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Don Rickert Musician Shop

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Pickups for Acoustic Bowed String Instruments at Don Rickert Musician Shop

Introduction

D. Rickert Musical Instruments now sells high-end pickups for all of our acoustic bowed instruments. While we have been installing pickups on an ad hoc basic for years, we now offer specific carefully selected pickups for bowed strings.

Schatten non-terminated Ithica Aceto - Violect pickup-redesigned-orig small 4_5_twin hybrid_bridges (2)

See the product listings for all of the pickups we currently sell and install at Don Rickert Musician Shop in the Pickups for Bowed Strings category.

Email us if you have any questions (don@donrickertdesign.com).

For a more in-depth discussion on this hot topic...

See: D. Rickert Musical Instruments now sells pickups for all of our acoustic bowed instruments.

True Electric Violins Are Generally Best for Live Performance

It is our firm belief that if you primary use of a violin, viola, octave violin or octave viola is live performance, it is best to use a true electric violin in conjunction with the right preamp, EQ, signal processors and amplification to achieve your desired sound, including lower octaves as low as the contra-bass range.

If An Acoustic Violin Is An Important Aspect of Your Image . . .

If the look of an acoustic instrument is an important part of your image, we have some pickups that will work well for you. In fact, a special type of pickup (those made by Barbera Transducer Systems) can be used to make an acoustic instrument, in effect, a proper electric violin.

For those seeking an instrument with the look of a fine old violin, but the performance of a full-on electric violin, there is an even better choice. You will want to check out soon-to-be-announced new series of instruments by D. Rickert Musical Instruments that can best be described as electric violins masquerading as fine old acoustic violins.

We Have Much Experience with Every Aspect of Pickups for Bowed Strings

We know much about installing the RIGHT pickup on any of the bowed string instruments we have designed and now produce. Our experience includes our one-of-a-kind octave violins and violas. Further, we have installed many pickups on our customers’ own instruments. Our expertise in this area comes from years of installing every conceivable type of pickup on bowed string instruments, supplemented by extensive immersion on the technical literature on this and related topics.

Not All Pickups Do the Job!

The ONLY type of pickup we can recommend, for regular violins, as well as octave instruments, is a complete bridge with one or more embedded transducer elements. This rules out all contact microphones, tiny (and insanely expensive) condenser microphones aimed at the bridge, under-the-bridge transducers, transducers that are stuck or clipped to the bridge or the instrument body, those that are wedged into the bridge wings, magnetic pickups and exotic pickups of various sorts. This eliminates from consideration a whole lot of pickups on the market, some which are quite expensive. Ignoring our position on this matter could result in heartache and wasted money.

For an in-depth discussion on this topic, see:

Your Amplified Violin Not Working with Effects Processor?: The Problem is With Your Pickup!



Are you ready to upgrade from a mass-produced entry-level travel violin to a great hand-made travel violin?

Trade in your Wiplstix or Cricket travel fiddle for a really nice rebate on a fine hand-made instrument. Trade-in credit up to $350!  Ranger Model C by Don Rickert Side Perspective

Effective immediately and running for an indefinite period, the Don Rickert Musician Shop will let you trade in your Wiplstix or Cricket travel fiddle for a really nice rebate on one of our hand-made travel violins.

A summery appears below. For more details, see:

Trade in your Wiplstix or Cricket Travel Fiddle for a Rebate on a Luthier-Built Instrument by D. Rickert

How Does the Trade-In Rebate Program Work?

The Trade-In Program is very simple. You simple order one of our travel/backpacker violins from the Don Rickert Musician Shop (www.donrickertmusicianshop.com). You will find full descriptions and photos under the Travel and Backpacker Fiddles category.

As part of the online purchase process, indicate that you will be trading in either a WiplStix or a Cricket towards the purchase. You will automatically be charged the reduced price. The rebate amounts are—

$350 rebate for the following instruments:

  • Custom Deep Body Travel Violin - Viola II
  • Ranger C Travel Violin

$175 rebate for the following instruments:

  • Frequent Flyer II Travel Violin
  • Mountaineer V Backpacker Fiddle
  • Mountaineer VI M2 Travel Violin

Where do you send your WiplStix or Cricket?

D. Rickert Musical Instruments

726 Hall Creek Road

Hiawassee, GA 30546

Phone: (706) 896-0909 direct

Email: don@donrickertdesign.com

When should you send your WiplStix or Cricket to us?

All of our instruments have an estimated time for completion listed in their product descriptions. You should send the instrument and case (if you have one) before the estimated ship date of your new instrument.

Is this on the honor system?

Well, not exactly. We will not ship your new instrument until we get the trade-in instrument.

What shipping method should you use?

You can use FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service. It is up to you whether or not you wish to purchase insurance. You should get a tracking number, as the instrument is your property until we actually receive it.

Is there anything else?

Yes, the instrument you send us must be in playable condition and be free of cracks.



The New Melodic Guitar Quartet Instruments at the Don Rickert Musician Shop

The initial offerings of the new Melodic Guitar Quartet instruments by D. Rickert Musical Instruments are now available at the Don Rickert Musician Shop

What is the Melodic Guitar Quartet?

The “Melodic Guitar Quartet” is a 4-member family of instruments, graduated in sizes, as follow: Treble, Alto, Tenor and Baritone, proposed by Dr. Don Rickert. These instruments are metal strung, tuned in 5ths and are intended to be played with a plectrum (pick).

These truly exciting new instruments can be seen at the Don Rickert Musician Shop

The “Family Members”

Treble: 4-string instrument about the size of a concert ukulele, with a 14.5” scale, and tuned G3-D4-A4-E5 (like a violin)

Alto: 5-string instrument about the size of a tenor ukulele, with a 17” scale, and tuned C3-G3-D4-A4-E5 (like a 5-string violin or a conventional tenor guitar with an added E-string at the treble side

Tenor: 4-string instrument the size of a tenor guitar, with a 21”-23” scale, and tuned G2-D3-A3-E4 (like an octave mandolin)

Baritone: 5-string instrument the size of a 6-string guitar, with a 25.5” scale, and tuned C2-G2-D3-A3-E4 (like a violocello da spalla or a cello with an added E-string at the treble side



The Summer is Almost Over: It is Now Okay to Buy Musical Instruments

If you are involved in a small business that makes and sells any kind of "luxury" goods, such as unique DR holding fiddles at HJcustom musical instruments, you know that business is REALLY S-L-O-W during the summer months. It is as if "the Market" has a rule: "Do not buy things from small businesses, especially if they sell luxury goods!"

Businesses like ours, who are in our 10th year, learn to plan for this. We, in fact, use the summer months for R&D, designing exciting new products introduction during the 4th quarter (i.e. the Fall season).

The summer is almost over. Feel free to break lose from the crowd that we call "the Market" and support American small businesses. We would be pleased if you include us. We would love do business with you.

Visit us at the Don Rickert Musician Shop. You will find some really exciting violins, baritone violins, travel violins, 5-string violins, octave violas, fiddles and other musical instruments to spark your dreams.

D. Rickert Musical Instruments



Serious Discounts and Free Shipping for Most Desired Instruments by D. Rickert: Impossible Sale

SaleInstrumentLineup for HP 2015 scaled

We at D. Rickert Musical Instruments know that our most desired musical instruments are the high-end unique instruments designed and made by us. These very special instruments tend to be the most expensive, and are a bit out of reach for many.  

The normal sell price of each instrument listed below is discounted by $250 to $300. Additionally, the shipping is FREE! (See note below.)

Hopefully this sale will help.

Note about shipping: Free shipping only applies when the instrument is to be delivered within the continental U.S. Anywhere else that we ship to, we will bill you for the actual cost of shipping, minus a discount of $50 (the average cost of shipping within the U.S.). We WILL NOT charge any extra "handling" fee. For non U.S. deliveries, we will contact you to discuss whether you want to go with Postal Service (cheap and pretty reliable, but sometimes slow) or really fast shipping using a service such as DHL (expensive!).

Be aware that some destinations require extra insurance.

This is the Impossible Sale: Is It Madness?

Starting immediately, and running for about 10 days we are running a seemingly irrational sale at our Don Rickert Musician Shop, with deep discounts on our musical instruments that many potential buyers dream about AND purchase most frequently. The instruments on sale include ALL of our...

  • 5-string fiddles
  • Octave violins
  • Octave violas
  • Some of our really cool special edition fiddles

This sale could by called “crazy” because we are only discounting our most desired instruments. Furthermore, when you see the discounted prices, you may wonder if we have gone completely mad. There is a method to this madness…read on.

We Need Orders for the Premium Instruments we have put on Sale Exactly Right NOW!

Here is why (and how it will benefit you)

We need to build more of our premier instruments to show and record at our most important annual new product rollout and video recording (for marketing purposes) event, the Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention (Sept. 17th – 19th, 2015).

The Hoppin’ John festival has become a very important rollout event for us, as it is attended by many of the finest musicians in the Southeastern U.S., as well as from other parts of the U.S., Europe, Ireland and the U.K.

Keep in mind that we are fundamentally a custom lutherie rather than a factory. For the instruments that are part of this sale, due to their highly personalized/customized nature (i.e. every one is unique to the buyer’s preferences), we only make them when we have finalized orders.

We need these orders for these instruments very soon (so we can make them!), at a time of year when we are competing with kids getting ready for back to school, paying for vacations, new cars, new tires, car repairs, home air conditioner repairs and the like.

We are Sold Out!

A month ago, we had on hand at least one of most of these instruments for our most recent important show, the Painted Fern Festival of Art in Clayton, GA., where we showed our finest instruments as functional sculpture.

All of those instruments had already been sold prior to the show or soon thereafter and are now in the hands of their happy new owners.

A Win-Win Proposition

We are willing to trade ridiculously low prices for a few minor concessions on your part, none of which involve any risk. We have done this in the past and it has worked out as a perfect win-win!

Here is the Deal

The Basic Information

  • The instruments listed below are the ones on sale
  • We will only sell two (2) of each instrument at the deeply discounted price.
  • Free shipping is part of the deal
  • Each instrument will come in a pretty good case
  • Important “Heads Up”: Call and/or email us if you intend to buy.

  • Our email is don@DonRickertDesign.com and phone number is (404) 828-0136. 
  • We will reserve the instrument for 24 hours for you
  • If there is no order within 24 hours, the instrument will be offered to the next person in the queue.
  • If you are the 3rd person to order a particular instrument, we will contact you to determine whether or not you still want the instrument at the normal sell price.

Agreements and Permissions We Need From You

Delivery Time

Instrument will ship to you during week of September 20, 2015

Instruments will be shown at the Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention.

See below for extra special care that will be taken with your instrument.

A professional musician will play the instruments; video as well as audio recordings will be made.

We will have access to at least 100 top musicians in one place at the same time, otherwise a practical impossibility. This allows us to capture outstanding audio and video recordings of our new instruments for marketing purposes.

Furthermore, you can point your friends to YouTube and say: “Hey! That’s my instrument.

Special Treatment of Instruments and Extra Precautions

General layout of our vendor "booth"

When we vend at a fiddlers’ convention, our setup is not just a bunch of instruments on tables under an open-sided vendor canopy. We actually set up a complete small store consisting of two connected rooms (one room is 12’x12’ and the other is 10’x10’). All sides are opened or closed with heavy-duty waterproof walls as weather and time of day dictate.

Most importantly, our high-end instruments are placed in climate-controlled locked enclosure. We run industrial strength de-humidification and heaters when necessary (e.g. at night) within our portable store.

Who will have permission to handle your instrument?

The short answer to the question is “Very few people.”

Specifically:

  • Donald Rickert, Ph.D., IDSA, the owner of D. Rickert Musical Instruments and designer of all of the instruments.
    • He also makes some of them.
  • Alycen Whiddon, Designer & Artist, Business Manager
  • Jeff Atkins, Master Craftsman and Luthier
  • Shay Garriock, Owner of SG Music (Violin & Fiddle Shop) and Consulting Master Luthier to D. Rickert Musical Instruments
  • The professional musician selected to play your instrument for audio and video recording
  • Probable Buyers: Carefully vetted as likely to purchase an instrument like yours (Note: We will NOT sell your instrument)
  • Simply curious browsers will not be allowed to even touch your instrument under any circumstances!

Bottom Line: Your instrument may be handled by 5 or 6 expert musicians, tops.

The Instruments on Sale

Fat Strad Deux 5-String Mezzo Viola (5-String Violin or Fiddle) Fat Strad Deux 5-string rotated

List Price: $2395

Normal Sell Price: $1995

Your Price after $300 Discount: $1695, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

The Fat Strad Deux 5-String is a powerful and sonorous 5-string violin with some viola aspects, notably higher ribs (37mm vs. 30mm) and a larger bass bar. With the right strings, the Fat Strad Deux 5-String configuration performs well beyond any other 5-string we have ever encountered. The standard 5-string configuration is, by far, the most commonly commissioned by customers.

Fat_Strad_8vb_rotatedFat Strad 8vb Acoustic Octave Violin

List Price: $2495

Normal Sell Price: $1995

Your Price after $250 Discount: $1745, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

The Fat Strad 8vb Octave Violin has a 14” long body and a 13” playable scale...same as a violin, fiddle or small viola. The ribs are approximately 37mm rather than the 29mm to 30mm more typical of an instrument this size. Overall, the Fat Srad 8vb Octave Violin will feel quite familar to a violinist or fiddler.

This is the very latest entry to D. Rickert Musical Instruments' long history of making incredible purpose-built (made to be an octave violin or fiddle...not a conversion of a regular instrument) violins and fiddles. The new Fat Strad 8vb is, as the name implies based on the Fat Strad body, which has proven to be more versatile than we ever imagined. 

It is, in fact, the most powerful (loudest) octave violin, yet possessing a nice, warm, focused timbre, we have made to date. This is our newest design for a purpose-built octave violin.

Summary: 

It has a lovely timbre in the octave-strung configuration and has the projection power needed for an octave violin. It sounds better and is easier to play than our tried and true W.S. Mount and Darci Jones Model Octave Violins; used by a number of famous musicians (e.g. The W.S. Mount Octave Violin is “in the mix” on Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas’s new CD, “Abundance.”)

V-8vb Long Scale Octave Violin Long scale octave violin 2

List Price: $2400

Normal Sell Price: $1900

Your Price after $250 Discount: $1650, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

The V-8vb Long Scale Octave Violin is a completely new instrument from D. Rickert Musical Instruments. It is for the player who is up to handling a small viola sized (15.5” body) instrument in order to gain a lot of extra power and “bassy” punch from his or her octave violin.  

Sonically, the V-8vn Long Scale Octave Violin is, metaphorically, an octave violin on steroids. It is louder, darker and richer in low frequency overtones (i.e. more bass “growl”). Technically, it is closer in size to what an octave violin should be.

For the violinist or fiddler, moving up to a substantial larger instrument is a commitment that will take some practice. The playable string length is 13.9”, compared to the 12.8”-13” playable length of a violin. The larger body requires a “heavier hand” with the bow than a violin; even an octave violin. Holding (while playing) the larger body is different from a violin; not necessarily more difficult.   

Note on playable string length (aka scale length)

A frequently asked question by fiddlers accustomed to a 13" playable scale is whether the 13.9 scale (about 1 inch longer than that of a violin) of this instrument can somehow be shortened? The answer is "yes". There are two ways:

  • Make a capo from a pair of small "zip ties." This works very well. We will be happy to supply instructions on how to do this upon request
  • Purchase the V-8vb Violin Scale Large Body Octave Violin

V-8vb Violin Scale Large Body Octave Violin V_8vb_short_scale_plan_view__68913.1437865621.1280.1280

List Price: $2500

Normal Sell Price: $1970

Your Price after $300 Discount: $1670, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

The V-8vb Violin Scale Large Body Octave Violin is a variation of the V-8vb Long Scale Octave Violin, but specifically tailored to fiddlers accustomed to the 13” playable string length of a standard fiddle. Both instruments are completely new designs from D. Rickert Musical Instruments. Both instruments are for the player who seeks to gain even more raw acoustic power and low frequency “punch” than can be obtained even from the very successful and, frankly, quite amazing violin length (14” body like a violin but substantially deeper) Fat Strad 8vb Octave Violin. It is our judgment that the Fat Strad, either in the 5-string violin or octave violin configuration, is as close to perfection for a 14" body instrument as we are going to get in the foreseeable future.

T-Rex Octave Viola  T_Rex_and_Regular_Violin_2__50217.1434300667.1280.1280

List Price: $2700

Normal Sell Price: $2150

Your Price after $300 Discount: $1850, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

The T-Rex Octave Viola and other amazing low-pitched acoustic bowed instruments are available at the Don Rickert Musician Shop.

The T-Rex Octave Viola is the replacement for the The B-Rex II 5-String Octave Viola. Unlike the B-Rex, the default configuration for the new T-Rex is as a 4-String octave viola. This means that it is tuned exactly like a cello. For this reason, people often call such an instrument a “chin cello.” A 5-string version of the T-Rex is also available at an additional cost. For now, the 4-string version is a standard offering (ships in less than 30 days); while the 5-string version is a special order item than ships in 60 to 90 days. If there is sufficient interest, the 5-string version will become a standard offering with a fast shipping time.

The T-Rex is based on a 16” Tertis wide body pattern viola (note: viola sizes are designated by their body length, expressed in inches). There are many guides on the Internet for measuring your reach to determine whether or not you can handle a 16" viola.

Rickert Lion of Ireland Special Edition Fiddle Lion_Head_scroll_detail_2__35497.1438702649.1280.1280

List Price: $2999

Normal Sell Price: $2695

Your Price after $500 Discount: $2195, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

From time to time we make special edition instruments. These are not regular production instruments, but rather one-offs. Typically, we make these “specials” when we want to show off our best and/or most unique work at shows.

We call this special edition instrument the “Lion of Ireland Fiddle.” The reference is to Brian Buru, the famous High King of Ireland in the late 10th and early 11thCenturies. That name sounds a lot cooler than “Violin with a Lion Head Finial.” We could have set it up for violin playing, but we decided to set it up as a profession performance or competition fiddle.

The fanciful name notwithstanding, the setup is optimized for Scottish Highland, Irish or Old-Time genres; however, some Old-Time players may want a flatter bridge arc and even lower action.

This instrument has the classic Stradivari shape and it is graduated as a Strad. Other things that you may want to know about the instrument are listed below.

Rickert Philosopher King Special Edition Fiddle Bearded_Man_scroll_detail_view__66958.1438699554.1280.1280

List Price: $3099

Normal Sell Price: $2795

Your Price after $600 Discount: $2195, including free shipping, case and brazilwood bow

From time to time we make special edition instruments. These are not regular production instruments, but rather one-offs. Typically, we make these “specials” when we want to show off our best and/or most unique work at shows.

We call this special edition instrument the “Philosopher King Fiddle.” That name sounds a lot cooler than “Violin with a Bearded Man Head Finial.” We could have set it up for violin playing, but we decided to set it up as a profession performance or competition fiddle.

This instrument has the classic Stradivari shape and it is graduated as a Strad. Other things that you may want to know about the instrument are listed below.



Don Rickert Musician Shop a Vendor at the 9th Annual Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention

Copy-HoppinJohnA

Don at HP 2014Of course, the Don Rickert Musician Shop is the store for D. Rickert Musical Instruments (Direct link to the Hoppin' John Vendors page). As this is being written, there are only about 3 non-food vendors listed. In reality, there are lots more, but we have observed over the years that most vendors wait until the last minute to confirm. For this reason, the Hoppin’ John management seem to list only the vendors who have proven their reliability with respect to showing up until just prior to the festival.

This is our 9th year as a vendor at the Hoppin’ John Old-Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention (www.hoppinjohn.org).  Yes, that means that we have been there at every single festival since the beginning. We have some more to say about our favorite festival, but first some key information… 

Dates: September 17th – 19th, 2015

Location:

SHAKORI HILLS
1439 Henderson Tanyard Rd
Pittsboro, NC 27312
hoppinjohn@shakorihills.org
919-542-1746

 

Note: If you do not have GPS, you REALLY do want to study the directions on the Hoppin’ John web site. Do not say that you were not warned. The place is not easy to find, especially at night.

A Little Bit About the Hoppin’ John Fiddlers’ Convention:

For those of you who have never been to Hoppin’ John, they are located on 72 beautiful acres of meadows Image2_5and woods. All camping is primitive with hot showers and some 110 electrical hookups available. Along with traditional contests and square dances, Hoppin’ John features educational workshops, musician showcases, kids & family activities (including the hoppin’ john cook-off), food, craft and music vendors. Campfires are allowed!

Our favorite event is the “late night” Saturday “Rowdy Square Dance.” It usually starts at about midnight. This year, the band is the “Five Points Rounders” with Caller, Anna Lena Phillips. They are very well known in central North Carolina. The Five Points Rounders are a full-on (and wickedly good!) AUTHENTIC OLD-TIME band (fiddle, banjo, guitar and “gut bucket” bass). No Bluegrass or Country Swing from these guys. Also, no songs to put you to sleep…just non-stop kick ass fast dance tunes (with a few waltzes).  Anna Phillips is one of the best Callers we have ever seen. And yes, it is quite rowdy!

See video below: 

The Five Points Rounders - Pretty Little Girl - Rowdy Square Dance @ The Pinhook

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Why We Love Hoppin’ John

D. Rickert Musical Instruments does not vend at fiddlers’ conventions too much anymore. Hoppin’ John is the only one we are sure to do in any given year. Since Hoppin’ John comes just after the summer buying lull (People do not generally buy high-end musical instruments during the summer months!), Hoppin’ John has become the venue for our rollout of cool new instruments. We have some new stuff to really delight you this year.

Hoppin’ John is a REAL fiddlers’ convention. While there are a considerable number of daily attendees from the surrounding area, most attendees are either musicians or serious enthusiasts who camp there for the duration. Jam sessions go on until the roosters crow. I mean this literally. Farms surround the venue and roosters really do crow at daybreak! I think that they have some of their own roosters as well.

Many so-called fiddlers’ conventions throw everyone out at the end of each day.

Other things that come to mind

This festival is for musicians and serious musical enthusiasts: In addition to the numerous workshops, concerts and competition performances by some of the finest musicians from far and wide, Hoppin’ John is friendly to musicians of all levels of skill. There are impromptu jam sessions occurring seemingly 24 hours a day. Of course, there are many Old-Time and some Bluegrass sessions going on, but there are generally Cajun, Irish and Scottish sessions as well. Nothing like waking up to the sound of accordion, fiddle and penny whistle, or 4 or 5 fiddlers playing a Scottish Strathspey at 7:00am to get your Mojo going!

Alcohol is allowed!: There are, indeed rules about discreetness (kids around and all of that), the festival sells beer and wine. They also allow you to bring your own.

They are really serious about rules of civil behavior: Yes, you can drink beer from your coozie-covered can; however, if you have too much to drink, keep it to yourself (i.e. go to your tent and sleep it off). They are really serious about drunken, disrespectful behavior not being tolerated. This is very different from some of the other well-known festivals, such as the big one not too far to the North across the Virginia border.

  • You do not have to worry about being harassed, molested or beaten up at Hoppin’ John. This is something that vendors really appreciate, as the drunken thugs at other festivals seem to gravitate to the vendor booths.
  • Hoppin John has its own polite (even mellow) and very discrete security force. They will call in the local police if you behave badly. This is theoretical, as we have never seen anyone behaving badly.
  • Go to the Hoppin’ John website for the full set of the very reasonable official guidelines.


The Tenor Guitar: Odd Loner without a Real Family

Prelude

This article is by D. Rickert Musical Instruments and its online store, Don Rickert Musician Shop. We hope that you find this article interesting in its own right. That being said, the article is a background piece to an article that proposes a new graduated family of 4 or 5-string steel-strung instruments, tuned in 5ths and intended primarily for melodic playing rather than rhythmic chords. The instruments are designed to be played with a plectrum (pick).

The instruments, as well as plans and kits for building them, will be available very soon at the Don Rickert Musician Shop.

Introduction  Tenor vs 6-string

The tenor guitar is more or less a fluke (i.e. an accident) of musical instrument design history. It is a bit smaller than a 6-string guitar with a slightly shorter playable scale (23” vs. 25”-25.5”). It has four strings tuned in 5ths (just like the violin and mandolin families). Okay, an instrument of the tenor guitar’s size tuned in 5ths would be appropriate for a melody instrument tuned an octave lower than a violin or mandolin; essentially a single course octave mandolin. Note: The Octave Mandolin did not appear until about 40 years after the tenor guitar. Well, it is not. What we call the “Historic Tenor Guitar” is tuned way higher than an instrument of its size should be (rather, it is tuned like a viola: C-G-D-A) and traditionally is NOT used to play melodic parts (except in the hands of Irish tenor banjo players…another story altogether). Rather, the historic tenor guitar was created to strum chirpy little chords in jazz-swing music, which was popular in the 1930s.

To call a Historic Tenor Guitar a guitar is a serious stretch. In other words, it is not really a solidly legitimate member of the guitar family. The Historic Tenor Guitar, was in fact, created for tenor banjoists (or band leaders) wanting to achieve more of “guitarish” sound to their choppy rhythmic chord playing. The tenor banjo is another musical instrument oddity, which was created to fill one need, which was to provide barely audible chord rhythm to jazz-swing music.

We Have Nothing Against Jazz-Swing Music

In our introduction to the tenor guitar, one could get the impression that we do not like jazz-swing. In the spirit of full disclosure, a little bit of this genre goes a long way for us; just as bagpipe or accordion music does for many people. Any reference to jazz-swing was simply to explicate the aberrant use of a potentially good musical instrument in an especially non-musical way.

One does wonder about the percentage of tenor banjo and tenor guitar players in the 1930s who really enjoyed their roles, or whether making a living played a larger role than musical fulfillment. This is not to deny the skill it takes to play jazz chords with good timing. In any case, we will not be surprised to hear from the various historic jazz-swing tenor guitar interest groups wishing to express their displeasure.

Despite its oddness, the historic high-tuned tenor guitar is currently enjoying a resurgence, as it has a number of times in its near century long existence.

Summary of Things that are Just Plain Wrong About the Historic Tenor Guitar

  • It is strung and tuned too high for an instrument of its size
  • It is tuned for melody (in 5ths), but used exclusively for chords
  • It is misnamed: The tuning is such that it is in no way a tenor instrument, but rather, it is an ALTO instrument!

Leave it to the Irish Do Things Their Own Way!

Irish musicians have well-established history of playing fretted instruments melodically. Early on, Irish musicians started using tenor banjos and tenor guitars as melody instruments. They had already set the precedent with their unique use of the 5-string and the plectrum banjos, for instance.

It did take until the 1960s for Irish Traditional musicians to start tuning both tenor banjos and tenor guitars as proper tenor instruments (i.e. an octave below the fiddle). It was Barney McKenna, tenor banjoist of the Dubliners, who introduced the lower-pitched so-called “Irish tuning” (G-D-A-E) for tenor banjos. Use of the Irish tuning for tenor guitar followed. I have NEVER met an accomplished tenor guitarist who did not use the G-D-A-E nor have I met a tenor guitarist who used the instrument for anything but primarily melodic playing. Of course, I have heard recordings of the tenor guitar in jazz-swing. I have also heard the instrument when strung and tuned like the first four strings of a 6-string guitar (D-G-B-E). This is called either the “Chicago tuning” or the baritone ukulele tuning. Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio is probably the best-known chord strummer of a tenor guitar in Chicago tuning.

Side Bar: An Enigmatic Irony

At about the same time that tenor guitars were being re-strung, retuned and used for melodic playing, there was the introduction of the so-called “Irish bouzouki”, followed by the appearance of the “Irish Octave Mandolin”. The Irish Bouzouki uses octave stringing (like a 12-string guitar) on the lower courses and the subsequently developed Octave Mandolin generally uses unison courses (like all mandolin family instruments). Both the Irish bouzouki and the octave mandolin are tuned an octave lower than the fiddle (G-D-A-E).

Here is the ironic part: Common playing practice, established early on, for both of these instruments, is primarily chordal rather than melodic. Go figure! But I digress.

The Idea of the “Melodic Guitar” Instrument Family: The Melodic Guitar Quartet

In my next article, I will propose a 4-member family of instruments, graduated in sizes, as follow: Treble, Alto, Tenor and Baritone. These instruments are to be metal strung, tuned in 5ths and intended to be played with a plectrum (pick). The Tenor of this new instrument family is the tenor guitar strung and tuned an octave below the violin (G-D-A-E), a proper tenor tuning. The smaller Alto of the family will be tuned in the historic tenor guitar C-G-D-A (i.e. viola) tuning.

Stayed tuned!



Lion of Ireland Special Edition Fiddle by D. Rickert

The Lion of Ireland Special Edition Fiddle by D. Rickert Musical Instruments is available now at the Don Rickert Musician ShopThis instrument, setup for professional performance and/or advanced competition fiddle playing is made entirely (except for the carved head) in the workshops of D. Rickert Musical instruments in Hiawassee, GA, USA.  Lion Head plan view 1

From time to time we make special edition instruments. These are not regular production instruments, but rather one-offs. Typically, we make these “specials” when we want to show off our best and/or most unique work at shows.

Lion Head scroll detail 1We call this special edition instrument the “Lion of Ireland Fiddle.” The reference is to Brian Buru, the famous High King of Ireland in the late 10th and early 11th Centuries. That name sounds a lot cooler than “Violin with a Lion Head Finial.” We could have set it up for violin playing, but we decided to set it up as a profession performance or competition fiddle.

The fanciful name notwithstanding, the setup is optimized for Scottish Highland, Irish or Old-Time genres; however, some Old-Time players may want a flatter bridge arc and even lower action.

This instrument has the classic Stradivari shape and it is graduated as a Strad. Other things that you may want to know about the instrument are listed below.

Materials: Old moderately flamed European maple back and ribs; tight grained very old spruce top; Indonesian ebony fingerboard with highly decorated shell inlay.

Neck and Finial: The neck is carved and shaped by us from old European maple. The finial part of the neck (i.e. “scroll”) is carved in China by a workshop that specializes in historic violin scrolls and other finials. The lion head of often associated with the Tyrolean (Austrian) maker, Jacob Stainer (1617 – 1683)

Varnish: Traditional hand-rubbed Italian oil. Pigment glaze layer contains burnt umber, river madder root and Baltic amber. Result is a medium brown with a reddish highlight…very traditional! Varnish is not antiqued.

Tuning pegs: Wittner FineTune pegs

Tailpiece: Hill-type tailpiece (ebony)

Strings: Infeld-Thomastik Vision Stark (heavy) synthetic core

Default Setup:

  • Moderately arched bridge, carved to produce a fairly low (not ridiculously low) string height.
  • Very low string height at nut


Announcing the Rickert Model 60 Violin: A Great Fiddle for Less Than $1,000!

The Rickert Model 60 Violin is made for us by Revelle and set up to customer specifications by D. Rickert Musical Instruments is available now at the Don Rickert Musician ShopThis model works well either set up as an intermediate level violin or fiddle.  600Front__66725.1438697659.1280.1280

With a proper pickup installed, this instrument is transformed into a true professional performance fiddle. Talk to us about the many pickup options, ranging in price from about $150 to $700. Our recommended option is a Barbera Hybrid bridge pickup (single dual transducer per string...8 transducer elements total) with a permanent installation and off-board preamp (total cost about $425, including a Schatten "Mini-Pre" preamp, connectors and cables). Either a Baggs or Schatten bridge pickup with Schatten preamp would bring the cost down to about $250.

About the Model 60

The Model 60 is probably the nicest violin we have seen in its price range. As an orchestral violin, it is an intermediate to advanced instrument. I would say that many pretty good fiddlers would prefer its more forgiving nature than the Model 70. A professional or top competition fiddler will find the Model 60 to be a somewhat lacking in shear power when compared to the Model 70, which costs twice as much as the Model 60. The woods are beautiful: close-grained spruce top and well-flamed back and sides. The workmanship is first rate. The tuning pegs work flawlessly. It is clearly based on a Stradivari pattern.

The varnish is perfect. I suspect that it is spirit varnished; however, it has the look of hand rubbed Italian oil varnish, including the rub marks of what looks like a pigment glaze in one or more of the layers rather than dye-based stain used in spirit varnishing. These hand-rubbing marks are part of the beauty of Italian varnishing. So, it could be oil varnished.

The tone is dark and more powerful than anything else in its price range; although not quite as focused as a more expensive professional performance instrument. Many, especially intermediate level fiddlers (5-10 years’ playing experience), will probably love the Model 60 set up for fiddling, as a dark and only moderately focused tone is more forgiving to those who may not have mastered advanced bowing dynamics. There are even many advanced fiddlers who prefer a dark and moderately focused sound.

Instrument only: Not an outfit.

See the various setup and outfit options for this instrument.

Standard tuning pegs: Well fit traditional ebony tuning pegs

Tailpiece: Hill type tailpiece (ebony)

Strings: Infeld-Thomastik Vision Stark synthetic core

Default Championship Fiddle Setup:

  • Moderately arched bridge, carved to produce a fairly low (not ridiculously low) string height.
  • Very low string height at nut
  • Basically, the default setup is optimized for Scottish Highland, Irish or Old-Time genre; however, some Old-Time players may want a flatter bridge arc and even lower action.


Introducing the NEW Ranger Travel Violin by D. Rickert Musical Instruments

The Ranger Travel Violin by D. Rickert Musical Instruments is available now at the Don Rickert Musician Shop. This instrument is the best 4-string travel violin available anywhere. It is made entirely in the workshops of D. Rickert Musical instruments in Hiawassee, GA, USA. New 4-string pochette plan view final w Phanton chin rest

Since we stopped making the Adventurer IId Travel Violin on a regular production basis (you can still get us to make you one on a custom basis) several years ago, because it was crazy expensive for us to make and we could not charge enough for it to make anything like a profit, we have not had a 4-string travel – backpacker violin (fiddle) that compares to the sound of the Deep Body Custom Travel Violin-Viola II. The bar is set high, as the Deep Body Custom actually sounds as good as many full-size instruments.

We have designed and prototyped a number of smaller 4-string travel violin contenders. Each design/prototyping effort takes several hundred hours. This is simply the nature of invention and innovation…the cost of doing business, as it were.

Just as tenacity ultimately paid off with the creation of the Deep Body Custom Travel Violin-Viola II, we now have a 4-string instrument of the same caliber and price range. It is called the Ranger Travel Violin. While the Ranger shares some design features with the larger Deep Body Custom, the Ranger has its unique features of its own.

The Ranger Travel Violin: Basic Description

Body Shape

Superficially, the Ranger looks a very much like the Deep Body Custom Travel Violin-Viola II. Both instruments have a front profile of the skinny oblong “Scottish” pochette type, which we first introduced with the Neil Gow Pochette quite a few years back. Both have sound holes that are a stylized version of the “C-holes” found on violas da gamba and a number of other 16th, 17th and 18th Century stringed instruments.

The Ranger, like its sibling, has a convex top. This type of bent soundboard adds internal air space. It also seems to vibrate in such as manner as to increase volume and deepen the timbre. It appears that the stiffness resulting from this type of bend on a flat soundboard plate is the reason.

New 4-string pochette side profile horizontal final

Unique Features

The Ranger is slightly narrower than the Deep Body Custom (3.25” vs. 3.5”) at the middle. The Ranger has a more dramatic taper at both ends, especially the neck end.

Unlike the convex bent plate back of the Deep Body Custom, the Ranger has a “dished” back, which is New Pochette Back finalcomprised of 5 tapered and beveled staves. This dished back is indeed rounded; however not so much as other stave-backed instruments such as an old-style mandolin, lute or Greek bouzouki. The dished stave back is much stronger than a carved arch back would be.

In addition to being quite beautiful to look at, the “dished” stave back adds considerable internal air space to the Ranger’s body.

Key Dimensions

Overall length: 23” (58.42cm)

Body length: 14” (35.56cm)

Nut width: 24mm – 25mm

Width at middle: 3.25” (82.5mm)

Rib height (at ends): 1.2” (30mm)

Rib height (middle): 1.575” (39.5mm)

Peak (highest point) of dished back: .625” (15.87mm)

 

Note: all dimensions have been carefully worked out so that the Ranger, with chin rest attached (and, of course, the shoulder rest removed) fits perfectly into our 4” diameter well-padded case (Globetrotter Travel and Backpacker Violin Case 4” Diameter)

  • There is also room to spare for your bow.
  • The length of the case can be adjusted (permanently) to match the length of bow you will be using.

Playing Characteristics and Sound

With its custom center-mounted chin rest and the Phantom Shoulder Rest in place, holding and playing the Ranger feels pretty much like playing a regular violin. The only difference you might sense, if you are not already using a center-mount chin rest, is that the instrument sits a bit higher on the shoulder (just like a regular violin with a center-mount chin rest).

The Ranger emits about the same volume as a regular violin. The timbre is amazingly close to a full-size instrument. It is full-bodied and focused. In fact, it sounds pretty much like a Deep Body Custom Travel Violin-Viola II.

We will have some video and audio of the Ranger available in September 2015, when our next recording sessions are scheduled.

Special Features:

  • Wittner FineTune internally-geared tuning pegs
    • These incredible tuning pegs have a gear system in the buttons. The gearing ratio is a very respectable 8.5:1. A cylinder in the middle of the peg shaft turns in response to turning the button. The pegs are celebrated for their kindness to the peg box. They are held in by friction. Some top violinists have even installed them on Stradivari violins. They look pretty much like ebony.
  • Custom-made chin rest
    • The chin rest is a “flat Flesch” type of rest, which we carve and re-shape to fit the tail of the Ranger Travel Violin perfectly. Unlike some our earlier instruments, this chin rest does not require removal in order to fit the instrument into its case
  • Tailpiece
    • The tailpiece is a “Harp” compensated tailpiece by Dov Schmidt. We use a slightly longer version for a small viola in order to accommodate our favorite strings (Infeld-Thomastik Vision Stark). These strings are quite short (we consider this a design flaw), which is a problem for the lower two strings when a violin size Harp tailpiece is used, hence the use of the longer viola version of the tailpiece.
  • Special stringing method
    • We reverse the attachment of the lower two strings (G and D). In other words, the “balls” are on the top side of the tailpiece and the strings feed out from the bottom. This results in a much sharper angle of the bass strings vis-à-vis the bridge. This relates to more tension and a much “bigger” sound.
  • Phantom Shoulder Rest
    • The Phantom Shoulder Rest attaches in a very clever manner to the end pin. The shoulder rest is easy to put on and take off, and it stays put. This shoulder rest clears the arch of the dished back of the instrument perfectly.

Case

The standard case is a 31"x4" tubular case. See Related Items.

(Globetrotter Travel and Backpacker Violin Case 4” Diameter)

  • There is also room to spare for your bow.
  • The length of the case can be adjusted (permanently) to match the length of bow you will be using.

Bow

The size of bow you use depends on how long of a case that you can work with. A ¼ size bow only requires a 24-25” long case. A ½ size bow requires about 27” in case length. A full-size bow requires a 32” long case. Note that the cases need to a bit longer than the bow length in order have storage space for the removable shoulder rest.

Those of you who know us are aware that we really discourage the use of lousy bows. We also believe strongly that a bow for a travel violin should NOT be wooden.

See the Bows section of the Don Rickert Musician Shop.