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A fiddle only a mother (or father) could love.

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Feb 23, 2020 - 7:44:29 PM
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14 posts since 2/10/2020

So, a couple of weeks ago I bought a beat up, oft repaired, circa 1940's Germany/Czech fiddle (millions just like it made, I'm sure) for probably a little more than it's worth. It's gone through hell and back, and I'd love to know its story and how it ended up here in the PNW of the USA. It sounds a little squawky, but it's an easy player and someone put peghead tuners on it at some point, so it's easy to tune and I love to play the damn thing and I don't really know why. I get a sense that it's been well-played for seventy plus years by a series of musicians without means but with enough love for music and perseverance to keep this little thing alive and playing all these years. It's lived a life. Anybody else have a fiddle like that that they know and love?

Feb 24, 2020 - 7:48:38 AM
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825 posts since 8/11/2009

I have an entry for your topic. My Father in Law, Buster, had an old Saxony fiddle he played. My wife's brother sat on it as a child, and split the top and back. Buster repaired it as best he could, on the farm, and it holds together to this day. Here's a song I wrote about it, and yes that's it I'm playing as well. I recorded this several years ago and thought it sounded pretty okay at the time, but my ear is better now and I can hear the intonation issues. "I've heard it sing, but I hope I'm there, the day that fiddle talks."


Feb 24, 2020 - 11:05:01 AM
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1797 posts since 10/22/2007

I agree, one hundred to one hundred twenty years ago, there were a bunch of violins built. In a bunch of degrees of quality. The way i look at it, if it survived this far, i know it's an inanimate object, but feel like it's should be given a chance to be played. I hung out with an old luthier, that loved a challenge. Plates in pieces, sound post hole, broken pegbox, you name it. I've often thought if you could bring him one in a hundred pieces, he'd love it. He had a rental fleet too. So the renting kids were always breaking violins. Years later he had a bunch of patched up, yet still playable, units. Some sounded way better than they looked. It taught me, play it and listen first, and not to judge ctritically about looks. One has to get passed the Antique Road Show guys devaluating your favorite fiddle. (Didn't actually happen. Wouldn't waste my time)

Feb 24, 2020 - 2:00:38 PM

doryman

USA

14 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

I agree, one hundred to one hundred twenty years ago, there were a bunch of violins built. In a bunch of degrees of quality. The way i look at it, if it survived this far, i know it's an inanimate object, but feel like it's should be given a chance to be played. I hung out with an old luthier, that loved a challenge. Plates in pieces, sound post hole, broken pegbox, you name it. I've often thought if you could bring him one in a hundred pieces, he'd love it. He had a rental fleet too. So the renting kids were always breaking violins. Years later he had a bunch of patched up, yet still playable, units. Some sounded way better than they looked. It taught me, play it and listen first, and not to judge ctritically about looks. One has to get passed the Antique Road Show guys devaluating your favorite fiddle. (Didn't actually happen. Wouldn't waste my time)


I kind of prefer the look of a beat up old fiddle.

Feb 24, 2020 - 5:57:06 PM

1797 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

I agree, one hundred to one hundred twenty years ago, there were a bunch of violins built. In a bunch of degrees of quality. The way i look at it, if it survived this far, i know it's an inanimate object, but feel like it's should be given a chance to be played. I hung out with an old luthier, that loved a challenge. Plates in pieces, sound post hole, broken pegbox, you name it. I've often thought if you could bring him one in a hundred pieces, he'd love it. He had a rental fleet too. So the renting kids were always breaking violins. Years later he had a bunch of patched up, yet still playable, units. Some sounded way better than they looked. It taught me, play it and listen first, and not to judge ctritically about looks. One has to get passed the Antique Road Show guys devaluating your favorite fiddle. (Didn't actually happen. Wouldn't waste my time)


I kind of prefer the look of a beat up old fiddle.


Funny you should mention this. Once upon a time, there was another violin shop i became enamoured with. There was a fiddle/violin in my price range. If memory serves, it sounded pretty good too. Thing was a late model but had a distressed finish. Now, i know there's different strokes for different folks, but i couldn't in good consceince could get passed the finished. I played it for a few monthes and brought it back to that shop. The shop had a policy of giving full value when trading up.(i think i got a mandolin) I have a few other fiddles that have repaired tops. I wouldn't trade them for any amount. 

Feb 25, 2020 - 1:46:01 AM

82 posts since 6/26/2007

So, if you were confronted with a choice between an old fiddle, and a newly minted quality fiddle - let's say within the same basic price range - would your preference be the aged fiddle or the modern fiddle?

Feb 25, 2020 - 5:27:06 AM
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1797 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by brooklynbanjoboy

So, if you were confronted with a choice between an old fiddle, and a newly minted quality fiddle - let's say within the same basic price range - would your preference be the aged fiddle or the modern fiddle?


For me, i'd go by tone. What i've found, and it's sort of simple, is volume wins.  I can do a lot with set up, and string choice, as far as brillience, and playing comfort. But i'm talking about very cheap fiddles. If we're talking 80/100 dollar musicians freind or a well used rental return. The rental return gets it, because most of the hard work is done. Plus if it hasn't been pitched yet, it must have merit.

If we're comparing 10k, 20, or 50k up? Old dry wood has the capability/potential to be an advantage. But better modern made violins start with superior aged tone wood. Sam Z. has made and matched the tone of vintage Strads. Izzy Perlman still has both. 

Feb 25, 2020 - 6:26:04 AM

825 posts since 8/11/2009

Its all about tone, balance, ease of playing for me too. I have 7 fiddles, 4 with family connections, 5 have had major repairs to the top or back or both, 2 don't have their original necks, 4 have been refinished , only 1 of those by me, and I didn't really want to, but it basically had to be done. It had been refinished so horribly before, I couldn't let it go on being that way. So there's not much pattern here that I can discern, except that for the most part they all sound and play well, even the legacy/ family heirloom instruments, which found me, not me finding them.

Edited by - bandsmcnamar on 02/25/2020 06:29:20

Feb 25, 2020 - 9:18:28 AM

doryman

USA

14 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by brooklynbanjoboy

So, if you were confronted with a choice between an old fiddle, and a newly minted quality fiddle - let's say within the same basic price range - would your preference be the aged fiddle or the modern fiddle?

I like old stuff.  I'm old. 

Feb 25, 2020 - 9:55:12 AM
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4487 posts since 9/26/2008

Same price range? Old for sure. Here's one of my fiddles that has a nice bluegrass tone but lacks the volume to compete with a D-28 and a loud BG banjo. 


Feb 25, 2020 - 10:52:11 AM
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1797 posts since 10/22/2007

Are they nice? Not to sound like a pervert, but can we see her scroll, Billy?

Playing at a supper club in Lemars this evening, but I'll try to post some pix of my old magginni.

Feb 25, 2020 - 11:01:59 AM

825 posts since 8/11/2009

Wish I was a bit closer.  I meant to say also in my earlier post,  ages of my 7 fiddles range from 1842, to approx 1925.  So I guess older is better for me, but maybe its just older and beat up is cheaper, just saying, lol

Edited by - bandsmcnamar on 02/25/2020 11:09:51

Feb 26, 2020 - 7:57:57 PM
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30 posts since 11/19/2019

Interesting topic....

I have only 2 fiddles. One is a "Hopf", quotation marks because its likely just a copy made in the mid to late 1800's in Bohemia. I purchased it as my first fiddle and did a number of repairs on it and set it up myself. It is fairly scratched up, the fingerboard is laminated instead of solid, etc. I've made it pretty nice now with new pegs, bridge and rebuild the delaminated fingerboard.

My second is a new Spanish fiddle. Likely a Chinese made fiddle which was finished in Spain. Its a very nice fiddle, well built, nicely flamed with a reasonably well done varnish for the price I paid for it.

The Spanish fiddle is quite loud and seems to have a good tone, but my skills just are not there yet to pull a great tone out of it. I have a feeling that with more skill, I'll have a great instrument for a jam in this fiddle.

The old Hopf however is much easier to play for me. Its not loud but definitely not quiet (still have to use a mute in the house when family is home), but the tone is somehow more pleasing to my ears. Maybe its a little less harsh than my new Spanish fiddle. Mistakes don't seem to be as prominent on the Hopf either.

I'm also much more confident overall when playing the Hopf than the newer fiddle. Realistically, they don't have the same bridge setup, so I think I'll make a new bridge for the Spanish fiddle at some point to match the Hopf and see if I can get it just as comfortable as ol'reliable.

My skill level is enough to realize that I cannot get nearly everything out of an instrument, but also enough to realize that there is likely more there.

I have a player at work who plays in the symphony orchestra in the major city I live near and she's asked to play the Hopf sometime soon. She grew up in eastern Europe, so she's particularly interested in my old fiddle. I look forward to hearing what someone with skill can do with it.

Feb 27, 2020 - 2:20:55 AM
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82 posts since 6/26/2007

Yes, interesting, even intriguing topic. And, for me, timely.

I'm just a newcomer to the blood sport of fiddling - though I've played banjo since the 1960s, a fact that, upon reflection, must have accounted for the nature of my social life beginning in junior high school . . .

I've only been at it since September, and I've probably only travelled beyond "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in my mind, not in my actual fiddling.

I started with a cheap eBay fiddle that just didn't work, so I traded a banjo for a 1911 William Durer Strad copy. Playability was significantly better than what the extruded plastic composition of the Chinese fiddle offered, and it made me want to play more.

Then, a month later, I traded another banjo for a fiddle that was made by James Reed, Henry Reed's son. I had just finished writing a book on Tommy Thompson of Red Clay Rambler fame, and I liked the connectedness between that, Tommy and Alan Jabbour, the Hollow Rock String Band and the Reeds. Apart from all that was of symbolic importance to me, it really is a great little instrument.

But since December I've been thinking I really ought to add a "modern" fiddle to the mix, one of those "intermediate" level Fiddlershop models that could be fitted with modern fiddlehed pegs, etc.

However, what I'm learning here is that a "modern" fiddle, a new fiddle built in a quality way, could be too much for me to handle - too much of a thoroughbred race horse when I'm used to a draft horse.

It might have a potential for admirable tone that I wouldn't be able to get at given the novice way I'm still sawing at the fiddle. New fiddle might amplify all my errors, and give voice to all the squeaks and squawks I'm very capable of producing.

My wife, then, will be grateful to FIDDLE HANGOUT for prompting me to suspend plans to buy a new fiddle.

Play hard.

Lew

Feb 27, 2020 - 9:51:24 AM
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4487 posts since 9/26/2008

Cinnrest, Lew,
I have a fiddle that USED TO BE more fiddle than I could handle and it magnified all errors in technique. As I improved, so did that fiddle. The only reason it isn't my main squeeze has to do with a weaker low end, likely due to an old top repair.

Feb 29, 2020 - 1:01:46 PM
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Tony Hall

England

30 posts since 5/29/2010

How about fiddles created by the father of the only son? What’s not to love! I own two fiddles made by Jack Hall, the one seen in the photos below he created in 1936 aboard a tramp steamer owned by ‘Rockefeller.’ His only cutting and carving tools were a knife, a file and a cut-throat razor, constructed with 6 gallons of water (in Pans), two flat irons and two firebricks.  On top of this he had no carpentry skills, didn’t know a thing about how to make fiddles or any other instruments and he was no musician, he couldn’t read or play a note! It took him 6 months to complete the fiddle and the bow working 5 hours every day during off-watch hours.

The other fiddle he made in 1981 is inextricably linked to this one, however the construction material is very different.

I had to smile when I read this comment by Farmerjones, “I've often thought if you could bring him one in a hundred pieces, he'd love it.” Thinks? -- My dad individually glued together thousands of pieces and he loved it too!

I treasure these fiddles and other instruments he made during the 1930s and beyond. Sadly, like my dad I can’t read or play a note either but I do enjoy listening to the fiddle especially with Bluegrass as the clip with the fiddle and some of the other instruments in his unique collection on this link: https://www.flickr.com/gp/ecomatchstickologymusic/S75650

 


Feb 29, 2020 - 2:10:51 PM

190 posts since 6/21/2012

Very cool! I would love to give it a go.

Mar 10, 2020 - 11:05:38 AM

56 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Tony Hall

How about fiddles created by the father of the only son? What’s not to love! I own two fiddles made by Jack Hall, the one seen in the photos below he created in 1936 aboard a tramp steamer owned by ‘Rockefeller.’ His only cutting and carving tools were a knife, a file and a cut-throat razor, constructed with 6 gallons of water (in Pans), two flat irons and two firebricks.  On top of this he had no carpentry skills, didn’t know a thing about how to make fiddles or any other instruments and he was no musician, he couldn’t read or play a note! It took him 6 months to complete the fiddle and the bow working 5 hours every day during off-watch hours.

The other fiddle he made in 1981 is inextricably linked to this one, however the construction material is very different.

I had to smile when I read this comment by Farmerjones, “I've often thought if you could bring him one in a hundred pieces, he'd love it.” Thinks? -- My dad individually glued together thousands of pieces and he loved it too!

I treasure these fiddles and other instruments he made during the 1930s and beyond. Sadly, like my dad I can’t read or play a note either but I do enjoy listening to the fiddle especially with Bluegrass as the clip with the fiddle and some of the other instruments in his unique collection on this link: https://www.flickr.com/gp/ecomatchstickologymusic/S75650

 


Love the story. That's perserverance! Glad you get so much enjoyment out of the instruments even without being a player. 

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