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It hit me last night why I tweak my fiddles.... and "Carthy" succeeds at it's first gig!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Monday, March 12, 2012

It's because I have a developed style.... I play a particular way, and expect the fiddle to respond in particular way... and when it doesn't, I get annoyed.  I can't afford to go on a search for the fiddle that will do everything I want, so I have to tweak my cheap ones to respond the way I want them to.

So basically, I have to make the fiddles fit me... I'm too far along in this to fit my style to the fiddles.... that's not a bad thing, and I think it's a necessary way station in a developing fiddler, but I think I've outgrown that phase.  I guess you could say I'm "voicing" my fiddles.

It's not all about tone.  A friend invited me to a concert Saturday night, and the first band featured a local violinist turned fiddler who does a lot of swingy stuff.... and she has a nice violin.  My tweaks won't get my lowly Knillings THERE!

But there is a good chance that it will get them a balanced sound and responding like I like... with a quick response.

I took "Carter" the new/old Knilling through a series of tweak that first gave it a deep sound, but it was like I had to work really hard playing to get the sound out, and that's just not acceptable for me... then I got a hunch for a new tweak, and BINGO- balanced sound, but quick response.  However, one thing I've noticed is that what sounds good for the Eastern European and klezmerish tunes doesn't work so well for Irish- it seems like the former needs a thick, robust sound, and the latter requires a more airy sound that allows the ornaments to pop effortlessly out of the fiddle.  Fortunately Booker seems to do well now on the Eastern European and klezmerish sounds, so if Carter is good on the Irish tunes, great.

Unfortunately, since the new tweaks worked so well on Carter (or is it Carthy?) I tried them on Stinky... and ALAS, Stinky did NOT like them AT ALL.  I only got Stinky partly tweaked back to normal before I had to shut down for the night.

One of the things I have to remember is that even though all three are Knilling 4KF Bucharests, tonally they are quite different, and so tweaks that work for one WILL NOT work for the others.  Fortunately, with Carter/Carthy coming along, Stinky is more of a utility fiddle for practicing tunes in a tune book, maybe for cross tunings, and stuff. 

I'll have to go play Carthy/Carter and Stinky to see if the tweaks  held up overnight.... occasionally they don't.... hard to say why.  Maybe because tweaking a warmed up fiddle doesn't guarantee it will sound the same cold.... I'd like it if they sound good cold too- you never know when you're going to need to just grab the fiddle out of the case and start playing.


Today was the volunteer gig at the place with good fiddle acoustics and an enthusiastic fiddle audience.  Just before I left, I was a bit frustrated with how "Carthy" (or is it Carter?) was sounding, and I made one more tweak... and it started sounding both deep and clear.  And it continued deep and clear all through the gig... I only played Booker a little for contrast, and both the activities aide and the seniors liked "Carthy"... I did some Irish tunes for St. Paddy's Day (I know it's not until this weekend, but it's as close as they're going to get with me.

However, when I got home, it started sounding weird again... more tweaks... and I think I got something like deep and clear again... plus the E string has never been really right... first the Prelude E, then the Zyex E both had kind of a whistley sound.  Then a little bit ago I put on a new Kaplan Golden Spiral that I had left over from an E string sample pack, and I think it did the trick.

8 comments on “It hit me last night why I tweak my fiddles.... and "Carthy" succeeds at it's first gig!”

richdissmore Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @12:49:20 PM

you know mike the air around you changes from hot to cold and. beleave me this can change the wood your ears change be cause the temp. changes when you get a sore throat or a cold this makes your ears change it will make you think things have change and all that has happened is your head is pluged up also the size of a room that you play in once again changes your fiddle may be rigth on the money but you hear things that may not be there or are there the changes happen just trying to help things to think about play happy

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @1:33:27 PM

Yeah, Rich,

You might have a point... but that's why I like to test the tweaks in different places and at different times.

Larry Rutledge Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @4:18:23 PM

I don't believe those fiddles could have a better home. Keep us up-dated how the new one works out. Larry

OTJunky Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @4:58:34 PM

I don't suppose OCD ever crossed your mind... ;-)


Rene Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @5:21:59 PM

Well said OTJunky.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, March 12, 2012 @9:24:53 PM

I have a guitar effects pedal that is a clone of the OCD pedal... is that what you're talking about??? ;^D

Seriously, perhaps. But it is related to electric guitar... that's what turned me into a "tone freak", and taught me to really listen to tone. Now that the tone is right under my chin, it's really NOT hard to notice stuff.... but now, I'm in the habit of DOING SOMETHING about the stuff I hear that I don't like.

bj Says:
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 @2:02:49 PM

OCD. Yup.

fiddlepogo Says:
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 @12:33:26 PM

No... I looked it up. I'm not, because If you're OCD, you obsess about EVERYTHING. I only obsess about things I really love.
Guitar tone, fiddle tone, banjo tone and BOWINGS. And I'm not obsessive about washing my hands which is a common characteristic.
Granted, since you hear my ravings about tone tweaking and bowings, I can see why you might THINK I'm OCD.

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