I am a string instrument novice, so these milestones are all new to me. I knew he needed a larger instrument. I’m ashamed to say that he's needed it for – oh, at least four or five months now? The trouble was in finding a time we could both go to the studio and have him try out a few different sizes.
|Sebastian tries out his new viola and bow.|
Karen Madsen, the owner of String Solutions, had Seb try two different sizes, the 15 1/2 and the 16. He felt comfortable with the 16, so then we had to choose between the moderately priced specimen and the more expensive model. He played the same song on both of them, and this led to an interesting discussion about how difficult it is to explain how one instrument sounds compared to another.
"We don’t have the vocabulary words to describe it," Karen said.
She’s right. As she noted, the cheaper viola had what might be called a brighter, pointed sound, and the more expensive viola had a warmer, deeper sound. But those words are inadequate in conveying the nuances of tone. It’s something you have to hear and feel.
|A closer look at Sebastian’s new viola and its French-made maple bridge.|
The wand – I mean, carbon fiber bow – that chose Sebastian was the more expensive one. Go figure. Maybe it has unicorn hair inside it? He also got a new case with backpack straps and a handy subway handle, which Karen said is called that because people do use it to hang onto the instrument when they’re traveling on a subway.
Once all the costs were totaled, I was wishing we had a subway nearby so Seb could put out his case in the station and play for commuters, as a way of paying for his new instrument. But what I told him was this: if he wants to pay me back, he can do that by practicing often and playing well.
I won’t have the words to describe the sounds he’ll make on his new instrument, but I do have a word to describe what I feel when I hear him master a piece: pride.