Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Dundee musical instrument shop Vintage Strings keeps hitting the right notes

We speak with Vintage Strings owner Robbie Ward

Robbie Ward outside Vintage Strings on Perth Road.
Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson
Robbie Ward outside Vintage Strings on Perth Road. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

If music makes the world go round, then Robbie Ward makes sure the instruments are staying in tune.

A partner at Vintage Strings, Robbie enjoyed a career on the stage before becoming one of the city’s foremost luthiers.

His shop, set-up by his parents in the Nineties, has grown in popularity as people search for unique instruments.

He talks to us about cutting his hair and getting a job, lying on a prickled mat for relaxation and treating the customer like a captive audience.

How and why did you start in business?

I’m not sure, exactly. I tried to “make it” in the music industry for many years but it seemed like the further I got, the less happy I was.

Eventually, I decided to enjoy music more as a hobby than a job, and I’ve never been happier.  Perhaps passion is a fragile thing.

Or perhaps I finally just woke up, cut my hair, and got a job! That might also be true.

How did you get to where you are today?

Well, my parents, first and foremost — I owe everything to them, really. They started Vintage Strings 26 years ago now, with very little, and they’ve grown it into something really quite amazing.

It was on their advice that I went to college and learned how to make and repair violins, which has proved invaluable to the business.

Robbie Ward in the workshop repairing one of the fiddles. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

None of us expected I would take the shop on, but I’m so glad I did. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

I love working on the instruments and I meet so many different people.

Who helped you?

Most of all, our customers. They are the only reason the shop is still going, and on the whole, they’re so wonderful to deal with. We really wouldn’t be anything without them. They are the audience at the show.

Robbie Ward  Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Paul Hyland and Bill Kelday, of Anniesland College, got me started using hand tools and learning how to repair. They were fantastic mentors, and I really couldn’t have asked for better.

These days, I follow a lady called Iris Carr on Facebook. Her varnish work is outstanding.

I suppose everyone you meet in life teaches you something, in some way. Even the bad ones. Sometimes especially the bad ones!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

My friend, Simon, once advised me not to compare myself to others. It’s taken me such a long time to realise, as it’s so much easier said than done, but I think the secret is to stop identifying with your thoughts altogether. They are not you.

What is your biggest mistake?

Probably pride.

What is your greatest achievement?

Getting married.

How are you managing rapidly rising costs, and how could the government help?

Sometimes I wish the government wouldn’t help quite so much as it costs a fortune and never seems to fix anything. I do appreciate the work of the Federation of Small Businesses. They work with the government to help companies like mine.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’ve just been diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome in my arm, so at the moment, I would just like to be able to play music again.

What do you do to relax?

I was given a shakti mat for Christmas. You lie on literal spikes and somehow it’s the most relaxing thing ever. If you get past the initial “ouch!” then it’s “ahhh!”

Other than that, I like walking the dog, especially at night when it’s so quiet and you can see the stars.

Gus the spaniel in his favourite spot with Robbie in Vintage Strings. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Sometimes I’ll meet my brother for a few pints and that’s always interesting, good fun, and life affirming.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

My wife and I recently watched Baby Reindeer, so I’m following the fallout from that at the moment. I also just finished reading Crime and Punishment – wow!

Fife’s Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer.  Supplied by Ed Miller/Netflix

Instead of listening to music I tend to listen to debates or lectures nowadays. I’m getting old and boring, I suppose, but I like listening to that kind of thing while I work.

What do you waste your money on?

Coffee! Honestly, I don’t know why I do it – I only really enjoy the first few sips and then I spend half an hour in the bathroom.

Robbie Ward inside Vintage Strings on Perth Road.  Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Computer games, too. I never finish them either. I just don’t have the time anymore. And now I’ve got a baby on the way, I’ll have even less time. Probably for the best.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

I’d love to say that I wake up at 6am and do yoga in an ice bath, but usually I just say good morning to my wife and then try and steal a cuddle from my dog, Gus. Then, I just drink something and make my sandwich for lunch.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a Mazda. I don’t really care about cars that much to be honest, so long as they get you where you’re going.

Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

One of my friends is teaching himself how to fix up an old Ford Probe, and I hope to see him drive past one day.