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Pauline Lerner

Of Bows and Strings and Cabbages and Kings

September 24, 2007 at 1:31 AM

One of my adult students has a violin which sounds beautiful, and I covet it. Now he has something else interesting. One of his friends had a father, now deceased, who was a professional symphonic violinist. The friend had his father’s violin and bow put in a sealed glass case which he hung on his living room wall. (Ouch!!) The friend has another one of his father’s bows, and he offered it to give it to my student, who gladly accepted it. My student took it to the luthier for rehairing and general appraisal. The luthier said that it was in good condition. He couldn’t say how much the bow was really worth because he didn’t know the maker, but he estimated, by looking at the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship, that it was worth $800-$1200. Nice gift! When I heard my student play his violin with his new bow, the sound was even more beautiful than it had been before. I asked him to let me try it, and the result was disappointing. It felt strange and heavy in my hand. I tried to play with it, but I couldn’t tell how to maneuver it. In my hand, it was essentially dead. I know that getting the right bow to go with your own violin and your own hand is important, and this was such a dramatic demonstration of that requirement.

As I wrote in my blog dated Sept. 7, I was very happy with my new Infeld red strings, but the G string sounded a little fuzzy. Karen Allendoerfler wrote that she had a similar experience. She changed her G string from an Infeld Red to an Infeld Blue and got rid of the fuzziness. I tried it, too, and the results were great. From the moment I first played the open G string, I knew that the sound was much better, more clear and sweet. Thanks for your advice, Karen.

I’ve been using a great beginners’ book of fiddle tunes, American Fiddle Method, Violin Book 1, Mel Bay, and most of my students like fiddle tunes. (Many of them say they want to play Irish music or bluegrass music and have no idea what that kind of music really is.) The book comes with a CD of the tunes, and it’s really fun to listen to. I don’t think the beginning students could play along, but they get such a kick out of listening to it that they really want to learn to play the tunes. Most of the time, the writer/editor did the difficult task of simplifying a song without killing it. The book starts with a series of endings that the students love: “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits”. The first song in the book is “Boil ‘em Cabbage Down, rather boring but rather easy, and progresses to more difficult songs. The book gives lyrics to songs that I didn’t know had lyrics, and they’re quite silly. For example,

Old Joe Clark, he had a house
Sixteen stories high,
And every story in that house
Was filled with chicken pie


Three little children lyin’ in a bed
Two was sick and one nearly dead
Sent for the doctor, the doctor said,
“Feed those children on shortnin’ bread.“

Some of the songs are Camptown Races, Angelina Baker (the only love song I’ve ever heard about a woman 43 years old), Soldier’s Joy, Red Wing, and Bonaparte’s Retreat. The book also has explanations and short exercises on such topics as the low second finger and high third finger.

This book proves that you can learn and have fun at the same time. I recommend it highly.

I tried and tried to think of a connection between kings and music, and then I remembered that Elvis is the King.

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