July 16, 2010 at 5:22 PMYesterday I visited the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City and had a lovely talk with its founder, luthier Peter Paul Prier. You'll see more about that later this summer!
But as I looked around at the various mysterious tools, the pots bubbling with varnish, the bottles of this and that, the violins in all states of assembly and all their parts individually, I thought, "How much do I really know about my violin? How much of this could I do myself?"
The answer is, very little. I can reing my violin, I can get the pegs to work (soap and baby powder), I can adjust the bridge if it's way off, but not do a fine adjustment. Wouldn't it be fun to know more? But for now, please chime in on what you can do with your violin. I've undoubtedly left out a list of 100 repairs one could do, but I just thought I would list the big things. Any input from luthiers is quite welcome!
P.S. You can vote for all that apply!
I would love to know how to adjust the sound post. To tell you the truth, I CAN do the first 3 things and don't mine doing them to my backup fiddles but when it comes to my main violin, I leave everything to the experts. That is, of course, unless a string breaks or something.
Interesting that only 90% said that they change strings. I would have considered that a prerequisite for pretty much everything else.
I guess I could have put adjusting the pegs...but peg compund only goes so far, I definitely don't refit them! One thing I did learn to do this year is lubricate fine tuners--with candle wax! Learned that from an old timer and it really works...can't think of anything bad about it but somebody please let me know if it is!!
I can change strings, straighten a bridge, and tighten the chin rest. That's it.
I'd rather pay a pro to do the other stuff. It takes a great deal of experience and skill to adjust or repair, and I'm happy to write a check to have those things done well.
CAN you do these things, or SHOULD you do these things? Other than changing strings, my answer is PLEASE DON'T. The worst thing a luthier can hear is "Well, I tried to fix it myself..." Just step away from the violin, and take it to a professional.
I know what you are saying, Dee Ann. Certainly, no one should go in and try things they don't know how to do. That said, I certainly think that if one plays the violin, especially on a regular basis, one should know how to do some basic things: change strings, clean the fingerboard, make minor adjustments to the bridge, keep the pegs in reasonable shape as far as not getting too sticky, etc. I think violin teachers who know how to do these things properly should teach them, and also I hope that luthiers are open to occasionally advising their clients in the proper care and maintenance of their fiddles!
How hard it would be if we had to stop practice, schedule an appointment for every little thing. The "spare" violin is a good place to start to practice minor adjustments with the chin rest, shoulder rest, bridge and the technique of carefully rolling on the new strings.
However having said that, it is too easy for me to get distracted by the technology of the violin rather than to put my mental energy into practice. Since I am naturally curious about how things work, I have to try to refocus on training myself to concentrate on the technique of learning to play and to leave the repairs and adjustments to a qualified and trusted luthier when necessary.
If the "Mercedes" is in the shop, bring out the old "Ford" and use that--Yes, a nice little spare violin is a good thing--( My "good" violin is more like a Ford and the spare--a Gremlin)
For me the greatest sound improvement came from having the bridge cut accurately and properly thinned down.Not just fitting the feet.Checking the detailed proportions of the holes as well. Do all luthiers even realise what benefit that has in comparison to changing the strings? As players we have blind spots which are filled by luthiers. Are there also blind spots with luthiers,many of them (most? ) who are not players? The best answer to that will come from luthiers who make and also play. They are not as common as we might wish. None of this should be seen as an attack on their good work.Everybody has to be aware of their own blind spots.
Let me boil down my previous post for maximum effect. Players should be conscious how much the work on a bridge will benefit their sound. The luthiers know exactly what to do with a bridge but the players need to ask for that job in the first place. They have to make the first move if you see what I mean. Like , turn up at the shop.
This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Violinist.com Summer Music Programs Directory
ARIA International Summer Academy
Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine