The Benefits of Microfiber Cleaning Cloths for Instruments 

No matter the type of instrument you play, cleaning your instrument the right way is essential. There are plenty of materials that are designed to keep everything from violins to the upright bass looking and sounding like new. The method for maintaining a stringed instrument is dependent on its type, but there are some overlapping techniques.

Whether you are a woodwind, brass, or stringed instrument musician, microfiber cleaning cloths are an ideal tool to cleanse and polish the surface of clarinets, violas, trumpets, and cellos alike. These types of cloths are effective for cleaning off rosin dust, which can build up and harden when the weather turns humid, making it very difficult to remove from the instrument without damaging the finish.

How to use your microfiber cloth

There are a variety of excellent brands of eco-friendly polishing cloths that are available online or at your local music store. These cloths are much more effective at picking up dirt and grime than cotton alternatives. Microfiber cleaning and polishing cloths are soft and smooth, and they won’t leave lint on your instrument like some other fabrics. The staff can also help you determine which type of cloth will be best for your instrument and provide tips on how to use your microfiber cloth properly.

Once you acquire a polish cloth the first step is to remove tags that may be attached to it. Microfiber cloths work well for regular instrument cleansing, but there may be times when something stronger is required. When using instrument cleaning liquid, spray it on the fabric of your cleaning cloth rather than directly onto your instrument, which can deteriorate the strings on violin or harm the keys on a woodwind. 

One for each case

Microfiber cloths for instruments are a necessity for all musicians. At Johnson String Instrument our microfiber cloths are eco-friendly and reusable. Plus they come in a variety of fun patterns and colors to choose from. 

It’s a good idea to have a cloth for each one of your instruments – or in each one of your cases – so you always have one with you. No matter where you’re practicing or performing, you’ll be able to keep your instrument clear of residue. 

Cleaning cloths are just one item in our vast catalog. Johnson String Instrument is a top-tier music store that carries all the supplies you need. Visit us in our store or shop for microfiber cloths online as well as any other stringed instruments, accessories, and resources that will help you in your musical endeavors. 


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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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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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