A Brief History of Baroque Bows

Although the modern conception of the violin has been pretty firmly in place for over a century, there was a significant era of innovation in violin and bow making in the early 19th century.  During this period, music was changing dramatically, moving out of the early Baroque era into newer forms of music which put new demands on the instruments and the bows.  A need for more power and response, eliciting fuller voices became essential, and violins were evolving to meet this need.  Bows were now being charged with more legato, long-note playing, and the music was written to accommodate the larger opera houses being built throughout Europe.

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The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Going Electric

Electric instruments are everywhere in today’s music scene. You don’t have to look far to see an Indie band with an electric cellist, a punk rock band with an electric violinist, or even hip-hop using electric violins (looking at you, Black Violin!) Electric string instruments are being used in concerts by the Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West, Katy Perry and more surprising artists. Going electric is a portal for a string musician into the entire world of genres outside of classical and traditional music. Electric instruments give string players flexibility to change not only their volume but their entire sound by adding filters, effects, and more to their set up.

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Why should I go to a contemporary music concert?

I have played some pretty crazy music as a violist.  Music that looked more like a scientific analysis on the page than notes.  Music that used my bow as a percussive instrument rather than a string instrument.  Music that asked me to make sounds I’m pretty sure my instrument will never do again.  As a performer it was fun, challenging, exhilarating!  But if I were asked to sit in the audience – would I have sat in that audience?  What was the goal? Why would I want to go to a contemporary music concert as a parent of a string instrument student – and should I take my child?

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5 Things to Consider When Buying a Violin or Viola Case

Looking for a new case for your instrument can be overwhelming. There are so many styles, brands, accessories, protection levels, and color choices that you might not know what you’re looking for. Gone are the days of the standard thermoplastic cases. Today’s string instrument cases are stylish, protective, and more affordable than ever!

When looking for a new case, we recommend planning ahead and deciding exactly what you need based on the following 5 factors.

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GuidesNathan Smith
Why Carbon-Fiber?

“Why should I choose a carbon-fiber bow?”

“Isn’t a wood bow the standard, especially for a wooden instrument?”

Whereas wooden bows have been used on strings instruments as early as the Islamic civilization in the 10th century, carbon-fiber bows only began to appear a few decades after high-tensile strength carbon-fiber was invented. CodaBow founder Stan Prosen had developed some of the earliest carbon-fiber parts with inventor Dr. Roger Bacon and had found in his early research a profound resonance in the new material. After years of testing and creating prototypes, early CodaBow bows had entered the market, and other music companies had begun developing their own versions to compete. Today, dozens of companies produce carbon-fiber bows in a large range of styles, price ranges, and instruments. With so many options on the market…

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A Brief Interview with violin-maker Marit Danielson

I sit down with Marit Danielson to ask her about her thoughts on women in music. Though Marit is a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music in Viola Performance and of the North Bennet Street School in lutherie, I have to research a bit to get these pieces of information. She is a prolific violin maker and bow expert. She has worked with some of the premier makers in the United States and has sold countless violins to professional players nationally and internationally. She is also humble and would much rather be on a walk with her dog, Bromley, than having me ask her questions while she is being audio recorded.

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Why do seams open? What do I do if I have an open seam?

How do you know a seam has opened?  Perhaps there was a “pop”, or your instrument started buzzing.  Sometimes it is more obvious, like the large 4” gap between the back and the rib on the bottom of your cello.  The seams are the equivalent of the canary in the coal mine for string instruments in the winter.  They are the release valve that opens, hopefully, before the tension causes the top or back plate to crack.

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Why Step-Up?

Determining the right time to Step-up your instrument or your student’s can seem overwhelming, especially given the variety available to choose from.  Though many violins and violas are similar in appearance, not all are created equal, and playing the right instrument can make a world of difference for developing talent.  With the guidance of both your instructor and Vermont Violins’ friendly staff, we can help ensure stepping-up to a new instrument will be a fun and exciting stage in your musical growth.

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Practice Cookies

There is nothing like a cold, snowy day to inspire a warm cookie baking session.   The icing and decorations provide a colorful contrast to the stark white flakes floating down our windows.  The cookies warm us up as we play games or come in from yet another round of shoveling.

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Pernambuco vs. Carbon Fiber Bows

What is the relationship between the bow and our instruments?  Why do different bows make the instrument sound different?  How do I choose the best bow in my price range?  Should I try a carbon fiber bow as well as a Pernambuco bow?

Massimo Lucchi described the relationship between the bow and the violin this way: the bow produces the vibrations, the violin acts as an amplifier and transmits the vibrations.  Coming from a bow making family, Massimo emphasizes the importance of the bow.  Interestingly, professional players often converge with Massimo’s perspective over time, choosing an instrument and then a bow to develop the tone, dynamic range, and depth of the instrument.

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Developmental Differences and Why Your Kid Is Doing Fine

Parenting a young musician is as much of a commitment as being one. As the school year wraps up, many parents are evaluating if their child can, should, or wants to continue with strings. These questions may be further convoluted by doubt in a child’s abilities or motivation. Why won’t my kid practice? Why do other kids sound better? Should we throw in the towel? To shed light on such matters, it helps to look at where music education fits in to general childhood development. I’ll spoil the end before I get there; your kid is doing fine. We’ll get to those individual questions in future editions of this column.

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History of the LucchiMeter

“I often happened to be working on two sticks that, when first examined, appeared to share the same characteristics, but ended up as bows with completely different qualities. This was the eternal dilemma – how to choose the most suitable wood.

They say that the famous violin makers of the past made great progress by noting that the speed with which wood propagated sound was a fundamental element in checking the quality of the sound.

For me, the only possible solution in those days was to travel all over Brazil with a friend and his son who lived there, or to go with Massimo to Germany…

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Should I Have My Instrument Checked Up By a Luthier?

Have you ever: picked up your violin and thought:  "you know, I used to really love this violin....I wonder why?"   Chances are, the violin is out of adjustment.

As weather changes and humidity levels rise and fall, instruments start to change.  Wood expands and contracts and as it does, the set ups, once perfect, not longer perfectly match the instrument and the tonal quality suffers.

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When do I need to rehair my bow and why?

In general, we recommend a bow rehair every six months to a year, ideally at the beginning of the winter and summer.  Rehairing maintains the physical condition of the bow and enhances playability.  Bowhair is extremely responsive to humidity conditions.  In fact, historically, bow hair was used on ships to monitor changes in the air’s relative humidity.  The hair stretches in warm, moist weather and contracts in cold, dry weather.  When we rehair a bow, it is difficult to find a length of hair that works for both extremes in our climate – we can have 80% relative humidity in the summer and 10% relative humidity in the winter.  The hair can shrink as much as an inch going from summer to winter.  For some bows, in particular “soft” bows, the sticks flex more when the hair length changes between seasons.

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7 Tips to Get Your Child to Practice

You’ve just picked up your child’s new instrument, everyone is smiling, your child promises to practice, everything is great! Two weeks later, the instrument is collecting dust, and the word practice brings tears and tantrums. What went wrong???

Keep it simple & small:

Take 1-2 measures, or a line, and have them play it carefully 5 times. Reward, then move on to another small piece and repeat.

Routine – same time and place each…

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Kathy's Audition Tips

Many events and organizations require auditions for would-be attenders. Our local orchestras, All-State and All-New Englands require auditions as do many summer camps…and of course music colleges and advanced programs for our high school seniors. Some teachers ask for auditions to admit students into their studios.

Auditions can be scary! But there are a lot of things you can do to prepare yourself for the best experience. You can learn a lot about yourself and your playing by performing an audition. It can and should be a good experience.

Remember: not all auditions are “screeners”. There is no failing these auditions: your seat in an orchestra, for example, might be allocated according to the audition (not whether you get a seat) and it is an opportunity for the Music Director to get a sense of your capacities as he makes musical decisions about repertoire and seating. You want to get an appropriate seat: being placed beyond your capacities, or below, can be a bummer.

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Why does the sound post matter?

If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

That can work if you’re hiking, but when you have three concerts on the weekend, the constant changes in temperature and humidity can drive you, and your instrument, crazy! Is it time to “adjust” the sound post?

The sound post plays an important role transferring the vibrations from the top plate to the back plate. The sound post is fit to both the back and top plates, and is precisely placed in a position relative to the bridge and the bass bar. Because the top plates and back plates are curved, the sound post will fit properly, with all points touching, in only a small area. To get the optimal sound, the sound post will have to fit properly, and be the proper length so the post puts enough pressure on the top and back plates to stay upright and support the softer spruce top.

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Instrument Humidification

The weather in New England can fluctuate very rapidly.  Both temperature and humidity can change on a dime.  As bad as these changes can sometimes be for us, it can be even worse for stringed instruments. Violins, violas, ‘celli and basses are incredibly sensitive to humidity changes, more so than temperature. You know how the doors of your house swell in the summer and creak and crack in the winter? The same thing is happening to your instrument. Since your instrument is constantly under tension from the strings, getting too dry can lead to extreme (and expensive) damage.

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