Friday, May 15, 2009

I've Got Too Many Fiddles To Not Try One

Here's the short story - I played clarinet in grade school, made a penny whistle a few years ago to take kayaking and while learning to play it discovered ITM. 

Then my grandfather's tenor banjo (and cello banjo!) that my father passed down to me started to make sense so I learned to play the tenor (strung Irish) a little. 

Then I dug out the fiddles that also came from my grandfather. One was complete and one was nothing but neck, fingerboard and body. No pegs, no tailpiece nothing else. Ian my fiddler friend played Grandpap's fiddle some until the body started to crack. 

So I thought maybe I'd fix up the one in parts and see if I could play that a little too. I wanted to fix up the second one because I would need it to be left-handed and preferred not to mess with the good one. 

Since I didn't have a bow with which to play either one, I put a request on (a place where you can give away stuff you don't want anymore so it can be used rather than go to a landfill.) A lady came back offering a violin that was "broken" and we don't know anything about it so you can have it and maybe it will be of some use to you."

It turned out to be a 1/2 violin, for a very young child. The bridge was glued in place, and the tailpiece was missing the wire to the button at the end so it too was glued to the top of the violin. I didn't notice that and as soon as I put some pressure on the strings it popped off and smashed into the bridge taking that off as well. I wondered how best to break that loose. 

I took it to RJ at Darkwood, a luthier in the area to see if it had any value. He said it wasn't anything special, but he put a wire on the tailpiece for me and sold me the one string that was missing for a dollar. I'm going to find a kid who might want to play it who might not otherwise have a chance for a fiddle. 

So now I have a quite functional 1/2 violin, a pretty good fiddle from 1925 and one in pieces from somewhat later in the century, between the 20's and early 60's. I'm guessing 40's maybe. 

How can I not at least explore the fiddle? So I turned the strings and bridge around on the good fiddle for now, just to see how it feels to fiddle. If I like it I might move the bass bar over on the one in pieces before I put it back together, and make it a proper lefty fiddle. Right now the jury is out.  It's really strange to rock the bow as much as is needed to play the different strings. But the fingering isnt' too bad. 

While I visited my grandfather a lot, sadly I never heard him play anything, in fact I never even knew he played. And my father - as much as he enjoyed music - never could learn to play. But he kept the instruments and now I'm very glad he did. I'm just sorry he passed while I was just learning to play them. I hope he is watching now when I stand on stage playing his father's instruments.