Living Our Values

It often comes as a surprise to customers and friends of Johnson String Instrument when they find out that most of our employees are string players. Many studied at conservatory or majored in music in college and are now weekend gig players who appreciate a 9-5 weekday work schedule and the benefits it provides. Many others are amateur musicians who play for the sheer enjoyment of making music and the relaxation it can bring.

We have recently launched a new video campaign (below) entitled “Living Our Values,” where we highlight an employee each month who exemplifies one of our core values of:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Teamwork
  • Accountability
  • Community
  • Quality
  • Customer Commitment

We are always looking for likeminded folks to join our team. Take a look at our current job postings to learn more.



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New Year, New Goals

A new year typically brings with it a desire to “wipe the slate clean,” and start the year fresh with a new set of goals, both personal and professional. Here at Johnson String Instrument, we’ve published a host of articles on various topics over the past few years, some of which you may find helpful in solving a longstanding problem, or even pointing you in a completely new direction. We’ve broken them down into two categories: Caring for Yourself and Caring for Your Instrument. Happy reading!



Here are some inspiring stories from our friends at Strings Magazine:
“Music Has Given Me the Chance to Share Its Glory With Others on Violin”
Am I Too Old to Learn Violin?
The Changing Role of Music Editors in Classical Music
Growth as a Musician Means Facing a Little Anxiety

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How to Become a Concert Hall Manager

Most kids are introduced to music through stringed instruments some time around 4th grade. Schools will often give the children a choice between learning the violin, bass, viola or cello, and all students are taught the basics together. That’s often the sum total of music education for many students, but a select few children choose to continue to more advanced learning on their stringed instruments and go on to join the orchestra in high school. Some people who grew up playing music or hearing it in their home, dream of becoming a concert hall manager. They like the idea of being around music every day and meeting many accomplished musicians along the way. But what else does the job entail? Concert hall managers oversee the staff and are in charge of daily operations of a particular concert venue. They cover everything from hiring and training staff to maintenance checks on the facility to scheduling the performing acts.

Career path

If you’re interested in becoming a concert hall manager, the first step is to gain as much experience within the field as possible. While a degree in music business or event management can be helpful, work experience is just as important. To get your foot in the door, try to work as many front-of-house positions, like usher, and back-of-house jobs, like bookkeeper, as you can. Also very beneficial toward reaching your goal is acquiring training and certifications in areas such as emergency preparedness, event management, basic medical skills, crisis or weather preparedness. Of course, having a passion for music works in your favor when working along the career path of becoming a concert hall manager, but getting practical training and experience is the true key to success. You may want to look into a professional organization referred to as IAVM (International Association of Venue Managers). The group offers quite a few training programs for current venue managers as well as those who are seeking a career in the field.

The best seat in the house

One of the greatest benefits of being a concert hall manager is getting to hear and experience all kinds of music. Whether you’d like to be involved in large events or small, intimate concerts, your seat is the best in the house when you’re running the show. Looking for supplies to keep in stock at your venue or a good music store to which you can refer the musicians? Check out the full catalog of stringed instruments and accessories at JSI.

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How to Buy Violin Strings Online

There are many types of violin strings to choose from, and each has a different effect on the resonance, projection, and playability of the instrument. Because beginning violinists can find the wide variety of violin string sets on the market confusing, it’s important to learn about the basic attributes and how they influence the sound and feel of your violin before making a purchase. The first step in the string selection process is to choose the core material.

Originally, all violin strings were constructed of gut material harvested from sheep intestines. Traditionally, gut strings produced a warm, evocative sound. Eventually, steel strings became popular as they are more resistant to climate changes. The tone produced by steel is more brilliant and sharper than gut. Synthetic core strings are the newest violin strings, and they combine the best characteristics of gut and steel together.

New violinists may want to drop into a music store before buying violin strings online in order to get a feel for how each option feels and sounds on their instrument.

Start with the basics

Along with core material, there are two other attributes of violin strings — gauge and tension — which influence the type of sound you get from your instrument.

The gauge of strings refers to the thickness of the material. Thicker strings provide more volume, but are less responsive, requiring more pressure to depress on the fingerboard and a heavier stroke with the bow. Thinner strings, while more responsive, do not deliver as much projection. Beginners are best off starting in the mid-range with medium gauge strings.

Tension has a significant impact on the tonal quality produced by the violin. Higher tension strings deliver crisp, brighter tones, while lower tension options provide a warmer sound. Steel strings maintain the best tone with higher tensions.

An uncomplicated way to narrow down your choices as a beginning violinist is to think about the type of music you’d like to learn. For example, if you want to play country music, steel core strings will produce the brighter tones that allow you to play your favorites.

Never run out

Whichever category of strings you end up picking, make sure you always have spares on hand. Breaking a string is a fact of life for all violinists, from beginner to advanced, and it can be very disruptive. Keeping a stockpile of extras and learning how to go about replacing violin strings minimizes the disruption.

Stock up at Johnson String Instrument’s online violin string shop today. We have an enormous variety of strings to fit any musical style.

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The Corner of Music Avenue and Math Road

Did you know that there is a strong relationship between math and music? Research has indicated that music activates the same area of the brain that is used for solving spatial-temporal reasoning problems. Conversely, understanding various fundamentals of math can help you learn to read and play music. Similarities in how the brain processes the two disciplines creates a beneficial overlap between the two.

Math is helpful when learning music and vice versa, because there are several places where math and music intersect. For example, numbers and mathematical principles can be used to teach or learn music. And when performing music, you rely on time signatures, beats per minute, and formulaic progressions, which reinforce math skills.

Good at math? You’re probably good at reading music

We think of learning math as a logical process and learning to read music as a creative one. In truth, we rely on a combination of logic and creativity to be able to solve a math problem and play a piece of music. One of the strongest correlations between the two is that they’re both dependent on numbers and division of time.

Written music is made up of individual notes that are broken into segments called measures. Each measure has the same number of beats, so the notes are assigned a fraction to indicate how long or short to hold the note. These are some of the same principles used in algebra, and you will also find correlations to trigonometry and even differential calculus in music. The similarities explain why people who are good at math also tend to be good at reading music.

Interestingly, we are so naturally drawn to the principles and logic of math that the most popular music shows some mathematical structure. Avant garde pieces that are discordant or those that do not follow a consistent time signature generally do not have wide appeal.

Which one should you study tonight?

Math and music are commonly used to help people learn concepts. Research has shown that children who learn through both music and verbal instruction (think of the ABC song) retain more information than those who learn through verbal instruction alone. Any time a teacher uses a musical element, like a song or rhythm, kids have an easier time retaining information. Even playing music in the background can help you when you’re figuring things out.

Because studying music enhances a child’s ability to learn math and other concepts, it can be helpful for students who are lagging behind their peers or struggling at school. Read more about an easy method to help learn the first steps to reading music.

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Adele Sheet Music for String Instruments

In 2008, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins burst onto the music scene with her first album – aptly named “19,” her age at the time of recording. The record included hits such as Chasing Pavements, and her sensational talent was quickly recognized by a poll of BBC music critics, earning her a Critics Choice Award that same year. Since then, she has gained international acclaim, including taking home a whopping 15 Grammy Awards in the United States. Staying with her tradition of naming albums after her age, she followed up her first album with two more, entitled “21” and “25.” Both albums included chart-topping singles, like Rolling in the Deep from “21” and Hello from “25.” If these are among your favorite songs, you are in good company. Adele is one of the most popular and successful female musicians the world over. And she’s not slowing down. Her newest release, 30, dropped in November, 2021, has already hit the ground running.

Cello, viola & violin versions

Great news for those who are looking for Adele sheet music arranged for cello, viola and violin! We now have music books in stock with compilations of all of your favorite songs from her albums. As an added bonus feature, the music books include the hit single, Skyfall, written exclusively for the 2012 James Bond movie. (Singles from her newest album, “30”, are sure to follow down the line). A book of Adele sheet music would make a great gift for the Adele fan on your list or a fun pastime for yourself. Published by Hal Leonard Publishing, the collections of pop/movie/jazz singles include Online Audio Access. This helpful feature allows you to listen online to the pieces you are working on learning.

Get your copy now

Why should piano players have all the fun? Sheet music isn’t just for them anymore. We carry all of the newest books & sheet music for string instruments, so you can play the current hits. Impress your friends and family with a beautiful string version of Hello, or any one of Adele’s breakout hits. Check out our large selection of current and classic sheet music and enjoy the convenience and ease of ordering online and having your music delivered directly to your door.

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Winter Protection For Your Stringed Instrument 

Violins and other stringed instruments need protection from the elements. In the summer, it’s the humidity. In the winter it’s the cold, dry weather. Stringed instruments, just like most humans, prefer a constant temperature of between 60-70 degrees with a relative humidity of 40-60%.

Unfortunately, these conditions are pretty tough to maintain as the temperature turns from pleasantly mild in the fall to downright cold in the winter. And, as the weather changes, so, too, does the amount of moisture in the air.

Professional musicians, college students, or children just starting to take music lessons, anyone who owns a stringed instrument needs to know about winter protection for stringed instruments, especially if they live in cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston where the winter weather is particularly cold and dry. Instruments traveling from home to school, rehearsal, or performance venue and back can experience a lot of damage if not adequately protected from the winter elements.

Keep track of humidity levels in your case

Why are stringed instruments so susceptible to the vagaries of the weather? Stringed instruments are made from different varieties of wood. Wood is “hygroscopic” which means that it attracts and absorbs moisture from the air, and swells. As the wood dries, it shrinks.

If the humidity falls below 40%, changes in the moisture levels in the air could result in loose pegs, lowered string heights, a change in tone, open seams, and cracking. Therefore, being able to monitor the humidity levels and keep a stable temperature is critical to preventing any damage to your instruments.

The good news is there are ways to protect your instrument from the cold and changing humidity levels in the winter:

  • Keep your instrument in the case, preferably a hard case, as much as possible
  • Open the case when you arrive at a different environment to allow your instrument to acclimate to the changes in temperature and humidity
  • Consider keeping your instrument in a silk bag or cotton cover to retain heat while in the case
  • Get a hygrometer if your case does not have one as a built-in feature

A hygrometer is an instrument that measures the relative humidity of the inside of your case which gradually matches the air outside the case. Take note of the reading every time you open your case so that you can be alert to a change in humidity levels that could be potentially damaging to your instrument.

Need more humidity?

Dry conditions are the bane of stringed instruments. However, there are products that you can use to humidify your instrument case, such as Dampits. A Dampit is a soft rubber sleeve that holds a special open-cell sponge that slowly releases water throughout the day to protect the wood from cracking and other damages.

At Johnson String Instrument we offer a variety of accessories to humidify and protect your instrument.

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Viola Players are Awesome – and Here’s Why

In the world of stringed instruments, the viola takes a backseat to the violin and cello when it comes to being the stringed instrument of choice. But we know that the viola is a beautiful and essential part of any string ensemble. Even violinists and cellists have to admit that a symphony or orchestra sounds its most complete when all the stringed instruments play together in perfect harmony. 

Remember the George and Ira Gershwin tune “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off?” It’s all about differences of opinion…tomato, to-mah-to; potato, po-tah-to. Well, people who play the viola are often victims of differences of opinion when it comes to what they should be called. Violaist? Violist? Viola player? The other stringed instruments don’t seem to have this type of controversy when it comes to their titles – violinist, cellist, or bassist — pretty straightforward.

Hector Berlioz

Viola players don’t always get the same respect as do their smaller and larger cousins. Why even Hector Berlioz, the French composer of the symphony for viola, “Harold in Italy, Op. 16,” once made the comment that, “…viola players were always taken from among the refuse of violinists.”

However, the dark, rich, and weightier sound of the viola is what draws people to play it.  Prominently featured in popular music in both songs and albums by bands such as The Velvet Underground, The Goo Goo Dolls, Vampire Weekend, and Van Morrison, the viola blends the string sections together and gives body to orchestras, as a whole. In a string quartet, the viola’s warm, low timbre is a sumptuous addition to the high string sound of the violin.

“Violaist” is old-fashioned: Use “violist”

The viola has been around for hundreds of years, and there are some historical reports that claim it’s the oldest member of the string family. Throughout its history, composers have been using it as more of a harmonic instrument vs a melodic instrument. 

And while the viola has had less solo music written for it when compared to the violin or cello, some pretty famous composers not only wrote music for the viola, but were, themselves, violists, including Bach, Mozart, Dvorak, and Schubert. Could they have been called “violaists”?

They could well have been because it’s a real word, and it’s also fun to say. According to the free dictionary, Wiktionary, the term violist was actually derived from violaist, but the latter is dated and no longer widely used.  

Viola players are awesome

If you’re interested in learning to play a stringed instrument, but are still undecided on what instrument to choose — violin vs viola, for example, you should do some research about the differences between all four of the stringed instruments. And that includes what you’ll be called depending on your instrument of choice.

Violist, violaist…you may want to “call the whole thing off” and just say viola player because they are truly awesome.

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Living Our Values: Teamwork

Jhon Alvarado works at Johnson String Instrument as an Educational Representative in our School Services department. While he’s only been here a short time, Jhon has developed a reputation as someone who is quick to help out when needed.

Learn more about working at Johnson String Instrument.

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