There are days when I look over my monthly budget and just shake my head at just how much I spend on various kinds of insurance: Instrument insurance, car insurance, health insurance, life insurance, homeowners insurance. It’s a never ending list! As much as I groan and complain about having to pay those monthly premiums, I know that they exist for a good reason. Insurance coverage is important, especially insurance that covers you where you need it most. If you think this blog is starting to sound like an insurance commercial, you’re right. I watched an ad on TV just the other day, and their slogan was “Know the gaps.” Meaning if there are gaps in your coverage, you should investigate that and fix it. Being a musician, I obviously thought about my instrument: do I know the gaps?
The days are getting shorter, your heat may have already kicked in a few times, and you’re starting to look for sweaters and coats you haven’t seen in months. Winter is coming, and that means dry air that can wreak havoc on your string instrument! As vapor is lost from the air, it sucks out moisture from the wood in your instrument, causing loose pegs, lowered string height, a change in tone, and even open seams or catastrophic cracks! Luckily, it is easy to prevent major damage, and even little inconveniences like tuning problems. Here are three easy steps that will keep your instrument in great shape through the cold, dry winter.
Since 1962, SHAR has been making new products available to string players every year. The fall season is usually when we debut most of our new products in preparation for new school years, concert seasons, and holidays! This year is no exception with dozens of new items in all categories! Whether you are an advancing student, an orchestra or private studio teacher, a full-time musician, or just getting started, SHAR is the place to find things you know you need, or things that you didn’t even know existed, but could definitely make your life easier! Innovation and improvements are being made every day by musicians and thinkers all over the world! Below are some new products for violin and viola players that are included in the SHAR Fall 2016 Catalog. Check them out – there may be something for you!
Is your violin, viola, cello, or bass rattling or buzzing? Does it make these noises only on certain strings or notes?
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... well, at least it shouldn't be. 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.
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.
This is a frequent question that those of us in the Call Center need to ask customers as we try to accurately place your orders. This can be confusing, especially for parents who haven’t yet had the opportunity to install strings on their student’s instrument. Hopefully the following information will be of help!
Update: Feb 27, 2016 - Removable Ball-End Strings are now a very popular type of Violin E string and Viola A string. These strings have a ball end that can be removed to reveal a loop-end. Not all ball end strings are removable! "Removable Ball" strings will be marked as such, and non-removable ball-end strings will just be listed as "Ball" under End type. - James Engman
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:
When you're picking out a violin case you usually have three choices of materials - compacted foam, wood, or carbon fiber. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type as well as structural factors which contribute to safety and weight of each case. So, to break it down simply, here are some facts about each type of case: