The instruments used by professional bulgarian musicians

The reason to write this article is my conversation with Australian musician and teacher who teaches and plays in Germany and at home. I consulted him about the qualities of several instruments and he shared situation occurred with the end of the academic year 2012 – 2013 at the University of Music in Sydney: Young musician appeared on state examination for the award of degree – “Master of musical arts.” The Commission shall hear and refuses to put her assessment, as it recommended to change the instrument, which attended the exam, with better. The rationale for not awarding the degree is argued that it is unacceptable for instrumentalist, protecting Master degree, to exercise the art of music on a low quality instrument like this. Because of the lack of objective factors that determine how many of the young musician failures are due to the characteristics of the instrument and how it is a consequence of the lack of good training, they do not award her any assessment.

I became acquainted with the qualities of the cello, which characteristics allegedly are not good enough. I know that in Bulgaria there are very few musicians with better instruments than hers, not only cellos, and as a whole. The truth is that the music community no longer paying attention to the part of the symbiosis musician – string instrument, specifically the instrument. Excuses of the musicians like: we are poor, there are no good instruments available, we can not find suitable are just puzzling and unfair. It is unacceptable for artists even in their thoughts to allow themselves to lie and manipulate the audience with similar allegations. People without maintained, quality and complying with theirs executive level instrument, simply have no place among the musicians. I do not accept that my colleagues still allow such offensive compromising on sound quality as a result of their instruments. There is no way a performer to claim for the level and significance after playing something only in appearance meets the violin, viola, cello or double bass. In Bulgaria, but in Europe there are a large number of master luthiers who have the opportunity and offer musical instruments with excellent acoustic qualities. Not only the performer but the musical instrument is very important for the sound production. Therefore underestimation, neglect, and in some cases deliberate neglect the qualities of the instrument lead only to the decline of art and outflow of audience. It, the audience has access to exclusive audio samples and tracks in its library, and the mass media. Even the few remaining audiophile believers in Bulgarian musical art is increasingly moving away from carelessly events involving good performers with unsupported and unsuitable for playing acoustic instruments.

In educational programs of average and higher schools of musical art are not included familiarization in depth with: the device of string instruments, methods of production, their acoustic arrangement, the impact of the variety of accessories on the performers’ technique and the quality sound production. The practice to train young performers who play instruments with extremely poor quality makes a very bad impression to me. Musicians can not evolve, can not utilize more complex technical skills in music, only because of the level of their instruments. Large gap and disadvantage is that the musicians themselves, whether teachers or performers rarely have even minimal knowledge of how to determine the quality of stringed instruments, for their selection, maintenance and eventual improvement.

In my reports of conferences, to musicians and the students, I quote a conversation with my colleague, concert musician-cellist, on the topic: strings and their lives. In it she argued that its mark strings “Larsen” have tuned up with quality at the beginning of the fourth year of use. This is a situation that can leave every acoustic and manufacturer of strings shaken. Amateur musicians do not know, but all the others are obliged to replace their strings accurately, once they wear out. If we ask a sample of Bulgarian performers hardly more than five percent will respond relatively correctly, what is the optimal duration of play on the most commonly used models and brands strings. Cited model and brand cello strings have quality sound production for no longer than four, maximum for five months. This conclusion is confirmed by the experiments of the owner of the manufacturing company Laurits Larsen. He also defines the maximum life span of strings for cello to five months. There are also “record holders” among the violinists. During acoustic arrangement of the instrument I met a young student at the Music Academy. His violin strings were more than three years old. Given that most durable violin strings have a life not exceeding four months. Professional performers must, if not strictly correct to at least comply with the advice of manufacturers of strings or acoustic specialists regarding the life of the strings. Otherwise they will show amateurism or unethical attitude towards art.

Professional musicians in Bulgaria do not select their strings as an acoustic ensemble with their instrument. Unexplained is the accessory to be selected in the “… for those I’ve been told to give better sound …” fashion. Strings do not produce sound. They flicker and make the top board of the instrument to vibrate, which generates the sound. Mechanical properties of strings as strength, amplitude and mass provide various conditions of vibration and from there arise differences in the sound that is produced during use. In the absence of any knowledge of how the different types of strings interact with the instrument, it is unacceptable for musician to choose and change the type of its strings. Without consultation with luthier or acoustics specialist one should not amend the type of the used strings./p>

In regards to accessories such as pegs, tailpiece, chin rest, tail spike and bridge there is also a total misunderstanding to their contribution in shaping the sound and their impact on the way of playing. When buying a new instrument, his master has complied a number of dependencies in the assembly, and not accidentally selected a strictly defined type accessories. Neither musicians nor teachers reported how the sound producing technique is altering if a chin rest for example is changed by another in violin or viola. In my practice of acoustics consultant there are examples of how just one millimeter difference in the place of attachment of the chin rest heels significantly change the acoustic properties of the instrument. It should be recognized that often luthiers rework some accessories and individualize them according to the requirements of their instruments. So when replacing them with new, the settings on the instrument are being damaged, and it loses much of its positive qualities.

For the cellists at the end of the first decade of the XXI century there was fashionable the use of carbon stocks, which is detrimental to playing technique. These spikes were made of thick pieces that are too elastic. As a consequence, the slightest pressure on the cello will shake it, misleading workmanship. Moreover, no one recognized that there is a scientific work about the influence of the selected material for making violoncello spike on its sound qualities, written by Magdalena Eichmeyer. This work clearly states that Carbon is not suitable material for the stock.

Tailpieces also significantly influence the sound and playing technique. The studies of American violin David Langsather demonstrate that the selection of tailpiece as material of construction, and as a model is a complex process associated with the acoustics of the instrument. Each tailpiece affects the technique of the right hand in a different way and the choice of this accessory do not have to be connected to aesthetics and beauty.

Smoothness of the fingerboard, the state of the bridge, straightness of a soundpost and a number of other extremely important for playing technique and sound quality aspects of maintenance of the instrument should be known by everyone involved in musical art.

It is unacceptable from a professional point of view for the musicians not to support instruments that play. Musical art and is dependent on the skill of the artist, and even more by the state of musical instruments and accessories.

Changing bow hair, replacement of worn strings, annual instrument inspections by luthier are part of the unique obligations of the performer to whom he committed the very moment in which he began to be a professional musician. Denial of the importance of even the smallest detail affecting the sound qualities of the duo musician-instrument allows to assert that he is a dishonest amateur abusing the art of music.

Any underestimation of the deteriorated state of the string instrument demonstrates a lack of respect befitting an artist dealing with art and certainly suggests a lack of professionalism.

Dr. Hristo Hristov             

Ph.D. of Music, D.Sc of Music        

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