The Wedding Season Starter Kit

Wedding Gig Header

Summer is almost here, and with it comes the start of wedding season. The parade of weddings and parties, both outdoor and indoor, has the potential to keep freelancers employed for the entire season. If you’re new to the life of wedding gigs, here is a starter kit of things you’ll need:

Folding Stand: Never show up to a gig without one! Some people are satisfied with the traditional folding stands, but these can be flimsy when you have a large gig binder or you are outside and subjected to a strong wind. A sturdier stand with a flat back that is still portable, such as the ones by Peak, are a great alternative if you run into this problem.

Clothespins: Don’t let your music fly away! We all have stories of forgetting clothespins and suddenly watching our music make a run for it across the lawn or flip open to a different piece. Traditional clothespins are a great option–lots of musicians keep a box in their car for this reason. We also carry an over-sized music clip for a more elegant solution.

Gig books: Every wedding will want something a little different, but in many cases they will want standard fare such as the Mendelssohn Wedding March or Pachelbel Canon. Lots of musicians build their own gig binders with a set of arrangements that they can use for multiple weddings. The Latham wedding series and the Last Resort Music compilations are among the most popular since they come for multiple types of ensembles. The Last Resort Music series can even be mixed and matched depending on instrumentation.

Note: Make sure your music is appropriate for the venue and ceremony. If you are given free reign to choose repertoire, don’t play something that you wouldn’t normally perform in a church or synagogue. 

Stand lights: This is another great back-up item to keep in your car because you don’t know what the lighting is going to be like at any given gig. We carry our own JSI brand in addition to popular brands like Mighty Bright and Lotus. Stock up on extra batteries too–no light in the middle of a performance is not ideal.

Outdoor instrument: This is definitely not an option for everyone, but a great idea if you are able to swing it. Many people hold on to their old instruments when they upgrade and use them for outdoor gigs or any performance that they wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing their usual instrument to. Some players use alternate bows as well, especially carbon fiber bows like Codabow and JonPaul.

 

Wedding Gig Infographic

 

Good luck and happy gigging!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Customer Service Representatives

Departments of JSI

It’s back: it’s another installment of Departments of JSI ! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business 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.

Our Customer Service Representatives are the people you talk to when you call us. They handle everything from rental account management to website questions and everything in between. We asked them some questions about themselves and their jobs:

What is your position at JSI?

Samantha Bates: Assistant Office Manager.

Anna Seda: I am a Customer Service Representative.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Sam: A typical day would be speaking with customers for placing orders or rentals, occasional training, going through many accounts for updates and information, creating rental account documents, going through rental account reports

Anna: My typical daytime work is at a desk. I help clients remotely with questions and sales orders from rental contracts to string accessories.

What is your main instrument?

Sam: Violin.

Anna: Cello.

Did you go to school for music?

Sam: Yes, I received my BM in Violin Performance at BU [Boston University].

Anna: I did! I studied cello performance at the University of Colorado and Suzuki Pedagogy at the University of Denver. I have a Master’s Degree from the Boston Conservatory and spent one additional year in the Conservatory’s competitive Graduate Performance Diploma program.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Sam: Working with musicians and like-minded individuals. It is a very unique environment when you have something so special like music that brings everyone together. We find music just as important as our customers, and therefore we have that connection that makes our staff and customer bond like nothing anywhere else.

Anna: I love string talk! I’ve been a cellist all my life and enjoy sharing my interests and knowledge with people getting into the culture of performance. I’m always learning from our inventory specialists and get to explore accessories, rosin, cases, and strings I wouldn’t normally get to try.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

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:

Choose College Finances Title

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.

Choose College Campus Title

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.

Choose College Trust Title

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

Find the best violin strings for your playing

Violin Strings Header

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

Electric Violin Blog Image

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

Departments of JSI: CHV Office

Departments of JSI

Departments of JSI has returned! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business 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.

The Carriage House office staff are the people you see at the reception desks when you walk in. They handle everything from paperwork to organization, and do a lot of work behind the scenes. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and their jobs:

What is your position at Carriage House Violins?

Ariel Chu: I am an administrative assistant for Carriage House Violins.

Sarah Rogers: Administrative Assistant and Recital Hall Coordinator

Eva Walsh: I am a part-time administrative assistant at CHV.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Ariel: A typical day at work involves greeting customers as they enter, creating both sales and workshop repair appointments, and answering phone/online questions. Working at the reception desk, we are the connection between the customers and the different departments of JSI.

Sarah: For the administrative part of my job, I am the first (smiling) face you see upon entering Carriage House Violins! My colleagues and I are here to make sure our customers are directed to the right department, whether they are looking to buy a new instrument, need their instrument repaired, or they just have general questions about the small world of music. I also coordinate events in our recital hall.

Eva: Our typical day is simple, yet complicated. We do whatever is needed to keep the office running, whether it’s organizing our repaired instruments, communicating between the office and our customers, preparing documents, giving tours, answering questions or even just getting up on a ladder to replace a light bulb. Any number of things end up being in our wheelhouse.

What is your main instrument?

Ariel: My main instrument is the viola.

Sarah: Violin

Eva. My main instrument is the violin, but I play on a 5-string viola made by our workshop manager John Dailey. My other main instrument is my voice and I perform just as much as a vocalist now as I do on the violin.

Did you go to school for music?

Ariel: I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in February 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. I hold a Massachusetts teaching license for music grades K-12.

Sarah: Yes! I studied violin performance at the Eastman School of Music.

Eva: I went to Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for Violin Performance in Nashville, TN. I loved school, and I loved the opportunities I was offered through the school. Being in Music City did have a huge effect on me though, and it turned me into a folk musician rather than a classical violinist.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Ariel: I enjoy speaking to all of the different people who enjoy music, from new players getting their first instruments all the way up to professional musicians. There is something to learn from every person.

Sarah: I love being surrounded by musicians all day. Working here has opened up a lot of doors for me and has given me several performance opportunities. Playing all of the violins I can get my hands on is also a pretty fun perk of working in a string instrument shop.

Eva: My favorite part of my job is doing good work and making a positive difference in a customer’s day. At the front desk we can see that everyone has their own special situation or set of circumstances, and we see people as individuals, not just customers. We always do our best and we truly care about helping them with whatever they need. The best reward is making our customers happy.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons