All posts by Liz Lambson

Liz Lambson, bassist, luthier, and writer, is performer from Colorado Springs, Colorado. With a music degree from Brigham Young University, Liz has performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, Ballet West, Vancouver Symphony, Columbia Symphony, American Festival Orchestra, the Bach Cantata Choir, and Utah Shakespeare Festival as well as several rock, folk, and jazz bands. Liz has performed with notable artists such as Peter Cetera, Audra McDonald, Renee Fleming, Sissel, and Michael Martin Murphy, and on movie soundtracks including Forever Strong (2008). She released an album of original folk songs in 2006 (Liz Rhodes, Red and Yellow) on guitar and vocals. Liz and her husband moved to Oregon in 2009. She enjoys writing, cross stitching, woodworking, painting, and spending time with her two charming sons.

A Touch of Class: Concert Etiquette for Dummies

Maybe you’ve seen it before. You’re at a symphony concert in your best evening wear to find yourself seated next to an obvious newcomer. The lights dim, but a glow next to you reveals your friendly neighbor whipping his phone out from the pocket of his oh-so-fashionably torn jeans. After a storm of texting, he answers a call during the first movement of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, leaning over to you, mid-call, to ask for a piece of gum. The movement concludes, but not knowing the piece is entirely over, your neighbor bursts into applause just as the conductor is about to begin the second movement. And just when you think you might settle into the peace of the evening’s repertoire, he stands up in the middle of the piece, edging through the aisle and loudly saying, “Sorry, when you gotta go, you gotta go!”

Well. We’re all newcomers to the classical music scene at some point in our lives. So if you’ve wondered what to wear or when to clap, here are a few etiquette tips when attending a classical performance, be it a solo recital, symphony concert, quartet salon, or the like.

1. Dress appropriately. As public events become more and more casual, symphony halls may be one of the few venues around where a higher standard of dress is not only welcome, but encouraged. As a general rule, avoid jeans and tennis shoes. Collared shirts for men are appropriate, as are skirts, dresses, or nice pants for women. Dress as if your grandmother were your date for the evening–and she never leaves home with a run in her stockings.

2. Be punctual. There’s no sneaking into a classical concert during the first piece if you’re late. If you are, many venues may even ask you to remain in the lobby until intermission. If you’re lucky, you may be able to sneak in between pieces, but not movements. Keep in mind that classical concerts may only have 2-4 pieces on the program (with multiple movements), so if you are late, you could end up missing out on a sizeable chunk of music. Try to be in your seat about 15 minutes prior to the concert starting.

3. Applaud when appropriate. Unlike during jazz or rock concerts when applause and shouting are welcome as the music is going on, applause at a classical concert is reserved for when

  • a) the conductor enters,
  • b) the conductor or announcer speaks or thanks patrons,
  • c) an entire piece concludes (not a single movement),
  • d) a soloist enters the stage, and
  • e) a concert concludes.

4. Know when to make your escape. If you must use the restroom, try your best to hold out until intermission. And even if you find the concert a little tiresome, try not to leave at intermission unless you must. Don’t stand up to exit mid-music or even during the silence between pieces or movements. An important element of classical concerts is each individual’s effort to preserve a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for everyone’s enjoyment, so avoid doing anything that will draw attention to yourself.

5. Don’t talk, whistle, or whoop. Save the commentary for your friend/date/mom for intermission. A quick, “That was beautiful!” to your pal during applause is passable, but keep quiet during the performance. And unlike at other types of concerts, whistling and whooping for performers during applause isn’t appropriate in a symphony hall. If you really like the music, feel free to give a standing ovation instead of offering your best cat-calls.

6. No munching. As tempting as it may be to sneak out that crinkly, cellophane-wrapped chocolate bar, next time leave the snacks at home. Don’t even chew gum (or blow bubbles!) Some venues offer refreshments during intermission or following the concert, but hold out during the actual performance. The one exception? Cough drops! We can excuse one wrapper opening if it means saving your neighbors from a cacophony of coughs.

7. Turn off the phone. Don’t even put it on vibrate. Classical music has its quiet moments when even the scuffle of a shoe, the scratch of a head, or the buzz of a phone can be heard clearly. Let the music speak for itself without interruption.

8. Lastly, relax! Okay, maybe you’re getting the impression that classical concerts are only for the uptight and unforgiving. No way! Mind your manners, but enjoy yourself! After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Forever Young: It’s Never Too Late to Learn an Instrument

Photo by Alex E. Proimos

You’re in your car, stopped at an intersection, and glance over to see a young, beautiful teenage couple in a red convertible, laughing, smiling, and presumably taunting you with their youthful future of endless possibilities. In your minivan, now with 299,000 miles on it, you brush the stale crumbs off the passenger seat, glance in the rearview mirror to find a few more gray hairs, and think, “Has life passed me by?”

Too often in my conversations with others, I hear, “I wish I had learned an instrument when I was younger,” “I always wanted to play the violin,” or, “I wish I were musically talented.” Well, for one, as we have established in previous posts, good musicianship has more to do with practice than innate talent. And here’s the other half of the story–the big secret if you will: you’re never too old to become a musician. You may think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s far from impossible.

We’ve all heard of virtuosic performers who started playing before they could even tie their shoes or read. Joshua Bell started violin lessons at age four. Yo-Yo Ma similarly started on the cello at age four, but only after he studied violin and viola for a time. Hilary Hahn began violin one month before her fourth birthday. So it seems that four years old is the magic number to begin playing. But is that really true? If we didn’t start learning at age four, is it not even worth trying?

Answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT

There are plenty of professional musicians who picked up their instruments later in life. But keep in mind that you don’t have to be a professional to enjoy music as an important part of your personal development.

Photo by Dierk Schaefer

Plenty of research supports the benefits of not only listening to, but playing and practicing music as nourishment for the mind and body. Playing music releases stress, rejuvenates and excites unused areas of the brain, and boosts confidence and one’s sense of accomplishment. There are plenty of reasons to play music beyond cashing a check or autographing programs at intermission.

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For adults learning music for the first time, here are a few pointers to remember as you pick up a new instrument:

1. Methods for teaching children are not the same as methods to teach adults. For children, whose gelatinous brains are still growing, musical connections are often formed from scratch in their developing minds. For adults, we use the brain power and synaptic connections we already have to understand new concepts. So if you’re an adult returning to an instrument you played as a child, you may approach it differently this time around.

2. Practice is necessary. Your mom isn’t going to ground if you if you don’t practice or take away your iPhone until you perfect that movement. Simply reading about or watching YouTube videos about your instrument won’t do the trick either. Without that “adult figure” to push you along, adults often don’t take the initiative to practice as often as children do. They don’t attend music classes at school everyday or have the external discipline or academic requirements that demand so many minutes or hours of practice per week. So be sure to set some goals and give yourself a little time to step away from the demands of your day to enjoy a little bonding time with your instrument.

3. Be patient with yourself. Even for children, it takes years and years before sounding “good,” especially on a stringed instrument. Don’t give up if you don’t sound like Itzhak Perhlman after two private lessons or a few afternoons of practice. Relax and enjoy the learning experience, keeping realistic expectations for yourself.

4. Learn some theory. If you don’t read music, don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect! Learning to read the musical staff is similar to learning a foreign language. Challenging, perhaps, but very worthwhile! Consider music theory and the musical staff to be your building blocks for your musical foundation.

5. Find a teacher. Trying to learn an instrument by yourself and without guidance quickly leads to frustration and quitting. Find a teacher, friend, or mentor who will encourage your progress and provide you with the technique necessary for success.

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Now that you’re ready to finally embrace that long-lost dream to pick up an instrument, give us a call! At Kennedy Violins, we are always happy to help. From finding the right instrument for you to learning the basics of rosining a bow to choosing accessories, we are here for you. And as you progress, let us know how it’s going!

Five Ways to Become More Cultured: Adding Classical Music to Your Daily Life

Many individuals and families have a desire to be cultured. You know, take that step up from cheddar cheese to Gruyère, hot dogs to pancetta, Avril Lavigne to Hilary Hahn.

It’s like going from this:

Photo by Nick Saltmarsh

to this:

Photo by Nate Steiner

In a world that is becoming increasingly casual and satisfied with mundane and flavorless activities, a great way to add more refinement to your daily (yes, daily) life is to pump it up with classical music! And I don’t mean by occasionally tuning your radio to the classical station to get away from endless coverage of the Republican primaries.

If you find yourself

• playing Angry Birds and Words with Friends for hours per day
• neglecting your New Year’s Resolutions to better yourself
• spending all your free time glazing over your Facebook newsfeed
• watching TV because you don’t know what else to do

. . . try adding a touch of classical music to your day to refresh your senses and invigorate your mind.

Five Ways to Add Classical Music to Your Daily Life

1) Listen to your local classical station. And not just to escape the commercials, news, or bad songs on other stations. Try stepping away from pounding drum beats and heated talk radio for even ten minutes during breakfast, on your commute, or while you fold laundry. You’ll be surprised how a little Bach can melt some of the stress out of the daily grind.

2) Tap into your local classical music scene. Not only will listening to your local classical station be literal music to your ears, tuning in is a great way to find out about local classical performances in your neighborhood. Take note of upcoming community concerts, professional symphony performances, operas, solo recitals, and local festivals. And after you take note, don’t just let the opportunity pass you by. Actually GO.

3) Read up. There’s no better way to feel more cultured than to throw in a few little known facts about Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring into your dinner conversation. But beyond just impressing your friends, there’s something enlivening about continuing your lifelong cultural education through informative literature. Check out composer biographies, the program notes you always throw away, or the Arts & Life section of your local newspaper. Get in the know!

Photo by Jason Weinberger

4) Use the technology you have. Spotify, Grooveshark, and Pandora are great resources to expose yourself to classical music, whether they’re familiar composers such as Beethoven and Mozart or contemporary performers such as Joshua Bell and Gil Shaham. Look up books, articles, music, and podcasts about classical music on your Kindle or smart phone. Read about classical music, artists, and techniques on Wikipedia. Step away from Facebook for a moment to gain some new knowledge! And when you find it, sure, post a link on your wall for your friends.

5) Play. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or one who’s never seen a sheet of music, go for it! Sign up for lessons, noodle on your friend’s piano, and practice on a regular basis. Playing classical music will flex your brain muscles in a way you don’t use them doing any other activity during the day. Even practicing scales and arpeggios can be strangely relaxing as a physical and mental activity that certainly involves more of your senses than when you’re playing Farmville. It may seem daunting to get up off the couch, turn off the TV, and set aside the cheese puffs, but spending even a few minutes during your day to play music will give you a great sense of accomplishment–even refinement–when you’re done.

From Frog to Tip: How to Choose a Bow


It’s hard enough to know what you’re looking for when shopping for a violin outfit. So just when you think you’re all done making such life-altering decisions (Shoulder rest? Strings? Case? Rosin?), you’re faced with another mammoth dilemma. Which bow do you pick?

Kennedy Violins offers a wide variety of bow options (and upgrades!) with any violin or viola outfit because we know how important it is that you get what you’re looking for. But what if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Well, look no further! Welcome to . . .

. . . Bows 101! Your basic tutorial on how to choose a bow!

When choosing a bow, it helps to know what the bow is made of. From there, you can decide what quality of fittings you’d prefer. Note that in general, the more expensive the bow, the nicer the fittings, materials, and build.

BOW TYPES

Fiberglass

Fiberglass bows are often the most affordable option. Fiberglass, not to be confused with carbon fiber (see below), is glass-reinforced plastic that is not as strong or light as carbon fiber, but also not as brittle. Fiberglass is easily molded and cheap to manufacture, which allows for its affordability. These bows are recommended for beginners, especially children, as they are very durable (if dropped, scratched, or thrown about by a sibling) and affordable, especially when purchased in smaller sizes that will be grown out of. On the other hand, fiberglass bows rarely respond or bounce as well as quality wood bows, and can sometimes be heavier than preferable.

Wood

Wood bows are usually a step up from fiberglass bows when made properly with quality fittings. Beware though, if a bow is describes as “wood,” but without the type of wood specified. Just like you wouldn’t want to buy a violin made of balsa, steer clear of bows made of “mystery” wood. Look for wood types such as ebony, pernambuco, and Brazilwood (see below).

Pernambuco

Bows are traditionally made of pernambuco, a high-quality, dense, strong wood of a beautiful red hue grown in the north of Brazil. However, as the export of pernambuco to Asia and Europe became so popular to the point of exploitation in the 1700s, pernambuco has since become an endangered tree species. Pernambuco forests are now sponsored by many instrument makers who hope to continue the tradition of using this scarlet wood in the art of bow making.

Brazilwood

Brazilwood is another name for pernambuco (Caesalpinia echinata). But as pernambuco is now endangered, related species of wood similar in quality, strength, springiness, lightness, and color are now used and also referred to as Brazilwood in the bowmaking industry. Related species include include Pink Ipê (Tabebuia impetiginosa), Massaranduba (Manilkara bidentata) and Palo Brasil (Haematoxylum brasiletto).

*Note: High-quality, cured Brazilwood is often used in bowmaking because it has less tendency to warp. A warped or curved bow is unfavorable. To check for warpage, “sight” down the length of the bow from the frog to tip to view whether the wood is bent to the left of right, if at all.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber, or carbon fiber reinforced polymer, is extremely strong and light with a high strength-to-weight ratio. Used in aerospace and automotive engineering, carbon fiber is more expensive to manufacture than fiberglass or other plastics, but the material is of such quality that the effectiveness of carbon fiber bows can sometimes exceed that of Brazilwood bows–depending on the bow, of course. Carbon fiber bows can be manufactured to such precise dimensions that their response, balance, and bounce can be exactly predetermined. Carbon fiber bows are thus more expensive than fiberglass or lower-grade wood bows as they are so well made. The CodaBow is a popular, professional-quality name brand of carbon fiber bow which we are pleased to offer at Kennedy Violins. We carry the CodaBow Prodigy, CodaBow Luma, CodaBow Diamond NX, CodaBow Diamond SX, and CodaBow Diamon GX.

FITTINGS

Higher-quality bows, like violins, usually have higher-quality and more durable fittings that reflect the craftsmanship of the bow:

Grip: leatherette (textured or smooth vinyl or plastic), genuine leather, snakeskin, lizard skin

Winding: whalebone, nickel-silver, silver, gold

Tip: white plastic, tagua nut, ivory, mammoth ivory (a legal alternative to elephant ivory)

Frog: plastic, wood, ebony

Plate: mother of pearl, abalone, ivory, mammoth ivory

Hair: synthetic, genuine horsehair (white and/or black)

Half or Full Mounting

What is a half-mounted or fully-mounted bow? On a fully-mounted bow you can see the thin stripe of a smooth metal plate between where the frog is connected (or mounted) to the bow, allowing a smooth fit and protection for the wood as it slides back and forth when the bow is tightened and loosened. A half-mounted bow lacks the metal plating, resulting in raw wood on wood between the frog and stick that may wear over time. Half-mounted bows do not have a ring around the pearl eye of the frog, while fully-mounted bows will have a ring around the pearl eye.

Comfort

When choosing a bow, you’ll typically want to try it (such as with our in-home trial program!) to test the bows comfort for you as a unique player. Consider factors such as weight, balance, bounciness, response, and even length, which can vary (especially for bass bows). Try different bow strokes such as spicatto, staccato, and long tones to assess the bows quality and comfort in your own hands.

Questions?

Give us a call at 1-800-779-0242! At Kennedy Violins, we want to make sure you know what you’re buying before you buy it with a commitment to answer your questions with honesty and professional know-how. So go ahead, check out our selection of quality bows . . . especially now that you know just what you’re looking for.

How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking

 

As with any other career, a musician’s key to successfully finding gigs often lies in simple networking. (Image by Sean MacEntee)

It takes a long time to establish your reputation as a musician and performer in a new town. After living in Utah for six years, I felt so well connected to a great number of musical organizations, schools, teachers, orchestras, recording studios, and the like. I enjoyed playing regular gigs, teaching a steady number of bass students, and growing strong relationships with musicians and performing groups throughout the state . . .

. . . and then I moved.

My husband’s work brought us to Oregon, which meant starting from scratch as a stranger hoping to freelance a new music community. So the first thing I did in the months leading up to and following my move to the Portland area was contact absolutely every musical organization I could find. I made phone calls, sent e-mails with my performance resume attached, and inquired about upcoming auditions. During the summer before the move, I took extra lessons, practiced 20 hours a week, and performed a recital in preparation for auditions I hoped to take once arriving in Oregon.

The day after we pulled our moving truck into town I abandoned our unpacking efforts to attend a masterclass sponsored by the Portland Youth Philharmonic featuring Erik Harris, principal bassist of the St. Louis Symphony. Sure, I was a college grad, so what was I doing hanging out with the youth symphony members? I was also looking for connections.  As with most professions, the fastest way to find work is through effective networking and personal referrals. So my goal? Get connected!

Let me tell you, it doesn’t take much but confidence. You know you’re a good player, so put yourself out there! And if you don’t feel like a good enough player to get those gigs, try The Art of Effective Practicing. It takes a lot of work to be a marketable performer, but you can do it!

 

Here are a few ways to get connected with your local music community:

  • Keep your chops up by performing regularly. Put on a house concert. Keep practicing. Find an open-mic night at a local venue to sing, fiddle, or do whatever you do. Play at your church or synagogue. Busk at the local farmers markets. There are endless opportunities to perform, and you can create those opportunities yourself.  Don’t wait for someone else to do what you can do on your own. You’d be surprised by how many restaurants, café’s, bookstores, and boutiques there are that would be so happy to have your live music in their space.
  • Don’t demand paying gigs right away or all the time. Be generous in sharing your talents with others! You can do this while still maintaining your stance as a professional. Playing for free allows you to enjoy the opportunity to meet other musicians without stressing about money and union talk. You’ll be surprised how many connections you’ll make that can lead to future gigs. And come on, we all know the economy is tight, and if all musicians refused to play without pay our artistic community and musical culture would suffer tremendously.
  • Participate in your local community orchestras! You don’t have to wait to win an audition with a semi-professional or professional orchestra to play the great orchestral works. Community orchestras are excellent for meeting teachers, performers, and conductors who can hook you up for future work—and they’re just plain fun. You can relax and play great music with a smile on your face. Sometimes when money is in the mix, musicians can become surly, bitter, or demanding individuals, losing sight of why they chose music as a career in the first place. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the joy of playing be belittled by your pride or hunger for pay.
  • Connect with local schools. I decided to call and e-mail local orchestra teachers offering to conduct a free masterclass for their bass sections. It turned into a very fruitful experience. Give it a try! And who knows, maybe they’ll even ask you to come back. Regardless, reaching out to the youth in school and community music programs is a great way to make a name for yourself as a teacher. Be sure to get your name on the list of private teachers the orchestra directors provide for their students, and remember you can receive 10% off with your teacher discount through Kennedy Violins!
Photo by Belen Martini.
  • Don’t just teach lessons—take lessons. Even the most experienced professional musicians can benefit from taking lessons into their old age. Musicians can always benefit from the perspective of another performer with fresh ideas, techniques, and style.

It might be challenging to find the gig of your dreams. But don’t wait miserably for a Golden Ticket while throwing away the chance to enjoy that delicious Wonka Bar right in front of you. There is music to be played, players to meet, and stages on which to perform. So have at it! Make a connection! And keep us posted along the way.

The Art of Effective Practicing

Photo by How I See Life

When I was a university music student, my daily practice requirements were three hours per day, five or six days a week. My personal goal was fifteen hours a week, or 2-4 hours on weekdays—more than I ever worked in a part-time job up to that point in my life. And in preparation for a recital, I upped it to four hours per day to meet my performance deadline.

For me, as one who had never practiced more than an hour a day before college, this seemed like a daunting task. Up until then, I was fortunate enough that whatever basic talent I had was enough to get me by with minimal practice.

 

But the problem is, no matter how talented you may be, talent only goes so far. Practice—and effective practice—is what will take you from good to better to even (if you work really hard) the best.

 

So what’s your approach? When you sit down (or stand) to practice, what’s your plan? When your mom tells you to practice, do you simply go in a room and make noise for the appointed amount of time and resurface to say you’ve finished without accomplishing much? When you practice, do you set goals?

When I had that 3-hour minimum expectation, it was SO tempting to go to the practice room, set a timer, and simply “make noise” until I could check practicing of my to-do list and get on with my other homework. Yay. (Not!) But as I showed up to lessons making the same old fumbles and mistakes, it became clear to me that how much I practiced wasn’t as important as how I practiced.

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Here are a few tips  to make the most of your time in the practice room. I mean, if you’re going to dedicate so much time to your musicianship, you might as well make the most of it, right?

  • Have a plan. And not just a plan for the day, but a plan for each hour, day, week, and even the months leading upto a performance or recital. How often do you sit down—either as a performer or a parent motivating your child to practice—and come up with a plan to not just practice, but practice well?
  • Break it down. What works well for me is to break my practice time into thirds. Try this recipe out for a delicious result:

•  1/3 C warmup and technique (scales, etudes, exercises)
•  1/3 C orchestral works (audition exerpts, current concert repertoire)
•  1/3 C solo repertoire (for recitals, juries, lessons, etc.)

Photo by tvol
  • Don’t practice what’s easy, practice what’s hard. Step out of your comfort zone! Don’t just play your favorite piece or what you’re good at over and over to fill the time. Especially when preparing for a recital, you have to make sure you’re not spending too much time on your favorite pieces, but that each piece is prepared to the same golden (or platinum!) standard.
  • Don’t always start pieces from the beginning. I’ve seen this over and over with my students: the first line on the page sounds great, and sometimes the last four bars, but everything in between? What a mess! I can tell when students only start practice a piece from the beginning when they pull it out to work on. They perfect that impressive introduction, but never take the time to work through all the tricky material that follows—especially if they only spend a few minutes on the piece before moving on. Don’t be afraid to even photocopy a piece of music and CUT IT UP into chunks to practice individual phrases with equal attention.
  • Zone in on tricky groups (or even pairs) of notes, not just on tricky phrases. Do you always fudge that big shift up two octaves? Well, don’t just practice what’s around it, take five minutes and practice JUST THAT SHIFT. You’ll be surprised what five minutes of repeating just two notes will do. It’s much more effective than playing twenty notes for twenty minutes, I promise you that.
  • Don’t skip scales and technique. Until you can play every single note of the scale with each note perfectly in pitch not wavering a cent with perfect bow technique and absolutely perfect articulation (you see where I’m going?), you haven’t practiced your scales enough. There’s no such thing as perfect technique, so take the time to hone in on it before moving on to the “fun” stuff. If you have weak technique, it will show in everything else you play.
  • Use your time wisely. I remember practicing six hours straight one day just to say that I got my hours in that week, but it wasn’t necessarily productive. If you go back to step one and practice with a plan, be sure to stick to that plan. It’s depressing to leave the practice room at the end of the day feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything. The remedy? Accomplish something by practicing smart.

Practice makes perfect. Ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule? Check it out. Basically, in order to find success, you’ve got to put in your time. And making the most of that time will take you even farther. Developing the talent to efficiently practice requires just as much skill and effort as it takes to become a great performer. No brainer, right? If you’re good at practicing, you’ll be good at performing.

At Kennedy Violins, we not only want to provide you with the quality instrument of your musical dreams, we want to see you succeed.

So what works for you? We want to know! And in the mean time, happy practicing!

Violins Are Like Legos: They’re Meant to Come Apart

The bridge, which connects the vibration of the strings to the body of the instrument, is held in place only by the tension of the strings. No glue or adhesive is necessary or even desirable. (Photo by CavinB)
You’ve seen it before. Intermission commences at the junior high orchestra concert. The suspect, a rather uncoordinated violist (who shall remain unnamed), trips over a cello and the audience gasps as it faceplants on the ground. The bridge goes flying. The strings go limp. A harried seventh grader fights backs tears as she runs to her fallen instrument thinking all is lost, her life is over, and her parents will surely disown her. And to top it off, it’s a rental.

This is usually the time in life when a young musician realizes that 1) string instruments aren’t invincible, and 2) bridges aren’t actually glued on. Who knew?

 

 

From food to furniture to clothing to vehicles, the modern era has redefined the production of life’s staples through the use of assembly lines, man-made materials, and machines. But when it comes to string instruments, there’s a reason why violins aren’t made of plastic, commercially manufactured and slapped together with duct tape.

For one, that would sound terrible. Really terrible. But has it ever occurred to you that your instrument is supposed to come apart?

For example, did you know . . .

  • The bridge is held in place by the pressure and tension of the strings. As strings stretch and tighten over time, the bridge may even lean towards the fingerboard and can be adjusted by hand. And if you were to *remove all the strings at once, the bridge would simply fall over.

*This is not recommended, especially while changing strings. Replace strings one at a time to keep the bridge properly positioned and tension on the sound post.

  • The tailpiece is suspended and held in place by the tension of the strings.
  • The sound post (the wooden dowel seen through the f-hole) is also held in place by friction and the pressure and force of the strings on the face of the instrument. Loosening or removing all the strings creates the risk of the sound post falling, which can greatly affect the sound production and quality of your instrument. The sound post can even be moved to affect the sound of the instrument for better (or worse!).
  • The endpin is not glued in but can usually be pulled out by hand.
  • Tuning pegs aren’t glued or secured in place (obviously, as you have to turn them) but are simply held by the friction created by raw wood on wood. If the pegs are difficult to turn and are sticking (sometimes creating a cracking or creaking sound as you turn the pegs), applying a substance called peg dope acts as a lubricant.
  • The face, ribs, back, fingerboard, and neck are glued in place using a water-soluble adhesive called hide glue. Hide glue, which is actually made from animal hides, has been long-used in woodworking and lutherie. The water-soluble characteristic of hide glue allows instruments to be easily taken apart and put back together without damaging the wood, which aids in both assembly and repair.

So why are violins meant to come apart? If they weren’t, parts couldn’t be replaced or repaired easily, especially without sacrificing the entire instrument. Fingerboards, nuts, bridges, tailpieces, endpins, and even necks can be replaced and restored as individual pieces of a larger and beautifully crafted puzzle.

At Kennedy Violins, we take great pride in upholding the historic tradition of handmade string instruments. As each violin, viola, cello, and bass is hand-crafted, setup, and inspected by professional luthiers, you can be confident that every piece of your instrument is expertly constructed and in its place. Top that off with Kennedy Violin’s Lifetime Warranty and you can expect your instrument to truly last a lifetime.

And that’s even more impressive than your nephew’s Lego collection, if I do say so myself.

Photo by Asrar Makrani