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Karen Allendoerfer

Violins Everywhere

May 9, 2009 at 12:11 PM

The rec room is full of violins.  It's a small room, and what is not covered with toys, is covered with stringed instrument cases.  I'm almost afraid to go in there . . . 

Well, not really.  I have a little corner where I can still open a case and practice.

Thursday was kind of a whirlwind of violin-related activity.  After getting music from Phyllis, I had lunch and then I finally went to Johnson to look at more violins to compare with the Lamberti I have on loan.  I tried a Jay Haide because I'd heard good things about them, and a Rudolf Doetsch because I have a Doetsch viola that I love.  It was, in fact, the same saleswoman who sold me my viola.  

This turned out to be more complicated than I expected.  The first Doetsch was not surprising.  It looked and sounded a lot like my viola's little sister, mellow and smooth.  And then I surprised myself by deciding that that just wasn't what I wanted in a violin right now.  It's too close to what I already have.  My current violin is too mellow, muted even.  It doesn't speak enough.  I want something that projects, with confidence and authority.  

And the Jay Haide seemed to have that.  I had also happened to read a nice piece in Strings magazine about the makers of Jay Haide instruments, which made me want to try one.  But yikes, that instrument was ugly.  It had worn varnish on the top side where the player's hand would go when shifting into higher positions.  It also had worn varnish on another surface and fake "dings" on the front and back.  It was too red in some places and too yellow in others.  There's currently an ongoing discussion thread about Jay Haide violins and how people feel about the antiquing and the sound of those instruments.  I've expressed some of my other thoughts there.  But I think what it comes down to is that it felt pretentious for me to play that violin.  I'm not some virtuoso wannabe who spends a lot of time in 7th position and above.   I don't mean that real virtuosos who play up there competently are pretentious.  But I  run from 7th position whenever I possibly can.  I didn't come by that varnish-wear pattern honestly.  I didn't earn it.

The saleswoman told me that Doetsch has a new style of instrument with different varnish and she got me another one of those.  This one was more like the Haide in sound (and appearance) but nicer-looking.  I started playing the Bach Preludio from Partita in E, just to see how the bariolage bowing felt, and ended up playing long stretches of it because I loved the way it sounded.  That's the instrument I took home.

While I was there I also bought my daughter a chin cozy.  My daughter has her own set of challenging set-up issues, which are ongoing.  Her teacher is recommending that she get a real shoulder rest like a Kun.  She had been using something that covered the chin rest and held a small sponge underneath.  But when she gets to a passage that she finds fast and/or difficult, she develops a death grip on the neck of the instrument.  Sometimes her left hand gets tired and sore from that.  And she tried my violin, with my Kun, and it seemed to help.  But she's also very sensitive to the hardware and button on the bottom of the instrument:  it jabs her in the neck and "it really hurts."   My teacher has a chin cozy.  It covers the chin rest and all the hardware and the button.  She says that the chin cozy "changed her life."  So we are now trying the Kun/chin cozy combination for my daughter.  

And not only does she say it's comfortable, but she sounds really good on my violin.  I may have outgrown that instrument and be looking for something with more projection at this stage, but for her, it's still a big step up from her 3/4 size.  I told her "no more finger tapes" on my violin and she willingly left them behind.  And her intonation is about the same.  She doesn't need them any more.  Her private teacher, who had been saying that she was "probably" ready for a full size (she is a freakishly tall 9-year-old), agreed that she was "definitely" ready.  

So the time is really coming for me to make a decision.  I have 5 violins in my rec room, two of which I own but are too small, and two of which I do not own.  And one shoulder rest between them all.

The Doetsch violin lost some of its luster when I got it home.  It isn't as pretty visually as the Lamberti, and it's heavier.  One quality of the Lamberti that I had not appreciated until I took it home was how light it is.  It is really like playing "on air."  The Doetsch doesn't have that.  But it has a more brilliant E string.  So then I tried changing the Eing on the Lamberti.  My daughter's teacher gave me a Larsen Eing to try, and Shar sent me an Infeld Red Eing.  I tried them both on the Lamberti and the Larsen wasn't any better.  But I think the Infeld Red was.

I have this 4-measure solo in "Disney Magic" that I have been blowing in rehearsal.  It is at the end of "A Nightmare (oops, a "Dream") is a Wish the Heart Makes."  Now I've played it on 3 different instruments.  I think it sounds the best on the Lamberti with the Infeld Red E.  But it's hard to tell--so many different instruments, so many different Eings.  And that's not even considering bows . . . 

My husband promised me we could go back to Johnson this weekend for Mother's Day.  I have a few thoughts for a Mother's Day present.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Perhaps you might convince your husband that in lieu of Mother's Day flowers and/or dinner, you would accept something from the middle to the top of this list of toys at Johnson sad and pouty until he agrees :)

nopity.gif No Pity image by TGrosjean

From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 9, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Sam's suggestion is right on.  You are a wonderful mother and deserve at least the Bailly, which, unfortunately has been sold.  However, there appear to be a few other odds and ends on the list which might work for you.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 10, 2009 at 12:14 PM

"Odds and ends," hee, hee!   Thanks guys!

Unfortunately the stock market crash and burn has kept me in the price range of Mssrs. Lamberti, Haide, Doetsch, Eastman, et al.  But I'm actually pretty satisfied with what's available in that range.  Especially since I'm not looking for investment, but for an instrument that I will lug around on the T and also play outdoors. 

From David Sanderson
Posted on May 10, 2009 at 1:54 PM

As to shoulder rests etc. try looking at:

which is the account of an extensive chin/shoulder rest experiment at the U. of Utrecht.  Basically they took people who were playing with discomfort and made the instrument fit them, using Alexander Technique as part of retraining them.  It's not new, so you may have seen it, but I found it fascinating.

From Julia S
Posted on May 10, 2009 at 4:59 PM

I would encourage you to try another Jay Haide instrument. Maybe you can find one that is more to your liking visually. I rented a Jay Haide viola this summer and was quite impressed with the sound. My viola teacher at Interlochen seemed to  really like it as well. I have tried violins in that price range and I don't remember trying another with a sound close to that. If I ever buy a viola, I will definitely look at Haides.

Posted on May 10, 2009 at 6:19 PM

I still say negotiate: after all there are always consequences



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