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The Stockdale and the Salzard, learning the differences

Posted by bj on Saturday, August 9, 2008

So I've been having fun switching back and forth between two fabulous fiddles. The switching is telling me a lot about fiddling, I think.

From a purely equipmental standpoint, I found out that the little Dresden chinrest is much more comfortable than that clunky Guarneri hunk of wood, the one whose bracket catches me right in the neck all the time, and whose curve is so exaggerated you have to wonder whose chin it was designed for. Certainly not mine! So I've already ordered an ebony Dresden for the Stockdale, and a folding Kun shoulder rest, which I've wanted anyway, and will allow me to more easily switch back and forth between the two.

There are some huge differences between these two. One of them is that the Stockdale was built by a fiddler for fiddling. In really looking at and feeling the fingerboard, in comparison to the Salzard, it does appear that a very slight bit of flattening was done to that, just a HINT, so when Steve fitted the new bridge to it, and followed the fingerboard curve in the bridge, the bridge is much less curved as well. This makes a huge difference in playing drones and double stops, especially from a bowing perspective. Just the slightest tilt of the bow, and you're catching a different pair of strings. And on the left hand, laying your finger down from one string to another is also made easier on the left hand. If I pick up the Stockdale first I get into this mojo with it, and my transitions between pairs of strings are so very improved on this, it's amazing. But I also noticed that if I pick up the Salzard first I tend to overbow on the Stockdale at first after switching (and underbow the Salzard if I do the reverse!) So yes, it's taught me that the setup is paramount. Good news is that Steve said we can bring the Salzard into better fiddle form by simply doing some bridge work next time I'm there for a lesson. It'll never feel exactly like the Stockdale in that regard, but then the Stockdale will never sound like the Salzard.

But the Stockdale is also easier to play for a few other reasons. I got it with new steel strings on it, and in comparison, I believe they're light gauge Prims, rather than the mediums I put on the Salzard. That, coupled with the new setup with the super easy action sped up my left hand an order of magnitude. I find my left hand can keep up with my right much easier on this fiddle. If these strings hold up to some heavy playing I might consider switching to light gauge permanently. I barely have to touch them to snag the note.

One thing the Salzard excels at, with the more classical bridge right now, and that's playing single note melodies. I almost never get the ghost notes anymore when playing them, while with the Stockdale they've snuck back into my playing. So when we flatten the Salzard bridge it'll lose that advantage.

There is one huge difference, which we discovered when Steve went to set the bridge on the Salzard. It's a 7/8 fiddle. One of those things you don't notice when it's by itself, but when placed next to the Stockdale it was more obvious. Now, this explains why, when I first got it, I was having trouble with my left fingers and getting the notes right. The fingering intervals are very slightly different. Oddly enough, now that I know that, my left hand adjusts more easily to the fiddle I'm holding, though I've gotten in the habit of doing a quick scale to acclimate to the different size scale when switching. In some ways I like the Salzard scale. I've been doing more left pinkie stuff on it and hitting the pinkie notes right, where on the Stockdale my pinkie doesn't reach nearly as easily, and more often than not hits offtone. Also, I notice that when I play for a long time on the Salzard I get no shoulder tightening. With the Stockdale I get some. If you measure my arm for fiddle size, I'm sure it would tell you 4/4 but in some ways the 7/8 feels a better size for me. I just have to develop tandem muscle memories for the fiddles I'm playing!

These sound so different from one another. Both sound incredibly fine. The Salzard doesn't sound like the smaller fiddle. Not at all! She's got some really incredible projection. Both have a wonderful sustain, but the Salzard rings for longer and fades more slowly. That's not to say the Stockdale is wimpy in tone, or substandard in any way. It isn't. It's a good full sounding and dark fiddle. But in comparison that little french damsel will reach the back of the balcony and beyond with the voice she has. I always thought the Stockdale was a loud fiddle. Now I know there are louder. And the Salzard has a very balanced tone. Not real bright, not quite dark (though the bass is slightly darker than the treble, it seems.)

Learning the differing personalities of these two charmers is going to be a lot of fun! And once Steve has filed and fiddled the bridge on the Salzard it will be a really hard choice to make when going to pick up a fiddle. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to play twice as much!

Which scares me . . . since I'm trading a website design for another fiddle . . .

5 comments on “The Stockdale and the Salzard, learning the differences”

brya31 Says:
Saturday, August 9, 2008 @4:54:28 PM

BJ that has got to be the longest thing I have ever read on the internet!   LOL    Sounds like your having fun learning from two different versions of the filddle.  If this causes you too much emotional stress please feel free to give me one.  : )

bj Says:
Saturday, August 9, 2008 @5:55:41 PM

Well, geez, if you read the whole thing I must have done something right! But your point is taken. Not everyone wants to read a book about my fiddles . . .

LOL! Like I'd even think of parting with these beauties! The problem with this is that it is truly dangerous to my wallet. I'm really good at finding these things. Now, if I could get some side income going by swapping up each time and only keeping one or two fiddles, then that would be okay. But once I hear 'em, I'm a goner! Which means that by this time next year I'll be asking Hardykefes for the plans to build his fiddle rack in giant size . . .

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Saturday, August 9, 2008 @9:07:45 PM

Hey, if you don't want the Guarneri chin rest, I'd be interested in buying it from you.

I bought a 7/8-scale fiddle decades ago at a garage sale for $25 before I knew they came in different sizes.  Many years later, for another $425, it's set up nicely.  I'm planning on using it as a cross tuned or alternately tuned fiddle.

I bought a 1/2-scale fiddle in hopes that my offspring would learn to play it, but they've backslidden on me.  Therefore, I'm planning on using it as a alternately tuned fiddle as well.

bj Says:
Sunday, August 10, 2008 @6:13:23 AM

FiddlerFaddler, that Guarnari chin rest I have is a cheap one that came off one of my two mass produced fiddles. It doesn't have the cork padding where it should, isn't very good for the fiddle, and I doubt it's real ebony, it's probably dyed hardwood. I'd be happy to talk with you about it, but it seems silly to settle for crappy when International Violin has good quality chinrests with the cork padding at very reasonable prices. I think the Guarnaris run around 14 bucks, and they sell strings and other things. It's where I just ordered the dresden chinrest and the kun shoulder rest (22 bucks for a Kun collapsible! that's CHEAP! And they've got the original Kun for 20.)

Re differently proportioned fingerboards, I imagine you're already much more used to adjusting your finger spacing than I am! Going from 4/4 to 7/8 and back is a very subtle adjustment. I can sometimes make it flawlessly, but every now and again (like that ten minute practice in the AM in BC time -- before coffee) I screw it up royally.

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, August 11, 2008 @5:00:54 AM

 It's acronymed as IAS... Instrument Acquisition Syndrome. 

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