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

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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

 

Cello strings that fit your instrument and style

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We’ve already talked about choosing strings in the general sense. However, what about the specific needs of the cello? There are many additional factors to consider:

Price: Cello strings are more expensive than those for other instruments. The G and C strings in particular are costly–a C string alone can run the same price as a full set of violin strings. Thankfully, a cellist’s C string is not as thin as a violinist’s E and will last longer.

Playing level: More expensive brands may not be necessary for beginning players, while less expensive brands may not provide enough color or nuance for more advanced players. Teachers will often have recommendations or preferences for their students, and what you prefer when you are first starting out will probably differ from what you prefer further into your playing career.

Style of playing: This does not refer to genre alone–how you play will also determine what you’re looking for. Have an aggressive playing style? You may need something different than someone who doesn’t.

Mixing and Matching: More so than violin, most cellists do not use a complete set of one brand. Many use two different brands for the top and bottom strings, while others go so far as to have different brands for all strings. You’ll need to experiment to find the right fit for your instrument. See the chart below for common preferences:

Cello Strings Chart

But what about electric cellos?

The same principle applies–you’ll need to experiment and see what works best for your instrument. Some brands make strings specifically for their instruments (like NS Design), but many electric cellos can use the same strings as an acoustic instrument. Be careful though; some pick-ups will require a specific type of string in order to function correctly.

When in doubt, talk to your luthier or salesperson–they will have invaluable firsthand knowledge that can help you find the right cello string for you.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

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:

Ukulele Blog Easy

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