Isabel Hagen: Comedy + Viola

If you’re a fan of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” you may have caught the debut comedy set of Isabel Hagen. Hagen is quickly making a name for herself as a stand-up comedian, but she has actually participated in several TV appearances and critically acclaimed Broadway shows as a different type of performer: a violist.

Isabel Hagen graduated with a master’s from Juilliard and has numerous accolades as a touring musician. But at the age of 29, shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hagen decided to take the plunge into comedy. Though she is not exactly a musical comedian like Jack Benny, Victor Borge, or the more modern Bo Burnham, Hagen has mentioned a desire to do more stand-up performances with viola accompanying her set. Find out how this prodigious music student has taken the world of comedy by storm.

Her skills are no laughing matter

Hagen was a classically trained student at Juilliard who spent several years touring internationally with various ensembles. She has credits as a pit musician on Broadway shows like “The Lion King” and “Les Miserables,” and her talent as a professional violist knows no bounds. But Hagen discovered a different passion during her time at Julliard — going to open mics to watch stand-up comedy.

Eventually, Hagen decided she wanted a taste of the spotlight and began to put together comedic routines, getting a feel for what worked and what didn’t. After thousands of open mics and plenty of bombed shows, Hagen has begun to settle into her new role as a comedian. She describes wanting to make sure she was funny enough on her own before going on to incorporate her instrument into the act. She spent four years learning the art of comedy before bringing the worlds of viola and humor together in her Salastina’s Happy Hour appearance.

Ready to laugh?

If you are interested in exploring the music, comedy, or musical comedy of Isabel Hagen, check out her website. YouTube is also a great resource. Hagen has numerous videos showcasing her various talents, collaborating with other musicians and comedians, and telling jokes about violas that will have your sides splitting. Interested in making the leap from musician to comedian yourself? You may also benefit from Hagen’s interviews and writing on the subject of how she broke out into comedy.

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What’s Wrong With My Violin?

It’s happened to the best of us: you take your instrument out of its case, touch the bow to the strings, and cringe at just how terrible the resulting sound is. It can be a bit scary when you notice a sudden change in sound with seemingly no cause. However, in most cases these changes in sound quality can be attributed to relatively common problems with potentially simple solutions.

Where to look first

If you’re asking yourself “what’s wrong with my violin?” there are a few places you should check first. The issue could lie with the strings. Perhaps they’re too old, in which case the sound quality may be impaired by the strings’ looseness and flatness. But even new strings won’t vibrate properly without rosin. Rosin coats the bow hairs in a and produces friction when the bow makes contact with the string. This is necessary if you have any hope of producing an enjoyable sound.

If your strings are in good shape and your bow is properly rosined, the problem may be related to the body of the instrument itself. The vibrations from violin strings are transferred down the bridge to the body, but if the bridge is curved, warped, or otherwise improperly positioned, the sound cannot be transmitted. If you’ve never adjusted a bridge before, get someone to show you how first to prevent damaging your violin. You should NEVER try adjusting your instrument’s soundpost on your own, since it has to be precisely fitted in order to carry the sound from the bridge to the back of the instrument. Always bring the instrument to your local luthier for their expert service.

If you’ve checked all the parts of your violin up until this point and still haven’t found the problem area, pay attention to the seams on the body of your instrument. If you notice a buzzing sound when attempting to play, you may have an open seam. This is a common problem during changes in the seasons, so if you suspect an open seam, you should take your violin to your luthier for a checkup.

Getting the good vibrations back

In need of new strings, rosin, or other violin accessories to repair your instrument? Johnson String Instrument has everything you could need to get your instrument back in top condition. Visit our online catalog to view our expansive selection of instruments and accessories.

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