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Thread: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-string)

  1. #1

    Default I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-string)

    I missed my schmaltz!

    For fun I have started to play some schmaltzy (and flashy) violin concertos, stuff I used to play on trumpet (usually arranged by Rafael Mendez), a long, long, time ago.

    I started with Czardas (by Monti), and I can play it, it needs to be worked up a bit, but it feels within reach.

    Zigunerweisen is a little out of reach, and "the" Mendelssohn concerto is approachable for many parts. Those requiring only a little "reach" I will start working on.

    But the slower melodic parts (I am calling them the schmaltzy bits), were pretty dead on an acoustic mando, tremolo doesn't do those phrases justice. It's like a partially decomposed corpse washed up on a beach, hard to even tell what species it was originally.

    So I tried playing them on a 4-string electric, complete with BB-King style vibrato and bends, and its a lot better, wow, I didn't realize this was even possible, and it was so much fun!

    At this point I went off the deep end and considered buying an actual violin, it's tuned the same right?

    Further research suggests that violin is one of the hardest instruments there is, and mando skills don't give you much of a leg up there, how depressing. But I still entertained myself with exploring electric violins for a bit, as my apartment likes things quiet, not sure a screeching violin would fly. I liked the Viper, for a mere $4k (cheap for a violin). But learning on an electric seems to be panned by everybody who claims to know anything. They say bow technique won't develop properly as electrics are less demanding than acoustics.

    And worse still, I originally switched from guitar to mandolin because it was too hard, 6 strings were too many for my tired old brain (and fingers), so violin is likely a non-starter given it's difficulty. And the $$ involved are staggering if you want to become even a semi-serious violinist. And I'm still working on my 10,000 hours on mandolin, hah.

    So, back to reality, using BB-King style vibrato on Czardas (on my trusty $399 Eastwood) actually kind-of works ok, and with a compressor to increase sustain, really helps bring those melodic lines to life.

    I guess I am making a kind of music that few mandolin players do, but I am enjoying it hugely. It feels like a more rounded instrument, it can do rhythm and make melodic lines sing (this is my dream for an ideal instrument).

    So I ordered an out of print collection of Mendez arrangements, but I imagine going back to the original violin parts will be better. Mendez jazzed things up with some extra cadenzas though, so I am intending to include them when possible. He has a great opening one for Czardas for example.

    In conclusion, I missed my schmaltz more than I realized, feels good to get some of it back. 4-string electrics aren't as expressive as a violin, but some goodness is possible.

    But... That Viper is still out there gnawing at my subconcious ($1k for just a bow? really? still trying to talk myself out of this).
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  2. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Buy an inexpensive electric (or even acoustic) fiddle, you can find these at comparable prices to equal mandolins. You can get a decent bow for less than 100$ (I use the fiddlerman CF at about 65$) and give fiddle (or violin) a try. It's actually (contrary to popular opinion) not as hard as it's made out to be, and your mando skills will DEFINITELY help. Especially if you can read music, but even knowing how fretting works will be a significant advantage. In the meantime, I'd sure like to hear czardas on your electric mandolin
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  3. #3
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Wow, someone else who played those old Rafael Mendez arrangements on trumpet! I think you and I are a rare species, but who knows? I also loved his recordings and played them endlessly. That guy could play!

    I'd love to hear what you are doing with this on electric mandolin. Please post some recordings when you can.

    And to Gunnar; do you hold out similar hope for someone who plays mandola trying an electric viola? The though occurs to me with some frequency, but I keep pushing it away for the same reasons Kurth83 stated. You are fanning the flames!
    Purr more, hiss less.

  4. #4

    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Just as an observation: often, the intonation is often what causes the most difficulty on violin. With that said, a friend who teaches adults decided to start telling her oldest new students about a fingerboard overlay which has some kind of frets made of embedded fishing line. It doesn't impede vibrato or slides. It's called the Fiddle Fretter, available at http://frettedfiddle.com.

    I have absolutely no financial interest in the product.

    I used to think that everyone who started to learn an instrument wanted to achieve mastery, but I mellowed out after having a student who was happy with a few tunes for his own amazement. That's the same spirit which motivates me to share about this product.

  5. #5

    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    some e-violins come with frets like that as an option. some kind of very low fret you can feel to help out, but still plays like a fretless. An addon sounds better, works on any violin and is removable.

    The Yamaha yev104 is around $600. Will need a $100 impedance matcher to perform, since it only has headphone out, but that one looks like the cheapest option, and it sounds great. It comes with a small dsp to make it sound like an acoustic violin that apparently does a pretty good job. My thr-10 has an aux in that takes a headphone out so I would be all set for practice.

    And for those that remember my other thead, the sony xb-20 has an aux in too, so I am ready to take this thing on the road! :-)

    At about $700 including bow, and maybe add a cheap case, this is very tempting.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  6. #6
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    I am not as familiar with the specific pieces you indicate but I do know the mandolin can do "schmaltz", both classical, light classical and jazz, and various dance genres. With appropriate tremolo and and control over dynamic range the mandolin can ring it out, no question.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  7. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    While the violin is arguably a more expressive instrument, it is hard. The violin does nothing for you. You are in charge of starting the note, you are in charge of stopping the note, and everything in between. I found it a much steeper and longer learning curve. A year to sound acceptable to my own ear, and at least two to sound acceptable in a jam. Doing justice to an expressive tune with a violin, starting from scratch, would take way to long for me. (I didn't give up, I gave up on sounding that good.) My violin teacher said I should go on a mandolin diet, while taking violin lessons to get my mandolinny tendencies under control. The violin is a very jealous instrument and will not take second to anything else you are playing.

    Just my experience.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  8. #8
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Bob, I do think you can definitely transfer Mandola skills to viola. Be sure to check out Fiddlershop.com (nfi) they have a great selection of good products. And to Kurth, you can find electric violins under 500$ easily, in fact the guy who wrote fiddle for dummies (Michael Sanchez) said he wouldn't spend more than that on an electric, as the biggest difference with those is pickups and amps (and pedalboards if you're so inclined) just like any electric instrument. Ymmv
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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  10. #9
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    I sure wouldn't recommend starting out on electric violin as your first exposure to the instrument. The main problem is the way it will pick up and exaggerate all the scritching, scratching, and other ugly sounds that accompany the bow's contact on the strings.

    That happens on acoustic violins too, but it's worse on the electric. You'll have to be patient to get through that early phase on an acoustic violin, but at least it won't be as hard on your ears (or anyone else hearing your amp). You can eliminate some of that noise with EQ and compression, but then you're removing the cues that help you learn how you should be using the bow on the strings.

    BTW, I don't play fiddle myself, although I had a year playing viola in school many, many years ago. My reference for this is my fiddler S.O., who had played for years before buying a friend's Zeta electric fiddle a few years ago, just for fun. Even she had some trouble playing smoothly without extra glitchy sounds until she got used to it. The experiment didn't last long, because we don't play the kind of music where an electric violin works well, so she sold it. Just my opinion, but I think electric violins are for people who can already play an acoustic violin.

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  12. #10

    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Ok, lots of good stuff, the arguments against violin in general are also its strengths.

    As an ex trumpet player I am familiar with an instrument that gives you total control over the sound and does very little for you, that's a strength since you control what comes out, and a limitation if you don't put in the hours of practice or care to control all that. In my case, and the point of this thread, is I do want the control. As for putting in the hours, well, time will tell if I do that, so looking to start cheap in case I don't.

    I have started looking at acoustic violins, I figure if I do this I will end up with both an acoustic and an electric before much time has passed. Since I am considering a quasi-classical repertoire here, I need an instrument good enough that I actually enjoy playing it.

    So the search is on.

    Surprisingly, Eastman makes an upper-level student model violin called the VL305 at around $1k... And it gets good reviews. :-)

    I watched some videos comparing cheap and expensive violins and bows. The bow one was surprisingly interesting, the $180k bow was fantastically better than it's nearest competitor at $90k, which had little advantage over the $40k bow, and the lowly $500 CF bow was rather thin and weak by comparison to the others, and they didn't bother to go lower than that. :-)

    Still pickin Czardas and friends though, its getting better, and I love the skills I am developing, but the feeling that I am trying to duplicate what a violin can do is growing stronger with every stroke.

    EDIT: ordered the ysv104, since I had already made that decision. But which acoustic is still in progress. That seems a harder decision to make, so far the Yamahas and Eastmans look good.
    Last edited by kurth83; Jul-21-2019 at 10:29pm.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  13. #11
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Here's a very educational post on acoustic violins under 500$
    https://bluegrassdaddy.com/fiddles-under-500/
    I believe a standard rule of thumb is to get a bow 1/3 the price of the fiddle, but that might be wrong.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  14. #12

    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    I ordered a Yamaha AV7, used for $1100 from fiddlershop. Reading about violins, and the lack of responsiveness in the cheaper models, I opted to splurge a little, 45 day return policy helped too. I talked to them and some other folks, who agreed a slightly better violin is a good thing.

    Cheaper violins can hold you back, more so than a less expensive mando would.

    Now for a teacher, and I can aspire to someday joining the ranks of geriatric community orchestra players. :-)
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

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    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Why are you calling it schmaltz?Are you cooking in chicken fat?

  17. #14

    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmaltz

    "In American English, via Yiddish, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) also has an informal meaning of 'excessively sentimental or florid music or art' or 'maudlin sentimentality', similar to one of the uses of the words corn or corny."

    It's what we used to call it, back in the day, long long ago, and far far away...

    Czardas and Zigunerweisen are classic examples from the violin literature.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  18. #15
    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Learn something new every day.In a Schmaltzy Mood?Schmear on the Schmaltz.

  19. #16
    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: I missed my Schmaltz! (or: virtuoso violin music on a 4-strin

    Quote Originally Posted by mandolinstew View Post
    Learn something new every day.In a Schmaltzy Mood?Schmear on the Schmaltz.
    Listened to Trumpet and Spanish Guitar.Nice.

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