Monday, July 30, 2012

Musical Olympiads

Written by: Andy Fein & Kevin Berdine

Buglers Dream-Leo Arnaud

Every four years the world gets excited about seldom seen sports. Perhaps the old saying is true, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." We sit in our comfy homes and watch others, halfway around the world, put their talents, stamina, and heart to the test. It is an extremely engaging act to watch, a few of us are even lucky enough to travel to the events and witness the valor first-hand. Someday, I hope to join the masses and sit in the stands and root for my countrymen. But what if we could see this same mania aimed at the arts?

Monday, July 23, 2012

How does one Handle Handel? British Violins, of Course!

Written by Andy Fein and Kevin Berdine

The W.E.Hill violin shop was by far the greatest violin shop in England, if not in the world, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But they did not rise out of a vacuum. There were wonderful makers in England long before the Hills and there remain great shops since the Hills closed shop. The Hills simply took the best of those talents, added their immense knowledge, and brought out a tremendous violin shop.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dog Days of Summer - Keeping Your Instrument Safe

Written by: Amy Tobin

It's hot this summer. Even here in Minnesota, this summer has already seen several days with a heat index above 100 degrees, not to mention those days where the actual temperature is in the 100's!
It is early July as I write this, so I know that there will be quite a bit more of this before we get into the cooler autumn months. In light of this, I thought now would be a great time to write a quick reminder about caring for your instrument, keeping it safe, and continuing to be able to enjoy it for years to come!

Let's talk about what is probably the most important consideration about the summer.....traveling in the car. While you are riding around with the windows down (or the A/C on), you probably feel a little bit like this.......

Photo from Tori Stuart Photography

However, once you park the car, roll up the windows and walk away, things inside quickly turn more like this.......

Yes, those are actual cookies being baked on the dashboard of a car!
In fact, we have a little rule about string instruments and cars around here. It goes a little something like this:


It's a pretty easy rule to remember, actually. In fact, the beauty of it is that it holds true in all circumstances, at all times of year. You wouldn't leave a baby in a car, car seat or no, if you were going shopping at the mall for an hour or so. Don't leave your instrument in there, either. In the winter time, you wouldn't leave your child or pet in the car, with subzero temperatures, so don't leave your instrument in there either. 

But here's the really important thing to remember - the trunk of your car is not climate controlled!!!! No matter where you are, remember that your air conditioning does not reach the trunk and cool it down (or keep it warm in the winter, for that matter).

There are several things that can happen if you leave an instrument in the car. First, the varnish can bubble up and melt, like this:

Violin with bubbled varnish
and this.......

Violin after varnish melted from inside of a hot car

There are other tragedies that can happen from leaving a violin, viola, or cello in a hot car as well. The glue, which holds the instrument together, can melt, like this crayon......

Crayon melted on the inside of a car

And the wood itself can crack, like this......

Violin damaged by heat inside car!

I know that I am preaching to the choir with many of our readers, but if I can help even one instrument be protected from needing extensive (and expensive) repair work, at best, and being completely unfixable, at worst (and believe me, your instrument insurance would not cover leaving it in a hot car in the summer!), then this post is worth it. 

Oh, and by the way.......the bow is equally as delicate and important, so treat it with the same amount of care and diligence as you do the instrument!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Elizabeth Pitcairn, The Red Mendelssohn Violin, and Wittner Finetune Pegs

By: Andy Fein and Kevin Berdine

What is the common thread between the Battle of Bunker Hill, the 1720 'Mendelssohn' Stradivarius, 'The Red Violin', Wittner Finetune violin pegs, and Gamma Phi Beta Sorority? Elizabeth Pitcairn, of course!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Violin Makers of Milan- Elite Artisans or Cheapjacks?

By Andy Fein and Kevin Berdine

On a recent visit to the National Music Museum, in Vermillion, South Dakota,  I was overwhelmed with the beauty of some of the oldest instruments in the violin family. Most notably those of Andrea Amati, his descendants, and their students. Towards the back of the room housing the Amatis, Guarneris, and Stradivaris, there is a beautiful five string violin. The shape of this five string violin is unusual as its contours are deeply influenced by viol family instruments. This violin was made in Milan by Giovanni Grancino circa 1685. As you can see from the picture below, this was an elaborately made violin by a very skilled maker. Yet the great violin experts at W.E. Hill & Sons, many years ago, used the term "cheapjacks" to refer to many of the Milanese makers. What was happening with the art of violin making in Milan for its luthiers to deserve such an appellation?

Grancino 5-string Violin, c. 1685