Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Violin mute

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am a pretty atrocious violinist.  - Actually not universally: only acknowledged by those admitted to the privilege of hearing me play, of whom unfortunately there are all too many lurking in my history. - Luckily in an orchestra you get drowned out by everyone else, and the only way the audience detects how useless you are is when they notice that you're doing an upbow when everyone else is doing a down, except when your bow is jiggling a bit because you're way back on bar 73 and everyone else has moved on to bar 81 which doesn't have any semiquavers in it.  "Ah," say all my devoted fans, "but how come you were outside desk?"  Simple: inside desk, who is a good deal better than you are, turns the pages and then you don't have to hiss "where are we?" quite so often.  If you don't happen to play in an orchestra I will let you into a secret - your inside desk knows exactly how bad you really are.  Never sit next to someone unless you're prepared to share your darkest secret with them.  This is the chief reason I haven't played in an orchestra for, oh, 36 years. Well, that and there not being one. - There is a ukulele band. - I do not belong to it.

If you are as bad as I say I am, and let's face it you are if you're me, the only way you can play a violin is with a mute. And there's the prob.  No mute.  I had one: indeed I had two.  I had a proper black one made of soon-to-be-extinct ebony, and I had one of those wire plastic rolly-onny-thingies that sit behind the bridge on the squeaky bits of string, and now I have neither.  I have searched my violin case.  I have searched John's violin case.  I have searched his old ¾ case and I've searched that wooden Antonius Stradivarius case which contains the instrument with several wormholes and the date 1776 which means he was still making violins forty years after his death.  (It does have a nice tone though.)  But no mute.

My Stradivarius with home-made mute

 Don't believe me? Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonenfis

Faciebat Anno 1776. Absolutely genuine.

Accordingly I had to make one. This isn't as difficult as making a bicycle, but it does rather undermine your case for prevarication when your daughter asks you to fix one of those things to a coat that she's made, you know, one of those press things that don't have a name.  So you acquiesce.  And a good job too.  She opens the packet and works out which of the four bits goes where and you lend her a punch to make the holes in the cloth and she gets the tool (supplied) and whacks it with a hammer (yours) on the tiny anvil (supplied) and the clicky-onny-bobble works perfectly.  But the clicky-tooey-bobble doesn't work at all.  The smart whack with the hammer flattens the sticky-outy-tubey-thingy into the concave recess of the anvil, and ten minutes and your 2½ x magnifiers are required to work out why, and you realise that the tools supplied aren't up to the job and she really needs a tiny supporting anvil, not a concave one, to prevent the sticky-uppy-tubey-thingy collapsing while being whacked.  So you find an old bolt picked up from the road - one always collects bolts and this is why - half an inch in diameter and chuck it in the three-jaw and machine a 6mm OD base 0.7mm high with a 3.3mm OD point 2mm high to support the thin sticky-uppy-tubey-bit and you hand her a centre-punch for the initial belling of the last-mentioned-thingy and then a small ball-bearing and behold! your anvil works perfectly.

All the tools required for dressmaking.

"So when they sell snap fasteners in Spotlight for needlework, they should mention that all you need is a hammer and an engineering lathe."

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