My Fiddles

Mar 20, 2020

Hi, I’m Mitch Reed, welcome to my vlog. And my vlog today is on the violins that I play. So I’ve had a lot of you ask about what kind of violin I play and, you know, how old it is, and who made it, and all this stuff. So I thought I would go through all three of my violins that I play currently. There’s one violin that I mainly use for this YouTube channel and I’ll talk about that, but I’ll show you all three violins that I play and tell you a little bit about them.

So the first one I’m going to start with is actually the one I probably play the most. So I’m a music teacher up here in Portland, Maine. I teach a lot of different styles of violin. I teach Irish fiddle. I teach Cajun, Creole, also teach bluegrass, and old-timey, and just all kinds of other weird stuff in between. So the fiddle that I teach with the most is this violin and it was made in 2006 and was made in China by Anna Guan. And it’s a fantastic fiddle. So, a lot of times when you think, “Oh, a Chinese fiddle…” Like this is a really good fiddle and it costs a lot of money. And it was given to me by a good friend of mine, a Catholic priest and he was taking fiddle lessons with me and this was his violin. And he decided that the fiddle wasn’t for him, so he left it at my house and then called me up and said, “You know what, I want you to play that fiddle.” So he gave it to me and his name was Father Allen Breaux from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. He went up to Missouri and bought it there. It’s a beautiful fiddle and it sounds incredible. The varnish didn’t do so well in Louisiana, and I don’t know if you can see, but it has some little gummy bits a little bit here and there. And I think that’s just from so much of the humidity in Louisiana. I lived in an old house and it was very wet and sticky in that house. I would leave my violins out because I play all the time and it kind of affected the varnish. Just this one though. I love this fiddle so much and it has a beautiful sound and it also changed a lot. When I first started playing it, it was kind of stale and sounded closed up. And I took this one on the road with me with Beausoleil and this fiddle traveled with me with Beausoleil probably for about five or six years.

And playing it a lot really helped to open it up. So those of y’all who have new violins, they only get better the more you play them. So that’s pretty cool. So yeah. So this violin is beautiful. I can show you the back of it if you want to see it and here’s the front, the scroll. I’m not great at cleaning my violins. This thing here, a lot of people ask what this is too. This is a pickup. So you would plug in a quarter-inch jack in here, in this hole here, and you can see it runs to the bridge, this little wire, and there’s a transducer in the bridge and that picks up all the sound, all the vibration, and the sound and it brings it here. And then I can run it into an amplifier or through a PA system if I’m playing a gig or whatever. And so it’s my pickup. So that’s what that is. I remember a lot of y’all had asked about that, you know? So yeah, so that’s this violin. This is my Chinese violin, but the most expensive violin that I owned. I think Father Breaux maybe paid about $5,000 for this one. And I definitely think it’s worth it. I’ve never played a violin like this. It’s really awesome. I’m very lucky to own it and I would have never been able to afford it. And that’s the thing about being a musician is that you meet a lot of people and you develop a lot of awesome friendships and people give you stuff. And it helps your craft and your art. So, it’s kind of part of the deal I think. But I very much appreciate it. Thank you, Father Breaux.

All right, so the next one, this is the one that I play the most on this channel. So this one I call my Cajun fiddle. But it wasn’t made in Louisiana. It was actually made in Michigan and it was made by a company called Acoustic Electric Strings. This particular violin is called the London violin. And what’s unique about it, it has a pickup also. You can see right here, there’s a pickup. That’s where you plug the jack in and it goes inside. So you can’t see anything on the top that shows that it has a pickup. So it’s all inside, but there’s two wires. It’s actually a completely different pickup than the last one. There’s a wire that goes to the bridge and a transducer goes to the bass bar. I find it gives more of an acoustic sound than the last pickup I showed you, which was LR Baggs.

This one is much more acoustic, but the volume needs to be really jacked up a lot to be heard, so it doesn’t have as much gain as the other one does. But it really sounds good. And the maker did a great job. You can see he antiqued it. It’s not an old fiddle, but it looks very old. And the back is very beautiful. And then there’s the front, and I love this violin too. This violin has a great sound, but I always keep this violin tuned down. And one of the things about violins, that’s really interesting is if you pick a violin for every weird tuning that you like, if you keep that tuning on that violin, it will actually sweeten for that tuning. So like this one really sounds sweet for Cajun tuning. And I have another one I’m going to show you a little later that I keep tuned down really low. And it sounds really… It really loves that tuning also. So yeah, if you’re a fiddler and you do want to play Cajun music or some kind of alternate tunings, it’s good to buy a violin and leave it in that tuning and just keep it in that tuning because the more you play it, it’s going to sweeten to those frequencies that are bouncing around inside the violin, it’ll really sweeten the wood for those tones. So yeah, this is a fantastic violin, too. And I think that’s about it for this one.

I’m going to show you one more. And this is an old French violin that was given to me by Mike Doucet. So he traveled to France with a couple of other Cajuns and he went around to different shops and he found this violin and he played it for a while. He really loved it for a while and he ended up just trying a lot of different violins out. And so this one ended up kinda just being stored away and then he let me use it on the road with Beausoleil and then he gave it to me, which is really awesome of Michael. Thank you, Michael. And you can see it has a beautiful, really interesting back on it. I love the varnish on it and it’s really neat and this is my dark fiddle. It’s definitely very dark. The varnish is dark, then the sound is dark too. And as far as the maker and the history of it, I really don’t know. I just call it my French violin, but you can see that the middle part of it, the belly and the back, are very raised up, almost like a Steiner type violin. But I’ve been told that it wasn’t made in the Steiner copy. It was something that’s kind of a mutt; it’s kind of a mixture of a lot of different things. But I love it and it has a great tone. And this is my old fiddle. So this is the oldest one I have. So having an old fiddle, it’s really fun because it’s like having a piece of history, but it can be also a lot more maintenance with having an older fiddle because it’s been played a lot. The wood’s dryer, so it’s more sensitive to the weather changes and things like that. A lot of times the pegbox is a little bit harder to deal with because the pegbox gets to be worn out a little bit. So sometimes it’s harder to get the pegs to stay.

So when you, or if you, decide to own an old violin, there is a little bit more maintenance involved with it. And you can buy a new violin that looks like an old violin because a lot of luthiers will antique their instruments to make them look old and worn. But the wood’s all new and it’s a little bit easier to deal with, but it’s worth it. It’s got a soul. All the fiddles, all the violins have a soul and the smells inside. It smells like an old… This smells like an old house inside. So it’s really awesome. Violins are just really special. No other instrument like them. So thanks so much for joining me today. So I thought I would do this cause a lot of y’all have been asking about the fiddles that I play and where did I get them, who made them, all that stuff. So I don’t know if I answered everybody’s questions, I enjoyed doing this. I thought it was kind of fun and different from what I’ve done in the past.

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