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Bill Merkel

mysterious secrets of new violins

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Awe shucks folks, thanks for the lil' birthday roast. Woof. :wub::)

 

It's sad that parcel delivery by drone is slated to replace cherub express. There are going to be a lot of cherubs out of work.

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There are many cases of darn good makers that were very poor. Scarampella and Rocca, for instance. Rocca even asked authorities to be declared poor.

 

And Van Gogh just sold one of his oils during his whole life.

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Uncle Duke says he thinks he could probably sell all of his work in a week or two.  He's the one with the secret, we need to be asking him. 

No secrets.  I do remember reading a story about a player making visits to various makers shops/work spaces looking for a decent violin.  I can't remember if he found anything to suit his liking but he did mention that a few makers didn't have anything ready as far as a violin/fiddle being ready for immediate action.  I have a least one instrument ready always.

 

As for selling- I read a story from long ago of a maker who was also an excellent player.  People would hear him, say I wanna do that too and buy a fiddle from the man but the results from playing were not the same for them.  That will be one way of me trying to sell a violin.  

  Here's an example sales pitch.  Look and listen here kid, sir or ma'am.  I can play some DeBeriot #9 and some Pugnani Kreisler- the fiddle is good enough- give it a shot.  My problem is that while there are suckers born every minute and I really try to be honest for the most part, I just may honest my way out of a sell if I talk too much.

 

Here's some honesty-  I can actually play those two pieces mentioned above, really just 2/3rds of one.  After the third day and most definately the fourth day of not playing the violin any magic/skill I possessed while playing just goes somewheres else.  I have to put in the time again to regain technique-  woodworking tools and violin playing don't go together well for me but I like both.  

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Duke, there are examples on Youtube of the highest dollar makers playing their own instruments and making them sound really average.  In the back of my mind I'm thinking no don't do that! Don't do that!  One exception I know is my life-long friend who got a masters in performance and decided he didn't have the drive needed to continue with that, and then got a scholarship to a making school, primarily because of the performance degree probably.  And a little bit of woodworking experience on his own.

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some things I have heard and try to practice....

watch the details.... 

a good varnish sell the fiddle...

good patterns../models...

good neck...

don't dumb things down...

work fast /without hurrying..

find honest critique from the best possible...be your own worst critic...

.... one area of focus I have is not so much " making a violin" as much as "making good chips" , That is to say that without good cutting edges and process, nothing good can emerge from the effort. 

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Since we seem to have gravitated to discussing how to be successful, I'm reminded of advice a great old salesman used to give:  "Aside from all the good tricks of salesmanship, and having a good product, the law of averages plays a roll.   The more people you show your product to, the more you'll sell."

 

For those of us who tried our hand at "door to door" sales of such things as vacuums and encyclopedias found that the hard part.

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I have yet to find any maker whose instruments consistently sound better than everyone else's. Most successful makers have found some sort of recognizable "look" that separates their work from the rest and or a niche such as making copies of famous peoples instruments. Obviously this only works if the instruments don't sound any worse than everyone else's.. I am perfectly happy to make instruments that everyone likes and one person falls in love with.

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some things I have heard and try to practice....

watch the details.... 

...

don't dumb things down...

I think violin making from books became popular in the 70s.  I think a lot of people made maybe three or four instruments.  I think most of the information was put out there but some of it didn't make it.  I was offput by a lot of those violins immediately because of certain little features, but in retrospect they may have had most of the actually important things right.  One in particular I wish I could check out again.  The were invariably made of super beautiful wood that they bought to make their eternal masterpieces with...

 

 

 I am perfectly happy to make instruments that everyone likes and one person falls in love with.

If everyone likes them then you have found a secret, because so much is a matter of personal preference, not  to mention interaction with the player in the case of a bowed instrument.  I once bought a James Olson guitar at auction to see what all the hubub was about.  It used expensive parts and ways of making.  Its overall impression was of being a bit indestructable.  It had its own sound but I honestly can't say it was "better" than most others.  The maker was helpful to me even though I wasn't the original purchaser.  Also, I see he has been raising his prices slowly, which makes it easier to get out of it for what you paid for it, which is a nice feature.

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^My impression is before the 70s there were relatively few books about violin making, Heron-Allen for example, and I can'r remember if it was an actual how-to or not.  Then beginning in the 70s there was a relative explosion of books that rode the wave of a general interest in crafting and natural materials.  Maybe H.S. Wake was one of the first of those.  Roy Underhill's TV show comes along about that time and wouldn't have been possible before then.   I would bet that on a graph of the number of instrument makers there would be a huge rise in the 70s, primarily driven by books.

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I would bet that on a graph of the number of instrument makers there would be a huge rise in the 70s, primarily driven by books.

 

or aging hippies and flower children, looking for something to do.

 

I think that the books and the interest evolved together, not necessarily the books creating the interest.  We still have the books... what happened to the interest?

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I think that Carleen Hutchins first publications and the Catgut Acoustical Society date from the early and middle '60's.   That encouraged people to give it a try because there was at least some possibility of making it rational.   That is what started my interest.

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or aging hippies and flower children, looking for something to do.

 

I think that the books and the interest evolved together, not necessarily the books creating the interest.  We still have the books... what happened to the interest?

It was slowly killed by the nwo using their media and tech,.. the normalization of morally questionable ideology along alluring mind numbing technological time wasting activities such as video games, tv and other electronic engagements....things that were very much promoted as "cool" on the airwaves which wafted down to the public cesspools of "public education" where the zeitgeist is formed, parroted and set in motion. Study Berlin Germany between 1900 and 1930 , which by the way if you google will be referred to as "the golden period" which of course is a travesty foisted upon people of our era by the same history creators/media that was destroying Berlin then. Having an area be basically a massive whorehouse of smut is not a  "golden period" ...

 

The bottom line is that the youth who would carry the torch forth, the youngsters who would carry on the traditions of playing,composing for, and making violins have been diverted , the parents that have these kids have also been "diverted". The direct correlation between money, monetary system, economics and "free time" to pursue artistic endeavors and "things that matter" seems to be overlooked, as does the intentional steering away from "things that matter" to things that are a waste of time...Soon most will be sitting in a dark room with their VR helmets on living in the holodeck.

 

It is no coincidence that dancing, for example, went from a young man in high school with his hand in hers and the other firmly over the waistline, to second graders grinding their pelvic areas together....it is the social engineering that manipulates the masses into thinking, "that's just the way it is" "that's just the way it turned out",most really don't have a clue that all of this has a hand guiding it. This is no coincidence at all, the destruction of culture is very intentional. It is sad that most choose to remain unaware, unbelieving and ignorant to the reality that is all around them, not able to connect the dots.

 

the hamster wheel is your captors favorite tool.

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I think that the books and the interest evolved together, not necessarily the books creating the interest.  We still have the books... what happened to the interest?

I think a lot of the interest dies upon the realization that making is a really really longshot-of-a-way to make a living. Even narrowing it down to the formally trained violin making school graduates over the last 40 years, how many have managed to support themselves from making alone? A depressingly low percentage, I'd guess.

 

Prior estimates have put the total number around 18, in the US. Compare that with the number of graduates from the three main violin making schools in the US. I don't have that number, but would guesstimate it to be in the hundreds.

 

That's not to minimize the significance of violin school training in any way. You'll pretty much need that in your background these days (unless you can exhibit blazing talent and learning ability), just to get an entry-level repair position in a major shop.

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I think that the books and the interest evolved together, not necessarily the books creating the interest.

I meant enabled by upsurge of books on the subject instead of driven by.  If you think of the position of books in the history of learning, and then you compare it to the web, where you have the same thing turned into a closed loop, and on top of that it's pretty much free in every sense, it really puts the web in perspective.  Far out, man!

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I meant enabled by upsurge of books on the subject instead of driven by.  If you think of the position of books in the history of learning, and then you compare it to the web, where you have the same thing turned into a closed loop, and on top of that it's pretty much free in every sense, it really puts the web in perspective.  Far out, man!

Well, it puts part of it in perspective; I think on the surface "free stuff" sounds very appealing and that "free knowledge" also on the surface sounds great, but there are ramifications from such a reality that definitely have a downside.

 

For example from the 60's to the 90's, recording artists were beholden to the record companies that they had "deals"with. I'm sure many at the time were at odds with their record companies and there are many legendary stories about "the band vs the record company" and as "bad" as all that sounds, the world or recording artist's would no get down and beg for those days to come back.

 

when it's time for "recreational" music, all I have to do is go to utube, type in whatever I want, plug my PA in and we're off....the entire world of music at my fingertips for free, I haven't bought any music in years, and frankly I feel quite guilty about it, but similiar gang looting, once one guy does it, and the other rush in, and "everyone else is doing it", theft, for lack of better terms becomes "normal"

 

look at google books, all that information for free, why would you pay for something you can get free? regardless if what lic deals they have, look at what that has done to the resell or used bookstore format. Bookstores are now hipster retro, but like the musicians, once all their hard work and efforts become free, it becomes a disposable item that is fleeting, free, there when one wants it and so, why bother.

 

At this point its not just classical music that is in decline, we are at a point where ALL music is in decline, when everything is free it starts to have no value.

 

I went into a music store the other day to buy a case for a guitar I finished, there was so much to choose from, real fancy stuff, all of it under 1000usd, the mere perception of value has been distorted based on international fascist {corporate} collusion where we get the "china thing" , where pay scale comparisons are so obtuse they can not be compared, where virtual slave labor is used to manufacturer everything we use, including instruments, setting a new mental bench mark in the populations ideal of "what something is worth", so much so on a grand level, that only a few sophisticated Luddites that appreciate and can even fathom what amount of skill and effort it takes for a craftsman to make a violin or guitar, and thus pay accordingly based on regional economic factors, whereas I can go to the music store and buy the dolphin inlay guitar with bear claw spruce, that sounds ok, for 300 bucks, for a craftsman to create a rendition of that instrument, by hand, with that level of detail, negating any tonal requirements, would take at least 2 months of labor, and the craftsman couldn't even purchase the materials for 300 bucks, let alone factor in the labor time....So what we have is a major distortion of reality, people in the west with a currency value of x, property, rental values of y, pay scales of z, sending all manufacturer to the east where people who have a dramatically different x,y,z, producing everything you use for "nothing" compared to "you", shipping it back to "you" where the end result is the massive distortion in the perception of the value of "things"  again, money, economics, more importantly, the monetary system, that is dictating our realities. Again, when things that humans produce become "cheap", they become valueless, once something like music becomes cheap,free,and easy, it becomes valueless, when music becomes valueless, you have serious problem, because, as we see, people stop doing it, someone else will do it, and they will do it for free...why bother

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There's a definite correlation between books - Heron Allen, Honeyman, Davidson, and others in the late nineteenth-century and semi-professional violin making, but that was also led by really highly skilled industrial craftsmen having increased wages, and increased leisure time because of the Industrial revolution. Read Morris's descriptions of English makers to discover how many of them had served as pattern-makers or furniture makers. 

 

I don't think we had those skills in nearly quite such number post WW2 because of technologisation (as opposed to industrialisation), but equally, the late victorian books on violin making get straight to the point of violin making. Much of the 1970s literature is about cop-out instruments like Dulcimers, box-shaped fiddles and other things, expecting less skill, and I think also placing violin making on a pedestal of fine-woodworking that intimidated many of the post-war crowd from attempting them. 

 

Certainly in England I think you have to get to fairly recent years before you find people who didn't get Heron-Allen out of the public library as their first glimpse of violin making. That was certainly my experience. I'm not that old. :) 

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Tthe late victorian books on violin making get straight to the point of violin making.  :)

 

My impression has been a little different, putting these books more into the category of masturbatory material. Not that this renders them without value. "A quick one off the wrist". while reading a fanciful old violinmaking tome, can relieve tension and anxiety, resulting in better focus, and increased overall productivity.

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