Travel fiddles

Posted by jerry on June 21st, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music, Travel

Travel fiddles are not new. Dancing masters of the 17th century needed a portable instrument that could be played in homes in order to teach dancing to young ladies and gentlemen. So the problem of portability has always been an issue. In these days of air travel, a compact travel instrument is a useful item. There are several modern ‘backpackers’ guitars and mandolins, and very few backpackers fiddles or violins.

When at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London I not only paid homage to the hardanger fiddle on which mine is based, but found these delightful instruments that might well serve as the basis for a decent backpacker violin.

The first were a couple of ‘pochette’ fiddles – designed to fit both fiddle and bow into a small leather tube which could be easily carried or placed in a deep pocket in one’s coat.

pochette violin

The bow appears to be about one quarter size.

And this one

pochette violin

But possibly the most practical and one I am tempted to model is this one – more box-like and closer to modern backpacker mandolins

pochette violin

Something like this with a half-size bow could well fit into a carry-on bag – ideal for those jet-lagged late nights in hotel rooms – a nice quiet instrument to play a few tunes on

Now this bears further thought!



Comment by Don Rickert


Came across your posting and was delighted by your enthusiam for pochettes. Thought you might like to hear a pochette like the “boxy” one being played in proper Baroque style with a modern Tourte bow. Go to YouTube

The player is a very talented 19 year old named Justin Bridges. He is playing a Rickert & Ringholz replica of one made in Glasgow c. 1780. We believe it to be either identical or very similar to one that Neil Gow (the father of Scottish Highland fiddling) played…also Thomas Jefferson and his younger brother had similar versions for their visits to the local pubs on horseback; the point being that old Tom did not take his Amati around in a saddle bag :-). It is not quiet, although we thought it would be when we built it as a design study on modern travel fiddle we make. Both are only 3.3 inches wide but close to standard violin length with a standard vibrating string length (i.e. nut to bridge). Yes, we sell them and they ain’t cheap.

Posted on December 31, 2007 at 8:01 am

Comment by Don Rickert


We have prototyped, tested and built the first production unit of a fiddle based on the box fiddle design. Ours is called the Adventurer. We use a ‘free plate’ design with a hollow carbon fiber dowel, which really adds a lot of nice overtones. The CR under tension is more or less like a G tuning fork (G is the recommended tap tone for bassbars). The instrument is ported in several ways that we will publish after our patent apps are filed…but you can see the external apertures pretty clearly. It has a soundpost unlike our TravelMaster, which uses twin tone bars like a mandolin.

This instrument is loud beyond comprehension with fair depth (after all, it’s only 3.25 inches wide)…sounds like a good old loud fiddle.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Posted on March 15, 2008 at 5:14 am

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