A selection of letters The Strad receives each month from its readers around the world: March 2023 issue
The online article on adjusting the tone of a stringed instrument (bit.ly/3HvB5QW) reminded me of the countless hours I spent at Carl Becker and Son waiting for Carl Jr to finish up my cello. I was lucky enough to know both Carl Sr and Carl Jr and took it to their shop yearly for routine maintenance. Many famous players came to their shop with their instruments, but Carl Jr treated every one of them the same. Here I was, a college student, and he would spend multiple hours with my cello until he was satisfied with the results. He last worked on the cello just a few years before he died in 2013.
His approach to adjusting the tone was unique: after he had set the post in what he felt was the best position, he never went back and moved it around. Instead he would play the cello, adjust the bridge, play the cello, adjust the bridge… He would hand it to me and listen as I played, then start again until he was satisfied. Of course, I had the final say.
Needless to say, this process took some time. I remember often waiting an hour or more to wrap up the adjustment. I think he was often late for dinner. The cello always sounded amazing when he was done. I once told another violin maker in Denver about Carl’s method, expecting he might try it. He replied, ‘I’m not Carl Becker!’
Frisco, CO, US…
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