Slightly more formal hello, and a question re Ann Arbor

Edited: July 27, 2019, 12:08 PM · I love this site, and this discussion forum. After lurking here for several months and interjecting a comment into one thread a few weeks ago, I thought a slightly more formal “hello” might be a good idea.

So: I came late to violin, 7-going-on-8 years ago, after playing several other instruments for [mumble] years (read: most of my life). Right now I invest most of my practice time on violin. My public playing is in decidedly informal environments and divided pretty evenly between violin and mandolin, with diversions into guitar, banjo, keyboard, bass, or any of several other noisemakers, as appropriate. Mostly I’m the “everything but guitar guy” in a loosely knit situation that could be described fairly as more than a jam but less than a band. Mainly we mutilate perform acoustic covers of relatively well-known country, rock, and folk material. From a technical standpoint my approach is more violin than fiddle. Geographically I’m rather isolated, so at this point most of what I learn comes from books (thank you, Simon Fischer!), YouTube, and informal sessions with anyone who’ll hold still long enough for me to pick their brain during brief excursions Stateside (I live in a fairly remote part of the Bahamas. Also, I use too many parentheses.)

I’ve listened at least casually to classical music all my life (THANK YOU, Mom!) and have utmost respect for people who play it seriously. I’d love to have a go at it myself, though the absolute pinnacle of my classical ambition would be second violin in a serious amateur ensemble. Any actual pursuit of such a goal will at least have to wait a couple of years until I’ve returned to the States more permanently. In the meantime I’m truly tempted by the ABRSM curriculum, just to give my practice more formal structure and focus.

Finally, a tangent: Week after next, if everything goes according to schedule, I’ll be spending several days in Marshall, Michigan. That's just about an hour west of Ann Arbor, which I understand is a major violin-related center in the US. Would it be worth a day trip? If so, I’d very much appreciate any advice on particular places to check out there.

Thanks to everyone here for everything you do! I hope to make a positive contribution myself.

Replies (6)

Edited: July 27, 2019, 12:58 PM · Ann Arbor has a great downtown with incredible bookstores, and it sports more great violin makers per square mile than most other places. I don't think anyone of them has a just-walk-in policy though. Maybe Shar.

Don't forget Zingerman's Delicatessen!

July 27, 2019, 2:20 PM · You are unfortunately going to be hitting Ann Arbor at exactly the wrong time. The university is out, the summer strings program is over, and the symphony isn't playing until Sept. So you won't be able to see much in the way of concerts or masterclasses. You can of course visit Shar and the various independent violin makers. But apart from that, not all too much going on violin-wise.
July 27, 2019, 2:44 PM · Ooh, Zingerman's Deli alone would be reason enough to make the drive, and it looks as if the same proprietors have a regular little culinary empire in town. Good suggestion; thank you!

Don't know that I could just walk in on a great violin maker in good conscience even if they allowed it, but hypothetically if I sold off enough other stuff first to finance a serious visit then we'd be looking at more than a day trip. :D

On the other hand, Shar do seem to have a retail show room, and if their sheet music section is accessible ... well, I might just have to make plans to do some browsing and ship a sizable box home.

August 22, 2019, 8:40 AM · Follow-up: Glad I stopped in at Shar. Aside from about 20 pounds of sheet music, I came out of there with a bit of hardware too: specifically, a set of Pirastro Olivs and one of Shar's inexpensive baroque bows.

The Olivs replaced the PIs on my "living room fiddle", i.e. the one I don't take anywhere near chaotic drunk people. Really, I'm still figuring out what to make of them. I love their general feel, and I think they have many more subtleties of both tone and response than the synthetic strings I'm used to.

Still figuring out what to make of the baroque bow, too. Of the two they had in stock, I picked the one that handled discernably less like my modern bows. It gets along decently with my "barroom fiddle" and I think it actually has interesting possibilities on some of the "bluegrassier" items in our public repertoire. I certainly intend to find out ASAP.

So thanks to the folks here! Next time I'm up that way I really want to try spending 2 or 3 days in Ann Arbor.

August 22, 2019, 12:10 PM · The next step for your baroque bow is to remove the last couple of inches of your fingerboard. Go back to Ann Arbor and see David Burgess. He has a special Sawzall that he uses for just this process. :)
August 22, 2019, 1:08 PM · Now that you mention that, I'm tempted to try some things with my Oddball Fiddle, about which all I know is (1) it's unlabeled; (2) according to the previous owner it was built by "some old guy in Maine, in his garage"; and (3) according to a luthier who did some minor work to it, its general design is much more baroque than modern. I have no idea what the maker used for a pattern, if anything.

In general I've found it bright bordering on shrill, which I thought was obnoxious although at least one group I played with preferred its sound. Now you're making me wonder if I should gamble on a set of Eudoxas for the thing and try that combo with the baroque bow. xD

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