Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools, Learning to Play Fiddle

Changing Violin Strings

New bridge and changing strings

The big project of this weekend was to accomplish three things:

  • Change the bridge
  • Change the strings
  • Apply peg compound

Changing out the bridge wasn’t too difficult. My goal was to get a self-adjusting bridge so that I could ensure the feet of the bridge were flush with the violin. The bridge feet can pivot and swivel just slightly in this particular make, which seemed to work just the way I hoped. Otherwise, you have to figure out how to file and shape the bridge — there are a lot cheaper bridges out there than the one I bought, but I was shooting for something I could put on with little hassle. So far, it’s worked the way I hoped.

Then I had to learn how to change the actual strings. I already knew that you don’t take all the strings off at once when you change them. The idea is that there needs to be some strings still on the bridge for the bridge to be putting pressure down on the sound post to keep it in place.

Actually changing strings wasn’t too hard. Here’s the video I watched to get the job done:

A lot of professionals seem to swear by Dominant brand strings, but I was just looking for something within a lower price range to replace the cruddy strings that came with my kit. Preludes were also well-rated and seemed geared towards a student learner, so I went with a set of those.

While I changed my strings, I took the opportunity to do two things:

  • Put graphite on the nut
  • Apply peg compound

You can just use a regular No 2 pencil to scribble some graphite on the string groove on the nut. I hear that helps the string move with less friction.

Peg compound is something you put around the part of the tuning peg that fits into the peg hole. The kind I got looks a bit like a brown tube of lipstick. It’s made to both lubricate and keep the peg from slipping to keep the string in tune. So far, I have seen a noticeable difference for my G, D, and A strings. Once the new strings stretched a bit, they’ve actually stayed in tune well. The E string… well, that’s another story that I’m going to have to figure out.

With all these improvements to my violin, I felt I was finally able to sit down and spend less time fighting with the instrument and more time progressing and learning. The whole process has certainly taught me a lot about the instrument!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Kirin Obtained!

I talked about how Syn and I were working on farming old primals for pony drops — which was something neither of us really planned on doing, but just happened (thanks to FC folks). We’ve been plinking away at it here and there, but finally finished it up last night.

Ifrit and Leviathan were our last two fights. Ifrit was fairly easy, though you have to space out your damage because there’s an enrage mechanism if you try to tank and spank him. So that took a while because we couldn’t just mow him down.

Leviathan was a little more tricky due to the shield, adds and ability to fall off the raft. But by the time we got done with it, I was pretty confident in understanding how the fight went. It took us a little under an hour to get the last few whistles that we needed, then we took that to the Minstrel and got our reward!

The Valentione’s event should be starting, and the Paris Fan Fest is going to revv up this weekend. This should bring us some more information about the expansion, and hopefully a preorder or even release date. I’ll be keeping my eye out for interesting tidbits and will be sure to report what I learn!

Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools

Replacing a Violin Chin Rest

Once I had the new shoulder rest and spent some time with it (one practice session), I already knew that wasn’t enough to fix the comfort issue of my fiddle. That’s when I started looking at replacing the chin rest.

Way too tall!

The chin rest that came with the violin rested mostly to the left of the tailpiece, but also fit over the top of it. I have a short neck and rather round face, so this caused a lot of comfort issues for me. Especially the taller part that fit up over the tailpiece. You can see a picture of it to the right with the problem area pointed out.

I guess this shape works for some people, but it certainly didn’t work for me. I knew I needed something as flat as possible, so I went on a search across Amazon, and finally came upon the Conrad Gotz ZK256 chin rest. It was somewhat hard to find, since the description doesn’t have the word “chin rest” in it for a search. It was also more expensive than most chin rests I saw, and only had one review, which made me antsy. But the picture included in the review is what sold me. It was a very flat and to-the-left chin rest, which is what I was looking for. So, I took the chance and ordered it.

Once I’d chosen the chin rest, I had to figure out how to take the old one off and put a new one on. This lovely video taught me all about that:

Taking the old one off wasn’t so hard, despite the fact I didn’t have a key tool to do it. I did have a tiny screwdriver that just fit the bill.

Getting the new one on was a little trickier. I learned that I had to unscrew both ends of the chin rest to full length, then tighten them together again, for it to all come together. It’s hard to explain, but would have probably been easier to do if I had the proper tool.

In the end, I managed it and I’m quite happy with the feel and look of my new chin rest. I’m still adjusting things between it and the shoulder rest, but my grip on the violin has very much improved, helping me work through tension issues I’ve had with my left arm.

Old chinrest (left) and new chinrest!

Now that that was all sorted out, it was time to learn how to change the strings and get the new bridge on my fiddle!

Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools

Replacing a Violin Shoulder Rest

The old shoulder rest

It only took me a few days of playing to determine that the shoulder rest that came with my cheat violin kit was… trash. Sorry. I hate referring to anything as “trash” but this thing not only did absolutely nothing to provide grip or comfort, but it was also too high with no way to adjust it.

The green cushion part was pretty solid and not soft. And hooking it on to the violin was rather confusing. In doing a bit of research online, you can actually pick this thing up for less than $3.00 here – but please don’t. It’s not even worth the materials it was made of. I’m not one who usually one to toss things in the trash, but as soon as I got my new shoulder rest and saw the difference, that’s exactly what I did.

By about day 3-4 of playing the instrument, I took note that I was having a lot of tension issues in my left arm. Doing research, I found that this could be caused by a combination of bad shoulder and chin rests. So, I set out to change the easiest one first, and ordered this nice Fiddlerman shoulder rest from Amazon. I’m quite pleased with it.

Not only does it actually support the violin and have a good shape for my shoulder, but it has adjustable legs on it, for people with much longer necks than my own. Really. I had to put it at the lowest setting to be comfortable. But hey, the option for adjustment is there.

Overall, I’m happy with the new shoulder rest, and coupled with a new chin rest (which I’ll talk about later), I think I’ve finally found a comfortable fit for holding my violin securely under my chin.

Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools

Improving My Cheap Fiddle

It took about a week of practice before I started to pick out things about the cheap fiddle I bought that I felt required fixing or changing. There was actually quite a bit I needed to tweak… but rather than kick the little $30 kit to the curb, I decided to take some time to try to improve it.

While I already had a sense of what was wrong, this video helped confirm things I could do to improve my experience:

I talked about some of this last week, but here’s a list of all the improvements I made to my violin:

  • New shoulder rest
  • New chin rest
  • Replaced all strings
  • Replaced the bridge
  • Applied peg compound & graphite to nut
Two strings removed and new bridge placed

While I’d ordered the new self-adjustable bridge last week through Amazon, it wasn’t available for Prime. I expected it to arrive today (Monday), but instead, I was excited to discover that it came earlier on Saturday. So I spent some time on Sunday learning how to replace the strings and bridge. I didn’t buy anything expensive when it came to strings at this point, just a set of Preludes. These already seem a good deal better than the strings that came with the violin originally.

Since I was taking the strings off anyhow, I took the opportunity to apply some Peg Compound to the pegs in hopes it will help keep the instrument in tune longer. I do have trouble with the E string in particular constantly going flat (and I’m concerned to apply too much pressure to it because it always seems to be stretched enough as it is!). We’ll see if this helps — the strings are still so new, it’s hard to tell right at this point.

I’ll talk more about the actual process and resources I used for all of this later. I’m glad I messed around with it, though — I learned a lot about replacing parts and restringing my instrument. As much as I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of buying a cheap violin at this point (the new bridge I bought cost more than the violin!), I do have to say that I’ve been able to learn a lot because I’m not very worried about messing it up.

If nothing else, I can always use the chin and shoulder rest on any new instrument I buy (I’ve determined this is really the right chin rest for me!). And the bridge can always be transferred to a new violin or serve as a backup. Knowing how to change the strings is just something I should be able to do by default, in my opinion. If I own an instrument, I should understand how to maintain it.

Posted in Blogging, FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Pony Farming Like It’s 2019

I’ve played FFXIV for over 5 years. I’ve done a lot in this game during this time, and often delve into as many systems as the game provides — from maxing out Squads, to chasing dumb achievements, to running way too many Beast Tribe Quests. Despite that, I have only ever once unlocked and run an Extreme Primal. That was Bismark, and I was trying to help a friend get a bird drop.

Well, that changed last night.

FC folks, Kade and Amoon, had been farming ponies a while back. Kade just needed the Ramuh drop as his last to get the Kirin, but due to some mechanics, they were having trouble duoing it. So, Syn and I unlocked it and gave them a hand.

Kade got his pony on the first run, but the guys were nice enough to run it until Syn and I also got a drop (though Syn kept swearing she didn’t care about mount farming). This led into unlocking the rest… and in about an hour and some change, Syn and I had all but two of the total ponies.

There’s a certain sort of fun in obliterating old Primal fights in a 4-man unsynced party, to be honest. Though, I somewhat wished I’d done it on my main… now I really do want to get ponies on her, as well. XD

So far, my favorite for Amon is the Ramuh pony — the colors and the lightning just fits him nicely!


Blooming Crafts

The other thing I started this weekend for the first time was growing flowers and learning how to change their colors. I noted that one of the things I wanted to do was get the fancy Blessed tool for Amon’s alchemist. Well, yesterday, I was scanning the list of recipes that alchemists make, and realized there are literally pages of corsages, which require different colors and types of flowers that you grow in the pots in your room/house.

So, I invested in some soil, seeds and flower pots, and got to learning about how that system works. Thankfully, I have plenty of personal rooms between all of my alts for this sort of thing, and flowers grow in 24 hours.

There’s always something new to mess around with in FFXIV, even for me.

Posted in Learning to Play Fiddle

Learning Violin- Personal Challenge

After almost a full week of practice, I’m starting to identify a number of challenges for me. First – the quality of the cheap violin I bought. I didn’t think it would make much of a difference as I only plunked down $30 to see if this was something I could do. But now, I’m identifying things: the default shoulder rest was very poor shape/quality (replaced), the chin rest is too high for my comfort (replacing tomorrow), the strings are poor quality (will replace), and the bridge was not properly cut (will replace).

I’ve been very tempted to take the plunge on a more expensive violin, but I keep telling myself to back up and take it slow. Mostly because I’m also having a lot of trouble with my left hand positioning, and I’ve only been doing this for a week. Time may help.

I have short arms, small hands and rather short fingers. All of this leads to a lot of difficulty twisting my palm to finger higher strings without accidentally covering the A and E strings. I’m having trouble arching around far enough without tension. I was hoping the new shoulder rest would help with this (and it has a bit), and replacing the chin rest with a more flat style may also help. Maybe replacing the bridge with lower action and putting new strings on will also improve the situation.

I’ve even considered backing down to a 3/4 violin to see if it fit my reach better… or searching out an elusive 7/8 size instead. Maybe a 4/4 violin is just too large for me… or maybe more time practicing and improving the kit I have will be the answer.

I don’t know. I just know my practice is limited and strained because I’m struggling to put my hand where it belongs on the strings without hitting other strings. I’ll update on this once I’ve got all my upgrades in place.

Posted in Fiddle Resources and Tools

Essential Elements for Strings – Violin Lesson Book

Because there aren’t any local violin tutors that I can find in my area, I’m having to rely heavily on YouTube and other means to stumble through learning this instrument. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be too hard. But after almost a full week of daily practice, I’m running upon questions I wish I had someone around to ask.

That being said, I’ve discovered a really great book/online learning tool that does all the right things for me: Essential Elements for Strings – Book 1 with EEi: Violin. This is not meant as an advertisement of any sort, but rather just to talk about what a self-learning adult student requires to get started.

To start with, for the price of a little over $5, you get a book that starts you at the very beginning of learning the instrument. Not only does it ease you into learning individual strings and notes, but it reinforces it with online materials at Essential Elements Interactive. This includes videos, PDFs and sound recordings to play along with.

I love the sound recordings section in particular. It has an optional metronome, a repeat toggle, and a Slow setting if you need to learn a tune at a slower pace than normal. Really, this is all I could have looked for in a learning experience.

I also like that the book focuses on teaching you the notes on the strings long before it introduces bowing at all. It wants to get you comfortable with the left hand (which I have tons of trouble with by itself) before making it more complicated with the right. For some people, this might seem too slow. For me, a person who used to play guitar, it’s just about right. I can wrap my head around notes on a fretboard, though adjusting to having no frets is really the shift I’m having to make.

I also picked up a much more expensive Fiddle Primer Book back in December. It came with both a music CD and a video DVD, which are rather dated in material, but look to have good content. This book tosses you straight into bowing before teaching any notes, and will probably focus on more folksy style music, which I’m interested in. However, I can see this as a supplement for once I’m further into the Essentials book. Something to provide a change of pace and a wider set of songs.

Posted in Learning to Play Fiddle

Violin Bow Hold

One of the intimidating challenges I’ve faced as a beginner is dat bow hold. I’d heard about bow grip before I picked up violin, but I didn’t quite believe something as simple as holding something would be complex.

Oh, man, let me tell you what. I’ve never needed to hold an object the way that you have to hold a violin bow. It’s been a completely new experience for my hand — one that even made my poor tendons ache when I practiced it at first.

The book series I’m working with actually doesn’t even get into holding and using a bow until much, much further into the process. It’s focused on having me learn notes and plink them out with my finger, somewhat like a tiny guitar. But even so, I try to spend a few minutes of my practice time every day to arrange my hand in a bow hold and draw the bow across the strings as straight as I can.

I also find myself making the “bunny” position with my hand when I’m at work throughout the day to reinforce the position required. I think the hardest thing about the bow hold is trying to keep my thumb curved and hand overall relaxed.

Pictures don’t do this justice. This video was a great help, however:

I also ordered something called a Bow Buddy, which is a weird looking little attachment that you can use to help you learn the muscle memory of where your fingers need to go. Mine should be arriving today, I believe, so I’ll see if this helps me train my hand.

Next time around, I want to talk about the book and practice materials I’ve been using to learn. I’ve found one that I really like, and would greatly suggest to anyone just starting out!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Level 50 BLU, Alchemist 70!

I actually hit Level 50 on my BLU on Tuesday night, exactly a week after it was released. Again, I was taking it pretty slow and using the job to clear out many of the old quests that were clogging up my map.

Given the decreasing number of quests to find in the level 40-50 range (Why…? That’s the level range you NEED more quests..!), I gave up on this at about 45 and just began to grind it out in N. Than until I got 50. This wasn’t too hard, and it netted me a rank 10 chocobo, too.

I knew a nerf was coming to the chocobo companion – and it was slightly decreased with last night’s patch. What I didn’t expect was for them to buff the experience up to BLU level on all other jobs. I’ll take that change!

Anyhow, the next thing I needed to do was snag the skill Glower in order to unlock my level 50 job quest. Amoon had been running Aurum Vale unsynced with Syn a few times before this in order to work on capping it, but with no luck. We go in together, and get it on the first try.

And then, last night’s patch made both Glower and Mind Blast (both skills required to progress) 100% cap rate from now on. Ah, well. That’s fine. I got my skill and new snazzy outfit before it was nerfed. Now it’ll be easier to do for my future BLU, so I’m not complaining.

Looking just a little spooky here…

In other news, I also finished my second Level 70 crafter on my alt — Alchemist. In terms of RP, this was the actual crafting job I’d originally set out to finish on him. So now, that’s done, and he’s kitted out in full Scrip gear.

As you can see from the picture above, I’m going to be picking up my Armorer again for Namazu dailies and pushing that to 70 next. Leatherworker is taking on Moogle dailies in the 50s, and Carpenter is now my dedicated Ixali leveling job – I could really use Byregot’s for my non-specialist jobs.

Another goal I have, though it’s much more loose, is to earn the new Blessed King’s Tool for Amon’s Alchemist. You get this tool from completing the I Made That: Alchemist VI achievement… essentially, craft everything in the book for Alchemist (aside from Master book stuff).

Even though this is just glamour, I think it looks very neat, and fits the theme of my character well.

Blessed Cauldronking’s Alembic – Image Source: Reddit

I’ve been plinking away at this when I have time (which I haven’t with BLU’s release), but it’s a little more difficult to do on Amon since he doesn’t have all of his crafting jobs leveled. There’s a lot of cross-job crafts that go into clearing the log… and while I can often take care of this by crafting components on my main, it would be nice not to have to flip characters when I needed things.

Just something long-term to work towards, I suppose!