A 5-string Story
"I'm a professional fiddle player from Calgary. I had been looking to replace my main instrument with a 5-string variant, as it opens more doors for the styles I play. All of my searchings were arduous and slow, as 5-string violins are not common in Alberta and testing instruments out of province was pricey and impractical. But the light bulb over my head illuminated as I remembered that a previous student of mine from about 10 years ago, Rob Haag, had taken up studying the art of violin making, and everything he had shown me over the years since then had shown growth in skill, attention to detail, and overall quality of sound.
It had been a couple of years since we had spoken but Rob was happy to have me come over and discuss working together. I played the 4-string violins he had on hand and we talked at length about design, tone, and setup. He laid out all the details of a warranty as well as the buying and building processes. This whole meeting was unlike any customer/client experience I'd ever had, and I knew I'd come to the right place.
Several weeks later the instrument was built and awaiting varnish. Rob strung it up and I came over to give it a try. With very few minor adjustments the instrument was already sounding great, both rich and nicely balanced across the increased range of strings. We discussed a few other pertinent details about the end product and I was on my way, feeling better than ever.
A few more weeks and the varnished violin was ready to be picked up. It was right before the Calgary Stampede, which is when I rack up the most performing hours of the year. It's a variety of indoor and outdoor performance conditions, which make it a gauntlet for any instrument, much less one whose varnish is barely dried. As expected, it performed beautifully and never missed a beat.
Many months have now passed since I first started performing and practising on this instrument. Despite the initial setbacks due to the differences that a 5-stringed instrument has with a regular one, I am now sounding better than ever. The violin is still opening up as it gets used to its climate and player, but it's clear that a tonal upgrade has been made.
If you come across my playing somewhere down the road, I'd be willing to bet that you'd hear what I hear. What he has created will be my main instrument for a very long time. Never has making a big important purchase felt so refreshing to me. Rob has been the very embodiment of a decent, helpful, honest and skilled craftsman and you'd be doing yourself a favour to pay him a visit."
Full time hard working multi- instrumentalist and instructor
"In July I had the pleasure of going to Robert Haag's shop in Calgary and trying two of his cellos. I was in Alberta to work on a recording at the Banff Centre for the Arts followed by a performance in Edmonton at the Winspear as part of a project that the Ociciwan Collective had organized with Postcommodity, myself and a group of indigenous musicians and artists. The project was a life changing experience for me, and Robert's cello was there with me throughout as an equal partner in the process.
After playing his cellos for about an hour , I chose the cello that Robert most often plays. It has a wonderful even tone throughout, a panoply of audible harmonics that burst forth with the gentlest provocation, and enough power to full the hall at the Winspear. In the contextor the work I was doing in Alberta, I would usually amplify the instrument but it proved unnecessary! The G string had lugubrious honey-tones and the upper register was clean and sweet.
I have played a number of very fine instruments by contemporary luthiers and I can say with confidence that I felt a deep attraction and fondness for Robert's cello.
It was a wonderful companion for two weeks and I certainly think it would make a great lifetime companion for an artist looking for an instrument that can match their sonic imagination."
Alex Waterman - Cellist and Composer
"I was coaching at Amici string program yesterday and noticed one of the kids had a particularly attractive and fine sounding violin, which I remarked on. She proudly said it was a Robert Haag, so we had a little chat about how I knew you. Nice girl and good violinist. A happy moment."
Tom Mirhady - Friend and Cellist Extraordinaire
"Rob Haag is a cello maker whose instruments all cellists should seriously consider. The tone speaks fully in every range and with interesting character. The cello's response is immediate at whatever dynamic or tone colour I attempt. As well, the craftsmanship and design are exquisite. Do not hesitate to try one of Rob's cellos when you have decided to shop for an instrument."
Orquestra Filharmonica de Minas Gerais
"The one common trait of all three violins was in fact the ease with which I was able to handle them. Shifting, bow contact points, finger spacing, all felt immediately comfortable and correct for my hands."
J.Terrence McCarthy BMus. MMus.
"I have tried many, many violins and never have I seriously considered owning another one until I tried Rob's latest."
Donna Turk - Recording Artist, Instructor and former Music Director for the Calgary Fiddlers
"I’ve had the pleasure of playing a number of Rob Haag’s violins. While each has its own characteristics, of course, in general they have a full, even sound, with a consistent clarity and projection over the whole pitch range. The tone tends, perhaps, to be on the ‘dark’ side, from a Cape Breton perspective but clear. Every one I pick up, I find ‘easy to play’, so much so that I usually forget I’m trying a new violin and start getting lost in the music. And what’s more, they look good: Rob tries to enhance rather than subdue the natural appearance of his wood. Altogether, finely crafted and great-sounding instruments."
James Thurgood - Recording Artist
I am falling in love with the one I picked in the end. It has an amazing sound, and is very easy to play. The instrument is perfect, there is no better way to put it.
Logan Aitken - Performer - The Calgary Fiddlers