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Old Gal, Old Violin and 57 Years since I have played!
An inherited Stradivarius "copy" made in Austria and a player who has not played since 1960! Needing Help Already!
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Cearbhael
Minnesota
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August 13, 2017 - 9:14 pm
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Ok, I haven't played violin since 1960 or so. I was in the school orchestra but then we moved to a town that had no orchestra and wouldn't support my love of the violin. No, parents were not about to buy a violin (we rented my old one) and were not about to spring for lessons! She had an accordion, so forced my brother and me to take lessons on that (Ugh) didn't last long! My brother and I were both into violin. So, no more instruments were allowed! Now I own a flute and have inherited my grandfather's old fiddle. Back around 1918, he and my grandmother met and played for local dances and get togethers. He played fiddle and she played a gorgeous old mandolin. The mandolin was claimed by my aunt and her son sold it. The fiddle went to our family so when my mother died it came to me. He used it hard and the case is trashed and wasn't great in the first place. However, the only thing wrong with the violin is finish wear and tear. It could stand to be refinished some day. It is sound otherwise and sounds wonderful though the size of the 4/4 bow is a tad long for my arms (I am petite and 5 feet 2 inches) I don't seem to have trouble with the size of the violin, and it amazed me that holding it and the bow was all right there! Didn't need review there. However, my bowing is definitely out of practice (and can't get the bow to the tip) and I am starting all over with the beginner book.

The violin is a Stradivarius "copy" according to the inner label, and made in Austria. Not an expensive violin but my grandfather always bought the best he could afford. The bridge is thin compared to what I have seen being sold as replacement parts (I considered and am still considering a new bridge so this one doesn't break!) It is stamped "Dresden". He used gut strings, Gretch Eagle brand, made in Germany. I still have 2 pkgs of gut A strings and one mystery string that is either gut or silk (there are two silk E string pkgs that are empty.) I suspect, however, that it is an A string due to the diameter of the string. All the strings were more or less shot so I bought a set of D'Addario prelude strings just so I could hear what the violin sounded like. That was a pain changing and tuning, and the bridge did fly across the room like a bullet at one point (scared the heck out of me which is why I might use a modern bridge to protect the old one). Eventually all was strung and tuned, the bridge was straight, and my new rosin didn't want to start. Stole the mini rosin from my Psalter and bingo! My violin sang and sang beautifully! I was so happy I could have wept! Next day needed to tune again and came to the conclusion that my rather wonkey pegs needed help. They slip or, if I push them in snug, they stick. I believe someone whittled them (possibly my grandfather) to make them fit better. Needless to say the holes in the pegs do NOT line up right. The E string and the A string interfere with each other. (In the pegbox, one lays over the other). Well, 3rd day in, the E string snapped right where those two strings met. So now there is no more beautiful sound coming out! I am going to juggle the pegs and see if I can get better alignment and less interference. Any tips from you folks are welcome. Especially if you have experience with any other violin dinasaurs out there! I surely can't be the first person to try to adapt to an old well used violin!

PS: I am going to be buying Fiddleman strings (the whole set) and a spare E string so I am not unable to play due to breakage. Listened to the video comparing them to Dominant and though there is a difference the difference is very slight. I have a very good ear and can always pick out slight variations! Used to hear someone go slightly off tune and it would drive me nuts! (like running fingers down a chalk board) doesn't matter how many were playing, I could pick out anyone offkey. I like their E string guarantee as well! Certainly E strings should last longer than 2 days!

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 14, 2017 - 1:57 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
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Welcome to the forum @Cearbhael and welcome back to the fiddle !

While adding to my "collection" ( is there a collective term for a lot of fiddles ? A "feast of fiddles" perhaps... ) last year I got myself a fiddle from ebay.   It happens to be a 3/4 and the real reason I got it was that it was so cheap I thought it must have some significant damage / wear etc and originally intended to take it apart and rebuild it just to learn some repair techniques.

Anyway - it was actually playable.   It's quite "bright", but I like it!  And curiously, very much like the fiddle you describe.   This one's also one of the millions of Strad copies, made in Czechoslovakia, 1920.   It has lots of minor surface imperfections - lots of little indentations - and clearly has had a lot of use.   Equally interesting - she arrived complete with a slightly-beaten-up old case, and some gut strings in the case ( although, a set of clearly cheap steels were fitted )

I have been extraordinarily busy over the last 6 months or so with house renovations, but, the one thing that was the most serious issue were the pegs and pegbox, much as you describe on your own instrument.  The pegs on mine looked as if they had been shaped with a chain-saw, and the peg holes possibly reamed out using a rat-tail-file !!!  ( Seriously.... )

So, I got myself a 30:1 reamer, a peg-shaver and a set of both boxwood and ebony pegs (decided on fitting the boxwood ones although it's softer than the ebony) Right now, I am half-way through repairing the peg-box and fitting new pegs.  The poor instrument is just sitting there, un-strung and nekkid (lol) and is just glowering at me saying "fix me, fix me you lazy old man..." LOL

The original pegs as I described were very poorly cut/shaped.  As it stood, with extreme difficulty, I could force the fiddle into tune - there were clearly ridges and depressions in both the pegs and the box which made the pegs either slip and slide, or get jammed in as if held with super-glue.  Also, the winding area of the peg where the strings lie was deeply grooved, making it real hard to get a nice clean string winding....   But - once tuned, as I mentioned, she has a nice bright sound.

My rework on both the pegbox and the new pegs will, without doubt sort everything out.   I was fortunate enough for there to have been sufficient material left in the peg box, so that after reaming, it avoided any need to fit a bush.

Sounds like you're in a sort of similar situation...

Best of luck with your renewed interest in the violin !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Cearbhael
Minnesota
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August 14, 2017 - 10:25 pm
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Well, my pegs are not as bad as yours and the only peg whittled at all was the E peg and probably by my grandfather who was a very talented woodworker! The peg box is fine and there are no dug in grooves! Actually, I was looking at my E string, the one that broke, and I am not sure that the peg was to blame! The string has dark marks all up and down the string and they are rough. I suspect some corrosion going on there! My grandfather played with gut strings, which is not what most fiddlers do, but it helped keep the violin in better shape.

I am blown away by all the stuff for violins now, and how different techniques are. Fiddlerman holds his bow with his thumb under the bow between the frog and the leather. My teacher would have had a fit! I had to keep my finger on the side at the top of the frog with my middle finger on the other side. Also, we didn't have shoulder rests. We had to keep our thumb under the neck of the violin, which was to balance that end of the violin with light pressure on the chin rest. We were never to drop our hands or allowed to place our fingers elsewhere! My grandfather's chin rest, as well, looks nothing like the chin rests available today. He left two bows that need to be rehaired. One had silver wire wrapped near the frog. It was so corroded I took it off. I can always rewrap the wire if I want to. I work with silver wire to make jewellery so not too scary! I suspect the wood is Pumbuco. It is darker than the Brazilwood bow I just bought.

Oh, one last thing, this violin was stained prior to being varnished. The darker red and Sunburst pattern on the back is still there where the varnish was rubbed off. I am wondering if I could gently sand off the old varnish, and refinish it with new varnish. It would look really pretty with a new varnish. I would have to use a very fine grit sandpaper, and then put a few coats of violin varnish, sanding between each layer. Maybe rub some beeswax onto the wood before the new finish? What do you think?

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Charles
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August 16, 2017 - 10:39 am
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Yeah, there have been a lot of changes in thought over the years about what the "right" way to hold a violin is. That fact that everybody swings over to some new idea every few years has convinced me that they're mostly fads - fashion for violins instead of clothes. The right combo of shoulder rest, chin rest, position, etc is what works for you personally. Your body is not built exactly the same way as anyone else's, so expecting somebody else's solution to work for you is silly.

Similarly for bow holds, there are several schools of thought. If you've got one that works well for you, that's all you need.  If you're having problems, then you might want to look at some of the others.  I read an article about a famous cellist who broke his right thumb right before a performance (and I'm talking like 10-15 minutes - he had no time for medical treatment). He couldn't possibly hold the bow "right"; he just wrapped his fingers around it and did the best he could. He got a lot of compliments after the concert, including many on his bowing.  So specific bow holds may matter a lot less than people think. What matters is whether you have control of the bow. If it goes where you want it to, and doesn't have the kind of issues that come from being gripped too loosely or too tightly, that's probably good enough.

Re the varnish:  I know nothing about the details, but I believe you have to go through some rather impressive hoops to get a violin "restored" if you want to get it re-varnished and keep its value.  Without that, you're better off leaving it as is (if you're concerned about resale value.)

If it's not all that valuable to begin with, or you're not concerned about that, then what you described sounds like it would work, although I'd wait for some the more "crafty" sorts to chip in. I know just enough about that stuff to know I should keep my hands off anything even remotely valuable, because it won't be very valuable once I'm done with it. 🙂

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Mark
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August 17, 2017 - 8:51 pm
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Welcome to the forum, 

Have fun! Relearning or learning the fiddle for the first time, it can be at times, a very aggervating experience, seems like I take two steps forward then 3 steps back at times but the enjoyment from it make it worth the effort.   Best of luck,

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
August 17, 2017 - 9:26 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 12490

Welcome to the forum Cearbhael.

I love it when people come back to playing the violin after not having done so in a very long time. It's always nice to hear how it goes and to help motivate and guide restarts 🙂

It's actually a job to learn to tune again as well. Guitar players take their geared pegs for granted. LOL

Looking forward to some progress reports and your Fiddlerman Strings thoughts too. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Cearbhael
Minnesota
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August 18, 2017 - 6:13 pm
Member Since: August 13, 2017
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Fiddlerman said
Welcome to the forum Cearbhael.

I love it when people come back to playing the violin after not having done so in a very long time. It's always nice to hear how it goes and to help motivate and guide restarts 🙂

It's actually a job to learn to tune again as well. Guitar players take their geared pegs for granted. LOL

Looking forward to some progress reports and your Fiddlerman Strings thoughts too. 🙂  

Well, I am waiting for the arrival of those strings! I am wondering, how much does it cost to rehair an old bow! My grandfather left two bows with the violin. I suspect they are pernambuco, and German made. One doesn't seem to have much curve and it has NO hair on it. It was obvious from first glance that it was his first bow and definitely inferior to the other bow. The 2nd bow had quite a few frayed/broken hairs but has a great curve and "had" silver winding I had to remove since it was corroded and coming undone. I trimmed the broken hair and then compared the sound of the 3 strings I have left on my violin with my new bow which is Brazilwood and much thicker, to my grandfather's bow, much thinner, better curve, and very old, thinner but still playable hair. Surprisingly, the old bow with the old worn hair made my strings sound better than the new bow. Also lighter in weight, I found it much easier to draw to the tip of the bow. I have been having trouble with the Brazilwood bow, possibly due to the weight! At any rate, now I am wanting to get the bow rehaired, but from my understanding violin luthiers are not easy to find outside of the Minneapolis/St Paul area! So is it possible to ship a bow to be rehaired? Would it be too expensive? How do you safely pack a bow for safe shipping? The bow is not warped, and is very attractive. It has mother of pearl and what you refer to as a Parisian Eye. The frog is ebony. I would love to replace the silver winding but that will probably be out of my budget limits! If you have people capable of doing such a job, without bankrupting me, let me know!

PS: As for tuning, I found an App for my iPhone 6 that gives you the tone of each open string with the actual sound of a live violin! Works wonderfully, and guess what? It is a Fiddlerman App with the Fiddlershop logo and your phone number on the bottom! It is how I found the shop and all the wonderful videos that are helping me get my feet under me! Thank you for the App, the videos, this wonderful forum of wonderful like minded people! I am impressed, and a new but permanent fixture here I am sure! You are so good at reviews, and tips etc! What's not to love huh?

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 19, 2017 - 1:54 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
Forum Posts: 2076
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Cearbhael said

.......... How do you safely pack a bow for safe shipping? 

  A length of 40mm polypropylene drain-pipe from a local plumber or hardware store is cheap and ideal !  drummer

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Cearbhael
Minnesota
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August 19, 2017 - 10:59 am
Member Since: August 13, 2017
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@BillyG Thanks for the advice! Would never have thought of that! Now to find out it the Fiddlershop can do the rehairing or not, and how much I have to save up to pay for the job and the shipping.

PS: obviously I don't know how to do an @BillyG since it isn't making a link. If I choose the name BillyG from a drop menu, it changes to madbill? Very confused!

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 19, 2017 - 11:07 am
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Yeah - there's a fair chance that a re-hair-job will cost as much, if not more, than a "basic" new, but pretty good ( like the FiddlerMan CF ) bow at around $67 (or so - haven't checked current price) - but - I well understand - it would be real nice to get the old-bow back into playing condition...  absolutely.  

Personally, I would do exactly the the same thing and get the old-bow back into playing condition, if for nothing more than the sentimental value !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 19, 2017 - 11:14 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
Forum Posts: 2076
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Oh - yes - about the "madbill" thing - when I initially registered with the site, I had HUGE problems - I never received confirmation emails, so I registered again, and again for a 3rd time - by which time I was losing my patience - and made a nick "madbill" - yup - that's me - I changed my nick on the forum, but, the background mechanism in wordpress (which powers the forum) won't let you change the name/nick you actually (managed to) register with... LOL  So the "mad" bit was just relating to my frustration and anger, not my actual mental-state !  Hahahaha

And yes, it does work if you do the @followed by the WORDPRESS nick, "madbill" - you just get this "changed" nick .

There are a few folks on the forum like that - for instance Diane - @kindascratchy registered as valentineviolin - so you'll maybe see that "issue" where WordPress gives you a different nick from the one you expect from time to time - just LEAVE it at what is "suggested" and you'll be fine !

But, it's all good !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
oHIo, USA
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August 19, 2017 - 11:15 am
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Welcome to the forum 😀 

When you choose BillyG from the drop down and it changes to madbill, that's still the right one, Billy just changed his username display at some point and it'll show the old one until it posts 🙂 A few users are like that, for example if you choose Fiddlerman it'll change to "admin".

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On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 19, 2017 - 11:35 am
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ROFL @damfino - we replied at the same time !   You're on the ball !  COOL

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
oHIo, USA
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August 19, 2017 - 12:42 pm
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Haha, we have good timing and apparently think alike, lol 

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On a journey to learn the fiddle since July 24, 2015
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Cearbhael
Minnesota
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August 19, 2017 - 4:19 pm
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BillyG said
Yeah - there's a fair chance that a re-hair-job will cost as much, if not more, than a "basic" new, but pretty good ( like the FiddlerMan CF ) bow at around $67 (or so - haven't checked current price) - but - I well understand - it would be real nice to get the old-bow back into playing condition...  absolutely.  

Personally, I would do exactly the the same thing and get the old-bow back into playing condition, if for nothing more than the sentimental value !  

I can save up that much in a month or 2 or 3! Ha ha, I hate being on a fixed income and being extremely house poor. I inherited my gramps house but not before my baby brother talked my mother into taking a home loan that put my house in debt to the bank! When mum passed, it was discovered that baby brother, after my mother gave him power of attorney, weaseled all her money away, cashed out a million dollar life insurance policy, and spent all the equity on gramps home. Well, I was told that I did not make enough on social security to get a mortgage, and they couldn't leave mom's home loan active since she was dead. Well, my response was to slap that months payment on the desk and told him one check would arrive each month from now on and if they wanted me out of the house they would have to dynamite me out! Well, it is a very small town, and amazingly they accepted payments for years until my mother's loan ballooned. At that point they figured they could get creative and find a way to loan me the balance owed on the house! It is a huge sum compared to my income, and it is a miracle they did it, but obviously I proved I was willing to put most of my income into my house! I want for little, I have my standard poodle, 2 cats, my home and an acre of property, my flute, and my grandfather's violin! What more could anyone want?

As for my gramp's bow, it is straight, has a wonderful curve, the hair is old and worn but as I said before, even with the worn hair, the bow was a dream to handle and sounded great! Also, I am fairly certain it is pernambuco, which is why it is so much thinner and lighter than the new Brazilwood bow. My Brazilwood bow, is markedly heavier, and harder for me to handle. I am suffering from neuropathy in my left hand as well as decreased strength in my left hand which is why I am willing to learn right handed bowing even though I am left handed! It will be easier for me to press down on the strings with my left hand, than to hang onto a bow. My injury was in 1995 so I am used to being ambidextrous when needed. Yes, it is sentimental, but truthfully, I was willing to forget about the old bows until I got the notion to try the bow in question out! Didn't take me long to decide I wanted gramp's bow restored! It is hands down superior to the new bow, even with the old worn hair!

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