Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

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Irena Sobecka
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 4:27 pm

Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

Post by Irena Sobecka »

I'm new here, so hello everyone :)
I started to learn to be a luthier when I was 13 and now I make instruments for a living. Very cool thing and I'm thrilled and excited to talk to other luthiers, learn something or maybe give an advice!
Hit me with anything.

I recently wrote an article on a relationship with an instrument from my point of view. What do you guys think?

How much do you care about the quality of sound in your daily life? Every day I meet people from the music industry and I want to say just one thing – maybe you care, maybe you don't. But you definitely should. With quality comes clarity and understanding. Manufacturers of our common products know that communication is the most important thing in the world. Without it, there's no relationship and no business. They invent good speakers and put it in your smartphone so you can hear not only what others have to say but how they say it - a slight difference in tone makes a huge difference insubstance. You choose a laptop with good built-in speakers to clearly hear the dialogue from a favourite show. And I know people who love music so much they can spend hundreds – or maybe even thousands of dollars on a sound system that allows them to listen to high-quality music.

There's a saying that music is a language we all understand. It doesn't speak words, it speaks emotions. If you want your audience to connect with you, make sure that your instrument tells the same story that you want to tell.

I often answer calls from parents wanting to rent from me and they ask me about their options. In a perfect world I would tell them to come visit me at the end of the world somewhere (Tolkmicko, Poland is such a place – go google it), come down to the basement where I work and search with me for the Holy Grail that is a well-fitted and adjusted instrument. But we don't live in a perfect world and there's not a lot of people that can take two or three days to meet me at my home and workshop. As a result, I answer calls and e-mails driven by a hunch, only having often not-so-well-measured length of arms and neck to help me find the perfect size. So sizing comes first, and of course it's also a very important thing. But the sound... Well, in that case, the sound comes second.

I like to think that choosing an instrument is like buying a wand in a magical world of Harry Potter. It can be as old as you want, hand-made by luthier in Italy, and free from many annoying things interrupting musicians and still not be the one for you. The secret lies somewhere else - in the unique connection between an instrument ant the player. The gentleness of the right hand with the bow lightly touching the strings and their response time - that's when the magic happens. You can imagine that a thick wood would need a firm hand; the thinner the materials are, the more tenderness it would need to sound warm and good. Of course I'm simplifying the matter and there's more to the tone than thickness of the wood. And when I talk about delicacy I don't think only of women and by a firm hand I don't mean a male musician's hand. It doesn't matter.

The differences of every instrument are impossible to see, and sometimes hard to hear, by someone who's not a qualified luthier or trained musician. Without physically touching your next music machine there's simply no way of knowing if it will suit you. Especially when there are plenty of factors that impact the comfort of playing – the size of the neck, the distance between top nut and a bridge, the arch of the bridge, a sound post placement and so on... Some of them, like a sound post and a bridge, are easy to modify and some of them, like the density of wood are simply impossible to change. Starting to see my point? A good painter can make your portrait from a photo that you've send him, but he can also meet you, get to know you and capture your true self in the strokes of a brush. I'd like my every client to have their own portrait within this mysterious piece of wood.

I'm not saying, of course, that you should stop calling and writing e-mails. Please - write, call, send photos (I may be the only person in the world to fit a hand-made chinrest to a children's neck on a base of pictures only). But, my dear clients, students and their parents – once a year (or just once) come visit me. Let's have a conversation, let me observe your relationship with your current instrument and understand the needs of a next one. We can choose something together.The connection between an instrument and it's owner is amazing. Musicians often tell me stories about the strange vibes they get from touching the one for the first time. If you've felt it even once, you're the luckiest man on Earth. And if you didn't, maybe I can make it happen.

Gordon Bellerose
Posts: 1186
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:47 pm
Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Re: Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Welcome to the forum!

All my life, since age 10, has been involved in music in one way or another.
I too have chased tone and clarity in both live situations, and in recorded music. In my sound systems I ask for loud but clear. I want to feel the bass in my chest, and still be able to hear the drummer lightly hitting the center of a cymbal., or a pianist lightly playing a riff.

I still chase tone in my instrument builds. Clarity first, tone second, and volume third but still very important.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Irena Sobecka
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 4:27 pm

Re: Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

Post by Irena Sobecka »

Hi Gordon,
Thanks for your reply! Feeling the bass going through the chest is one of the best feelings in the world!
It's very encouraging to be here among the people still searching for good sounds, quality and clarity. Thanks!

Craig Cowing
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2018 4:55 pm

Re: Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

Post by Craig Cowing »

To my mind, perfect sound is very subjective. What sounds perfect to one person may not sound perfect to another.

Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: Choosing an instrument + Hello :)

Post by Mark Wybierala »

For me, I focus on the feel of an instrument while seeking the opinion of others concerning tone. One of the things I often say is "Tone Happens". My inability to be discerning about tone or put forth a opinion about tone is something that I have imposed on myself. I know tone I like when I hear it and I know when it offends me but the same instrument in the hands of another may yield something entirely different so I have learned to be nonjudgmental of tone. There can be heart pulling beauty in the plainest of things. Music that moves the soul can take so many forms and the voice of Tom Waits can and often be enjoyed.

As a luthier, my focus is to make an instrument inviting to touch. An instrument that calls you to it to be an extension of yourself is my primary goal. Tone will happen and someone may enjoy it. For me, I want my instruments to inspire freedom in the player and this is not always what someone is looking for and that is okay too. To appreciate any instrument, someone needs to pick it up and spend time with it. I have no sympathy for those who are disappointed by an instrument they purchase through the internet or the mail.

I don't criticize anyone for having a strong opinion about tone. Its just that I have found that I lack the ability to have an opinion that I respect from my own observations. We all have our strong points so I focus on what I believe mine may be.

Welcome to the forum.

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