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Don Noon

Does anyone NOT build Strad? And if not, why?

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Up until now, I have built mostly Strad models, roughly based on the Viotti, but a few other models (vaguely) as well.  I have also made a few Guarneri-ish models, based on the Kreisler, and an enlarged version of the Plowden.  There are a few things happening now, one of which is that I am gradually thinking that I could make improvements to my mold and tooling.  Another is that I noticed that the Guarneri-ish models have, for whatever reason, ended up generally performing better.  And yet another is that some features of Guarneri (small corners, wide open C bout rib with relaxed bends, open pegbox) that I find practical for construction and playing.  Lastly, the precision and clean work of Strad isn't exactly me, so what I do is more Guarneri-like.  Oh... and extra-last:  I prefer the Guarneri look, not that my aesthetic preferences should matter.

So I am contemplating working up 2 or 3 Guarneri-inspired models, and dropping Strads. As yet, I have not found any clients that are Strad-only types, although there may be some that want a clean, straight-varnished instrument where a Strad might seem more appropriate (to me, anyway).

Any other opinions out there, or alternative makers to consider?  I am definitely not above stealing the features I like from different places and making a personal model, but Guarneri has had so many different looks that there's not much need to  search elsewhere.

How many different models do you make?

 

 

 

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41 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

  I am definitely not above stealing the features I like from different places and making a personal model, 

  That's about how I work.  The one I'm working on now could be best described as a "Bagatelaviottouvrueneriheron-alleniuncdukuviottouvridukius".  That's me describing my recent work left to right from the tailpin to the scroll.

  Depending on what I feel like doing for plate graduations I'll use maggini/some sort of del gesu belly thicknesses or possibly Viotti 09 belly thicknesses along with some sort of Mockel contours and possibly thicknesses for the back plates.   I try not to stray far visually from David R. Ouvry's work I have here which very well may be his own personal model - a difficult act to follow he is. 

  This last belly I took the Viotti Strad and raised the belly arching up to 16.8 just to try to capture the Peter Mantuan look.  Probably a failure and just a one off, oh well.

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You've probably got a better idea than I have, but it seems like people make 70% Strads, 30% Del Gesus and the rest is everything else.

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I do a Strad and Guarneri , I had the opportunity to play both side by side when I was in Prague, for me a Strad just lights up like a Christmas tree instantly and immediately gives warmth and joy. The Guarneri was a bit stubborn at first but once I adjusted my bow pressure I could sense a depth of palate that was way more tricky to play with than what my level of playing can explore. 

I figure I have twice as many opportunities to sell because they are two different animals

ps, the last violin I sold was to a Chinese woman , so we can probably let go of our anxiety about their factory instruments, cause now they have money to buy us :-) 

 

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It sounds like we are on parallel paths, Don.  I am drawn to the Brescian school -- in part because I like some of the more expeditiously made models without a lot of attention to some of the Cremonese detail and in part because I think there is something to the arching.  The notion that Stradivari's and del Gesu's archings were tending in that direction later in their careers suggests to me I'm not on the wrong track.  

I would think that del Gesu models, even if modified to more nearly approach the Brescian arching, would be more likely to strike an aesthetic chord with potential customers.  That said, the Maggini in the NMM is a very handsome instrument and I'm not sure it exhibits any visual quality that would scare off someone more accustomed to seeing Stradivaris.

Based on what so far seems to be the tonal success of my Smith-Quersin Stradivari/Maggini hybrid, I think my next fiddle build may experiment with a Brescian arched late del Gesu model.  I think that would suit my woodworking better than going back to the Viotti of which I have made five so far, though a couple of those sound pretty good after 3 years or so.

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Don, I see the reasons why so many makers including myself  copy or build on a DG model because it is less painful. Everything is rather thick and solid and there is a huge choice for models from the early period to the late period. I was copying more DG than Strad because there was a bigger demand. However personally I am still interested in building Strad models because I find his general concept very interesting and challenging. However it seems to be riskier to get everything 100% right. 

Otherwise I have done all sorts of models Gagliano, E. Ceruti, C.A. Testore, L. Storioni, GBG , C. Bergonzi, N. Amati and some of them worked for the sound better than what I thought. 

Last not least, if you include in your 3 models one early period DG like the Kreisler, you are as close to Strad as you can get with Del Gesu.

 

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An old catalog of a firm selling musical instruments illustrated the four patterns of violin that were available from them: Maggini, Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri.

This choice of basic models to offer to the mass market can be explained by a simplistic view of the history of the violin: Maggini being representative of the Brescian school, and Strradivari and Guarneri representing two approaches in the second generation to combining the best of the Brescian and Amati approaches to the violin.

So I guess the Amati pattern might be the one recommended  for use in an ordhestra - beautiful sound, but no danger of overpowering the soloist. Based, of course, on the same simplistic stereotype that was noted as unfair to Stainer.

Offhand, I don't know who it would be that the Maggini model would be recomended to, but it sort of makes sense that a maker offering those four could claim to cover the major fundamental variations, other makers providing variations in detail - Stainer (and many others) as a variant of Amati, other makers as variants of Stradivari, and so on.

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I do both, strad mostly ( but not only) on the P form and late del gesù (sainton, Alard and lately vieuxtemps) . I'm also trying to make something on the amati Grand Pattern, a bit Andrea Guarnerish, but that's because I like it. 

I find different musicians require different models. Someone who just wants to play, have a big sound and an easy violin will go for the Guarneri, someone who wants something finer but maybe a bit more complicated to play will go for the strad. I'd say I make 2/3 del gesù and 1/3 strad. 

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Don Noon,

A Del Gesu model doesn't have to be gnarly.  A Del Gesu model can be as clean as any Strad model.  Here's a Del Gesu from Jan Spidlen:

http://spidlen.com/cz-en/galerie/jan/jbs12-op82.php?l=cz

Granted, this seems to have a bit of shading, or maybe the varnish is so soft that it wares quickly.  But it's not hard to imagine that fiddle with an absolutely straight varnish, in addition to that very clean outline and f-holes.

My point is that a maker doesn't have to give up the idea of making a clean, precise, symmetrical instrument with a straight varnish in choosing to make Del Gesus.

 

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I seldom make a Strad model.

Lately, I've been using a Guarneri form, keeping all of the essentials like arching, f hole length etc, but drawing out the corners, making more Amati ish f holes, edges and head. It's taken several violins, but I think I'm getting there.

 

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I like  lots of different models, but Strad isn't one of them. They just don't do anything for me. Sorry.  

I've made some just from pictures, and some I just made up.  Early Guad's and Gaagliano's look cool.  I like the way the Gofriller I'm working on now is coming out.  I'm trying to get the Montagnana right. The arching is very cool, but I haven't been able to calm the corners down.  Maybe on the one I just started.  I like the f holes on some del Gesu's better than others.  

As far as sound goes. it seems like it is more about how the model is done, more than the model itself.  The model might steer in some direction, but it may not get there.  

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17 hours ago, Don Noon said:

How many different models do you make?

When I was in VMSA I used to make Strad models, but since then I've developed a personal model which is the only model I make now. It takes more effort to fake than putting a fake label inside a factory violin. 

According to one such label I live in Florence, Italy and may be contacted by fax only. :rolleyes:

Edited by Torbjörn Zethelius

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My Caron is a modified  Del Jesu, I wonder if there’s any reason to play around with the Stainer pattern?

 Does that design offer anything that is of value today? 

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Know your market is the answer, though that might not be the answer you're looking for.

There are a plenty of people who don't mind which model they're having their instruments made on as long as they play how they want them to, and also there are people who want their instruments to look/sound like so and so's instruments.

So, as long as you can satisfy your clients with explanations such as "this Guarneri sounds like so-and-so Strad which is going to suit your style without compromising your physical need.",  you probably don't have to stick with making Strad models. However, never say you only make Guarneri models until you have a plenty of people queueing up to buy you stuff. 
 

Currently, my clients are made up of people who'd like something they cannot get hold of without spending a fortune, but happy to settle for something whose quality is more than adequate.  

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15 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

My Caron is a modified  Del Jesu, I wonder if there’s any reason to play around with the Stainer pattern?

 Does that design offer anything that is of value today? 

I have seen the tone of Stainers described as "silvery" but also that it doesn't carry.  That would square with the notion that Stainers were preferred to Stradivaris until about 1800 when player demands (at least some related to a shift to larger venues) changed.  Maybe a Stainer would be good for chamber music -- depending on where it is played, e.g. salon versus concert hall?

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I wonder about those high-arched (17+mm), super-thin violins, which seemed to be fairly common for non-Strad and non-Guarneri Cremonese.  The one or two ones that I have made sortof like that, a while ago, sounded nice, but not with the power I'm trying to get.  I have also heard one person describe it as not having all the colors available (after trying out one of mine).  I would say it has nice reds and blues, but too light on orange, yellow, and green.:)

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Unfortunately, it really depends on what your CURRENT market demands. Whether your Stainer models sound better to you (or anybody) than a Strad model, that's irrelevant.
I mean, I wish I could convince my clients that they could play on an Amati model, and they'd still be heard in a concert hall, but that's not the reality.

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You can certainly learn from what sort of old instruments are selling at the moment. I'd been working in a shop where they had things from the high-end stuff to the lower end, and rightly or not, what had been considered at the lower end was often the instruments with high arch.

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I've heard Stanley Ritchie's Stainer played in Auer Hall at IU, and it filled the space well. It's worth noting also that, per Charles Beare, a Stainer led the LSO for decades, meaning it would have been used for many a concertmaster solo and possibly a concerto or two. I would imagine that if it weren't equal to the task, it would have been replaced.

Melvin Goldsmith has attested on this forum that one of the best sounding violins he encountered was a Stainer with a fairly low arch. 

I make Stainer pattern fiddles for baroque players and everyone who has played one has been pleased. I hope to make one in modern setup and see how it fares. 

I think that there is only so much worth in repeating the wives tales that persist in the community of violin enthusiasts. The proof is in the playing. Not all violins from a single maker are equal in quality, each must be judged on it's merits. 

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