Summer Program Necessities

Summer Program Blog Header

Summer has finally arrived!

Excited yet?

In addition to the school year being done and the promise of warm, hopefully beach-filled days, many of you are getting ready for summer programs. Not sure what to bring? We have a few suggestions:

THE BASICS

  • Extra Strings. This may be the single most important item to bring excluding your instrument. In most cases you won’t be near a shop and you do not want to be in a bind because you didn’t have an extra A string. Bring at least a full set of new strings, and hang on to those old ones that may be less than ideal but better than nothing in a pinch.
  • An organized way to carry your music. Maybe you have a music pocket in your case that works just fine. If not, a messy pile on the floor you grab before running to rehearsal is not gonna cut it. Whether it’s a backpack, tote bag or something else entirely, make sure it safely fits those original parts.
  • Tuner/Metronome. Yes, many of you have an app on your phone. However, it is nice not to have to drain your phone battery. Plus, these metronomes and tuners can be much louder and more versatile. Go for a combo to take up even less space.
  • Peg Compound. This product is small but useful. It’s helpful in both summer and winter to help pegs grip and to lubricate them. When you are far away from a workshop, this can be an invaluable product.

THINGS THAT GET LEFT BEHIND

  • Water Bottle. Hydration is the key to success. You may not be rehearsing in the AC, and these programs, while rewarding, are also tiring and can take a lot out of you. Stay healthy and hydrated.
  • Sunblock. This is an important and easily forgotten item. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside. Stay protected! Playing a violin with a severely sunburned shoulder is not fun.
  • A Fan. AC is not a given in the dorms you are most likely staying it. Even a small box fan in a window can do wonders for air circulation.
  • Pencils. This is a no-brainer. You are a musician and need a pencil in rehearsal. Grab a package of them before you leave (and a sharpener if you prefer non-mechanical ones) so you’re not caught without one.

ONE LAST THING!

Before you leave, visit a luthier. Get your instrument and bow looked over. Be sure to let your luthier know if you will be going somewhere with a drastically different climate so they can prepare your instrument accordingly.

Have fun and work hard!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Violin Cases: How To Choose The Best One For You

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Choosing a violin case is an important decision. While everyone is looking for something different when it comes to cases, there is one commonality everyone is looking for: a product that will protect their investment. How this can best be accomplished is an individual decision, but here are some factors to consider:

What To Look For In A Violin Case 

Fit

  • Instrument. We’ll start with the obvious: Does your instrument fit in the case? Is it secure, or does it slide around? When you close the case, does it look like nothing hits the top of the instrument? Again, you want the case to protect your investment and the less your instrument slides around, the safer it will be.
  • Bow. Do all of your bows fit inside the case? Do you want them to? Violin cases usually have between two and four bow spinners, which is enough for most players.
  • Accessories. How much extra stuff do you want to keep inside your case? Some cases have more room for things like accessories or music than others.

Portability

This means different things to different people. Think about the type of travelling and commuting you typically do with your instrument. Then, consider the following factors:

  • Weight. Some cases are lighter than others. If you are doing a lot of walking or get around using public transportation, you may want  a lighter case since you will be carrying it on your person more frequently. If you typically drive to your gigs, weight may be lower on your list of priorities.
  • Straps. How to do you like to carry your case? Check for strap configuration options–most cases allow for different variations. Also take into consideration what kinds of straps come with the case. Brands like Galaxy and BAM come with two padded backpack straps, while Bobelock comes with only one strap. (You can also purchase individual straps depending on your needs.) One more useful kind of strap to look for: the subway strap. This is the one that is attached to the scroll end of the case that allows you to hold it vertically, and can be a lifesaver on the (of course) crowded subway.
  • Shape/Style. Shaped cases tend to be more compact but fit less things, while oblong (rectangular) cases fit more things but take up more space. Half-moon cases fall somewhere in the middle.

Protection

We’re referring to two specific things when we say protection:

  • Suspension. Get a case that has suspension. Period. This means that the instrument is not touching the back or front of the case and will not absorb all of the impact if something happens. 99% of cases you look at will have suspension, but double check.
  • Climate. Do you live somewhere hot and humid? Dry and cold? Both and everything in between? Most cases on the market are at the the very least water resistant, but you may need something more waterproof or insulated depending on where you live. Most cases can be customized to accommodate the climate you live in (in-case humidifiers and case covers are two popular examples), but this is still something to keep in mind when shopping.

Still unsure what to get? Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular brands we carry:

VN Case Chart 2

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Sales Department

Departments of JSI

It’s time for another installment of Departments of JSI ! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

Our Sales Department consists of our sales consultants and director of sales and acquisitions. These are who you talk to when you are looking to purchase an instrument, be it by phone, email, or in person. We asked them to answer a few questions about themselves:

What is your position at JSI?

Allan Espinosa: My position at Carriage House Violins of Johnson String Instrument is Senior Sales Consultant.

Matthew Fritz: Director of Sales and Acquisitions

Armenuhi Hovakimian: My position is a Violin Sales Consultant.

Robert Mayes: Cello Consultant

Phil Rush: Viola Sales Consultant

Lucy Turner: Assistant Sales Manager

Where did you study your main instrument?

Allan: I spent three years of study at the University of North Texas. I then moved to New England and completed my studies at the Boston Conservatory where I completed my BM and MM in violin performance.

Matthew: Bachelors in violin performance from Arizona State University. Masters in Orchestral Conducting from The Eastman School of Music.

Armenuhi: My education started in Armenia and then in Rochester, NY at the Eastman School of Music Prep Department. I received my Bachelors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and my Masters in violin performance at Western Michigan University.

Robert: Walnut Hill, New England Conservatory, Julliard, Boston University

Phil: UC Riverside (composition/theory) B.A.; California Institute of the Arts, Viola Performance M.F.A.; Florida State University, Viola Performance D.M.

Lucy: I have a BMus degree in violin performance from Vanderbilt University and an MMus from Boston University.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Allan: My typical day at CHV revolves around my clients. This would include speaking with my clients to gain a better understanding of what they are looking for in an instrument, hunting down those instruments within our inventory and spending one on one time to help select a particular instrument with the player. When I am not working directly with clients, I spend time with the luthiers of the workshop, fine tuning instruments and making sure our instruments are in top condition. They day is full of communication be it face to face, on the phone or via email.

Matthew: My days are varied. Much of my time is spent evaluating instruments as potential appraisals, consignments or acquisitions and advising clients about buying and selling instruments and bows. Additionally, I oversee the sales staff and support them as they endeavor to match clients with the perfect instrument and bow. On any given day, I can be found at my desk, attending trade events, traveling for sales and acquisitions opportunities or meeting with my staff.

Armenuhi: My day begins with emails and phone calls to my clients. Then I work with our highly qualified luthiers and bow makers to adjust instruments and bows to reach the goals and needs of my clients.

Robert: I begin by practicing for 2 hours on 2-3 different cellos and 3-4 different bows. I find it important to be as familiar with the instruments as possible. When I work with my clients I want to provide them with my honest opinion of the instrument or bow. Every day at the shop is different because we work with a wide range of musicians. At the beginning of this week I was in Los Angeles with members of the LA Philharmonic and on Friday I will be working with one of the cello professors at the New England Conservatory.

Phil: My day begins with correspondence via email and phone in response to customer queries. After that I set up for any appointments I have, work with our luthiers and bow technicians on adjusting instruments and bows that need it, and reach out to my sales contacts who are looking regarding our latest acquisitions.

Lucy: The first thing I usually do in the morning is respond to client emails and return calls. Once I’m caught up there, I work with clients who have in-store appointments or I play instruments in preparation for shipping trials. A lot of my managerial duties involve inventory and getting new instruments and bows ready to trial and sell, so I take care of tasks related to that throughout the day as needed.

Do you play any secondary instruments?

Allan: I do not claim to play a secondary instrument very well but I did spend time studying piano and clarinet and have sung in choirs.

Matthew: I do not make music other than playing the violin and conducting.

Armenuhi: I played piano for 20 years.

Robert: No.

Phil: I also play piano and guitar. I guess you could say that as a violist, the violin is also a very important secondary instrument….

Lucy: Nope.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Allan: My favorite part of my job is the moment when a young musician has found the instrument that inspires creativity and pursuit of creativity in music. I also enjoy the vast array of instruments and the opportunity to work with contemporary luthiers hand in hand with the sales staff and clients.

Matthew: I enjoy many aspects of my job. The instruments are fascinating, especially then it comes to the craft and history of the violin. There is so much to learn, and even the internationally-recognized experts are constantly adding to their knowledge on a daily basis. I also enjoy traveling and meeting a variety of people from players to makers and collectors. In my position, there is never a dull moment, and you never know what a day will bring.

Armenuhi: Seeing my clients smile and working with my clients to find a great tool and the right instrument to carry their passion for music.

Robert: I enjoy being able to interact with so many musicians of all levels. Finding the right instrument or bow is crucial and I am thrilled to help people find their voice.

Phil: My greatest satisfaction comes from helping our clients find the instruments that inspire them and take them further toward their goals, whatever they may be.

Lucy: I love working with a client to figure out exactly the sound they’re looking for in an instrument or a bow. It’s really satisfying to find an instrument for a client that’s a perfect match and that they’re excited about playing.

 

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

The Best Grad Gifts: 2016 Edition

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They did it! All of the hard work, late nights, practicing, homework and dedication have paid off. If you’re looking for ideas for what to get the grad in your life, we have a few suggestions for you:

Sheet Music

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This is a great gift in so many different forms. Maybe it’s the Urtext edition of their favorite chamber piece or a piece they have always wanted to learn. All of our folk, fiddle, jazz, pop and world music is included in the Grad Sale, which includes things like Star Wars, Disney, The Fiddler’s Fakebook and more.

A New Case

Now is a great time to invest in a new case. With brands like Bobelock and Galaxy (a JSI exclusive) on sale, this is a great option for surprising your recent grad.

Ukulele

While not included in our Grad Sale, our ukuleles start at at just $89, making them budget-friendly in addition to being an accessible instrument. Curious to learn more about the ukulele? Check out our previous post about them.

Upgrade Their Instrument

CHV Grad Sale Instruments Twitter

Our Grad Sale for commercial instruments is back! Selected commercial instruments are 10% off through June 30, and you can take 15% off the bow and case when purchasing an instrument on sale as part of an outfit.

Want to purchase your rental instead? We’re offering double your first year equity when you purchase a rental instrument from us. Keep in mind that while you can always use your equity to purchase an instrument through our sales department at Carriage House Violins, this double first year offer is only available when purchasing your rental instrument.

Gift Certificates

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Always available in any amount.

Still not sure what to get them? You can’t go wrong with a gift certificate! You can purchase one in any amount (call for details) and they are valid on everything from accessories to instruments.

You can check out the products listed here and much more in store or on our website. A heartfelt congratulations to all graduating this May and June. Good luck with your future endeavors!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Electric Instruments: Amps

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Finding the right amplifier can be just as difficult as finding the right electric violin. Unfortunately for us electric violinists, most amplifiers on the market are designed for guitar, specifically electric guitar. Now, any amplifier will amplify your electric violin, but you may have difficulty getting the exact tone you are looking for. Why? A violin has a much wider frequency range than a guitar, and produces many over and undertones. Through years of trial and error, I found that most electric guitar amplifiers cannot quite handle the upper octaves of a violin; they start sound quite shrill once you get to the E string.

The best solutions we have found here at Johnson String Instrument are amplifiers designed for acoustic instruments and guitars, like the Fishman Loudbox and the Roland AC series. These amps are designed to reproduce the sound of the instrument that you plug in, a tremendously helpful feature when you are trying to make your violin sound like a violin. Acoustic amplifiers can also handle the wide range of a violin, and most have anti-feedback systems which are extremely useful when you are using a pickup on an acoustic violin.

Figuring out which one to purchase? This decision is highly dependent on what you are planning. A little amplifier like the Roland Mobile AC is surprisingly loud, but would have difficulty competing with a full band. It is a great little amp for practicing, traveling and busking. If you are looking for a portable amp that is loud enough for small venues and groups, a Fishman Loudbox Mini or Roland AC-33 will do the trick. The Loudbox Mini packs a little more punch, which the AC-33 counters with an on-board looping function you can use to channel your inner Andrew Bird.

Looking for more volume to play with a rock band? The Roland AC-60 or Fishman Loudbox Artist should do the trick. If you need even more volume to compete with guitarists using tube amps and drummers with full kits who like to play loudly, you may need the power of the Fishman Loudbox Performer. The performer will allow you to be heard in any situation.

Any of these amps are a wonderful choice and will help make your electric violin sound like a violin. If you decide this isn’t what you want, you can always dive into the wonderful world of effects and add distortion, delay and modulation stomp boxes; stay tuned for more on these and other topics related to electric instruments!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Alex Wagner

The Wedding Season Starter Kit

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Summer is almost here, and with it comes the start of wedding season. The parade of weddings and parties, both outdoor and indoor, has the potential to keep freelancers employed for the entire season. If you’re new to the life of wedding gigs, here is a starter kit of things you’ll need:

Folding Stand: Never show up to a gig without one! Some people are satisfied with the traditional folding stands, but these can be flimsy when you have a large gig binder or you are outside and subjected to a strong wind. A sturdier stand with a flat back that is still portable, such as the ones by Peak, are a great alternative if you run into this problem.

Clothespins: Don’t let your music fly away! We all have stories of forgetting clothespins and suddenly watching our music make a run for it across the lawn or flip open to a different piece. Traditional clothespins are a great option–lots of musicians keep a box in their car for this reason. We also carry an over-sized music clip for a more elegant solution.

Gig books: Every wedding will want something a little different, but in many cases they will want standard fare such as the Mendelssohn Wedding March or Pachelbel Canon. Lots of musicians build their own gig binders with a set of arrangements that they can use for multiple weddings. The Latham wedding series and the Last Resort Music compilations are among the most popular since they come for multiple types of ensembles. The Last Resort Music series can even be mixed and matched depending on instrumentation.

Note: Make sure your music is appropriate for the venue and ceremony. If you are given free reign to choose repertoire, don’t play something that you wouldn’t normally perform in a church or synagogue. 

Stand lights: This is another great back-up item to keep in your car because you don’t know what the lighting is going to be like at any given gig. We carry our own JSI brand in addition to popular brands like Mighty Bright and Lotus. Stock up on extra batteries too–no light in the middle of a performance is not ideal.

Outdoor instrument: This is definitely not an option for everyone, but a great idea if you are able to swing it. Many people hold on to their old instruments when they upgrade and use them for outdoor gigs or any performance that they wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing their usual instrument to. Some players use alternate bows as well, especially carbon fiber bows like Codabow and JonPaul.

 

Wedding Gig Infographic

 

Good luck and happy gigging!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Customer Service Representatives

Departments of JSI

It’s back: it’s another installment of Departments of JSI ! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

Our Customer Service Representatives are the people you talk to when you call us. They handle everything from rental account management to website questions and everything in between. We asked them some questions about themselves and their jobs:

What is your position at JSI?

Samantha Bates: Assistant Office Manager.

Anna Seda: I am a Customer Service Representative.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sam: A typical day would be speaking with customers for placing orders or rentals, occasional training, going through many accounts for updates and information, creating rental account documents, going through rental account reports

Anna: My typical daytime work is at a desk. I help clients remotely with questions and sales orders from rental contracts to string accessories.

What is your main instrument?

Sam: Violin.

Anna: Cello.

Did you go to school for music?

Sam: Yes, I received my BM in Violin Performance at BU [Boston University].

Anna: I did! I studied cello performance at the University of Colorado and Suzuki Pedagogy at the University of Denver. I have a Master’s Degree from the Boston Conservatory and spent one additional year in the Conservatory’s competitive Graduate Performance Diploma program.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Sam: Working with musicians and like-minded individuals. It is a very unique environment when you have something so special like music that brings everyone together. We find music just as important as our customers, and therefore we have that connection that makes our staff and customer bond like nothing anywhere else.

Anna: I love string talk! I’ve been a cellist all my life and enjoy sharing my interests and knowledge with people getting into the culture of performance. I’m always learning from our inventory specialists and get to explore accessories, rosin, cases, and strings I wouldn’t normally get to try.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Rent or Buy?

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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.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Find the best violin strings for your playing

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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!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Upright bass: integral to jazz and classical music

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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!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons