Jim Clinton Violins Greenville, SC

Archive for June, 2011


Jim Clinton Violins,
3400 Rutherford Rd Ext.,
Taylors SC

Free admittance to watch, register to compete, and to drink ol’ timey soft drinks.


10:30 – 11am – Registration of all competitors.
11am – 12pm – Jr. Open Inst. Competition
12pm – 1pm – Adult Old Time Fiddle Competition

Adult Old Time Fiddle – 1 slow tune, 1 fast tune, backup tunes in case of runoff
1st – $100 Cash | 2nd – $75 Cash | 3rd – $50 Cash

Jr. Open Instrumental (15 yrs. and under) – 1 tune, any instrument.
1st – $50 shopping spree | 2nd – $30 shopping spree | 3rd – $25 shopping spree


Benny’s BBQ Shack will be selling Hot Dogs, and Chicken or Pork BBQ with sides and sweet tea. Cafe Paulista will provide Fresh Squeezed Brazilian style Amazon Fruit Juices and Smoothies for $2.00 a cup.

JCViolins will provide Root Beer, Pepsi, and Ginger Ale for free.

for contest rules »Read More

Register in advance by calling 864.322.2622 or email jim@jcviolins.com.

John Sipe’s visit to Jim Clinton Violins on April 16, 2011.

– Interview by local musician/writer Bob Buckingham

John Sipe will be visiting Jim Clinton Violins in April. He is a renowned builder of violins and violas from Charlotte, North Carolina. Now semi-retired, some highlights in his building career include attending master classes at Hofstra University in New York City, where world famous makers and repairmen taught him. He has toured Europe visiting many of the famous makers and their shops. He traveled to England to study bow making from Malcolm Taylor (W.E. Hill and Sons). Additionally he received the Tone Award by the Violin Society of America. Many professional musicians play John Sipe’s instruments throughout the world including Nadir Khashimov, the outstanding and upcoming violin virtuoso, winner of the Pablo de Sarasate International Violin Competition in Pamplona, Spain, who performed Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy on a John Sipe violin during the award ceremonies with the Navarra Symphony Orchestra. Nadir is at the present a student at the world famous Curtis Institue of Music in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Shmuel Ashkenasi and Pamela Frank.

A world-renowned builder, Sipe is pessimistic about the outlook for today’s builders. He says there will always be a market for new instruments, but “violin making today for beginners would be very hard and not a good choice.” He will counter that even though it is not a good time to do it, one must do it because it is a calling. “My call to make violins was Spiritual.” This, he says, is why you do it, not for any other reason. You are driven to turn wood from God’s forests into instruments that sing to the glory that is God.

When asked what makes his violins so well received, he slyly responds, “There are certain things I do and follow in making. There are no secrets, only gifts! Wood is very important, but not the whole story, it is in the making.”

The subject of the documentary, The Well-Tempered Luthier, Sipe extols the value of the varnish. He explains that it is very important in the final sound and appearance of the instrument. He says, “You need a very good understanding in sound and have a clear idea what really is important, not hearsay, as so much of this is going around. Sound is personal, but it must be pleasing to the player and audience.”

There is no rush in the making of an instrument. Time is not of importance. It takes what it takes to get each phase done. Like any good craftsman, he will set aside a part to revisit it at a later date to re-examine his work and make any necessary improvements or to add touches that enhance the value of the instrument. He also uses the best materials and his goal is to let his hand be guided to improve upon those materials. He has faith that his work today will stand as his legacy. He feels no need to draw attention toward himself; it is his feeling that those who appreciate the quality that he tries to imbue into each violin will bring the recognition these fine instruments deserve. His instruments will speak for themselves. His dream is that his instruments will last and be loved and played for many years to come. It is Sipe’s feeling that one cannot improve upon the high standards of Stradivari. He says, “Stradivari brought the violin to a very high level of perfections. No man has ever surpassed and I don’t think anyone ever will. It’s not humanly possible.” He believes that work is satisfying but one must never become satisfied. He is always looking for better ways to make a better instrument. In 1997 he had a breakthrough with his finishes and since that time he makes his own finishes, as they are so important to the final product.

His thoughts on what makes a good violin are shaped from a life of making and working with instruments. He has held and repaired instruments by some of the finest builders who have lived. He seemingly absorbed knowledge from these instruments by holding them, and working on them. “The violin must be professional, as it is a tool to work with making music. The violin must please the player and not everyone else who thinks he knows all about it.” The quality in his instruments, the quality that makes these instruments so highly praised by players worldwide, is attributed to a gift from God. If he hadn’t been moved spiritually, the knowledge he has attained would not have been given to him to make his superior instruments. Sipe has made several series of instruments, one series named for kings and prophets from the Old Testament of the Bible and another honoring the first forty-one presidents of the United States.

He has advice for the player who is looking for a better instrument. “It is the player, buys and plays the violin.” Listen to them and…”not some know it all who may resent your purchase. Take professional advice, because everyone has an opinion, your teacher is a good place to start, choose a good maker who has a track record. Know what you want in a sound that is needed for good playing, not to please everyone, that cannot be done.”

Knowledgeable musicians value the Sipe violin for its ability to project sound and for the level of nuance it brings to the instrument. It allows the artist to fully express the range of emotions found in the most challenging pieces. As Sipe says, these are tools, highly developed tools for artistic expression.

On April 16th at 11:00 am, Mr. Sipe will be at Jim Clinton Violins on Rutherford Road in Greenville, South Carolina for Taste the Soundcscape II, meet the violinmaker.

At this event, leading area performers will play seven of Mr. Sipe’s violins. Betsy Fee-Elliot, GSO, Suzuki instructor; Sara Johnson, violin professor at Converse College and UNCSA; Leroy Sellers, violinist and teacher; and Paul Statsky, ASO, professor Cleveland Institute and the Governor’s School, Converse College.


– by local musician/writer Bob Buckingham

A funny thing happened on the way to the lesson.

Freddy put his violin in the car, in the case and left it there while he ran a series of errands.  It was warm and dry in the house where he kept the violin most of the time, but it was cold and drier outside in the car.  After a while the car warmed up but Freddy left it in the car while he stopped to pick up some items at the grocery store, then got busy talking to his friend Stacy, whom he ran into at the store.  He lost track of time.  The car got cold inside and the fiddle cooled off.  When he finally got to his lesson, his violin was badly out of tune.  Two of the pegs were loose and the other strings sounded wonky from being so far off.

Jeannie keeps her fiddle in a stand so she can pick it up and play it while working at home.  She will pick it up and play to reduce the stress of answering phone calls and emails. Her home is not humidified and some times her fiddle pegs slip.  Other times they get so tight she can’t seem to get them to move for tuning.

Changes in temperature and humidity take their toll by causing the woods in your violin to swell and contract.  Since the fittings, (i.e. the pegs, tailpiece and chinrest) are made of a different wood than the top, which is spruce, and the back, ribs and neck that are usually maple. All of these woods have different characteristics that cause them to expand or contract at different rates.  So when the humidity changes the maple in the peg box and the peg, which is ebony, rosewood or boxwood, do not react to the same degree to these changes, causing the peg to get looser in lower humidity and tighter in higher humidity.  So when you pick up your violin or pull it out of the case after keeping it in the car you maybe be surprised at what you find, but now you know better what to expect.

Additionally there are more damaging results to not keeping your violin comfortable.  As the different woods contract and expand, pressures can be built up causing cracks or, under real extreme situations like high heat, glue joints can come apart. Wood is much more flexible when it is more humid and the wood has absorbed water.  The wood in the ribs is wet when it is bent.  Add the stress of high moisture and high pressure from the strings and the violin distorts.  You don’t have to look too long to find old fiddles that have bulging ribs, or a bulging under the tailpiece.  At 90% humidity, the ability of your instrument to resist bending is reduced by 25 percent.  Did you ever notice if you are playing music outside on a humid evening that your violin does not sound the same as it does in an air conditioned room?  Humidity at work, infiltrating your violin and making subtle changes to your instrument.  An instrument subjected to these conditions is further reduced in its ability to resist bending and warping.

Relative humidity is how much water vapor is in the air compared to how much water the air can hold before it manifests in a liquid state. This changes with temperature.  There is less water in colder air and more in warmer air due to its higher molecular structure.  Conversely if you heat cold humid air without adding moisture, you could make the air warmer and very dry.  This explains why while it is raining outside (100 percent humidity) and 35 degrees, inside it is 75 degrees inside and about 20 percent humidity.  Higher temperatures and lower humidity will dry out the wood in your instrument.  Leaving it in your car where temperatures can climb up to 150 degrees will soften the varnish and does not do any of the parts under the stress of the strings any good.

So besides following the obvious rule that if you aren’t comfortable, your instrument is not comfortable, what can you do to prevent damaging your violin?  Well, not leaving it in the car is a good start.  Keeping it in its case when not playing it is also good.  Buying a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home would help you keep an eye on how dry it is getting in your home.  You may also want to get one of the many devices that can be inserted into the f holes or a vial made to be mounted in your case to help maintain the humidity level within the case. A target range of 40 to 60 percent will keep your instrument in good shape.

Air conditioners remove humidity from the air in the house in the summer just as heaters do in the winter.  You may want to get a humidifier for your home.  It is part of your responsibility as a musician to maintain and care for your instrument.  Watching where you put your violin, keeping an eye on the humidity in its environment, and keeping it out of direct sunlight will all work toward keeping your instrument in top shape.  You will find that the pegs are better at staying put and your violin will be in better tune if it is not subjected to the vagaries of humidity and temperature extremes.  Just as you are not comfortable when it is too hot or too cold, too humid or too dry, neither is your partner in music.  It is simply a matter of common sense and a little diligence.

So Freddy can keep his violin in better shape just by remembering that it will not be happy being left in the car any more than he would.  Jeannie now can keep her violin in better shape just by paying some attention to the humidity in her home and keeping it between 40 and 60 percent.

Keep on playing.  It’s the only way to get better, and it’s still more fun than so many other things you could be doing.