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A trip to the luthier's

Posted by fiddlepogo on Thursday, August 28, 2008

I had decided that my #2 Knilling, the smelly one, had been out of commission long enough.  A soundpost adjustment of sorts by me had helped- I don't know what I'm doing, but it made the honkiness shift from the A string to the E string.

So I thought it would benefit from a soundpost adjustment by a professional, or maybe even a new soundpost.

The luthier is an hour and a half away...

When I get there, he surprises me:

#1, while I'm using the restroom and he's trying out the fiddle, I realize he's making the fiddle sound really good- could part of the problem be that it's just one of those fiddles that don't sound that good "under the ear"?

The restroom was cool in a funky kind of way- it's also his varnish laboratory!

#2 he makes a very small sound post adjustment- but then decides the bridge is too far back and moves it forward- I had moved it back to get the scale length similar to the other fiddle, but that had evidently moved it to where it was right on the soundpost.

#3 he didn't think a soundpost change was necessary

#4 he didn't think the open end block seam was important.

#5 he felt the instrument had probably "closed up" and needed to be played more to open it.

#6. He didn't charge me anything!

I was all up for getting SOMETHING major done to the fiddle, and this was anticlimactic- no bows in my price range that I didn't already have, no tall chin rests, no shoulder rests that I didn't already have.

I did get to hold one of his $18,000 fiddles (beautiful!) but I didn't play it.

He was showing me something about it, but I forget now what it was!

Oh yeah, he was showing me the chinrest, we were discussing how chinrests do take a hit on any instrument's sound, and it would be optimal if I could play without one, or I should experiment with different styles and woods.  He pointed out 3 that had the height I wanted, the Flesch, the Vermeer, and the Strobel.

Anyway last night I was trying the fiddle and while I felt it sounded a bit better, it was still nasal compared to the other one.

And my wife liked the newer one better, said this one was "sharper", meaning I think, more edgey.

Today, I tried it again.

I took some more socking off of the strings, moved the bass foot an eensy weensy bit back (it was just a little farther forward than the treble side), and put a medium Precision E string on instead of the Light that came with the light set, and lo an behold, I'm now getting more volume, especially from the E, and a slightly more open sound, and I think that if I just keep playing it, it'll open up some more.

I just recorded it and it sounded surprisingly good, with only a hint of nasality, making me think that part of it IS the "under the ear" sound exaggerating something that's not excessive in the overall sound.

Last night, even after he had tightened the chinrest, I noticed it still tended to migrate forward, and when it did, it didn't sound good.

I had put a Guarneri chinrest on it almost a year ago, and I'm thinking this fiddle doesn't like having the pressure on the treble side of the end block.

So I'm thinking it won't be a Flesch that I get, but possibly a Vermeer, or a Hamburg or Hollywood style chinrest that looks very similar.

I think I'll get two, one boxwood and one ebony, and see which wood sounds better with which fiddle- should be a fun experiment-

I like experiments!

Can you tell???

4 comments on “A trip to the luthier's”

foxfireguitar Says:
Thursday, August 28, 2008 @10:40:23 PM

complicateder and complicateder. but well worth the read. I came to your site because I wanted to thank you for your discussion a few hours/days ago with the newcomer about sticking with the playing. Your explaination about the inverse nature of bow pressure to speed of bow producing squawk.....I will get right on that learning curve tommorow when everyone is gone or awake at least. Will study to virtue of chin rests vs. no chin rest and makes or style on that same hopeful morrow. 1:40 am here just plain too dumb to go to bed.

bj Says:
Friday, August 29, 2008 @4:46:40 AM

LOL! Yeah, had a similar experience with my little french fiddle, expecting a neck reset and coming away with a simple soundpost adjustment, with my luthier grinning ear to ear at the tone the whole time.

I find the chinrest thing interesting. The guarneri was an awful height/shape for me, but the dresdens I've been using don't have quite enough over the middle and my chin tends to sit just slightly to the bass side over the button. So I've been clamping those dresdens as close to the tailpiece as I can get it, but yes, there is sometimes a difference in the sound if my chin is clamped down harder than normal. Maybe I have to revisit chinrest shapes and heights and find something better.

robinja Says:
Friday, August 29, 2008 @10:16:03 AM

I'm sure I've read a post from you before, but do you use a shoulder rest? I'm just curious, because I hate playing with one, and I am continually on the hunt for the highest chinrest possible, because I do have a long neck. I found a great one in a box at my local fiddle shop (which they gladly gave me.) My hubby says that he will make one for me for my other fiddle to match, but I have to stop playing it long enough!

leather Britches Says:
Saturday, August 30, 2008 @8:41:22 PM

It is always nice to pay less then you expected. Glad the fiddle is working out for you.
I have not been playing long and I always try to use a chin rest and I never can get comfortable with
it, I did notice when I have it on it dampens the sound of the fiddle.

I am now going to listen to your Tommy Jarrel medley that you posted.

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