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Bill Merkel

mysterious secrets of new violins

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If I was a violin maker I would try to discover the secrets of the best new makers rather than the secrets of the best old makers, because it looks to me like most of the old makers aren't talking.

 

So guys...what are some of the secrets of the (best) new makers?

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A "secret" that works for a given maker may not work to me due to differences in model, style, ideas about  tone and playability, material, etc...

 

There are too many variables in violin making.

 

In most of the cases it is a solitary journey, you will have to solve the problems by yourself. 

 

But I would love making some antiquing as Melvin Goldsmith....

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I'm not sure they could even tell you what makes their fiddles great.  It's dozens of little things put together.  Other makers could take those things and use them and not get the same results. The more I do this the more I realize just how sensitive all this is to the maker.

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If I was a violin maker I would try to discover the secrets of the best new makers rather than the secrets of the best old makers, because it looks to me like most of the old makers aren't talking.

 

So guys...what are some of the secrets of the (best) new makers?

What a charmingly clever way to step into it up to your neck.  :lol:  Besides those private matters unfit for discussion on a "family" forum, I'd expect that most of their "secrets" fall more under practice management than under chisel steering.  They'd be boors to share the smut, and fools to discuss the rest.  :P

 

You'll just have to attend conventions, and run up a bar bill, looks like.  ;)

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The only secrets of the new makers and old alike would be the marketing/selling of their work, I'd think.  I'm not sure and haven't tried yet but if I were to put up a sign curbside here at home saying "violins/fiddles here" I may be able to unload all of my work in a week or two- no secret there if I do.

 

As for myself trying to make a really good amateur made instrument with input/answers from the pros new and old alike here at Maestronet, I've always had more than enough advice on what to do after such questions were asked except once and that was a dumb question that I can't remember what it was about.  If you hang around long enough you'll get your answers esp'd to you at your workbench without even having to type but you gotta be alert to pick it up. :ph34r: 

 

There is another reason for not sharing-  A maker may have a way that works well for him but if his secret method is posted for others to see or try, it may be labeled a debunked method afterwards.         

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No, being a great salesman is a completely different talent than being a great violinmaker. You could be the greatest violinmaker who ever lived but if you also happen to be an inept salesman no one will even notice you. On the other hand, a mediocre violinmaker who is a great salesman will do quite well in their lifetime. After they are gone, and there is no one to promote their work, then opinion of them will probably decline.

 

We like to think that all we have to be is a great craftsman and hoards of violinists will be lining up to order from us but that's just a pipedream.

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As far as I'm aware Roger has detailed his procedure and finishing schedule. I'm sure some of the other well known makers have too.

Maybe the secrets. . . . just aren't all that secret. Probably a combination of factors. Technical execution of work being one. Being well respected by other makers helps enormously. Word gets around. Throw in a bit of marketing into the mix (maybe a lot of marketing).

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Aside from the odious facts surrounding modern marketing and sales of which there's nothing mysterious,
my only observation recently has been how a new instrument has it's own voice and will remain that way most of it's 'life'. 

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After sleeping on it, I suggest that the only secrets the new best makers could tell us is what they have discovered from studying the best old makers.  So just study the best old makers and avoid the middleman.

 

And one man's golden secret is another man's nonsense.  And by what standard do we deem some makers best?  And are the best modern makers really good enough?  (IMO, only time will tell.) 

 

I'll give you one secret just for fun, though it is not from a living maker.  But he was successful enough: The shape of the thickest part of the back should be a different shape rather than the usual oval or round.  (I'm not telling the shape or maker, because this was given me as a secret and I'm not supposed to tell.)

 

And I'll quote Fletch, who I have it on best authority also broke into the violin school in Salt Lake during his famous trip to Utah; and he summed it up this way:  "It's all ball-bearings these days."

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If I was a violin maker I would try to discover the secrets of the best new makers rather than the secrets of the best old makers, because it looks to me like most of the old makers aren't talking.

 

So guys...what are some of the secrets of the (best) new makers?

Look up Roger Hargrave's bass thread, Read it. Good things come in big packages. It may be about a bass, but it is a great start to seeing inside the head of a modern master. 

 

Mostly what I can tell by Roger allowing us to peer into his giant violin brain is that he spends a great deal of his time trying to look into the heads of past masters, via evidence he finds in their work. He is a master CSI guy. 

 

The secret is to spend enough time doing it to figure it out. And yeah, making good instruments is one thing, but selling them quite another. The market is saturated with top notch makers today. And they get to be top by years of day in day out slogging through problems of building.  

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I'll give you one secret just for fun, though it is not from a living maker.  But he was successful enough: The shape of the thickest part of the back should be a different shape rather than the usual oval or round.  (I'm not telling the shape, because this was given me as a secret and I'm not supposed to tell.)

 

 

  If we guess will you confirm it? 

 

Kidney shape, triangle or figure 8? 

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So guys...what are some of the secrets of the (best) new makers?

 

As soon as I become one of the best, I may (or may not) let you know.

 

The secret is to spend enough time doing it to figure it out. 

 

Not only time, but quality time... where there are enough good musicians and good instruments flowing by to know where the goal is.  Spending lots of time making in isolation may end up with really fine instruments, but only in the opinion of the one making them.  Trial and error needs a good error measurement if it's going to work.

 

For now, I'm going to presume that the "secrets" (sound-wise) are:  good wood, good arching and model, reasonable grads, and decent varnish, in addition to the necessary feedback.

 

Go to 9:30 of this video for a good description of secrets

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Aside from making good instruments its marketing and self promotion. I think in the violin world its more subtle than other fields. But as in any other profession its how you manage your career as much as learning the skill itself.

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The biggest 'secret' is that there is no secret.

 

One very good friend suggested the following: It is better to be lucky than good. I should know, I've been both!

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'Advertising, the only art that modern America invented' ~ Gore Vidal. 

 

Oh, come now... we also invented the celebration dance after a touchdown, and who can doubt the artistry of the slam-dunk competitions?

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'Advertising, the only art that modern America invented' ~ Gore Vidal. 

- I'd argue it's not even an 'art', but I can't be arsed to argue. 

Oh, don't be cross.  I'm sure that someone in the British Isles will invent one eventually.   :lol:  :P  ;)

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I think the secret is time, and a continuation of making. I am on fiddle no 3 at the moment almost a year in, I thought I made a reasonable job of number 1 its hanging in the white still , I had not looked at it for some weeks but took a look today and just saw many mistakes , I am sure by the time I make no 5 I wiil be able to SEE the mistakes on this one that currently looks ok

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I think the secret is time, and a continuation of making. I am on fiddle no 3 at the moment almost a year in, I thought I made a reasonable job of number 1 its hanging in the white still , I had not looked at it for some weeks but took a look today and just saw many mistakes , I am sure by the time I make no 5 I wiil be able to SEE the mistakes on this one that currently looks ok

I think that has a lot to do with the way it goes. Variations in perceptual skills and talents come into play, but also some skill or intuition regarding where one takes advice.

 

I've always considered the Mars rover guy to be a good source of advice, even if we have vastly different backgrounds, and we don't always agree 100 %. But he's really worth paying attention to.

 

Another thing I'd stress is that there's much to be gained from setting a project down, for a long enough time to re-approach it with fresh eyes. That's probably inherent in the methods of most pro makers, who are probably working on one to six instruments at the same time, and tasking back and forth.

 

I'm typically working on two to 4 instruments at the same time, and everything I learn and am "refreshed" on from working on one, gives me clues about what I'll do with the others.

 

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