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Carthy Gets a Wittner Tailpiece- Belatedly!

Posted by fiddlepogo on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Since the Wittner Ultra tailpiece I bought some years ago sounded good on Booker, some time later but still a while back, I bought another one for Stinky.

Trying to install it on Stinky caused the soundpost to drop, but even after the post was reset, and I installed the Wittner, it was a no go for Stinky and the Wittner.

So the tailpiece languished in a parts box until I got Carthy.   Booker, Stinky and Carthy are all Knilling 4KF Bucharest fiddles.  Oddly enough, they all sound quite different, but at the nuts are very similar, and Booker and Carthy have about the same string spacing.  So in that respect it is easy to switch between them.

So I tried the Wittner on Carthy.... again it was a no go.  So it went back into the parts box.

At some point I was rummaging around in the parts box, and noticed the strangest thing.... the four little rockers that hold the ball ends of the strings had come loose.  Examining the tailpiece, I figured out that there is a curved steel rod... well, hardly more than a wire.   Any, that sets in notches and the rockers rotate on that.   What holds the stiff wire in place is apparently some kind of pin.  And the one to this tailpiece had apparently fallen out.

Last night, I was looking at the fiddle, annoyed by the fact that with the add-on tuners, the afterlength was all wrong.  Then the thought occurred to me that the previous experiment with the Wittner on Carthy had been when I was using Prims.  It occurred to me that maybe I ought to try it again.   So I did, but I had to find a substitute for the pin that had gone missing. I decided to use a section of electric guitar string, and twisted it so IT wouldn't fall out.

I reinstalled it last night, and took it downstairs to the lobby to test it.  And lo and behold.... it sounds GOOD.  The G, D and A strings sound more lively.  The E string use to have this odd sound show up about the G note- the open E and F# didn't have it; it was kind of a whistley sound.   With the Wittner, the whistley sound is gone, or at least much less.

So maybe Carthy could get some playing time- it hasn't in a while.  I tried Irish tunes on it, and they sounded REALLY good.  Somehow Booker just doesn't get the tone I want for Irish tunes.   So maybe this is the answer why I've been neglecting Irish tunes.

I really AM a TONE FREAK.   If my tone is good on electric guitar or fiddle, I find playing MUCH easier.... if the tone isn't right, I fall apart somehow.... more so when I'm improvising.

The downside of the new change was that I was eager to play on Carthy this morning, and did my practicing on it.  But the fiddle I ended up using was Booker.   For whatever reason, Booker did not sound good today, although it has sounded good in that room before  It could be the weather- it's been relatively cold, with high humidity, and Booker sounds best when it's warm and the humidity is low.

(edit at least a day later)

I couldn't decide which fiddle to take to a senior gig yesterday- Booker or Carthy.  Carthy got it by a coin toss!

But Carthy is just enough different from Booker that it threw my playing off.... but I kind of knew it would.... but I knew Booker was going to sound thin.  That's why it was a coin toss.

Still, today I decided to get some serious practice in, and decided to use Carthy again, since it's still raining and Booker will still likely not sound good.  Maybe because the light was different... the light coming in the windows is fainter because it's overcast, so I supplemented it with the ceiling light- I saw some "orange peel" from the sprayed on varnish that I hadn't seen before.  And I got inspired and got fairly aggressive polishing it.  It's not GONE, but the highest spots are smoothed off, so there is considerably less finish than there was before.  And it showed up immediately in the tone.... the E string, improved from the Wittner tailpiece, got even better.  And after the several orange peel areas I found were all given some serious polishing, Carthy sounds quite a bit different.... a much more powerful sounding fiddle...BUT.... less character!!!  Oh well.... it may have had too MUCH character.

It sounds REALLY GOOD on slow airs and song tunes now... capable of a lot more dynamics on them.

Still sounds good for Irish tunes though, and I'm hoping that will get me inspired on those again.

(edit later)

I did some more polishing on the orange peel areas this morning, and it changed Carthy's character even more.... to the point where I was scared I'd changed it TOO much!

Then I got to play some with some other musicians this evening.   I took both fiddles.  In the different room, Carthy sounded much better, for what were doing.... I was getting about as close to violinny playing as I get!  The lows are still there, but it has some highs to balance them out.

(edited, later addition)

I took Carthy to a gig instead of Booker.... I was rather surprised, because Carthy turned out to be much quieter than expected- my practice spaces are so small, that I get a very poor idea of  how a fiddle actually projects.

I think because of the lower volume, Carthy is actually easier to sing with... I've noticed I've had to consciously play more softly on Booker when I start singing with the fiddle.

Somewhere along the line in the last few days, I looked more carefully for orange peel on Booker, and found a couple of places on the back that I'd missed before... good results.... Booker had more low end afterwards.  Most of my tweaks on Booker have bee to try to release more low end.   Conversely, most of my tweaks on Carthy have been to clarify the high end, especially the E string.  I've also worked on Stinky to give the E string more clarity.

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