Living Our Values: Customer Commitment

Nate Faro, front staff at the Johnson String Instrument retail store, is a favorite with our customers. We chatted with him to find out why he places such a high value on customer commitment, one of our company’s core values.

Learn more about working at Johnson String Instrument.

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Wittner’s Unique Animal Inspired Metronome

Most music teachers recommend that students practice using metronomes because it’s human nature to slow down at the difficult parts when you’re learning to play a piece of music and speed up when you have the phrase down. Metronomes emit a steady ticking sound that can be set for a specific beat per minute (bpm) pace, and help you play with consistent rhythm throughout the entire piece of music. There are a range of speeds to choose from, allowing you to start slow and increase as you become more adept.

These devices are not just helpful for beginners, as most professional musicians continue to practice with metronomes, particularly when learning a new piece. They come in a variety of styles, and because it can sometimes be frustrating to match the tempo, Wittner has created a line of unique metronomes for use while practicing. Why gaze at boring old metronomes, when you can make practice fun with animal metronomes?

Pick your favorite

There are three fun animal designs available for purchase, so you can pick the one you or your child will enjoy the most. The Cat metronome is a gray striped tabby, with whiskers, a big, bushy tail and silly smile on his face. Wittner’s sassy Penguin metronome is black and white with an orange bill and feet, and appears to be singing along to the music. Whereas the Owl metronome has a fittingly wise expression on his face and both wings behind his back.

All of the animal metronomes are made out of sturdy plastic and are standing up, adorned with a traditional clockwork pendulum mechanism on their “tummies.” The timer can be set by sliding their bowties up and down and offers a range of 40bpm up to 200bpm. They’re sure to add a touch of the whimsical to scales and exercises alike.

Or pick all three!

You can find all three Wittner Taktell Metronomes on the Johnson String Instrument website when you shop for instrument accessories. With the holidays fast approaching, you may be searching around for that one perfect gift for the musician in your life. These fun yet practical metronomes make the perfect gift for the cat loving violinist, owl obsessed bassist, or penguin superfan on your list.

Check out our wide selection of online accessories, sheet music, instruments and more, and have your purchases shipped directly to your front door.

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Holiday Sheet Music for Stringed Instruments

Outside, the air is getting colder, the days shorter, and the leaves have changed color and fallen off the trees. For many folks, this is a magical time of year, especially with the onset of the holiday season. And there’s nothing that gets you more in the spirit than hearing Christmas carols, Chanukah songs, and other seasonal music. If you’re a string musician, why not take the opportunity to learn to play them yourself on your violin, cello, viola, or double bass?

Imagine wowing your family and friends with some of their all-time favorites, and it’s as simple as picking up some holiday sheet music at your local store. Hate the seasonal crowds? JSI invites you to shop holiday sheet music online from the comfort of your own living room. We carry a wide selection of holiday songs, and you can find the version you like best by searching through song titles, publishers, or composers.

Oh the joy it will bring

Learning new songs during the holiday season is a great way to hone your skills and spread joy at the same time. If you grew up in a musical family, you may have memories of singing or playing the classics together. There have also been many new songs and arrangements introduced over the years that can be really fun to learn as well.

At JSI, we have a range of holiday sheet music, from the oldies-but-goodies to newer, more up-tempo pieces. You can find solo versions or duets written for combos such as violin and viola, cello and violin or a stringed instrument accompanied by piano. For those who have a whole group who wants to learn, we carry sheet music for ensembles too.

Do you have a full ensemble?

Check out our online selection and entertain family, friends and neighbors with your version of old classics and new favorites this holiday season.

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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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Remembering Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson, co­-founder of Johnson String Instrument, died on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. He was 84 years old.

Born in 1937 in rural Hillsboro, Ohio, Roger Johnson was the youngest of ten children in a farming family. Roger’s passion for music and the building of stringed instruments began at the age of 11, when he built a guitar that won first prize at the Ohio State Fair.

After completing his bachelor’s degree at Ohio State University, Roger opened the Columbus Folk Music Center, where he continued building and restoring stringed instruments. He was particularly fond of crafting dulcimers and banjos, teaching himself to carve delicate inlays for these instruments. He became widely known as a musician, singer, and instrument maker.


Shortly after moving to the Boston area, Roger, in partnership with his wife Carol, opened Johnson String Instrument (JSI) in 1976, in Newton, Massachusetts. JSI was the first violin shop to use the same quality and care for their rental instruments as instruments for sale. Roger’s vision of providing personalized service and expertly set-up rental instruments to students guides the family business to this day.

Roger always had an eye for quality and was a pioneer in bringing talented European makers to the American market. Roger spent many years traveling to Europe to find exceptional instruments and bows to develop the Karl Mueller line of student instruments. JSI grew rapidly, from a small storefront to its current picturesque location in a historic mill building overlooking the Charles River in Newton Upper Falls. Roger’s son, Adam, is now JSI’s owner.

Roger at his bench

In his later years, Roger pursued a myriad of projects that reflected his boundless creativity and entrepreneurship. He spent his time appraising violins, perfecting his skills as a painter, and exploring other artistic mediums. He also developed simple practice violins for music programs in Haiti, which he was honored to hand deliver in 2018.

Roger lived by principles of kindness, authenticity, trustworthiness, and the pursuit of excellence in all he did. His greatest passions were business, art, music, and most importantly, his family. He is survived by his loving wife, Carol, sons Danny, Adam, and Matt, and six grandchildren. He will be greatly missed.

A memorial service will be held in the spring. Donations may be made in Roger’s memory to No Kid Hungry.

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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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