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Happy (Belated) Birthday, Claude Debussy!

clause debussy

Claude Debussy
Born August 22, 1862, Died March 25, 1918

Don’t like contemporary classical music? Debussy might be to blame. Many would say that his compositions set in motion the eventual breakdown of traditional tonality as well as many of the ideas and explorations of music in the 20th century. Often associated with the impressionist movement, Debussy dared to use unprecedented compositional techniques that affected the direction of classical music. His use of non-traditional scales, chromaticism, and his frequent avoidance of traditional tonality all contributed to his trademark sound. His music often has a dream-like quality to it; it’s frequently abstract, very melodic and emotionally expressive. Nowadays, Debussy’s style of music is well known and widespread, but when it was first introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was revolutionary.

Happy Birthday, Leonard Bernstein!

Leonard Bernstein by Jack Mitchell web

Leonard Bernstein
August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
-Leonard Bernstein

That’s kinda how I feel about writing this blog. Bernstein is such a huge musical figure that it seems like there won’t be enough time (or space on this blog!) to share everything worth knowing about him. It is also true of Bernstein’s life; he often achieved great things despite not having much time. His different roles in several areas of music, as a composer, conductor and educator, led him to high acclaim and worldwide recognition. He composed so much music: Broadway musicals, symphonies, choral works, film scores, music for solo piano and other instruments, and many other pieces.

Which Bass Bag Is Right For You?


If you play the bass, you’re going to need a bass bag. Here at SHAR we carry a few different bass bags, but here is our advice on which ones to consider.

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Suzuki Teacher Training Journal, 2014


Alexandra Ostroff, one our Customer Service Leads, talks about her experience this past week at the Phoenix Phest Suzuki Teacher Training seminar. Alexandra is clearly developing into a talented teacher; what I love most about her blog post is how open she is to learning from those around her. 

This past week I took some time away from my desk and returned to Phoenix Phest in Ypsilanti, MI to continue my education in teaching the Suzuki Method. This blog entry will share some of the highlights for me from this week’s institute.

The institute setting gives students, their parents and teacher, and the teacher trainers a week away from their regular lives to focus on music and learning. Being able to see the Suzuki student-teacher-parent triangle work in fast-motion was amazing. All parties on the triangle were so on board to improve their skills and become better players and people. One night after classes, a little girl and her father spent 2 hours together working on perfecting a skill from the assignment for that day. She came back the next day with that skill set in her tool-belt and a smile on her face, knowing that she had worked hard to own it. This was a great example of one of Dr. Suzuki’s statements that we discussed this week: “Knowledge plus 10,000 times equals ability.” Although the child had not made her 10,000 repetitions, she had accomplished a good chunk of them.

Are You a Bassist? Minimize Your Travel Stress


We recently published a blog on traveling with your cello. SHAR has long been the go-to shop for violinists and violists, but we've often failed to provide useful content and products for our cellists and bassists. Here's our second blog to remedy that! In the blog below, you'll find all sorts of tips and advice on how to minimize travel stress if you're a bassist. 

Choosing the Right Set of Strings Redux

Strings Chart

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 Quiet/Loud and Dark/Bright 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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Happy Birthday, Ernő Dohnányi


Ernő Dohnányi was born on July 27, 1877 and died on February 9, 1960. To celebrate his birthday, we're publishing a tell-all blog about this lesser-known conductor and composer who was one of the first to conduct some of Bartok's more accessible music. 

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 his 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 rock 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.

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