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Joseph Chapman

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Take Practice to the Next Level with the Cadenza App

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Nov 21, 2014 12:07:00 PM

Often, it's not enough to know a piece cold. You need to feel it, you need to interpret it. This is especially hard to do with an orchestral piece; how can you develop your own voice when you can't hear the rest of the orchestra? This is where Cadenza, a new app for the iPad, steps in. 

At SHAR, we're very excited about a new app called Cadenza. It allows you to practice with a full orchestra. And it's not just a play-along track. It's responsive. If you want to linger on a phrase, hold a fermata, or go for an exhilirating finish, it's there with you. Basically, it lets you figure out how you want to play a piece. You can explore different interpretations, all with the help of this simple app. 

Not convinced? We know, it almost sounds too good to be true. But Cadenza has a really solid video explanation of the app. The cellist Michael Dahlberg shows you what's possible with the app by doing a quick demo.

Cadenza is actually free (it comes with several pieces of music, but you'll have to purchase the pieces you want to practice). You can download it here. If you play violin, cello, viola, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, French horn, or trumpet, you can use this app

What's more, if you like Cadenza's Facebook page you'll be entered to win a $250 shopping spree at SHAR Music. Downolad the Cadenza, and get thee to a practice room!

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Topics: Practice, cadenza

Curious About Our Sheet Music Difficulty Ratings?

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Nov 4, 2014 12:06:00 PM

Ever wonder how we decide our sheet music difficulty ratings? Below you'll find a detailed (and hopefully sane) explanation of our difficulty ratings. Although there are overlaps with ASTA's ratings, we decided to come up with our own rating system since a good number of our sheet music titles are not rated by ASTA. Feel free to ask questions about our sheet music difficulty ratings in the comment section below!

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Topics: Sheet Music

Choosing the Right Set of Strings Redux

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Jul 29, 2014 2:52:00 PM

Edited Dec. 3, 2018 - With the new sharmusic.com redesign, we've revamped out string charts! Check out the updated chart designs on our new site!

Edited Apr. 14, 2016 - We've rolled live the Violin Strings, Viola Strings, Cello Strings, and Bass Strings Sound Guides, now with interactive icons, a pricing key, and revised placement! See the updated blog on choosing the right set of strings here.

As SHAR has picked up more and more string brands, we realized that our handy string chart was out of date. So we've done three things with the new string chart: we added new brands, limited the strings to violin and viola strings (cello and bass charts are on the way), and we simplified. As far as simplifications: now the major differentiations are Subtle/Direct and Warm/Brilliant instead of the three differentiations of Mild/Aggressive, Subtle/Direct, and Smooth/Textured. If you're looking for an interactive chart with links to products, check out the chart here. On that chart we've also added a key with price categories ($ to $$$$) to help you decide if a particular string is worth the money for you.

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Strings

Pickups and Preamps Redux

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Jul 18, 2014 11:51:00 AM

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.

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Topics: Pickups, Electric, Preamps

A Brief Email Interview with Kathryn Schutmaat

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Apr 22, 2014 2:35:00 PM

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. 

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Topics: Cello, Teaching, My Very First Cello Method, Kathryn Schutmaat, Method Books

What's the Best Music Stand?

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Mar 13, 2014 12:48:00 PM

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:

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Topics: Music Stands

Friendship and Love of Music: An Interview with Hayley Murks

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Aug 8, 2013 11:23:00 AM

Each year, Strings Magazine awards a $3,000 scholarship (plus $1,000 to spend at SHAR) to a deserving young musician. The Edith Eisler Scholarship is a much-needed and generous award, one named in memory of a dedicated musician and contributor to Strings Magazine. When I heard that this year's winner, Hayley Murks, was from Gulfport, Mississippi, I was excited to connect with a fellow Mississippian. I'm so grateful, however, that Hayley and I ended up talking about more than her home state; Hayley generously shared her story, what drives her to make music, and her passion for a Gulfport outreach program, the Magnolia Chamber Orchestra.   

Joe Chapman:
Tell me how you first started playing the viola. What drew you to the instrument? What has kept you going?

Hayley Murks:
Well, I always wanted to play the double bass, but I am only 5'1'' and I have the hand size of a five-year-old! I fell in love with the sound of the viola when I was in the fourth grade. I was a part of my public school's strings program from that point on.
            I had a really great strings teacher in middle school who was a very caring individual. At the time I was still participating in competition dance, and found it difficult to keep up in the class. He truly inspired me to stay passionate about viola and music.  
            My father's love for music has always given me a sense of direction too. He had a record room in our house. There must have been thousands of records in it! He was very supportive of me becoming a musician and thought that it was the coolest job on earth. He would always quietly listen to me practice outside my bedroom door in high school.  
            He became very ill my senior year of high school and passed away a few weeks before my first college jury. My memories of him give me the strength to continue on this journey.

That's such a moving and beautiful answer, Hayley. It's strange how the givens of our lives—your height, for instance!—direct our choices. And then there are the circumstances, like your father's death, that inspire us to continue. I guess I have two follow-up questions here. What do you love about the sound of the viola? And which records in your father's record room did you find yourself listening to?

HM: Having my double bass fantasy shattered in elementary school, I found comfort in the C string on my viola. I suppose I am naturally drawn to deep tones.
            The music of Bob Dylan fascinated my father to the point that he named his daughter Dylan—before my mother ruined it all by naming me Hayley. True story. And the music of the Beatles was like our family soundtrack.  

JC: Oh, Hayley is a good name! Although Dylan would have been pretty cool, too. (I can't say the same for Bob!) Tell our readers a little about Gulfport, Mississippi. What’s the town like? How long have you lived there?

HM: Gulfport is on the coast of Mississippi. It’s a beautiful beach town, although Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill have certainly done their part to set us back. But we are coming back strong!
            I have been born and raised on the coast, and as I’m planning my move to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Longy School of Music, I realize just what a special place Gulfport is to me.
            I’m one of the founding members of the coast's Magnolia Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble specializing in early music performance under the fearless direction of Tomas Fajardo. Our concerts are a gift to our community; they’re free for all to attend, and through our performances we strive to impact the quality of life and the cultural diversity of the Mississippi coast.
            I feel privileged to be a part of Magnolia Chamber Orchestra and to have an opportunity to enrich the experience of the younger audiences on the Mississippi coast. I truly believe in the mission of the group: to inspire the youth, provoking the creativity in them and igniting a genuine interest for the arts through community outreach.  

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Topics: Viola, Education, Edith Eisler Scholarship

"Tom" by Arnold Steinhardt

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Aug 5, 2013 10:30:00 AM

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

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Topics: Viola, Arnold Steinhardt, Tom Heimberg

Remembering David Crowder

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Jul 23, 2013 10:16:00 AM

On a Friday morning at the end of June, everyone at SHAR was saddened to hear that our master bow restorationist David Crowder had passed away after a lengthy battle with emphysema. Aaron Johnson, the Repair Shop Coordinator, shares his memories of David in this brief blog, remembering especially David's intelligence, humor, and eclectic interests. We'll miss you, David! 

The end of June was a surreal time for us in the Repair Shop. Our master bow restorationist, David Crowder, passed away after a lengthy battle with emphysema. David was 75. While it may not have come as a surprise to someone objectively looking at his health condition, it still managed to catch us off guard.

Before his career in bow making began, he was a code breaker in the US Navy, and then a college professor. As I got to know him over the past couple of years, he would occasionally share one of a number of crazy stories from his past life. Over time, I learned that even though David had a rather gruff exterior, he was an incredibly interesting man who held himself to a very high standard of quality in his work. In addition to bow restoration, David also had a great love of languages, logical deduction puzzles and, oddly enough, video games. One of the biggest surprises I’ve had during my time at SHAR was when David visited me on a Saturday and we proceeded to have a lengthy discussion of Zelda, different gaming platforms, and Call of Duty. I drove home and had a genuine “You will not believe what happened today” story for my wife.

David joined our staff in 1996 after working as an independent bow maker in Pittsburgh and Nashville. For 17 years he worked servicing SHAR’s customer, consignment and high end bow work. His attention to detail and excellence in his craft will be missed. I, however, will miss his stories even more.

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Topics: SHAR, David Crowder

Revolution Strings in China, Days Nine and Ten

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Jul 2, 2013 4:23:00 PM

Think back to your high school days. You may have played an instrument, and you have been quite good at it. But did you ever get the chance to tour China with thirteen violinists, two guitarists, a cellist, and a bass player? And this was after you released your first album? Allow me to introduce you to Revolution Strings, an alternative strings group culled from Abilene High School and Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas. Although each member has a strong classical background, these string players aren't afraid to dabble in jazz, country, Celtic and more. Revolution Strings has just embarked on their tour of China and they've kindly agreed to blog about their experience for the SHAR Music Blog. Justin Radcliffe, Theatre Director for Cooper High School, guest blogs for Revolution Strings.

Day Nine

Shanghai, China is as iconic a place as China has to offer. This city is home to twenty-five million people, with an expanded population of thirty-five million when the outlying area is included. Another two-and-a-half million migrant workers live in the city at any given time. History made Shanghai the prototype city for China's expansion into western trade, and it seems like just about everything in and around Shanghai has experienced growth. On Friday, The League of Astonishing Strings pulled into town and in true tour fashion saw as much of Shanghai as could be fit into a day.

The Old City is a part of Shanghai that was rebuilt in the style of ancient Chinese architecture. Though these beautiful buildings now house shops full of knock-off goods such as Rolex, Coach and Nike, they also provide local merchants the opportunity to sell items like Chinese script calligraphy and hand-carved figurines. A couple of hours in the neighborhood and one can truly feel the heritage of a beautiful culture emanating from the these traditional buildings. 

Then there's the other side of Shanghai: The Bund and Nanjing Road. Here, we saw a futuristic, dream-up city, especially at night. The skyline is a constant light show of Jetson-age skyscrapers, and The Bund is a tourist-filled overlook where, from across the water, you can see the truly awesome skyline. Nanjing road brings to mind the Las Vegas strip, with its neon signs, enormous LED screens and shop after expensive shop. Revolution members breezed through the streets with student performers from three other performing groups from the States, making memories and enjoying the sites.

The day ended with a special dinner treat of traditional Chinese Hot Pot. Attributed to Ghengis Khan, this dining style has taken on a relaxed, social pace, quite unlike its military origins! Similar to fondue, you cook your own food in a boiling pot of soup. Sharing a hot pot, the students celebrated an excellent tour and anticipated a final performance on Saturday.

Day Ten
The League of Astonishing Strings tour of China drew to a close on Saturday after a sold-out Shanghai show. The audience couldn't get enough of these talented Abilene students! 

Revolution Strings put on their best show of the tour, and the crowd adored the performance. The Shanghai Oriental Art Center has three performance theaters, and the sight of a capacity crowd in one of them cheering on our Abilene students was inspiring. Intent on finishing on a high note, Revolution held nothing back and wrapped up their China tour in style. 

After the performance, Revolution students greeted audience members in the foyer. Hundreds of Chinese concert-goers cheered for our students as they entered the foyer. Parents thrust their children into photographs with these high school orchestra students and several parents and grandparents even scrambled to get a photograph with them. This was undoubtedly an unforgettable opportunity for Revolution performers, as well as life-changing encouragement in their choice to be musicians. One Chinese father communicated that most Chinese children are forced to study music to better their chances for higher education. In The League of Astonishing Strings, Chinese students saw the joy music can bring into one's own life. 

On Sunday, Revolution left their Shanghai hotel at 8am for Shanghai's Pudong Airport. The following 24 hours of travel brought them safely back home to Abilene and a warm welcome from friends and family. Junior violinist Abby Fortson said it best: "I am just so deeply full of gratitude that I was a part of this wonderful group of people and this incredible experience." 

Revolution Strings

Darcy Radcliffe and Dave Keown

The China Troupe
Violins: Candi Davidson, Jesenia Navejas, Alex Martinez, Nathaniel Pigott, Keila Salinas, Abby Fortson, Kenneth Menard, Adine DeLeon, Julia Taylor and Kiley Harris,
Viola: Logan McFall
Cello: Kenny Waldrop
Bass: Brendan Acosta
Drums: Joe Regalado

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Topics: Revolution Strings, Alternative Strings, China

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