Friday Mailbag. And a bit about the blog format…

April 11, 2008
Because I am sometimes not very creative have reposted all of my “Best of…” material, I had to figure out where to go next. Ideally, I thought it should be something that would keep me organized and writing about a particular topic all the time, and provide information or some type of blathering idiocy thought-provoking content for anyone who happens to lurk stop by. Here’s what I’ve come up with, at least for the foreseeable future:

Monday Matters: on Mondays, I’ll post a practice tip or pointer.
Trivial Tuesday: on Tuesdays, let’s do violin trivia! It might be about a composer, piece, or just plain useless information that will impress your friends and acquaintances.
Wishful Wednesday: Wednesdays will be devoted to practice organization, which is what I do for a living. Think of it as decluttering for violinists.
Thinking Thursday: on Thursdays, the plan is to discuss a piece or technique in depth, as a series perhaps.
Friday Mailbag: Your questions answered! My questions answered! I might even throw in some links I found during the week that impressed me.
Weekend Wramblings: I might post on the weekends. Then again, I might not. If I do, I can guarantee it will be worth reading. Or not. But…since it’s Friday, let’s finish up with the Mailbag!             

I’m happy to answer questions I get about violin-related subjects. Mine is the realm of classical expertise, but if you can’t find an answer somewhere regarding another area of violin music, I’ll give it a shot. To get the party started, here are a few super-common questions I’ve been asked.
Q. What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
A. None, except the style of playing. The instrument itself is exactly the same. However, in non-classical circles, you’ll occasionally see a 5-string violin. (Although I played with a gal in the Chattanooga Symphony who played a 5-string as her primary instrument.) They’re strung with a “C” string at the bass end, so it’s almost like having a viola and violin all wrapped up in one instrument. I think they’re exceptionally cool, and the purchase of one is on my wish list when I get more time to work on my electric violin. (Now, there’s a thought for weekend posting — the trials and tribulations of learning to play an electrc violin.)

Q. Where did the violin originate?
A. The violin has been around in various forms since biblical times. The first violins that are in essentially the form we recognize as a violin today were made in the 1500s. Gasparo da Salo (1540-1609) is generally credited as being the first “modern” violin maker, about a century before the Italian golden age of Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri.

Q. I think my Auntie/Gramma/Nice Lady At My Church gave me a Stradivarius. It says so on the tag inside the violin!
A. Probably not. The odds are pretty good that it’s a copy of one of the Strad models. Makers often put a tag like that in copies for a couple of reasons: so that buyers can tell what it was copied from, and to help them sell instruments. If you’re in doubt, take the violin to a violin shop (one that specializes in violin making and repairs) and have it appraised.

Q. How long have you played violin?
A. I started lessons in 1975, in a group class in the Des Moines school system.

Q. Do you fiddle?
A. Yes and no. I am a “fiddler” in the slang definition, meaning I play the violin. “Fiddle” is a term of endearment, much like “honey,” “sugar,” and “sweetie.” However, I do own an electric violin, on which I eventually intend to learn enough about blues to sit in with a band, or even pick up a gig or two. Or at least enough to make it worth my while to get that 5-string Mark Wood violin I have my eye on. That, my friends, would definitely get me a gig with ZZ Top. That is, as long as Frank, Dusty and Billy can overlook the facts that I do not look good in a biniki or leather pants (you’ll have to trust me on this one), my hair has an annoying tendency to start falling out when I attempt to grow it past my chin, the follicles that used to grow hair on my head are magically transporting themselves to my chin, and that I walk like I’ve had too much Lynchburg Lemonade when I have 5-inch heels on my shoes. But I’m thinking that what you really wanted to know is, that while I very much enjoy listening to good bluegrass and other fiddling styles, I don’t play those styles myself for a myriad of reasons.

In a couple of years, after people actually find this blog and start reading it, I have no doubt that the questions will pour in so fast that my inbox will be shut down because there isn’t enough room to hold it all. So…get your question in early, before that happens.