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The Legacy of Cremona


Travelling with a String Instrument
By William Paul Muller

Years of extensive touring with my viola, in busses, vans and every type of aircraft (ERJ, 757, Airbus, Twin propeller etc.) and going through Airport Security numerous times in one day, having my viola X-rayed and being asked, is that a "Fishing pole?", (the bow), have made me pretty much an expert in the field.

Try to use the smallest, lightest case available. It is less conspicuous and will fit in virtually all airplane overheads. The dart shaped viola cases (I use a Gewa) take up less room than an oblong violin case.

Flight attendants will often ask you to check your violin or viola. Assure them, with a smile, that the instrument will fit in the overhead and that you fly often with no trouble fitting it in the overhead. Don't be afraid to ask for a supervisor if you get nowhere with the attendant.

On really small planes, they will usually try to get you to "gate check" your instrument. A violin or viola will fit under the seats parallel with the air frame. Ask to show them how well it fits if they don't believe you.

A 'cello should have it's own seat. Yes, pay the money as it is cheaper than repairing a broken neck! Cellists should also consider packing extra strings and endpin in their suitcase or these items might be confiscated by security.

Bass players. Know the regulations published by the airline. Try to fly the ones that allow the bass in the cablin. Most flight attendants are unaware of the rules that allow basses on a plane. The bulkhead is where it goes. You'll have to use your charm to work out the problem of the scroll hanging over into the seat behind. Perhaps you could sit there. If you have to change planes on the trip be sure all planes will accept the bass, round trip included, before you commit to a ticket.

When traveling in a van in the winter, make sure your instrument is not near a heater outlet on the floor. Some heater vents are between the front seats at floor level. Also, certain areas of the floor become hot due to the exhaust pipes, or drive train, below the floor. Even in the summer be sure to check periodically to see that the instrument is not resting on a hot spot on the floor.


Basic Violin Maintenance

Wipe the rosin off the violin and the stick of the bow after playing. Don't use too much rosin. Less is better than more. If a rosin cloud appears before you when you play, you had too much rosin on the hair. Look at the top of the instrument after you play. If it looks like it just snowed, you had too much rosin on the bow.

Check the bridge angle from time to time. A 90 degree angle between the back of the bridge and the top of the instrument is the rule of thumb.

Periodically clean the instrument with a lightly moistened cloth. This removes dirt and perspiration. A damp cloth will not hurt the varnish.

Check for open seams by looking at the instrument. Do not lift corners or edges to see if they are loose. Instead, press down and if they are loose you will see the seam open and close. Use your knuckle and tap around the perimeter of the top or back just over the purfling. If a seam is open the tap sound will be different.

Instead of running out to have your bow rehaired, if it just isn't responding like it used to, try using a tooth brush to gently brush and comb the hair. This spreads rosin and separates the hair and will inprove the playability. Of course this won't help if half the hair is missing.


Selecting an Instrument
By William Paul Muller

One of the most important decisions we make as performers is choosing a new instrument. Most importantly, one has to remember that it will be your instrument not your friend's, colleague's, teacher's, etc. You have to practice on it, perform on it and you have to live with it. It will be your best friend.

Consider the modern violin makers as the sound of modern string instruments can equal or better the sound of any instrument ever made. And, modern instruments are in superb condition.