Rent or Buy?

Rent or Buy Blog Header

We all come to this question at some point in our playing careers. Our parents (or we as parents) have needed to make the all-important decision:

Do we rent or buy the instrument?

Why Rent?

In most cases, beginners of all ages begin by renting. Why? There are a few important benefits to renting as a beginner:

  1. Insurance. Our rental program comes complete with comprehensive instrument insurance that includes normal wear and tear, size exchanges, and replacing broken or damaged strings.
  2. Low-risk commitment. Beginners tend to either be young or just that: beginners. Renting allows you to try out the instrument and gauge interest before making a serious financial commitment.
  3. Rental Equity. At Johnson String, you build equity as you rent. 100% of the first year’s rent (excluding insurance and tax) plus 20% every subsequent year goes toward rental equity that can be used to purchase an instrument in the future.
  4. Finances. We offer three levels of rental instruments, not only allowing beginners but more advanced players access to a quality instrument. This is great for when the player needs a new instrument of higher quality but you are not ready to make the financial commitment.

Why Buy?

  1. You are ready for the investment. Purchasing an instrument is a great investment for your musical future. With Carriage House’s trade-in policy, 100% of the purchase price goes towards an instrument of equal or greater value when you trade in your old instrument. This allows you to better your instrument as your skills grow and change.
  2. Quality. While our rentals are well-maintained and high quality, they are still rental instruments. There comes a point when the player outgrows their rental and an instrument with a setup of higher quality is required. An instrument from our sales department is also not passed from renter to renter, and won’t have the same level of wear and tear. All instruments from our sales department also come with a one year warranty against defects in craftsmanship and materials.
  3. Finances. Violinists should expect to spend at least $1,200, violists $1,500, and cellists $2,600 for the instrument alone. If you purchase the instrument, bow and case together as an outfit Carriage House Violins offers a 10% discount on the bow and case. You will also work with a sales consultant who is a player and can give you informed recommendations. In addition, we offer home trials with up to two instruments and three bows at a time. This is the perfect opportunity to try out new instruments in a variety of environments and to get teacher and peer feedback.

**An additional option is to purchase a rental outfit. Give us a call or stop in for more details.

But I still don’t know what to do!

We can still help! Use the flow chart below to determine what might work best for you:

Rent or Buy Flowchart

 

Still not sure? Feel free to give us a call at 800-359-9351 or stop by our shop at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls, MA for more information!

Learn more about our rental program here and our instrument sales here.

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Find the best violin strings for your playing

Violin Strings Header

We’ve highlighted the general search for strings, and talked about the particular challenges facing cellists. Now, we’re entering the world of violin strings.

Violin is used in an astonishing range of genres, each style making different demands on the player. Ultimately, as we’ve mentioned before,  you will need to experiment and find what works best for you. Some factors to consider are:

Style of playing: Different styles make different demands. Are you an orchestral musician? A soloist? A bluegrass fiddler? Play violin in a band? All of these are going to require different types of sound and therefore different types of strings.

Price Range: While it might not the same financial commitment as cello strings, high level violin strings can be pricey. It’s worth getting advice from your peers or talking to a luthier to find out what type of string would work best for your genre or instrument before making a purchase.

That infamous open E-string whistle: I’m sure many of you are hearing it as you read this. Whistling happens when the string vibrates in a twisting (torsional) motion instead of side to side. This can be caused by many different things, but essentially anything that impedes how the string vibrates can cause that sound. Some instruments are more susceptible to it than others, but most players have experienced this at least once in their lives. There are a few things that can fix this:

  1. Make sure that your left hand is not touching the string at all.
  2. Keep your bow closer to the bridge when you’re playing open E.
  3. Use a wound E string.
  4. Have a luthier check your setup. There could be something about it that is exacerbating the problem.
  5. Many violinists swear by the Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E string or the Pirastro No. 1 E string.

A note on E strings–many violinists will buy one set of strings for the bottom 3 strings and a separate E string, or a whole set of  one brand of strings for the instrument (a generalization, but a preference we’ve noticed). Here is a list of preferred violin strings: 

Popular Violin Strings Chart

Check out our complete listing of violin strings here.

As always, feel free to call or stop by our Newton store for more recommendations!

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Upright bass: integral to jazz and classical music

Upright Bass Blog Header Image

The bass is arguably the most integral component of any group. Can you imagine a jazz standard without the bass line, or an orchestral masterwork without a bass section? As the instrument with the lowest range, the bass provides the foundation for almost all music we are familiar with. For all of its importance, it is also a surprisingly unknown instrument and one that invites myriad of questions, including the favorite “don’t you wish you played flute?”

(The answer is no, by the way.)

Whether you call it upright bass, double bass, string bass, or just bass, it is different from the rest of the string family in a few ways. First, it is tuned in fourths rather than fifths. It also sounds an octave lower than what the player reads on the page.

The two main genres people associate with the bass are jazz and classical. Each of these genres have their own use for the instrument and superstars who dominate the field. What are some of these differences?

TECHNIQUE

In jazz, the bass is almost exclusively plucked.  Classical repertoire requires both the bow and pizzicato. Bass is unique among string instruments in that it has two different types of bows and bow holds: French (similar to a cello bow) and German (held with an underhanded grip).

TYPES OF PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES

Of course, there is always room for innovators in any genre (think Esperanza Spalding or Edgar Meyer), but these are the most prominent positions you can expect to see for bass players in the two this post addresses:

Bass performance chart

 

ACCESSORIES

Bass players will need things like rosin (most popular are Pops, Nyman, and Carlsson), a wheel for transport, and a bib for comfort. Jazz players may also need a pickup on their instrument, an amp, or may even use an electric bass for ease of transportation among many other benefits. Brands that manufacture electric basses include Yamaha and NS.

Keep an eye out for more posts about bass in the future!

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Cello Month 2016 at Carriage House Violins

JSI Blog Cello Month Header

IT’S FINALLY HERE!

(Can you tell we’re excited?)

March is Cello Month at Carriage House Violins, when we celebrate the cello and those who love it. Like last year, we will have a variety of concerts and lectures all taking place at Carriage House Violins. We invite you to join us for as many as you can!

Monday March 7th, 7PM: Cello Month Launch Party: Wine and Hors d’oeuvres Reception

wine-905098_640

Come to learn more about the exciting events hosted by Carriage House Violins as a part of Cello Month! You can also get the first look at our month-long contemporary cello and bow exhibit and meet many of the makers involved.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to info@carriagehouseviolins.com.

Tuesday March 8th, 7pm: Jim McKean, More Than Meets the Ear: Bringing a Cello to Life

james-mckean-event

In this lecture by luthier and author Jim McKean, you will get a brief look at the sources of the design of the cello and how the construction allows a maker to create a unique work of art, both visually and tonally.

Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. 

Thursday, March 10th, 7:30PM: Tao Ni Cello Recital

Tao Ni 2

Originally hailing from Beng Bu, An Hui Province, China, Tao Ni is an accomplished cellist currently playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Performing:
* Felix Mendelssohn: Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Major
* Gaspar Cassado: Suite for Solo Cello
* Dmitri Shostakovich: Sonata for Cello and Piano in d minor
* Nicolo Paganini: ‘Moses’ Variations on a theme of Rossini

Tickets: $20. To order, please click here

Friday, March 18th, 7:30PM: Terry King: A Lecture on Gregor Piatigorsky

Terry King

Join cellist Terry King, author of Gregor Piatigorsky; The Life and Career of the Virtuoso Soloist, in a talk on this legendary performer and teacher.

Book signing after the lecture.

Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. King’s book can be purchased here

Wednesday, March 23rd, 7PM: Joel Krosnick Tribute

Joel Krosnick

Juilliard String Quartet cellist Joel Krosnick is stepping down after an incredible 42 years in the quartet. Join his friends and colleagues in paying tribute to this achievement and his illustrious career.

Reception to follow.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to info@carriagehouseviolins.com.

Tuesday, March 29th, 7:30PM: Mike Block Cello Recital 

BlockOnStreetByRichardFrank

Hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as the “ideal musician of the 21st century,” Mike Block is a multi-style cellist and composer. Do not miss this amazing solo performance by the Silk Road Ensemble cellist and Berklee College of Music professor.

Block will expand your conception of what is possible with the cello, as he attempts to connect the world’s cultures through music.

Reception to follow.

Tickets $20. To order, please click here

March 7th-April 2nd, Standard Business Hours: Contemporary Cello and Cello Bow Exhibit

Maker exhibit

The 2nd Annual Cello Month Contemporary Cello and Cello Bow Exhibit will begin with the launch party on March 7.  Throughout the rest of the month, the exhibit will be open during our normal business hours. For more information on the makers being featured, visit our event page.

Share your excitement (and photos!) with us using #cellomonth on Twitter and Instagram, or post directly to our wall on Facebook.

Happy Cello Month!

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

Cello strings that fit your instrument and style

Cello Strings Header

We’ve already talked about choosing strings in the general sense. However, what about the specific needs of the cello? There are many additional factors to consider:

Price: Cello strings are more expensive than those for other instruments. The G and C strings in particular are costly–a C string alone can run the same price as a full set of violin strings. Thankfully, a cellist’s C string is not as thin as a violinist’s E and will last longer.

Playing level: More expensive brands may not be necessary for beginning players, while less expensive brands may not provide enough color or nuance for more advanced players. Teachers will often have recommendations or preferences for their students, and what you prefer when you are first starting out will probably differ from what you prefer further into your playing career.

Style of playing: This does not refer to genre alone–how you play will also determine what you’re looking for. Have an aggressive playing style? You may need something different than someone who doesn’t.

Mixing and Matching: More so than violin, most cellists do not use a complete set of one brand. Many use two different brands for the top and bottom strings, while others go so far as to have different brands for all strings. You’ll need to experiment to find the right fit for your instrument. See the chart below for common preferences:

Cello Strings Chart

But what about electric cellos?

The same principle applies–you’ll need to experiment and see what works best for your instrument. Some brands make strings specifically for their instruments (like NS Design), but many electric cellos can use the same strings as an acoustic instrument. Be careful though; some pick-ups will require a specific type of string in order to function correctly.

When in doubt, talk to your luthier or salesperson–they will have invaluable firsthand knowledge that can help you find the right cello string for you.

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Why We Love the Ukulele

Ukulele Blog Header

The ukulele seems to be everywhere these days. From popular hits like Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” to classics like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” to the full-blown ukulele rock stars like Jake Shimabukuro, the ukulele is well and truly back to the height of its popularity. Why? Here are some frequent comments that we hear from fellow ukulele lovers:

Ukulele Blog Easy

All instruments have unique challenges. However, the ukulele does have some great characteristics that can make starting to learn the instrument more enjoyable. Like when beginning acoustic guitar, the ukulele tends to be a strumming instrument rather than one that plays individual notes. This means that with a few simple chords you can play many different songs and achieve great results with a reasonable amout of practice. After you learn the first few chords, more complicated chords will follow and more difficult songs can be mastered with time. In addition to ukuleles being available at reasonable prices (well made concert ukuleles made by Cordoba start at only $99, see the Cordoba 15CM here), the ukulele is an instrument that can excel in a wide variety of styles, so regardless of your personal tastes the ukulele can be your musical partner.

Ukulele Blog Comfort

While there are four primary sizes of ukulele (soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone), the smaller soprano and concert tend to be the most popular. The fact that these instruments are small makes learning a little easier for everyone. The ukulele is as comfortable for a child to play as it is for any adult player. The spaces between the frets are closer together, meaning that the hand rarely has to contort into difficult and uncomfortable shapes. In addition, the strings on a ukulele are made of unwound nylon. Nylon strings, like those on a classical guitar, are much softer underneath the fingers and won’t develop heavy calluses on your fingertips.

Ukulele Blog Relaxing

We hear this one a lot. The casual nature of the instrument allows for it to be easily picked up when a free moment in your day opens up. Whether that is on your couch at home, while camping, or in the ukulele’s natural environment on the beach, it is always there for your entertainment and relaxation. The ukulele is also a social instrument–no matter where you go, you will likely find someone who can strum a few chords or at the very least be able to have a conversation about how cool the ukulele is. While efforts are being made to have the ukulele become more of a concert instrument (see Jake Shimabukuro above), it is above all things fun and technical prowess on the instrument is often overlooked in favor of sheer enjoyment.

To learn more about the wonderful Cordoba ukuleles that we carry, please visit our website.

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

Practice Tips

Practicing: the necessary evil of all musicians. We log countless hours plugging away at passages we just can’t seem to get right and etudes that drive us up a wall. How do you stay motivated and not waste time? Our staff has advice on everything from motivation to tackling that beastly passage:

 

Obviously, warming up is essential for the physical aspect of practicing. However, it’s also important to warm up your mind and get in the right head space before working on a difficult passage or technique. Beginning your session with fundamentals, a piece you know well, or some improvisation will help to establish focus and increase your productivity once you get to the serious wood shedding.

Rob Laff, General Manager, Bass


 

-Look for extra practice opportunities no matter where you need to do it. Don’t just practice at home. For years I have brought an instrument with me every day to work which I spend my entire break, alone, practicing. My last job wasn’t friendly to inside practice so I would simply take the instrument outside to a nearby park or the sidewalk. People will stare, let them stare!

-Invest in a “beat up” practice instrument.

Amer Koudsi, Customer Service Representative, Guitar and Bass


 

The best advice I ever received was this: If you are not feeling all that motivated to practice at a certain time, still go to the practice room. Do not allow yourself to get involved with other activities. Just sit there. Eventually you will just get bored and practicing will not seem so bad!

Matthew Fritz, Director of Sales and Acquisitions, Violin


Practicing is a skill that develops over time (and frankly one I didn’t truly learn until college). The two things that made a major difference in my playing were simply:

  1. If you know a particular section of the music well, stop practicing it until you need to use it in a larger context of the piece. Practicing passages that you know only wastes your valuable practice time. Practice time is better spent on correctly repeating sections that are still difficult. They become easier over time.
  2. I always had success working backwards. Starting at the end of the piece for some reason made things go more smoothly for me. I think a large reason of its success for me was that it forces you to work in small increments, whether that be a line of music, a measure, or even tricky passages within a measure. This allows not only for easily digestible sections but it always puts the music into context and avoids awkward transitions. But remember to refer to step one; once you get back to your comfort zone, stop. Running the piece as a whole should only be done when you are in the final steps of preparation for a performance.

Justin Davis, School Program and Guitar Specialist, Guitar


-When practicing, always have a goal and deadline in mind.

-Be sure to always practice your scales and the passages you are finding difficult to play.

-Practice using a metronome.

-Practice slowly and clean/polish your messy passages.

-Use a mirror.

-Be practical and don’t waste time by zoning out while practicing. Keep yourself mentally engaged.

-Slow down your right hand if it can not catch up with your left hand.

Armenuhi Hovakimian, Sales Representative, Violin


 

-Don’t expect to fix an issue or fully accomplish learning a technique or a piece within one practice session. It is easy to get frustrated if you overestimate what can be accomplished in a short amount of time, so it’s better to adjust your expectations and think of a practice session as one step on the staircase of improvement: the length of the staircase may vary depending on the goal (and you can argue that the staircase never ends), but this way you will find value in your practice and will not get discouraged if you don’t master something as quickly as you would like.

-Make yourself comfortable! Practicing is much more enjoyable if your surroundings suit your style. For example, if you are always cold (like me), make sure you practice in a warm area or wear finger-less gloves, and be sure to give yourself time to warm up properly. If you prefer privacy while you work, find a time to practice when no one else is home. If you like to take breaks, take them! Do whatever makes you comfortable and suits your personal style the best.

-COFFEE IS MAGIC-I enjoy practicing most when I have an ice coffee readily available!

Theresa Cleary, Customer Service Representative, Viola

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

 

Welcome, In Kyu Hwang!

Photo credit: Cydney Scott

Photo credit: Cydney Scott

In Kyu Hwang is the newest luthier in our workshop at Carriage House Violins of Johnson String Instrument. Hailing from Korea, In Kyu studied in Mittenwald, Germany and holds the Geigenbau Meister (Master Craftsman) certification. He joined us here at Carriage House in October of 2015. We asked him to talk to us about what inspired him to become a luthier, what prompted him to join our company, and what advice he has for aspiring luthiers: 

As a small child I always enjoyed making models, carving things from soap, that sort of thing. When I saw a documentary about the violin making school in Mirecourt, France, that was really a moment of culture shock because at the time I didn’t know such a thing existed in the world. I was very jealous because the individual featured in the documentary was a fourteen-year-old Korean boy. was a fourteen year old Korean boy! But–a foreign country, a foreign language–for me it seemed impossible. So I forgot about it.

When I was nearing the end of high school I realized I didn’t want to do the usual things like go to college and get a regular job. A classmate of mine (now my wife) who played the violin introduced me to a local violin maker who had trained in Japan. He asked me, why did I want to do this job? I would be so poor. He was quite poor actually. But I couldn’t listen to him. I had such a passion to do this. So he accepted me to work with him building an instrument in his shop. After half a year I had to mandatory two year Korean military service. I never finished that violin, but he encouraged me to go to Germany and study at the school in Mittenwald when I finished my military obligation.

As a non English-speaking foreigner, negotiating the school’s entrance process was its own story. Eventually after fulfilling the two year requirement of violin lessons (among many other things) I finally gained admittance in 2003. It was a three and a half year course of study in the heart of Bavaria.

I began official German language studies as soon as I arrived in Germany, but due to a death in my family had to stop after only two months. I was able to continue learning the language with the help of two German families who tutored me privately. I call them my angels. My success would not have been possible without their help and encouragement.

After graduating, I was able to find work at the shop of Anton Pilar in Berlin where I worked for three years before moving to Los Angeles to work for Georg Ettinger, head of the Hans Weisshaar shop.

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

What was your most memorable project?

I remember my first major restoration project. It was a massive undertaking on a Thomas Dodd cello. It required EVERYTHING and I thought, “Will I be able to do all of this?” But it went quite well and I continued [at Hans Weisshaar] working on many fine instruments, memorably a J.B. Vuillaume, Joseph Guarnerius, and another very large restoration on a Dominique Busan viola. I really enjoy such undertakings.

What drew you to Carriage House Violins?

Many different things drew me to work for Johnson String Instrument’s fine instrument division at CHV like the depth and variety of Boston’s arts and cultural scene, the history of the city itself, and the landscape of New England generally. Walking in Cambridge, seeing all the old buildings, I love it.

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

What advice do you have for aspiring luthiers?

I might quote my first teacher in Korea: “Why do you want to work so hard and be so poor?” You must really really love this work.

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Summer Programs

Summer Programs

While it may be cold and snowy outside, we have entered the season of summer program applications! We get a lot of questions from parents about summer programs, including what we know or recommend or how to even begin the process of looking for programs. While everyone has different goals when conducting their search, we can give you an idea of how to begin:

What does their teacher recommend?

Your child’s teachers are a valuable resource. They know your child’s musical strengths, and will have a good idea of what programs might be appropriate. They will have suggestions based on your child’s ability, commitment, and interest.

Where do your children want to go?

Don’t forget to consult the person attending the program! Some may have no idea, but others will have something in mind. While their goals may not be realistic for one reason or another (or maybe they are, in which case, jackpot!), it will give you an idea of the type of experience they are looking for. You can frame your search with that in mind.

What kind of program are you looking for?

What is your goal? Programs are centered around different aspects of playing an instrument. For example, some focus exclusively on chamber music, individual practice, or orchestral playing. Others combine them. If the goal is to gain more orchestral experience, going to a chamber music or fiddle program will not serve this purpose. Want to try a new genre of music? An orchestral program focused on standard repertoire is not a likely candidate. Confine your search to what type of experience you are looking for.

What is your budget?

For some, this is the deciding factor. Work within what you and your family are comfortable spending. However, like applying for college, many programs offer scholarships or work/study arrangements, so don’t let price alone make your decision. Cast a wide net when possible and see what kinds of scholarships might be available to you.

Additional Considerations:

Length: Programs range anywhere from one week to eight. Some students can handle the longer sessions, while others are not ready for an eight weeks away from home. This is a personal decision based on your child and your family. Again, your child’s teacher is a great resource if you are not sure whether a longer or shorter session is a better fit.

Distance: How far away are you looking? A program may look amazing but be hundreds of miles or even an ocean away. Consider travel expenses in your budget as well as how comfortable your child is being a long way from home.

Age Range: This is very important. There are programs that cater to both small and wide age ranges. It may be possible to have a high school student in a group with college students, or middle with high school. This can be beneficial, but this is a personal choice. They may have the skills to keep up with someone considerably older, but they may not have the emotional maturity to thrive socially. You want to make sure that your child has a great experience both inside of rehearsal and out.

 

Applications are due soon, so make sure you check out the due dates and materials needed. While geared toward college hopefuls, our post on applying to music school has a lot of great tips that are also relevant to summer program applications.

You can find a list of programs in the US on our website here and a list of international programs here.

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

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

The JSI Winter Survival Guide

JSI Winter Survival Guide 2

The season we’ve been dreading is finally here. While we hope this year is not nearly as buried in snow (despite current forecasts to the contrary here in Boston), winter provides a variety of stresses for musicians. Here are some posts to help you deal with the two main offenders:

INSTRUMENT CARE

Tips for Instrument Care: Great information on general instrument maintenance for any time of the year.

The War Against Winter: How to care for your instrument specifically during the winter.

COLLEGE AUDITIONS

How to Rock Your College Audition: Set yourself up for success! Check out our tips and tricks to help you play your best.

Flying With Your Cello: Flying to your auditions? Know how to safely get your instrument on the plane and to your destination.

Coming soon: In a complete seasonal shift, everything you wanted to know about summer programs!

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

Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons