Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mozart's Instruments

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins

Ever wonder what your favorite composer would have sounded like back in the day? What the keyboard that first played the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony sounded like (though it probably wasn't very good, given he never tuned the thing)? What the violin that first played Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" sounded like, or the Harpsichord that Ligeti wrote Hungarian Rock with in mind (Check it out). With the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, we do have access to his violin and a viola, thanks in large part to the Salzburg's Mozarteum Foundation. The violin is not a super powered Stradivarius, but a mellow and intimate sounding Klotz family instrument made circa 1650.  The viola, a dark sounding and very small (hardly larger than a violin) instrument, was likely made by Giovanni Paulo Maggini in 1615.

Mozart's violin

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Violinist on Vibrato

Written by Joe Peterson of Fein Violins

According to Leopold Auer, the OG of the Russian school of violin playing, "The vibrato is primarily a means to heighten effect, to embellish and beautify a singing passage or tone. Unfortunately ... players of stringed instruments frequently abuse this effect ... by doing so, they have called into being a plague of the most inartistic nature." The Black Death of stringed instrument playing!  Oddly, any student of his off the top of my head, let's say Heifetz, Zimbalist, or Elman, had a constant vibrato. But I believe he did have a point, as a phrase cannot have a proper shape when there is something static about it. Leopold Mozart has a similar comparison as Auer's to a physical illness: As he delicately puts it,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Italian Violin Makers in Argentina

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

One quintessential quest of many musicians is to find an instrument that gives you that wonderful Stradivarius or Guarnerius sound, at a fraction of the cost. There are any number of possibilities to fulfilling that quest.

One possibility, one that I particularly like, is to find an instrument made by many of the wonderful Italian makers working in the early part of the twentieth century. Many of these instruments are made with outstanding craftsmanship and sound wonderful!

Another possibility, albeit rarer, is to find one of the fine instruments made in Argentina by Italian violin makers, particularly those of the early twentieth century.
The cello made by Luigi Rovatti for Ennio Bolognini

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Orchestra Apps: The Symphonic Future?

Written by Joe Peterson of Fein Violins

1.08 billion people. That's around a fifth of the worlds population, and also the number of people who use smartphones (Here's an info-graph showing worldwide Smartphone usage). Nowadays, it's hard to think of a business that can't be accessed on a smartphone through the use of an app or a mobile site, because, chances are, they have one. You have a Chipotle Burritos app, a Starbucks app, a Netflix app, a Best Buy app, the list goes on for miles. Oh yeah, and Fein Violins has one. Go ahead, click to our mobile site.

a bassoon app, a conductor app...

But now, amidst all of the burritos and Frappes and Batman and TVs, there are

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Huguette Clark, a few hundred million dollars, a Cezanne painting and several Stradivaris. Eccentric?

By Andy Fein, violin maker at Fein Violins

Huguette Clark passed away in 2011 at the age of 104. She spent the last twenty years of her life living in a hospital room at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. Not that she needed the hospital room. Or the hospital. Or much attention from doctors and nurses. But she had the money to pay for the twenty year visit and that's where she felt most comfortable. Eccentric? Maybe. Wasteful? Maybe. (She could have spent those years quite comfortably in her 42 room Fifth Ave. apartment, or her estates in California or Connecticut).

The Paganini Quartet of Stradivarius instruments
But it was her money, so who cares? Her distant family. They received a big, fat portion of Bubkis in her will.

Why would I care about this heiress or the legal fight over her estate? Violins, of course. Stradivaris. Several of them. And it's a great story.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The String Instrument FAQ

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Ben Schuneman

We get tons of questions every day, from friends and customers, about violins. Some are humorous to those of us who are around these instruments every day and know the terminology, but all are asked in complete and earnest sincerity. This will be a running blog that will get refreshed every so often. Enjoy!

"I have a Stradivarius that I found in my attic! It must be one of those lost treasures you hear about all the time! Is it worth millions?"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Equal and Just Temperament -- They Have Nothing to Do with How Well You Behave

Written by Matt Lammers of Fein Violins

We've all been there: you've practiced your quartet part well. You know the notes and can play them. You head into rehearsal confident that the opening chords will slot beautifully into place, but are greeted instead by beat frequencies, colleagues frowning at each other, and self-depricating, frustrated remarks like, "well, I guess this'll never be in tune". So you go home and sit in front of a tuner...and it gives you a nice little beep and green light, as if to say, "congrats! You're perfect!" Alas, you know you aren't. Rather than putting your temper to the test, let's put temperament to the test.

Simply put, temperament is the spacing between the pitches in a scale; it defines the sizes of intervals. Take the most notorious temperament issue for example: the third in a major or minor chord. Let's say the third of either chord is A (this means our major and minor keys are F-Major/FM and f#-minor/f#m). If you were to play an A in an FM chord at the pitch your tuner says is correct, you would find that your A sounds sharp (see video). If you were to play that same exact tuner-tuned A in am f#m chord, it would sound flat. In either case your A, which is supposedly in tune, sounds out of tune in reality. Don't blame your colleagues, blame physics. If you haven't encountered this issue before, watch our video that demonstrates the problem:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Piedmont Region and its Violin Makers

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
Matt Lammers and Amy Tobin

Here in America, we tend to think that we have the monopoly on the idea of 'the great melting pot.' When the rest of the world began their exodus to 'the new world,' New York became an amalgamation of peoples and cultures from everywhere else. We can not, however, lay claim to this phenomenon. In fact, the Piedmont region of Italy was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures long before this happened on our own soil.

The Piedmont region of Italy includes

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why a Frog? Why Are There Frogs on Bows?

Written by Matt Lammers of Fein Violins

It's one of those curiosities that disappeared with age and experience, one of those elephants in the room you asked about as a beginner, and your teacher shrugged it off with a puzzled expression telling you it wasn't worth losing sleep over. It became a part of your vocabulary and was never given a second thought, but in the back of your head you've always wondered: "Why on earth do we call this the frog?" Here at Fein Violins we embrace and resurrect our own childish curiosity and hope to relax the furled brows of confused, [used-to-be] young musicians everywhere.

The frog of a bow is a simple, yet intricate thing

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Customers of Fein Violins: Comments and Reviews

Here's our running blog with comments and reviews from our customers:

Andy Fein, Violin & Bow Maker, Fein Violins

Hi Andy,

Just wanted to say thanks for all the help with my students! Thought you might like to know one of my violinists just got one of your bows to solo with her high school orchestra, another is concertmaster of her school on one of your violins and another got into AllState ork playing on one of your bows. :D We appreciate you!



I'm just so happy to have a violin that's COMFORTABLE for me now as well as sounding good.

(F. Costa 7/8 outfit)

Hi Amy,

Wow wow and wow, what a beautiful violin, my wife and I were just totally amazed when we opened the case, I can't thank Andy and you enough, I will write a

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Scrolls?

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

Scroll of a Gasparo da Salo viola, Brescia circa 1609

In my role as a violin maker and shop owner, I often hear string players searching for an instrument say, "I don't really care what it looks like, I'm only interested in the sound." To which I usually reply, "If looks didn't count, we could paint them all black and use a square block for the scroll." Obviously, in violin family instruments, looks count. We're all interested in the color and beauty of the varnish, the beauty of the wood, and the artistic details such as the f holes, the arching, and the scroll. The scroll is

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why f Holes?

f holes, The 'Harrison' Stradivarius circa 1693

image from The National Music Museum
By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

It's pretty hard to miss the very distinctive feature of the violin family's sound holes. The f hole. They are almost like a violin maker's fingerprints. Very distinctive and a true sign of a maker's skill.

 f-holes of a Stradivarius on display in the Royal Palace of Madrid
But why f holes? There are many other sound hole patterns that would probably work as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The BEST Student Violins, Violas and Cellos

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

I bet you thought you'd click on this blog post, find out that brand name YamaSuzEastKnilAmatPfretz was the best, and away you would go in ten seconds with all the information you would need for your star student. Sorry, Not. So. Fast!

There are many, many adequate student instruments made each and every day. All over the world! But constructing the instrument is only half the job. Setting up the instrument correctly is the other half. And for student instruments, I would say the far more important half.
                                                           The 'Apprentice' from Gewa

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Orch. Dork Vacation, Part 3. The Chi Mei Collection

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

Where is the world's largest collection of violin family instruments? Not the U.S., not Europe, not China, not Japan. Tainan, Taiwan hosts The Chi Mei Museum, showcasing the instrument collection of stringed instrument lover extraordinaire Shi Wen-Long.

Shi Wen-Long with one of his beloved violins

Monday, February 11, 2013

Summertime's Coming - Music Camps and Festivals

Written by: Amy Tobin, violinist and manager, Fein Violins

For a lot of people, summer is a time for lazing by the pool, taking it easy, and being away from all of the more 'intellectual' activities of school, study, or work. Even if you still work, there is something different about summer that makes you take things a little more easy and be a little more laid back.

For a lot of musicians, however, the summer can be a bit treacherous. When it comes to playing an instrument, taking 3 months off can be a real hinderance to progress, if not set you back a bit entirely. For that reason, many younger musicians tend to take advantage of the opportunity to focus entirely on their instrument, without having to split time between practicing and studying and the other things that can compete for time and attention.

If you are new to the idea of summer music camps or festivals, I am going to outline some of the different options for you. Some of these I have been to, some of these I have had other colleagues attend, and others I have only a passing knowledge of. It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will open you up for discovery of different options for the summer months. Whatever your interests, however, there should be something here to catch your eye!

1. Interlochen National Music Camp

Image result for Interlochen Music School's Kresge Auditorium
Interlochen Music School's Kresge Auditorium
I have to start with Interlochen since it is so near and dear to me. I attended the summer program here for two years, and it was AMAZING! The program itself

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Orch. Dork Vacations, Part II - Europe: Strads, Guarneris, Amatis, Oh My!

Royal Spanish Stradivarius violin
Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
The back of the 'Messiah' Stradivarius violin

 If you think of anywhere in Europe associated with violins, you probably think of Cremona, Italy. You might assume that would be my recommendation for the first place to stop on our Orch Dork tour. But it's not.