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Al Cramer

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Everything posted by Al Cramer

  1. My pinkie fingers are very short. What I do is: 1. right hand -- use a Russian instead of Franco-Belgian bow-hold. Since pinkie finger is just sort of floating up, it's shortness doesn't matter. 2. left hand -- scales + scales +scales. If you're in first position, use the pinkie to finger the fifths. If you're in third, feel the way the 4th finger can establish the tonality of everything. Pinkie is strong. Pinkie is smart. You just need to figure out a way to work with it!
  2. So much useful info posted here! All I can add is: the great 20th century classical guitar player Andres Segovia had freakishly small hands. Didn't stop him! It's amazing how far your fingers can stretch when you don't tense up.
  3. Did you know it's possible to practice scales in your head? At this point in my playing I'm trying to rid myself of the idea of "positions" and just move up & down the fingerboard to make fluid musical phrases. So I do lots of scales, tritone & seventh chord arpeggios, little 6-2-5-1 chord progressions, etc.. I'm finding that at least half of this stuff is mental, and I can practice it while walking my dog. I got into this idea by listening to Olympic athletes talking about their training. Skiers and gymnasts would talk about how their coaches would make them "visualize" their moves. Being a rather stupid & literal-minded person, it took me a while to realize that the kind of "visualization" they were talking about had little to do with sight. Once I got over that idea, I realized: hey, maybe string players can do that too!
  4. Could you comment on the finish? In USA we sometimes get instruments where some shop gets in a fiddle, passes it over to the guitar guy to fix it up, and that guy sprays on some super-heavy lacquer that kills the sound.
  5. I'm totally with the people here suggesting geared pegs. I just bought 2 sets of knilling planetary pegs (1@9.mm for a viola pegbox, 1@8.5mm for a violin with really big pegbox holes) for 55$ a set. That's how I intend to solve my problems. But if you're intent on the bushing solution: I have a wood lathe because I sometimes make flutes and penny whistles and such. If you PM me with your contact info, I could try to turn you a bit of dowling from some nice granadillo wood that would likely work.
  6. It gets even worse! The way the sound is encoded (digital or analog) is hugely important. It took Neil Young years before he'd allow his stuff to go out as CDs, because he wouldn't accept the loss in sound quality. If you still have access to a turntable, check out how much richer & truer & just plain better vinyl sounded. My guess is that whatever differences exist between these mic's risks being occluded by digital encoding. Sometimes I wish electricity had never been invented. A few weeks ago we lost power in the early evening, so my wife and I lit 5 candles at the kitchen table. To while away the time I took my fiddle and played a bunch of baroque tunes. I swear they sounded better by candlelight.
  7. Many thanks to Maestro Saunders for posting that article. I think this has been posted before on this site, but if not -- and you're interested in cheery upbeat pictures of violin production in China -- check out I suppose we've all had our own experiences with lower-end Chinese instruments. My sister asked me to do setup on a Stentor violin and a Samuel Eastman viola. There was nothing to be done for the Stentor: the finish was impossibly thick, like they'd repeatedly dipped the poor thing in a vat of polyurethane, completely choking off whatever it had to offer. The finish on the Eastman viola seemed ok, and the instrument seemed pretty well made, but the sound was nasal & poor regardless of what I did re bridge and soundpost. On the other hand: I got interested a while ago in octave (aka. baritone) violins. I would up buying a 16&1/4 inch "gamba shaped" viola from Yitamusic and stringing it with Sensicore octave viola strings (except I threw out the low-C and put an E at the top treble, so it's tuned exactly like a violin except an octave down). The instrument is well made & it really rocks. There's no way it could replace a cello in a string quartet, but I do folk and jazz and am excited about what I might be able to offer my fellow players if this goddam virus goes away & we can start playing again.
  8. What a great thread! I wouldn't presume to speak for Brad Dorsey, but would like to note that he & I both live in New England in USA. In this part of the world people tend to be very pragmatic, and also hate to see stuff go to waste. On the Maine island where I live, the guys at the dump always put the lawn mowers and promising broken furniture out at the front, so people can come & haul them off and fix them up. Fixing up broken stuff and making it useful again is a big deal here. Of course, there's no point in fixing crap. But the OP said the instrument -- plywood or not -- sounded good. Would also like to thank Brad for documenting his repair technique (also everybody else who made useful observations). This is why Maestronet is so great: somebody 5 years from now will be facing the same problem, read this thread, and salvage their not-very-valuable-but-important-anyway instrument.
  9. In my house we like http://www.radioclassica.fm/ which is from Milano & often gets too heavy on opera excepts. Also https://www.classicpraha.cz/ which is from Prague & sometimes gets too heavy on Dvorzak & Smetana and for some reason George Gershwin. They also feature some baroque & early classical composers from Mittle-Europe that I'd never heard before but sound really interesting.
  10. This may be off-topic, but: lately I've been thinking a lot about rests in music. I play mostly celtic/folk and a bit of jazz, and in those worlds improv is super-important. (Like you should never play the repeats in a jig the same way, you need to come up with some interesting little twist). It's taken me a very long time to understand that the notes you leave out are as important as the notes you put in. I think the music can only exist in relation to silence, and sometimes we forget to allow space for silence. Two people who were masters at this were Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.
  11. Any chance you could shoot a little video of your students and post it on youtube? I'd love to hear the trio's with optional low voice...
  12. I'm giving up on the virtual ensemble idea & returning to the build-a-fire-and-drink-Allen's-coffee-brandy plan. According to this excellent article: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2020/Jun/Music-Making-Online-in-Real-Time?feed=083fc76c-b5fb-45aa-9194-f1a9b1b14c33 you need an internet upload speed of 5Mbps or more to make this stuff work. Mine is around 0.75Mbps. If you want to check your connection, type "internet speed test" in a Google search box and hit enter. Sigh.
  13. Many thanks for the replies! I'm going to try some stuff. So far I've got jacktrip installed on my windows laptop; will install on my linux laptop & see what happens when I try to create a peer-to-peer connection. This won't tell me very much re the latency problem, but if results are good I'll try to get a friend who lives 20 miles away to install the app & we'll see what happens. Then -- given what people have suggested -- I guess I'll repeat all that with the Jamkazam app. ( I'm starting with jacktrip because of some articles that showed up on NPR). This probably won't work but I will report what happens in a week or so.
  14. Your Dad sounds great & putting his music out into the world is a righteous thing to do! I'm also interested in mic's for internet. It seems the one you're using goes for 300$. If I could only come up with 100$, could anyone make some recomendations? (apologies if I'm hi-jacking this thread -- if people think so I'll delete this posting).
  15. Gowan, many thanks for posting about JamKazam. Neither that nor JackTrip looks very encouraging, as regards software/hardware/connectivity requirements. I suspect we're going to have to do Plan B: stay outside, build a fire, get a 1.75 liter bottle of Allen's Coffee Brandy, and dust off some Quebecois & Metis tunes. Actually that doesn't sound so bad, except for the Allen's Coffee Brandy part (it's truly vile, but for whatever reason is an essential part of outdoor winter culture in Maine).
  16. Because of covid19, we've been playing outside with social distancing. But we're in Maine & it's getting too cold, so I'm starting to look into getting together virtually. Seems the big problem is network latency. So far I've found an app called "jacktrip" that's supposed to address that. Has anyone here used it? Are there other ways to do this? Many thanks & keep on keeping on... Al
  17. You could do "Boil Them Cabbage Down" and change the food in question. https://youtu.be/Eu77tX7uDvc The young woman sings nicely, but there's something unnerving about her teeth (kinda of Ann Rice-y if you remember her books).
  18. Bridge must not slant. North side (side facing pegbox) should be perpendicular to body of instrument. Also that bridge looks absurdly thick. Maybe neck angle problems? May I suggest: for each of the 4 strings, measure distance between center of string and end of peg board. Then compare those measures to the standard numbers as posted on many internet sites. Best of luck!
  19. USSR in 1973 wasn't about making good violins. If that instrument has a pleasing sound, you should treasure it (but please fix the bridge and nut).
  20. I just wanted to thank everybody who responded to my question re sharpening (geigenbuaer, it was very kind of you to provide those links). Isn't it interesting how everybody has different ideas and practices?
  21. Hi Geigenbauer -- I'd like to learn more about the machine you're using. Could you provide a link? Thanks! Al
  22. Re this question of gouges: would anyone care to comment in their philosophy re sharpening? I come from a flute/pipes making background, where everything is lathe-oriented: you get used to stopping every 2-3 minutes and resharpen on a bench grinder, and rarely use whetstones. (Also you do things like use the edge of the bench grinding stone to turn normal gouges into incannel gouges). But I think the scroll carving world is very different!
  23. I just wanted to remind everybody that music is a healing thing. People are stressed out & anxious right now. If you can share your music with others, it can really help. Remember the celllist in Sarajevo? Of course you need to be smart, and not create situations where people cluster together to hear you. That balcony singing the Italians are doing looks pretty good.
  24. GeorgeH, I totally agree. If I owned a multi-thousand dollar instrument, I'd be terrified of tinkering with it. I'd be terrified to even play it! (Have played some instruments like that belonged to other people. They were quite nice, though in a few cases I thought the set-up seemed a bit dodgy).
  25. This idea that players should be able to carve bridges and set soundposts is interesting. I always thought it curious that people who play double reed instruments are expected to learn how to make their own reeds, but people who play violins aren't expected to fit their own bridges. (My own experience has been: it took me a long time to learn how to carve an ok bridge. It took me twice as long to learn how to reed my Scottish small-pipes, and I was never able to make an Uilllean pipe reed that played a full 2 octaves).
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