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Laurie Niles

Time and Technology

November 12, 2009 at 7:39 PM


“What are you doing up there?” Robert said from his desk.

“New string.” I try to attach a new string with some elegance: tuck the end under, wind the string toward the peg box.

“What is that, about 16th-century technology?” Robert said, looking up from his MacBook Pro.

“Technology?” I said, not looking up. There we go: string tamped down, tightening. Now carefully, I  hook my index fingers around the string on either side of the bridge, and with leverage from thumbs, lift the string up a fraction of a millimeter on either side of the bridge to relieve the pressure. Tighten again, repeat. Adjust bridge.

“Technology, maybe,” I said. “But definitely not time-saving.”

From Tom Holzman
Posted on November 12, 2009 at 8:06 PM

Some things never change.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 12, 2009 at 11:10 PM

In a year or two, that computer will be in a landfill or a recycling center.

How old is your fiddle?


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 12, 2009 at 11:19 PM

Yes, change strings is long and when you are phobic like me it can take  much time. (I go so slowly because I always think it will burst in my face and the "cracks" sounds it makes make me shiver).  It's so baby but I can't help it.  But a set of new strings outweighs by far the time and fast heart beats from this fright : )


From Rosalind Porter
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 1:26 AM

Anne - that's a great point about the computers going to landfill and who ever wanted to pay $70 to go listen to a computer anyway! 

Laurie, even just reading about it I find myself flinching when you mention readjusting the bridge.  That still scares me to bits every time, I'm happy to put strings on/tune them up etc, but fiddling around with the bridge (even when doing everything the "proper" way as you describe) is so nervewracking.

Is that your Signor Gagliano in the photo?   Beautiful scroll, what strings do you prefer for him? 

From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 1:40 AM

Wow I must disregard protocol alot! I change strings in almost 2 minutes and I adjust my bridge even quicker!

From Ray Randall
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 3:58 AM

Tightening new strings makes me shudder. Especially when I hear that scrunch and the noise that sounds like old sailing ship's rigging.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 4:28 AM

Yes, it's the Gagliano, but a later scroll...!

Scarier not to adjust the bridge, yes?

From Thomas Gardner
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 4:54 AM

Strings and bridges don't bother me too much, accept for my public school kids' instruments.  Some of those instruments were obviously made by crack smoking, half blind, numb fingered teenagers who were texting at the same time they were trying to "craft" an instrument.  Where do they get those things?  I always try to give them reputable dealers but somebody always has an "uncle Bob" who played violin in fifth grade who gives them their priceless Stradivari (copy).  Inevitably my beginners bring their instrument to me with the bridge having fallen over and I have to gingerly try to tune their Christmas tinsel-like E string.  Its like trying to hotwire a bomb or something.  Of course, if the E string breaks these kids with the gimcrack instruments look at me like I'm a total nube or something.  "Hey Mr. Gardner....where'd you get your instrument repair license.....Wal-Mart?"

On a side note I'm very proud of myself.  About a week ago, one hour before a gig, my soundpost was knocked out of place by my well meaning, though slightly clumsy five year old.  There it was rattling around inside my violin.  What to do.  So, I made myself a soundpost reseter out of a stiff coat hanger and began what I thought would be an ardous task.  I GOT IT ON THE FIRST TRY!  It was like magic.  I probably should have gone out and bought a lottery ticket right there on the spot since it was my lucky day.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 4:38 PM

>Now carefully, I  hook my index fingers around the string on either side of the bridge, and with leverage from thumbs, lift the string up a fraction of a millimeter on either side of the bridge to relieve the pressure. 

Wow, I've never thought to do this, and yet it makes perfect sense. The things one learns here! 

From Cora Venus Lunny
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 5:34 PM

 your fiddle looks a lot like mine-  is it a Nicolo G? mine also has a later, unknown scroll. High five : )

i quite like the ancient stringing technology on violins. if it ain't broke, don't fix it, eh? violins are more flexible and adjustable than we realise...

From Roland Bailey
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 6:56 PM

 You said “@#$%^&*?!” ?  Gosh, Laurie.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 13, 2009 at 9:33 PM

Oh dear, please excuse my language...ahem...

From Jason Chong
Posted on November 15, 2009 at 11:51 PM

Cora - I agree!    

I was thinking that in the guitar/electric guitar world, they have guitar string winders and most recently, Gibson's Robot Guitar can automatically fine tune itself, but each violin is so delicate, unique and old, there's something romantic and satisfying about changing it yourself manually...

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