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Traveling with Your Cello

  
  
  
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. 

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. 

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!

































Why Own an Instrument Stand for Your Violin, Viola, or Cello?

  
  
  
Alberta Barnes

Pretty much every musician has a music stand, but not every musician has an instrument stand. Have you thought about the benefits to owing a violin stand or a cello stand? Here are four things to think about!

1. Motivation to Practice. Having the instrument out on an instrument stand can be a great way to motivate yourself (or kids, especially!) to practice. It can be irritating to have to open the case and get everything set up correctly, but when the instrument is immediately accessible it is also that much more motivating to play it.

2. Time Saver. If you have to squeeze in practice time between the million other things inyour day then taking your instrument out and packing it up again can waste valuable practice time! With the instrument safely out of its case, you can move away from and return to your instrument to practice without fumbling with shoulder rests or endpins for those valuable minutes.

3. Useful at Gigs. 
Bringing a violin stand or a cello stand to your gig with you can prove veryuseful. A violin stand is a must-have if you switch between instruments at gigs. Or, if you are playing only the one instrument, it can be a much more secure way to hold the instrument during breaks than simply perching your violin on your chair.

4. A Way to Display Your Instrument. When used at home, the cello stand can be a beautiful way to safely display your treasure. It thereby enhances the ambience of the room much more than leaving it in the case would!

If you’re looking for a violin stand, we have several options: 











Getting the Most Out of Your Bow

  
  
  
Violin Bow

Today we have another fine blog from our apprentice James Engman. James shares six tips that will help you maintain and care for your bow whether you're just starting out or an established professional. 

As a young player becomes more experienced, their technical ability
may begin to require a higher quality bow. The balance, weight, flexibility, and setup of a decent bow will allow a student to accelerate their formation of technique and tone. Just as a sharpshooter can’t perfect his or her aim with an old black-powder musket, a violinist can be held back by an inferior bow. However, the cost of a good bow can often seem unusually steep to first time buyers. It is easy to forget that the instrument in your right hand is just as much of an investment as the one in your left, and it requires just as much care, if not more. Therefore, a student should learn to care for their bow as it were a $90,000 Peccatte from the first time they pick one up. Here are six simple tips, for students and professionals alike, to get the most out of your bow.

1. Rosin the Bow!
Although a strand of horsehair appears smooth, it is actually covered in tiny scales and hairs. Not only does your rosin help the bow stick to the string, but it also protects its texture. Bowing without enough rosin or rosining a small area with too much pressure and frequency can smooth out the hair and ruin it. So, it is always important to keep the hair evenly rosined.


Fresh hair is most easily rosined with powdered rosin, but a cake of rosin can do just as well.To allow a cake of rosin to work better, scratch the surface with a dime in a cross-hatched pattern until it looks etched. Rosin new hair from frog to tip with an extra short motion over the six inches at each end, where rosin doesn’t stick as well. After about 15-20 strokes, test it on the strings. It should leave a white mark on the string, and grip along the whole length of the bow without being too “sticky”. After the first time rosining the bow, it is recommended to apply 6 strokes of rosin before each playing session, with a couple extra in the area where the bow has been played the most.

*Pro-tip*: When using a round cake of rosin, continuously rotate it as you rosin to prevent grooves from forming.



2. Maintain and Adjust Tension Properly!
Adjusting the tension of the bow is a skill to be perfected! When turning the screw with your right hand, hold the frog between your left thumb and first and second fingers. Do NOT hold the bow by the stick. Failure to hold by the frog can cause the eyelet to wear away at the inside of the stick, causing a “wobbly frog”, and can also strip the threads of the screw and eyelet, rendering the bow useless.

A bow should only be brought up to the tension needed to play at. It should always maintain curvature toward the hair, and never be straight or concave. Finding the ideal tension for each style of playing may take some experimentation. Once it is found, note the distance between the stick and hair, and the amount of pressure needed to touch the hair to the stick at the center. Most players prefer for there still to be a small space when playing fortissimo, but others like less tension.

When putting the bow back in the case, loosen the screw all the way without removing it (again, holding at the frog). The hair should be floppy and relaxed. If the hair is not slack when it is fully loosened, it may need to be rehaired. By loosening the hair, you are preventing warping. Warping ruins bows!

3. Thou Shalt Not Play with a Balding Bow!
Every player looses a few hairs now and then, but as soon as there is a significant amount of hair loss from one side of the bow, stop playing, and get it rehaired! Tightening a bow with lop-sided hair for a significant amount of time can warp the bow, and a $60 rehair is cheaper than a $600 bow. A good rule of thumb is to get your bow re-haired when the wooden plug under the hair at the tip of the bow begins to show, though some would say that is too much loss already. Professional players and serious students might rehair their bow twice a year or more, but for young students, a bow can usually go 12-18 months before a rehair is necessary.

4. Don’t Tilt the Stick of the Bow When Playing Forte!
Many students are taught to tilt the stick of the bow away from themselves as proper bow technique. While this is okay for soft playing, the stick should always be directly above the hair when applying pressure (playing forte). Using a vertical bow-stick not only produces more sound, but is healthy for the bow. Applying pressure with a tilted bow will cause warping over time. Also, the stick might drag across the strings, wearing off the varnish and exposing the wood. Not only is this visually unattractive, but it leaves the wood on one side vulnerable to moisture in the air, causing it to expand and warp even further. This is a habit that must be constantly checked when playing.

5. No Bow Waving, Stand Tapping, Sword-Fighting, or Shenanigans!
It is a common practice among young orchestras to applaud soloists and conductors by tapping the bow on their stands or waving the bow in the air. This is dangerous for your bow. Hitting the bow against something can cause small fractures at the tip of the bow which could eventually split, destroying the bow. A better option is to set down your instrument and clap, or stomp your feet on the ground. Also, do not challenge your stand-partner to any duels.

6. Wipe Rosin Dust Off of the Stick After Playing.
Rosin dust can build up on the stick of the bow over time. By wiping the stick with a cloth after each session, you can prevent build-up which is difficult to remove. If build-up does occur, first try using a rag dampened with distilled water (being sure to keep the hair dry). If this is not a enough, a mild cleaner or alcohol is usually okay for most bow varnishes, but not recommended for the violin itself. If varnish is ever removed or worn off, have a skilled bow repairer put more on.

With these six steps, you should be able to make any bow last a lifetime and more!






























Wedding Sheet Music: What to Play This Summer

  
  
  
Wedding Sheet Music

Wedding season is underway! Do you have the sheet music you need for all of your upcoming wedding performances?

Choosing the Right Set of Strings

  
  
  
Choose Your Set of Strings!

For advancing players, or established players who want to try something different, there's a lot to consider when upgrading your set of strings: Where do you typically perform? Do you want a string set suited for solos or ensembles? Which string set will draw the most out of your particular playing style and instrument? This graph will help you navigate (almost) everything you should consider!

Projection: Next to each string set there's a graphic that indicates that set's level of projection. The levels of projection range from "Mild" to "Aggressive."

Smooth/Textured:
The X axis (horizontal) depicts the continuum between smooth and textured string sets. Textured sets are complex sounding with many colors and rich, resonating overtones. Smooth sets are very clear and focused. The tone is clean and straight. 

Direct/Subtle: The Y axis (vertical) depicts the continuum between direct and subtle string sets. A direct string set has a brilliant, distinct tone designed for soloists to cut through piano or orchestral textures. A subtle set doesn't overpower. They blend well and often have a dark undertone.

Click on any string set to check availabilites and prices, but you should aslo feel free to call our string experts for extra guidance!  
 

The Elgar Cello Concerto

  
  
  

Dear Joe,

Cello Sheet Music Recommendation: Elgar's Cello Concerto

  
  
  
Edward Elgar


Dear Alberta,

It's fitting that such an elegaic concerto is the last concerto of our letters. (Sad face!) Edward Elgar composed his cello concerto, Op. 85, in the summer of 1919; it's hard to ignore the fact that he composed the concerto in Sussex, where the previous summer he had heard the thunder of heavy artillery drifting across the English Channel from France.

War and art are such strange and perfect bedfellows. Although the poet Philip Larkin would probably take issue with the expressiveness of Elgar's concerto – he preferred understatement, probably to a fault – I can't help but think of Larkin's poem "MCMXIV," an elegy for the year 1914, the last year untouched by the horror of truly modern warfare. The last stanza of the poem reads: 

            Never such innocence,
            Never before or since,
            As changed itself to past
            Without a word – the men
            Leaving the gardens tidy,
            The thousands of marriages,
            Lasting a little while longer:
            Never such innocence again.

I know I keep quoting poetry to talk about music, but what other kind of language can say what I hear? The concerto sounds, at times, like Larkin's valediction: "Never such innocence, / Never before or since / ... / Never such innocence again" (Of course, the whole concerto isn't so elegaic, but I couldn't help but hear these lines in the opening of the Adagio, which is mournful stuff.)



The more I listened to this concerto, the more it gnawed at me. Why do I hear such sadness in this piece, Alberta? Does the cello, with its lower range, have a voice that reaches us in a way other instruments can't? Is it just me? It's possible that it's not just me: all the commenters (yes, I read them) on YouTube seemed to be crying into their keyboards too. I guess it didn't help that we were all watching the Jacqueline du Pré performance.

It's intense stuff: Du Pré drapes her body over her cello (the 1712 Davidov Stradivarius) and her lithe and willowy bowing seems to come almost from the instrument itself, a gravity only she feels. Some players impose themselves on an instrument, it seems – they control it – and others have a conversation with it. (At times it seemed like the Stradivarius swayed before du Pré swayed.) I've never seen a musician listen so intently – to the concerto, her conducter, and the instrument – while playing so expressively. All of this is to say that maybe du Pré  is to blame.

In any case, I'm suspicious of my reaction to the Elgar concerto because it's so strong. Am I really hearing the Elgar cello concerto when I feel such heavy sadness? And am I imposing all this stuff about World War I and an instrument and composition that so deeply inspires both the performer and listener? 

If it's all projection and sentimentality, tell me why I feel a gravitas that's not my own.

Yours, Joe 

Thoughts on Music Stands

  
  
  
George II Classic Music Stand

Having trouble finding the music stand you need? Here are my personal favorites!

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