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Refining truth: a guide to surviving the artistic life

Posted by Rebecca Fischer on Mar 21, 2017 10:43:46 AM

“Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” - Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark 

Artists know all about refinement.  This is a large part of what we do every day, constantly retooling our craft, whether it is bouncing a bow on the string just the right way or getting the lighting to work beautifully on a portrait.  The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of refinement for this purpose is: “the improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes.”  As important as minute, delicate changes are to perfecting a skill for artists, the kind of refinement Willa Cather suggests is far larger and more complex.  I read her statement as addressing a more holistic honing, the refinement process of which helps us to become more authentically ourselves in the world.

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Topics: Practice, Self-Improvement

Are You Ready to Play Irish Fiddle on St. Patrick's Day?

Posted by James Engman on Feb 23, 2017 3:18:01 PM

 

Have you ever been to an Irish pub or special gathering where a small circle of people pulled out their various instruments and just started playing, without pause, energetic and mythical sounding sets of tunes that just turn and turn into the night? The group may be as small as two people, or as large as a small orchestra, and while some people may be close friends, others are total strangers. What they all have in common are their memorization of dozens, sometimes hundreds of tunes, all shared in a common ancestry - not hereditary, but simply musical. If you play a stringed instrument and haven't been a part of what is most often called Irish session music, you absolutely must, and this St. Patrick's Day is a great opportunity. If you are hooked on Celtic fiddling, a tune book and some advice will help you in becoming one of that timeless circle of musicians.

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Topics: Sheet Music, For Fun, Fiddle, Ensemble Playing, Irish Fiddle

A Violin Teaching Method Alone Is Not Enough

Posted by Staff Writer on Feb 1, 2017 2:09:04 PM

The ability to explain complex and difficult concepts in a way that can be clearly understood and successfully acted on is the hallmark of great teaching. Combined with motivation, student success is assured!

Every teaching method has its merits, whether it’s Suzuki, O’Connor, Sassmannshaus, Essential Elements, Maia Bang, ABC’s, All for Strings, Whistler, or others. As a teacher, you know that regardless of what teaching method you employ, without a teacher guiding the student, the student is not likely to succeed. And because each student is unique, only the teacher is able to determine if supplemental materials may be required, to focus on specific areas of need.

 

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Topics: Suzuki, Violin Method, Teaching, Method Books, Advice

Q&A: With SHAR CEO, Charles Avsharian - Violin E Strings

Posted by Staff Writer on Jan 18, 2017 11:04:55 AM

The advent, or rather the evolution of the steel violin e-string over a century ago brought violinists to new heights in their playing. The stablity and thinness of a steel wire allowed for greater brilliance, intonation, and speed. However, with the loss of gut's sweetness and warmth, further refining and improving the capabilities and characteristics of steel E strings is still an endless pursuit of string makers today. More than just a simple steel wire, the full composition and manufacturing method of steel strings involves trade secrets, precious metals, and very high tolerances! The nuances of response, feel, tension, and volume make choosing the right E-string an adventageous feat for musicians today. We sat down with SHAR CEO, Charles Avsharian, to discuss E-Strings for violinists.

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Topics: Violin, SHAR, Strings, Charles Avsharian

Why a Violin Case or Viola Case (Sometimes) Isn’t Enough

Posted by Staff Writer on Jan 9, 2017 3:09:24 PM

There are days when I look over my monthly budget and just shake my head at just how much I spend on various kinds of insurance: Instrument insurance, car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance. It’s a never ending list! As much as I groan and complain about having to pay those monthly premiums, I know that they exist for a good reason. Insurance coverage is important, especially insurance that covers you where you need it most. If you think this blog is starting to sound like an insurance commercial, you’re right. I watched an ad on TV just the other day, and their slogan was “Know the gaps.” Meaning if there are gaps in your coverage, you should investigate that and fix it. Being a musician, I obviously thought about my instrument: do I know the gaps?

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cases, Instrument Care, Cushy

Easy Gift Ideas for the String Teacher or Professional! (Part 3)

Posted by James Engman on Dec 14, 2016 4:33:54 PM

Do you want to have a gift ready for your string teacher at your first lesson after or before Christmas? Maybe you know a string player who gigs and teaches, and you want to get them something practical that they will truly enjoy, but aren't sure exactly what? These suggestions are my top picks for string players and teachers who need some finer things in their life. Tell your teacher or colleague that you appreciate their hard work and talent!

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cello, Teaching, Bass, Birthday Blogs, Christmas, Gifts

Easy Gift Ideas for an Advancing String Player! (Part Two)

Posted by James Engman on Dec 13, 2016 2:26:35 PM

Some people are difficult to shop for, and some are near impossible. If you're lucky, the person has an interest or a hobby that you'd love to support by gifting them something related. The only problem is that you might not be sure what that something is, whether or not they need one, or if you're totally off! When it comes to advancing string players like highschool or college students, there are some gifts that might sound like a great idea, but could essentially be useless to the person if they are already particular about brands, sizes, styles, or difficulty levels. If you are having a hard time thinking of what to get for an advancing string student who has been playing for several years, then this guide should help you to know what is a safe bet, and what you might want to leave alone! Keep in mind that I don't know the person you're shopping for, and these are just general guidelines. Average price range accompanies the recommendations for reference. As long as you're giving from the heart, I'm sure they will enjoy whatever it is you find for them!

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cello, Electric Violin, Bass, Advice, Christmas, Gifts

Easy Gift Ideas for a Beginning String Player! (Part ONE)

Posted by James Engman on Dec 12, 2016 6:13:36 PM

Shopping for Beginning violin, viola, cello, or bass players doesn't have be as daunting as it may seem. If you are a parent, aunt or uncle, or just a friend of a beginner or someone who wants to start playing a stringed instrument, you may have noticed that there's a lot of stuff you need to get started, and infinite variations of each! Yes, SHAR carries over 13,000 different items for string players, but this guide should help you narrow down the whole catalog to a few really great gift options, and at varying price ranges. Whether you want to buy a big gift or a stocking stuffer, there's something here that will help you check a name off your list!

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Birthday Blogs, Christmas, Gifts

Christmas Sheet music For Strings - Part Three: Solos with Audio Accompaniment

Posted by James Engman on Nov 30, 2016 6:14:51 PM

Let's face it, piano accompanists and ensemble-ready string players don't grow on Christmas trees. Sometimes you need to put on a show for your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, but there is no one else to team up with for a duet or ensemble. Fortunately, technology has made it possible to have a full orchestra or band backing you with the press of a button. Audio accompaniments are not only fun for playing for your own enjoyment, but they can fill the empty space around your lonely instrument and help you bring down the house. Just imagine all of the Talent TV Show contestants singing their auditions without someone "rolling the tape" backstage. It's your turn to bring down the house at your holiday gathering or Christmas concert with a track from one of these fantastic collections of Holiday music for violin, viola, or cello, or bass with audio accompaniment.

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Topics: Violin, Sheet Music, Viola, Cello, Bass, Play-Alongs, CD Play-Alongs, Christmas

Christmas Sheet Music for Strings - Part Two: Advanced String Quartets

Posted by James Engman on Nov 21, 2016 5:47:52 PM

Is your string quartet booked for any holiday gigs? Do you have a group of advanced players in your orchestra that might want to showcase a quartet at the Christmas Concert? The string quartet is one of the most enduring and popular ensembles because of its limitless possibilities in expression, tone, and dynamics. However, there is so much sheet music for string quartet floating around out there, that it can be tough to find actual good arrangements - many are poorly notated or thoughtlessly adapted from other instrumentation. When arrangements are bad, there's is often nothing that can be done to make them pleasing. To make your search much easier, I'll suggest these five books containing arrangements of Holiday tunes that go far beyond your standard sing-along carol book, and are perfectly arranged for string quartet! These are all in the intermediate to advanced difficulty range, which allows for much more interesting music than basic arrangements.I hope one of these quartet books becomes your annual musical tradition!

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cello, Holiday Music, Christmas, Ensemble Playing, Flexible Ensembes, String Quartet

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