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:
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.
Departments of JSI has returned! 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.
The Carriage House office staff are the people you see at the reception desks when you walk in. They handle everything from paperwork to organization, and do a lot of work behind the scenes. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and their jobs:
What is your position at Carriage House Violins?
Ariel Chu: I am an administrative assistant for Carriage House Violins.
Sarah Rogers: Administrative Assistant and Recital Hall Coordinator
Eva Walsh: I am a part-time administrative assistant at CHV.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Ariel: A typical day at work involves greeting customers as they enter, creating both sales and workshop repair appointments, and answering phone/online questions. Working at the reception desk, we are the connection between the customers and the different departments of JSI.
Sarah: For the administrative part of my job, I am the first (smiling) face you see upon entering Carriage House Violins! My colleagues and I are here to make sure our customers are directed to the right department, whether they are looking to buy a new instrument, need their instrument repaired, or they just have general questions about the small world of music. I also coordinate events in our recital hall.
Eva: Our typical day is simple, yet complicated. We do whatever is needed to keep the office running, whether it’s organizing our repaired instruments, communicating between the office and our customers, preparing documents, giving tours, answering questions or even just getting up on a ladder to replace a light bulb. Any number of things end up being in our wheelhouse.
What is your main instrument?
Ariel: My main instrument is the viola.
Eva. My main instrument is the violin, but I play on a 5-string viola made by our workshop manager John Dailey. My other main instrument is my voice and I perform just as much as a vocalist now as I do on the violin.
Did you go to school for music?
Ariel: I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in February 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. I hold a Massachusetts teaching license for music grades K-12.
Sarah: Yes! I studied violin performance at the Eastman School of Music.
Eva: I went to Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for Violin Performance in Nashville, TN. I loved school, and I loved the opportunities I was offered through the school. Being in Music City did have a huge effect on me though, and it turned me into a folk musician rather than a classical violinist.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Ariel: I enjoy speaking to all of the different people who enjoy music, from new players getting their first instruments all the way up to professional musicians. There is something to learn from every person.
Sarah: I love being surrounded by musicians all day. Working here has opened up a lot of doors for me and has given me several performance opportunities. Playing all of the violins I can get my hands on is also a pretty fun perk of working in a string instrument shop.
Eva: My favorite part of my job is doing good work and making a positive difference in a customer’s day. At the front desk we can see that everyone has their own special situation or set of circumstances, and we see people as individuals, not just customers. We always do our best and we truly care about helping them with whatever they need. The best reward is making our customers happy.
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:
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.
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
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. I 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
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
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.
The new year is almost upon us! Thank you for letting us and this blog be part of your lives in 2015.
Now we want to know what YOU want to see on our blog in this coming year. Do you want to learn more about the company? Get more helpful tips? Find out more about upcoming sales and events? Something completely different? Let us know! Fill out this survey so we can tailor content to what YOU are looking for.
We appreciate your continued business and hope everyone has a safe, joyous new year!
Congratulations, you have successfully applied to music school! Now, you just need to get through the auditions.
We’ve already talked about how to prepare for an audition, but college auditions are a completely different beast. They come with added pressure, and you can expect to have a lot of them within a short span of time. While the tips in our previous post are invaluable, there are specific things you should keep in mind to set yourself up for success when it comes to college auditions:
–Schedule everything from audition times to flights on a calendar. Leave enough time for travel, and note what repertoire you will be playing for each audition.
–Secure your travel plans as soon as possible. Make sure you factor in travel times and possible delays when deciding how to get to an audition. The last thing you’ll want to do the day of the audition is rush to get to the audition site.
-Since most auditions happen during the winter, keep an eye on the weather forecast. Winter can upset travel plans on very short notice, so if possible try to have a plan B. Have contact information for someone at the school who can help you if plans go awry at the last minute.
-If you are still in school, be it high school or undergrad, make sure you talk to your teachers and know your school’s absentee policy. Factor in missed classes and homework when scheduling if possible, and be prepared to be busy.
–Have extras of any supplies you would be lost without, especially strings. For some, this also means traveling with an extra bow. You won’t always be somewhere that has a local string instrument shop–don’t put yourself in a bind because you didn’t bring an extra A string.
–Get your instrument checked over now. This will leave time to have any repairs completed as well as to break in anything new such as new strings or rehairs and set you up for success.
Have you done college auditions in the past? Leave a comment below to share your tips and tricks.
Take a deep breath, sleep when you can, and good luck to all preparing for college auditions!
That time of year has arrived! It’s holiday gig season, when you live in orchestra pits and churches while Tchaikovsky and Handel reign supreme. Whether you are a seasonal veteran, a newcomer on the scene, or just wondering how many more times you have to play the Hallelujah Chorus before your brain starts trying to escape through your ears, it can be a stressful and exhausting ordeal. Here are some tips to help keep you both healthy and sane:
Get organized as soon as possible. Calendars are your best friend, whether electronic or hand-written. Make sure to note call times and repertoire to avoid confusion the day of.
Use the commute to decompress. You may be traveling quite a distance for these gigs. Have some coffee or tea, something unrelated to your gig to listen to, and bring plenty of snacks.
Prepare for your venues. Orchestra pits can be dangerous places for your instrument; it’s a small, cramped space and accidents happen. Bows especially are in danger of damage, so whenever possible it’s advisable to use a carbon bow or at least not your best bow for these particular gigs. For churches, make sure you bring layers because it tends to get cold. Hand warmers and even long underwear are both invaluable at a frigid midnight mass.
Take care of your instrument! It’s working hard too. Have extra rosin and strings on hand, and humidify your instrument. Each gig is in a different environment, which means your instrument will need time to adjust. It’s your most valuable tool, so treat it as such.
Take care of yourself. Plan meals ahead of time, drink plenty of water, and sleep whenever/wherever you are able. Don’t try to suddenly change your lifestyle either–if you need to play a week’s worth of Nutcracker performances and then some, now is not the time to try and kick that caffeine habit.
Be safe. If you are too tired to drive after a gig, consider staying overnight somewhere or taking a quick nap/caffeine break before heading on the road. Stay on the lookout for inclement weather and adjust your travel plans accordingly. Leave enough time to get to and from gigs as well so you don’t have to rush.
Good luck to all in the holiday hustle. We wish you a safe holiday season!
Whether you are celebrating your favorite time of year or waiting for the term “holiday cheer” to disappear, we have what you need to survive gig season and spoil the musician(s) in your life. Here are some of our top recommendations here at Johnson String Instrument from our holiday sale:
Galaxy Comet 300SL Shaped Violin Case: ON SALE $337.00
Adjustable Galaxy 400SL Viola Case: ON SALE $558.00
These are a JSI exclusive! An economical alternative to the popular BAM, these cases are lightweight, durable, and come in a variety of fun colors. Browse our entire offering of on-sale violin, viola and cello cases.
YAMAHA ELECTRIC VIOLIN OUTFIT
One of our most popular items! This instrument can either be amplified or used with headphones for silent practice, and comes in a variety of colors. A Johnson Artist bow and either a gig bag (red, blue, or grey) or Core case are included in the outfit. Take a look at our complete electric violin sale here.
JSI FOLDING STANDS
JSI Folding Music Stand: ON SALE $12.95
Possibly one of the most useful products on sale! These stands are light, compact, and come with a stand bag. They are also available in a wide variety of colors from the standard black and the not-so-standard pink. Check out our entire sale selection of music stands and accessories here.
FOLK, FIDDLE, JAZZ, AND POP (AND HOLIDAY!)
Classic Rock Instrumental Solos for cello: ON SALE $11.99
Whether you need to replace your own strings or they’re for your musician, they will be 100% appreciated. Select brands on sale now.
Now through December 10th, take 10% the ENTIRE store (excluding instruments, bows, and strings) as well as online. This means an additional 10% on top of already discounted products. Visit us at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls or online to take advantage of holiday savings.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram to stay up to date with all of our sales, promotions, and goings-on. Happy holiday shopping!
The citizens of Westeros are not the only ones who fear the coming season. Musicians can feel its icy claws reaching out in the form of slipping pegs and shrinking string heights. Humidity once again betrays us as it retreats from winter’s advance, leaving our instruments vulnerable. Rapidly changing environments, both outdoors and in, seek to wreak havoc. How can we defend ourselves against the impending storm?
Step 1: Know your enemy.
Winter has many weapons in its arsenal and wields them without mercy. As fellow survivors of Snowpocalypse 2015: Boston Edition, we remember its fury. The two most effective weapons winter possesses are humidity and temperature.
Humidity: During more temperate times, humidity can be an asset. Wood expands and contracts depending on the humidity level; more humidity means expansion (swelling of the wood), lack of humidity contraction (depression of the wood). Winter is not a humid season in the northeast, which means the wood on your instrument is shrinking. There are a few specific consequences of this:
As the humidity decreases, the belly will get lower. This lowers the bridge height and consequently the string height. This is most apparent on cellos—many cellists have seasonal bridges for this reason.
Ever wonder why your pegs constantly slip when winter comes? It’s probably winter’s fault for driving humidity away. Pegs and the peg box are made from different types of wood that expand and contract at different speeds. This means the peg may suddenly be smaller than the hole.
Temperature: Like you (or unlike you), your instrument does not enjoy rapid temperature changes. This includes going from the frigid outdoors to the well-heated indoors and vice versa. It also includes switching between rooms with very different climates, like from the green room to the stage. Winter is diabolically skilled at making sure this situation materializes on a daily basis.
Step 2: Arm yourself.
Never forget you have your own arsenal with which to fight back.
This is your most powerful weapon in the war against winter. Do not underestimate its importance! If you aren’t comfortable somewhere, neither is your instrument. Insulate and humidify it like you do yourself. The analogy ends here, because remember how we said rapid temperature changes were a weapon in winter’s arsenal? While we enjoy sitting by a heater or fire, your instrument does not. Don’t fall into winter’s trap—keep your instrument away from direct heat sources.
Humidity Control: We’ll say it one more time: lack of humidity is bad for your instrument. Humidify the case, just like you do your home or individual rooms. Ideally, you want to keep the humidity around 40%. There are many types of humidifiers you can use, but our recommendation is to stick to an in-case model rather than one that goes inside the instrument. Both work well, however in-case keeps direct moisture away from the instrument and requires less maintenance. If it goes in the instrument, it means drying it thoroughly, keeping track of it when it’s not in the instrument, and daily maintenance. You need to decide what’s best for you and your instrument.
A luthier can be your greatest ally against winter. Despite your own preparations, winter can be a cunning adversary. Be on the lookout for these common battle wounds:
Open Seams: This is by far the most common issue seen during the winter. Thankfully, it is also relatively easy to fix. Keep an eye on the seams–even if you can’t see them, a tell-tale buzzing, pop, or sudden change in sound will usually let you know something is amiss. Again, this is something that a luthier can take care of relatively easily but DO NOT REPAIR THIS YOURSELF. Any variety of glue you find at the hardware store should be nowhere near your instrument. Luthiers use hide glue as well as well-placed clamps to ensure everything is set correctly and have a trained eye to check for any other problems. Home repairs can mean more money spent in the future to undo damage. Don’t give winter the satisfaction—go see a luthier.
Cracks: Humidifying your case and protecting your instrument against rapid temperature/climate changes should minimize your risk of cracks, but sometimes winter wins and cracks appear. These should be seen by a luthier as soon as possible because they are more difficult to repair than open seams.
Now is the time to prepare for winter’s onslaught! Check out our newly re-vamped website at www.johnsonstring.com to find out more about the products mentioned here or visit us in person at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls.
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!