seems to be a totally repetitive thing unique only for its very gradual increase in dynamic from ppp to fff. If you don't do that it is no longer "nothing" in my opinion, it then becomes "less than nothing!" I will admit, however, that being able to play that way is a technical challenge that has value. Katica does it with no dynamic variation - musically, in my opinion it is - well I already gave that opinion. So in this one it all has to be about the visuals. I did have to perform it in an orchestra once following which I vowed if I ever had to do that again I would sit out that set. But I have not had to do it again, and when I start to hear it I leave - except for "10."
  14. Stringworks cellos - thoughts for student

  15. C Brazin viola bow authenticity

    Bows of the Bazin family cover a wide range including those with nickel fittings that are selling for hundreds of dollars rather than thousands. So - I thought "what the heck!" and made an offer on this viola bow which the seller accepted. It arrived today. Its exterior looks too pristine to have been made at least 30 years ago by C. Bazin (Charles Albert Bazin who did stamp some of his bows "C. Bazin" and who died in 1987 after having his own shop in Mirecourt for 40 years). Also the "ivory" tip plate has some stains reminiscent of some cheap Chinese "copies" of name bows I have seen. But the screw threads look a bit rusted so ?? On my viola this bow handles well and creates better and bigger tone than any of my 3 other viola bows that would currently cost anywhere from 2x to 4x what I paid for this. It also does fine on my granddaughter's viola (a regraduated early 20th century German viola). But for use on violin (I sometimes use my Coda Classic viola bow on violin when I'm feeling heavy-handed) it sounds somewhat coarse yet weak, compared to my Coda Classic viola bow. So I'm happy enough, especially since I was considering driving over to Ifshin's to try some Morgan Anderson viola bows (remembering what some were like when I tried them 15 years ago) one of those would cost me 10x what I paid for this.