The Best Grad Gifts: 2016 Edition

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They did it! All of the hard work, late nights, practicing, homework and dedication have paid off. If you’re looking for ideas for what to get the grad in your life, we have a few suggestions for you:

Sheet Music

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This is a great gift in so many different forms. Maybe it’s the Urtext edition of their favorite chamber piece or a piece they have always wanted to learn. All of our folk, fiddle, jazz, pop and world music is included in the Grad Sale, which includes things like Star Wars, Disney, The Fiddler’s Fakebook and more.

A New Case

Now is a great time to invest in a new case. With brands like Bobelock and Galaxy (a JSI exclusive) on sale, this is a great option for surprising your recent grad.

Ukulele

While not included in our Grad Sale, our ukuleles start at at just $89, making them budget-friendly in addition to being an accessible instrument. Curious to learn more about the ukulele? Check out our previous post about them.

Upgrade Their Instrument

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Our Grad Sale for commercial instruments is back! Selected commercial instruments are 10% off through June 30, and you can take 15% off the bow and case when purchasing an instrument on sale as part of an outfit.

Want to purchase your rental instead? We’re offering double your first year equity when you purchase a rental instrument from us. Keep in mind that while you can always use your equity to purchase an instrument through our sales department at Carriage House Violins, this double first year offer is only available when purchasing your rental instrument.

Gift Certificates

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Always available in any amount.

Still not sure what to get them? You can’t go wrong with a gift certificate! You can purchase one in any amount (call for details) and they are valid on everything from accessories to instruments.

You can check out the products listed here and much more in store or on our website. A heartfelt congratulations to all graduating this May and June. Good luck with your future endeavors!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Electric Instruments: Amps

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Finding the right amplifier can be just as difficult as finding the right electric violin. Unfortunately for us electric violinists, most amplifiers on the market are designed for guitar, specifically electric guitar. Now, any amplifier will amplify your electric violin, but you may have difficulty getting the exact tone you are looking for. Why? A violin has a much wider frequency range than a guitar, and produces many over and undertones. Through years of trial and error, I found that most electric guitar amplifiers cannot quite handle the upper octaves of a violin; they start sound quite shrill once you get to the E string.

The best solutions we have found here at Johnson String Instrument are amplifiers designed for acoustic instruments and guitars, like the Fishman Loudbox and the Roland AC series. These amps are designed to reproduce the sound of the instrument that you plug in, a tremendously helpful feature when you are trying to make your violin sound like a violin. Acoustic amplifiers can also handle the wide range of a violin, and most have anti-feedback systems which are extremely useful when you are using a pickup on an acoustic violin.

Figuring out which one to purchase? This decision is highly dependent on what you are planning. A little amplifier like the Roland Mobile AC is surprisingly loud, but would have difficulty competing with a full band. It is a great little amp for practicing, traveling and busking. If you are looking for a portable amp that is loud enough for small venues and groups, a Fishman Loudbox Mini or Roland AC-33 will do the trick. The Loudbox Mini packs a little more punch, which the AC-33 counters with an on-board looping function you can use to channel your inner Andrew Bird.

Looking for more volume to play with a rock band? The Roland AC-60 or Fishman Loudbox Artist should do the trick. If you need even more volume to compete with guitarists using tube amps and drummers with full kits who like to play loudly, you may need the power of the Fishman Loudbox Performer. The performer will allow you to be heard in any situation.

Any of these amps are a wonderful choice and will help make your electric violin sound like a violin. If you decide this isn’t what you want, you can always dive into the wonderful world of effects and add distortion, delay and modulation stomp boxes; stay tuned for more on these and other topics related to electric instruments!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Alex Wagner

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

Why We Love the Ukulele

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The ukulele seems to be everywhere these days. From popular hits like Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” to classics like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” to the full-blown ukulele rock stars like Jake Shimabukuro, the ukulele is well and truly back to the height of its popularity. Why? Here are some frequent comments that we hear from fellow ukulele lovers:

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All instruments have unique challenges. However, the ukulele does have some great characteristics that can make starting to learn the instrument more enjoyable. Like when beginning acoustic guitar, the ukulele tends to be a strumming instrument rather than one that plays individual notes. This means that with a few simple chords you can play many different songs and achieve great results with a reasonable amout of practice. After you learn the first few chords, more complicated chords will follow and more difficult songs can be mastered with time. In addition to ukuleles being available at reasonable prices (well made concert ukuleles made by Cordoba start at only $99, see the Cordoba 15CM here), the ukulele is an instrument that can excel in a wide variety of styles, so regardless of your personal tastes the ukulele can be your musical partner.

Ukulele Blog Comfort

While there are four primary sizes of ukulele (soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone), the smaller soprano and concert tend to be the most popular. The fact that these instruments are small makes learning a little easier for everyone. The ukulele is as comfortable for a child to play as it is for any adult player. The spaces between the frets are closer together, meaning that the hand rarely has to contort into difficult and uncomfortable shapes. In addition, the strings on a ukulele are made of unwound nylon. Nylon strings, like those on a classical guitar, are much softer underneath the fingers and won’t develop heavy calluses on your fingertips.

Ukulele Blog Relaxing

We hear this one a lot. The casual nature of the instrument allows for it to be easily picked up when a free moment in your day opens up. Whether that is on your couch at home, while camping, or in the ukulele’s natural environment on the beach, it is always there for your entertainment and relaxation. The ukulele is also a social instrument–no matter where you go, you will likely find someone who can strum a few chords or at the very least be able to have a conversation about how cool the ukulele is. While efforts are being made to have the ukulele become more of a concert instrument (see Jake Shimabukuro above), it is above all things fun and technical prowess on the instrument is often overlooked in favor of sheer enjoyment.

To learn more about the wonderful Cordoba ukuleles that we carry, please visit our website.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Justin Davis