Friday, July 26, 2019

All About Fingerboards!

By Andy Fein, Luthier at www.FineViolins.com
and Ivana Truong
A cello fingerboard with a precisely machined metal straightedge on top. Fingerboards need a "hollow or "scoop".

The fingerboard isn't a very prominent part of the violin, but it's incredibly important and surprisingly complex. Fingerboards are constructed in a very specific way to best accommodate the modern violin and have changed a surprising amount since baroque times. Without a well-constructed, well-maintained fingerboard, your instrument can run into a lot of issues.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Online Lessons for Stringed Instruments

By Andy Fein, Luthier at  Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

We know as well as anyone that learning an instrument is a massive undertaking. Even the first step, finding a teacher, can be overwhelming and difficult. They have to be in your area, someone who works well with you, and their rates have to be in your price range. That's why more and more students are trying to learn online, whether that's through Youtube videos, websites, or Skype lessons.

Nicola Benedetti's take on vibrato. You can use videos like this 
to compare with what you are learning or have learned to develop your playing

And teachers! If you can develop the skills to teach online or do instructional videos (and charge for them!) you can expand your studio far beyond your geographic area and far beyond the time that you can devote to giving one-on-one lessons.
Tina Guo has some great tips & lessons on her Youtube channel

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

E Strings & E Tuners- What's Best?


By Andy Fein, Luthier at www.FineViolins.com
and Ivana Truong


The E string. In the world of violins, violas, and cellos, only the violin has the privilege and burden to play on the highest string. What sounds best? How do you keep it in tune? How do you keep it from hissing?

Is the E the most problematic string on your violin? Yes? Don't worry, you're not alone.

An 'Evah Pirazzi loop-end E string (right) & a Thomastik 'Special Program' Gold E (left)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Classical Music During the Chinese Cultural Revolution


By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins, Ltd.
And Ivana Truong


In our last blog, we traced the movements of Jewish refugees into Shanghai and other Chinese cities and how these became the seeds for violin playing and Western Classical music in China. For a few decades after World War II, Western Classical music slowly took root in China. But there were many obstacles, not the least of which was the Chinese Communist Revolution and the distrust of anything non-Chinese by those that were suddenly in power. This tension came to a tragic head with the ill-conceived "Cultural Revolution". A time when many musicians had to hide their skills and when many, many violins, violas, cellos, and pianos were destroyed.

 During the Cultural Revolution of China, all foreign mannerisms and culture were banned, including Western Classical music. Musicians and professors of classical music were actively persecuted and instruments were destroyed. Despite this, many people studied music secretively and a few even became professional musicians after the Cultural Revolution ended.

Image from The Red Detachment of Women, one of the operas promoting Mao and his values

Monday, April 1, 2019

Jewish Violinists Brought Western Classical Music to ...... China

By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins, Ltd.
and Ivana Truong


At the recent Violins of Hope event, which Andy attended, the violinist Xiang Gao was invited to perform “Shalom Shanghai”, a concert and musical telling the history of the violin within China and emphasizing the importance of the Jewish people within that history. The story of Jewish refugees in China is both incredibly important and surprising. Since the story isn't told much, we thought we would share it!
Image result for shanghai sonatas

Monday, March 18, 2019

Violins of Hope- Violins From The Holocaust Refuse To Be Silenced


By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins and Ivana Truong

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about a circle of friends that extended from my hometown of Cherry Hill, NJ to St. Paul, MN to Tel Aviv, Israel. One of those in the circle was Amnon Weinstein, a wonderful violin maker and restorer,  from Tel Aviv.

image23
Violins of Hope decorated with Magen David inlays

image from Violins of Hope Pheonix website
That previous blog post was written in 2011 and mentioned a project of Amnon's restoring violins (and violas and cellos) that had been played by Holocaust victims and survivors.  The instruments' survivals are a testament to the actuality of the Holocaust and to the fact that even though the Nazis tried to silence the Jewish people and our culture. THEY DID NOT SUCCEED.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Who Killed The Composer? Leclair's Mysterious Murder

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins,
and Ivana Truong

Who killed composer, violinist, and dance master Jean-Marie Leclair? His ex-wife? The gardener? The Duke of Gramont? His son-in-law? His younger brother? The hard part about figuring out who killed Leclair is that he was disliked by so many people that the list of possible suspects with some kind of motivation was pretty long.  When he died in 1764, it seems not too many people were sorry to see him go.
Jean-Marie Leclair, the elder

         A beautiful duet with Perlman and Zukerman, Leclair's "Sonata No. 5"

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The 'Adelaide' Guadagnini - A Violin Beloved in Australia

By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

In early February, a 1753-1757 Guadagnini violin was given on a 3-year loan to Australian violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto. Guadagnini, who we have written about previously, is considered one of the greatest Italian makers, only exceeded by Stradivarius and Del Gesu.
Natsuko Yoshimoto plays a violin.
Natsuko Yoshimoto with 1752-57 Guadagnini "The Adelaide"

Photo by Claudio Raschella

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Keeping Your Musician's Body and Mind Healthy

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins & FineViolins.com
and Ivana Truong

Playing music isn't typically thought of as a physically taxing activity, but musical injuries are surprisingly common. And the mental stress of getting to the upper echelons of musicianship (and staying there) can take a tremendous toll on your mental well being. Overuse or improper use of muscles often cause injuries like Tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel and keeping yourself in the right mindset to perform at your best can be surprisingly hard. To keep playing as long as possible, it's important for all musicians to take care of their body and mind,  as well as their instrument!

A bronze cast of a woman "playing" the violin which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. In addition to not making any sound, playing the violin this way seems very uncomfortable.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Keeping Your Musician's Hands Healthy in Winter

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins,Ltd.
and Ivana Truong

If you're a musician and you live in a climate that experiences a cold and dry winter, then you know the constant fight to keep your hands and fingers from drying out, cracking, and becoming painfully stiff.
Musician's Hand Salve from Joshua Tree Skincare
I (Andy) feel eminently qualified to discuss this very subject. Because:
1) I play the violin, viola, and several other instruments.
2) My work as a violin maker/restorer causes constant roughening of my hands from tools, wood, files, and sandpaper.
3) I like to do indoor rock wall climbing as well as mountain biking all of the year.
4) I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. As I'm writing this, the outside air temperature (without any windchill included) is about -5F (-20.5C)
5) I live in a classic Craftsman style modified bungalow house built in 1939. That means a tiny kitchen with NO DISHWASHER. Actually, if you could see me writing this, I'd say "You're looking at the dishwasher!"

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Oldest Line of Violin Makers in America

by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins,
and Ivana Truong

The mid-1500s is very early in violin making history. The earliest violins, violas, and cellos still in existence were made by members of the Amati family circa 1540. So, usually, when we think of very early makers of violins, violas, and cellos, we think of Italy, Germany, and France. To that category of early makers should probably be added The Tarahumara or Raramuri, as they call themselves.
Tarahumara violin, made in the late 1800s, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art