Mezzo Forte Carbon Fiber, mini-review

November 11, 2018, 9:52 PM · This is a continuation of the previous thread here: https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2061

Got my mezzo forte last week. In these days I have been getting familiar with it, and I have also used it for a wedding and with a band in a pub. It is exactly what I needed and a lot more of what I was hoping for.

I will list some notes.

ERGONOMICS:

- The new Mezzo-Forte is a line called "Design". It has a couple of notches on the sides that allow to fit any shoulder rest. However, the notches are not along the whole violin, so the shoulder rest can only be put in the most common place. You can't play around with its position.
- The chinrest is screwed in the violin. You will not be able to fit your own chinrest. It's plastic, so it gets slippery. I am cutting a piece of thin leather to fit there. I would recommend Mezzo Forte to provide something for chin comfort if not switching to a wooden chinrest (as they provide a wooden fingerboard)
- Both chinrest and shoulder rest restrictions leave limited possibilities in posture. Some might find it uncomfortable or take long to adapt.
- The fingerboard is wooden and the neck is very comfortable, easy to shift and very easy in the left hand.
- Although many people talk about how "light" carbon fiber is, it is actually heavier than some wooden violins. The mezzo forte is 470g. My Fernando Solar is 415g. One big difference it's that the Mezzo Forte has all that weight in the body and the left hand doesn't need to hold any weight (it doesnt' have a scroll).

SETUP

- It comes with Wittner geared pegs.
- I ordered it with Milo Stamm Bridge. It was well cut.
- It comes with Evah Pirazzi strings. This can bring some confussion to those who try it for short time (in a fair or shop). The first days of playing the sound of the violin was disappointing: Tinny. However I experienced that the reason was not the Mezzo Forte, but the new strings. Now the metallic sound has gone almost completely.
- It comes with a Wittner tailpiece (plastic composite). I didn't like it, but when I replaced it with an ebony tailpiece, the resonance increased too much. As I will tell later, this violin needs more of taming than boosting, and the Wittner tailpiece holds the reverberance down.
- The soundpost it's in the regular position, which I am not sure it makes sense in carbon fiber stiffness. I have read users of the Lewis & Clark reporting that the best position of the soundpost in their violins was actually directly under the bridge or even north of it. I have not tried that yet and maybe I won't try it. Where it is now, gives very good qualities.

PLAYABILITY

- From the lowest G to the end of the fingerboard in the E string, all notes come strong and clear. I have more problems with strangled notes in high positions with wooden violins. One of the "funs" I have been doing with the MF is playing whole pieces in only one string. It feels as easy in the end of the fingerboard as in the first position.
- Very sensitive, more than usual, to bowing and intonation. Unfortunately, its not difficult to squeak or strangle the note if you don't bow right or if you missplace a note. The right note rings like a bell, the wrong one quaks.
- Difficult to play P, almost impossible to play PP. All can be learned, but to get to lower the volume, I need to bow really on top of the fingerboard. I will need to experient with other strings because I think that Evahs on this violin are overwhelming.

SOUND/VOICE

- Different from the wooden instruments (to be expected). The best definition I can give it's that it sounds more synthetic, less natural than the wooden violins. Actually my wife asked me if I was playing plugged to the speaker, as sounds comes like it has gone through an Amp.
- Although "synthetic", the sound doesn't ring "cheap" at all. It is nice, with plenty of good resonances. It brings the kind of sound that you get from an acoustically active room.
-That Echo is actually what you have to be careful to tame, because it can get on the way of producing a good sound. In this sense, the "plastic" tailpiece came out as better that other tailpieces more resonant.
- The bow becomes more important than ever. My Arcus, which gives me a rainbow of colors in the wooden Violin, was too bright and resonant, and an Arcos Brasil that sounds in the Fernando Solar violin more contained and very bright, rings a beautiful, balanced and warm sound in the Mezzo Forte. No idea how or why that bright bow becomes warm, and the Arcus becomes too bright.

PROJECTION

- In situations that I would normally need to plug an amp (wedding restaurant with everyone chatting), the Mezzo Forte, unplugged, shut everybody up, including the tables far away. With the band, the unplugged MF could stand its ground with the plugged guitars. From my practice room at home (a library covered in books, roof to ceiling), the MF got to mess with my wife's piano practice in a far away room. Until now, when I practice in the library, the wooden violin didn't bother her, and I would not hear her piano.
Because of the characteristic "megaphone" voice of the Mezzo, one guy in the band thought that there was a pickup integrated in the violin, and I was wirelessly plugged.

FUN
- Yes, this is important. It is a carbon fiber instrument. I have been carrying it everywhere around, for the first time ever didn't mind to ride under the rain to get to play. When I meet my friends for a beer, I just take it out in a terrace and play a bit. Leave it on the table and pick it up again later.

This quality it's what I was looking for and what this violin, more than anything else, will bring to the young (me, at heart): the capacity to bring it everywhere and play anything, instead of restricted to controlled environments. For this, you can buy a "camping violin", a cheap chinese from ebay, or you can get a carbon fiber one. In my particular case and circumstances my bet went to the Carbon Fiber option and, luckily, my bet has paid off.

And that's all. I hope this is useful for those looking for info about some of the particulars mentioned above.

Replies (13)

November 13, 2018, 12:27 PM · This is really interesting, since it's very easy to read about CF bows, but there is very few information about CF instruments. I had always wondered how a CF instrument sounded, and I'll try one when I can... just out of curiosity. By the moment, your post will be a starting point.

Just two random questions:

(1) When I tried some bows at my local shop, I tried a cheap CF one... and I didn't like it at all, since I felt there was no connection or "feedback" from the stick. Have you felt something similar with this instrument?

(2) Aside from being a "fun instrument", do you consider it suitable for some serious study? If not, do you think a higher end CF instrument could be?

Enjoy your new violin!

Edited: November 13, 2018, 8:08 PM · Carlos, your review was supremely interesting to me, as I am considering buying the same violin.

So its sound is definitely loud under the ear and across the hall.

You said the sound feels synthetic and less natural, does it in any way resemble that of an electric violin? (I guess CF offers much better projection, reverberation and tonal quality, but I would like to ask if the sound bear any resemblance, if you have tried an electric violin).

I wonder if CF violins can replace acoustic violins the way digital pianos did to acoustic pianos.

Having had some initial experience of the MF violin sound, if you now lived in an environment where humidity and temperature etc. posed no problem, would you still choose to play a MF CF violin or would you choose an acoustic violin of similar price range? Assuming you had no preference between plastic fibre and wood as material?

An Oz resident, I had a look at one local MF dealer website and it said, "Mezzo Forte believe they are providing a real alternative – not a replacement." I wonder what your thought would be on this statement if you can share it with me.

https://www.simplyforstrings.com.au/mezzo-forte-carbon-fibre-violin-4-4.html

Thank you for this useful review and enjoy your new violin!

November 13, 2018, 8:29 PM · As i wrote weeks ago, i had the opposite of your experience regarding the projection of these violins.

But i'm happy that your research on it and the tweaks you made worked.
Maybe you should seriously discuss about all of them with the builder (that i met personally in Cremona).
I don't believe he's presenting his own creations at their best, to the public, at this point......... ;)

He told me he was working on the projection. I suggested myself to investigate on other types of tailpieces ........

November 14, 2018, 12:23 AM · @Matt I have tried electric violins, and the sound is not the same (that said, you can equalise digitally anything). For me, the sound of the mezzo forte is more like an acoustic violin through a mic or a pickup. The problem is that literature and fights for pick-up sounds, are endless. Just to to say that there is a reverberance of some tones and filtering of some overtones that remind that.
As for if you can really take this instrument seriously, and other similar questions. It will not blend with wooden strings ensembles in classical. Other than that, you are good to go. Including being the soloist in classical performance.

Like most, eventually I will expand my studies to Viola. Well, when that happens, I am not bothering with a wooden one. I will buy a Carbon fiber one directly. I think they are very reliable and versatile instruments. Mine is, and I know I have tons to discover yet.

November 14, 2018, 1:04 AM · Very nice review!
Any chance you could do a recording of you playing the CF violin for us to have an idea of what yours sounds like?
November 14, 2018, 1:24 AM · Carlos, thank you for the reply!

Assuming a CF violin truly has the quality, I am waiting to hear the first classical performance with an orchestra where the soloist plays a CF violin. Which could be 5-10 years ahead depending on how quickly minds can change, and how forces of politics are at work. After all the MF won the 2015 German musical instrument award where the runner-up was a $20K wooden violin made by Andreas Haensel.

I feel the CF violin needs to be tested at least once in such serious performance setting, broadcast to YouTube, for its potential buyers to be truly persuaded and for its sales to really pick up.

In fact, I am surprised that CF violin makers haven't sponsored such performance (the same way as to why Yamaha hasn't had a soloist playing its $12K acoustic violin with orchestra, while its acoustic grand pianos have went on-stages a zillion times).

November 14, 2018, 1:53 AM · I think it will be further than that, Matt. After quite many years, many violinist treat geared pegs like a blasphemy. And carbon fiber bows are tolerated up to a certain level of seriousness in the performance. Higher than that, would be frowned.
We can do all reasoning or reviews we want, but in the end we usually make decisions with the heart, not with the brain. And traditions in this business run deep.
I'm fine with that. I'd regret to erase the romanticism of the violin just for stale utilitarism.
But, not trying to convince anybody, I can say that I am finding the Carbon Fiber violin a very able tool for the trade.
Edited: November 14, 2018, 6:26 AM ·
As for if you can really take this instrument seriously, and other similar questions. It will not blend with wooden strings ensembles in classical. Other than that, you are good to go. Including being the soloist in classical performance.

Thank you for clarifying that, Carlos. I look forward to the day in which I will be able to tackle some serious solo Bach. And a "serious" CF instrument would let me play it "lost in nature" without worrying as much as if I had a fine wooden violin... what a dream come true!

Edited: November 14, 2018, 11:04 AM · I tried one out and sent it back. It was like jumping through hoops to return it. I thought it would be fun to have one, but it was riddled with lots of wolf tones, even in low positions and notes that wouldn't speak clearly. Maybe they have the kinks ironed out by now. I really hated the screwed in chin rest.
Good luck if it works for you. Everyone has a different perception
and violins are so personal.
November 14, 2018, 5:53 PM · Thank you Carlos!

It may happen that the quality of each MF violin varies. I just checked out two videos on YouTube; I'm not sure how the microphone picks up but I think the sound is very even in all strings down and up high (could be too even for some players as this may indicate a lack of complexity).

From the videos only, I also feel the sound is a tad boxy (nasal in other words, like it is trapped a bit inside the violin). Not sure if you guys also feel like I do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2F4HJAKYAI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW6Cnd4-UUw&list=PLke6Lxd_DzP2zM1hvri6mt9aU6lIJLh5H

I think the MF offers great value for money given its sound, volume, projection, and responsiveness and given that it can go with you into the pool should you both want to swim and play. I have a visit to a violin store in Sydney next month and would testplay a CF violin which I look forward to.

November 15, 2018, 9:30 AM · "I wonder if CF violins can replace acoustic violins the way digital pianos did to acoustic pianos."

Only to the undiscriminating or those with limited funds.

November 15, 2018, 1:18 PM · I can add my experience with another (more expensive) brand of CF viola. When I first tried it, I was amazed by the volume and ease of generating a sound, so I bought it. I played the instrument in our string quartet, and in an orchestra. The first problem I had was that it didn't seem capable of "piano" playing - I just couldn't get a good sound when playing softly. Replacing the metal tailpiece helped, and I tried several brands of strings and found a combination that worked. Overall, I was happy with the sound, and it blended fine with wooden instruments. But, it did have a wolf, on the fingered G on the C string (same note as open G) that I noticed sometimes. Ultimately, what made me sell it and buy a wooden viola again was that friends would tell me about the lack of projection. I ended up doing a test with a microphone on the other end of a large room, and it was clear that the wooden instruments "filled the room" better than the CF viola. It sounded loud under the ear, but didn't project as well as I'd thought. Then, finally, it did feel synthetic, and mine had a CF fingerboard. I think the MF instruments have a wooden fingerboard which I would have preferred.
November 16, 2018, 2:58 PM · I remember when carbon fiber bows were new and I enquired about them in a posh London violin shop. The guy shouted me down somewhat aggressively and said how it was stupid to buy something like that given their expense compared to a wooden bow. Fast forward to the present where carbon fiber bows have come down in price, are better and have found their place. So now we have carbon fiber bows as an option rather than a replacement. The comparison at cost makes sense. Makes no sense to compare a Tourte bow with a Coda...
I'm sure it's the same for carbon fiber violins. The Glaesser models have hit the below a thousand mark and have a pickup which makes them a versatile and viable spare. I think it's wrong though to say, 'How would they hold up with a soloist in front of an orchestra', it's not the context or the market. Its validity should become clear when you think of the working musician who gets unusual or extreme gigs - in the sun, rain or cold, on the beach or by the pool, in a rainy parade, where the CF violin is perhaps a spare to save that orchestral soloist level wooden violin.


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