Disclaimer: unless you are a string musician, a nerd, or so bored out of your gourd with nothing else to read, this may not interest you!
Well, it was time. After years of outdoor summer festivals, and a few of my youngster years not knowing how to best care for it, it’s time for a Violin Cleaning. Also, as this is a new age for me, of working towards my goals, shedding the bashful girl inside, pushing my own boundaries, and expanding myself as a musician and teacher, it is fitting that my violin should have a makeover, too! 🎻
A friend and colleague highly recommended Anthony Lane Violins (www.laneviolins.com) in Petaluma, and since I’d always rather go with a privately owned business, I decided to give him a call! I told him I was desperate and needed to get in ASAP, and he was able to fit me in right away!
A little bit about my violin: I searched far and wide for my instrument. I tried nearly 100 Violins from large shops, privately owned shops, as well as from Bay Area makers. I even tried a violin in Paris, but none of them sang for me. When I was performing in the Emerging Artists Program of the Mendocino Music Festival in 2007, I met and played with a Violist who happened to work at Heaney Violins in Mountain View. I told him about my search for a violin, and I told him exactly what I was looking for. An instrument with a rich, deep, vibrant tone. Something that sounded like chocolate. He told me he had a couple Violins at the shop that I should try. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the day I found my violin. My mom and I took a day trip over to Mountain View, and I got started trying out violins, but none of them sparked anything in me until this one was brought out. I picked it up and played it……and cried…….I knew it was the one for me by the way it sang for me (maybe that’s what it’s like to find your soulmate).
I think I remember someone once saying that our instruments are not a part of our history, but we’re a part of theirs. Sometimes I wonder what stories my violin would tell if it could speak. From the time of its making in France in the mid-1700’s till now. Had it been passed down in gypsy families? Maybe it was the prized possession of a lonely aristocrat? Or maybe it belonged to normal people like me through the ages, offering its history and beauty everywhere it goes. In all the years it has been mine, this realization didn’t hit me until now. It may not be a Guarneri or a Stradivarius, but it is my responsibility to preserve and care for it to the best of my ability, so that generations after me can enjoy all it has to offer.
Rosin caked up on the fingerboard and the body. Gross. Tony said the back was in really good condition. Also, my fingerboard was worn down from the years of playing. This is a thing that happens, and it needs to be leveled out from time to time. Tony checked the seams to make sure there were no openings, and said he would fine tune my bridge, although he said it looked like it was in good condition. He also suggested that we replace the tail gut, and the E string fine tuner. I had no idea that these things impact the sound, but apparently they do! Strings I was using: Evah Pirazzi G, D, and A, and Pirastro Oliv Gold E.
I KNOW RIGHT?! I could not sleep a wink the night before picking it up! Which didn’t serve me well when I had to actually get up and go. And believe me, I did everything I possibly could to speed up the falling asleep process – a bubble bath, hot tea, my Audrey Hepburn inspired silk sleep mask, you name it! I ended up having a marvelous day, though, despite the lack of sleep, and plenty of coffee kept me going.
Tony spent a good hour with me getting my violin ready to play. He taught me how to correctly string the instrument, and warmed each string up by rubbing and pulling the strings to accelerate their settling time. We both took turns playing it with our different bows, and Tony experimented with three different E strings in order to choose one that fit my instrument. We tried the Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold that I brought (it came with the set that I ordered), and he also tried a Jargar E, made in Denmark, and a Pirastro Eudoxa E. We decided on the Eudoxa which really seemed to open up my sound. Tony also spent some time adjusting the sound post which he said is really solid. I was so happy to hear how impressed he was with the solidity of my instrument, and how it has been so reliable all these years. He taught me a bit about how cracks in instruments are patched up and showed me where mine has been repaired in the past. We listened to some Western Swing, and talked about teaching and the joys and challenges it brings. I left a happy girl with an instrument I am so excited to practice (I can actually play Perfect 5ths somewhat in tune now haha). It took some time to coax my sound back out – I think my violin was a little bit miffed that I put it through all that – but once it came back out for me, it was sweeter than ever 🙂
I grabbed coffee at my favorite, Acre Coffee in Petaluma, and Lamb with Asparagus and an arugula salad for lunch at Sugo Trattoria. I will need to go back within the next few months to have my Bridge replaced, so if any of you are up for a day trip, let me know!
And one of my all-time favorite quotes:
“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin” – John Lubbock