I use the viols of the great English makers as models for my viols, Richard
Meares, Barak Norman, Henry Jaye, and the French maker, Claude Pierray, for
a 7-string bass. The bent-stave technique for making a light weight,
resonant top, developed by the 18th century English makers, has been useful
in improving the performance of my tenor and bass viols.

I use the violins of Stradivarius and Guarnari del Gesu as models for my
violins, and the violas of Gaspar da Salo, Maggini, and the Amatis for
patterns, though I'm always eager to experiment with new ideas in solving
the viola's problems. My 17-1/2 viola has a magnificently big tenor sound, but
needs a very large violist to play it. I am making different sizes of the
viola d'amore shape (see photos), which has a very effective larger sound.
Violists using it in orchestras are actually reporting that they are being
asked to play more softly. My copy of the 1620 Brothers Amati viola won a
first place award for tone at the 2002 VSA competition.

I have used several of the Strad cellos for models, though I'm gravitating
towards the "Davidoff". I have made a couple modelled on the small Strad,
played by Ko Iwasaki which are the perfect solution for the cellist of
smaller stature. My favorite for my own playing is my cello patterned on
the 1739 "Sleeping Beauty" Montagnana. Stephan Kates at Peabody compared my
1996 Montagnana with his own 1739 Montagnana, a twin to the "Sleeping
Beauty". His evaluation was "You can hear the difference, but not much."
I have made a larger Montagnana model, but the 1739 seems to be the optimum
size for playability and "big" sound. I am always open to orders to make
a copy of a particular instrument.



707 Harding Ave. Blacksburg, Va. 24060
(540)961-6326
foster.violins@verizon.net