Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A quick thought on visiting violin shops

Before coming across this wonderful shop, I didn’t like spending money on adjustments and couldn't justify this expense, but finding this wonderful shop has completely changed my mind!

This violin maker David, is a great resource, has a wealth of information that he enjoys sharing, is patient and understanding, and has done wonders for my cello! I know finding a knowledgeable, experienced luthier is difficult and expensive, but I’m telling you its well worth it! I just can’t say enough great things about this shop!

When I picked up the cello from his shop for an adjustment (he thinned and adjusted the bridge, replaced an ill-fitting soundpost and lowered the nut), he had me play it and then afterward asked me what I thought, which kind of threw me for second… “Huh? I’m supposed to give you feedback? Oops, better play it again and pay attention!”  
In the past, all I did was drop it off, tell them what I thought was wrong, and then pick it up later to find it sounded better (and in one case – worse!)

To me it played much easier and was more responsive, but was on the bright side which I tend to the warmer side, and I told him as much. He plays the violin so he likes brighter instruments, but instead of trying to convince me otherwise [which I’ve had another luthier tell me, “brighter is better and that’s what most professionals like” ....but I’m not a professional and my ears aren't that discerning yet. Maybe I’ll change my mind later...], he was very accommodating and moved the soundpost to make it sound darker! Apparently, moving the soundpost even a millimeter (or less) in a certain direction can make the sound brighter, warmer/darker, more brilliant and certain strings louder or quieter! WOW!

He brought it back to his workbench and allowed me to watch him make the adjustments - more like hover like an annoying gnat! ;).
We headed back to the sitting room to test it, and again he asked what I thought. This time I was paying attention and was ready! It sounded darker, but less open…  It’s hard to describe - “open” meaning I could tell that the sound carries throughout the room and projects further, whereas a “less open” sound seems to be thicker (almost muffled) and the sound sort of hangs around me like fog, instead of dispersing throughout the room.

He adjusted it again and this time it sounded more open but still retained the warmth, and it made my A&D string brilliant and my G&C string smooth and rich! It’s totally magical. Yep – MAGICAL!

With all of my different string combinations, he was able to get it sounding 200x better! Not to say my efforts were a waste of time, I learned a lot about strings and I still needed to find strings that were balanced with the sound that I wanted, but he made my string combination that much more better! He also gave some string recommendations. However, I still want to experiment to find different sounds and to discover the relationship between the string's tension, string's material and cello. I've yet to add bridges to that mix, but that will probably be next year.

I just can't stop raving about this shop! I’m not here to advertise his shop, which is why I’m not listing the shop's name. Is it bad to keep a good thing a secret? ;).
Well, I guess if you're local and are curious let me know. Actually if you’re NOT local, I don’t want you going to the shop so he’s too busy to take MY appointments! Just kidding…well, kind off… =p.

Anyway, find a knowledgeable, experienced luthier that you like and trust (his was the 4th shop I visited), ask them a lot of questions, learn more about your cello and enjoy the experience! I think if more people knew what these wonderful professionals can do for their instrument they’d be visiting more often! And maybe it wouldn’t be as expensive….supply and demand, right? ;).


  1. Are you near Colo Springs? i'll be needing a luthier after I get my cello in 10 hours. It was difficult enough to find a cellist near me who was available to teach.

    1. Email me at geminicello [at] and I can send you a couple of luthier's info, but I'm quite a ways away. :)