I have the privilege of teaching approximately 35 violin (2 cello) students in my Guelph home studio in all music styles from classical (Royal Conservatory) to Celtic fiddle, Jazz to electric violin Rock. I love violin instruction/coaching and am blessed to work with a wonderful group of students and parents. On Monday this week I took two of my students and a parent shopping for two new full 4/4 size violins. They had both outgrown their 3/4 size instruments. For a small consulting fee, I regularly set up appointments in private and large violin shops to get the “best instrument” within a particular price range. On this day we chose three violin shops: Terry Maurice – a private dealer and restorer in Guelph, Phil Davis – a private dealer and restorer in Toronto, and Geo. Heinl & Co. Ltd. – Canada’s foremost and oldest violin shop in Toronto currently presided over by Ric Heinl. Our price range was $1500 to $2000 for the one student and $3000-$4000 for the other. I am constantly amazed by the instruments that win the “sound tests”on these violin shopping trips. Here is the process we took on Monday …
After packing our lunches and downing a much needed coffee, we started at Terry Maurice’s shop (a large main floor show room and the basement of his beautiful heritage cottage in Guelph) at 8 a.m. He had aprox. 8 instruments in our price range which we quickly boiled down to two that stood out from the rest with a beautiful full sound. These we packed into a double violin case, and before long we were on the 401 headed for Toronto for our next stop, Phil Davis.
Terry Maurice and two of my students with their “trial” violins
Terry’s violins stayed in the car as we entered Phil Davis’s home studio at 10:45 a.m. (a basement walkout addition on his beautiful old Danforth home). He also had 8 or 9 instruments from which we selected the 3 best options to take with us along with 2 German bows to our next stop: Heinls.
Phil Davis and students with another “trial” violin
After cutting along the Danforth and weaving our way to the down town Toronto core (with a bit of crazy Toronto driving I must add!) we pulled into a back alley behind Heinls by 12 noon and found an open parking spot. Whenever I go to Heinls I always use this little known “secret” back entrance for Heinls for the “regulars”… feels like spy operation stuff: you ring a little doorbell just off the alley … and one of the workers inside asks for the secret password (Stradivarius) and let’s you in … just kidding! … but anyway … I think in the 25 years I have visited Heinls, I have only entered the main front entrance twice! This is where the real violin “trials” began. With our 5 trial instruments in hand from the Maurice and Davis shops, sales manager, Andreas, ushered us upstairs past a “who’s who” gallery of famous string players, past the famous violin workshop to a beautiful large room with comfortable leather chairs dedicated to auditioning instruments. It was here in Canada’s hallowed and oldest violin store that we started the “violin trials”. Within 15 minutes, Andreas had brought up another 20-30 instruments in our price range … we quickly went through the whole group and boiled it down to the top ten … from these violins we started using the “blindfold test” …
Two students and a parent in Heinl’s large “audition room”
A student using a blindfold to test a violin in Heinl’s large “audition room”
The “blindfold test” is a final selection process where the student wears a blindfold so they only focus on the sound and feel of the instrument, not the look and name … With their blind fold on, I give them violin A, B and C to play and they tell me which one they like the best. The parent and I also listen to the tone of each as well. We continue this process of elimination until only one instrument is left. Here are a few quick tips to follow while you select a violin:
1/ Shop around at a variety of specialty violin stores. Don’t shop at general music stores that sell other instruments. Private violin shops often have some real gems so make sure you include a smaller private shop in your list of places to visit. Take the best instrument with you to the next store.
2/ Sound is everything! Don’t get caught up in the name, price, age or look of the instrument (thus the blind fold test!) Don’t worry about the look of chin rests, pegs etc
3/ You want to find a violin that sounds nice to both the player and the listener. It is possible to play an instrument that sounds very small and pinched to the players ear but sounds beautiful and full to the listener and visa versa … it is important, though, as a player to be inspired by the sound of your violin and also have the knowledge that what you are hearing is what the audience is hearing.
4/ When you are trying out the violin, play it in it’s full range from the g to the e string in a variety of positions. Scales are a good place to start (2 and 3 octave) … then play a song (the same song on each instrument) that you know well …
5/ If possible, take your teacher or another professional player who can really give the instrument a workout for you to hear as a parent or student. This can be a valuable resource.
A good online article on this topic to read is “How to choose a violin” by Peter Zaret
And the winner is … a 2004 handmade violin by Christina Yankovich
To make a long story short … Monday morning’s violin shopping trip ended up with two clear winners … 1) a French turn of the century factory made violin that had been “reworked” (ribs, back and top reshaped internally to correct proportions) by Terry Maurice to produce a superior sound and 2) a handmade 2004 Stradivarius modeled violin by Christina Yankovich from the shop of Philip Davis. I guess the two small violin shops won out this time! Overall a very productive day with two very happy and newly inspired students!
You can contact: Terry Maurice in Guelph at: 519-763-8481, Phil Davis in Toronto at: 416-466-9619 and Heinl’s at: 1-800-387-7858
Until next time … TD
We brought the band together last week to do some live off the floor studio tracking at ADS Media just outside of Hamilton. I have done a fair bit of recording for Ken Vandevrie, president of ADS Media on acoustic violin over the last few years. One of our first recordings together was Dan Macaulay’s “Captured Again” CD. ADS also did all the production on my 2006 “Flyingbow – Up Close” DVD Release.
On this session last week, however, we tracked a medley of 5 traditional Celtic songs that we will be performing live this Saturday at the Toronto Convention Center for an annual Canadian Tire Banquet. Ken needed a recording to give to a troupe of Celtic dancers who will be joining us for the Canadian Tire gig. Ken’s newly renovated studio is a one-stop media design and development company that delivers excellent, affordable work across three major disciplines: Audio, Video, and Design. Canadian Tire is one of his esteemed clients.
You can download the new Celtic Medley here for free! It was recorded live off the floor – has not been mixed or mastered so keep this in mind …
ADS Media’s new studio location – a beautiful serene setting. Click here to see more.
Ken, Corey and Will in the ADS Media Control Room
I really enjoy studio recording. It is great challenge. As I record, I am often asked to do a combination of playing by ear, reading charts and creating on the spot arrangements and multi tracking where I lay down multiple violin lines to create the feeling of a full orchestra. A great trick many producers do (on a budget) is lay down string lines from a keyboard using sampled strings, then add my real violin sound to the mix. This tricks the ear into thinking that the whole orchestral line is real.
Taken after a productive morning in the studio … from left to right: Will Jarvis (bass), Ken Vandevrie (president of ADS Media), Trevor Dick (violin), David Johannesson (drums – subbing in for Steve Heathcote) and Corey Lacey (guitar).
Well … I am back home safe and sound after a busy East Coast Tour opening for gospel artist, Lynda Randle. It was good to get back to “normal” life with my family this week.
Some of the Lynda Randle Tour artists in Rock Church, Halifax, N.S. From left to right: Joey (keys), Bridget (voice), Gail (voice), Me, Lynda Randle (voice), Evangeline (voice). To view more tour pics click here.
I want to thank the audiences in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who embraced us all as artists and made us feel so welcome. I made many new friends and have been invited to go back east soon for more concert appearances. A bitter sweet part of the tour was saying goodbye to Brad Toews (keyboards) who has moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia with his wife, Dawna and young family. He is a great friend and brother in the Lord. We will miss him.
Brad using a pay phone in the Quebec City snow …
The concert last night in St. John, New Brunswick was lot’s of fun. No ipod surprises this time … Here is a youtube clip of my solo in “God on the Mountain” with Lynda Randle. Not the greatest quality (recorded on an old Canon A80 Digital Camera) but gives you an idea …
Violin Solo in “God on the Mountain”, St. John, N.B.
What happens when you drive an SUV in an underground hotel garage with your luggage on the roof?
THIS! … The East Coast adventure continues …
The Moncton concert last night an interesting musical adventure … a perfect, smoother than normal sound check … but then suddenly in our concert set, the signal on the ipod background tracks cut out on the VERY FIRST song (a faulty DI box/XLR connection). “Plan B” kicked in and Brad Toews (keys) and I did a completely live improvised set made up of audience requests mixed with planned numbers. The audience loved it … the spontaneous, unplanned, relaxed nature of it … especially a new rendition of “The Old Rugged Cross” for which we received a standing ovation. God’s plans are always different than our own!
It was an honour, as well, to be invited by Lynda Randle to join her set later in the evening. Here are a few action shots …
In Concert with Lynda Randle and Group
We are having a great time on tour with Lynda Randle. Our first concert in Montreal went very well … Just thought you would like to see our two modes of transportation:
Lynda Randle …
Both of us together …
One concert down … six more to go. We are presently in Quebec City on route to Moncton, N.B.
Until next time … TD
Dear friends and supporters,
I leave tomorrow to go on another EAST COAST TOUR with Brad Toews (keys) – opening for Gospel artist, LYNDA RANDLE, who is well known for her performances with THE GAITHERS. We will be playing in Montreal, Moncton, St. John, Fredericton, Halifax and Truro. All the details are posted on my concert Calendar. I’ll be blogging as we travel …
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD to your East Coast friends! My heartfelt thanks again for your ongoing prayers and support for my music ministry (God’s through me).
HE IS RISEN! Keep your eyes, ears, heart and mind open to His work in and around you!
Lynda Randle singing “At Calvary”