Departments of JSI: Carriage House Violins Workshop

This is the first post of a new series called Departments of JSI. We’re able to run such a large company through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

If you brought in an instrument or bow you own for repairs, you probably worked with our CHV workshop.  A few of our luthiers agreed to answer some questions about what they do:

How did you become a luthier? 

Adam Kology: I come from a family of woodworkers and artists, so craftsmanship has been at the center of my life since I was very small. I obtained my BFA in sculpture and painting in 2006. During this time I began repair instruments as a side job. By 2009 this had evolved into a home business. In 2012 I took a full time position in the rental department at JSI. Shortly thereafter I moved over to Carriage House Violins where I find myself today.

Jess Fox: I started playing violin at the age of six, studied art and art history in college, and took a job woodworking after college in a high-end picture framing shop. Going to the North Bennet Street School violin making program in 2003 was my way to combine all of the things I love doing into one career.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Jess: On a typical day, I float between hands-on bench work, talking to customers to help diagnose repairs, and occasionally doing adjustments for the sales department.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Adam: Definitely customer reactions to simple repair jobs that I take entirely for granted. The times when I am handed an instrument and moments later I know I made a significant difference in someone’s playing.

Jess: I really enjoy solving problems with customers, helping their instruments to sound and feel better.

What is the most interesting project/instrument you have worked on?

Jess: I have had some unusual instruments come across my bench: five string violins, electric violins and cellos, hardanger fiddles, a rebab, and (less unusual) baroque instruments. I like the challenges that come along with working on unique and non-standard instruments.

What is your main instrument?

Adam: Violin. I play traditional American fiddle music for the most part. I can be found playing at festivals and pubs all over the eastern USA.

Jess: I play the “fiddle,” and also the baritone saxophone.

What advice would you give to someone looking into becoming a luthier?

Adam: Prepare to spend a lot of time reading and researching, throw your ego away, go cut a few thousand bridges, and spend all your extra money on the best tools you can find.

Jess: In my opinion, in order to be a good luthier you need dedication to the craft, an eye for detail, and sure and steady hands. If you have an interest, I would suggest talking to a few of us in the field, taking a short course or even a basic hand tool course to get a feel and see if you have an aptitude for the work, and be well aware of your employment and income prospects on the other end.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

JSI vs. Dunn Gaherin’s Softball Game!

In the last game of the season, JSI lost to Dunn Gaherin’s 16-14 despite an incredible 8 run comeback in the final inning. It all began when a representative from Dunn Gaherin’s, an Irish bar across from us on Elliot Street, walked over to challenge us to a game of softball back in July. While we lost to their more established team, we have been giving them a run for their money the past two games with the help of some extra batting practice.

Check out photos from the games below, and be sure to visit our neighbors and softball rivals Dunn Gaherin’s for great food, drinks, and fun!

Johnson String in the field while Dunn's bats during Game 3.

Johnson String in the field while Dunn Gaherin’s bats during Game 3.

 

Someone thought our warm ups were an elaborate game of fetch.

Someone thought our warm ups were an elaborate game of fetch.

 

Luckily that someone was also very friendly.

Luckily that someone was also very friendly.

 

Getting a quick batting practice in before the game.

Getting a quick batting practice in before the game.

 

Luthier Colin Skofield at bat.

Luthier Colin Skofield at bat.

 

The two teams celebrating a great Game 1 at Dunn-Gaherin's.

The two teams celebrating a great Game 1 at Dunn-Gaherin’s. Photo credit: Dunn-Gaherin’s

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

 

Districts are Coming: Preparing for an Audition

Bach has a question for you....

Every student’s worse nightmare: Bach judging your district audition.

Auditions got you worried? Not sure how to prepare? We’ve got you covered! Many of us at Johnson String Instrument have gone through auditions so we’ve been there. We asked our staff to share their tips and tricks to help you do the best that you can. They had some great advice:

1. Relax! Breathe! Try not to get too worked up about it. Every musician (even the judges!) has had to go through auditions, and everyone knows it’s a nerve-wracking experience.

2. Scales! Practice scales! More scales and arpeggios! I missed out on senior districts by bombing the scales because of a combination of nerves and not practicing enough.  Get the format down, make them second nature, and that will help you not only with scales but also with sight-reading.

-Alex Wagner, Product and Inventory Specialist, violinist

1. Be sure to listen to the entire piece. The audition committee can tell if you are hearing how your part interacts with the rest of the ensemble. Hearing the piece as a whole rather than just your part is the difference between a good instrumentalist and a good musician.

2. Perform your audition rep for as many people as possible before the audition. I know it can feel awkward or embarrassing but that’s the point! Better to get all the jitters out in front of friends/family than the audition committee.

-Sara Wilkins, Customer Service Representative, cellist

My biggest piece of advice would be not to practice for several hours on the day of an audition. The truth is that your repertoire is as good as it’s going to get that day. A great alternative to playing through the music over and over is to come up with a ritual that helps you feel calm and focused. A couple methods I’ve used are to play a scale (slowly) with all of its arpeggios or to eat a piece of my favorite chocolate while I warm up.

-Sarah Rogers, Administrative Assistant, violinist

1. Be able to play excerpts in any order presented. Be able to switch from fast and technical to slow and calm.

2. Play for non-string players. If you have rhythm issues play for drummers. Excerpts that have tricky shifts or string crossings, play for flute or other wind players; they are less forgiving about string player-specific issues.

3. Tape and film yourself to look for areas that need improvement.

4. Be ready at least a week before the audition, and relax.

-Jon Crumrine, Bow Maker, violist

Set a box of doughnuts (or preferred favorite treats) in the corner of the audition room. Whenever you get nervous, look at them & feel relieved 🙂
Then treat yourself afterwards!

-Amy Nolan, Store Manager, cellist

1. Get plenty of sleep.

2. Eat well.

3. Live healthily.

4. Play your audition for anybody who will listen, especially if they might have some constructive advice.

5. Read all of these books by Don Greene, and practice the techniques found therein with diligence and devotion.

-Phil Rush, Sales Consultant, violist

Still need to purchase your music for districts? Stop into our store or visit our website, and good luck to all auditioning in the coming months!

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Choosing Strings and the Thomastik Back to School Sale!

Choosing the Right Strings

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:

Gut

Steel

Synthetic

  • Warm, complex sound
  • Softer under the fingers
  • Unstable tuning
  • 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.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons