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Pickups and Preamps Redux

fishman professional pickup for violin

Stepping into the amplified arena of music performance can be as easy as installing a pickup on your current instrument. A piezo transducer responds to pressure on the instrument's bridge (either in the wing slot, under the bridge feet, or from within the bridge itself). This makes piezo pickups the optimal choice -- if you're looking for great sound -- for bowed string instruments.

The standard pickup offered by Fishman attach to the wing slot of the instrument's bridge and usually require no alteration to the instrument. The Fishman V100 has decent output gain and is popular with more professional players.

For the more active performer who is willing to invest in a more ambitious setup which will involve alteration of the instrument, the L.R. Baggs bridge pickup offers a design that has the piezo carved inside an Aubert #7 Mirecourt bridge. (Diana Ladio of The Moxie Strings uses an L.R. Baggs pickup.) This provides more balance, greater output, and less attack noise, but the bridge requires installation by a qualified technician.

Another professional pickup is the Realist pickup designed by David Gage in collaboration with NS Design. The Realist is a transducer in a vinyl sleeve and rests between the bridge feet and the violin top, which puts it exactly where the sound is transferred from the strings to the sound board. Its mounting hardware is extremely compact and with such a high output gain it requires no external preamp. Though installation is relatively easy and can be done by the customer, the transducer raises the bridge height by about 1 mm and some players may want to have their bridge height lowered by a qualified technician.

Music and Food


It seems like our culture has gone from an obsession with quick meals and TV dinners to a fascination with and respect for farm-to-table preparation. All of which is to say: being a foodie is no longer a fringe obsession, it's totally mainstream! And so today's guest blog asks the burning question of our time: Were any of our favorite composers also foodies?

What do Shostakovich and Teenagers Have in Common?


Today's guest blog is from one of our favorite guest bloggers. He asks (and answers) the toughest question anyone in classical music has ever faced: How do you get a teenager interested in classical music? The answer: Shostakovich. 

Why am I asking what teenagers and Shostakovich have in common? Because it seems like every nerdy young string player I know (myself included) seems to go through a serious obsession with Shostakovich. There’s something so attractive about its sarcastic, rebellious overtones, and what teen doesn’t love to be sarcastic? Not to mention the many raw emotions conveyed in his music. Maybe this attraction to Shostakovich and his music is merely a teenage phase, or maybe it’s a burgeoning discovery of a serious love of his music. We’re going to try to break it down and find out.

First, it seems obvious that the thing most American teens and Shostakovich have in common is a love of loud rockin’ music. Today’s teens might be listening to Pharrell or Kanye, or putting Radiohead or Fuel on their favorite Spotify playlist. Although he was not one of their contemporaries, Shostakovich adored his rock rhythms and energetic melodies. His lrock music tendencies can be witnessed in his cello concerto, the 2nd movement of String Quartet #8, the last movement of his 5th symphony, and (my personal favorite) the 2nd movement of his 10th symphony. But honestly, these tendencies can be found everywhere in his music. You might assume the most popular rockstar of the '60s and '70s was Jimi Hendrix, or maybe the Beatles… Nope! For me, Shostakovich will remain the ultimate rockstar! His music sounds like classical music and heavy metal had a baby. It can even shock older folks, the way that actual heavy metal can.

Traveling with Your Cello


If you’re an active musician, chances are you’ll be traveling to a gig, performance or audition out of town. If you’re a violinist or flutist, this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re a cellist or bassist? Let’s just say that if you play either of these instruments, traveling with them can be a pain in the neck. (And hopefully not your cello’s neck!) But if you heed some of the following advice and carefully plan ahead, hopefully you can avoid having too many problems. 

Fame, Money, Music, and Your Education


In this guest blog, SHAR customer Paul Dittus asks the question "Why should anyone study music and why is it important?" His answer is a suprising one: drawing on arguments from classical philosophy, Paul argues that at its best music can connect us to beauty and truth. While not ignoring the dire employment opportunities for musicians, Paul reminds us that music is more than employment: it is enduring beauty. Note: This guest article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of SHAR Music.  

Why should anyone care to study music? For a large income and a good job, right? In today’s economy you would probably be better off pursuing a degree to become a doctor or lawyer. If money is really what you prize, maybe you should consider pursuing something other than music. I would say getting a degree in music should help you get a job, but I do not believe it should be your ultimate goal and purpose for pursuing a music degree. What about fame? There are not many guarantees in this world, and fame is one that is not easily come by. Unless you are going to be the next “fiddler on the roof” and become a hit, you should probably not count your chickens before they hatch. This is not to say you shouldn’t dream big and set your goals high, it is more to make sure you are pursuing music for a solid reasons. If not for money or fame, why study music and why is it important? 

Why does some music have the ability to captivate, inspire, and uplift you? Why did the ancient philosophers give it such importance? Why does it have such a big role in society now and in the past? These and other similar questions must be asked and pondered upon. Do not these questions give us evidence for the importance of music?

A Brief Email Interview with Kathryn Schutmaat

My Very First Cello Method

When My Very First Cello Method first arrived at SHAR we thought: Another method book . . . is there anything special about this one? What follows is a brief email interview with the author, Kathryn Schutmaat. We hear a little about her professional background, her multicultural identity, and what's special about this particular cello method book. 

"Dear Dr. Arnie" from In the Key of Strawberry

Arnold and CA

The Guarneri String Quartet (photo by Erwin Fischer) and Charles Avsharian

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What's the Best Music Stand?


Internet, we thought you'd never ask. But first you should rephrase that question: What's the best music stand for me? That's right. Like most things in life, there isn't a single best music stand out there, but there are stands that are great for particular uses, depending on factors such as sturdiness and portability. Here's our run-down:


"Me and My Violin" by Arnold Steinhardt

Guarneri Quartet

The Guarneri String Quartet (photo by Erwin Fischer) and Charles Avsharian

A Suzuki Teacher Training Journal: Days Seven and Eight


Most SHAR employees are players in addition to being luthiers, salespeople, purchasers, or web developers. So when one of our senior customer care specialists asked to attend the Phoenix Phest Grande Suzuki Teacher Training Workshop, we said, "Sure! But can you also blog about it?" Not only has Alexandra Ostroff sent us dispatches from her training workshops, she's generously shared her reflections on the Suzuki Method, allowing us to witness the discoveries and challenges of this week-long session at Phoenix Phest Grande.

August 8, 2013

Today we did it, we got to the last piece in Book 1, "Gavotte" by Gossec. Tonight our assignment is to make a list of all of the skills that our students will have learned by the time that they’ve mastered the material that we have covered in this book.  ’m not sure exactly how many that I’ll come up with, but I know that the list is going to be VERY long.

We also completed our final observations required to help us understand how this method works and to assist our students and their parents to achieve excellence. An institute setting is a bit different than a weekly private lesson for many reasons. Despite the differences in the setting, the teacher they are learning from, and the frequency of the lessons that they are attending, the students that I’ve observed over the course of this week have made so many positive strides coming closer to mastering the skills and techniques that we are focusing on in lectures. I’m so proud of them all and I’m sure that their teachers and parents are as well.

August 9, 2013 

Today I completed the coursework required to become a Registered Violin Unit 1 Teacher with the Suzuki Association of the Americas. As a final lesson, we learned how to say “no” to the things in our studios or our lives that are counterproductive to our goals -- and the importance of setting standards for oneself, freeing up time to focus on the things we want to do.

I have learned so much this week, and its been such a great experience. The people I was in contact with exuded so much love for their craft, I remain awestruck. I’m going forward into the music community as a better teacher, player and person.

I’d like to send a special thanks to the following people for helping make this week possible. First,  Nancy Jackson, my Teacher Trainer, who has been such an inspiration to me this week. Thank you Nancy for sharing your expertise, experience, and a piece of your heart with us. To Rolando Freitag, Nancy’s Teacher Trainer Candidate, and fellow teacher trainees, it was a pleasure to learn with and from you all -- please keep in touch! Thanks to Gabe Bolkosky and the Phoenix Phest Organization for offering this training, and thank you to SHAR Products Company for assisting me in being able to be a part of the event. And lastly, thanks to Jay for supporting me throughout this week.

I go forward from this training excited to teach with love in my heart for music, children and the world.

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