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The European Influence in our Violin Workshop... in Colorado...

The violin emerged in its present form in Italy, France and Germany in the mid 1500s. The richness and true knowledge base of the art of violin building is embedded in Europe and the makers trained in the schools in those countries. From traveling worldwide, Golden Music has befriended many of the journeymen in this craft and hosts these violin dignitaries in our Golden shop year round. This influence not only assists our Luthiers in learning the depth of the European tradition, it steeps our Music Product Specialists and owners in this knowledge.  Moreover, every instrument provided for you at Golden Music gives you this tradition as much as possible fused in it at many different price points and styles of instruments.  Hence, for every instrument, we want to create the highest value of the European tradition and stylings in your price range.  On the left below is Ferenc Borosi from Hungary and on the right is Carlos Roberts from Italy.  Both recently spent part of the year at Golden Music in our shop, teaching our Luthiers, as well as time with our Music Product Specialists and the owners.  The third picture, is the Owner, Mary, her friend, Nancy, and Thomas Hummel, a Master Luthier from Stuttgart Germany who has been to Golden Music every year for the last 5 years.














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Three Ways to Become a Much Better Violinist


From Violinist.com

Over the years it has seemed to me that there are,  in the case of many players,  three basic, uncomplicated things they can do to become seriously better players.  Here they are:

1)  Learn the even numbered positions.  If I could have a dollar for every player even up to and beyond intermediate level who is not comfortable in the even positions I would be able to buy up the applecorp.  What an earth is going on dudes (especially teachers!)?  Why are you not learning /teaching this fundamental thing?  If you don`t know these you don`t know the fingerboard. Yes,  you don`t actually know where certain notes are on that long black thing in front of your nose.   Do you realize how much better an orchestral player you would be with this simple knowledge?   How much better your sight reading would be? You could stop posting about sight reading....;)  How many more musical and expressive possibilities would become available?  Material:  Kreutzer no2 in 2nd/4th and 6th position everyday for a year;  the relevant sevcik;  Schradieck;  Paginini Barucaba Variation in 4th position etc.  

2)  Learn to play at the heel.

Admittedly this may be a little different (but not really) for the Russian bowing school, but most people use Franco Belgian type these days and it`s never been an excuse anyway.  My main teacher`s teacher,  Albert Sammons said `Master the heel and you`ve mastered to bow.` He may have had a point.   Don`t compromise!  Move under the thumb.  You are using six inches too short a bow. It`s just not good enough. 

BTW the heel does not automatically equate with `loud.` Some of the most delicate ,  refined and musical touces can only be done at the heel or in the lower third of the bow,  not faffing around at the point because that is supposed to be `the quiet part of the bow.`

Materials:  Kreutzer no2 and the f major separate bows and various combinations. Sevcik bowing exercises.  Casorti etc.  Scales!

3)  Handle your instrument like your loved one.

The way people handle instruments often makes me sick.  A month back a semi professional player asked to try my violin and took it from me by the bouts leaving sticky fingers on the violin.  I make a very harsh judgement about players based on this simple thing.  If you can`t  respect the beauty and elegance of your violin to the extent you are happy to smear oil on it you probably don`t have that last 0.1 percent of dedication necessary to be a pro.  Respecting,  indeed loving your instrunment is fundamental and it should be the first things teachers teach.  In the same way I have amateur students who put expensive instruments on the floor,  hang bows down so the point touches the ground while at the same time fumbling in their case for this weeks scores and my pay packet.  The same players leave instruments unattended almost anywhere during rehearsal breaks.  The big differnce between a pro and an amateur (in the judgmental sense rather than the regular employment distinction):  an amateur behaves in an amateur way towards their instrument irrespective of how good they are.

Materials: half a brain,  commonsense,  respect  and a teacher who insists on this from the beginning.

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A Brief History of the Violin

The violin is a descendant from the Viol family of instruments. This includes any stringed instrument that is fretted and/or bowed. It predecessors include the medieval fiddle, rebec, and lira da braccio. We can assume by paintings from that era, that the three string violin was in existence by at least 1520. By 1550, the top E string had been added and the Viola and Cello had emerged as part of the family of bowed string instruments still in use today.
It is thought by many that the violin probably went through its greatest transformation in Italy from 1520 through 1650. Famous violin makers such as the Amati family were pivotal in establishing the basic proportions of the violin, viola, and cello. This family’s contributions to the art of violin making were evident not only in the improvement of the instrument itself, but also in the apprenticeships of subsequent gifted makers including Andrea Guarneri, Francesco Rugeri, and Antonio Stradivari.
Stradivari, recognized as the greatest violin maker in history, went on to finalize and refine the violin’s form and symmetry. Makers including Stradivari, however, continued to experiment through the 19th century with archings, overall length, the angle of the neck, and bridge height.
As violin repertoire became more demanding, the instrument evolved to meet the requirements of the soloist and larger concert hall. The changing styles in music played off of the advancement of the instrument and visa versa.
In the 19th century, the modern violin became established. The modern bow had been invented by Francois Tourte (1747-1835). Its weight, length, and balance allowed the player to produce power and brilliance in the higher ranges. It was Louis Spohr’s invention of the chin rest around 1820 that made it possible for the player to hold the violin comfortably and play in the higher positions. Spohr’s chin rest also resulted in the significant advancement of playing technique and allowed the violin repertoire to reach its virtuoso level. The advent of the shoulder rest (no known date) was also an important contribution to the ease of playing.
Players in Bach’s day held the violin by placing a chamois on their shoulder so the violin would not slip, but stay in place by gentle pressure from the chin and shoulder. The instrument was angled towards the floor constricting movement of the arm underneath the neck and thereby prohibiting playing in the upper positions. The Bach E Major Violin Concerto was composed at a time (ca. 1720) when the violin had no chin or shoulder rest, had a shorter fingerboard, and was strung entirely of gut strings. Players also used little or no vibrato. All this combined with the bow in use (shorter and lighter than the present day Tourte bow), made for a soft, muddy, rough sound. Today’s performances sound louder in volume, but softer in texture. The sound has a brilliance and clarity to it that would not have been possible in Bach’s day. Despite the fact that violins in Bach’s time were not “modern” by today’s standards, his solo string instrument compositions are some of the most challenging repertoire for any serious student of the violin, viola, or cello.    from the Lancaster Orchestra.com
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The Pochette Pocket Violin

The Pochette Pocket Violin
The Pochette was a pocket-size violin widely used in Europe by dance masters during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was a very small violin with three strings, in France, the Pochetto). Because of the slender shape, a dancing musician could slip it into his jacket while demonstrating a step then quickly withdraw it to play a tune. They were made in various shapes including a boat, medieval rebec, miniature viola. They were often made of exotic woods, ivory or tortoiseshell and had elaborately carved heads. Despite the adornments, they produced a muted sound.

Youtube of pochette being played:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmQI_P6FTws Continue reading

The Ancient Perfect Size of the Violin

The Ancient Perfect Size of the Violin

The Origins of Violin - Usually constructed on a mould (cut to the interior shape of the instrument, which decides it's shape and dimensions), the ancient instrument makers used geometrical claculations to design their models. The shape was worked out by a calculation probably the result of mathematical speculations on music - according to the harmonic divisions of the sonometer. It can be reconstructed by a series of connected arcs of a circle. Mathematicians in Northern Italy applied mathematics to several inventions and it maybe be presumed that the instrument makers had a common tradition. Dozens of versions claim to have perfected this hundreds of years old shape but the violin appears to resist all modifications because it has reached a optimal system of dimensions.

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History of the Cello

The instrument was first called the bass violin then violoncello which literally means “big little violin” in Italian; the name was eventually shortened to cello. The first known maker (but not the first actual maker) was Andrea Amati who built cellos for Charles IX King of France.

As early as the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, artists began to depict the violin in paintings, giving testimony to its presence in the music world. The cello, however, or 'bass violin' did not come into existence until the fifteenth century. The reason for the late appearance of the deeper voiced member of the violin family was, at least in part, the evolution of the sound ideal in Western European music. Due to the long-held dominance of vocal music over the musical scene, it was natural that this ideal would be determined by the trends of singers of the time. Performance practice in vocal music, until the fifteenth century, demanded a tone which was high-pitched and nasal, producing a sound we would more closely associate with Eastern music nowadays. This changed with the compositions of the Flemish school, led by Johannes Ockeghem, himself a bass singer. The vocal range was expanded on the lower end, eventually reaching low C. At the same time, the sound ideal shifted to the more open-throated tone that we know today.

Early Cellist
It was under these circumstances that the 'bass violin' began to make its place in the musical world. Over time, the name violoncello developed, from 'violone,' a large viola, and 'cello' an Italian word meaning small. This it was a little large viola, showing that the people of the time did not really know what to call this new member of the violin family. The instrument evolved completely separately from the viol da gamba, having no frets and a dramatically different shape.

The role of the violoncello was very diverse in its first two hundred years, usually participating in the accompaniment and bass line of various forms of music. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, the members of the violin family were considered particularly appropriate for sacred music. However, the instruments were not used exclusively in these roles, and artistic depictions indicate that they were used for all kinds of events, from weddings to the raucous music making in the village taverns.

Edmund van der Straeten, in his History of the violoncello, the viola da Gamba, their precursors and Collateral Instruments, states frequently that the level of technical achievement on the cello was extremely backward, and could in no way compare with that of the violin, or the viola da gamba. At times, however, he points to evidence, which is quite to the contrary. One example is his description of the virtuoso duel between the cellist Tonelli and the violinist D'Ambreville in the early eighteenth century, which was apparently so spectacular that the audience 'broke out in rapturous applause at the end.') If there did exist full-blown virtuoso cellists, it is strange, the utter lack of solo repertoire that existed up through the middle of the seventeenth century. Nona Pyron, in her supplement to William Pleeth's book, Cello, offers one possible explanation for this fact:     from AndrewDunnCello.com

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June Master Sale - Featured Violin - White Bros Luthiers



The White Brothers, Ira Johnson and Asa Warren, are described* as "the first Boston master makers of violins".  Both Whites are reported to have been fine woodworkers who taught themselves the craft of violin making by studying instruments from the European masters. Asa and Ira J. were in business together as music dealers, publishers and instrument makers under the name I. J. & A. W. White from 1849 to 1852 at 52 Court Street, and as White Brothers from 1853 until 1863 at 86 Tremont Street.  After 1863, Ira went out on his own relocating just north of the city first in Malden, Massachusetts and then later in Melrose.

Asa Warren White was born in Barre, Massachusetts in 1826. He worked in his young days for Henry Prentiss [dealer and publisher], with a violin maker named Giradol, a quick workman, who worked on all forms of stringed instruments. In 1849 Ira J. and A. W. White formed a partnership and worked together repairing and making different instruments. Asa Warren made his instruments after the Stradiuarius and Guarnerius models. After Ira J. withdrew from the firm Asa W. White was in business alone; he turned out several hundred violins "and about ten 'Cellos, several violas, three viol da gambas, and two viol d'Amors. A. W. White received a gold medal from the Massachusetts Mechanics' Fair." His shop in Boston was a training school for some of the later violin makers. He died in 1893.   Ira Johnson White died in December of 1895 at the age of 82. 

We have two White Brothers violins, the Allegro and the Premier.  

Link to our web page:  http://goldenmusic.co/products/4673




*from Contributions to the Art of Music in America by the Music Industries of Boston, 1640-1936



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Plant Biology Informs the Origins of the Stradivarius


ST. LOUIS — By day, Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is a plant morphologist who studies how the form and structure of tomatoes evolves differently as they adapt to new environments. By night, when he needs to think through a problem or take a break, he plays the viola.

Chitwood has now crossed his passions for plants and stringed instruments by publishing a study that documents the evolution of violin shapes using the same methods that he uses for charting the evolving form of leaves. The study published Oct. 8 in PLoS One used these methods to examine the shape of 9,000 instruments built over a period of 400 years.

The morphological analysis Chitwood used enabled him to classify violins according to region and violinmakers’ lineages. He identified four major groups of stringed instrument makers, or luthiers, who each crafted their own signature shapes that were passed down with small changes generation by generation—what Chitwood notes was “descent with modification,” in deference to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Chitwood gathered images of thousands of violin specimens, culled from the Cozio.com archive of stringed instruments. The archive includes detailed photographs of the front and back sides of valuable violins sold at auction, and Chitwood used open-source statistical computing software to analyze the shapes of their bodies and their f-holes (sound holes). Using linear discriminant analysis, a statistical technique that separates different classes of objects he developed scatterplots that separate individual instruments by luthier. Based on these shape differences, he clustered violins into four main groups of luthiers, whose designs still predominate in most modern instruments. The cluster map resembles an evolutionary tree.

As he studied the clusters, he noticed violins from families of luthiers possess similar qualities — like plants of a common genus, he says. He says many violin-making families included several generations, and a younger apprentice might have made a small change to distinguish his instruments from his forebears. “Different families will go in different shape trajectories than another family. It is like speciation,” Chitwood says. “It’s modification by descent. You mostly recapitulate the design, but you put a little change — a little mark of yourself — and it changes, like a mutation.”

Jim Woodhouse, a structural dynamicist at Cambridge University who provided Chitwood with information about violin acoustics, says the study confirms what luthiers know intuitively. “[This study] reveals some fairly clear trends, and also clear clusters of related shapes,” Luthier says. “This puts some scientific substance behind the anecdotal evidence of makers and expert dealers.”

History also plays a role in shaping violins, according to Chitwood’s analysis: Violins morph in a linear fashion with time, with many of the changes attributable to the rise of Antonio Stradivari. The violin master started producing instruments in the mid-17th century and remained the most prolific luthier of the Renaissance. He introduced a key change around the turn of the 18th century, developing a larger outline shape than other violins of the time. “There had been no other violin until that time that had that particular shape,” Chitwood says. “This shape really foretells the future … because it’s well documented that everyone copied Stradivarius.”

Stradivari Cluster
Four main clusters, named by prominent luthiers they contain, are indicated by color. Known copyists of Antonio Stradivari cluster with the Stradivari cluster, and often members of the same family cluster together. Members of family houses that cluster together are indicated. Blue, Maggini cluster; red, Stradivari cluster; purple, Amati cluster; green, Stainer cluster. Credit: Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and PLoS ONE.

Does the obsession with shape really matter? Modern violinists can’t distinguish the sound of Stradivariuses from brand-new instruments, says Claudia Fritz of the University of Paris. In studies published in 2012 and 2014, she asked accomplished violinists to blindly play “old Italian” violins and newer ones and compare their sound. The players couldn’t tell the instruments apart when they performed in a hotel room and, later, in a concert hall. Slight differences in form—the outline or the shape of the f-holes—have little effect on tone quality compared to the arched shape of the instrument, its varying thickness and its wood.

Chitwood wonders whether some luthiers are just copy cats. A Stradivarius isn’t necessarily the best; it became perceived as the fittest, so it proliferated, he says. “There are a lot of other masters — the Guarneri family, Nicolo Amati — why don’t we copy them as much?

“It was just perceived that Stradivarius instruments were superior,” he continues. “If all the attributes of the violins were made to mimic Stradivarius, maybe one reason we can’t tell the difference is because everybody copied him.”

That the study sets aside differences in sound makes it unique. “This is respectable research, halfway between science and history in terms of academic disciplines,” Woodhouse says, “and revealing things about the story of the violin that were not obvious before reading it.”

Reference Cluster
Thin plate splines, deforming grids to transform violins from members of reference clusters (vertical) with those of targets (horizontal). Averaged violin outlines from prolific luthiers from each cluster are superimposed and indicated by color. Differences between reference and target outlines have been amplified by a factor of four to better visualize subtle details. Blue, Maggini cluster; red, Stradivari cluster; purple, Amati cluster; green, Stainer cluster. Credit: Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and PLoS ONE.



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Origins of the Violin - the Lyra, Fiddle, to the 16th Century

The Lira is the Origin of the Violin

The history of bowed string musical instruments in Europe goes back to the 9th century with the lira (or lūrā, Greek: λύρα) of the Byzantine Empire, a bowed instrument (held upright). The Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911) of the 9th century, was the first to cite the bowed Byzantine lira as a typical instrument of the Byzantines and equivalent to the rabāb used in the Islamic Empires of that time.[1] The Byzantine lira spread through Europe westward and in the 11th and 12th centuries European writers use the terms fiddle and lira interchangeably when referring to bowed instruments (Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009). In the meantime rabāb was introduced to the Western Europe possibly through the Iberian Peninsula and both bowed instruments spread widely throughout Europe giving birth to various European bowed instruments.

Youtube video of a person playing the 6th century lyre: http://ow.ly/yyd0P

Gamba and braccio

Over the centuries that followed, Europe continued to have two distinct types of bowed instruments: one, relatively square-shaped, held in the arms, known with the Italian term lira da braccio (meaning viol for the arm) family; the other, with sloping shoulders and held between the knees, known with the Italian term lira da gamba (or viola da gamba, meaning viol for the leg) group.[2] During the Renaissance the gambas were important and elegant instruments; they eventually lost ground to the louder (and originally viewed as less aristocratic) lira da braccio family of the modern violin.

Emergence and early spread of the Violin – 16th Century

The violin as we know it today first emerged in northern Italy in the early 16th century especially from the Brescia area. Many archive documents testify that from 1485-95 Brescia was the cradle of a magnificent school of string players and makers, all called with the title of "maestro" of all the different sort of strings instruments of the Renaissance: viola da gamba (viols), violone, lyra, lyrone, violetta and viola da brazzo.  One of the firsts documents that testify the excellence of brescian masters is the 1495 order of three "viole" from Isabella D'Este Gonzaga to an anonymous maker in Brescia.  One can find "maestro delle viole" or "maestro delle lire" and later, at least from 1558, "maestro di far violini" that is master of violin making.  From 1530 the word violin appears in brescian documents and spread all around north of Italy especially in the last decades of the century. While no instruments from the first decades of the century survive, there are several representations in paintings; some of the early instruments have only three strings and were of the violetta type.  Most likely the first makers of violins borrowed from three different types of current instruments: the rebec, in use since the 10th century (itself derived from the Arab rebab), the Viola da Braccio (or Renaissance Fiddle), and the lira da braccio. The earliest explicit description of the instrument, including its tuning, was in the Epitome musical by Jambe de Fer, published in Lyon in 1556. By this time the violin had already begun to spread throughout Europe. (Wikipaedia)

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When did the Lyra start to be Bowed - Leading to the Violin?

The question of when and where the bow was invented is of interest because the bow made possible several of the most important instruments in music today. Authorities give different answers to this question, and this article will give only the predominant opinion.

Scholars are agreed that stringed instruments as a category existed long before the bow. There was a long period—possibly thousands of years—in which all stringed instruments were plucked.

In fact, it is likely that bowed instruments are not much more than a thousand years old. Eric Halfpenny, writing in the 1988 Encyclopædia Britannica, says "bowing can be traced as far back as the Islamic civilization of the 10th century... it seems likely that the principle of bowing originated among the nomadic horse riding cultures of Central Asia, whence it spread quickly through Islam and the East, so that by 1000 it had almost simultaneously reached China, Java, North Africa, the Near East and Balkans, and Europe." Halfpenny notes that in many Eurasian languages the word for "bridge" etymologically means "horse," and that the Chinese regarded their own bowed instruments (huqin) as having originated with the "barbarians" of Central Asia.

The Central Asian theory is endorsed by Werner Bachmann, writing in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Bachmann notes evidence from a tenth-century Central Asian wall painting for bowed instruments in what is now the city of Kurbanshaid in Tajikistan.

Circumstantial evidence also supports the Central Asian theory. All the elements that were necessary for the invention of the bow were probably present among the Central Asian horse riding peoples at the same time:

  • In a society of horse-mounted warriors (the horse peoples included the Huns and the Mongols), horsehair obviously would have been available.
  • Central Asian horse warriors specialized in the military bow, which could easily have served theinventor as a temporary way to hold horsehair at high tension.
Statue of Lyre and Bow
  • From all this it is tempting to imagine the invention of the bow: some Mongol warrior, having just used rosin on his equipment, idly stroked his harp or lyrewith a rosin-dusted finger and produced a brief continuous sound, which caused him to have an inspiration; whereupon he seized his bow, restrung it with horsehair, and so on. Obviously, the degree to which this fantasy is true will never be known. To this day, horsehair for bows is taken from places with harsh cold climates, including Mongolia,[7] as such hair offers a better grip on the strings.
  • Rosin, crucial for creating sound even with coarse horsehair, is used by traditional archers to maintain the integrity of the string and (mixed withbeeswax) to protect the finish of the bow.[8]

However the bow was invented, it soon spread very widely. The Central Asian horse peoples occupied a territory that included the Silk Road, along which goods and innovations were transported rapidly for thousands of miles (including, via India, by sea to Java). This would account for the near-simultaneous appearance of the musical bow in the many locations cited by Halfpenny.

The last of the bowed yoke lyres with fingerboard was the "modern" (
ca. 1485 – ca. 1800) Welsh crwth. It had several predecessors both in the British Isles and in Continental Europe. Pitch was changed on individual strings by pressing the string firmly against the fingerboard with the fingertips. Like a violin, this method shortened the vibrating length of the string to produce higher tones, while releasing the finger gave the string a greater vibrating length, thereby producing a tone lower in pitch. This is the principle on which the modern violin and guitar work.Lyres appearing to have emerged independently of Greco-Roman prototypes were used by the TeutonicGallic,Scandinavian, and Celtic peoples over a thousand years ago. Dates of origin, which probably vary from region to region, cannot be determined, but the oldest known fragments of such instruments are thought to date from around the sixth century of the Common Era. After the bow made its way into Europe from the Middle-East, around two centuries later, it was applied to several species of those lyres that were small enough to make bowing practical. There came to be two broad classes of bowed European yoke lyres: those with fingerboards dividing the open space within the yoke longitudinally, and those without fingerboards. The last surviving examples of instruments within the latter class were the Scandinaviantalharpa and the Finnish jouhikko. Different tones could be obtained from a single bowed string by pressing the fingernails of the player's left hand against various points along the string to fret the string.

While the dates of origin and other evolutionary details of the European bowed yoke lyres continue to be disputed among organologists, there is general agreement that none of them were the ancestors of modern orchestral bowed stringed instruments, as once was thought.

Paraphrased from Wikipaedia

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