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.