Jim Clinton Violins Greenville, SC

Posts Tagged "violin info"

Practice on Vacation?  No Way!


Most people with school aged children probably do not put a lot of thought into the coming school year during their summer vacation. Kids certainly have more pressing matters, swimming, baseball, riding bikes and other fun activities.

Don’t Fall Behind

However, if you take 2 months off from practicing your instrument, whether it is a violin, viola, cello or bass, chances are you will not be prepared for orchestra in the fall. Rehearsals will likely be a tough road for a time as you work to get back into the swing of things.

Your instrument will have missed all your attention and may even need maintenance before beginning the new school year. But, of course, you wouldn’t know. You have not even looked at your instrument all summer long. Right?

Stay On Track

Stay in touch. Stay in tune, even if you only squeeze in an hour or so practice each week between all your fun activities. Some things are like riding a bike when you’ve been away and never seem to skip a beat. Playing an instrument is not one of those things.

Get Ahead

Speak with your strings teacher before vacation begins. Ask for some tips on what to practice over the summer. Maybe there is an area where you had some difficulty and there simply was not adequate time to give it proper attention. This would be a great way to approach these areas in a more casual and relaxed way.

Mom and Dad, help keep your students engaged with their music over the summer. If they do not take private lessons, Maybe this would be a good time to start. If you live in the greater Greenville area and need help finding a quality instructor, give us a call and we will help point you in a good direction.

2011 Instrument donation Higher Scale (3)

Have Fun
Keep it light. Keep it casual. There’s plenty of time for burgers, Bach, baseball and the beach. Have fun and avoid the struggle of starting over again when autumn comes and the new orchestral season begins.



All too often when you buy a new instrument it is setup to some common standard to fit most players most of the time.  Our passion for instruments does not let us just get by.  Every instrument that leaves Jim Clinton Violins is setup with the musician in mind.  Here is what we mean:

The Setup as (unfortunately) it usually is:
Instrument manufacturers offer their factory setup to music stores and reputable violin shops. This makes it easy for a store or a violin shop to have a large volume rental program without the intensive labor necessary in setting up hundreds, if not thousands of instruments. This significantly saves money and time, a necessity in a highly competitive rental market. Even though setups are offered as a selling point to the end user, they are often irregular, incomplete, mass produced setups done quickly with the bottom line price point as the primary function of this work, or they are cookie cutter setups meeting MENC or some other specifications designed rather to keep the instrument from coming back to the store for buzzing (resulting in being difficult to play). Hardly ever does a setup performed outside the local workshop and without consultation effectively meet an individual’s needs. It is important for the workshop technician to discuss with you your needs in order to complete your instrument setup. We welcome suggestions and preferences from you and your teacher.

Jim Clinton Violins has chosen to set in motion a new direction. We have chosen to stay small, avoid corner-cutting methodology, and put in the time necessary to provide an excellent musical experience for new as well as advanced musicians. The advantage of professional grade craftsmanship is now available to the new musician.

Many years of instrument setup research, an ongoing pursuit at Jim Clinton Violins, has made it possible for the musician to benefit.

The Setup as it should be:
A 14 task Setup couples the JCV Passion for Instruments with the musician’s Performance of a lifetime. The following description is a procedure simplification requiring up to 12 hours of detailed workmanship on a violin.

This is a basic setup applied to all instruments either before or at the time of purchase. Additional tap tuning, tonal and parts adjustments may be applied based on the requirements of the musician and his instrument.

Every adjustment performed on an instrument influences its tone and playability.

Performed on all Jim Clinton Violins instruments are the following Setup inspections and adjustments:

-Analysis & performance testing with a musician consultation
A conversation with the musician may be as simple as a few questions about his musical intentions, ensemble or solo use, tonal preferences, musical style, acoustic environment, and the innate realities of the musician’s instrument.

-Neck angle
Neck angle is foundational to correct feel and ease of play. Correct neck angle provides the ability for the technician to make appropriate adjustments, and provides the basis for the instrument’s ultimate tone, and power. Neck position must be correct before beginning a setup. Correcting the neck angle after doing the following procedures will require redoing all setup procedures.

The soundpost is initially set with the instrument’s removable parts disassembled in order to find the maximum tonal center of the instrument. Thickness, position, and proper fit of this hand made soundpost influences the instrument’s power, tone, and lifetime of the top and back.

Fittings are not merely accessories. Properly selected tuning pegs are made of a strong, dense wood, are easy to use, and accent the instrument’s appearance. Properly prepared and fitted pegs hold the string to pitch, are resistant to humidity changes, and are ergonomic during tuning. These pegs will give maximum life.

The fingerboard is a critical and complicated adjustment to the instrument. Carefully planed compound arcs on the fingerboard’s dense ebony is smoothed to a glassy finish and will stabilize pitch location, regulate string “feel” under the fingers, and clarify tone throughout the range of the fingerboard positions.

The nut is usually replaced with a new instrument setup. It is made of hard ebony and is painstakingly carved and fitted relative to the new fingerboard shape. The nut’s grooves are smooth and evenly spaced. It is fitted precisely to the instrument and fingerboard. This new nut influences string height feel and tonal focus. Strings will now last longer and deliver clearer tone.

-Neck thumb area
The neck’s lengthwise thumb area must be smooth and straight. It will be artistically graduated toward the neck heel and scroll ends of the thumb area. Any varnish is removed to provide a non-sticking surface for ease of shifting technique. Proper thickness and “cam lobe” sectional shape assists the left hand in locating pitches and minimizes fatigue. Changing the thickness of a neck has tonal implications and must be taken into account before performing this task.       

The saddle provides for sensitive tonal adjustments that will be tailored to the characteristics of the instrument and the musician’s acoustic preferences.

All work must be neat, carefully fitted to the instrument’s lines and contours in order to remain intact and allow clean vibration of the tailpiece.

The bridge has the greatest impact on the tone and response a musician experiences while playing his instrument. JCV purchases only select grain and top quality maple tonewood bridges. These are individually selected based on the instrument’s needs. The hand carved bridge can be tuned to warm the tone, brighten it, even out the tone between strings, and increase or temper the projection of an instrument. String clearance is also set for correct feel and pitch stability. Much time is spent on a professional bridge while carving, installing, play testing, removing, and repeating this process. For a professional bridge this sequence is repeated until the instrument response is optimum. Simply buying a “premade” or factory setup bridge and installing it will result in poor tonal characteristics, damaged strings, and if improperly fitted will damage the instrument’s top.

-String Selection
String selection, a close second bridge carving has the greatest impact on the tone and power of an instrument. Selecting appropriate strings is not a matter of liking a particular brand and putting that brand on every instrument. Each instrument and its setup brings with it individual requirements. These necessitate an understanding of the tonal characteristics that a particular string, its weight, its winding, materials, and design bring to an instrument’s projection and tonal potential.

As previously stated: “fittings are not merely accessories”. The tailpiece vibrates with the string and delivers tone. The materials, weight, shape, length, and position between the bridge and saddle provides subtle and sometimes not so subtle influence on tone, response, and harmonics.

The tailchord is lightweight, strong, and flexible allowing the tailpiece to vibrate. Shifting the length and position of the tailchord makes significant fine tuning adjustments for tone, clarity, balance, and power.

-Performance test & final adjustments with musician feedback
Performance testing and final adjustments are the last step in a process similar to cheese tasting. The technician must maintain focus and lock in on a tonal reference point. The fine-tuning of these adjustments will bring the instrument to its full potential.  Additional subtle adjustments are available once the musician experiences his/her new setup. The musician and technician may now perform final tweaks together.

-Document the setup
Once the instrument setup is complete, many hours invested are protected when the instrument setup is documented. This service is recorded for professional instruments.  We record the dimensions, positions, pitches, and mass of the many parts adjusted on this instrument. This will serve as a reference should a mishap occur influencing this most sensitive aspect of the completed musical instrument’s tone.

This is all part of the passion that drives Jim Clinton Violins for the instruments we sell.  Please feel free to contact us by calling 864-322-2622

Buying your next bow and upgrading your sound

What makes a good bow? What are the factors to consider before upgrading that all-important part of your sound? As we grow as musicians we realize the role the bow plays. It is considered by some to be half of the instrument. We all know, or will come to know, that not all instruments and bows like each other. That is to say, there is a symbiosis between some bows and instruments that results in sound and feel that is far better and greater than one might expect.

How often have you seen a bow that was just beautiful? It may have a fancy frog made from some bone or exotic wood, but it felt like a log in your hand. Or even worse, made your instrument sound like it had a head cold! As much as beauty can turn your head, it is far more important to go for sound and functionality. Weight and balance are two primary characteristics to consider. A bow may be slightly heavier than the one you are currently using but if the balance makes it manageable this will work in your favor. Even if the balance is good but you still feel as though you are lifting weights when you use it, it may just be a bit too heavy. Knowing the weight and balance point of your current bow will help you zero in on other bows that are similar, or help you figure out what you don’t like about your current bow. Take time to compare your bow to the bows you are thinking of purchasing. A good shop will have the bows marked with weights and balance points so you can make an informed decision on what direction you want to go. Here are some ranges of bow weights and balance points:

Instrument Weight Balance Point Optimum Weight
Violin 57-64g 9.25-10″ 60
Viola 66-72g 9.25-10″ 70
Cello 78-87g 9-10″ 82
Bass 115-150g 8.5-9.5″ 136


Some folks will not need this information if they go by “feel.” The intuitive approach can be less methodical and more exploratory depending on feel and trusting your ability to know by these factors. If this works for you, then use it. Some folks have picked up a bow and known it was exactly what they were looking for. Others have found their bow through serendipity. For still others, it has been the fruit of a long and thoroughly researched effort. Be aware, if you play long enough, you manage to accumulate several bows. There is no one perfect bow. But there will be one that works very well for you.

As you think about going bow shopping, ask yourself a couple of questions. What are you looking for in a bow? How do you want your playing to change? What are you hoping to find in a new bow that will open you up to new performing experiences? What is it about your current bow that is holding you back? Does it bounce? Do you have to tighten it up too much? Does it fight you on fast passages? These are the telltale signs that you are outgrowing your bow.

If you have questions, ask other players, your mentor or teacher, even someone at the store. You can’t ask too many questions.

Here is a list of questions to ask as you go bow shopping;

  • Sound – How does it sound? Does it have a strong core, high overtones, a strong midrange? Does it like your instrument?
  • Volume – Is it loud, low, focused, not so focused? How is the carrying power?
  • Weight – Do you prefer heavy or light? Try several bows to find out what feels good.
  • Balance – Does it feel good? Do you prefer it to be heavy at the tip, heavy at the frog?
  • String contact – Is it even overall? Is it good at the tip? Where does it really shine? How about in the middle or at the frog?
  • Bounce – Where is the bounce? Is it good over the whole bow, irregular, or good only in one point?
  • Stability – Is it stable along the whole stick, or does it break out to the side, in the middle, or at the frog?
  • Stiffness – Is it stiff or soft at the frog, the middle, or the tip?
  • Feel – Is it comfortable in your hands?
  • Aesthetics – How does it look? Does it have a nice tip, frog, and beautiful wood? Is it gold, silver or nickel mounted? These are all nice to have but do not make a great playing bow.

All of these characteristics are important in finding the best bow for you.

There is one last thing to think about. What material makes the best stick? In the past, all bows were made of pernambuco, brazilwood, snakewood or fiberglass. The best bows are often pernambuco. These other woods and fiberglass were used to make bows of lesser quality. In the last fifteen years or so the technology for using carbon fiber, either molded or braided, has become an option often touted as the “environmental” option since it does not threaten the rainforests to make a bow from a man-made material. There are a couple of makers in Brazil that grow their own trees just for bow making so there are still sustainable ways to get a wood bow besides buying a high quality older bow, which can be a very good option. Some folks think that these carbon fiber bows do not sound as good as a wood bow while others find them just fine and love the sound they get from them. Not all carbon fiber bows are made the same. Some makers cut corners, while others pride themselves in their bows of superior quality, usually with a price that reflects that pride. There is even a bow maker who is making bows out of bamboo. Regardless of what material you decide is best, make sure the next bow you buy moves your playing forward. Ask your teacher or mentor to help guide you. They will be glad to do that for you.

This article and other informative articles like it can be found at www.jcviolins.com.


– 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.