Moral Integrity of Modifications


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I had a Czechoslovak violin on the bench that needed extensive repairs. One thing I noted is that the soundpost was very difficult to remove through the F holes due to the holes being cut very narrow, even through the bottom eye of the F. Of course I wouldn't dream of opening up the holes on an instrument of any value, but I was wondering how other repairmen would view this.

Is it best left alone regardless of the instruments quality or worth? I see this as sort of an integrity based view.

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when this happens to me i simply plane the soundpost thinner, obviously this is something like the maker intended, as i really doubt he was sticking a full width soundpost through the end pin hole, although ive heard of people doing this, i respect, bill, that you even care about remaining true to what the maker made, without adding your own "improvements", we need more of this in the business, in 300 years these instruments are going to be priceless, and the ones regraduated by so and so less priceless IMO

i have a certain reverence for any maker that makes his own violin, less so for factory work, i wouldnt attempt any changes that i dont think the maker would approve of, and since hes not around to tell me i just leave it the way he made it, i guarantee you even modern makers would be really pissed off to hear that you had regraduated or otherwise altered their creation, if youre so into regraduating, how about sticking to violins you make yourself and regraduate them (not you bill)

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On the continuum of really dreadful integral bass bar VSO to say a 1930 Roth, where should you draw the line of integrity? Is playability the key? Or will those airbrushed VSO's be worth something when they hit their 200th birthday?

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Keeping in mind that violins are essentially tools for musicians to use, I have another question:

If you have an older, authentic violin in the 5-10k range (pick your maker/brand) that has sat in your shop for years,

and every player that tries it doesn't like the sound, the playability being fine, and the thicknesses of the top are excessive

and the bass barre "funky" etc., is it o.k. to re-graduate/alter the interior and original work in an effort to make the instrument desirable to a player

AND get some of your original investment back? (Sorry for the run on question :rolleyes: )

Wouldn't the dead maker rather his creation be played the just sit around gathering dust? (This is assuming that you feel confident in your ability to improve.)

I tend to think some attach too much sentimentality to the original makers efforts and the sanctity of the untouched, unplayed violin.

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Keeping in mind that violins are essentially tools for musicians to use, I have another question:

If you have an older, authentic violin in the 5-10k range (pick your maker/brand) that has sat in your shop for years,

and every player that tries it doesn't like the sound, the playability being fine, and the thicknesses of the top are excessive

and the bass barre "funky" etc., is it o.k. to re-graduate/alter the interior and original work in an effort to make the instrument desirable to a player

AND get some of your original investment back? (Sorry for the run on question :rolleyes: )

Wouldn't the dead maker rather his creation be played the just sit around gathering dust? (This is assuming that you feel confident in your ability to improve.)

I tend to think some attach too much sentimentality to the original makers efforts and the sanctity of the untouched, unplayed violin.

++++++++++

I like to think it is the owner's decision. For myself, I would not buy a violin that does need to make the top thin.

It is too much a risk to take. You do not know what kind of result it will be after thining it.

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the cannone by del gesu was even thicker, so if it doesnt sell you regraduate it??, if regraduaters would stick to the under 500 stuff id have less of a problem but they dont; a lot of regraduaters tend to be incompetent as well and cant tell the difference between a 500 and 5000 violin sometimes, the big mistake youre making is the assumption that the thick graduations are responsible for your violins problems, when it might just be bad wood,

ive heard many times people regraduate and it doesnt get better or even gets worse, usually its the ego of the regraduater that always hears an improvement. and how come regraduaters never copy dimensions from thicker, unaltered masterpieces like the cannone, they always copy ultrathin regraduated strads that were made with much stronger denser wood than the violins the're regraduating, which leads to no end of problems, wolf tones etc

if you say i will regraduate up to a 10,000 violin, then what if your appraisal is off and the violins actually worth 250,000, thats some serious mucking around with antiquities, and im totally against it, sell your 5-10k violin for 2000 and use that money to buy a 10,000 violin you and your customers are happy with

one thing people say about the thick graduation violins by great masters is that the're harder to play and require more force with the bow, i think, have you factored that into the equation.

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Keeping in mind that violins are essentially tools for musicians to use, I have another question:

If you have an older, authentic violin in the 5-10k range (pick your maker/brand) that has sat in your shop for years,

and every player that tries it doesn't like the sound, the playability being fine, and the thicknesses of the top are excessive

and the bass barre "funky" etc., is it o.k. to re-graduate/alter the interior and original work in an effort to make the instrument desirable to a player

AND get some of your original investment back? (Sorry for the run on question :rolleyes: )

Wouldn't the dead maker rather his creation be played the just sit around gathering dust? (This is assuming that you feel confident in your ability to improve.)

I tend to think some attach too much sentimentality to the original makers efforts and the sanctity of the untouched, unplayed violin.

I would have hoped a 5-10k violin would be near perfect, with a good bar and graduated to give the best sound possible... :)

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I would have hoped a 5-10k violin would be near perfect, with a good bar and graduated to give the best sound possible... :)

+++++++++++++

Most violins in 10k or more, that I have tried were pretty good to play to begin with. I only play $2k -3k range violins. Not

all are that good but quite decent. If I go any higher, I would act irresponsiblely to my bank account. As my teacher once said," you

better spend money on lessons than on your instrument" (AS you advance you know when you need a better instrument, that was what he meant)

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Lyndon, I asked the question making certain assumtions. One of them being that the person undertaking the operation is very competent and knows what is what concerning the origins and value of the violin in question.

Obviously a rank beginner or a fool could do all manner of damage. The original question was about the morality of altering violins, not the competency of the luthier. I don't think that any violins should be worked on by ham-handed hacks.

If you are the owner of a violin, trying to sell it, then your job is to make that violin as attractive to a player as you possibly can (short of fraud).

It seems sometimes that a lot of people in this field are more interested in the preservation of violins as artifacts, and not the preservation of violins as working tools for musicians.

I think it goes without saying that the highest level of violins should be treated differently and given different considerations then mid-level or trade fiddles.

I am not advocating one position over the other (though I do have an opinion) but just asking some questions to provoke some thought.

Robertdo, it should be if you bought it from a good violin dealer, not necessarily if you are a violin dealer buying it for your shop and ultimately a customer.

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I will add that if I was a professional maker with the certainty that a violin I bought £10000 would sound much better if regraduated in certain places I would not hesitate of course. But then is it possible to be so sure? What I feel after 2 or 3 years reading posts here is that unless huge and evident graduations mistakes were made initially then it's not the main factor for sound improvement.

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say you bought baseball legend, babe ruth's baseball bat at auction for 10,000, then after ten years of not selling it, came to the conclusion you could make it into toothpicks and sell babe ruth baseball bat toothpicks for much more than the value of the bat, does that mean you should do it,

does it have to be all about the money, stop, have some integrity, a lot of these older violins are national treasures, the likes of which will never be seen, maybe they need another 200 yrs for their sound to open up, if you think you should be making gods decision about altering history, try being god of your own creation and build something, not tear up some poor dead makers violin who can no longer explain to you why he made it that way, and likes it that way, and the kind of music that sounds best on it etc

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Lyndon, based on past experiences with you, I know for certain that I am not going to change your mind. But...

I find your analogy very weak, and I fundementally disagree with the notion that "alot of these older violins are national treasures" and maybe "need another 200 years to open up." A national treasure is a national treasure and can be easily identified as one. A pre-WW2 high end Juzek is a nice violin, but not a national treasure, just to pick the first name that comes to mind.

And another 200 years to open up? Really?

I love violin family instruments and instruments in general and I feel blessed everyday to be able to work with them. My philosophy and work ethic regarding them is mine alone, and arrived at through no small amount of thought, learning, mistakes and successes, and I am very comfortable with my integrity. As much as I love the work, I believe that we are, on the most basic level, tool makers. Beautiful tools, but tools all the same. Some deserve to be kept from being used to preserve their historical authenticity, but the VAST majority of them would be better served by being lovingly and carefully put into top working order for a musician to use.

As I said before, preservation of violins as artifacts versus preservation of violins as working musical instruments that allow another artist (the musician) to best express themselves.

I don't expect you to agree, Lyndon, or even understand, but that is the way I see it.

In the end, I hope to have put more violins in the hands of happy, satisfied musicians then on the shelves and walls of shops and museums. I would think that that could be called a success.

Good luck.

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Lyndon, based on past experiences with you, I know for certain that I am not going to change your mind. But...

I find your analogy very weak, and I fundementally disagree with the notion that "alot of these older violins are national treasures" and maybe "need another 200 years to open up." A national treasure is a national treasure and can be easily identified as one. A pre-WW2 high end Juzek is a nice violin, but not a national treasure, just to pick the first name that comes to mind.

And another 200 years to open up? Really?

I love violin family instruments and instruments in general and I feel blessed everyday to be able to work with them. My philosophy and work ethic regarding them is mine alone, and arrived at through no small amount of thought, learning, mistakes and successes, and I am very comfortable with my integrity. As much as I love the work, I believe that we are, on the most basic level, tool makers. Beautiful tools, but tools all the same. Some deserve to be kept from being used to preserve their historical authenticity, but the VAST majority of them would be better served by being lovingly and carefully put into top working order for a musician to use.

As I said before, preservation of violins as artifacts versus preservation of violins as working musical instruments that allow another artist (the musician) to best express themselves.

I don't expect you to agree, Lyndon, or even understand, but that is the way I see it.

In the end, I hope to have put more violins in the hands of happy, satisfied musicians then on the shelves and walls of shops and museums. I would think that that could be called a success.

Good luck.

History is littered with such (well meaning) arrogant bunglers who have altered things irriversably, with the vain conviction that they were in possesion of the definitive wisdom.

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History is littered with such (well meaning) arrogant bunglers who have altered things irriversably, with the vain conviction that they were in possesion of the definitive wisdom.

Jacob, just how is it that you know me (a total stranger) to be an arrogant bungler? And when have I claimed to have "definitive wisdom"? And why does it always come to name calling? What is wrong with dissention and difference.

Can we not articulate our thoughts and opinions without resorting to throwing around unfounded accusations at strangers on the other side of the world?

I wonder.

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Jacob, just how is it that you know me (a total stranger) to be an arrogant bungler? And when have I claimed to have "definitive wisdom"? And why does it always come to name calling? What is wrong with dissention and difference.

Can we not articulate our thoughts and opinions without resorting to throwing around unfounded accusations at strangers on the other side of the world?

I wonder.

I was talking about history. You can join those ranks if you want, but you don't have too.

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Regarding the original question, I have made a lot of oval posts in my time. It's not that difficult--fun, even. Do it nice, and you can't see it from the outside. It will bridge the same cross-grain span as a normal post, so you're not increasing liability in that direction. Use the next size up post to start with if you think the mass of the post is important.

I have NEVER enlarged f-holes in even a cheap violin, in fact I haven't done it on any of mine that turned out too narrow, either (thinking of my unintentional-Pressenda period here :-). If you start in doing that, then you have to make it look like it never happened. To make it look like it never happened, you have to recut almost the whole hole--you can't just make a semi-circular notch to fit the post. That's too much like butchery, yes, but it's also too much like work.

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"...I grant thee my approval to open the f's, neatly and evenly of course, by .5 mm or so..."

LOL... Yes, and for the record, any of you hacks out there (according to One, that's everyone but Burgess, Darnton and I think 2 others) that ever connect with my first Cello (at least 10 pounds)!!! feel free to nibble away, guilt free, with no "moral" opprobrium.

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