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Various Stuff... Listening Mode, Baroque Violin, More Fiddle and Guitar tweaking

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, November 12, 2010

Bought a CD player at a yard sale for $2.  I couldn't make myself pay for a new one since theoretically the computer can play CD's... but I never listen to music while I'm on the computer because I'm thinking too much about what I'm reading or writing... so I may have had music going into my physical ears, but I didn't hear a thing.  And I'm not going to turn on the computer just to listen to a CD.  Listening to music while going for walks works better for me.  Yeah, I know most people rip the tunes and put them on an mp3 player, but somehow I haven't progressed to that yet.  Maybe I still like having the CD as a physical object, having grown up with records and then tapes.  Anyway, listening to more music is good... I've needed to get into listening mode for a while.

A recent thread about a 3 and 1/2 million dollar Strad included a link to demo videos of  2 Strads, 2 Guarneris and an Amati owned by the Library of Congress.  The demo piece was Bach's Chaconne (in Dminor, IIRC) and I fell in love with the piece, did a search for it on YouTube, and one of the videos was by Ann Fontanella... I'd never heard of her before, but wow... she can REALLY play that thing, and she's only 21!!! And I like her interpretations quite a bit.  I'm starting to realize that some of my dislike for violin is more that I don't like particular players than the music itself... if I hear someone whose interpretation of the piece I can connect with, it's a whole different ball of wax.  I'm kind of that way with fiddle, but violin can get more extreme, and if I don't share the violinist's sense of taste, it kind of covers up whatever I might like in the piece... oh yeah, it also helps if the piece is from the baroque period.

A couple of days ago, I did some more fiddle tweaking on my main fiddle, the Knilling 4KF Bucharest.  You wouldn't think there would be anything left to tweak, but somehow, I find a way!!!

It had occurred to me that a distinctive characteristic of old fiddles is that they are missing most of the finish on the center of the back plate, since they inevitably get set down on tables and workbenches, and the finish wears off.  It occurred to me that even if I didn't take the finish all the way off of the center of Booker's back plate, I ought to thin it in that place quite a bit, so I did.  It did seem to affect the sound- it added more bass, and a more resonant quality because I think the sound post is now able to shake and flex the back more.

  Then it occurred to me that under the inner edges of the f-holes were bumps of varnish where the spray had dripped, and it occurred to me that those bumps probably wouldn't be found on a fiddle where the varnish was applied by hand, so I took a flat file and carefully removed them... then used a round file to smooth the under edges of the round ends of the f-holes.  Note--- I did NOT file on the sides of the f-holes, but angled the file to go underneath... kind of like setting a soundpost... you have to do it carefully so you dont scrape the top edge of the f-hole and damage it.  Anyway, that changed the sound too, and the effect was to soften the tone and make it smoother.

While both changes seem to take Booker in a direction it seemed to need (more resonance, more bass, and smoother) it muffled the primary tone that gives it bite and attack... to bring that back, I took a little bit off the ends of the bridge with a file, and that brought it into balance.

It sounds surprisingly different now... almost like a different fiddle... all the notes seem lower, like they have more bass and mid content... I like the sound a lot.... it's kind of midway between how Booker used to be and the Eastman.  The only problem is that it may make the Eastman superfluous.  The fiddle seems a little less forgiving that it was before, but I'm think that's because the sweet spots have changed enough that I have to get reaccustomed to where they are now.  I'm also thinking that it will mellow out as I play it more... every significant tweak I've made so far  seems to need playing time to allow the fiddle to settle in around it and get used to producing tone with things adjusted that way.

Fiddles are not the only thing that gets tweaked around here... I've got four electric guitars, 3 of them Stratocasters or Stratoclones that have interchangeable parts... I just swapped the necks on two of the 3... and I think it was mostly a success... one of the resulting guitars sounds really good... the other a little trebly, but that can be EQ-d out, or maybe it's just that that one has the deadest strings.  But I won't really know for sure until I try the guitars with the swapped necks on my other amps.

Oh yeah... I forgot... I put a new wooden endpin in my dreadnought guitar-- it came with a plastic one (it's a $250 Walden with a solid top).  I was surprised at how much it improved the sound... of course maybe part of it was using my baking-soda-as-rubbing-compound on the finish! ;^)

The big problem was that I had to use a reamer to enlarge the hole, and that released fresh mahogany fumes and dust... and I'm allergic to mahogany fumes and dust!!!  I woke up the next day feeling really week, then got sneezy and congested, and it took me a while to figure out why!!!

But I'm better now, and the guitar has much more of a pro-quality sound.



4 comments on “Various Stuff... Listening Mode, Baroque Violin, More Fiddle and Guitar tweaking”

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Friday, November 12, 2010 @7:30:15 PM

Hey, Michael. I sold my Marshall, Gibson Flying V, Fender Starcaster, Peavy amp, and Fender Strat back in...1989. I was playing with a jazz/rock band and harmonizing my solos with this fine saxophone player. Our band had a distinct sound; we were tight; but my ears started ringing too much. Anywhoo, you tweak your fiddle more than anybody I know. Hope it works for you.

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, November 12, 2010 @10:02:19 PM

Actually, the thing that ended my high school interest in electric rock guitar was my sister dating the lead guitarist in the band that played for the school dances... he was going deaf!!!
So I sold my Fender Mustang and Pro Reverb amp...
I didn't want to go deaf!!!

Then, about 1998, I heard B.B. King do a detergent commercial, and it sounded so cool, I got into the blues... also sort of a mid-life crisis I guess!!!
Most of the time, I'm playing low volume stuff...
a 5 watt amp turned up to maybe 8 will suffice.
One recent jam had a drummer, and I took my 15 watt Pro Junior and I think I got it up to 6 or 7... and I wore earplugs
(not stuffed in really tight though). It was fun, but still a little loud for me.

When I played fiddle in the olden days (1990 and before) I never tweaked my fiddle this much either.
I think it was tweaking my Strats that turned me into a compulsive guitar tweaker!!! And a tone freak!!!

ChickenMan Says:
Saturday, November 13, 2010 @4:21:10 PM

In my electric band, the drummer learned to play quiet or he would have lost his job. I have been told I'm something of a rarity
- a quiet guitar player - who mostly insists the band is quiet enough for me to hear myself. It works. The drummer went from being
a straight up loud a%s rocker with drum machine solid timing to a very versatile well versed drummer who can vary his volume
from near silence to full loud, play a wide variety of styles including swing, country, calypso and nearly everything in between.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, November 13, 2010 @10:24:32 PM

ChickenMan,

Yeah, I think that's a great way to do it!!!

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