Living Our Values

It often comes as a surprise to customers and friends of Johnson String Instrument when they find out that most of our employees are string players. Many studied at conservatory or majored in music in college and are now weekend gig players who appreciate a 9-5 weekday work schedule and the benefits it provides. Many others are amateur musicians who play for the sheer enjoyment of making music and the relaxation it can bring.

We have recently launched a new video campaign (below) entitled “Living Our Values,” where we highlight an employee each month who exemplifies one of our core values of:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Teamwork
  • Accountability
  • Community
  • Quality
  • Customer Commitment

We are always looking for likeminded folks to join our team. Take a look at our current job postings to learn more.



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How to Become a Concert Hall Manager

Most kids are introduced to music through stringed instruments some time around 4th grade. Schools will often give the children a choice between learning the violin, bass, viola or cello, and all students are taught the basics together. That’s often the sum total of music education for many students, but a select few children choose to continue to more advanced learning on their stringed instruments and go on to join the orchestra in high school. Some people who grew up playing music or hearing it in their home, dream of becoming a concert hall manager. They like the idea of being around music every day and meeting many accomplished musicians along the way. But what else does the job entail? Concert hall managers oversee the staff and are in charge of daily operations of a particular concert venue. They cover everything from hiring and training staff to maintenance checks on the facility to scheduling the performing acts.

Career path

If you’re interested in becoming a concert hall manager, the first step is to gain as much experience within the field as possible. While a degree in music business or event management can be helpful, work experience is just as important. To get your foot in the door, try to work as many front-of-house positions, like usher, and back-of-house jobs, like bookkeeper, as you can. Also very beneficial toward reaching your goal is acquiring training and certifications in areas such as emergency preparedness, event management, basic medical skills, crisis or weather preparedness. Of course, having a passion for music works in your favor when working along the career path of becoming a concert hall manager, but getting practical training and experience is the true key to success. You may want to look into a professional organization referred to as IAVM (International Association of Venue Managers). The group offers quite a few training programs for current venue managers as well as those who are seeking a career in the field.

The best seat in the house

One of the greatest benefits of being a concert hall manager is getting to hear and experience all kinds of music. Whether you’d like to be involved in large events or small, intimate concerts, your seat is the best in the house when you’re running the show. Looking for supplies to keep in stock at your venue or a good music store to which you can refer the musicians? Check out the full catalog of stringed instruments and accessories at JSI.

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The Corner of Music Avenue and Math Road

Did you know that there is a strong relationship between math and music? Research has indicated that music activates the same area of the brain that is used for solving spatial-temporal reasoning problems. Conversely, understanding various fundamentals of math can help you learn to read and play music. Similarities in how the brain processes the two disciplines creates a beneficial overlap between the two.

Math is helpful when learning music and vice versa, because there are several places where math and music intersect. For example, numbers and mathematical principles can be used to teach or learn music. And when performing music, you rely on time signatures, beats per minute, and formulaic progressions, which reinforce math skills.

Good at math? You’re probably good at reading music

We think of learning math as a logical process and learning to read music as a creative one. In truth, we rely on a combination of logic and creativity to be able to solve a math problem and play a piece of music. One of the strongest correlations between the two is that they’re both dependent on numbers and division of time.

Written music is made up of individual notes that are broken into segments called measures. Each measure has the same number of beats, so the notes are assigned a fraction to indicate how long or short to hold the note. These are some of the same principles used in algebra, and you will also find correlations to trigonometry and even differential calculus in music. The similarities explain why people who are good at math also tend to be good at reading music.

Interestingly, we are so naturally drawn to the principles and logic of math that the most popular music shows some mathematical structure. Avant garde pieces that are discordant or those that do not follow a consistent time signature generally do not have wide appeal.

Which one should you study tonight?

Math and music are commonly used to help people learn concepts. Research has shown that children who learn through both music and verbal instruction (think of the ABC song) retain more information than those who learn through verbal instruction alone. Any time a teacher uses a musical element, like a song or rhythm, kids have an easier time retaining information. Even playing music in the background can help you when you’re figuring things out.

Because studying music enhances a child’s ability to learn math and other concepts, it can be helpful for students who are lagging behind their peers or struggling at school. Read more about an easy method to help learn the first steps to reading music.

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How to Start Playing the Violin After a Long Hiatus

If you are like a lot of people who took music lessons as a child, you probably stopped playing when you approached adulthood. Perhaps you found other things that grabbed your interest, went off to college and were busy with classes, immersed yourself in a career, got married and had children; in other words, “life” just seemed to get in the way. 

If you have decided to return to music after years of not playing the violin, you are not alone. Many people find that, as they get older, they realize that they miss playing music and regret not keeping up with the violin. 

The good news is that relearning to play the violin is comparable to getting back on a bicycle and riding. It’ll definitely be a challenge but, just like hopping on that bike once more, the basics of playing your violin will probably come back to you quickly. Over time, if you are persistent and resolute, you may find that you can match or exceed the skill level you demonstrated in the past. Before long you’ll be playing your favorite songs again. 

The first step is to consider purchasing a new instrument. It’s probably a safe bet that your old instrument has been sitting in the attic, the basement, or in a closet, gathering dust and in need of some major repairs. Whether you decide to rent or buy a new violin, make sure it’s a quality instrument. 

Go Back to The Basics 

Start with the basics, regardless of your past experience and the level of skill you had reached before you quit playing. Patience is the order of the day when returning to the violin after a long hiatus. 

The first thing to do is to begin playing scales. Start with a simple one octave G Major scale. As you are practicing, focus on building back your muscle memory, the correct finger placement, and bowing techniques. Use whole bow strokes for each note that you play. Go from tip to frog while keeping your bow centered between the bridge and fingerboard. Focus on correctly placing the fingers of your left hand and resist the urge to pick up those fingers after you have used them. This will help retrain your fingers to consistently have the correct placement. 

You should set aside at least 30 minutes each day for practicing the violin to ensure that your muscles and joints get back their flexibility. 

Warming Back Up 

Work on harder scales with more flats and sharps after you have sufficiently warmed up with the easy scales using a metronome. Once you have mastered the G Major scale, try your hand at playing a piece of music in G Major. 

With time and patience, you’ll be surprised at what you can play within a few weeks or so and find that you enjoy playing the violin even more as an adult. 

If you are looking for a new violin, bow or other accessories, visit our violin shop online.

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Everything You Need to Start Playing the Violin Today

Have you recently decided to enroll in violin lessons? If so, congratulations on your decision. Learning to play an instrument provides a unique source of joy, accomplishment and entertainment that isn’t achieved through any other pursuit. Another benefit over other pastimes like sports is that you can start learning at any age and keep it up throughout your lifetime. You are never too old or too young to get enjoyment out of playing music. 

For those who grew up in a musical household and already know how to play the piano, the learning curve is not as steep. Piano provides a good introduction to the basics, but playing a stringed instrument is a nice change because of the portability aspect. As a piano player who is new to playing violin, the ability to carry around and play your instrument anywhere is a treat. It’s important to note, however, that while being a pianist can help you learn the violin more quickly, it is certainly not a requirement. 

The Basics 

Before you get started, there are some violin accessories to have on hand to get the most out of the experience. The following is a list of the most common items. 

Violin case: To keep your violin protected, invest in a durable case that also prevents exposure to changes in temperature.

Shoulder rest: The shoulder rest keeps your violin in place while you play. Look for one that is adjustable in width and height.

Chin rest: Your violin will likely come with one, but you may want to purchase another if it’s more comfortable.

Music stand: A music stand holds sheet music at the right height, allowing you to sight-read it as you play.

Tuner: You’ll need a portable tuner to use before every practice session or class.

Sheet music: Sheet music or a book of violin compositions to have fun learning familiar pieces.

Rosin: Rosin is essential for creating friction between bow and strings.

Dampit: Dampit is a specially designed tube that you fill with water and store with your instrument to prevent problems caused by low humidity.

Strings: Always keep spare strings to replace those that wear out or break.

Peg compound: You twist the pegs to create the right string tension, but humidity can affect the ability to turn them. Applying peg compound keeps them from getting too tight or loose. 

Don’t forget the most important accessory of all — a great teacher! An experienced and qualified instructor can make a big impact on your ability to learn. 

The Extras 

Before you start playing violin, assure you have everything you need. Learning to play music is challenging and fun; being plagued by instrument issues is not. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced player, Johnson String Instrument has you covered. We carry an expansive variety of violin accessories to fit any need. Stop in or scan your options online, and if you have a question, we have the answer!

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Four Tips for Improving Fourth Finger Strength

When you’re first learning to play the violin, mastering finger coordination can prove to be difficult, but not impossible. However, for many violinists, it’s a challenge to increase the strength as well as the agility of the pinky or fourth finger of the left hand. This is especially true for violinists with small hands.

Your pinky is not only the shortest finger on your left hand, but it’s also relatively weak in comparison to the other digits. The goal is to strengthen it and increase its flexibility, which will contribute to producing a better sound. 

There are a number of exercises that you can do to develop strength and dexterity in your fourth finger. And, while the goal for most violinists is to develop a curved pinky, the priority should be to develop a pinky that is both strong and flexible. 

What are some valuable tips to help you improve the strength and dexterity of your pinky?

Our Tips

Four basic tips that our staff at Johnson String Instrument offer to help you to improve your fourth finger include:

1. Give it time

2. Exercise with and without your violin

3. Try different positions

4. Don’t just strengthen, stretch!

Remember that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Be patient! Learning new techniques is challenging. It takes time to build muscle memory in your pinky. Overdoing exercises for your fourth finger can result in injury rather than improvement. Practice for a moderate amount of time each to prevent overuse injuries.

Practicing your chromatic scales and arpeggios over and over at a very slow tempo is one the best ways to strengthen your fourth finger and improve your dexterity. In addition, try left-handed pizzicato exercises and independent finger raises on your violin.  

And remember you do not need your violin to exercise. An example is the “pencil reach.” Grip a pencil or regular pen in your left hand, using only your fingertips. Slowly, “walk” your pinky finger away from the other fingers as far as you can and then slowly walk it back. Use a portable fingerboard or print one for free so you can practice scales and arpeggios when your violin isn’t readily available. 

Make time for stretching exercises before you practice. Stretching the muscles of your fingers as well as flexing your joints has a big impact on your range of motion and the dexterity of your fingers. Take breaks when playing, to perform some stretching exercises, as this can help prevent cramping and/or sprains.

Your Hands Can Handle It

If you have small hands, a short pinky finger, or if your hands are still growing, it may be challenging to develop your pinky finger strength for playing the violin. You may find that some of the fourth finger exercises are difficult at first. 

But don’t let small hands or short fingers stop you from playing the violin. Check out our website for tips on playing a violin with small hands.

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