There's a lot that can go wrong at a wedding, so wedding music should be the last thing the couple has to fret over. However, if you're the musician gigging at a wedding, it is your temporary raison d’etre. Besides the wedding party and the officiant, the musicians are the only other people on display, visible and involved in the proceedings of the ceremony. You have to showcase your talent and musicianship while at the same time tailoring the music to fit the timing at the altar; you must perform in an unusual space, and sometimes sight-read with musicians with whom you've never worked before; and you have to account for the weather and changes in programming. Luckily, having the right accessories can help you avoid minor and major embarrassments at your next wedding gig. Below are some music accessories (and tips) that are, simply put, essential to having a successful wedding season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the new Violin Strings Guide, Viola Strings Guide, Cello Strings Guide, or Bass Strings Guide, click the button below, or feel free to call our string experts for extra guidance!
There's been a lot of press recently about bullying and hazing: a Rutgers student hid a camera in his dorm room to record his roommate being intimate; the hazing practices of the Florida A&M marching band led to the death of drum major; and Mitt Romney's days at Cranbrook High School received close scrutiny in the wake of allegations that he cut off the long, bleached hair of a classmate.
It seems appropriate, then, to share a video from the bass and violin trio Time for Three (it's tough to categorize their sound since they meld classical, country, jazz, and even Roma music). The trio has been wildly successful ever since their breathrough performance at the Philadelphia Mann Center: the stage lights failed and two members of Time for Three had an impromtu jam session of folk, pop, gospel, and ragtime tunes. The audience loved it.
The trio, though, is now using their popularity for a good cause. Time for Three's new video "Stronger" tells the story of a young violinist who's persisently bullied by a classmate. The classmate does all the usual stuff, though he also breaks the young violinist's instrument by trying to hit a baseball with it (!). As the narrative progresses, however, we watch the violinist persevere in his playing and eventually receive recognition at a talent show.
The video, of course, is a tiny bit sentimental in parts, but it also contains a complicated and important message. The video reminds us that music is not just about music, performances, and success; it's about being heard by others. While the bully has his say early on through his strong-arm tactics of pushing and harrassing the violinist, the violinist ends up being the "stronger" and more articulate of the two by the end of the video. He is the one being heard and being recogized.
And isn't that what bullying attempts to silence – a young person's voice? Victims of bullying are often ridiculed for their identity, whether that identity centers on their sexuality, race, style of dress, religion, class, or any of the hundred other elements that form us. Music and art can rehabilitate and affirm a child's identity, their unique voice, and are perhaps some of the more powerful responses to bullying. The pain of being silenced becomes a reason to speak.
A few timely tips on string instrument care and maintenance.
Here in Michigan we're lurching toward the heart of winter: snow on the ground for four months, ice-encased cars, and the early-morning cacophony of salt trucks and snow plows. But even if you don't live in a winter wonderland like we do, we thought this would be the perfect time to share a few of our instrument care and maintenance tips.
We offer a few tips below on basic instrument care, including and temperature and humidity advice, from our "Instrument Care & Maintenance" guide. For more instrument care tips on pegs, strings, and periodic inspection you can check out the full guide linked above. Though it probably goes without saying, we want your violins, violas, cellos, and basses to sound as full, rich, and precise as they should (and to look as good as they sound).
Special thanks to our SHAR Apprentices for their hard work compiling these informational videos and guides over the years!
Instrument Care and Maintenance
One of the most exciting things about having a stringed instrument is the beautiful music one can make with it. Learning about such everyday matters as proper care and maintenance can, as a result, fall by the wayside. Players, teachers, and parents alike all too often and all too easily find themselves thinking of care as repair. However it is a fact that both the time invested in careful handling and the money spent on preventative maintenance are considerably less than the inconvenience, cost, and potential loss of value incurred in fixing damage due to accident or neglect.
Whether you presently own an instrument of which you are proud, are searching for another instrument, or maintain a collection, we invite you to familiarize yourself with instrument care and maintenance procedures so that stringed instruments can continue bringing beauty and joy to you.
Handling an Instrument
When handling a stringed instrument, one should constantly be aware that the varnish of a fine violin, viola, cello, or bass is very fragile. Players should avoid putting their hands directly on the varnish of the instrument whenever possible. While playing, care should be taken to protect the instrument from damage by jewelry, buttons, and zippers. While in their cases, violins and violas should be protected against possible damage by using a blanket or instrument bag.
The recommended method of cleaning is to use a soft cloth to remove rosin dust, oil, and dirt from the instrument immediately after each use. Special treated or untreated cloths may be purchased specifically for cleaning instruments. If a treated cloth is used, one should take great care not to use it on the strings or get it near the hair of the bow. Other cloths may also be used provided they are soft, lint-free, and non-abrasive. There is a wide variety of polishes and cleaners available for stringed instruments. However, if an instrument is properly maintained, these products will not often be necessary. If using a polish or cleaner, always test for compatibility with the varnish in a small inconspicuous area of the instrument. On a related note, using commercial or household solvents near an instrument is to be avoided since, in some cases, even the vapors can cause serious damage. SHAR Products sells a variety of cleaning supplies; visit the SHAR Cleaning Department (General Accessories area).
Humidity control should be of great concern to players of wooden instruments. Bowed string instruments in particular are made of a number of pieces of wood of different types and grain direction which can be susceptible to fluctuations in humidity. Too much or too little humidity can be the cause of arching distortion, cracks, neck projection problems, glue joint separations, strings which are too high or low, soundposts which are too loose or tight, and many other problems. Here is a guide for maintaining the proper level of humidity: