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In Defense of Karl Lagerfeld's Violin Shaped Dress

  
  
  
Josephine

In today's blog, SHAR Apprentice, violinist, and fashionista Jospehine Llorente confronts one of the timeless questions: is all that glitters cheaply made? Can't we have both quality craftsmanship and our brightly-lit, irresponsible, neon-colored fantasies? In doing so, Josephine comes to the conclustion that being tough on a hot green VSO (Violin Shaped Object) doesn't mean a girl can't have fun.  

As a former school teacher and current SHAR Apprentice, I have encountered my fair share of VSOs. The worst part about them is that they get kids super excited about playing (that is, until they actually try to play on their neon green VSO). While my extreme aversion to ridiculously colored violins is a subjective opinion, I think it’s safe to say that string teachers and players aren’t too fond of sticking pegs, painted purfling, terribly fitted bridges, and a sound that leaves you wondering if someone’s cat is dying.

As someone who desperately wants a hot pink Daisy Rock Guitar (pictured right), I completelyget why people find VSOs so appealing. Not only are VSOs way more fun-looking than the traditional wood violin, they are cheap (in every sense of the word). In the battleground of online shopping, price is everything. There are numerous websites and apps that help you find the lowest price, because, let’s face it, people want a good deal. I would be lying if I said I didn’t succumb to these ploys. (Although I would love a Dyson, a quick peek at my checking account convinced me to buy a thirty dollar, barely-functioning, Vacuum Shaped Object.)

Last month, I was making my regular visits of various fashion blogs when I saw actress/it-girl Chloe Sevigny in a vintage Karl Lagerfeld dress. I loved the dress: it’s a high-neck number, loose-fitting, with a gold (and glittering!) violin-shaped panel that connects the skirt to the cap sleeves. Then it hit me. OMG. SHE’S WEARING A VSO. And as I was fawning over Chloe in the $4000 dollar dress, to my surprise, I realized that I really loved this VSO. I thought my feet were firmly planted in the anti-VSO camp? How could I just abandon ship and go against everything I’ve learned as a teacher, player, and SHAR employee?! I would have to decide: either my love of the Karl Lagerfeld vintage dress or my lifelong commitment to fighting VSOs would win out.

Did it have to be this way, though? I gave myself some time to think about it. And, surprisingly enough (or not suprisingly), I found that I could both love the Lagerfeld dress and continue to despise VSOs. Although Largerfeld’s dress has the markings of your typical VSO (non-functional pegs and absurdly colored), I knew it there was more to it than what I was initially seeing. I came to understand that the violin dress is much more like a fine violin than a VSO. Like a Bazin bow (or a Dyson vacuum!) a Lagerfeld dress was created by a true master of his craft. He famously stated, Things have to be beautifully made, even if they are full of fun, fantasy, and futility.” He also said, ”It’s all about taste. If YOU are cheap, nothing helps.A bit harsh, but Uncle Karl hits the nail on the head: you get what you pay for. And in this case it’s an impeccably made violin dress. 









Student Violins for Sale: A Guide

  
  
  
student violin

If you or your child is just starting out on the violin: congratulations! Welcome to the string community! If you’re looking for your first instrument, though, things can be confusing. Trying to find the best violin can be a bewildering path to take. Here are some guidelines that should help you along your journey!

When you’re purchasing a violin for the first time, here are a few things to look for: 

  • Pegs: do they turn easily without slipping or sticking? If the instrument has pegs that keep slipping then it will be very difficult for the new violinist to attempt to play in tune.
  • Fingerboard: is it real ebony or is it some other type of wood that’s been painted black? Violin makers have used ebony fittings for years because of the wood’s hardness, so if the fingerboard isn’t really ebony then it is much more likely to warp, crack, or splinter.
  • Bridge: Is it the correct height? Too low and the strings will vibrate against the fingerboard; too high and the violin will be hard to play. Do the feet sit flush against the top of the instrument? If not, then the instrument’s potential is not being met. The bridge conveys the vibrations of the strings into the face of the violin, so if it’s not making contact with the wood then the vibrations are being lost.
  • Purfling: Is it real ebony inlaid into the wood or is it just painted on? The purfling is inlaid around the edges of the instrument in order to protect the wood from cracking. If the instrument doesn’t have this inlay, then any sort of damage sustained to the edges of the violin is likely to spread into the face of the instrument, rendering it unplayable.
  • Wood: The top of a violin needs to be spruce and the back of it is almost always maple. The wood also needs to be properly aged; if it is varnished before the wood has aged properly then it is at risk of cracking or warping.
  • Fine Tuners: Do they turn easily? Are they digging into the face of the instrument beneath the tailpiece?

These are just a few things to look for. More often than not, if you purchase a violin from ebay or craigslist, it probably won’t fit the bill. These instruments are what we like to call VSO’s (“Violin Shaped Objects”). The good news is that all of our student instruments at SHAR are inspected to make sure that they fit these and other precise specifications!



Used Violins – The Best Deal?

  
  
  
Carlo Lamberti

Getting set up with a good instrument when you first start out can be confusing, stressful, and expensive. If you are on a budget, finding the most bang for your buck can be even more overwhelming. What to do?? Before you delve into the realm of “Violin Shaped Objects” on ebay or craigslist, first think about getting a used or blemished instrument.

A New School Year Full of Opportunity, Not Frustration

  
  
  
paula photo

Paula Leshkevich has been a member of SHAR’s Educational Sales Department for over four years. Having taught in both private and public schools, she understands many of the challenges facing instrumental music teachers today and works to help teachers spend more time teaching and less time with common frustrations. In her free time, Paula enjoys writing, travelling, and kayaking.This is her first blog entry for the SHAR site.

The first strains of “Twinkle”. A prize-winning bow grip. Ear-to-ear smiles on the first note. The anticipation of a concert. A new class of beginners picking up string instruments for the very first time.

As a new school year approaches, teachers have so many exciting moments to look forward to. Enthusiasm for helping students unlock their musical potential is strong and anticipation of the coming class sessions is mounting. The promise of a fresh start with a new school year is one of the joys that both teachers and students look forward to across the country.

Students file into the room. The bell rings. Bows are tightened. Music is put out on stands. Pencils are ready. Students hold their instruments patiently as you go around the room checking for tuning accuracy. Molly’s pegs keep slipping. Zach’s fine tuner snapped off. Sarah’s bridge is crooked. David’s strings are too high to press down.

Teachers often tell us that much of their teaching time is taken up fixing problems of V.S.O.s (Violin Shaped Objects). Unfortunately, the problems that come up with inferior instruments or problematic set-ups frustrate not only the teacher, but the students who deserve high-quality, functioning instruments to properly learn the basics of string playing. Many teachers can attest that students who experience frequent or serious instruments problems are far less likely to continue in orchestra.

We invite you to share your experiences with V.S.O.s in the classroom.











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