The "Bluegrass Shack" is great!!!
Less than a year ago, I took up the fiddle after a friend gave me an old, 70 year old homemade fiddle made by his grandad. It was heavy, crudely built, didn't sound all that good but, the string spacing (wider than normal) and low action made it really easy to play.
So, 7 months ago, I ordered a good fiddle from a large, well known business. I told the folks I bought it from that I was a new player but also: old, creaky, had a bit of arthritis in my hands and had some left hand problems due to a shattered wrist and accompanying nerve damage so that my left ring finger couldn't come straight down on a string. They said they had something that would work well. Being that I was new and they were well known, I went with what they recommend.
I received the fiddle and it sounded good but, the action at the nut was really high and the spacing was uneven. String clearance in the scoop was 1.78mm as opposed to the .5-1.0 mm spacing that I'd read was "specs". Anyway, it was hard to finger and I had problems with a finger touching an adjacent string which sounded pretty bad. I ended up playing the freebie fiddle even though it didn't sound very good and was cumbersome to play. I lowered the string height at the nut on the new fiddle which helped a bit but still had string interference problems when fingering.
I ordered a new fiddle from another well known outfit and repeated my "specs". That fiddle came with even higher action at the nut but at least it didn't have such a dramatic distance to the scoop. But, it didn't sound all that good and wasn't much easier to play so I immediately sent it back.
My goal in all of this was to have a good, spare fiddle and put the freebie back on the wall where it was happiest. Then, I'd try to get the first, good fiddle fixed so I could play it.
I'd read good things about Chris and the "Bluegrass Shack" on the Fiddle Hangout and corresponded with her via email. I told her what I thought I needed in regard to setup a told her about my limitations and bought one of the "GEWA" fiddles that she stocks. I'd never heard of GEWA but thought I'd give it a try due to the good things that I'd read about the "Bluegrass Shack". She said she'd set it up so it would work for me.
Boy, did she. She "nailed it". The setup was amazing and it sounded great. I put Helicore's on it and that was even better.
So, now that I had an easy playing fiddle that sounded great, I decided to tear into the first, "good" fiddle. I shaped, thinned and spaced the strings on the bridge to match what was on the "GEWA". I removed the nut and flattened the fingerboard so there wasn't a dive into the scoop. Then, I made a nut with wider spacing and lower action. I figured that, if I fouled it up, I could always send it to her to fix. It turned out great and I had a good time improving the fiddle.
One might ask, "why didn't you send it back to the dealer"? Well, they offered to sell me a new nut that I could fit and I didn't really think that was a good response as it had a "lifetime" warranty. They touted their professional "setup" which caused me to buy from them. Well, I wasn't that impressed with their "setup" so had doubts that they would fix things properly if I were to send it back.
I just wanted folks to know how much I enjoyed dealing with such a good business who actually listened to their customer and bent over backwards to meet their needs. Lots of folks have had disappointing experiences with various businesses over the years. Often, we don't hear enough good about the really great experiences people have. I'll be 73 years old next month and will probably never buy another fiddle but, if I did, you can bet your bottom dollar where I'd go.
Yup! I visited in person and Chris was GREAT! She was happy to help in any way that she could but gave me space to ponder my decision and I came away with a fiddle I will never sell. I’m glad you had a positive experience, too.
'5-strings' 20 hrs
'Squeaks and scratches' 2 days
'Pre WW2 Fiddle' 2 days