Advanced Student Instruments
A less expensive option:
I had originally hoped to only build “new, made from the raw wood” instruments, but, as it turns out, fewer people are willing (or able) to pay for the labor involved in building such an instrument. So, reluctantly, some years ago, I began to offer “advanced student instruments,” which meant I bought an unfinished instrument “in the white”, and completed the building, finishing and set-up as if it were my own creation, but labeling it as having been “from my shop” (meaning, not made by me,) and selling it at about 1/4-1/3 the price of my handmade instruments. For better or worse, these were a popular option, as the buyer gets a very good violin or viola, for a low price, and a 100% trade-in, if they later decide to buy one of my original handmade instruments.
Five String “Chez Les Eveques”
I recently found that there were now also 5-string instruments available in the white, and, as an experiment, I bought two of them: a five-string fiddle (which seems to simply be a regular violin with a 5-string scroll,) and a 15″ 5-string viola (which, again, seems to be a normal 15″ viola body with a 5-string scroll.)
A good starting place:
As had been my experience in the past, the workmanship is quite good. The rest is up to me, as a rule. I do see some improvements I would make if I were in charge of the factory producing them, but that is OK, too. (Can’t give away all the secrets!)
I began the finishing process as if they were my own work; but with no specific plan, as I had no customer in mind, so I could not ask their preference. Just my usual gound, sealer, and first varnish coats.
I was also in the midst of completing a commissioned instrument, so that was taking priority, but sometime along in the middle, there, I received a message from an individual who wanted this level of five-string fiddle. Annnd, she wanted to see what it looked like as it stood now… I actually had the customer on the phone, when I went into the next room and clumsily took two photos with my phone (see below) and sent them to her.
Bingo! She liked it, and said, “Let’s get it done!” So, we were off and running!
I asked questions as to her preferences, saw photos of her current existing instruments, and got a clear idea of where I was going with the look: (fairly deep color, some antiquing, etc.), and I began laying on color to suit, but sending her progress reports with photos, for approval.
Once the varnish was nearing completion, I installed the fingerboard and began set-up:
Having received assurance that all was well, so far, I continued on into set-up, and completed the instrument.
That tailpiece is hand-carved of Osage Orange, per the customer’s request: she was classically trained and does not like the multiple fine-tuners I usually supply.
So…you may be thinking, “How does it sound?”
Well, actually, disgustingly good! I always hope that my handmade instruments are just “head and shoulders above” the ones I buy in the white, but this is really a good five-string fiddle! The main advantage of the handmade original is that the customer gets to choose what type of (and in some cases what specific pieces of) wood will be used, as well as the overall look, and set-up. I can tailor an instrument to the needs of the specific player, if I start from the beginning with that player in mind. Not so much with the factory-made, in-the-white instruments. But, in this case, I think we have a winner!
The customer is a violist, so she knows good viola sound, and will undoubtedly mix and match strings until she finds the perfect match for her, but she is starting off with excellent balance across all five strings: nothing flabby or unfocused about that C-string at all! So, she should be able to put her favorite strings on it and get “instant gratification” I expect, so, anyway… There are so many possible combinations that I can’t say for certain that they will all work. I will ship it with a decent set of strings that work very well, and after that, it is the customer’s game, for life! 🙂
Here is her new baby, hanging in my dining room, ready to ship!
Thanks for looking.