Music In Our Schools Month

Celebrated for over 30 years by the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME), Music in Our Schools Month is an annual event that raises awareness about the need for quality music programs for all students. Now more than ever, this event highlights the importance of music education in our schools and communities.

Johnson String Instrument works to provide the high-quality instruments and materials necessary to support string programs in our public and private schools. Since the beginning, we have worked to be a trusted resource for teachers and to support them however we are able.

We are also a company of people who have benefited from music in our schools. We asked our staff to tell us how their school music programs impacted their lives:

I’ve been playing music for most of my life. I started playing piano when I was four, but thought it was difficult so I decided I wanted to play cello when I was eight. I liked playing cello, and it quickly became a hobby of mine. My mom and I decided that I should go to a magnet arts school for middle school rather than go to my local middle school. Middle school was a huge shift for me because I got to explore classical music and really push my boundaries with art. It was there where I not only received academic education, but I participated in my first orchestral and chamber music experience. That inspired me to audition for Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts for high school, another magnet arts school in South Florida. In those four years, I got to travel all over the state of Florida, and to Colorado and North Carolina to study music. I decided that I wanted to continue my cello studies for college, and to hopefully make a career out of it.

Looking back, those seven years of my life were my most crucial years of development. Because I attended art schools, it was such a welcoming and creative environment, and there was absolutely no judgement for being yourself. Frankly, the more creative and expressive you were, the more praise you got! It was such a healthy, supportive environment to be in, and I really felt like I could grow as an individual. Since I grew up in that environment, that pushed me to really dive into my passion for music. It allowed me to meet all of the closest friends I have and to move to the city of my dreams. I am exactly where I want to be because I had the opportunity to study music at school. It’s so important to keep music education going in schools, because I know I’m not the only person to have felt this.

Lisa Yasui, Administrative Assistant

I was very fortunate to have many excellent music teachers within the Arizona public school system. My general music teacher in elementary school was a former violinist in the Chicago Symphony, and she displayed a passion for music that was hard to miss. Many, many of us were inspired to explore music, especially classical music, because of her prompting. She hosted an annual “Name That Tune” contest in our school, and as a result my peers and I could identify a good number of classical, jazz and pop themes at an early age.

Matthew Fritz, Director of Sales and Acquisitions

From the beginning of fourth grade all the way through high school, I attended classes at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, part of the Greenville County Schools. Twice a week after school in elementary and middle school, my mom drove me there for a group strings class that provided me with a strong foundation for both my playing and knowledge of music theory. After that, I auditioned for the chamber music program for talented high school students. In my four years in the program, my classmates and I participated in competitions, both in chamber groups and individually, and played several concerts each year at the Fine Arts Center as well as throughout the state. One of the requirements of the program was to audition for All-State Orchestra each year, including their concerto competition that I was lucky enough to win as a senior. I played some of my best auditions when I was in high school because I was preparing for them all the time!

My studies at the Fine Arts Center provided me with an outlet for my passion for the violin. I had more performance opportunities than I could count, I was encouraged by my teachers to attend summer festivals all over the U.S. and to take every audition I could. Nearly all of my classmates went on to study music because we loved every bit of it so much that we could not imagine our life without it every day. The Fine Arts Center taught all of its students, in music or the visual arts or any of the other areas of study offered there, what it truly means to be an artist.

Sarah Rogers, Assistant Manager of Operations

How did your school music program impact your life? Tell us in the comments below!

Electric Violins: Preamps

This post is part of a series. Read our previous posts for more information about electric violins, amps and pickups.

Do I need a preamplifier for my electric violin?

Short answer: Yes. A preamplifier, or preamp, is key to getting a great tone out of an electric violin, viola or cello.

Long answer: We need to get technical.

The electric string instruments and pickups we stock at Johnson String Instrument all use variations of piezo electric sensors (piezo for short). Piezo pickups work differently than the magnetic pickups found on electric guitars; instead of sensing a string’s vibration, a piezo pickup senses an instrument’s vibration.

Piezos work best under pressure, which is why these pickup systems are usually found in or beneath the bridge of an instrument. As the instrument vibrates, the piezo generates an electrical signal that can be amplified. However, piezos have ultra high impedance outputs. In order to maximize the frequency response and tone of a piezo pickup, you must match it to an ultra high impedance input. This is what a preamp does: it buffers the impedance of your signal, making it fuller and stronger.

Why is this important? Most amplifiers and accessories on the market are designed for electric guitars and their impedance, not electric violin. Plugging a passive electric violin directly into an electric guitar amp will work, but the sound you get may not be what you were expecting.

Do I need to buy a preamp?

That depends on your setup. Many electric instruments already have on-board preamps that take care of this impedance mismatch. These instruments are what is called “active” and typically require batteries. “Passive” systems do not require batteries.  An external preamp is highly recommended with these piezo systems. The chart below shows products we carry and which category they fall into:

These passive pickup systems all produce a very strong signal so a preamp is not mandatory. However, we highly recommend a preamp to maximize your instrument’s amplified tone.

The benefits of external preamps go beyond impedance matching; all have XLR outputs, allowing you to connect easily to a PA system. This is a major time saver when playing live. When you connect to a PA, you  do not have to leave your tone up to the sound guy; most preamps feature tone-shaping EQ controls. Many preamps on the market also have boost functions, allowing you to boost your volume by a few decibels when you are ready for a solo or need help cutting through the mix.

NEXT: watch for our Preamp Buying Guide to find out which preamp is right for you.

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Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Alex Wagner

A Brief History of Classical Guitar: Antonio de Torres

This four part series will discuss the history of classical guitar through the instruments of some of the tradition’s most important and innovative luthiers. This post discusses the father of the modern classical guitar, Antonio de Torres.

Antonio de Torres

Antonio de Torres was a Spanish guitar maker who lived from 1817-1892. It is believed that Torres built around 320 guitars, of which 88 are known to still exist. The industry widely accepts that Torres is responsible for many of the structural and design features for which guitars are known for. Guitar-like instruments such as the citara, the double coursed baroque guitar and the lute all existed long before Torres, but his developments transformed the instrument into what we know today.


The Addition of Bracing

The most important design change Torres made was the size of the instrument. Guitars in Torres’ time were about 20% smaller with a narrower upper bout. This made the instrument louder with a more present bass range and greater complexity of tone. Enlarging the instrument creates a challenge: How do you support the structure of the instrument? This led to the now standard fan-bracing style. The Torres bracing style has seven braces radiating outwards from the sound hole with a couple other supporting braces. This allows the builder to make the top thinner but still provides enough structural support that the instrument, under the tension of the strings, doesn’t collapse.

Examples of different styles of guitar bracing.

Torres’ ability to build larger and more resonant instruments led to more virtuostic players and compositions. Performers like Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) and Julian Arcas (1832-1882) transitioned the guitar from salons to international concert stages using instruments made by Torres.


Torres and Cordoba Guitars

Authentic Torres instruments are rare. When they do appear, they are pricey (around $250,000 or more). For those without this kind of budget, Cordoba Guitars makes a faithful reproduction of Torres’ instruments. After studying three different guitars made by Torres, Cordoba created the Cordoba Master Series Torres Model. They also added modern updates that the modern player will appreciate. Handmade by a small team of talented luthiers in California, there are few guitars that match the quality that the Torres name demands for the price that these guitars are offered.

Want to learn more about Cordoba guitars? Check out our website.

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Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis

The 2016 Holiday Gift Guide


Our annual Holiday Sale is back, and so is our Holiday Gift Guide! This year, we have a mix of exciting new products as well as old favorites for musicians of all levels and ages.

Electric Violins

JSI Companion

JSI EV-4 Companion Outfit in red. ON SALE $320.00

JSI EV-4 Companion Outfit in red, ON SALE $320.00

Our brand for electrics, this instrument is a great option for those getting started with electric violin. An outfit comes with the instrument in one of five colors, bow, case and headphones.

Yamaha YEV

Yamaha YEV-104 Black Electric Violin Outfit ON SALE $696.00

Yamaha YEV-104 Black Electric Violin , $595.00

Winner of Best in Show at the 2016 NAMM conference! This innovative instrument can be purchased with four or five strings in two different colors. The outfit includes the instrument, bow, case, cable and rosin.

We haven’t forgotten about you viola, cello and bass players! See all of our electric instruments currently on sale on our website.

Galaxy Cases

Galaxy 300SL Comet Violin Case in green ON SALE $337.00

Galaxy 300SL Comet Green Violin Case, ON SALE $337.00

A newer, lighter case makes a great gift! This JSI exclusive, both durable and light, is a great option. Available for violin, viola and cello in nine different colors!


Cordoba 20SM Soprano Ukulele $149.00

Cordoba 20SM Soprano Ukulele, $149.00

Check out why the ukulele is such a great instrument in our blog post and give someone the gift of this versatile instrument this holiday season. There are four types to choose from: soprano, concert, baritone and tenor. May we also suggest this book to help them get started?

Children’s Books

These books are great holiday gifts for young musicians! Some of our favorites are:

Berlioz the Bear

Berlioz the Bear, written and illustrated by Jan Brett

Berlioz the Bear, written and illustrated by Jan Brett, $6.99

“Berlioz and his orchestra are scheduled to perform at a gala ball in the village square. But just before showtime, their bandwagon becomes stuck in the road. Whatever will they do?”

Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin!

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, $7.99

A Caldecott Honor book, this classic is a great introduction to the orchestra. Intended for ages 4-8.

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, Illustrated by Marc Simont $6.99

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, Illustrated by Marc Simont, $6.99

“It is Friday evening. The sky is getting darker and darker. Here and there, all around the city, one hundred and five people are getting ready to go to work. Some of them take showers, others bathe. Some shave or trim their mustaches, others put on dusting powder and a little jewelry. Then they all get into special black and white clothes and travel to midtown with their instruments. There, at 8:30, they will work together–playing beautiful music in an orchestra.” Intended for ages 4-8.

Stocking Stuffers

Magic Rosin

Magic Rosin Bach Manuscript 3G $16.00

Magic Rosin Bach Manuscript 3G, $16.00

Not only is this rosin available with a Bach manuscript, it’s also available in GLOW-IN-THE-DARK!

Rockin’ Rosin

Rockin' Rosin Frog ON SALE $9.95

Rockin’ Rosin Frog, ON SALE $9.95

This fun rosin is available in six different shapes including frog, snowman and even pizza!

Overscore Tape

Overscore Removable Manuscript Tape $8.00

Overscore Removable Manuscript Tape, $8.00

The tool you never knew you needed: REMOVABLE manuscript tape!

You can find even more stocking-stuffer ideas here.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get our exclusive December Deals December 12-18th and for even more savings.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Johnson String!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons