Change of attitude to instruments
Posted 20 July 2017 - 17:06
Cheap clothes and other goods are made in part or whole by automated processes which, while expensive to set up churn out so many items an hour that the cost per item becomes relatively trivial after a while. Machines can work twenty four hours a day, they don't have tea breaks or need space for a canteen or require wages. Seamstresses for cheap clothes are often based in countries with very low hourly wages and less regulation on hours worked and other working conditions.
Posted 20 July 2017 - 18:08
I think that the quality of entry level instruments has generally gone down, so it is probably not surprising that a lot of people are doing an upgrade before grade 8 rather than after. Quite a few of the current entry level flutes (e.g. the TJ Vivace, Packer models, TJ10x, Jupiter) lack the flexibility, articulation and colour palette that is required for grade 8. That said, there are a lot of people who do upgrade before it is necessary and before they have the skills to really select the instrument which best suits them. Upgrading too early can often lead to another upgrade or sideways move around grade 8 when the player discovers that e.g. the Miyazawa that they were told they had to have because Joe Bloggs in orchestra had one doesn't really suit them and they get on much better with a Powell or whatever. A poorly chosen upgrade instrument can end up being just as limiting as a starter instrument if it doesn't suit the player, and for that reason I generally discourage early upgrades.
I have on three occasions upgraded because my instrument was not capable of doing what was needed. The first was in 6th form when I switched from an old silver-plated Boosey and Hawkes flute which my teacher could no longer play (yes it was that bad!) to a borrowed silver tube Pearl. The B&H flute got condemned by the music service as being uneconomical to repair and maintain. I then had a period of a few years without a flute while I saved up to buy my own (the downside of having had county music service instruments). I got another Pearl but it was a downgrade from the one I'd had on loan because it was what I could afford. Returning to lessons 10+ years later the Pearl was fine to start with but then ended up needing to be replaced for two reasons: 1) the mechanism had worn out and it was needing to be fixed every couple of months and 2) the flute was not capable of the range of tonal colours I wanted (and wasn't for my teacher either). I upgraded to my current silver tube flute which I've had for around 8-10 years and I don't anticipate upgrading again, . With viola I upgraded from a starter Primavera model (sold as being suitable until grade 3-4) at around grade 7. At this point neither my teacher nor myself could get the desired response and tone quality out of the Primavera, and the bow had already been upgraded as an interim measure. My violin/viola teacher is conservatoire trained, plays professionally, has students who get into conservatoires themselves and has prepared students for exams right up to FRSM - so for her to be unable to get the desired sound from my viola really did suggest that the problem was the viola more than me. There was also a second issue that the Primavera was too large for me (it was a 15.5 inch, I now play a 15 inch) and this was restricting my vibrato and causing shoulder problems. My violin has never been upgraded (apart from the bow) and is unlikely to be.
Posted 21 July 2017 - 13:00
This reminds me of how, in about 1980 (I was 7) my Aunt and Uncle came to visit us from Finland. My Uncle, a piano teacher and organist, was so horrified at the condition of the piano me and my sister were learning to play on that he pretty much marched my Dad down to the music shop and insisted that we were bought a proper one. I still have that "new" piano that took my sister to Grade 7 and me to Grade 8 (twice), despite being in storage for over a year it basically is a good piano and (unless I win the lottery and can buy a grand plus a house big enough to put it in) I suspect that I will have it for the rest of the my life!
My first oboe was definitely a starter instrument, it got me past grade 5 but it would have been a struggle to go higher with it. Upgrading definitely made a huge step change in my tone and intonation. I could probably have got away with keeping this instrument to beyond Grade 8 but I decided to upgrade again when the opportunity arose. I think it did, again, make a step change in my playing but most importantly it feels so much nicer and easier to play that I think it was worth putting that money into a hobby that I spend a lot of time doing and which brings me lots of pleasure. I have no idea whether I'll upgrade again, I am sure that this oboe is capable of seeing me out for the rest of my playing days!
I still have the first flute that my parents bought me - probably around 1983. I took grade 5 in about 1986 and my teacher then suggested that to go higher I would need to upgrade from the student model. I ended up getting a new head joint instead of a new flute and that took me, eventually, up to Grade 7. Which shows that even 30 years ago there was an expectation that you would upgrade a student instrument after grade 5. But maybe it is the internet and the ease of doing more research of what is available that makes it feel more prevalent now?
Posted 21 July 2017 - 13:22
Veering OT, I know, but on the subject of now v former times I wonder how the learning and listening dynamic has changed our readiness to pick up and learn too. 200 years ago I would imagine there was loads of music around but obviously not streamed through an iPod. Which means...perhaps...more people were motivated to play?? It always amazes me that some of the great pieces might only have been listened to by a small number of people and then perhaps only once or, if they were lucky, a few times. Most music will likely have been folk stuff and small ensembles so more fiddles and flutes than viols etc. One of my 19th century ancestors was a violin maker, according to the 1851 census, but there's no record of his having made anything of note.
Back to the topic though, I suspect that instrument quality wasn't a huge issue for those folk players in small ensembles and my great, great, great uncle made them their instruments while telling tales of thwarting Napoleon at the Siege of Toulon.