Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Saturday, March 22, 2008

5-String Conversion, Part Last

"Ok, so what about the peg?", you say. Did I install another hole and peg? Well, I did drill a hole, but no peg. I threaded the D-string through a small hole, using a small washer that I bummed from my wife's supply of little hardware leftovers to prevent the string ball from slipping through the hole:

Actually, I did this all a few months ago and thought, "Great, all I have to do is tune this puppy up and I've got myself a home-mode 5-string, Laszlo Varga style (Anybody know how he made his 5-string? I know he used a 3.4 size cello for it, but that's about all I know about it).

Well, just as I was approaching pitch on all five strings, just within a quarter of a tone across the board, the neck snapped off. Bummer. The neck came off cleanly at the glue point except that the little tab coming up out of the cello back was sheared off. That is the structural main strength point. The glue under most of the neck has no mechanical advantage, it's that meek little tab on the back that does the real work of keeping it all together.

So I glued the neck back on with hide glue I found on the Internet, using a candle warmer to keep the glue hot. Then I attached a splint made from doorskin and three little screws, again raiding my wife's hardware leftovers. The split I attached with regular carpenters wood glue underneath. That stuff is much stronger than wood when it cures. Hopefully, that splint will never, ever part from the back tab.

So there it is: A project no doubt worthy of a spot on the Red Green Show. I think I can expect a congratulatory call from ol' Red Green any day now.

5-String Conversion Pictures, Part 2

This pic shows the nut on the E-string side. It's hard to get the precision one needs. If there were a next time, I'd want to find a better way of making the nut grooves than using a serrated kitchen knife and a ruler.

And this pic shows the nut on the C string side. Yes, the E and and C strings are at the very edges of the nut and fingerboard. Wider would be better.

Still a couple of pics to go.

D-I-Y 5-string Conversion Pictures, part 1

Now before we get into this, understand that the first attempt snapped the neck off the cello. I fixed the neck, more on that later, but I don't suggest advise doing this sort of a thing with anything but a junker (See, junkers really are good for sump'n!).

Here's pictures of my for-fun conversion of an inexpensive laminate cello to a 5-string. The key (so to speak) of the whole thing a guitar tuning machine installed in the middle of the tailpiece. I got the tuning machine from a guitar repairman at a local "Guitars-R-Us", who gave it to me on the condition I bring the completed travesty for him to see:

And here's a picture of the tuning machine from underneath. Because the underside of the tailpiece is curved and irregular I used a free sample of kitchen counter laminate on the underside to provide a flat surface for the guitar tuning machine. I used rubber washers on the topside and bottomside of the tailpiece to stabilize it the tuning machine so it wouldn't rotate:

Here's a view of the bridge (same bridge as for 4 strings). I filed all new grooves for the new spacings. You can see the old grooves:

More pics to come.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

D-I-Y 5-string conversion. Gottagogottit

Yes, as Gottagopractice figured out on my previous post, I have converted my old laminate cello to a 5-string: CGDAE. She noticed the lack of vibrato on the E. What I think is also telling is the sympathetic vibration of the E string when playing As and Es on other strings. It's more noticeable between the notes. I made the recordings with Audacity and the sympathetic vibration is much more pronounced in the original recording format. The export to MP3 makes those subtleties harder to hear.

While I thought I preferred a dark cello (and I'm told my other cello is particularly dark), I find I do rather enjoy the brightness that the E string gives most of the notes on this cello.

Yes, I'm using the original nut, fingerboard, and bridge, with the strings squeezed together more and extending to the side more.

Pictures to come, but maybe not for a few days.

BTW, the cello broke in the attempt and required an unorthodox fix. All will be revealed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

D-I-Y Cello Modification

I have an incredibly inexpensive (read downright cheap-skate), laminate CLO (cello-like object) that I started on, that I got off Ebay five years ago.

Well, I took it to the garage and subjected it to an unauthorized field change. An authentic luthier would be appalled, but then, at the price I paid for it, who cares? It's going to take some time to get used to it, but it is a kick to play.

I made a couple of quick recordings. See if you can guess how it's different from a regular cello... Yeah, yeah, I know, besides the fact that the cello's tone sounds like crap.... Yeah, yeah, besides the fact that the player is dreadful.... Something else.

A C scale

Si Bheag Si Mhor

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The ABC's of Tune Finding

Sandro's comment reminds me that some of you learning to read standard notation, with your noses deep into Suzuki, Schroeder, Essential Elements, or your orchestra repertoire, might not know there is another notation method worth knowing. Or, at least knowing of: ABC.

ABC is a method of notating music as plain text. No special fonts, or special software. Any simple text editor will do. Or, for that matter: paper and pencil.

It's not a totally new idea. In the 19th century, the Shakers notated the songs that they composed or received from divine inspiration (about 400 of them) as note letter names, with a method of indicating note length values, dotted rhythms, and the like. ABC is something like that, but with considerably more features.

See John Chamber's ABC Music Notation for a tutorial on ABC.

One of the really good things about ABC is that it makes it easy to share written music over the Internet. And you don't really have to learn ABC to use it. John Chambers has made available to the public computer programs that convert ABC into standard notation or MIDI files.

And there's a whole lot of folk tunes in ABC out there across the Internet universe.

So, Chambers also has a web page that will (1) search for ABC files by name or partial name, or by a sequence of notes, (2) produce a listing of the matches, (3) convert the ABC file to standard notation as a gif, postscript, or pdf, and (4) also convert the file to a MIDI, so you can hear what it sounds like.

It's absolutely great for looking up tunes that you want to learn. See JC's ABC Tune Match at trillian.mit.edu.