Sign in to follow this  
Woodland

The Becker/Wm. Lewis/Chicago "Sound"

Recommended Posts

Since there are these questions, these articles are required reading:

http://www.maestronet.com/becker/Overview.html

http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20132/14364/

The articles cover most of the high points, but they omit Carl Jr.'s time in London.  He worked for a time for the Hills, if I'm not mistaken, before returning to Chicago to work with his father.  Jennifer Becker also collaborated with her father, and she used to advertise that fact.  I once had a Jennifer Becker violin in my hands.  It looked very much like a Becker violin, with great workmanship, but I'm sorry now that I didn't play it.

Carl used the word "refined" to describe the tone of his instruments, and that's also the word that I would use.  The favorite characteristic to my ear is that they have a wonderful, velvety A string.  Carl once handed me a Guadagnini to compare with a Becker.  I have no hesitation in saying that I preferred the Becker.

Carl was also a really nice guy that I admired greatly.  He always had time for my modest business, and to visit.  And he sold me a really fine violin that I could not have afforded anywhere else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, La Folia said:

  Carl once handed me a Guadagnini to compare with a Becker. 

 

I was lucky to see a Guadagnini copy made by (probably) Carl Sr. at Bein and Fushi. I don't know what that tells us about him, but

someone might have some thoughts.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, La Folia said:

Carl was also a really nice guy that I admired greatly.  He always had time for my modest business, and to visit.  And he sold me a really fine violin that I could not have afforded anywhere else.

Yes, Carl Junior was a really nice guy, and probably one of the major contributors to my take on things. Not to take anything away from contributions from other sources, be it the Weisshaar shop, Dario Dattili, Sacconi, the Hills, the Beares, Bruce Carlson, or Francais and Rene Morel.

Financial success always involves choices. My choice hasn't been to suck up to the market, but I'm also far from being the richest guy in the fiddle business. A lot depends on what you're up to, where you want to go, and what you're willing to do to get there..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, carl stross said:

I'll definitely buy one. Any idea how much might they cost ?

I would like to play one and maybe buy it.  My gut tells me there would be a lot more going on than just capitalizing on the name.  As a player only I, like you, don't care what an instrument looks like or what person or machine made it look that way.  If violin making is an art, maybe that's bad.  If it's a craft, then what it looks like is only decoration.  

Anyway, from my perspective I have no problems with machines doing a lot of the work if it results in a fine-sounding instrument at a cost non-professional violinists can justify.  The violin I play currently is I think Chinese but I think some final work was done in a shop in the U.S. It is very smooth and throaty and carries, and on sound alone I don't know if I would trade it for a Becker or a Stradivari.  And it's broken!!  It needs some work.  So overall I'm pretty open to possibilities, personally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

Anyway, from my perspective I have no problems with machines doing a lot of the work if it results in a fine-sounding instrument at a cost non-professional violinists can justify.  The violin I play currently is I think Chinese but I think some final work was done in a shop in the U.S. It is very smooth and throaty and carries, and on sound alone I don't know if I would trade it for a Becker or a Stradivari.  And it's broken!!  It needs some work.  So overall I'm pretty open to possibilities, personally.

I'm thinking the same way. I wouldn't feel the any apprehension towards a mostly machine made violin as long as it sounds good. In the end, they carve plates automatically for more than 100 years, I believe. And saving time on some operations might allow the maker to concentrate more on the finer points. I see only benefits.

Interesting that you mention playing a Chinese violin - I have a small "rental fleet" and some of them don't sound half bad. And the weird thing is that while there is some connection between the purchase price and tone, it's not cast in stone. Some of the cheapest ones are not too shabby once fitted with a decent post and bridge. I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out why and I think I am getting somewhere. :)  The best factory violins I have seen were Chinese, made sometimes in the late '50s. I owned two of those and 35 years down the line I am still sorry I sold them. They had somehow exaggerated archings, deep and wide scoop and weren't quite a powerhouse but playing-wise functioned incredibly well.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^My understanding is it was custom-made in China for a U.S. shop to their specs and then finished in the U.S. by that shop which also makes fiddles completely in-house.  More than just found and imported by the shop.  I emailed the shop to find out more about it, and was told "some of those were pretty good", but mainly they wanted to sell me a new one ("We've learned a lot since then").

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, carl stross said:

... And the weird thing is that while there is some connection between the purchase price and tone, it's not cast in stone. Some of the cheapest ones are not too shabby once fitted with a decent post and bridge. I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out why and I think I am getting somewhere. :)  ...

 

 

Isn't it just luck of the draw?  If a factory makes a kizillion violins, even at a low level, some are going end up sounding good...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ But the idea is what could say Paul Becker do if he included a factory in his process ("a lot of machining processes are involved").   I think there has to be lots of time-consuming "dumb" roughing out that has nothing to do with the sound.  And also lots of things about a good appearance that can also be handled by machine.  Leaving just a few critical things remaining that need to be done by hand by an expert -- result, cheap very good-sounding violin.  Especially if the "expert" is a multi-generational super expert.  To me it is maybe the best way to take advantage of expertise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Rue said:

Isn't it just luck of the draw?  If a factory makes a kizillion violins, even at a low level, some are going end up sounding good...

That does happen but instead of "good" I would say "better". There is no Strad popping up once in a while off the production line. That's not to say that decently albeit expeditiously made factory violins can not sound very nice and be suitable for most any purpose. 40 years ago, a lot of the cheap Reghin production had 7-8mm thick tops with backs not far behind. You can't get any "tone" out of that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/20/2017 at 5:52 AM, David Burgess said:

These?

http://www.beckerinstruments.com/?fa=story

I wasn't aware that there was any connection.

It also says on the Carl Becker and Son Web page that they are not affiliated with Carl Becker and Son in Taiwan.  I guess that means this Website is deliberately deceptive or downright fraudulent:

http://www.our-program.com.tw/fadnor/www.beckerviolin.com/location.php

It even has pictures of the Chicago Becker family.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, La Folia said:

It also says on the Carl Becker and Son Web page that they are not affiliated with Carl Becker and Son in Taiwan.  I guess that means this Website is deliberately deceptive or downright fraudulent:

http://www.our-program.com.tw/fadnor/www.beckerviolin.com/location.php

It even has pictures of the Chicago Becker family.

It was a failed joint venture. Note that the link was hosted by a website design company as an example of its work, and the actual URL www.beckerviolin.com does not have anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/18/2017 at 1:03 PM, carl stross said:

Made in China, I suppose. Not a bad idea given the pull the name has.

As David said, no.  Made in the Chicago area.  Reports from a very reliable source is that they are quite good. You'll have to wait until I get mine before you get yours, Carl. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

As David said, no.  Made in the Chicago area.  Reports from a very reliable source is that they are quite good. You'll have to wait until I get mine before you get yours, Carl. :)

No worries there - I won't jump the queue. Push a bit , maybe. It'll be a rare opportunity to own a Becker for a reasonable amount of money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.