Sunday, September 23, 2018

Left Handed Violins

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Occasionally, we get calls from beginners, or their parents, desperately searching for a "left handed violin".  Andy's mother was a lefty and the cello expert at our shop is a lefty, so we know the challenges that left handed people face in many aspects of life. And we know that guitars are made left handed. But guitar construction is not the same as violin family construction or playing. So here's our contention (and Megan, a left-handed cellist absolutely agrees!)- VIOLINS (and violas, and cellos) ARE LEFT HANDED as they are standardly set up. That is, the fine finger movement and hand control necessary to play a stringed instrument is centered in the left hand. Lefties have an advantage when it comes to playing violin, viola or cello- their brains are already wired for the movements to play a violin family instrument. It's righties that have some brain training to do in this regard.

The bow is held in the right hand. While there is a lot of bow finesse to learn, it's mainly macro muscle arm and hand movements. So, again, lefties are already set up to play stringed instruments the way they are already constructed.

The insides of a violin look like this-
soundpost on the E (treble) side and a bass bar on the G (bass) side

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

BIG Violas and Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis

image from courtesy of Margaret and Robert Lyons

By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Lionel Tertis was a giant of the viola world. He brought the viola and viola playing into the 20th century as a viola soloist and commissioner of new viola solo compositions. A true giant of the viola world. But he was not a giant of a man. More like an average sized guy. But he loved the big, deep, bass-like sound that big violas produce. Throughout his career, he played a 17'' Carlo Antonio Testore viola from 1735, as well as a 17 3/4'' Gasparo da Salo viola. He met his match in Paris in 1920 when he discovered a huge Montagnana viola that was made in 1717. The Montagnana viola was 17 1/8" ( 434mm). To play a viola that large comfortably and without injury from long term use, I'd insist that the player be well over 6'! Preferably, over 6'4". Alas, Tertis was 5'6'', not anywhere near that tall. What to do, what to do?