How to choose the right violin bow for you

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Congratulations, you found your violin! Now for the hard part: finding the right bow. This task can be an even more daunting than finding the instrument itself. With so many options and factors to consider, it can feel overwhelming. Luckily, we are here to help! The best thing you can do is to connect with a knowledgeable salesperson who can guide you through the process, but here are some things to keep in mind before you begin:

The first step is to know your budget. If financially possible, a good rule of thumb is to narrow your search to within a 1/4-1/3 of the value of your violin. You want the bow to compliment the instrument, so compromising  on the bow will not help your violin sound its best. Customers often ask us what they can expect to find within their price range. The chart below will give you an idea:

 

Price Range Types of Bows
Under $300 These are mostly composite bows or other materials such as fiberglass. This is a good range for students and beginning players.
$300-500 These are workshop-made bows with some wooden options available but mostly carbon fiber. Serious beginners and some intermediate players will do well in this range.
$500-1,000 These are both wood and carbon fiber workshop-made bows. These are ideal for intermediate players, as they allow for extended technique.
$1,000-3,000 These are mostly top-level contemporary workshop bows with some antique workshop and personal work included as well as top-tier carbon fiber. Advanced and professional players will benefit from looking in this range.
$3,000-6,000 This range consists mostly of professional level contemporary bows and some high quality antique German and English bows.
$6000-10,000 Here you will find top-level living makers and exceptional antique French and English bows.
$10,000 and above These bows are sought after by collectors and professional players.

 

The next step is to consider what type of playing you do. Are you a student, professional, or somewhere in between? Do you mostly play in one genre or in many? A player who tours with pop musicians will be looking for something different than an orchestral player or an amateur fiddler. Know what your priorities are for the type of playing that you do.

Choose the violin first. Have you not found the right instrument yet? Then that should be your first priority. The bow needs to match and enhance the violin, not the other way around. If you do have the instrument, make sure you bring it with you when trying out bows. You’re looking for a match for your violin, not one the shop has provided for you.

Finally, use your time wisely and trust your instincts. Be sure to try a large variety of bows with different characteristics to help narrow down your choices. While going through this process, test bows with a wide range of articulations you use in your playing. Include long, legato strokes as well as short, quick ones. Remember: if something feels wrong, the bow may not be a good fit for you. Be patient and go with your gut. You will know when it feels right.

Some final things to be aware of:

eBay: These bows are not always vetted by a professional shop, and you have no way of verifying authenticity or trying the bow out before purchasing. Proceed with caution if you are thinking of going this route.

Old vs. New: An older bow is not necessarily better than a newer bow. Neither is 100% perfect, but don’t pick something simply because it’s older. Newer makers can often rival or outperform older ones and be more affordable (see “Types of Bows,” above).

Fancy Fittings: These are mainly ornamental and include things like tortoiseshell frogs, gold fittings, and inlays. Their primary purpose is to add both aesthetic and monetary value, so you should focus on how the bow plays rather than how it looks. If it contains materials like tortoiseshell, make sure to verify that it is legal. Any reputable shop will only carry legal materials.

Ivory: This is currently a contentious issue in the US. The current laws in place ban the sale and use of elephant ivory, with some exceptions for antiques. Any modern bows sold by a reputable dealer will use either imitation or mammoth ivory, which is completely legal. To learn more about the current laws, click here.

When you are ready to begin your search, we are here for you! Our salespeople have an in-depth knowledge of our violin bow inventory and will work to help you find the right bow for your instrument. Call 617-262-0051 to schedule an appointment and visit us online to check out our inventory. We hope to see you soon!

 

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Rentals at JSI

With over 40 years of experience, Johnson String Instrument is the largest string instrument dealer on the east coast. The cornerstone of the company is our extensive rental program. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail—everything from setting up our fleet of instruments to managing your account is designed to make your rental experience easy and enjoyable.

Our rental program is so successful because we listen to what our customers need. Students need high-quality, affordable instruments that will make their experience enjoyable. Parents want staff that are well-informed, insurance to cover inevitable child mishaps, and convenience when it comes to managing their accounts. Finally, teachers want to send their students to a reliable place and know that each student has the right tools. It is with these things in mind that our rental program has evolved and expanded over the years into the household name it is now. Start a rental today by visiting us in-store at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls, online at www.johnsonstring.com, or by phone at 800-359-9351. Watch our newest video to learn more:

 

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Applying to Music School

Applying to Music School Photo

It’s that time of year: college application season. Deadlines may seem a long way off, but do not be deceived;

They will sneak up on you.

If you are looking to study music, now is the time to begin if you have not already. Some things to keep in mind when you’re applying to music schools:

Decide what kind of program you want. Do you want a conservatory where the sole focus of your studies is music, or a music school within a university/college so you can take outside classes as well? There are advantages to both, but ultimately you need to decide what works best for you. This is not to say you can only apply to one or the other–many people apply to both, and some variety in your options down the road can be a great asset. When you are vetting prospective schools, it is a good thought to have in the back of your mind.

Be careful of how many schools you apply to. Remember, as a musician you will need to audition at all of these schools and possibly send in pre-screening materials. That friend who’s looking to study political science and is applying to twelve schools? That friend does not have to do ten auditions at ten different schools with ten different repertoire lists on top of the regular application process. Know how much you can handle, and don’t schedule so many auditions that you are overwhelmed.

Know which application you need to fill out. Some use the Common Application, others a common conservatory site, and still others have their own application process. Double check each school’s website you are applying to if you aren’t sure what materials are required or on what platform they need to be submitted.

Get your prescreening materials in on time. If you are a violinist or cellist, most if not all schools will have some sort of prescreening process. The best case scenario is to have all of your repertoire learned by the beginning of October so that you can be ready to send recordings in November/December. Make sure you follow the guidelines detailed by the school–your recording could be incredible, but if it’s not the repertoire or the format requested you could be shooting yourself in the foot. This is the easiest way to weed out applicants: if you don’t follow directions, they won’t waste their time.

One last thing about prescreening recordings: do not cut in the middle of the piece. Most schools are fine with a cut in between pieces, but they do not want to hear or see any editing during. Think of it like a live audition: you don’t get to stop in the middle and start over. If you’re ever unsure, check the school’s website or call the admissions office.

If possible, visit the schools and attend performances. This will give you an idea of what kind of repertoire, caliber, and school culture to expect. If you can’t go in person, many schools have performances recorded on their websites, YouTube, or Vimeo. If you can, talk to current students or recent grads to get an idea of what the program is like. You will have questions about what is important to you in a school, so don’t hesitate to ask for answers.

 

When the time comes, visit us at our store in Newton Upper Falls or online and www.johnsonstring.com for all of your audition needs. Short of practicing for you, we have everything you need to do your best at your auditions. Good luck to all, and stayed tuned in December for another post specifically about college auditions!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Flying With Your Cello

Cello Blog

Flying with string instruments can be a stressful experience. With the number of horror stories clogging our news feeds in recent years detailing airline mishaps, it’s no wonder we get nervous taking our instruments with us when we fly. However, things are beginning to look up; under the new Department of Transportation (DOT) ruling that went into effect March 6, 2015, airlines are now required to allow small instruments in the cabin as part of a passenger’s carry-on allowance. Just like any other luggage, as long as it can fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat the airline cannot refuse to carry the instrument. This ruling is a huge victory for musicians, in particular string players, everywhere.

But what about cellos?

While the DOT ruling is very clear in regard to smaller instruments, it is not as definitive when it comes to larger ones. With cellos, standard practice is one of two things: use a flight case and gate check the instrument or purchase another seat in the cabin. Both options have their benefits and disadvantages, so it is up to you to decide what you are most comfortable with.

Airport

PUTTING YOUR CELLO IN CHECKED BAGGAGE

  1. Make sure you have a sturdy flight case or cover you can use. Covers normally go around a hard case, while dedicated flight cases are heavy-duty and designed to protect the instrument without additional parts. They can be purchased or rented depending on the type you are looking for. Just as you would a package, mark it clearly as FRAGILE, MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, or any other polite message that states it needs to be treated with care.
  2. Make sure your instrument is padded within the case. Use wadded tissue paper, cloth, or old clothes to support the bridge, fingerboard, and tailpiece as well as around the sides of the instrument to prevent any jostling around inside the case. If you are concerned about the tension, tune your strings down by a half step to a third. The safest option, if possible, is to have a luthier take down the entire setup and have another set it back up when you arrive at your destination.
  3. Understand that others will be handling your instrument and plan accordingly. There is a lot of baggage to handle and things are not always treated as delicately as they should be–we’ve all watched luggage being loaded onto a plane. It is also possible that the case may be opened, and non-players do not always know how to safely put everything back. Emphasize nicely that it is a delicate musical instrument, but make sure steps 1 and 2 are in place as well.

Plane Interior

BRINGING YOUR CELLO INTO THE CABIN

  1. When buying your extra ticket (which should always be done), make sure you are not buying a seat where the cello will block any emergency exits or signs. Airlines can make a case to have the instrument checked if it threatens passenger safety, so check sites like Seat Guru to maximize both your comfort and the safety of your cello.
  2. Contact the airline when you buy the ticket to make sure everything follows their safety policies. This will ensure you are in compliance and allow you to confirm you provided advance notice about the cello.
  3. Some cellists have been able to fit their instruments in the overhead compartments of larger planes. This is something that cannot be guaranteed, but if you are thinking of trying it there are a few things to keep in mind:
    • Board early. If you need to pay extra to do so, it may be worth it to ensure that you have enough space to get your instrument in the overhead first. Like the DOT ruling says, if it fits in the overhead compartment and you put it there first, your instrument is entitled to stay there.
    • Some cases work better than others. Most anecdotal evidence of cello cases fitting in these compartments happened with the Accord cases, specifically the Hybrid and the UltraLight.
  4. THE AIRLINE MAY NOT CHARGE YOU MORE THAN THE COST OF THE SEAT FOR THE INSTRUMENT. To quote directly from the final ruling: “…assuming all of the safety requirements are met, carriers cannot charge the passenger more than the price of a ticket for the additional seat….” This doesn’t mean that if you decide to upgrade your seat your cello gets a free bump. It also doesn’t mean that you are exempt from fees that are normally posed on carry-on items or cargo. What it does mean is that they cannot charge you extra just because a cello is occupying the seat instead of a human being.

Plane in Rearview Mirror

GENERAL ADVICE FOR FLYING WITH A CELLO

  1. Check your instrument insurance. There is a limit to an airline’s liability if your cello is lost, damaged, or delayed. In many cases this only covers a fraction of the instrument’s value. Make sure you are covered for air travel by your insurance provider.
  2. Arm yourself with information: bring a copy of the DOT ruling and your airline’s instrument policy with you. Be firm but polite if an issue arises.
  3. Make sure you have a high-quality hard case, such as the ones found in our store or on our website. If you are purchasing a seat for your instrument, make sure it’s a lighter and less bulky case such as Bam, Musilia, Accord, or Galaxy. If you have a flight cover for checking your cello, make sure the case will fit inside the cover.
  4. Check in as early as possible. It may take longer to do so and get through security because of the instrument. Make sure to leave yourself enough time so that you are not running for the gate. If you comfortable doing so, paying for early boarding will also give you a space advantage when getting your instrument situated in the cabin.

Hopefully with these tips in mind, both you and your cello will have a safe flight. Be sure to visit the DOT webpage for more information about traveling with instruments.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons