Commissioning an instrument is not a difficult thing to do. However, it requires attention and care, primarily concerning the vocabulary you and I use to communicate our thoughts to one another. Though not a prerequisite for commissioning an instrument, for you to play or hear one is useful and may prove helpful as a basis for discussion.
The focus of such a conversation centers mainly around the tone, sound and response of the new instrument. Having spoken with many musicians about these concerns over the years, I have found that it is relatively easy to arrive at mutually agreeable terminology to describe the desired tonal outcome for the new instrument.
Your physical stature, with respect to size requirements, needs to be addressed, particularly if you are commissioning a viola or a bass, and in some circumstances, a cello.
Additionally, for players who switch between instruments, specific dimensions of the commissioned instrument may be matched to one currently owned to assure ease and comfort.
Once we have reached consensus on these important considerations, we are ready to proceed with the order. I ask a ten percent deposit to confirm an order and the balance is due upon completion.
Here are the answers to a few questions that I have been asked by my customers over the years.
1. How soon can I receive my instrument?
When I receive your order, confirmed with your deposit, your name goes onto my waiting list and the deposit holds your place. For more specific information, please contact me.
2. What will the price be when my instrument is finished?
Your deposit, which confirms your order and holds your place on my list, also locks in the price. For a current price, please contact me directly via e-mail, telephone, fax, or U.S. Mail.
3. What if I don’t like the finished instrument?
From the beginning of our discussions about your instrument, I will strive, as I do with every player, to understand your desires in the finished instrument. Ideally, you will play and/or hear one of my instruments in order to become acquainted with my work. Using that as a point of departure, we synchronize our terminology and lay out our mutual strategy for your new instrument. If, after careful planning, the resulting instrument misses the mark, then I will try everything conceivable to adjust it to sound its best. Should that fail to satisfy our mutual goals, my next step would be to make another instrument that focuses more successfully upon the specific area lacking in the first instrument. If the second instrument and all subsequent efforts to resolve tone issues would fail to accomplish anything close to our mutual goals, then I will give you a refund.
4. How will my newly purchased instrument hold its value?
Though there is no guarantee your instrument will appreciate in value, many Wiebe instruments that have changed hands have sold for higher prices, some considerably higher than their purchase price. Still others have sold at prices above my current commission price for a new one, possibly because of their immediate availability.
5. How long will it take for my new instrument to play-in?
This takes surprisingly less time than most would imagine. It depends somewhat on the instrument and how vigorously the player uses it, however, the more use a new instrument gets, the faster it opens up. In general, it will take approximately a month or perhaps two, to really start to speak well and become more responsive and limber. Anecdotes have one owner performing a duo concert on stage three days after receiving the instrument from me, and another playing a major cello concerto three weeks after taking delivery. Within only weeks, the player will find very gratifying results. The more subtle changes and development will continue for up to a year.
6. Will my new instrument sound unpleasant at first?
If it is well made, a new instrument will sound good, even very good almost right away. This is not to say it will sound old. In fact, a new instrument should specifically not sound old at first since it is yet young and its vigor must show. It is hoped that a new instrument will have a long life and a bright future. An instrument built to last and improve will start out its life a bit less smooth and refined but will very soon begin to reveal its compelling qualities within days of its first sounds. There may be reasons why a well-made new instrument does not sound its best at first and these must be fully explored and resolved by making tone adjustments. However, in general, a healthy new instrument will get off to good and reasonably fast start. The play-in time can actually be an exciting time of discovery, rather than a dreaded chore. There are often immediate rewards in the sound that make it hard to lay the instrument down.
7. What is the advantage of commissioning a new instrument?
There are several. The primary advantage provides you the opportunity to ask for what you want in an instrument rather than settling for what is on the shelf. This includes setting out tonal objectives, desires for the appearance, and achieving a level of physical comfort from specifying custom design features. Commissioning is perhaps an act of faith in a sense, but it can be quite exciting to be a part of the process of bringing a new member of the violin family into the world. In so doing, and as an active participant in the arts world, you additionally take on the noble role of patronizing the arts.