Departments of JSI: School Programs and Delivery

Departments of JSI

It’s time for another installment of Departments of JSI! This series highlights the different people in 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 they use 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.

The School Programs and Delivery department are the people you see at our rental nights throughout New England and New York State. They handle any deliveries, exchanges, and other transactions done through school districts or at rental nights throughout those areas. They are constantly in contact with teachers and school administration to make sure everyone has what they need.  We asked some of them to talk about what they do:

What is your position at JSI?

Justin Davis: School Program/Guitar Specialist.

Natalie Harrington: I’m the Rental Delivery and Programs Manager.

Steve Soucy: I am a School Programs Specialist. This means I work specifically with teachers and administrators of various public and private schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to cater our products and services to meet the needs of their string/orchestra programs.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Justin: My days tend to be quite varied. Some days I will be setting up and repairing guitars, others I will be scheduling with and otherwise contacting teachers to ensure that they and their students have all of the proper instruments and accessories that they need to succeed. In the busy times, mainly the start and end of the school year, I will be visiting each of our programs in Connecticut and Southern Massachusetts while also helping out the rest of the team where needed.

Natalie: That depends on the season. My top priority is always working with our teacher clients to ensure we’re meeting their programs’ needs. Sometimes that means driving to schools myself; other times it’s coordinating staff, vans, instruments, and product to send on the road. I always need to be at my desk for at least a few hours a day to answer emails, update our service trips web page, and make sure everything is ready to go for the next delivery.

Steve: In September, I start the day at my desk to answer any questions or fill any requests made by teachers and clients the previous night or earlier that morning. Then it is off to the workshop to review and pack instrument and accessory orders for the event that night. Once we are packed, we head off to the event. There we unpack and prepare for parents and students. Afterwards, we pack up, head back to the workshop, and unload. Once unloaded, we close up the workshop and prepare for the next event.

What is your main instrument?

Justin: I call guitar my primary instrument but violin was my first instrument and I played that all through school as well. I was always a bit of a jack of all trades with experience with viola, cello, mandolin, and ukulele as well.

Natalie: Violin. I started in the Suzuki method when I was four, and continued to play seriously, even becoming concert mistress of my orchestra, until I graduated from high school.

Steve: Electric Bass

Did you go to school for music?

Justin: I went to the University of Maine, double majoring in music education and guitar performance.

Natalie: No, actually: I got my degree in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from Wellesley College.

Steve: No, economics.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Justin: My favorite part of my job has always been seeing the excitement that a new player has when they first pickup their instrument. You can just see in their eyes that this will be a lifelong learning adventure for them.

Natalie: I love a challenge! We rent to over 100 school programs throughout New England and New York, so there is a lot to coordinate. Doing my job well involves keeping an eye on a wide variety of staff, procedures, and departments, and anticipating problems so I can solve them before they happen. Never a dull day!

Steve: Working with schools and music teachers. Providing students with a high quality instrument that allows them to enjoy playing music and develop a life-long passion for it.

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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.

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

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!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

AJ Guitars at Johnson String Instrument

The holiday sale has arrived, and our AJ Guitar Series is on sale! Check out this post from our guitar specialist Justin Davis to learn about this exclusive collection offered solely at Johnson String Instrument:

The AJ Guitar Series is a line of guitars that has been specially designed by The Guitar Shop of Johnson String Instrument. With three half sized guitars and three full sized guitars in the series, there is an
affordably priced guitar for any player.

Each of the half sized AJ Guitars has a unique tone and appearance. The AJ200 has a Spruce top which is lined with beautiful abalone inlay and Sapele back and sides. The AJ205 is a similar guitar that features a Sapele top in addition to its Sapele back and sides. The AJ205 offers a slightly woodier tone when compared to the AJ200. The true star of the AJ half sized guitars is the AJ300. Featuring a Solid Sitka
Spruce top and East Indian Rosewood back and sides, this guitar has a full, rich tone with greater projection. The AJ300, as well as the AJ500 and AJ550CE that we will talk about later, features a bone nut and saddle. This is a great improvement over the common plastic variety and gives this guitar a nicer tone while being a natural and more durable material. When comparing the AJ300 to other guitars that are made by famous makers and are priced over $1000 that do not use a bone saddle, this instrument is clearly not just another toy guitar. Perfect for a player with smaller hands or for travel, the half sized AJ Guitars are a welcome addition to any guitarist’s collection.

Watch this video for close-ups of each instrument and more information:

There are three full sized AJ guitars. Inspired by the renowned Martin D-18, the AJ400 features a Solid Sitka Spruce top with Sapele back and sides. This classic wood pairing and dreadnought shape
contribute to this guitar’s great volume and full bass tone. There are also two slightly smaller bodied grand concert style guitars in the AJ Guitar Series. Perfect for finger-style playing, the AJ 500 and
AJ550CE have Solid Engelmann Spruce tops and East Indian Rosewood backs and sides which accounts for their brighter and well balanced tone. Both of these guitars have a beautiful high gloss finish. The main difference between the AJ500 and the AJ550CE is that the AJ550CE has a cut-away design for easy access to the upper frets and a pre-installed Fishman Presys pickup, making this guitar ideal for playing
at your favorite coffee house.

Have a look at this video for more info:

We are confident that the AJ Guitars are the best possible instruments for your money. Unlike many other shops, we perform a full set up to each and every guitar prior to it being sold. We adhere to a strict set of specifications that ensures each guitar both sounds and plays to the best of its ability.

Please call or email if you have any questions, justin@johnsonstring.com or 1-800-359-9351 ex.103.

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

Upcoming Dates at JSI

We have a lot of exciting things happening in our shop during this upcoming holiday season! Be sure to mark your calendars for the following dates:

 

November 21st-January 2nd: Our annual Holiday Sale is back! Keep an eye out for flyers arriving soon with more information. The sale begins this Saturday and runs through the first Saturday of 2016. Deals can be found both in store and online, so be sure to keep us in mind when shopping for the musician in your life this holiday season!

November 28th: Small Business Saturday is back and nationally recognized by Congress! Come in or visit us online to support local business.

 

Please also note will have abbreviated hours coming up as the holidays approach:

November 25th: Open 10-4pm

November 26th: CLOSED

December 24th: Open 10-4pm

December 25th: CLOSED

December 31st: Open 10-4pm

January 1st: CLOSED

 

Those of you who’ve visited our shop in the past few months may have noticed our new cello case decor. We’ve switched up in honor of Thanksgiving:

Ghost Cellos!

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Stop by to snap a picture with our current turkey cello!

 

 

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons