Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steffen Fischer, Instrument Craftsman

After months of waiting, a birthday present I bought for my girlfriend and fellow medieval minstrel, finally arrived, care of Steffen Fischer, an instrument craftsman whose instruments are well known to the German Spielueter (minstrel) community.

Initially, issues of language and the postal service used to send the instrument had me worried that I'd either not see the instrument, or that we wouldn't get quite what we ordered. After all sorts of delays, mostly the month that the instrument spent in Customs at a New York City Airport, the instrument arrived, and well, we were simply amazed!

Out of the box, the instrument was beautiful. It was made of Cocobolo, which is a very pretty hardwood with interesting grain. The bell and cap of the instrument appear to be pear or maple.

What was most surprising was the ease of playing the instrument right out of the box. Most reed-cap instruments have a limit, where, if you breathe too hard or too soft, the reed will let out a nasty shriek, or be out of tune. This is especially true of plastic reeds, because the plastic tends to be more sensitive -- the price to be paid for ease of care and playing. This makes playing staccato (playing each note separately, with a brief silence betwen them, as opposed to playing fluidly, from note, to note in one breath) Though this instrument has a plastic reed, it didn't squawk or shriek at all when I played it.

I played several tunes in staccato without running into the shrieking problem. I was totally amazed at how easy it played, and how in perfect tune it was. I am putting Mr. Fischer on the top of my list of Instrument Craftsmen to consider when I plan on purchasing future instruments. All of the waiting, and the struggles between my lack of German and his lack of English were worth the price, which was actually a very reasonable price considering the average price of similar instruments on the market. I only hope I can let my girlfriend use her birthday present... I am fighting the urge to grab it and play it constantly! The idea was to let her be a new melody player in the band, and I have to let her play it... but the urge...the urge....

Anyway, I stole the instrument, just long enough to record a couple of sound-clips. Here they are:

This is the High-C Rauschpfeife all by itself:
Cantiga 1 Sample

This is the High C: Rauschpfeife joined by my Soprano Rauschpfeife from Moeck:
Andro Sample

Oh yeah, did I mention that it's really loud?