Sep 09 2016

The Statue Model: Q&A with Jay Ifshin

Jay Haide Statue Front.JPG 

Since its introduction, the Jay Haide Statue Model line of instruments has been turning heads--and turning up questions. I sat down with Jay Ifshin to ask him some of the most frequently asked questions we get regarding the line of violins and cellos (and soon violas!), as well as some of my own. 

-Alicia Castaneda

AC: Why is it called the Statue Model?

JI: During one of my trips to Europe, I saw a wooden statue that had very interesting varnish and I thought it might be nice to try to incorporate something similar into one of our Jay Haide models that we make. It was a rustic, antique-style varnish, and different from what we normally do.

A: Is that what drew your eye to it? The varnish? Or just the statue in general?

JI: Initially it was the shape, and the wood. The varnish was just the final touch. It was an interesting color and texture. Somewhat different from a lot of new instruments.

AC: How did you develop that varnish formula?

JI: I like to see varnish with texture and with variations in color. Normally I like seeing different colors. My eyes enjoy a complex color palette. I don’t like a simple, straightforward, single color. I like the patina and the texture of an antique instrument.

AC: So these are antiqued as well.

JI: Slightly antiqued, not heavily. For me those are more interesting to look at, instead of just a straight, single varnish color. As a connoisseur looking at instruments, I sometimes like to sit and hold an instrument for some time and gaze at it even before playing it, if it looks really interesting. Often if a musician or collector sees a table full of instruments for sale at a violin shop or an exhibition and they are trying to decide which one to pick up and play, they may be drawn to the one that has the most interesting varnish or the nicest appearance.

AC: In terms of sound, the Statue Models compete with the a l’ancienne Special Models that are a little bit more expensive. Do you attribute that to the varnish?

JI: No, because the amount of varnish that we put on is not so thick that it’s going to have an effect. It’s still about the same thickness as on the Special Models.

AC: Where is the wood from?

JI: A number of countries, including Romania, Germany, Croatia, and Bosnia.

AC: Will there be violas and cellos as well, or just violins?

JI: Initially we started with cellos. However, we are now introducing Statue Model violins as well. The wood is European wood, with lighter flame than some of our other models. They’re basically the same models that we do now, the body shapes, so the Strad model cello is still the Strad model cello, the Montagnana model is still the Montagnana.

AC: Are the different patterns based on specific instruments?

JI: The patterns that we use are traditional, established shapes for the instruments. Stradivari had his own style and shape. Guarneri del Gesu, Montagnana, Ruggieri, Guadagnini, and each maker would have their own pattern and their own style, and it would make the sound a little bit different for each maker. Sometimes the Strads are more soprano-sounding. The body is slightly narrower than Montagnana, or Gofriller, so it’s a different type of sound.

AC: Is there anything special about the wood that you selected?

JI: We have found that  we can achieve a higher percentage of superior-sounding instruments by using European wood. Some of our wood suppliers will allow us a better price for wood that has slightly less prominent figure. We are therefore able to offer our new Statue Models at a more attractive price. Acoustically this wood is virtually the same as the more figured higher-priced maple. The first criteria should be to choose wood that will produce the best tonal results.

AC: The flaming in the wood, does that in general affect the acoustical qualities of the instrument? Should a highly flamed back sound better than a lightly flamed one?

JI: Neither better nor worse. Sometimes you see a fine Stradivari or other fine old Italian instrument with almost no flame on the back, and they sound wonderful, so I don’t think that it has a lot of effect. I’ve seen flamed instruments that sound great, and I’ve seen plain instruments that also sound great. Visually, [makers] use flamed wood because it catches your eye. It looks nice and you can easily sit and look at it and turn it over for an extended period of time before even putting a bow to it. Ultimately, most musicians should choose the instrument that they are most comfortable with tonally and with which they can best express themselves. So if you put them in a room and they sit down and try a number of instruments, they’ll usually choose the one that sounds the best. And if it has flamed wood, that’s a plus, but even if the wood is highly figured, at the end of the day the instrument still needs to sound good or in the long term the musician won’t be satisfied.