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Karen Allendoerfer

Upgrading the hardware

March 22, 2007 at 9:25 PM

I took my violin to a luthier this afternoon. The violin is the one in my picture over there accompanying this blog. I've been playing it, off and on, for more than 25 years. The luthier said that it needed a new nut because the grooves from the strings were too deep and it was keeping them from vibrating, that the bridge was warped and needed replacing, and the soundpost was leaning. Yikes. I also got new strings.

Then he said that fixing all of those things would help, but even then I shouldn't expect too much from this instrument. It's a "factory instrument." I "can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." Sigh. I kind of expected that, but was hoping that new strings and a good luthier could help stave off the inevitable trade-in that is looming in my future if I want to be any kind of serious violinist. Well, we'll see. Maybe he was just trying to make sure that my expectations are realistic.

At least my impressions are confirmed. My ear isn't faulty. I can actually tell a good instrument from a mediocre one, something that I had been insecure about. Now my "new instrument" list officially has two items on it, a viola AND a violin.

Then I exchanged my 16" rental viola for a 15.5". First I tried 3 15" violas, played the Bach Courante on all of them, and didn't like any of them. They felt better--smaller, lighter--but they sounded hollow like my violin.

The 15.5" I ended up choosing sounds pretty good, I think, but it's ugly. It has two obvious blemishes on the top and the color is really boring and bland. I don't think there's any way I'd buy it, unless its sound really grows on me, or I get a really good price. But my point with this instrument is really just to see if a 15.5" feels better than a 16" and keeps the tension out of my neck and back, and if switching back and forth between a violin and a 15.5" viola is a little less jarring than a 16" viola.

If 15" violas all sound like those 3 I tried, I'm not interested. But maybe they don't. Maybe there is the rare rich 15" viola. I've heard Barbara Barber has one.

And maybe I can rent (or borrow) a nice violin for the Bach double. :-P

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