How to Choose Your College

Choose College Blog HeaderYOU DID IT! You navigated the applications, survived the auditions, and received your acceptance letters. Take a moment to bask in the glow of your accomplishments.

(Go ahead, do it–you deserve it!)

Now for the reality check: How do you decide where to go? You can make a pro/con list, solicit advice from friends and teachers, talk to your parents and take whatever steps you need to help make this decision. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go through this process:

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For most families, this is the biggest concern. Maybe the school you had your heart set on didn’t offer you enough financial aid, or you didn’t receive as much aid as you hoped all around. First take a look at the type of aid you’ve been offered.

  • Government aid is determined by your FAFSA and is essentially set in stone once it’s awarded. This does NOT come through the school itself. For some government aid, the earlier you complete your FAFSA the more aid you get so make sure to complete it as soon as possible.
  • Scholarships and grants are awarded by the school and can be a little more flexible.

Concerned you didn’t receive enough? The best thing you can do is contact the school’s financial aid office and ASK. There is a possibility you can find more money through scholarships or grants, or they will have advice on securing a loan from an independent lender. This can also be helpful once you are in the school and can prove your commitment and financial need. Whatever you decide to do financially, make sure you consider the investment before you commit to a school; it may be a well-chosen debt if you are comfortable taking it on for a school you are passionate about and can advance your playing and your career. However, don’t put yourself in a financial hole you aren’t OK with getting out of.

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If you didn’t visit a school you’re considering during auditions, now is the time to do so. Go to those welcome parties and information sessions they’re offering! It’s a great way to meet professors, administration, and possibly future classmates. Get a feel for the school, since it’s the place you’ll possibly spending the next four years of your life. Make sure to also take a test lesson with the teacher while you are there, as they will be one of your biggest mentors during your time there. Sit in on a masterclass or lecture if possible. In short, do everything you can to experience what it would be like to go to this school so you can make an informed decision.

Don’t forget to consider the location of the campus too! As we said before when choosing where to apply, know what you’re comfortable with distance-wise and what kind of environment you thrive in. If you despise being in the middle of nowhere, that cute college you visited that borders nothing is probably going to drive you crazy. Keep in mind too what kinds of opportunities are available, musical and otherwise. Some schools have stronger chamber music programs, others are great for learning orchestral repertoire. Find out about the local music scene in the community too, especially if you are interested in pursuing a non-classical career. It is even worth it to see if you can take non-musical classes as well if that’s what you are interested in. Whatever it is you are passionate about, make sure it’s available in some form.

Music schools, whether they are stand-alone conservatories or a school within a larger university, tend to be on the smaller side. For some, a larger school provides freedom to explore new things independently and to carve their own path. Others need more individualized attention and ongoing guidance in order to succeed. Think about what would work best for you and see if you can talk to current or former students. They’ll have valuable insight on the things you can’t determine from a quick campus visit, everything from where to live freshman year to whether they feel supported by teachers and administration.

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Is everything pointing one way but your instincts are screaming against it? Listen to them. Nervous that you made the wrong choice? This choice is not the be all end all–plenty of people transfer once they realize that the school they chose does not offer something they are looking for. The best thing you can do is decide what you want (or don’t want), gather all of the information you can to make an informed decision, and go for it.

Congratulations to everyone choosing colleges!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Rent or Buy?

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We all come to this question at some point in our playing careers. Our parents (or we as parents) have needed to make the all-important decision:

Do we rent or buy the instrument?

Why Rent?

In most cases, beginners of all ages begin by renting. Why? There are a few important benefits to renting as a beginner:

  1. Insurance. Our rental program comes complete with comprehensive instrument insurance that includes normal wear and tear, size exchanges, and replacing broken or damaged strings.
  2. Low-risk commitment. Beginners tend to either be young or just that: beginners. Renting allows you to try out the instrument and gauge interest before making a serious financial commitment.
  3. Rental Equity. At Johnson String, you build equity as you rent. 100% of the first year’s rent (excluding insurance and tax) plus 20% every subsequent year goes toward rental equity that can be used to purchase an instrument in the future.
  4. Finances. We offer three levels of rental instruments, not only allowing beginners but more advanced players access to a quality instrument. This is great for when the player needs a new instrument of higher quality but you are not ready to make the financial commitment.

Why Buy?

  1. You are ready for the investment. Purchasing an instrument is a great investment for your musical future. With Carriage House’s trade-in policy, 100% of the purchase price goes towards an instrument of equal or greater value when you trade in your old instrument. This allows you to better your instrument as your skills grow and change.
  2. Quality. While our rentals are well-maintained and high quality, they are still rental instruments. There comes a point when the player outgrows their rental and an instrument with a setup of higher quality is required. An instrument from our sales department is also not passed from renter to renter, and won’t have the same level of wear and tear. All instruments from our sales department also come with a one year warranty against defects in craftsmanship and materials.
  3. Finances. Violinists should expect to spend at least $1,200, violists $1,500, and cellists $2,600 for the instrument alone. If you purchase the instrument, bow and case together as an outfit Carriage House Violins offers a 10% discount on the bow and case. You will also work with a sales consultant who is a player and can give you informed recommendations. In addition, we offer home trials with up to two instruments and three bows at a time. This is the perfect opportunity to try out new instruments in a variety of environments and to get teacher and peer feedback.

**An additional option is to purchase a rental outfit. Give us a call or stop in for more details.

But I still don’t know what to do!

We can still help! Use the flow chart below to determine what might work best for you:

Rent or Buy Flowchart

 

Still not sure? Feel free to give us a call at 800-359-9351 or stop by our shop at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls, MA for more information!

Learn more about our rental program here and our instrument sales here.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

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

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