Music In Our Schools Month

Celebrated for over 30 years by the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME), Music in Our Schools Month is an annual event that raises awareness about the need for quality music programs for all students. Now more than ever, this event highlights the importance of music education in our schools and communities.

Johnson String Instrument works to provide the high-quality instruments and materials necessary to support string programs in our public and private schools. Since the beginning, we have worked to be a trusted resource for teachers and to support them however we are able.

We are also a company of people who have benefited from music in our schools. We asked our staff to tell us how their school music programs impacted their lives:

I’ve been playing music for most of my life. I started playing piano when I was four, but thought it was difficult so I decided I wanted to play cello when I was eight. I liked playing cello, and it quickly became a hobby of mine. My mom and I decided that I should go to a magnet arts school for middle school rather than go to my local middle school. Middle school was a huge shift for me because I got to explore classical music and really push my boundaries with art. It was there where I not only received academic education, but I participated in my first orchestral and chamber music experience. That inspired me to audition for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts for high school, another magnet arts school in South Florida. In those four years, I got to travel all over the state of Florida, and to Colorado and North Carolina to study music. I decided that I wanted to continue my cello studies for college, and to hopefully make a career out of it.

Looking back, those seven years of my life were my most crucial years of development. Because I attended art schools, it was such a welcoming and creative environment, and there was absolutely no judgement for being yourself. Frankly, the more creative and expressive you were, the more praise you got! It was such a healthy, supportive environment to be in, and I really felt like I could grow as an individual. Since I grew up in that environment, that pushed me to really dive into my passion for music. It allowed me to meet all of the closest friends I have and to move to the city of my dreams. I am exactly where I want to be because I had the opportunity to study music at school. It’s so important to keep music education going in schools, because I know I’m not the only person to have felt this.

Lisa Yasui, Administrative Assistant

I was very fortunate to have many excellent music teachers within the Arizona public school system. My general music teacher in elementary school was a former violinist in the Chicago Symphony, and she displayed a passion for music that was hard to miss. Many, many of us were inspired to explore music, especially classical music, because of her prompting. She hosted an annual “Name That Tune” contest in our school, and as a result my peers and I could identify a good number of classical, jazz and pop themes at an early age.

Matthew Fritz, Director of Sales and Acquisitions

From the beginning of fourth grade all the way through high school, I attended classes at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, part of the Greenville County Schools. Twice a week after school in elementary and middle school, my mom drove me there for a group strings class that provided me with a strong foundation for both my playing and knowledge of music theory. After that, I auditioned for the chamber music program for talented high school students. In my four years in the program, my classmates and I participated in competitions, both in chamber groups and individually, and played several concerts each year at the Fine Arts Center as well as throughout the state. One of the requirements of the program was to audition for All-State Orchestra each year, including their concerto competition that I was lucky enough to win as a senior. I played some of my best auditions when I was in high school because I was preparing for them all the time!

My studies at the Fine Arts Center provided me with an outlet for my passion for the violin. I had more performance opportunities than I could count, I was encouraged by my teachers to attend summer festivals all over the U.S. and to take every audition I could. Nearly all of my classmates went on to study music because we loved every bit of it so much that we could not imagine our life without it every day. The Fine Arts Center taught all of its students, in music or the visual arts or any of the other areas of study offered there, what it truly means to be an artist.

Sarah Rogers, Assistant Manager of Operations

How did your school music program impact your life? Tell us in the comments below!

Electric Violins: Preamps

This post is part of a series. Read our previous posts for more information about electric violins, amps and pickups.

Do I need a preamplifier for my electric violin?

Short answer: Yes. A preamplifier, or preamp, is key to getting a great tone out of an electric violin, viola or cello.

Long answer: We need to get technical.

The electric string instruments and pickups we stock at Johnson String Instrument all use variations of piezo electric sensors (piezo for short). Piezo pickups work differently than the magnetic pickups found on electric guitars; instead of sensing a string’s vibration, a piezo pickup senses an instrument’s vibration.

Piezos work best under pressure, which is why these pickup systems are usually found in or beneath the bridge of an instrument. As the instrument vibrates, the piezo generates an electrical signal that can be amplified. However, piezos have ultra high impedance outputs. In order to maximize the frequency response and tone of a piezo pickup, you must match it to an ultra high impedance input. This is what a preamp does: it buffers the impedance of your signal, making it fuller and stronger.

Why is this important? Most amplifiers and accessories on the market are designed for electric guitars and their impedance, not electric violin. Plugging a passive electric violin directly into an electric guitar amp will work, but the sound you get may not be what you were expecting.

Do I need to buy a preamp?

That depends on your setup. Many electric instruments already have on-board preamps that take care of this impedance mismatch. These instruments are what is called “active” and typically require batteries. “Passive” systems do not require batteries.  An external preamp is highly recommended with these piezo systems. The chart below shows products we carry and which category they fall into:

These passive pickup systems all produce a very strong signal so a preamp is not mandatory. However, we highly recommend a preamp to maximize your instrument’s amplified tone.

The benefits of external preamps go beyond impedance matching; all have XLR outputs, allowing you to connect easily to a PA system. This is a major time saver when playing live. When you connect to a PA, you  do not have to leave your tone up to the sound guy; most preamps feature tone-shaping EQ controls. Many preamps on the market also have boost functions, allowing you to boost your volume by a few decibels when you are ready for a solo or need help cutting through the mix.

NEXT: watch for our Preamp Buying Guide to find out which preamp is right for you.

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Alex Wagner

A Brief History of Classical Guitar: Antonio de Torres

This four part series will discuss the history of classical guitar through the instruments of some of the tradition’s most important and innovative luthiers. This post discusses the father of the modern classical guitar, Antonio de Torres.

Antonio de Torres

Antonio de Torres was a Spanish guitar maker who lived from 1817-1892. It is believed that Torres built around 320 guitars, of which 88 are known to still exist. The industry widely accepts that Torres is responsible for many of the structural and design features for which guitars are known for. Guitar-like instruments such as the citara, the double coursed baroque guitar and the lute all existed long before Torres, but his developments transformed the instrument into what we know today.

 

The Addition of Bracing

The most important design change Torres made was the size of the instrument. Guitars in Torres’ time were about 20% smaller with a narrower upper bout. This made the instrument louder with a more present bass range and greater complexity of tone. Enlarging the instrument creates a challenge: How do you support the structure of the instrument? This led to the now standard fan-bracing style. The Torres bracing style has seven braces radiating outwards from the sound hole with a couple other supporting braces. This allows the builder to make the top thinner but still provides enough structural support that the instrument, under the tension of the strings, doesn’t collapse.

Examples of different styles of guitar bracing.

Torres’ ability to build larger and more resonant instruments led to more virtuostic players and compositions. Performers like Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) and Julian Arcas (1832-1882) transitioned the guitar from salons to international concert stages using instruments made by Torres.

grcomasto21_a-cordoba-master-series-torres-classical

Torres and Cordoba Guitars

Authentic Torres instruments are rare. When they do appear, they are pricey (around $250,000 or more). For those without this kind of budget, Cordoba Guitars makes a faithful reproduction of Torres’ instruments. After studying three different guitars made by Torres, Cordoba created the Cordoba Master Series Torres Model. They also added modern updates that the modern player will appreciate. Handmade by a small team of talented luthiers in California, there are few guitars that match the quality that the Torres name demands for the price that these guitars are offered.

Want to learn more about Cordoba guitars? Check out our website.

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

 

The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

gift-guide-2016-blog1

Our annual Holiday Sale is back, and so is our Holiday Gift Guide! This year, we have a mix of exciting new products as well as old favorites for musicians of all levels and ages.

Electric Violins

JSI Companion

JSI EV-4 Companion Outfit in red. ON SALE $320.00

JSI EV-4 Companion Outfit in red, ON SALE $320.00

Our brand for electrics, this instrument is a great option for those getting started with electric violin. An outfit comes with the instrument in one of five colors, bow, case and headphones.

Yamaha YEV

Yamaha YEV-104 Black Electric Violin Outfit ON SALE $696.00

Yamaha YEV-104 Black Electric Violin , $595.00

Winner of Best in Show at the 2016 NAMM conference! This innovative instrument can be purchased with four or five strings in two different colors. The outfit includes the instrument, bow, case, cable and rosin.

We haven’t forgotten about you viola, cello and bass players! See all of our electric instruments currently on sale on our website.

Galaxy Cases

Galaxy 300SL Comet Violin Case in green ON SALE $337.00

Galaxy 300SL Comet Green Violin Case, ON SALE $337.00

A newer, lighter case makes a great gift! This JSI exclusive, both durable and light, is a great option. Available for violin, viola and cello in nine different colors!

Ukulele

Cordoba 20SM Soprano Ukulele $149.00

Cordoba 20SM Soprano Ukulele, $149.00

Check out why the ukulele is such a great instrument in our blog post and give someone the gift of this versatile instrument this holiday season. There are four types to choose from: soprano, concert, baritone and tenor. May we also suggest this book to help them get started?

Children’s Books

These books are great holiday gifts for young musicians! Some of our favorites are:

Berlioz the Bear

Berlioz the Bear, written and illustrated by Jan Brett

Berlioz the Bear, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, $6.99

“Berlioz and his orchestra are scheduled to perform at a gala ball in the village square. But just before showtime, their bandwagon becomes stuck in the road. Whatever will they do?”

Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin!

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, $7.99

A Caldecott Honor book, this classic is a great introduction to the orchestra. Intended for ages 4-8.

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, Illustrated by Marc Simont $6.99

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, Illustrated by Marc Simont, $6.99

“It is Friday evening. The sky is getting darker and darker. Here and there, all around the city, one hundred and five people are getting ready to go to work. Some of them take showers, others bathe. Some shave or trim their mustaches, others put on dusting powder and a little jewelry. Then they all get into special black and white clothes and travel to midtown with their instruments. There, at 8:30, they will work together–playing beautiful music in an orchestra.” Intended for ages 4-8.

Stocking Stuffers

Magic Rosin

Magic Rosin Bach Manuscript 3G $16.00

Magic Rosin Bach Manuscript 3G, $16.00

Not only is this rosin available with a Bach manuscript, it’s also available in GLOW-IN-THE-DARK!

Rockin’ Rosin

Rockin' Rosin Frog ON SALE $9.95

Rockin’ Rosin Frog, ON SALE $9.95

This fun rosin is available in six different shapes including frog, snowman and even pizza!

Overscore Tape

Overscore Removable Manuscript Tape $8.00

Overscore Removable Manuscript Tape, $8.00

The tool you never knew you needed: REMOVABLE manuscript tape!

You can find even more stocking-stuffer ideas here.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get our exclusive December Deals December 12-18th and for even more savings.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Johnson String!


Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

How To Pack A Cello

how-to-pack-header

Renters, this post is for you! Packing a cello can look complicated. How you do it is important to prevent damage to the instrument. If you rent from us and need to ship your cello back, we developed a packing method many years ago that protects the cello from damage.

Before We Start:

  • Take note of how the cello was packed when you received it. We have pictures in this post, but it doesn’t hurt to take some of your own to make sure you remember how to pack it.
  • Save all of the packing materials. Seriously: ALL of them, including the return shipping label.

You Will Need:

  1. The cello and case
  2. Box
  3. Foam
  4. Bubble Wrap
  5. Tubes
  6. Packing Tape
  7. Shipping Label

Cellos 1/2 – 4/4

STEP ONE: Prep the Cello

img_0048

Pack foam anywhere that something on the cello could collapse, such as:

  • Either side of the bridge, to keep it upright
  • Under the tailpiece and fingerboard, to keep them from collapsing on the instrument

STEP TWO: Prep the Box

img_0052

Left: neck support, Right: endpin support

  • Add the cardboard inserts to the box
    • The neck support goes roughly where the neck will lie
    • The endpin support sits at the bottom of the box
  • Save the final insert! You’ll need this later.

img_0058

Line the bottom of the box where the body of the cello will be with bubble wrap

Step 3: Add the Cello

img_0060

Put the cello inside the case and place it in the box with the bridge FACING UP. The endpin should slide into the endpin insert.  Then adjust the neck insert so that it is touching the body and supporting the neck.

img_0065

Put the final insert above the neck and scroll as shown above.

Step 4: Stabilize the Cello

img_0068

Place the two tubes in the bouts on either side of the instrument. This keeps the box from collapsing on top of the instrument if something is placed on top of it in shipping.

img_0071

Pad the sides around the body with bubble wrap. You want enough that the instrument won’t slide around.

STEP FIVE: Cushion the Cello

img_0074

Pad the top of the body with a few layers of bubble wrap, but make sure not to put too many layers over the bridge. This is because it can create too much pressure on the top of the instrument and cause damage.

img_0077

Add just enough that the bubble wrap and the top flaps of the box are flush. Any more than that and you risk the same type of damage we mentioned with the bridge.

img_0081

Close and securely tape the box.

Cellos 1/4 and Smaller

img_0085

Prep the cello in the same way described above, then place it inside the case. Wrap it with bubble wrap. Then line the bottom of the box with bubble wrap.

Note: for smaller cellos, there are no inserts.

img_0093

Add the instrument to the box and place the four tubes around it.

  • Two go on either side at the widest point at the bottom of the instrument
  • Two go on either side at peg-leve

img_0103

Stabilize the cello around the entire instrument with bubble wrap, then build up in layers until filled. Don’t forget to be careful of the bridge!

THINGS TO NEVER DO:

  • Pack the instrument with the bridge facing down.
  • Pack the instrument outside of the case

As always, if you have any questions we’re happy to help! Please give us a call at 800-359-3951.

 

Fake Strings and How to Spot Them

fake-strings-header

Fake strings in the music world are an ongoing concern. String makers and shops take pride in the products they produce and sell; while imitations may be cheaper, they do not have the same quality as the original.  Here is what you need to know about fake strings:

How To Tell If A String Is Fake

  • Strange Packaging. If the package looks off somehow (not just a new design), there is a chance it’s a copy. Some things to watch out for are:
    • Blurry lettering or graphics
    • Missing inventory numbers
    • Badly sealed inner lining
  • Wrong Color Windings. Each brand has a specific color they use for their windings depending on which string it is and which variety. Many fake strings will have colors that are duller or are a close match but not exact.
  • Floppy or Bendable Strings. You are not supposed to be able to fully bend a string. If it feels different from what you normally buy, be wary.

This is all well and good if you already have the string in hand, but that means you’ve already purchased the fake string. What about avoiding buying one in the first place?

How To Protect Yourself From Purchasing Fake Strings

  • Only buy from reputable dealers. Any reputable dealer will only buy directly from the company or from a trusted distributor.
  • Check the price. Does the price look too good to be true? It probably is. While there are many honest dealers on these sites, Amazon and eBay sellers are the biggest culprits when it comes to selling fake strings. Check the seller’s Amazon or eBay stores to verify who they are. If someone’s price is drastically lower than what you’ve been seeing, there’s a good chance this is not a legitimate string being sold.
  • Buy your instrument from a reputable dealer too! Many cheap instruments that you find online keep costs down buy using cheaper fake strings. This typically happens with foreign factory-made instruments.

Johnson String takes pride in purchasing our strings directly from companies such as D’Addario, or their American distributor for companies like Thomastik-Infeld (Connolly Music).

To learn more about identifying fake guitar strings, check out D’Addario’s website.

Looking for strings? Browse our complete string inventory.

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Which Edition of Sheet Music Do I Buy?

which-edition-blog-header

Your teacher tells you you’re starting a new piece. You go to buy the sheet music, only to discover there are multiple editions to choose from.

Which edition do you choose?

The easy answer? The one your teacher tells you to buy. They like that edition and want you to get it for a reason. If they don’t have a preferred edition, it’s up to you to decide. While finances sometimes dictates that choice, here are a few things you should know about choosing sheet music:

What Do I Look For? 

Everyone has different priorities when choosing an edition, but here are some things to keep in mind while browsing sheet music:

  • Is it easy to read? Can you read the notes? Are articulations clearly marked? It’s a good idea to look at different editions in person. Compare them side-to-side and see which one is easier for you to read.
  • Are there a lot of marked bowings and fingerings? These are easily changed with a quick pencil scribble. However, if too many are already marked in the part it can start to look messy if you need to fix them. Some people prefer to get sheet music with the least amount of bowings and fingerings so they can clearly mark their own.
  • Does it lie flat? Does the sheet music lie flat on the stand, or would you have to secure it? Would you have to break the binding to get it to stay where you need it to?
  • Price: More expensive editions cost more for a reason. You may find it helpful, or you may not notice a difference.
  • Is it Urtext? This only applies to certain pieces, but sometimes it’s helpful to use an urtext edition instead of a more modern one.

urtext-graphic

 

We pride ourselves on our sheet music selection at Johnson String. Stop in to compare in person or visit us online. We also do special orders; contact our sheet music specialist, Joan Faber at joan@johnsonstring.com.

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Mandolin Line Based On Popular Classic Models

8.22.16 Mandolin Blog Header

The mandolin has a rich historical history. While we associate mandolin primarily with folk music these days, the instrument is more versatile that you may expect.

The Mandolin Family Is Based On Classic Instruments

The mandolin family is based on classic instruments from the baroque period. The mandolin started its life in classical music. In fact, many famous composers wrote mandolin concertos including Antonio Vivaldi. This instrument family itself is a lot like a traditional string trio. The mandolin is the treble voice, the mandola the inner harmony, and the mandocello bass support. Mandolin orchestras, as they are commonly called, are still around today.

Because the mandolin has the same tuning as a violin, it is a reasonable transition for any violinist looking for a new challenge. It means using a pick rather than a bow, but since the fingerings are the same between the two instruments many players can make the transition with a little practice.

Over time, the mandolin evolved from a small bowl-backed instrument meant for ensemble playing to a solo instrument mostly used in bluegrass and country music. The Gibson Company and their sound engineer Lloyd Loar are credited with modernizing the “bluegrass” (F-style) mandolin. With a powerful, clear treble voice and a decorative curling scroll, the F-style mandolin is an instantly recognizable instrument by sound and appearance.

Mandolin Eastman

The Eastman Music Company still follows many of the classic designs developed in the late 1920s through the mid-1930s (known as the golden age of mandolin building). Along with the F-style, the teardrop-shaped A-style mandolin is a popular choice for players who tend to play more chords than leading lines.

Mandolin Styles Graphic

Eastman offers a great selection of both A and F style mandolins in a variety of price ranges. Featuring all solid woods and hand-crafted precision, Eastman mandolins are terrific instruments for everyone from the new player to the veteran picker.

The Guitar Shop of Johnson String Instrument offers many of Eastman’s best mandolins, all of which are set up in house to ensure proper playability, tone, and intonation. Though we may be best known as a violin and guitar ship we are a mandolin store as well. Visit us in store or online to see our full selection of Eastman mandolins.

Back to School: First-Time Players

8.15.16 Back to School Blog Title Header

It’s that time of year again!

Is your child starting an instrument this school year? Not sure what they need? Whether they are taking lessons through their school or elsewhere, their teacher will have a list of what they require for their students. However, we can also give you a basic list of what your child will need to succeed:

Back to School Blog Instruments Subheader

Where are you getting your instrument? For a child just starting lessons, many families choose to rent. This is a great way to have access to a high-quality instrument without the financial commitment of purchasing one. All of our rental outfits come with an instrument, bow, case, and rosin. They also come with insurance, which includes things like broken strings, accidental damage, and size exchanges. Check out the video below to learn more about our well-respected rental program:

Not interested in renting? Buying is also a great option! When shopping, make sure that the shop you buy your instrument at has a trade-in program. Keep in mind that most children are not going to start out in a full size instrument; they will need something smaller and will change sizes as they grow. Our sales department at Carriage House Violins has a trade-up program that allows you to trade any instrument or bow purchased with us for another of equal or greater value. Keep in mind that if you buy an instrument, you will be responsible for the cost of repairs and strings.

**A note about instrument shopping and rentals: Always work with a reputable shop. You may notice lower prices on sites like Amazon or eBay. To learn an instrument, you need something that is high enough quality that it works with your child, not against them. Quality can’t be guaranteed on sites like these, but it can at shops like Johnson String Instrument whether you choose rent or buy. 

Back to School Blog Books Subheader

Almost all programs require a beginning method book. Your child’s teacher will tell you which one they use. Make sure to pay attention to the edition they ask for; a lot of publishers make significant changes between editions and group classes all use the same book. You can find our full selection of method books here.

Back to School Blog Shoulder Rest & Endpin Anchors Subheader

No matter which instrument your child chooses, you’ll need something to help stabilize it. For violin and viola, this is a shoulder rest. For cello and bass, it’s an endpin rest. Both help the player hold the instrument and promote good technique. Talk to your child’s teacher about their preference.

Back to School Blog Music Stands Subheader

Some teachers list music stands as optional, but they are important. Like a podium for a public speaker, it puts the music at a comfortable level and angle. You don’t need anything fancy – our JSI folding stand will do the trick! It comes in a wide variety of colors and is easily carried and stored. We also carry other models and non-folding stands here.

Back to School Blog Extras Subheader

These things required but highly recommended for players of any age:

  1. Metronome/Tuner: You can find some great apps that do the same thing, but sometimes a dedicated device just works better. Available as individual products or combos, we carry all major brands and models.
  2. Practice Planner: These are great for tracking practicing, recording assignments, assessing progress, and all-around organization.
  3. Flashcards: These are a great tool for beginners. They are available for all instruments in different positions as well as for general music.

Don’t forget: Your child’s teacher is your greatest resource! They will tell you exactly what they want their students to have. If your child is taking lessons locally, many school districts and teachers have arrangements with us to have a rental night where you can pick up all of these supplies at school in your area.

We hope everyone has a great start to the school year!

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

The Bow Series: Selecting A Bow

Bow Series Blog Header

Are you or one of your students shopping for a new bow? Finding the right bow can be harder than choosing your instrument, but don’t worry! While we can’t match a bow to you like Mr. Ollivander would a wand, our knowledgeable sales staff are the next best thing and our latest video is here to help.

In “Selecting a Bow”, we teamed up with violinist Eric Silberger to show you what to look for in a bow. With the help of our Director of Sales and Acquisitions Matthew Fritz, we explore the different factors to consider and how to approach what can feel like a daunting process. You’ll find tips and tricks for players of all levels and bows in all price ranges. Check out the video here:

This video is part of a larger collaboration between Carriage House Violins and Four String Films: The Bow Series. This collection of videos is dedicated to exploring different topics relating to the bow. Our first video, An Introduction to Bow Strokes, features Eric Silberger demonstrating common bow strokes on violin. Missed it? Check out his incredible technique here:

Like what you see? Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos!

Don’t miss a post: subscribe to our blog!

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons