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Al Cramer

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  1. Thanks to everyone who posted about making peg shavers -- I'm going to try again when I get some time. MaryS -- if I were you, I'd be very tempted to follow jacobsaunder's suggestion about regluing the through neck. He is an Olympian figure, and the old Greek myths show what generally happens when mere mortals like you & I follow the advice of gods (especially when they say: it won't be as easy as you think). But I bet you're up to it. If it gets messed up you can post pictures & people here will help you. Wouldn't it be nice to have that screw gone?
  2. Good to know the pegs look good! New pegs don't cost much and a pegbox reamer is cheap, but a peg shaper (to reduce the shaft diameter) costs a lot. Some of the pros on this site make their own and have posted pictures of their work, but I was never able to make one that worked well... Good luck with the fingerboard. It's all about angles and height and scoop. There's tons of stuff on the net to get you started. A suggestion: you might want to buy a few bridge blanks and carve them so that the top-curve and height is correct and the feet are roughly fitted to the curve of the table. That can really help with getting the geometry of the new fingerboard correct. Actually now that I think about it: maybe you should make and fit first order approximations for top & bottom nuts before fitting the new fingerboard? The geometry of a fiddle is subtle -- top and bottom nuts, neck angle, fingerboard geometry and bridge height -- all have to work together to pull the best sound possible out of the plates. I hope I haven't annoyed anybody with this posting. I have a lot of respect for what MaryS is trying to do, and am only trying to help (given my very limited knowledge of how to fix up busted instruments).
  3. Hi MaryS -- Interesting project & I wish you great success! You've come to the right place: this site is an incredible resource on how to repair/setup violins. Some of the people who responded to your post are world-class authorities how to do it right. I (alas) am not. But as a completely untrained amateur, I've had some success making cheap ebay purchases playable (mainly by reading hundreds of postings on this site). Some stuff I've learned that might be useful: 1. if that neck with its crazy screw is stable, it's likely that the angle will be too low. You can fix that easily with a fingerboard shim. You can buy one from internationalviolin.com for 8$. You could also buy a new fingerboard from them if needed. Figuring out how the angle ought to run is tricky but there's lot of resources on the net to consult. Once you've got the fingerboard right, you'll need to adjust its scoop. For that you need a tiny plane (I got one from Ace hardware for 6$). You will also need some clamps to glue fingerboard & shim to neck. 2. You'll need some ebony, a sharp little saw, exacto knife, and some kind of bench vice to carve out new nuts. (For ebony, check out bellforestproducts.com -- you can get a Brazilian ebony pen blank for 1.50$) 3. Pegs: the easy way is to buy a set of Knilling Perfection Planetary pegs (about 70$), Installation is trivial. 4. Finish: I've gotten good results using water-colors to get the damaged areas roughly in tune, then painting over with 2-3 coats of thinned-down Belen's Spirit Varnish. 5. Bridge carving and sound post setting. This stuff is really hard to get right. But there's tons of stuff on the net to get you started. The good news is that none of the tools needed are expensive (I bought my sound post setters from fiddlershop). The bad news is that I had to carve 10 bridge blanks (at 6$ a pop) before I got something that was acceptable. Best of luck!
  4. Apologies if this is off-topic. I'm totally new to the challenges of recording, but am now trying to learn how to record, exchange, and mix tracks with friends. Am using windows 10 laptop with focusrite 2i2 audio interface; software is Audacity. Would like to explore upgrading the mic I'm using. Is there anything at max 250USD that you would recommend? The instruments I need to record are: violin; also a gamba shaped viola tuned down an octave with a mixture of sensicore octave viola strings + 1/8 size Heliore cello strings. Many thanks and again sorry if this posting is off-topic.
  5. This is somewhat off-topic re the original poster (apologies), but -- if you're somebody who has acquired a big ol' viola and needs a cheap case -- a 1/8 size cello padded gig bag should work. At least it did for me.
  6. Many thanks for the advice! Al
  7. Hi -- This is a weird string question. A while back I bought one of those "gamba-shaped" 16+1/4 violas that yitamusic sells. I also bought a set of sensicore octave viola strings (plus the extra sensicore e-octave-viola string). I tossed out the low C from the set & strung up the viola GDAE, thus getting an oversized octave violin that sounds really, really nice even without amplification (though it does want to be played with a cello bow). My problem is: the A string just broke, and sensicore octave viola strings are no longer available. What to do? I just ordered a set of Zyex viola strings, hoping to replace the broken A with the G from the Zyex set. I think that ought to work, but am worried about the more general question of string replacement if sensicore's remain unavailable. Does anyone have any ideas? Should I consider something like 1/4 size cello strings? Would that rip the instrument apart? Many Thanks!
  8. In jazz violin, you sometimes play chromatic runs by just moving your finger up (or down) incrementally. You get the needed articulation from your bowing arm. Gypsy jazz players do that a lot. I've also seen Iranian and Indian players do it. One string scales (diatomic or chromatic) are really interesting!
  9. scordatura, those are really lovely photos you posted. I really like the intensity of his face and body. Thanks!
  10. That's an interesting idea. I notice you suggest a 1/16 cello as a good match to modern da-spalla. There's a luthier here in USA who says he does conversation of kid sized cellos to da-spalla, but he says you should start with a 1/8 cello. I confess I don't understand how fractional cello sizes work (I sort of get that it seems to have more do with the volume of the soundbox (Dim**3) rather than the length of linear measurements (Dim*1)). I haven't been able to find a site that gives the dimensions of fractional-sized cellos down to 1/16: if you know of one, please post the URL. Thanks!
  11. Harley marty, we are thinking alike! If I had an extra 5 grand hanging around that needed spending, I'd definitely get in touch with Mr. Badiarov. Alas I don't. An idea I've been considering is: what if I took my octave-violin-tuned viola and tied some frets on it? Then I'd have a viola da braccio. I haven't done this yet because I dislike playing fretted instruments for intonation reasons; also I'm not sure what to use for the fret material (nylon fishing looks good but you need a range of diameters). The idea is to improve the sound of the instrument. If you look at pictures of viola da braccio, they look very similar to the dimensions on the instruments we're working with. If you ever try something like this, please let us know what happens. Best of luck!
  12. Hi Harley -- A couple of months ago I did what you're doing, except I bought a 16.5" "gamba-shaped" viola from yitamusic. (gamba-shaped means the shoulders slope more, and lower bout is notably wider than most violas). For strings I'm using sensicore octave viola strings (the set is C, G, D, A, and sensicore also makes a "octave viola E string", so I bought the set + single E string and threw out the C). For bow I bought a carbon fiber cello bow from www.fiddlershop.com (from whom I also bought the strings). I'm really pleased by the results. It gives a big rich sound, but plays very agile, so I can do all the roles and cuts that I do on the fiddle. Some random notes: 1. On violin I use a chin rest but no shoulder rest. On this instrument I wound up dispensing with the chin rest as well. I tuck it up under my chin & rest it against collar bone (same as violin) but angle it down more, so my left hand is lower than it would be for fiddle. Holding it this way, I can shift up & down as easily as I can on violin. 2. I found finger pressure to be important re tone on the D and G strings. If I don't press somewhat harder, the notes sound muffled. Bow placement on strings (where contact point is, relative to bridge) seems to be more finicky than it is on violin -- the lower strings want to be bowed a bit further away from the bridge. 3. It seems to want more bow, played lower down on the stick, I think because of the thicker strings. I'm glad I bought the cello bow -- don't think I could make this axe work with a viola bow. 4. My instrument really takes off in the higher positions. It has something to with string resonance... I find that if I play the B part of of various jigs & reels in third position, I get a really amazing tone. Best of luck and thanks so much for posting! Why don't you post something on youtube? (was thinking of doing that but chickened out. Maybe of you went first....)
  13. Wouldn't that be similar to the pencil-with-eraser idea discussed at the top of the thread?
  14. If you're interested in experimenting, you might want to check out this video:
  15. Could I add Regina Carter to the list of modern blues fiddlers? I know she's a jazz violinist, but to my ears there's a real strong blues feel to her music (sort of like Joe Zawinul, the great Austrian keyboardist). Palousian, that's a great post you made! I thought a lot about what you wrote & very much agree. But there's more to be said. Been thinking in particular about rhythm and beat. I kind of associate blues with a back-beat feel. Like it's always there, even when you're not doing it. Then there's that thing Billie Holiday did, where she'd come in just a little behind the beat. There's so more to think about when you're thinking about the blues. It goes way beyond which scale notes get flatted!
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