Instruments Looking for a Good Home

These beautiful instruments are currently available and looking for a new home.
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Stainer Copy, fully restored ~ $600

A fantastic fiddle at a great price. This Stainer copy was made in Germany in the early 1900’s. It has been re-graduated, it has a new bass bar, and new ebony hardware. The color and patina reflect the 100+ years that this fiddle has been played. It has the deep, round body that is a Stainer characteristic, and produces a big, full sound that will never get lost in a jam.

 

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The Heart Fiddle ~ $1200

My sincere thanks to Steve who gave me this fiddle to work on. Wish I had “before” pictures. My guess is that it was a student violin from a music school somewhere. It was a dreadful yellow color with heavy, thick varnish and 3 serious cracks in the top that needed to be repaired. The bass bar had to be replaced and the top needed to be re-graduated. The peg head was re-carved to get rid of a clunky place where it had “conservatory violin” stamped into the wood. The fingerboard was removed, shaped, and replaced to correct a previous repair. A new nut was carved and installed. I inlaid a small heart in mother of pearl just behind the heel. It sounds wonderful – a very full, round, balanced and resonant voice with clean highs.  This fiddle will be your main player for many years.

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Half-Size German Fiddle c. 1950 ~ $135

Start your future fiddler off right with a real instrument. This is a 1/2 size German violin from about 1950.  The original sales receipt is included with the instrument.  At more than 60 years old, it is in very good condition and has a remarkably pleasant sound.  There is some minor wear, a few small nicks and some scuff marks, but it is still in great shape overall.  New strings and tail piece.  Comes with newly re-haired original bow with “Germany” stamped near the frog.

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If you’d like more information, please get in touch with us though the “Contact Us” page.

 

 

 

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The Fiddle Shop is Open!

After a lot of work and some rave reviews, we’re delighted to announce that “The Fiddle Shop” is open here at MountainBanjos.  Linda has been spending a lot of time in the shop for the past few months getting a handful of fiddles restored and ready to go to new homes.  Please stop in and browse!

Our friends Jim and Patty came by this past weekend and selected a fiddle for Patty.  Here’s what Jim had to say:

Who knew that Linda Frank was such a gifted instrument restorer?! We were at Chip Arnold and Linda Frank’s beautiful historic home and shop today and Patty started trying out fiddles Linda had restored. This particular German-made fiddle is from about 1930, and has the SWEETEST tone. After Patty purchased it, she showed us the before and after photos and we were blown away. We all know Chip makes very special mountain banjos, but now we know how talented Linda is! She learned her craft working with her father who also was a restorer, so her experience is quite deep. If you are looking for a special instrument or have something needing restoration…
Thanks Linda for the wonderful fiddle we brought home today!

Remember that nice old German fiddle from the early 1900’s in your grandfather’s closet?  It may look “old-timey”, but you might be shocked to see what it looks like inside.   These fiddles were made by the thousands, as quickly as possible and shipped to the U.S., where even Sears Roebuck offered them for sale.  On the outside, they look just fine, but take off the top, and here’s what you see:
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Linda painstakingly graduates the top, the way it should have been done originally, crafts and installs a bass bar, and makes any other repairs that might be needed.  This is the result:

After

The fiddle is then refinished if necessary, resulting in an instrument that is as beautiful and structurally sound as it is “old-timey”!

Stop in to browse at the “Fiddle Shop” (click on the tab at the top of this page).  Your next fiddle may be waiting for you there!

Patty playing her "new" fiddle

Patty enjoying her “new” fiddle

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Cold Frosty Morning tab

It’s been a busy summer, with festival season, making mountain banjos and lots of other chores. Linda has her fiddle repair shop up and running and is getting busy with that. Check out her work here on the Mountain Banjo site.

Well, I’ve added a tab for Cold Frosty Morning, in A modal tuning … aEADE. It’s more involved than the other tabs posted here, but if you take your time with it, you’ll be playing it soon enough. The ascending (ITIT) forward roll shows up in the first ending to the A part and again in the fifth measure of the B part. In both cases, you can leave the thumb crossover (first T) out and just play it as a bum ditty. There is a lot of drop thumb, especially in the B part, but don’t let it intimidate you! You’ll hear how it’s used to play melodic sequences.
If you bump into problems, feel free to ask questions.

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NEW MOUNTAIN BANJO

Cherry wood mountain banjo just off the bench! Pictures and details under Banjos for Sale.

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Repairing a Crack in an Heirloom Fiddle

by Linda

Boy, things have been hoppin’ in the shop lately!  Chip has been working on a new mountain banjo – pictures to come soon, I’m sure.  There’s another banjo on the bench being brought back to life, and I’ve been working on Chip’s great-grandfather’s fiddle.

I decided to try my hand at learning to play the fiddle this spring, and picked up Chip’s 150 year-old fiddle, only to find that this past winter’s endless dry heat had re-opened a crack in the top plate that ran from the tail piece almost to the bridge.  The crack had been repaired previously with a generous application of hide glue which had not been cleaned off particularly well, and had left a dark, sludgy line.  Also, a previous repair to the top, just above the tail block, had come to pieces.  Nothing to do but take off the top and see what could be done.

before

The first problem was that I didn’t have any specialized clamps for working on fiddles.  I needed an edge clamp and a clamp to cross the lower bout of the top.  Chip to the rescue!  In just a few hours, he had created these very cool clamps. (Click pictures to enlarge)

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use the edge clamp, since the edge under the tail piece was pretty fragile, but the long clamp worked wonderfully.

Taking the top off of a fiddle that old and beloved was something in the neighborhood of terrifying.  Despite the loud pops and cracks of the old glue giving way, I did manage to open the old fiddle up.  I cleaned up the crack, glued it with hide glue, and installed 3 spruce cleats.

Working with hide glue is a race against the clock.  The glue gels as it cools from 145 degrees.  Once it’s at 90, it’s useless and you have to start over.  Chip and I worked together to get the top back on and clamped in less than two minutes.

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After the glue had dried and the clamps were removed, I was able to repair the section above the tail block using the existing pieces from the previous repair.  The last step was to scrape off the old glue grunge, touch up the finish, and do a small French-polish over the crack.  All in all, it was a success.  And, what a sweet sounding fiddle!

 

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New Video: Right Hand Position and Forward Roll

We’ve added this new video to the lesson page. It deals with the most efficient and effective right hand position and the forward roll. Practice the exercises in the videos until you can play them smoothly. Next we’ll see how to apply what you’ve learned to tunes.

 

 

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New Lesson Video

We’ve added a video demonstrating and explaining some of the basic right hand moves common to 2-finger, index lead banjo style. Watch here or on the Lesson page. Check it out.

 

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The Day I Met the Banjo …

Back in ’73 or ’74 I was working at Spivey’s Sawmill in the N. Ga. mountain town of Blairsville, where Harold Payne was offbearing and I was running the edger. Harold and I were friends, and when he asked if I’d like to hear his daddy play the banjo, I said I’d love to. So one evening after work, I followed Harold home and met his daddy, Charlie Payne. Mr Payne played an old, deep resonator Kay banjo in the old time 2-finger style once common in so much of the South. He brought that banjo out and handed it to me to show me how heavy it was. It’s weight was something he was proud of since, to him, that spoke of quality.

I had never been in the same room with a banjo before, much less heard one played up close and personal. When Mr Payne began to play John Hardy with Harold singing and playing guitar, I was immediately hooked. His playing was simple, straightforward and hauntingly archaic; his face smiling and his eyes sparkling all the while. He was a man who loved to play the banjo and he made a believer out of me in seconds. I just had to learn how to make those sounds.

I managed to borrow a banjo from a friend who had given it up and I began saving up for one of my own. I learned first from Mr Payne and then from other local folks who I met through him, Harold and others. All of them played in the old 2-finger, index lead way and that’s the style I learned. Those old folks have been gone for years now, but I hear them every time I pick up my banjo. I see Mr Payne’s smile and I hear Duge Teague explaining how to plant by the signs. I remember J. Roy Stalcup telling me the story of getting his first banjo with money saved from hauling tan bark to Culberson, N.C. in a wagon with his father. Mostly I remember how kind and enthusiastic these men and women were in passing on old lessons of life and banjo to a young guy with a yankee accent, long hair and an earring.

These were some of the best people I’ve ever known. I hope I do justice to their memory …

 

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Launching our Blog Today!

Welcome to Chip and Linda’s blog and website!  It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but we hope you’ll find it interesting.  We’ll be posting about the banjos that we’re building or restoring, and for everyone who asks Chip, “How do you do that?!”, there are tabs and lessons on two-finger style playing.  Take a look around, and leave comments.  We love comments!

You can subscribe to our blog by putting your email address into the blank at the bottom of this (or any) page.

Thanks for stopping by!
Chip and Linda

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