Find the best violin strings for your playing

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We’ve highlighted the general search for strings, and talked about the particular challenges facing cellists. Now, we’re entering the world of violin strings.

Violin is used in an astonishing range of genres, each style making different demands on the player. Ultimately, as we’ve mentioned before,  you will need to experiment and find what works best for you. Some factors to consider are:

Style of playing: Different styles make different demands. Are you an orchestral musician? A soloist? A bluegrass fiddler? Play violin in a band? All of these are going to require different types of sound and therefore different types of strings.

Price Range: While it might not the same financial commitment as cello strings, high level violin strings can be pricey. It’s worth getting advice from your peers or talking to a luthier to find out what type of string would work best for your genre or instrument before making a purchase.

That infamous open E-string whistle: I’m sure many of you are hearing it as you read this. Whistling happens when the string vibrates in a twisting (torsional) motion instead of side to side. This can be caused by many different things, but essentially anything that impedes how the string vibrates can cause that sound. Some instruments are more susceptible to it than others, but most players have experienced this at least once in their lives. There are a few things that can fix this:

  1. Make sure that your left hand is not touching the string at all.
  2. Keep your bow closer to the bridge when you’re playing open E.
  3. Use a wound E string.
  4. Have a luthier check your setup. There could be something about it that is exacerbating the problem.
  5. Many violinists swear by the Kaplan Solutions Non-Whistling E string or the Pirastro No. 1 E string.

A note on E strings–many violinists will buy one set of strings for the bottom 3 strings and a separate E string, or a whole set of  one brand of strings for the instrument (a generalization, but a preference we’ve noticed). Here is a list of preferred violin strings: 

Popular Violin Strings Chart

Check out our complete listing of violin strings here.

As always, feel free to call or stop by our Newton store for more recommendations!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Upright bass: integral to jazz and classical music

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The bass is arguably the most integral component of any group. Can you imagine a jazz standard without the bass line, or an orchestral masterwork without a bass section? As the instrument with the lowest range, the bass provides the foundation for almost all music we are familiar with. For all of its importance, it is also a surprisingly unknown instrument and one that invites myriad of questions, including the favorite “don’t you wish you played flute?”

(The answer is no, by the way.)

Whether you call it upright bass, double bass, string bass, or just bass, it is different from the rest of the string family in a few ways. First, it is tuned in fourths rather than fifths. It also sounds an octave lower than what the player reads on the page.

The two main genres people associate with the bass are jazz and classical. Each of these genres have their own use for the instrument and superstars who dominate the field. What are some of these differences?

TECHNIQUE

In jazz, the bass is almost exclusively plucked.  Classical repertoire requires both the bow and pizzicato. Bass is unique among string instruments in that it has two different types of bows and bow holds: French (similar to a cello bow) and German (held with an underhanded grip).

TYPES OF PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES

Of course, there is always room for innovators in any genre (think Esperanza Spalding or Edgar Meyer), but these are the most prominent positions you can expect to see for bass players in the two this post addresses:

Bass performance chart

 

ACCESSORIES

Bass players will need things like rosin (most popular are Pops, Nyman, and Carlsson), a wheel for transport, and a bib for comfort. Jazz players may also need a pickup on their instrument, an amp, or may even use an electric bass for ease of transportation among many other benefits. Brands that manufacture electric basses include Yamaha and NS.

Keep an eye out for more posts about bass in the future!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Electric Violins are a new take on a classic instrument

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The world of electric violins is a small yet wonderful world. If you are ready to take the plunge, then read on!

The first step in choosing an electric violin is determining what its primary use will be. Are you looking for an instrument for performance or for silent practice? What style of music will you be playing? Rock, jazz, classical? It is also important to consider the tone you are looking for; do you want an instrument with a more acoustic tone, or an instrument with a distinct electric sound and feel? Think of the difference between an electric and acoustic guitar.

Now on to choosing the right violin. At Johnson String Instrument we are proud to carry a selection of electric instruments from Yamaha, NS Design, Realist, Bridge and our very own Johnson EV-4 Companion. For an instrument suited to silent practice, the Yamaha SV-130, SV-150 and Johnson Companion are great options. Both the SV-130 and Companion are quite versatile and make great entry level instruments for performance as well.

If you are looking for an instrument with a focus on performance, Yamaha and NS Design make fantastic options. The Yamaha SV-200, 250 and 255 all work well for performance with their advanced pick up systems, but retain the headphone output for silent practice. The NS Design violins all have a focus on performance; from the WAV to the CR model, all feature a unique solid body design. How to choose between a Yamaha and an NS Design? In this author’s opinion, the Yamaha instruments feel and sound much closer to an acoustic violin, while NS Design violins feel very much like an “electric” instrument. Both are very high quality instruments, so you cannot go wrong with either.

Another option is an acoustic-electric violin, like the Realist RV-series instruments. Essentially a regular violin with a built-in pickup system, these instruments provide the best of both worlds. A similar solution is to install a pickup on your acoustic violin. Choosing the right one is similar to choosing the right electric violin: it involves experimentation and knowing what you want out of the instrument.

Once you have chosen your electric violin, there are a few accessories you will need. As far as bows go, you can use the same bow you have always used. If you are looking for something specific, CodaBow has developed the Joule, a carbon fiber bow specifically designed for use with electric violins. Gig bags are available for Yamaha electric instruments, but any standard case can also accommodate their models. NS Design requires a brand-specific case. An amplifier is necessary as well for almost all electric instruments we carry except the Yamaha SV-150, which is exclusively a practice instrument.

Keep an eye out for future posts about choosing amplifiers and more information about electric instruments!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Alex Wagner

Cello Month 2016 at Carriage House Violins

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IT’S FINALLY HERE!

(Can you tell we’re excited?)

March is Cello Month at Carriage House Violins, when we celebrate the cello and those who love it. Like last year, we will have a variety of concerts and lectures all taking place at Carriage House Violins. We invite you to join us for as many as you can!

Monday March 7th, 7PM: Cello Month Launch Party: Wine and Hors d’oeuvres Reception

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Come to learn more about the exciting events hosted by Carriage House Violins as a part of Cello Month! You can also get the first look at our month-long contemporary cello and bow exhibit and meet many of the makers involved.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to info@carriagehouseviolins.com.

Tuesday March 8th, 7pm: Jim McKean, More Than Meets the Ear: Bringing a Cello to Life

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In this lecture by luthier and author Jim McKean, you will get a brief look at the sources of the design of the cello and how the construction allows a maker to create a unique work of art, both visually and tonally.

Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. 

Thursday, March 10th, 7:30PM: Tao Ni Cello Recital

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Originally hailing from Beng Bu, An Hui Province, China, Tao Ni is an accomplished cellist currently playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Performing:
* Felix Mendelssohn: Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Major
* Gaspar Cassado: Suite for Solo Cello
* Dmitri Shostakovich: Sonata for Cello and Piano in d minor
* Nicolo Paganini: ‘Moses’ Variations on a theme of Rossini

Tickets: $20. To order, please click here

Friday, March 18th, 7:30PM: Terry King: A Lecture on Gregor Piatigorsky

Terry King

Join cellist Terry King, author of Gregor Piatigorsky; The Life and Career of the Virtuoso Soloist, in a talk on this legendary performer and teacher.

Book signing after the lecture.

Free and open to the public. No RSVP necessary. King’s book can be purchased here

Wednesday, March 23rd, 7PM: Joel Krosnick Tribute

Joel Krosnick

Juilliard String Quartet cellist Joel Krosnick is stepping down after an incredible 42 years in the quartet. Join his friends and colleagues in paying tribute to this achievement and his illustrious career.

Reception to follow.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to info@carriagehouseviolins.com.

Tuesday, March 29th, 7:30PM: Mike Block Cello Recital 

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Hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as the “ideal musician of the 21st century,” Mike Block is a multi-style cellist and composer. Do not miss this amazing solo performance by the Silk Road Ensemble cellist and Berklee College of Music professor.

Block will expand your conception of what is possible with the cello, as he attempts to connect the world’s cultures through music.

Reception to follow.

Tickets $20. To order, please click here

March 7th-April 2nd, Standard Business Hours: Contemporary Cello and Cello Bow Exhibit

Maker exhibit

The 2nd Annual Cello Month Contemporary Cello and Cello Bow Exhibit will begin with the launch party on March 7.  Throughout the rest of the month, the exhibit will be open during our normal business hours. For more information on the makers being featured, visit our event page.

Share your excitement (and photos!) with us using #cellomonth on Twitter and Instagram, or post directly to our wall on Facebook.

Happy Cello Month!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons