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This may well appear about the most boring thing on the interweb other than possibly the youtube big paint drying live feed, however I thought it may well be about time for me to log what I am doing to my instruments so that (a) I can remember and (b) any interested parties can enjoy my musings over whether I prefere gut or steel strings or what style tail piece I am currently enjoying!

Violin

 

Oliv String set up

My violin is a 1996 “strad” pattern violin made by my Grandmother, Wendy Goodall (if you are a member of the BVMA, or the british violin making association, I believe she may well appear in there!) It has been made from a sycamore felled from the family estate in duffield (nr Derby) and used as seating for my parents and Aunt’s and Uncle’s weddings.

The term “strad” pattern, often gets some people rather excited, and they say daft things like

gee, did your gran work for Mr Stradyvaerius!?

Whilst my grandmother is much wiser than myself she was not alive in the 17th century!
No the term literally means to use a pattern (basically a stencil) similar to the instruments created by the stradivari family

 

Back of violin

Back of violin

When it was first given to me (winter 96) I was 9 years old and still playing a half size violin, so it went rather unplayed for a few years, when the new milenium hit I moved onto the new instrument, it has a glorius tone which everyone has commented on.

To start with the instrument had a standard set of Dominant strings on, these were warm in the lower range and became warmer in the mids but were always weak on the top. so in 2002 I started experimenting. Finally I found a Hill e worked wonders and they are one of the cheapest!!! (result) it lasted a good time and sounded rather good too.

however in recent years I have been having some slight difficulty with the dominant strings, as they lost their tone faster and faster (to the point that an a-string was lasting just over a week!!) probably due to my growing up and having slightly more moisture on my fingers, once strings were costing more than my bills I felt it was time to start changing things!

 

Side image of the instrument

Side image of the instrument

Pirastro tonica came along cheaply on ebay and I imported 8 sets! they were great as they do just go straight on and play exactly the same until they break, however they lasted only a bit longer and didnt sound as good

I turned to the Pirastro Gold strings, these were very pleasant to play on (soft on the fingers) but dispite a lovely sound they were rather quiet.

In a run up to a concerto I decided to switch to “the best” Oliv’s they have been by far and away the most Poor lasting strings I have ever used, possibly due to the stretching involved in the gut and the steel failing at a point as it doesn’t stretch with the gut. I must however point out that they create the most astonishingly fantastic sound I’ve ever come across! However as times are hard and the price of strings rise due to the poor pound and rising shipping costs I have had to switch to a more economical string and have currently opted for Passione, they are a very pleasant string and seem to be lasting longer than the oliv’s however I have experimented with synthetic equivalents but struggle with their projection and tone somewhat. they are very fine strings however and last very well under my fingers, I think its probably just too high a tension for my violin to enjoy in comfort.

The Bow

The violin bow I am using is a 19th Century Joseph Voirin (1833 – 1885 ) made in Paris. He was known as the “Modern Tourte”. Apprenticed in Mirecourt then worked in the workshop of Vuillaume at first. In fact his early bows were stamped with the name Vuillaume. He produced a radically different bow from Tourte; Slimmer head; the camber moved closer to head, yielding a stronger stick and reducing the thickness of the shaft esecially at the heel.

It is a fantastic bow to play on and is a delight to use, it is perfectly balanced for my hand, the bounce point is a little higher in the bow than others however that really seems to work for me as I have tended to play toward the point.

Viola

Having being made one again by my grandmother I decided it was probably time I started playing the instrument, I mean how hard can it be?! After a bit of wrestling and one lesson (which consisted of, just dont treat it like a violin but a brick and a saw) I settled into the machine, Its just the right size for my soup-plate hands. currently it has a full set of Dominant strings on, however unlike the violin these only need changing around 5 or six times a year and only when the strings lose their brilliance!

Currently the major issue I am having is with the varnish on the viola, unfortunatly I think my hands are leaving rather a lot of gunk just where my hand touches when I go up the finger board, its a bit of a shame but I think it will eventually stop (one hopes

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