Rosin for Upright Bass

For upright bass players that use a bow, rosin is a necessity, since an un-rosined bow will not create the friction required to produce sound. However, choosing bass rosin can be a complex process.  While there are a few standard, reliable rosins that work, there are many new rosins available for string players, so picking the one that’s best for you can get confusing.

First, a little primer about bass rosin: it tends to be stickier than the rosin used by violinists, violists, and cellists. When choosing a rosin, the first factor to consider is the climate. A drier and more powdery rosin is a better choice for humid weather, whereas rosin with a sticky composition is preferable for drier air.

All-weather rosins are only available in one composition for areas that experience more moderate humidity. If you live in an area with hot, humid summers but cold, dry winters, you’re going to have to consider choosing multiple rosins, one for each season.

One important caveat about upright bass rosin — fresh is the key. Replace your rosin annually, since this is less costly than having to rehair your bow.

Everything you ever wanted to know about rosin

The base of rosin is actually tree resin that is collected from different types of pine trees from a few continents. Some rosins contain metal additives or gums with added essential oils. Other rosins create dust, so sensitive players may decide to go with a hypoallergenic rosin. A few all-weather options include Kolstein All Weather, Nymans, and Yumba.

At Johnson String Instrument, our selection of stringed instrument rosin is unmatched for the upright bass as well as for the violin, viola, and cello. If you would like more information about rosins, we offer fast and friendly service when it comes to rosin and all your stringed instrument needs.

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Is Cello the Instrument for You?

You have decided to break into the world of stringed instruments, but you are not sure where to start. From violins and violas to guitars and a host of other instruments, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.

Today we will look at the cello, which offers deep, warm, brilliant tones that are singularly arresting. The cello can access a range of musical emotions, allowing composers to feature it in both joyous and sorrowful pieces.

Additionally, one of the benefits of playing cello is that you can either sit or stand while playing. Therefore, cellos are excellent for people who are interested in embracing their instrument and moving with it to the music. If you are interested in playing one of the most historic and richest sounding of the stringed instruments, then the cello is the instrument for you.

It’s not just about the music

Learning to play an instrument is about more than making music. It’s about mastering discipline, rhythm and timing, physical strength, and patience. Maybe your goal is to play cello with other artists. In that case, you may be performing support parts and harmonies. This requires you to connect and sync with the ensemble or orchestra.

When choosing the cello bow be aware that, despite being made of the same materials as other stringed instrument bows, the cello’s is made to suit the unique voice this famous instrument produces. The bow should always match the size of the player and the cello. A cello tends to have more reverberation than its smaller cousins and much of that comes down to using an appropriate cello bow.

And let’s not forget the electric cello, which also produces the delicate and precise tones of its acoustic parent. Musicians that desire to play rock will most likely have an electric cello. Cellists that love classical but also love blues or jazz may have both acoustic and electric. Another positive of the electric cello is that it allows you to plug in headphones and rehearse even the most energetic passages quietly. If you are a cellist who lives in an apartment with thin walls, this means that you can avoid annoying your neighbors by preventing the resounding tones of your cello from permeating the walls.

If you’re going to play, you’re going to need a cello…

You can shop for cellos online, but it may be difficult to choose the right one without seeing it in person. Going to a music store first to get an idea of what you’re looking for can help you make an informed decision before you decide to purchase. At the Johnson String Instrument storefront and online, we have knowledgeable staff trained in customer service who are ready to help you choose an instrument that is best suited for you. If you are not quite committed yet, you can rent a cello before you take the plunge. Our rentals are hand selected and professionally set up ensuring quality, sound and playability. Your journey to learn an instrument is important to us.

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Why Do Violinists Have Multiple Violin Bows?

Ask a group of violinists why they have more than one bow, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses. Most will reply that they keep a backup bow in their case in the event that one breaks or if there is a concern that their primary bow may sustain damage at a particular venue, especially at outdoor performances.

Other responses as to why violinists use multiple and/or different types of bows include:

  • To produce different tonal qualities
  • To prevent excessive hair-slickening or hair-breakage
  • To create a change in sound
  • When the primary bow needs to be rehaired

Many violinists purchase a cheaper carbon fiber bow to use if playing a piece incorporating col legno or other effects requiring that the bow be struck on a variety of surfaces. Certain bows are better than others for playing pieces with a lot of string-crossing or springing bows.

Some violinists use a wood bow for pieces that require tough, vigorous playing, such as bluegrass fiddling while others prefer a lighter bow, such as a carbon fiber bow, for playing lighter, “sweeter” pieces.

New bows get old

At some point, most violin players recognize that purchasing a new bow could really help their technical as well as their musical development. Replacing older bows can have an immediate and often dramatic effect on your playing making your investment in a new bow worth the money.

When it’s time to start considering the purchase of a new bow, consider your budget. A good rule of thumb is to narrow your search to within ¼ to ⅓ of your violin’s value. The sound is the most permanent characteristic of the bow because it’s dependent on the quality of the bow material and the workmanship. Compromising on your bow will prevent you from producing the best sound when playing your instrument.

Prices for violin bows vary, from composite bows or fiberglass bows which sell for under $300 to high end violin bows ranging in price from $1,000 to $6,000.

When purchasing a new bow, choose two or three of your favorites for a trial period of a week or so. Practice playing different pieces using the different bows. Employ the bows in different settings and listen to particular acoustics where you’re playing. If possible, try it out at a performance.

At Johnson String Instrument, we have an extensive bow collection from high-end Brazilian workshops to the finest antique and modern bows. In addition we also offer a wide selection of carbon fiber, composite, and fiberglass bows.

Your next bow

Playing violin isn’t just about the quality of your instrument; it’s also about how the bow you choose fits with your instrument. If you’re ready to shop for violin bows, whether you’re replacing your old bow with a new one or are looking to purchase a second bow, JSI has a large catalog of bows to use with violins of 4/4 size down to ⅛ size.

Look through our extensive online catalog. See something you like? Call us to schedule an appointment to speak to a luthier and get advice from an expert.

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Forming Your Own String Quartet

If you’re a string player, you’re probably familiar with a variety of famous string quartets. There are classics such as the Busch String Quartet known for its performance of Beethoven quartets, but you can also find more modern groups like the Vitamin String Quartet who play instrumental covers of popular songs. The success of such groups may have inspired you to think about forming your own string quartet. After all, string quartets are one of the most important combinations in chamber music and there are plenty of classical pieces designed for that formation.

String quartets are also an excellent option for string players looking to expand their skills. Whether you’re practicing for a performance or just doing it for fun, playing with other musicians is key to becoming a better player. Not only will it help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses as a musician, but you’ll learn how to lend those skills to support your fellow instrumentalists. Here are our tips for assembling a group to form your own string quartet.

Finding the right group of players

Obviously, the first thing you have to do to form a string quartet is gather four string players. The typical string quartet is comprised of two violin players, a viola player, and a cello player. Some groups even form a quintet by incorporating a piano, clarinet, or bass. There are a few factors to consider when deciding who you want to play with. The differing skill levels of the players is important to think about, both in terms of the actual instrument and other responsibilities. Having a member of the group who is experienced in music production, finding performance opportunities, or composing can help bring your group to the next level.

It’s also important that you find musicians that you get along with and work well with. Inviting a prodigy into your string quartet is no help if you can’t find your sound together. Making sure that you are playing with individuals who can listen to and support each other will have a significant impact on your music, and it’ll make those late night rehearsals much more enjoyable. Once you gather your quartet, start practicing the songs together before breaking off for solo practice. This will allow you to set goals and work out any kinks before finalizing your performance. 

Expanding your repertoire

Playing in a quartet is a fantastic way to ensure you’re practicing music regularly while building up your social circle. Working with your instrument around other musicians is sure not only to boost your confidence as a player, but expand your network and opportunities within your musical community.

So you have your string instrument and three other players ready to go. What next? Well, the obvious answer would be to play something! At Johnson String Instrument, we offer a variety of sheet music for quartets. Pick out a piece today to practice with your group, and before you know it you’ll be concert ready.

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