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Strange Day Busking and a Breakthrough for "Stinky"!!!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Saturday, May 14, 2011

I didn't feel like busking at the Farmer's Market today, but I made myself do it anyway.  There weren't really any good spots left, just a corner where most of the traffic is people leaving with bags full of veggies and they aren't likely to stop and listen.  But I made a few bucks there.  Then a friend encouraged me to go elsewhere, and he scouted for me, but the guitarist that had been there earlier was still in the "good spot" on that end, and I didn't want to get too close with a loud fiddle.

But there was a little snack bar (looks like a miniature gypsy wagon) and I decided to try busking near that.  Well, the audience was VERY appreciative, mostly younger... contributed a LITTLE... but at the end I found out most of them were MUSICIANS- no wonder they didn't have much money... but the fact that they enjoyed my music was a boost.

I was using Booker the loud Rumanian Knilling for fiddle tunes, and the Eastman for slow stuff... the two fiddles complemented each other perfectly in a way, but I was longing for something that had the strengths of both.  Still, I was reminded that although Booker doesn't have the best overall tone, there is something about that fiddle that really helps my playing... it's a really clear, precise fiddle that both allows and forces me to play cleanly... at least on Old Time... it's somehow just not the thing for Irish tunes.

Playing for two hours with a combination of fast and slow stuff, Old Time and Irish stuff, and even a couple of Beatles tunes got me back into the groove after not having played much last week.  And although I didn't make much money, the positive comments from the musicians will help boost my busking confidence, I think.

However, I had a crick in my neck from playing the Eastman with it's low chin rest.  So I called the new luthier in town after I counted up my meager earnings, figuring I might have enough for a used chin rest.

When I get to his shop, he has three chin rests.  One is plastic for $6.00, but unfortunately not any higher than what was on the Eastman already.  Then he had two that were center mount rests and were higher, but he said you could side mount them too.  One was ebony for $20.00 and the other was a dyed wood for $10.00.  He said to take them home and try them out, and I gave him a deposit. 

Well, the $20 fits perfectly on the side on the Eastman, and seems to add a bit of clarity, which is good.  And the amazing thing is that the the stained wood one cured what's been ailing Stinky for a couple of years.  The new bridge and sound post had improved her a little, but not as much as I'd hoped- the E string was still kind of honky.  But the new chin rest cured the honkiness!!!  Then I remembered that what had happened before Stinky went on a slump for a couple years was that I had bought a new chin rest.  It was a plastic center mount, and never worked out, so I took it off... but Stinky's old chin rest had really funky worn brass hardware... so I used the barrels off of the cheap center mount chinrest.  And evidently those barrels are TONE KILLERS!!!  Stinky's E string cleared up as soon as the new rest went on, and the low strings sounded better too.  It even sounds good center mounted, and that didn't screw up the E string like I feared, but really opened up the low strings.... so now it's got the clear E string like Booker, but a richer more dramatic low end like the Eastman... well. maybe not as rich, but closer.

Anyway, it looks like I'm gonna have to buy BOTH chin rests!!! But if one of them gets Stinky out of her slump, it's worth it... and actually, it's worth it not to have a crick in my neck, too!

I never would have guessed that a CHIN REST would cause such problems for a fiddle!!!  I've tended to think of them as just a neutral and comfortable piece of hardware. but no more!

Also, I'm guessing that if the two fiddles sound good with the new chin rests now, they'll sound even better once they settle in with the new situation-  new chin rests restrict wood that was vibrating before, and release wood to vibrate that was previously restricted... but those newly freed up places seem to have to get used to being able to vibrate.

There is also the possibility that SOME of the improvement is due to my ears being a little farther up away from the sound board.



3 comments on “Strange Day Busking and a Breakthrough for "Stinky"!!!”

mudbug Says:
Sunday, May 15, 2011 @4:56:26 AM

Congrats! Always nice to get tone improvements.

tsaimichael Says:
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 @9:56:22 PM

What a serendipitous sequence of events. Wonderful news!

Diane G Says:
Thursday, May 19, 2011 @10:56:44 PM

Hi...putting the chin rest over the back of the fiddle...center mounted is good because the center block is on the inside and can give added protection to the thin ribs and can also free up the ribs to vibrate more freely. I hope the new chin rests have cork linings on the top and bottom so they won't cut into your wood on the fiddle. Also, taking some white chalk and rubbing it on the inside of the cork (the side that touches your varnish) will keep the chin rest from sticking to the finish. Have fun and stay tuned. Diane

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