How Bass Players Can Lock in with Their Drummers

Musicians and music fans know that drummers act as the “engine” of the band, providing the “pulse” for the music. Often overlooked, however, is the all-important job of bass players – being able to lock in with the rhythm section in order to set the tone of a song or whole performance.

Whether you are a string bass player or play its electric counterpart, you and the drummer will set the pace and flavor of the harmonies and rhythm, which means you need to be able to feel one another in the music and learn how to groove together.

Let us count the ways. One, Two, Three, Four!

The more effort you put into connecting with your drummer, the better you and your band will sound. You’ll discover your own unique sound and style, making playing and performing even more enjoyable. If you’re new to connecting with a drummer, there are a number of techniques you can try that may help you learn this valuable and enjoyable skill:

  • Practice scales with groove
  • Play some swing
  • Switch up the intervals
  • Experiment with rhythm

When practicing, focus on something other than the obvious beat to create a unique feel to your music. Start accenting the 2nd and 4th beats in the measure to change the sound and feel of your scales. Even scales become more interesting when they have a groove!

Once you’re comfortable playing the scales “straight,” try altering the rhythm. For instance, you can make the rhythm “swing” by playing eighth notes in a triplet feel. The first note of the beat lasts for the value of two eighth note triplets, while the second note of the beat lasts for one eighth note triplet. Think of eighth note triplets as being equally spaced groups of three notes: “one-and-uh, two-and-uh, three-and-uh, etc.” (three equal parts per beat). The first note happens on the “one,” “two,” three,” etc., and the second note falls on the “uh.”

Next, get creative with your rhythms. Don’t just play the notes all as quarter or eighth notes – change it up. See how interesting you can make a standard scale or pattern sound. Comping existing bass parts? Change tempo or change the sound instead of playing them straight as usual. You’ll be able to stay within the bounds of the piece while adding a new pulse to it, making it more interesting for you and the audience.

Next, you can use your metronome or another music accessory (like a recording of a drum pattern) to mimic the bass drum. Or even better, do it with a live drummer! This will help you practice locking in with your drummer’s kick drum foot – guaranteeing an incredibly tight feel with the two of you together.

Five?

The final way to lock in and partner with your drummer is for the two of you to experiment with changing up the rhythm, or time signature. Combine all the other elements and switch the musical intervals or runs into odd time signatures like 5/4 or 6/8.

Ready to get started? First, you’ll want to make sure that your instrument is in top shape. Whether you need new bass strings, a better metronome, or advice from professionals, you’ll find it at Johnson String Instrument.


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

When kids think about summer vacation, they envision all that comes with the warm weather and outdoor fun. But wouldn’t it be great if we could help them develop a desire to continue practicing and playing their stringed instrument during the break?

What follows are some helpful tips to keep your child’s instrument and abilities in tip-top shape and ready for their return to school in September.

Help your child find something they love to play

Playing a stringed instrument should spark joy in your child’s life. Playing the same exercises day after day may help perfect technique, but it can impede inspiration. Help your child identify a favorite piece of music and set aside time during the summer (preferably in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler) when you can sit down and listen to their playing. Making music is the goal, so take advantage of the freedom that summer brings by helping your child explore their passion for music making.

Set goals

Young players often benefit from going into every practice session with a game plan. Isolating weaknesses and planning for improvement are essential. Celebrate small victories and remind your child that mistakes are merely an opportunity for learning, not a reason to put down the instrument. Small rewards are also another important way to generate enthusiasm and support good practice habits.

Set a schedule

Work with your child to develop their practice schedule. Why not suggest two practice sessions per week and one “family performance” night when they play for you and their siblings/friends to show off what they’ve learned? If you stay engaged, so will your child.

Collaborate

Collaboration with others is the key to becoming a more expressive musician. Reach out to other parents in your child’s music class or student orchestra. If you live in the same neighborhood, schedule time for your kids to get together to practice duets or easy string quartets. Invite the other parents to your backyard for an impromptu concert and enjoy the music floating in the evening breeze!

Don’t fall behind on maintenance

Summer can be a dangerous time for a stringed instrument. Make sure that your child keeps their instrument in its case and out of the sun when they aren’t playing. The absolute worst place to store an instrument is in the trunk of your car, which can easily reach temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Extreme heat could lead to cracks in the instrument. Expansion of the wood will also result in the instrument being out of tune. Avoid bringing the instrument to any place where it might get wet.

Above all, enjoy the summer vacation, and know that Johnson String Instrument is here to help you and your child should any need arise. Call ahead and stop by our retail store in Newton Upper Falls if your instrument needs attention.


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Do Violin Strings Go Bad in Time?

As you begin playing the violin and gathering all the necessary accessories, you may wonder: do violin strings go bad in time?

Unfortunately, yes, violin strings do expire. So any stories you may have heard about an old violin that was found in a drawer and still played perfectly the moment it was discovered are most likely not true. Regular upkeep —- including string replacement -– is necessary to maintain a violin in perfect playing order.

There are plenty of answers to the question how long do violin strings last. Individual violinists will go through their strings at different rates; the style a musician performs can impact the rate of string deterioration. The type of string – metal, nylon, or gut – can also play a significant role in the length of time that your instrument will sound its best.

Aging Factors

Other than musical technique and the amount a particular violinist plays their instrument, the temperature of the surrounding environment has a major effect on string longevity. The colder the weather, the more friction that is produced by the bow and along the pegs of your violin, which can lead to contraction and string tightening. On the other hand, warmer weather with greater humidity can cause your violin to expand and the pegs holding the strings in their proper place to loosen. Neither situation is ideal for string life or overall violin health.

Another way to save your strings is by properly clearing your violin after each practice session or performance. An improperly cared for instrument collects dust, and playing on violin strings when they’ve accumulated grit or dirt can result in corrosion that will weaken your strings at a faster pace. It’s often thought that most violinists will be able to play on a quality set of strings for a year to a year and a half, however, due to friction, metal strings often need to be replaced sooner than gut or nylon strings.

It’s Time to Change Your Strings

If you’re unsure of when to change your strings or find that the normal timeline for string replacement doesn’t work for your playing style or string preferences, there are a few signs to watch out for. First and foremost listen to how your strings sound; tuning issues or your violin sounding “off” are sure signs that you need new strings.

Another sign is decolourization, which is when environmental factors begin changing the color of your strings, and it’s a sign of corrosion and dirt accumulation. Discolored strings need to be replaced to preserve the integrity of your violin and keep you playing your best.

Even the best cared for violin is going to experience wear and tear as well as rosin buildup. But some basic maintenance, like changing your strings in a timely fashion, will help keep your violin both playing and looking better.


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Naming Your Instrument

Naming inanimate objects may seem a bit quirky or even pointless to some, but plenty of people think of it as a fun way to give a bit of personality to a prized possession. You may know someone that makes a habit of naming their cars or their plants. But have you considered people who name their instruments?

For those who have multiple instruments, giving them each names can be a lighthearted way to differentiate between your favorites. Some musicians find the practice silly, but others claim it helps them connect more with their instrument and performances. Even some famous musicians like BB King name their instruments. While there may be no objective reason to do so, there’s also no reason not to name your instrument.

Where to start?

Naming your instrument may be more difficult than you expect depending on how creative you are with nicknames. The name of your instrument can be something meant to reflect its personality or its place in your life — or you can go with something cute and/or funny. Not sure where to start? You can come up with a name that is rhyming or an alliteration with the instrument itself. Referencing the instrument’s color or shape can also lend itself well to a name for your instrument.

Looking for inspiration?

Puns are also good inspiration for instrument names. Calling your upright bass “Lance” after singer Lance Bass or naming your violin “Lynn” are ways to incorporate the instrument itself into the name. You may also choose the name of a famous composer or instrumentalist, such as Carmine Valentino Coppola. And the name “Viola” is a girl’s name of Italian and Latin origin, meaning “violet.”

Before you can think of what to name your violin, you have to know how to choose the right violin. Luckily, Johnson String Instrument can help. Not only do we offer a wide selection of stringed instruments and accessories, our site has a convenient guide for buying a new violin or renting one. Look through the Johnson String Instrument site today to pick out an instrument that will soon become part of the family.


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When to Remove Finger Tapes

Violin can be a tricky instrument to learn, especially for beginners. As a result, plenty of learning devices have been developed to improve the student learning experience. Finger tapes are one such tool. They are designed to help teachers mark out note placements for their students. Finger tapes are usually colored dots or strips that can be applied to the fingerboard to indicate different notes.

Most beginning students will rely on finger tapes to learn the pitches and their corresponding positions, but there comes a time when a teacher must remove the tapes to test their students’ learning progress. The teacher must determine when to remove finger tapes to promote the best learning outcome in their student. There are a few signs that indicate the student is ready to play without finger tapes.

Every student is different

Different teachers have different philosophies about when to remove finger tapes, but the general consensus is that the tapes may come off once a student can play without looking at the fingerboard. Once a violinist can identify the notes by ear alone, they no longer need the aid of finger tapes. Some teachers also recommend removing certain tapes once the student can switch between the first and third position confidently.

While considering whether or not it’s time to remove your student’s finger tapes, consider the other ways in which beginner violinists benefit from them. These gadgets also help students by freeing up mental space, so they can focus on learning other aspects of technique such as the use of the bow or the names of notes and strings. If your student is still mastering other aspects of their violin technique, it might help their progress to leave the finger tapes in place.

How to remove finger tapes from a violin

When you are ready to take the finger tapes off, ensure you do so the right way to prevent damage to your instrument. Most people recommend using alcohol to anyone wondering how to remove finger tapes, but if you choose to do so make sure you stay away from the varnish of the violin. Alcohol and other solvents can immediately damage the finish of your instrument, so use them sparingly and only on the fingerboards themselves. Certain types of tape are easier to apply and remove; they come in strips that easily lift off the instrument.

You can browse the Johnson String Instrument website to buy fingerboard tape online for yourself or your students. Consider looking at our catalog as well to see what string instruments and accessories we have available for purchase or rental.


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Common Problems With Cheaper Violins

For beginners in particular, purchasing a new violin may seem like a big commitment. If you’ve just started taking violin lessons and have not yet determined if it’s the instrument for you, the cheaper violins may seem more cost effective. However, there are some common problems with cheaper violins to watch out for.

Price isn’t everything, of course, and just because a violin is expensive doesn’t mean it has good sound or plays well. So how can you know you are getting the best quality for your money? Well, there are a few things to keep an eye out for when you begin the violin shopping process. Here are our tips for choosing your first violin.

Look beyond the violin itself

When buying a violin, you will also need to think about violin outfits. Violin outfits are sets including the instrument itself, a violin bow, and violin case. If you’re not sure of your preferences for each individual component of the outfit, purchasing them together can save you money and be an easier way to acquire the necessary materials.

Student and beginner outfits are very common in music stores, which makes it simple for burgeoning musicians to assemble all the tools they need to start their musical career. As you progress in your musical journey, you’ll develop your own preferences for bow strength, string type, and instrument brand. Once you reach this point and are looking for better violin cases and accessories that suit your playing style, purchasing items individually, rather than in an outfit, may become the better choice for you.

Moving on up

Buying your first violin can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and violin outfits can ease some of that burden. However, rentals are also a good choice for beginners who want to try an instrument before they buy it.

If you’re starting to shop for violins and bows online, check out the Johnson String Instrument catalog. We offer a variety of violins and violin accessories for purchase or rental, making it a good option for people who want to simplify the violin searching process. We can guide you through the process of putting together your first violin outfit to make it as streamlined as possible. Additionally, we offer instrument rentals for every playing level: beginner, intermediate, and professional, so you can always rely on us to fulfill your instrumentation and musical needs. Buying your first violin doesn’t have to be an ordeal if you know where to look.


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