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Not so good a gig fiddlewise, a tweak improves Carthy, and dealing with the sweat!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Friday, August 3, 2012

I can't remember how it happened, but somehow I didn't get much fiddling in early this week. I think I went as long as three days without fiddling much... and on Wednesday, while the guitar, banjo and singing parts of the gig went fine, I wasn't very happy with the fiddling.  So I practiced quite a bit yesterday.  I've been grabbing Carthy (the new to me Knilling 4KF with Perfection Pegs) more often, but I was noticing that it still sounds and feels tight.  I noted a couple of places where the varnish had kind of dimpled look like cellulite, indicating some puddling when the finish was wet.  I took a pencil eraser to the dimpled areas, wiped off the rubber residue and... it started to SING some!  And singing is what I want from a fiddle- singing, but not ringing.  But the tweak had made the tone ever so slightly more nasal, so I did another tweak where it seemed the finish might be too thick, and that restored the balance.  I alternated practicing between Carthy and Booker, and they are close to feeling equally playable now, although they still sound different.  Carthy has more complexity in the low end, and Booker still has a somewhat more supple response.

I also realized that one thing that is killing my desire to practice is the heat!  I don't feel I can practice too early when it's cool, and later when it's hot, sweat on the chinrest makes fiddling VERY unpleasant, plus the fiddle is hard to hold onto, and that's more tiring. And the A/C is loud enough that it also isn't pleasant to fiddle along to.

I have a couple of red bandannas I bought, and I figured out a way of tying them onto the chin rests so that they stay put, and it feels a LOT better!

7 comments on “Not so good a gig fiddlewise, a tweak improves Carthy, and dealing with the sweat!”

richdissmore Says:
Friday, August 3, 2012 @11:54:26 AM

i have had my fiddles for a few years now and have never tweaked one and they sound grate. do you keep your fiddles in a dry case if you do may be you need to hiydrate them if you think they have to much then you need to keep them dry i know AC rases hell with wood fiddles and can mass them up if there to wett they sound bassy if to dry little more trebbly it very hard to find the rigth temp.humidty to make your fiddles sing with out trying to keep massing with them may be a dry hot box or closet with a ligth on the in side to keep it at temp. i don,t really know just thinking of why you have to mass with your fiddles and keep telling every one ?? i don,t tell every one when i change strings i like the ones i have when its time to change them i,ll change them i don,t in any way wish to make you mad at me i have been trying to help rigth now i,m out of ideas

Freischutz Says:
Friday, August 3, 2012 @9:17:42 PM

Carthy and Booker... do you name your instruments?
Saying "my handmade 85-year old violin" is too hard for me so it is "Percival" instead.

Speaking of heat. It has been really hot over here in MO, over 100 temperatures for weeks in a row, and that is really unusual for here. Both me and my instruments die in the heat so we tend to stay inside. No outdoor jams lately for us :(
I'd really like to learn how to take better care of old Percival... I am getting more worried about when everybody talks about humidity and etc., but Percival isn't set up the best either so I doubt the poor thing would really "care".
Perc was restored (I don't even know if the job was worthy enough to be called that) by myself as one of my earlier violin projects, it was so ugly and scratched and cracked when I bought it for $10 that I just decided to remove all the old varnish and redo. That was probably a mistake tone-wise but it was just so ugly... I couldn't be seen in public with it. I treated the wood again, put some good varnish on it and a new sound post and I don't think it sounds too bad. Of course it takes effort on my part too to make it "sing". I know there's probably better but it sounds10x better than my Rothernburg so-called "professional" violin.
Below are some pics of beautiful Perc if you'd like to see. It is about the only sunburst fiddle I've ever seen in life! And I'd say not too bad looking.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, August 4, 2012 @2:25:38 PM

This is a blog... short for "weblog". Instrument tweaking is something I love to do. And so I make a weblog of my attempts. It might be of interest to someone else, or maybe not. Probably in most cases NOT. Or maybe it has some entertainment value from the "mad scientist" standpoint! ;^D Perhaps recording some of my attempts might prove useful later to remember how something turned out. BTW, I also tweak my guitars too, especially the electrics.

fiddlepogo Says:
Saturday, August 4, 2012 @2:39:49 PM

I name my instruments because ALL THREE are the same brand and model, and two have only slight differences in appearance and color. I could call them Knilling #1, #2, and #3, but somehow that just doesn't work for me, especially since #1, while I've had it the longest is actually the newest.

I tweak them partly because none are very old, and all are basically just cheap student violins-
some wise-acre on the 'net called the Knilling 4KF "the high end of student rental violins" and he was probably right- instead of having an extra coat of lacquer, the sprayed on varnish is a little extra thick.
Much of my tweaking has to do with figuring out where the sprayed on varnish is WAY too thick, and then thinning it. In doing this, I'm learning some what effect each part of the fiddle has on the sound. An old violin with skillfully hand-applied varnish probably won't have such problems and wouldn't need the same kind of tweaking.

richdissmore Says:
Saturday, August 4, 2012 @4:25:38 PM

will if it makes you happy keep doing your tweaking you know what sound you want i will not say another word yes i have tweaked my guitars also tell i got them as close as i could and most of the guitars are good now there is one i have tryed every thing i know to fix it i guss i,ll have to turn it in to a slid guitar its to hard to chord the neck has been broken and dove taled in the body there not much i can do i think if i get a high rise nut that may make it in to a dobro

Freischutz Says:
Saturday, August 4, 2012 @6:27:33 PM

I tweak all my instruments 'cause they're all... well, what's the nicest way to put this... crappy. I don't know about have three fids all the same model, though! How do you end up with that?
People think I'm crazy, that my instruments have names. But I suppose more people do it than they think. Well, I get very attached to them. Especially if I buy them in three pieces and go through the trouble of putting them back together again.

I'd really like your opinion of my violin, if there is such a thing. It isn't perfect, doesn't sound perfect either but I really worked hard to bring it to its glory. It was really bad when I got it... it was just about ready for the trash, that is not illustrated even in the "before restoration" pic.

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, August 5, 2012 @10:17:52 PM

I have the same model because I wanted the nut spacing and bridges and the size of the instruments to be as similar as possible, and in actual fact, that's pretty much how it worked out. Part of my original idea for multiple instruments was to have a couple available for different tunings.
As I've gotten more into tweaking, it's nice that the two more recent models (Carthy is a 2005, Booker is a 2006) also have the same kind of finish, which means that they tweak the same way. Stinky is an older one, I think from 2000 or so, and the finish is thicker... and it just doesn't seem to tweak as easily.
One thing I may also use Carthy for: Tuning DOWN. I tune down both my acoustic guitars a half step to be easier to sing with. If I record a tune with a downtuned guitar, it's a whole lot easier to add a fiddle track with a downtuned fiddle than to play in Db, Ab, or Gb!!!!!

Naming instruments is fairly common. One thing that also got me into it was playing blues guitar.
It was hearing B.B.King that got me into it, and he named his guitar "Lucille". Then, I got TWO almost identical Stratocasters- the same model, but one had a rosewood fingerboard, and the other a maple one. So I named them Rosie and Mabel! But once I got rid of Mabel, now Rosie is just the "MIM Strat". (MIM = Made in Mexico) So I'm pretty sure if I got down to just one Knilling 4KF, it would just be a Knilling 4KF.

I don't really HAVE opinions of instruments I haven't seen in person and played. It's how they play and sound that matters to me. Booker and Carthy are more orange than anything else, and that's my least favorite violin color. I like the looks of fiddles that are dark brown, amber, or sort of a dark red. But for the price, I'm happy with how Booker and Carthy play and sound, and that's what matters.

I get attached to my instruments too... I think it's because I know them so well. Also, because they aren't worth enough to sell! If an instrument is worth too much, there is the danger that I might sell it to raise money for something.

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