Subscribe

Your email:
Untitled Document

Topics

Links

Untitled Document

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

SHAR Has a New E-Magazine

  
  
  
Pizzicato Spring 2013 cover

Hello to the SHAR faithful out there! Today marks the release of our first issue of Pizzicato, an e-zine (electronic magainze) devoted to all things strings. Click on the cover below to read the issue. Feel free to share the magazine with your friends, students, and teachers!

What's In Your Case?

  
  
  
violinist

In today's blog, we take a look at what's inside the cases of our favorite SHAR employees and SHAR friends. Strings, Bach, tuners, tea, playing cards and more. If you want to get in on the fun and share the contents of your case, email a photo and 140 character max description of your case contents to SHAR Apprentice James Engman (jamese@sharmusic.com). Each week, we'll add five photos we like to our blog! Or, if you're on Twitter, post your photo to #caseconfessions.



Suzuki Violin School Book 6, the Revised Edition

  
  
  
Suzuki Violin School, Volume 6   Violin Part L

Alexandra Ostroff, one of our Customer Service Supervisors, has some great news for the Suzuki violin crowd out there: SHAR now has the revised edition of Book 6 in stock! Alexandra offers a sneak peek below.

We are so happy to see the newly revised edition of Suzuki Book 6 for violin in stock here at SHAR! The book opens with Tonalization exercises. These exercises focus on keeping a beautiful tone when shifting. It also includes exercises for shifting from 3rd to 6th position on all strings then revisiting Perpetual Motion in the new position. Be sure to take a special look at pages 9 and 32; they have some great information on the new terms and composers in this book and on Dr. Suzuki’s ways of incorporating other repertoire into his teaching. Handel’s Sonata No. 3 has always been my favorite from this collection of works. I enjoy the contrast between the slower more lyrical movements and the more cheerful dance-like Allegros. Also, be sure to pick up the new revised CD recording featuring William Preucil (violin) and Linda Perry (piano) performing.  You can play along with Perry on the piano in the later tracks.



Making the Case for Retail Stores

  
  
  
andy5

Today's blog is from Andy Monefeldt, the manager of SHAR's Ann Arbor retail store. Andy makes the case for visiting SHAR's retail store in Ann Arbor. Sure, everyone will continue to shop online for a long time to come; that's not going to change. But perhaps there's something to be said for SHAR's retail store – you get the same great prices and wide selection but with unmatched in-person customer service.

Until a few years ago, I was doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online. Like most people, I didn’t find myself with a lot of free time to actually go shopping. I work full-time plus at SHAR Music, I play with three community orchestras in the area, and I have a studio of bass students, so it’s rare for my day to be over by the time I punch out for the evening. This means that there's usually a rehearsal somewhere from 7:30-10 at the end of my day, or a few students coming over for lessons after 6, with serious tennis ball interaction with my dog (an Austrailan Cattle Dog) shoehorned in between everything else. With such a hectic schedule, my free moments are nothing more than sweetly singing sirens luring me into the Rocks of Procrastination. All told, I am a world-class procrastinator when it comes to things like shopping.

For most holiday seasons, I generally knew what I was looking for, and while the stores around Ann Arbor (where I live!) had all of the items I was looking for, it was easier to be able to sit in my living room with a cup of hot chocolate, my feet up, and shop online. I could sit there, cozy and stationary, and search for anything that I could possibly want and have it shipped directly back home in time for Christmas. Then last year I procrastinated worse than usual, and while I could still find everything I needed online, there wasn’t enough time left to have things shipped before Christmas. So I jumped in my car and started driving frantically around Ann Arbor. I hit up Macy’s...Roo’s Roast (a great local coffee shop)...Barnes and Noble...REI. In the end, my feet-dragging didn’t matter: I found what I was looking for and also got a little something extra. I ended up purchasing an additional book, one that my brother hadn’t specifically asked for, but one that a store employee recommended to me. My brother loved it.



Inching Through Twinkle Variations with Nonpareils

  
  
  
suzuki

Our latest blog is from Nerissa Nields, a Suzuki mom of two and folk singer in the band The Nields. Nerissa confronts an important question in this post: How do family dynamics show up in her son's Suzuki lessons? Her response is refreshingly honest: while she expresses a lot of frustration with her son Johnny, she ultimately recognizes and respects his current limits.

Johnny has had four violin lessons and one group class. It’s so strange to see how different two children can be. After years of telling friends that my kids were more alike than not, as violinists at least they show their proclivities. Lila’s bow-hold was right-on from the start; Johnny grabs his fat marker in his fist and doesn’t comprehend that one does not wield it like a sword. We are supposed to be clapping out each of the six Twinkle variations to our new teacher’s words, but Johnny wilts after one-half of one, where Lila dashed ahead, graduating from her Twinkles in less than nine months. I take his fists in my two hands and tap them together for claps, but he says, “Dis gives me a stomach ache.” And more painfully, “Dis is my body and I get to do what I want!” Who can argue with that?

In Paul Tough’s new bestseller How Children Succeed (which I am supposed to be reading but haven’t started yet, but I did listen to half the This American Life piece about it) he argues that the skills most necessary to teach kids are self-control, to learn to focus attention, and to delay gratification. The exercises our teacher gives us are all about these skills. We start with a bow in which Johnny says, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or “Good evening,” depending on what time it is. We listen to the Suzuki Slow Twinkle CD and clap along, as I said above, and we listen to the Twinkles up to speed while he sways back and forth, his feet in playing position and his box violin on his shoulder. Then we do “Up Like a Rocket” with his pen-cum-bow and his bunny bow-hold. He wants to make up his own lyrics, but his teacher insists on hers. Delay gratification. He wants to make his pen go horizontally for “back and forth like a choo choo train,” but his teacher makes him keep it vertical. Self control. He ends each practice with “Thank you for the wonderful lesson,” and a bow. Nothing to complain about that. It’s teaching him good manners.

So why is this all so hard for me? Because he doesn’t always want to do any of it, and I feel foolish, frustrated, helpless, and most of all like a Tiger mom. A failed Tiger mom at that. We set up his foot chart (a 20″ cardboard with construction paper cut outs of his feet positions) and it can take 20 minutes for him to get in rest position and bow. Before he can do this, he has to fall on the floor a few times, balance on one foot and go, “Whoa! whoa!” and wave his arms around, ask for a drink, decide he has to pee, take off his shirt, roll up his pants legs, look out the window to see if Gulliver the Cat has come over, look out the window to see if his dad has biked home yet, set up his favorite cars to watch the practice, go get his ducky to watch the practice, count the marbles in his marble jar and then fall on the floor crying and insisting he hates violin and never wants to play again.

And we haven’t even picked up the actual violin.

Lila’s teacher Emily Greene says that whatever you are dealing with in terms of family dynamics will come out in the violin practice. As an author, and a teacher of writing, I notice that whatever is hard for me in life is hard for me on the page, and so it goes with my students. If a student doesn’t know herself, it is hard for her main character to be known. If a student is impatient and in a hurry, her scenes will skim by. If a student is fluent in the language of emotion but slow to take action, her scenes will be rich studies of humanity but lacking plot. And if a person cares more about being liked and well-thought of by teachers and other authority figures (but not little boys) and is the tiniest bit afraid of confrontation, violin practice sessions can turn into the Clash of the Titans.

Today I wised up. I looked at what we were being asked to do. Johnny can’t make it through even one Twinkle, either in the swaying exercise or the clapping one. Our teacher doesn’t know this because I haven’t told her. Instead I have brought her practice sheets covered with stickers (and let’s be truthful: the stickers are for me, not Johnny. I am the one who puts them on and gets a big hit from seeing them taking over the yellow lines of the paper.) But I will go in on Thursday and tell her we need to slow down, even though progress seems snail’s-paced to me as it is. And this morning, I got down a shaker of nonpareils which I used to bribe him to do each item on our practice sheet. I had Johnny bow, do one Twinkle variation for swaying, one for clapping and his up like a rocket. It all took five minutes. I hugged him and praised him and he bowed deeply. “Sank you for a wonderful lesson,” he murmured.













Choosing Music

  
  
  
Kim Wren

We have a wonderful guest blog today from Kim Wren, the upright bassist for the indie-folk band Doug Mains & the City Folk. Ms. Wren has been a member of Doug Mains & the City Folk since 2010 and is currently a senior music education major at Michigan State University. Ms. Wren talks about how "choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner" introduced her to a rich variety of genres like classical, jazz, rock, and folk and to her current bandmates. It's a great story for our blog, where musicians like Christian Howes and Mark O'Connor have stressed the importance of playing in genres other classical.  

When I first saw the upright bass in the back of my brother’s 6th grade orchestra class, my ten-year-old self would have never imagined the places that instrument would take me over the next decade. From a performing arts high school in Georgia to traveling on the road with an indie-folk band in Michigan, choosing the bass as a lifelong musical partner has lead me down many unexpected and exciting paths.

I switched to bass in 6th grade after playing the violin for a year in 5th grade. For various reasons (mostly because of the screeching sound of the E string), I didn’t enjoy my 5th grade year of violin playing at all and I was ready to drop out of music completely by the time 6th grade came around. But my mom and the middle school orchestra teacher convinced me to stay and try the bass out for a few weeks before I made a final decision. So I started staying after school for beginning bass lessons with the orchestra teacher and two other 6th graders who were also switching to bass. It was just about instant love when I first played that beast of an instrument. The low E string, instead of screeching like my violin, rumbled the floor. I was hooked on orchestra for good. My teacher let me take a school bass home and, especially in those early stages, I remember my parents having to stop me from practicing so much because it was driving them crazy.

Since those beginning years, being a bassist has lead me to many places I very likely would have never gone had I not stuck with music as a middle-schooler. From All-State Orchestras across the states of Virginia (where I spent my middle school years) and Georgia (where I spent my high school years), to a performing arts high school where I met many friends and colleagues in the arts, to summers at Interlochen Arts Camp, to Michigan State University for my undergraduate education. Being such a versatile instrument, the bass has also lead me to expand and explore many genres of music including (but never limited to) classical, jazz, rock, singer-songwriter, and folk. Most importantly to me, through music and bass playing I’ve met a countless number of people from all different walks of life. Some of them have become lifelong friends, like my four band-mates in Doug Mains & the City Folk, Doug, Josh, Rob, and Kelly. I’m so grateful to be a part of this team of musicians. We’ve traveled many miles together throughout the country and have shared so many meaningful experiences, some high, some low, but always together as a little indie-folk music family.

I owe much to my mom and to my middle school orchestra teacher for putting a double bass in my hands all those years ago. Where would life have taken me without that defining moment? I don’t even want to consider.









Suzuki from a Pop Musician’s Perspective

  
  
  
Beginner Violin

Our latest blog is from Nerissa Nields, a Suzuki mom of two and folk singer in the band The Nields. Nerissa discusses the importance of process in the Suzuki method: her kids' teacher, Emily Greene, considers the violin almost a "by-product" of the method.  

My niece, with her band, has recorded her first single, which she wrote, sings lead on and plays bass on. It’s a rocking song called “Speak Up!” and my kids just got their mitts on a CD of it.

"Speak up, stand up/Don’t let anyone tell you what to do… " sings my 6-year-old daughter, along to her beloved cousin’s vocal. Her little brother mimes playing the descending bass line on air guitar. We’ve listened to the song four times in a row. I am blown away by the confidence, the mastery, the reedy sweetness of the eleven-year-old voice. And, to make matters even more delightful, the song is about music itself, and the deliciousness of coming into one’s identity as a young musician:

"In music there are no lines to cross/In your own song you are always the boss."

Ah, the freedom of the pop musician. Tom and I just came from a Suzuki parent class, a two-hour affair held for all parents of Suzuki kids of all instruments. I felt tearful – in a good way – by the end of it. Other parents shared their reasons for taking on what is the equivalent of a college class (and we’re talking about just the parents’ role here!):

- "It gives my son confidence and something he can be proud of."
- "It teaches my daughter that if you practice something, you will get better."
- "If I am there to guide them, it keeps them from laying down the wrong neural pathways."
- "This is an opportunity to give my child the ability to master something."
- "She whistles the themes of the music all day long!"

Interestingly, none of the parents said, "Because I want my child to be the next Joshua Bell." Everyone present was more interested in process than product. In fact, the teacher (Emily Greene) even referred to playing the violin as a by-product of the method. The real fruits are compassion, frustration tolerance, self-control, appreciation of beauty, self-esteem and a closer parent-child relationship.

Even though I, like my niece, have relished the freedom I have had as a folk/pop/rock musician to be the "boss" of my own songs and my own music practice, I am all for Suzuki, especially the fruits listed above. And the above are the reasons I show up day after day to the practice sheet our teacher makes, and insist Lila pick up her fiddle and play her repetitions of "Allegro" and "Witches’ Dance," even when she responds by becoming boneless and falling onto the floor.

We parents also went around and shared what is hardest for us about Suzuki. Most said the conflicts arising around practice. I added that for me the biggest fear is the thought that plays in my head when Lila doesn’t want to practice and I am making her: I am destroying her love for music! And: how will she become the boss of her own musicality? (Most specifically, will she have the courage to compose?)

Why do I have these thoughts? Because sometimes I hear from other rock musicians that they were forced to take music lessons when they were kids and they hated "that classical sh*t."(Of course, they went on to become professional drummers… ) Or because my father said he hated having to practice his cello growing up (of course he plays guitar now, all the time, whenever he can get his hands on it, and no one makes him… ). Or that my daughter herself says, "I’m sick of practicing!" (But if I tell her she can quit, she immediately goes running for her instrument.)

Music is hard. There’s no getting around the fact that in order to play half decently one has to put in some hours. And most musicians have some kind of internal struggle with practicing. (Some don’t. My friend Pete Kennedy told me he still practices 3-5 hours a day, and I can’t imagine he "makes" himself do this. His guitar seems like an appendage of himself.) But anything worth having a lifelong relationship with takes time and perseverance and has hard spots. Somehow we (I) get the idea that music should be all pleasure. Nothing is all pleasure. Everything that matters in life takes work: getting to see a great view from the top of a mountain. Having an incredible relationship with another person. Writing a beautiful poem. Painting a picture. Creating a garden from a patch of weeds. 

At the outset of lessons, neither parent nor child counted on the struggles that can often come between them during practices. First lessons often start after children have seen other children performing – or perhaps playing games in group class. The parent-child duo takes up an instrument with beautiful images of working together happily to produce delightful sounds. There’s usually a honeymoon period, but before long, parents begin to realize that the work of practicing resembles gardening with your bare hands more than arranging fresh flowers in a vase. (And don’t be fooled: even the parents who appear that have practices as graceful as an ikebana also run into a thorn now and then.)

An important truth from gardeners can help parents who practice with theirchildren: you can’t tug on a play to make it grow. You have to trust the process. But there’s nothing wrong with fertilizing, watering, and generally caring for a plant. That’s what gardeners do. Parents need to do it as well. In the process of tending beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables, gardeners also encounter weeds. And pests. They also get some dirt under their fingers. In their own way, so will parents. (from “Building Violin Skills,” Ed Sprunger)

This beautiful quotation from the Suzuki teacher, violinist and psychotherapist Ed Sprunger hit me where I lived yesterday when Emily read this to us. As a writer and a teacher of writing, I realized the universality of this thought. You can’t tug on your writing, either. You can’t tug on your relationship. You are not the creator, and as a certain president recently said, no one is really self-made. We all need each other.

You have to leave space for the serendipitous, like your 11-year-old-budding-rock-star niece lighting a fire under your 4-year-old pre-Twinkler. For as soon as he’d finished listening to his cousin’s single (5 times in a row), Johnny, who just had his first lesson last Thursday, grabbed his tiny 1/16th size violin and started playing her pop song’s rhythm on the E string. We waited until the next day to inform him that, as a pre-Twinkler, he can’t actually touch the violin yet (this produces tears, but it also builds a powerful desire). So now, the violin’s hanging on the wall, next to his sister’s; under my guitar.

































Violin Bridges: The Details Matter

  
  
  
Violin

Many of us don’t pay very much attention to our bridges unless they fall down, go askew, or break. But do we realize how important the violin bridge is to the setup of the instrument and how much its position can affect our sound? Here are some notes on violin bridges to help keep you informed and sounding your best.

The Purpose of Your Bridge
First of all, the violin bridge suspends the strings above the instrument in their proper playing position. The height and shape of the bridge are thereby very important for the setup of the instrument. Secondly, the violin bridge conveys the vibrations from the strings into the body of the instrument. A string vibrating by itself doesn’t produce very much volume, but “plugged in” to the resonating chamber of the violin through the bridge its sound becomes so powerful that it can potentially be heard over an entire orchestra.

The violin bridge is strategically positioned so that the foot on its G-string side sits directly above the bass bar, which extends nearly down the length of the strings and conveys the vibrations through a greater area of the top of the instrument. The E-string side of the bridge, meanwhile, sits closely above the sound post. The sound post acts both as a pivot for the bridge’s vibrations as well as a means of conveying the vibrations to the back of the instrument.

What About Setup?
The shape and placement of the violin bridge are critical for maximizing the instrument’s potential.

  • The bridge feet should be centered on the f-hole notches.
  • The crown (top) of the bridge should be the same shape as that of the fingerboard. This produces a consistent string height for all four strings.
  • The feet must be completely flush with the face of the instrument. If they aren’t, then not all of the string vibrations are being conveyed into the instrument and the sound quality is definitely suffering.
  • The side of the bridge closest to the tailpiece needs to be perpendicular with the face of the instrument. 

Do Some Damage Control, But Only Some
The violinist should be able to fix some common bridge problems on their own with reference
to the above setup specifications. However, here are some situations where you will definitely need professional help:

  • If the bridge is warped then it will need to be replaced. A warped bridge is not only inhibiting the sound of the instrument, but it is also at risk of breaking.
  • If the strings have worn deeply into the crown of the bridge then the bridge needs to be replaced. Typically about 75% of the string should be sitting above the bridge rather than inside the notch. If it sits any further into the bridge then it is being muffled.
  • If the bridge has fallen down completely and the soundpost is rolling around inside the violin, do NOT attempt to fix this yourself. The soundpost needs to be reset by a professional. Without the support of the soundpost, the face of the instrument is not able to withstand the forty pounds of pressure that the strings exert on the violin through the bridge! 

It is very important to be continually aware of your bridge placement. Slight changes in humidity, temperature, or even changing your strings can cause the bridge to go askew. Simple observation and maintenance will ensure that your bridge will have a long lifespan and that your instrument will be sounding its best. 











What Should You Look For In a Case?

  
  
  
Violin Case

If you just bought an instrument for the first time, or if you're looking to upgrade your current case, check out our purchasing guide below. It takes you through the major features you should consider such as shape, exterior and interior materials, and construction. As always, feel free to contact our knowledgeable customer service team at 1.800.248.7427 if you have any questions. 

One of the most important accessories you can purchase for a stringed instrument is a case. Many student or intermediate violins, violas, cellos, and basses can be purchased as part of an outfit that includes a case that is usually consistent with the quality of the instrument; these cases generally offer very adequate protection and durability at an economical price. If, however, you want to replace or upgrade the case you already have, or you need a case for a new instrument, there are a few things you should consider.

Shape
Perhaps the first factor to consider is the case shape that'll work best for you. Cases come in a few varieties: oblong, shaped, and dart-style. Shaped or dart cases are usually very lightweight; these are often the cases that beginners and students choose. They're usually available in fractional sizes and are easy on the wallet.

Oblong cases, sometimes called rectangular cases, afford more room for accessories and are usually preferred by intermediate and advanced players. Although shaped cases tend to be lighter and easier to carry, you do have more room for accessories with an oblong case. And if you're really looking for a roomy and light oblong case, we do list the weight of most of our cases. Maybe that extra pound is worth the space!

Exterior Materials and Features
The great majority of today's modern cases are covered with a heavy-duty nylon canvas material. This lightweight material is scratch and tear resistant and provides decent protection against the elements. In addition, SHAR also carries a wide range of cases made with other other exterior materials: Cordura, suede fabric, leather, 3-ply composite, Conatex, polyamid fabric, fiberglass, thermoplastic, pebble grain vinyl, pebble grain mat-finish resin, and reinforced ABS. Each of these materials has its own unique qualities and characteristics that should be considered when making your case selection. 

Shaped cases usually include an exterior accessory pocket and sometimes backpack straps. Oblong cases quite often will have a full length music pocket which may include an accessory organizer, a subway strap end handle (for vertical carrying) and an adjustable shoulder strap.

Closure or latch mechanisms vary depending on the case, but it should be noted that oblong cases often have dual zippers and weather flaps to protect the zippers from rain and snow.

An important note about cello cases – some cello cases come with built-in wheels and you should decide whether this is an important feature for you: they can be handy in airports. Some cello cases include detachable backstraps, which is another clever way to lug around your instrument. If you're not looking for the heavy-duty protection most cases offer, SHAR also sells padded cello bags. These are similar to bass bags but include backstraps.

Construction
The type (or types) of material used in the skeletal, or hidden, construction of the case directly affects the weight of the case as well as the durability and protection the case provides. SHAR offers a variety of cases, and while some use more traditional construction, others use advanced materials that are both lightweight and strong.

Commonly used shell materials include foam, styrofoam, cellular foam, waterproof polymid foam, plywood, styrofoam reinforced plywood, laminated wood, injected/molded foam, foam/plywood combination, and in some cello cases an AIRTEX cellular skeleton.

Interior Materials and Features
Instrument case interiors can range from simple and functional to sumptuous and luxurious. Whatever your selection may be, it's important that your instrument fit securely in the case. This is generally not a problem since most instruments and cases are standard sizes; however, if your violin, viola, cello or base has atypical dimensions, it's probably a good idea to talk about your case options with a SHAR representative.

Most violin, viola, and cello cases carried by SHAR have Velcro neck restraints; a properly secured neck strap will protect the neck of the instrument and reduce movement during transit.

A French fit or semi-French fit case has an interior instrument compartment that follows the closely follows the contours of your instrument for a tight fit. Most cases, however, have a universally designed "instrument well" that very adequately secures the instrument.

Violin and viola cases are often described as being suspension or non-suspension cases. Suspension cushioned cases have a raised shelf (or shelves) that suspends the back of the instrument approximately an inch over the bottom of the case. This can provide added protection and is often recommended for violins and violas with delicate varnish. SHAR does carry a line of non-suspension cases that feature an injected foam cushion molded to the shape of the instrument. These cases have a snug fit that holds the instrument securely in place and also helps protect it from temperature changes. Case lining and instrument blanket materials include silk-plush, cotton velvet, suede and brush nylon-tricot.

Additional case features may include between two and four bow spinners (or holders), accessory compartments, hygrometers for humidity level monitoring, string storage tubes, and vapor bottles for increasing case humidity.

Please call our expert customer representatives at 1.800.248.7427 if you have any questions!

































Easy Violin Sheet Music

  
  
  
easy violin sheet music

After you’ve been playing the violin for a couple of years, it starts to get tiresome when you feel limited to the scales, etudes, and few solos that your teacher gives you. If you’re a beginning to intermediate player who’s looking to build up a repertoire beyond the songs in the Suzuki books, here are some sheet music suggestions for you.



Miniature Masterpieces, arr. by W. Ambrosio (1920 305).
This collection of 21 violin pieces – all in first position! – includes works by popular composers such as Saint-Saens and Wagner.





First Solos from the Classics by S. Applebaum (1851 010). Everything is in 1st position. Thebook includes famous melodies from an assortment of classical eras, all arranged for violin and piano.





Fun With Solos
 by Evelyn Avsharian (A70).
 Everything in this book stays in 1st and 3rdposition and is a source of fun and exciting recital repertoire.





Violin Favorites
 by Juchem/ Brochausen (1846 107).
 This collection of twelve violin piecestouches on great composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Dvorak.






Easy Classics for Violin
by Peter Spitzer (1872 042).
Here you will find popular classical melodies (such as “Ode to Joy” and “Can Can”) arranged simply for one or two violins.




First Solo Album by Harvey Whistler (1885 016). This collection of eleven short pieces for violin and piano keeps the violinist in first position and is great to use for recital repertoire.




This only begins to touch on the tremendously wide range of violin sheet music that we carry at SHAR! If you’re looking for something specific or you need more suggestions, please give us a call at 1.800.248.7427 – we are happy to talk with you!








































All Posts