The season we’ve been dreading is finally here. While we hope this year is not nearly as buried in snow (despite current forecasts to the contrary here in Boston), winter provides a variety of stresses for musicians. Here are some posts to help you deal with the two main offenders:
That time of year has arrived! It’s holiday gig season, when you live in orchestra pits and churches while Tchaikovsky and Handel reign supreme. Whether you are a seasonal veteran, a newcomer on the scene, or just wondering how many more times you have to play the Hallelujah Chorus before your brain starts trying to escape through your ears, it can be a stressful and exhausting ordeal. Here are some tips to help keep you both healthy and sane:
Get organized as soon as possible. Calendars are your best friend, whether electronic or hand-written. Make sure to note call times and repertoire to avoid confusion the day of.
Use the commute to decompress. You may be traveling quite a distance for these gigs. Have some coffee or tea, something unrelated to your gig to listen to, and bring plenty of snacks.
Prepare for your venues. Orchestra pits can be dangerous places for your instrument; it’s a small, cramped space and accidents happen. Bows especially are in danger of damage, so whenever possible it’s advisable to use a carbon bow or at least not your best bow for these particular gigs. For churches, make sure you bring layers because it tends to get cold. Hand warmers and even long underwear are both invaluable at a frigid midnight mass.
Take care of your instrument! It’s working hard too. Have extra rosin and strings on hand, and humidify your instrument. Each gig is in a different environment, which means your instrument will need time to adjust. It’s your most valuable tool, so treat it as such.
Take care of yourself. Plan meals ahead of time, drink plenty of water, and sleep whenever/wherever you are able. Don’t try to suddenly change your lifestyle either–if you need to play a week’s worth of Nutcracker performances and then some, now is not the time to try and kick that caffeine habit.
Be safe. If you are too tired to drive after a gig, consider staying overnight somewhere or taking a quick nap/caffeine break before heading on the road. Stay on the lookout for inclement weather and adjust your travel plans accordingly. Leave enough time to get to and from gigs as well so you don’t have to rush.
Good luck to all in the holiday hustle. We wish you a safe holiday season!
Choosing strings for your instrument is a personal and complicated process. With so many options available on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily, we are here to help!
Here are some important factors to keep in mind:
What style of playing do you do? What works for a classical player may not work for a jazz musician or fiddler and vice versa. Different genres call for different types of sound, which can be achieved with different kinds of strings.
How do you characterize your instrument’s sound? Strings have the ability to enhance or stifle the particular qualities of your instrument. In order for them to help rather than hinder, know how to characterize your instrument’s sound. Is it dark or bright? Mellow or piercing? This knowledge will help you work with your instrument rather than against it.
What are you looking for? Do you want to brighten the sound? Tone down the power? Speed up response? Slow it down? Knowing what you are looking for helps make sure your strings accommodate your needs.
There are three basic types of strings: gut, steel core, and synthetic core. Keep in mind that the majority of players today use steel or synthetic core strings. The basic differences are:
Warm, complex sound
Softer under the fingers
Long settling period
Shorter playable life
Sensitive to changes in climate
Stable tuning, settle quickly
Direct and cutting sound
Thinner sounding than gut or synthetic
Warmer than steel core strings
Stable tuning and settle quickly
More subtle tonal colors than steel
Most widely-used type of string today
Similar tonal qualities to gut
**Keep in mind these are generalizations. Each type of string will perform differently for different instruments, and the varying qualities of each will appeal to some and push away others**
Experimenting with strings involves trial and error. Now through October 9th, Thomastik is having their back-to-school sale on select string sets and bundles for all instruments, making this a better time than ever to try something new with your strings. As always, our string prices are up to 55% below list price.
For more detailed information about the different kinds of strings we offer and their differences, please visit our website.
Johnson String Instrument is a proud supporter of the Johnson String Project. Our goal is to bring high quality, well-maintained instruments to under-served children throughout Massachusetts. See our program in action by watching the video below. For more information, please visit our website.