All posts by Rachel Davis

Rachel grew up in a musical family. She was started singing and playing piano at an early age. In fifth grade, she began playing the violin in the school orchestra. It wasn't long, however, before she fell in love with the sound of the cello. Cello has since been her favorite instrument to play. Growing up in Portland, OR provided many opportunities for musical growth. Rachel participated in local groups like the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and the Portland Youth Philharmonic. After earning her Bachelor's of Music from Berry College, in Rome, GA, she moved back to the Northwest where she currently plays for the Willamette Falls Symphony, Willamette Falls Trio and the indie rock band, Capraesque.

Gifts That Will be Music to You (or your loved ones) Ears…

In case you haven’t noticed, the Holiday season is upon us and for many families out there that means exchanging gifts of some kind.  If you read this blog, I assume that you or someone close to you is a string musician.  So, what do you buy for a musician and where do you get it?  Stuff Mart doesn’t usually have aisles flowing with merchandise to match a musician’s need. *NOTE:  If you ever find a musical instrument for sale at the same place you can buy your toothpaste-just say no!*

1.  Strings-These are often overlooked as a gift.  String musicians will always need strings.  Even if the current ones they have are not worn out, back-ups are always welcome.  Plus, many string musicians (including myself) find it a fun adventure to experiment with different types.  The cost for strings varies a lot so you really only have to spend as much as want to.  Sets of violin strings range from about $10-$100+, viola strings range from about $20-$150+, cello strings are in the $40-$200+ ballpark, and bass strings you can expect to pay $90-$300+.  New strings are also a great way to upgrade the sound of an instrument without having to buy a new one altogether.

2. New Case-This is another item that a musician will almost always have use for.  Of all the parts in a string instrument outfit, the case probably receives the most wear and tear (as it should!).  Most cases these days come in a variety of shapes and colors that can match the recipients personality.  A new case is a great way to revitalize the instrument outfit without having to break the bank.  Cases have a wide range of prices too.  Violin cases are usually $20-$500+, viola cases range from $50-$500+, a good soft cello case starts around $40 and a good hard cello case starts around $200, while bass cases start at $100.

3. New Bow-Like the previous two listed, a new bow is another way to “upgrade” a string instrument without buying the whole kit and kaboodle.  If you don’t know anything about buying a bow, I would check out last week’s blog by Liz.  She has a lot of great information.  Bow costs range greatly.  For most string instruments, the cost for a new bow starts around $40 and can go into the thousands of dollars.  For this item, I would pick a budget first and stick to it.  The $500 bow will always sound better than the $100 bow.

4.  New Instrument-This is a great idea if you or your loved one wants to start playing a string instrument or if they are progressing to the next level.  A new instrument can be a more expensive option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal.  Most instruments come as part if an outfit which means that many of the accessories included (case, bow, rosin, etc.).  There are instruments available for less that $100…but those are usually glorified paperweights.  For a decent student violin, I would expect to pay around $200 for the outfit, a good student viola would go for $400,  a nice student cello outfit should be around $600, and for a student bass I would pay around $1500.  If you are upgrading the instrument, I would get the player’s input.  See what it is about playing that they like.  Do they prefer a warmer sound or brighter sound?  You may even consider taking them with you when you make the purchase to play a couple of instruments.  If you want it to be a surprise, you can always get a teacher’s or professional’s opinion.  At Kennedy Violins, we are all professional string players here any we love to talk shop so feel free to call us.

5.  Novelty Accessories-A lot of the accouterments that go with string instruments are pretty mundane.  Lately, businesses have emerged on the market that feature more dazzling accessories.  They may not be the highest quality, but they are sure to bring a smile to any players face and a little bling to their instruments.

6.  Sheet Music-This is one of my favorites, but it can be touchy one.  For instance, if you gave your loved one a book titled “How to Play More in Tune,” that could back fire.  I would choose something that is lots of fun for the player.  The technical sheet music will usually come from a teacher.  Look for sheet music featuring songs from something like their favorite bands or a favorite musical.  Sheet Music Plus is a great resource.

The only other advice I feel I should offer is this:  Don’t buy a string player something just because it has a violin, viola, cello, or bass on it.  Over the years, I can’t tell you how many picture frames, clocks, dishes, jewelry, and other knick-knacks I have received with string instruments on them and sadly I have no use for any of them…especially the creepy violin playing cherub statues.  Mom, if you are reading this, I’m not talking about any of the gifts you got me.

Ensembles Large and Small: Try Them All!

I am a huge fan of ensembles.  The elementary school that I went to offered a strings class to 5th and 6th graders.  I was excited to play the violin and then the cello.  My favorite part of the entire class, though, was getting to work towards a common goal with my classmates.  I love being around people.  I’m an extrovert.

As I progressed in my musical studies, a lot of the repertoire that I was learning included Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites.  This was not as much fun for me.  Yes, I know that I learned valuable techniques and skills, however, it was lonely.  No one to play off of or interact with because I was by myself.  Hours in a practice room, by myself.  Sitting on a stage during recitals…BY MYSELF!   Still, I made it through the suites with my sanity in tact (my college roommates might debate this).  The one thing I think that aided my study of Bach, was my involvement in musical ensembles large and small.

Like myself, being involved in a musical ensemble is “built-in” for many beginners.  Many still start in a classroom setting through a school music program or teacher’s studio.  It’s a great way to start.  Not only does it fill any need for human connection and camaraderie, but it builds listening skills and intonation, as well as rhythm and playing together.  For some, they are able to continue in a group setting in a middle or high school orchestra.  Yet, how can a student be involved in an ensemble if there are no school programs?

Here are some options:

Duets and Trios (2 and 3 players)-There is a lot of music out there written for two or three, so practically any skill level, beginner to advanced, can participate.  Playing a duet is a simple as asking a friend or family member to play together.  Your young musician can even ask their teachers if they can play with another student in their studio.  Often times, teachers are pleased to play with students too. *Free Participation*

Quartet (4 players)-The traditional string quartet consists of 2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello.  Like Duets and Trios, there is a lot of music available but, this exact combination of musicians can be trickier to find.  It can take some time to get everyone together.  You may have to start playing as a duet or trio and add people as you meet them. *Free Participation*

Church/Synagogue Groups-These groups usually perform once a week and are usually open to any musician.  Playing in this setting can yield combinations of instruments that you won’t find anywhere else and the live performances keep your “chops up.”  If you aren’t “religious,” don’t worry, many groups don’t require that, they just want you to play.  *Free Participation*

Community Orchestra-Community Orchestras are much larger that any of the other groups I’ve mentioned.  They are often a full orchestra of strings, wind, brass, and percussion.  They are great because they can provide the chance for a young musician to play with other musicians that are much more experienced.  Plus, they have a will get play more challenging music in the modern orchestra repertoire.  While most members will be adults, many community groups are open to proficient students although an audition may be required.  Also, a lot of community groups hold “Young Artists” competitions for talented young musicians to perform a solo with a full orchestra. *Free Participation*

Youth Orchestras-Dot Rust posted a blog about this in February.  It’s worth the read.  She describes how they began in the U.S. and how your student can be involved.  The only thing that is different from the previous groups is that there is tuition involved.  Many groups offer tuition breaks or scholarships for any needy student. *Cost to Participate*

Jazz Band/Combo-We all know Bass players are in jazz bands, but violins, violas, and cellos?  Say it with me: Yes we can!  See Stephane Grapelli, Lucio Amanti, and Judith Insell for some great examples.  Your student may want to learn jazz scales and basic improvisation techniques before jumping in, but it’s so worth it.  Even if they don’t become the Dizzy Gillespie on the viola, playing jazz opens up a whole new world of tonality that will be helpful if they ever dive into some Bernstein or Ives. *Maybe Cost*

Bluegrass Band-Your young musician may want to trade their violin in for a fiddle. Side Note: violin=fiddle.  Bluegrass bands are welcoming to all ages and levels and there are competitions in every region that can offer cash prizes to winners.  Bluegrass bands often play by ear and by rote instead of reading of sheet music, so this is a great chance for your student to practice memorization. *Buy lots of Rosin*

Marching Band-Alright, I’ll admit.  I don’t know of any marching string orchestras.  I’m just putting up here hoping someone out there might actually do it.  The technology exists now to make it happen (carbon fiber instruments + wireless pick-ups hooked up to a stadium sound system!)…but it would be expensive.  Okay, for this one, your student would have the be the relative of an eccentric millionaire that is about to die. *Cost: Priceless*

Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to having your young musician participate in an ensemble.  There are numerous possibilities and numerous benefits.  Plus, many options are free of charge.  Helpful hint: if you need to provide sheet music for the group your student is playing in, check out the International Music Library Score Project.  They provide copies of free sheet music for ensembles of many sizes.

Review Contest WINNER Announced!!!

Hi There,

Wow, what a response we had to our most recent contest!  We had the most participants in a contest to date, but there can be only one…winner that is.  All the reviews posted between 9/15/11 and 10/15/11 were eligible and the people that posted them were entered in the drawing for a $300 gift certificate.  This morning a winner was randomly selected…and that winner is…Joy Schmoll!  Congratulations Joy!  You can read her review here.

If you didn’t win, don’t fret.  We will be sending all participants a Thank-You gift.  If you didn’t have a chance to enter, we are starting another contest in a few weeks.  Our blog will have all the latest information, so check back for updates!

Until Next Time!

New Contest! We want your Reviews!

Hi There,

Thanks to all those that participated in our Back To School Contest last month. It’s now time for a new one!

Our customers are great. They always call or e-mail us to let us know how they are enjoying their instruments. We usually get a phone call, an e-mail, and the occasional Facebook message. We LOVE hearing from you! Now we want to take it on a grander scale. We are looking for reviews from anyone that has come into contact with one of our instruments. Parents, friends, students, teachers relatives, etc.!

Starting September 15, 2011, any review that a customer places on a review website will be entered in a drawing for a $300 Kennedy Violins gift certificate!

Here are the rules:

1. The review must be placed on a website designed for reviews. This includes, but is not limited to,,,, etc. Reviews will also be accepted from sites that host forums about musical instruments. This includes, but is not limited to,,, etc. PLEASE NOTE: Reviews posted on Facebook are not eligible.

2. The review has to be submitted by 11:59pm PST on October 15, 2011. Any late reviews, while appreciated, will not be eligible.

3. The review should contain the product information of the instrument that was purchased.

4. Reviews must comply with the rules of the site that you post on.

5. Reviews don’t necessarily have to be “good” ones, we are looking for honest feedback so that we can better serve our customers and the community.

Please call: 1.800.779.0242 or e-mail if you have any questions. We looking forward to hearing from you!

Good Luck!


**UPDATE 10/13/11**  We’ve started pulling reviews from the websites we are familiar with in preparation for the upcoming drawing.  So far, we have checked,,, and  If you have placed a review on another site, please e-mail us or call us to let us know so that we can make sure you get entered!  Only 2 days left!!!

Back to School Photo Contest Winners!

About a month ago, here at Kennedy Violins, we announced our first ever Back to School Photo Contest.  It was great getting to see picture from some of our wonderful customers and even some new friends.  Yesterday the contest came to a close and we are pleased to announce a winner.  But first, some honorable mentions!

Sister violins!
Crazy cellist!

Our winner was actually a last minute entry, but we were so glad to see and receive.  It comes to us from the lovely Dorman family  in Ashville, NY.  Congrats guys!  You will be receiving the Accessories Prize Package!

Sibling sweetness!

We’d like to thank everyone that participated.  If you weren’t a winner this time around, don’t worry, we will be hosting more contests in the future.  Check on our Facebook page or back here at our blog for the latest contest news here at Kennedy Violins.

Injured List

For a few weeks now, many students in the U.S. are back at school. Here in the NW, just starting this week. School starting means many things. Homework, lunch ladies, soccer moms…the list goes on. One thing that going back to school means, however, often escapes most people’s mind. I’m talking about injuries.

Think about it: Families are busier now, going to school, to sports, to scouts, to music lessons, to the library and that’s just on Monday. Plus, the students are in new classroom environments that they don’t know and on a new schedule that they are used to. Not to mention that, musically speaking, they have a heavier load, literally and figuratively, with a new instruments that are often bigger than what they had last year and more music to practice that is more difficult that what they are used to. All of these factor combined translate into bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, or worse. Sigh, it’s a jungle out there.

Why is this topic on my mind? Well, almost 12 years to the date, my brother shut my hand in the sliding door of our minivan right before a cello lesson. The door shut and locked with my fingers in there. I broke two fingers and was unable to play for about a month. It was totally an accident and with our busy family it was only matter of time before something like that happened.

So, how can we keep ourselves from being on the injured list?

Communication-This is huge! Communication is necessary every day, but if good communication is practiced between parents, students, and teachers, then possible injuries can be prevented.

Tools-Giving your students or yourselves the proper tools to work in new environments can also prevent injury. For instance, the proper shoulder rest for a new instrument can prevent muscle strains in the neck and back.

Sleep-Countless studies indicate that there are many benefits to a good night’s sleep. In addition to health benefits, good sleep can decrease your chances of accidents like falling or running into things.

I’d like to say that I learned my lesson 12 years ago and have avoided injury since then, but that would be a lie. I totally busted my lip by slipping on a puddle and face planting on a stone floor hours before a flute final in college. Still, those three things have lengthened the time between injuries. Oh, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

“Back to School” Photo Contest on Facebook!!!


It’s that time of year again! Drag the kids (or yourselves) out of bed and savor the flavor of P,B and J! To us, “Back to School” means new beginnings and fond memories and that is exactly what we are looking for in this photo contest. To enter, simply post a picture on the our wall by Labor Day, September 5, 2011. The winner will receive an accessories bundle that any string player can use! It will include a Folding Music Stand, Music Doctor Chromatic Tuner, and Kaplan Premium Rosin! That all retails for over $100!!!

Here are the rules!

1. We want to see pictures of you or your kids as they were first starting out on their instruments (violin, viola, cello, or bass).
2. The pictures can be while they were practicing, in class or a lesson, performing, etc.
3. The pictures don’t have to be “serious”. What were are we want to see are photos that embody the “Back to School” spirit and the adventure of learning something new.
4. Sadly, we have to say this: anything lewd or offensive in anyway, will automatically be disqualified. Keep those pictures of the nudist KKK rally you played at to yourself!
5. Lastly, all facebook rules for posting photos apply. You have to “Like” us to be able to post, but you like us anyway! 🙂

If you have any questions, feel free to message us or you can call us at 1.800.779.0242.

Good Luck!!!

Curing Unsteady Tempo Syndrome

From an article by Clayton Haslop

A few days ago a gentleman wrote in to say he has a
problem keeping the tempo steady when not actively
counting. Of course he’d like to know what to do about
it. And we’ll get to that.

Yet first let me tell you something, he’s not alone.

Matter of fact, establishing and holding a beat is why
there’s a drummer behind every ‘band’, and a conductor in
front of every orchestra – the Orpheus Ensemble
notwithstanding. A good drummer, like a good conductor
compels us to FEEL the beat.

With a good conductor even the slightest glance up tells
you exactly when, and how, to play.

Now, I’m convinced that ‘time facility,’ the ability to
appreciate and manipulate time creatively, is akin to
pitch facility.

In so far as one is able to match pitches one can refine
the ear to hear all manner of subtlety and nuance within

Our time sense is even more organic. We beat time
whenever taking more than a step in one direction.

The difficulty comes when distractions enter the picture.

In music this takes the form of notes played ‘off the
beat’, string-crossings, sudden changes of dynamic and,
let’s not forget, nerves.

A few days ago I was on a recording session for a film.
The music was not technically difficult, and yet, as it
was ultra exposed, there were a few players playing
ever-so-slightly ahead of the beat on every take.

These are highly trained musicians I’m talking about,
though you’d be forgiven for suspecting otherwise.

Ask these folks to subdivide each beat in their head
while playing and the problem would evaporate in a

What happens is, in stressful situations we tend to fall
back on our most practiced behaviors. If we don’t
practice subdividing at home we will not tend to do it
when put under stress.

And this is easy to see, by the way. When those unused
to subdividing are invited to do it you will invariably
see heads and violin scrolls moving up and down.

A skilled sub-divider will show no such outward movement.
The real goods will be inside, just certain parts of the
brain lit up like a Christmas tree.

Perhaps those of you with my courses will now object, ‘so
why do you want us to physically VERBALIZE the beat, if
it’s all inside your head?’

Here’s the thing. Calling the speech center into the
picture is consciously creating a distraction, a BIG

And it’s good to train against distractions as you hone
your skills!

Master this one and you’ll be able to hold a steady beat
in a category V hurricane; never mind when it’s simply
the annoyance of a time-challenged conductor flailing his
or her arms chaotically in your general direction.

All the Best,

Clayton Haslop

Clayton Haslop made his professional solo debut at age 20
under Sir Neville Marriner and the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra touring six major cities of the western United
States. These critically acclaimed performances not only
lead to numerous engagements with orchestras, they also
resulted in his being appointed founding violinist of the
Los Angeles Piano Quartet at Marriner’s recommendation.

Haslop is active in the motion picture industry as solo
violinist and concertmaster on such films as Avatar, Up,
The Matrix films, Titanic, Ratatouille,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Star
Trek, The Incredibles, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and
The Perfect Storm.

As a student Clayton Haslop was coached
extensively by the legendary Nathan Milstein.

Mozart vs. Beethoven

Today we will answer a very important question; a question that has plagued classical music scholars for centuries, I’m sure. The first person to actually ask me this question was not a learned professor or a talented colleague, it was my twin brother. Which was surprising at the time since his favorite musician was Weird Al Yankovic and his favorite instrument was his hand in his armpit. The question is this: in a no holds barred battle to the death, who would win-Beethoven or Mozart?

Initially, I was shocked that he knew the names of more than one classical composer and secondly, I was shocked that I had never considered this myself. The question, while slightly inane, does bring a certain humanity to historic figures that are often set upon pedestals as gods of composition. These high and lofty figures were mere mortals in their day with strengths and weaknesses. Besides, why shouldn’t we pit them against each other for our own amusement?


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born: January 27, 1756

Lived In: Vienna, Austria

Composed: Nearly 1,000 works in just over 30 years including everything from simple piano songs to epic operas.  His most famous works include The Magic Flute, A minor Piano Sonata, and his Requiem.

Fun Fact:  He was a very fashionable guy who always had the best clothes and wigs money could buy.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Born: December 16, 1770

Lived: Bonn, Germany

Composed: Just over 200 published pieces exist from his lifetime as well as dozen of unpublished sketches.  His most famous works include Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor), Symphony No.5, and the massive Symphony N0. 9.

Fun Fact:  He started to loose his hearing at the age of 26.

Now when setting up this match, important things must be considered.  Location for one.  I would hold the fight in Vienna.  Mozart did travel all over Europe as a child prodigy but his favorite place was Vienna.  Likewise, Beethoven might have considered Bonn his home, but he did spend time in Vienna in his 20’s studying under the top composers and music theorists of the day.  Vienna would be the most neutral territory for the two.

Another consideration must be the referee.  We would need to have an individual that while respecting each composer’s talent did not have a definite bias one way or the other.  I would suggest bringing Hayden out of retirement to judge the match.  Hayden was a teacher to both and saw great potential in both composers.

Now, for the Battle Royale.

‘The bell rings and the composers approach each other.  Mozart, being the excitable little scrapper he is, throws the first punch using his impeccable counterpoint he mastered while still in puberty.  Beethoven is stumbles back, but this is nothing he hasn’t seen before.  He counters with a one-two punch using his ability to develop a theme and genius use of codas.  Mozart is shaken by this since it in no way follows the musical forms he himself had mastered.  He quickly retaliates with his innovative comic operas but it’s deflected by the strength of Beethoven’s symphonies. 1, 2, 3, 4…9! 9 punches right to the throat (He wrote 9 symphonies).  Beethoven thinks he’s won but while his back is turned, Mozart takes he out with the sheer prolific volume of his compositions.  Beethoven is down for the count.  As Hayden is counting, Beethoven struggles to get up.  I don’t believe this!  He’s standing again!  Mozart looks nervous.  He’s got nothing left to throw at his opponent.  Beethoven throws down Mozart using his pent up Daddy issues.  That’s right folks, he had to put his career on pause in his late 20’s to take care of his family because his father was a belligerent alcoholic.  There’s a lot of pain there folks.

I guess it doesn’t matter how much music you write, when it comes to a fight, he with the most issues wins and Beethoven had issues.  I won’t even get into his “Immortal Beloved.”