Getting your instrument set up can be something close to a revelation. So many of us have instruments lying around at home that have never done it for us. They may have been a disappointment, we may have disappointed ourselves by never having made progress with them, or the kids may have tried, persevered for a while, and then just left them and moved on to something else — and it could be just that these instruments never made sweet music.
Music, even in its raw form, is sweet. If you are just practising scales on your violin, attempting to be Ed Sheeran on your guitar or Beethoven on whatever the hell it is he used to play, if it doesn’t sound right its just wrong. And if it sounds wrong, it could be as simple, as how the instrument is set-up.
Instruments are just organic things, made out of wood or metal (I can’t really think of any stone instruments). They shift and change, develop as they are played and stored and are dependant on the ambience of the environment in which they live. Hot (medium) or cold, damp (medium) or dry. For all we talk (give out) about the weather here, it is actually medium. Most modern domestic environments in this country are actually ideal for instruments. Countries with warmer climates can have a much higher humidity; and colder ones can be very dry — an equally challenging environment for the delicacy of an acoustic guitar, violin, etc. They need to be maintained to get the best out of them, same as your car, not with the same frequency or with the same potential dire consequences, but with a little tender loving care, from time to time.
A luthier, by definition, is a maker of stringed instruments and few of them do because it’s a hard way to make a living, but there are a few of them around, and they are in business to adjust, care for and set up your instrument to suit you. A piano tuner or a flute tuner is a different person, but just as relevant, and just as important. A good one will, quite quickly and cheaply, work on your instrument and reveal both its and your full potential, for satisfaction and joy.
It’s impossible to debate, does a cheap or expensive guitar, violin, banjo, piano, flute, ukulele (the list is long) deserve more attention? The expensive instrument will, with its solid woods, precise tuners, high quality nut and bridges, reveal itself with custom tuning. But the cheaper instrument will double its value, to you, the player, often with just with the most minor adjustment, making a €100 guitar or violin sound like it cost twice as much.
Have a look around, these guys that set instruments up are probably much closer to home than you might think, there are certainly plenty of them around West Cork, and if you are looking but can’t find one, pop in to the shop and I’ll give you a few numbers.
Hope you are all enjoying the summer.