January 2006

The Jury is in...

January 31, 2006 22:32

Took the adjusted 15" to lessons tonight. My teacher played it, I played it, she did, I did, and so on and so forth. After going on like this for an hour discussing the merits and demerits of what I have now, the decision is to get a new instrument. We are going shopping this Saturday - for her a bow re-hair, for me - starting the long arduous process of picking out a new instrument.

As for the size - that was another long discussion. 16" if I want to go professional, 15 1/2" if I want to continue to enjoy what I'm doing now as a hobby and irritated at not having the sound that I want (current 15" is at it's limit). So, probably will be a 15 1/2".

One good side affect of playing a 16" for a few days - my intonation hit the nail each and every time. She thinks it's because on my old viola I was in "autopilot" mode, and getting all out of whack muscle memory wise with a borrowed 16" forced a reliance on my ear instead. I joked about inventing an adjustable device that would change the extension of the arm (lengthen the whole instrument) for ear training if the result was so good! I was admonished to NOT lose what I inadvertently picked up.

The saga continues....

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Viola shopping Part 2

January 30, 2006 21:13

Well, I had the 16" all weekend. It sounded beautiful when I played in tune - but (there's always a but), it was just too big. My shoulders and neck hurt (with and without shoulder rest) and I found myself with a death grip trying to hold onto it. Couldn't get my fourth finger in the right spot unless I was in 4th or 5th position for the life of me. I guess my hand just isn't large enough for that much of a stretch, or I'm just not conditioned to a larger instrument.

I picked up my old 15" after some work - got the tailpiece changed out to one the right size, the bridge replaced, some varnish work and ended up having to get the fingerboard re-glued. It made some improvement in the tone - a bit more bright to the ear, but not what I was hoping for in comparison to the loaner that I had. The bouncing bow problem came back also. And, expectedly, everything is sharp after practicing on a 16"! Arghhh!

I think I'm in for some serious shopping now. Lessons are tomorrow, so I can get a second opinion. I spoke with the shop that did the work, and they have a few (not many) 15 1/2 and 15 3/4 inch instruments that I can try to see if these sizes fit me better. Apparently, sizes between 15" to 16" are somewhat harder to come by. Haven't gone to any of the other shops yet, waiting to get through tomorrow first before driving all over the Bay Area.

Wish me luck!

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Viol...a shopping part 1

January 26, 2006 20:44

I took my 15" into Kamimoto Strings today to get the bridge and tailpiece changed out, along with a bit of varnish work - aka facelift. Total price is about $200, which also includes a bow rehair (going a bit bald, looks like it has a small moustache at the frog).

They gave me a 16" loaner - a Peter Tzvetanov, tailpiece and pegs look to be rosewood, ebony chin rest (the kind that laps over the tailpiece)and a bow - about a $3-4K setup. I don't know what kind of strings, but I suspect steel, definiely not Dominants. Sounds good in the lower register, but not so great in the higher register - more raspy. Could be the strings, my playing style on a larger instrument - whatever. But there is definitley much more sound.

OW! I played it for about an hour tonight - and Niel I see what you're talking about, my shoulder is hurting a bit. Found out that my chinrest doesn't need to be as high on this baby! Predictably, I'm playing everything a bit flat, 1 inch is a huge jump afterall! My bow bouncing problem does seem to have disappeared - interesting.... Maybe I'll ask to borrow the bow for a few extra days to play on the old man.

I get the old man back on Monday, so I'll see if his voice comes out better. If not, serious shopping time! Note to self: ask for Dominants when trying out an instrument; it's what I would normally use anyway. I will keep the old man around and take him out for occasional walks even if I do end up buying a new instrument. I couldn't just put him out to pasture and forget about him afterall! Too many fond and funny memories.

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Viol......a shopping

January 24, 2006 22:56

After 28 years of playing the viola that I've had since I was 12 or so, I'm *finally* struggling with the decision to buy a new instrument. Believe it or not, my 15" viola is not too small. It must have been huge for me when my parents got it for me all those years ago.

I've been toying, not too seriously, about getting a new instrument for about a year now after taking lessons up again after a 10 year break. It was only at the end of my lesson tonight after some discussion with my teacher that really got me thinking.

I got the "you are now playing beyond what your instrument can do for you" discussion. We talked a bit about what kind of set-up changes we could do on what I have now (found out the bridge is too thick and the tail piece is too long. Then we took a look again at the size - about right at 15", then we compared the length of our arms (she plays a 16"). Our arm lengths were the same, so she let me play her instrument a bit. WOW!!!! Ok, she payed over $14K for hers, but WOW!!!! I almost ran out the room with it, never to turn back.

So, I'm at a dilema - do I get work done on my existing instrument or "upgrade"?
Argh! I hate decisions like these. My current viola was bought by my parents for me in the late '70's and paid about $500 for it back then. It is an older early 1900's E. Martin Copy of a strad (aren't they all!?!) Good instrument with alot of memories. A new set-up just may bring it's voice out more. But then, with violas - bigger is better, and I can play a 16".

I could with a sound mind and no regrets pay about $5K for a new instrument, give or take. The only plans I have professionally with music is as a possible retirement job teaching or playing in a small town orchestra or quartet to finally do something I enjoy rather than doing something to bring in a paycheck. I love playing and do get frustrated with the sound. I was a bit elated to find out that a good portion of that was because I was out-playing my instrument (the tool not the user :) )

I really don't like spending money over the internet - a bit paranoid about it, but have a short list of places to visit and shop around. My teacher is happy to spend my money for me, so I have a partner in crime so to speak...

Ishfin - Berkley
Scott Coa Violins - Campbell
Heany Violins - Mountain View
David Morse Violins - Soquel
Kamimoto Strings - San Jose

Any of you lurking in the Bay Area - if you know additional places to check out, let me know.

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What a soggy New Year

January 2, 2006 21:29

The New Year came and went without having electricity or heat and being trapped in the canyon. Finally got the electricity back just a few moments ago. To pass the time, I tried practicing, but it was a challenge with no lights, however I did discover to my amazement that I had memorized quite a few pieces of music over the past year. The longest was 6 pages… So, that is one accomplishment for 2005!

So, for 2006?
1 - memorize another piece so I can practice when the power is out
2 - shovel out the mudslide behind my house
3 - help my neighbor shovel out his mudslide
4 - buy a generator
5 - cook dinner from scratch rather than frozen dinners more often
6 - dust of cello and play it at least once a month
7 - exercise past the first month on the new year

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