About Lu-Mi Strings
As a teacher of viol at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and when conducting workshops and master classes elsewhere in Europe and in the U.S., I have noticed too often that students don't have a proper viol. And some who would like to play don't have a viol at all. Ten thousand dollars or more for a custom-made viol is often too much for a beginner, and the viols that have been for sale for $2000 or $3000 have been of too low quality. Many who are preparing to be professional musicians and would like to play viol as a second instrument often develop their skills so rapidly that they will need a better viol after some months. The waiting lists of the best makers was too long, sometimes eight to ten years.
I have always been interested in instrument making, and I have asked numerous makers to build cellos, baroque cellos and all kinds of models of viols for me and my students and friends. I had noticed that Chinese modern makers and workshops produce really good-quality modern cellos and violins, and I began searching for a workshop that could produce viols and other baroque stringed instruments.
I found luthier Wang Zhi Ming in Beijing. He is also an excellent violinist and use to play in one of Beijing Symphony Orchestras His father learned violin-making after the best German tradition, but naturally he had to stop working during the Cultural Revolution. He began again in the late 80s, but he has now retired. Wang and his father has trained and employed more than 10 makers in a workshop. German tradition misunderstood or didn't care about some Italian tradition of violin making such as cross arching of the belly and back. Wang has visited Cremona a couple of times to to update his skills.
I gave Mr. Wang all the information I could about viol making: I sent numerous drawings and more than 100 emails. Later, as the viols began to take shape, I spent time in Beijing to help solve some problems. This process is still going on. I visited last time in Beijing in August to check new models which have been built and planned with Wang how to make some more new models. We also negotiate almost weekly with some details to make Lu-Mi instruments even better.
We don't make exact copies of old models, but all our instruments are certainly real viols. The 6-string viols are made after the English makers Jay, Meares and others, but, for example, the belly is not bent. The 7-string bass is made after Bertrand. The Chinese makers use a drying room before the parts are glued together, so all of their viols should endure humidity going down to 30 percent.
I have been very pleased with the results. In fact, these viols don't feel and look at all like "student" viols. I have even given a couple of concerts with one of their 6-string basses. But I must say my Jane Julier 7-string bass is more than worth of the price as well as my old 17th Century 6-string bass viol.
The bows are made in another workshop by Mr. Zang. I have never met him and Wang helped me to communicate with him to get 4-5 different models of baroque bows. I sent some of my own bows as samplers, but Lu-Mi bows are not exact copies of them. My bows are fluted but the Chinese refused to make fluting after trying it for some bows. I personally think snakewood is better when it is not bend at all or just very little where as pernambuco wood needs some bending to to make the bow firm enough. First set of Lu-Mi bows were bent but nowadays they are not bent at all. I bought the first 150 kg snakewood in half logs to Zang but now he has his own stock of it. I bought my snakewood from Germany but it grows only in South America (I think).
Wang is also making violin family baroque instruments. At the moment there several models available and more to come: Violins after Amati, Guarnerius or Stradivarius Four sizes of violas corpus 387-444 mm by Gasparo da Salo and Stradivarius Cellos after Montagnana, also a large cello which could be tuned in B flat
Lu-Mi viols have been sold to UK, USA, Japan, Russia, Australia, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, Holland and France.