Category Archives: Violin

Photo Contest is BACK!

And, it’s better than ever!

For our 4th annual photo contest, we wanted to shake things up a bit.

This year, we have one theme:  Orchestra Life.  Yep, whether you are a beginner in a school program or a professional in a symphony, it’s time to knuckle down and practice, practice, practice.  We want to see what orchestra life looks like to you.

The contest kicks off at 12:00 am PST on August 25th and ends at  11:59pm PST September 30th.   Three winners will be selected.  A second runner up will receive  $10 in store credit,  the first runner up will receive  $50 in store credit, and a grand prize winner will receive a $100 in store credit.  The winners will also be featured in the Kennedy Violins blog and monthly newsletter.  Click here to check out last year’s winners.

There’s a twist though!  If our Facebook page makes it to 1,000 likes, we will DOUBLE the prizes awarded to the winners.  That’s right, the second runner up will receive  $20 in store credit,  the first runner up will receive  $100 in store credit, and a grand prize winner will receive a $200 in store credit. $200!!!

We’ve also changed how to enter.  Entries may be posted on our Facebook page or through Instagram.  Entries must tag Kennedy Violins in the photo and use the hashtag #orchestralife.

The Official Photo Contest Rules are listed below.  Feel free to e-mail or call us if you have any questions.

The 2013 Photo Contest Winner, Emrah Lekiq
The 2013 Photo Contest Winner, Emrah Lekiq

Photo Contest Rules

Term: 
Kennedy Violins, Inc. 4th Annual Photo Contest begins at 12:00 am PST on August 25th and ends 11:59pm PST September 30th. By submitting an entry, each contestant agrees to the rules of the contest.

Who may enter:
Any resident of the United States of America or Canada—except for individuals affiliated with the Kennedy Violins, Inc., including employees, interns, volunteers, and their immediate families (children, siblings and spouses) and others living in their households—are eligible.  Kennedy Violins, Inc. will determine winners’ eligibility in its sole discretion.

What to enter:
The theme of the 4th Annual Photo Contest is “Orchestra Life.”  The content of the photo must be linked to the theme.

How to enter:
Please submit photographs through our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KennedyViolins or on Instagram.  Any entry must tag Kennedy Violins in the photo and contain the hashtag #orchestralife to be valid.  We do not accept photographs submitted through the mail or through e-mail.

High-quality scans of non-digital photographs are acceptable. Digital photographs should be taken at the highest resolution possible. Photographs must be in a .jpeg, .jpg or .gif format. Files submitted may not be larger than 2,048k (2Mb).

Kennedy Violins, Inc. reserves the right to disqualify incomplete entries and/or contestants who are unable to submit the correct format.

By entering the contest, entrants grant the Kennedy Violins, Inc. a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any educational, promotional, publicity, exhibition, archival, scholarly and all other standard purposes. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit as feasible.  Kennedy Violins, Inc. will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Entry deadline: 
All entries must be received through the Kennedy Violins, Inc web site by 11:59PM Pacific Time on June 30, 2013.

Judging:
Judging of the annual contest will be conducted by a panel of experts selected by Kennedy Violins, Inc. Winning photographs will be announced on kennedyviolins.com in October 2014. Decisions of the judges will be final.

The contest is void where prohibited or restricted by law. Kennedy Violins, Inc. reserves the right to cancel the contest or modify these rules at its discretion. Decisions of Kennedy Violins, Inc. will be final.

Prizes:

Three prizes will be awarded and will be selected from all eligible entrants.

The grand prize winner will receive: $100 store credit.

The first runner-up will receive: $50 store credit.

The second runner-up will receive: $20 store credit.

In the event that Kennedy Violins Facebook page receives 1500 likes by the end of the contest, the prizes will double in value.

Winners must sign a release and license and will be responsible for paying any taxes they may owe on a prize.

Wood & Water: What If My Violin Gets Wet?

“Earth!”
“Wind”
“Fire!”
“Water!”

The Power Rangers were on to something when it comes to nature’s elements. These substances, while so simple, can wield great power alone and in combination with each other. At Kennedy Violins, you’ll find water not only for drinking, but on hand in the process of working on violins.

Water, when sealed with a finish, won't absorb water. Varnish on a violin accomplishes this purpose—at least on the exterior. (Photo by Mark Engelbrecht)
Water, when sealed with a finish, won’t absorb water. Varnish on a violin accomplishes this purpose—at least on the exterior. (Photo by Mark Engelbrecht)

Water plays a crucial role in the process of making, repairing, and setting up violins. Here are a few of its uses:

Bending Wood – An essential step in the production of the violin is bending thin strips of maple, sometimes as thin as 1mm, to the curves of the instrument. A hot bending iron is used, but without wetting the wood with a little water, the dry wood is more likely to crack, snap, or splinter without water to soften the fibers. The moisture turns to steam when it comes in contact with the wood, steaming the fibers and allowing them to bend with less risk of burning.

Carving – Wetting a piece of wood with water can make it easier to carve. The water softens the wood so it gives way to the blade of a knife or chisel more easily. Some makers will dunk the entire maple scroll into water to help the carving process along. The ends of soundposts can also be wet with water (or even dabbed with saliva from your tongue) to make the precise carving of the ends an easier process.

Gluing – Many don’t realize that the glue used to glue the pieces of a violin together is water soluble. Hide glue, an made with collagen from animal bones nd tissue, begins in granule form and is mixed and melted in water before use. The advantage of using a strong water-based glue is that pieces of wood are secured with a molecular bond, but that bond can be broken and pieces can be taken apart when the glue is softened with water or steam. Violin parts need to be able to come apart easily to make repairs possible.

Wet Sanding – Water is also used when smoothing down surfaces like the ebony fingerboard. Very fine sandpapers are used with water that absorbs the dust and provides an extremely smooth, polished surface.

Tool Sharpening – Similar to the use of wet sandpaper, water is used on water stones (named appropriately as a sharpening stone used with water) and diamond stones. Using water when sharpening metal knives, gouges, chisels, scrapers, and plane blades keeps the tiny flakes and particles of metal dust from getting everywhere—like in your eyes or in the air to be breathed in. Water can also keep the tools cooler as friction heats up the metal. Water makes the sharpening process safer.


WHEN WATER IS A PROBLEM

Water in the form of liquid, steam, or high humidity can potentially cause damage to an instrument. (Very low humidity can cause issues as well. A Damp-it instrument humidifier can protect your instrument from harshly dry conditions.)

Warping Wood and Cracks – Wood is porous and absorbs water like a sponge, whether the water is in the air or comes in contact with the wood like a liquid. Although the oil-based varnish on the exterior of the instrument repels water, the interior of the instrument is not sealed or finished wood. When wood absorbs water, it expands, which can lead to cracking, warping, or open seams.

Rain – If you’re playing an outdoor concert and suddenly get stuck in a downpour, don’t panic. Just get out of the rain as quickly as possible or tuck your instrument under your jacket. As soon as possible, dry off your instrument with a soft, dry, absorbent cloth that won’t damage the finish. (Old soft cotton t-shirts make great polishing or drying cloths.)

If the inside of the instrument has substantial amounts of water in it, shake it out and set it in a dry, warm room to air it out. Inspect your instrument after it’s dry and look for any substantial water damage.


Questions about the condition of your instrument? Contact Kennedy Violins at 1-800-779-0242 or support@kennedyviolins.com. We are always happy to help!

Kennedy Violins Concerts: Young Artist Debut Winners Perform Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kennedy Violins is thrilled to present four of Metro Art’s 20th annual Van Buren Concerto Competition winners in concert!

young-artists-preview copyEnjoy this special preview this Thursday, March 13th, at the Kennedy Violins Recital Hall before the Young Artists Concert on April 1st, 2014 at 7:30pm in the Newmark Theatre,

See you Thursday!

History Preserved: Guarneri, Amati & Stradivarius Violins

This weekend I had the great opportunity to travel to New York City and spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was especially excited about their wing dedicated to musical instruments with some incredible stringed instruments on display, including original violins by makers Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri as well as other 16th century violins from the Cremona school in Italy.

20140217-185425.jpg
“The Antonius” Violin by Antonio Stradivari,1711, during Stradivari’s “Golden Period.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

Evolution of the Modern Violin

The Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari families actively produced instruments between 1550 and 1744 in the same region of Cremona, during which time the modern violin as we know it came to life. While string instruments have evolved over time with various body shapes and string counts, very few changes have been made to the violin that was standardized during this time as a four-stringed instrument with its signature shape and size, strung in perfect fifths (E, A, D, G).

You may notice slight differences in design between the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins, but they are clearly instruments in same family with the same tuning, string count, and contours. These violins seem so familiar because they are; almost all violins today are made with Stradivari, Amati, or Guarneri body designs.

20140217-185411.jpg
1731 “Baltic” Violin by Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesu” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

For example, if you take a look at all the violins we carry at Kennedy Violins, you’ll notice that they are all made with the same standard measurements (body length, string length, string height, fingerboard length and so on—take a look at our violin measurements chart) used by luthiers today. Most are made and shaped with an original Stradivari design.

Preserved Historical Violin

As you may know, some instruments preserved from these hundreds of years ago are still in use. Most notably, there are 650 Stradivari violins still in existence, ranging in value from between hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. In 2010 a Stradivari violin sold at auction for $3,600,000, a record high.

Updating to a Modern Setup

Even though these 16th, 17th, and 18th century violins are in tact and in use, the ones in performance today have actually been modernized with fittings that make them playable by today’s standards.

I found the diagram below so fascinating. From it we learn that a Stradivarius violin in performance today has been OPTIMIZED to compete with modern violins to catch up with the evolution of the violin that has taken place over the centuries. These evolutionary changes in setup have made the violin more easily playable with more projection and better sound quality.

20140217-185143.jpg
What’s changed? Here’s a visual comparing Baroque violin setup to modern violin setup.

What’s New?

Updates from the Baroque setup to the modern setup include

  • a new neck that angles back
  • a longer fingerboard that allows performance in higher octaves
  • a modern bridge
  • new strings, often synthetic with metal winding instead of strings made from animal gut
  • a modern tailpiece
  • a longer bass bar in the interior of the violin

What’s the Same?

What remains “untouched”? Essentially, the body of the violin (back, face, and ribs) and the scroll/pegbox.  This may not sound like much, but it’s the body of the instrument that most greatly affects the sound. The quality of wood and the precise gradations in the carving and thickness of the plates make these instruments sound like they do.

In this sense, the restored Baroque instruments retain their authenticity because no one can replicate the carving of the plates done by the original masters themselves.

20140217-191011.jpg
Violin by Andrea Amati, Cremona, ca. 1569, one of the “earliest surviving violins.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY)

The Legacy Lives On

If you get a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or other museums throughout the world with string instruments on display, definitely take the opportunity to see these preserved treasures. Better yet, you can hear a Stradivarius performed live (or on record) by modern violinists including Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman.

To see and hear these pieces of history alive is truly a privilege as we remember the master makers who brought to life music as we know it today. Here’s to the continuation of their legacy through the practice and performance of music forever!

___________________

Related Articles:

 

 

When NOT to Practice Your Instrument

Hate to “break” it to ya, but you may need to lay off practicing for a while. (Photo by James Lee)

We’re always telling you to

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE (Why don’t you read Kennedy Violins‘ article “The Art of Effective Practicing” while you’re at it) PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE—

—but, like your mom’s nagging, all this talk of what you should be doing all the time can make you feel seriously guilty anytime you decide to take a little break. And yet, sometimes,

 IT’S OKAY NOT TO PRACTICE.

Serious musicians who take a break (whether it be a day, week, month, or year) from practicing for whatever reason often feel guilty or even depressed as a result. For regular practicers, not practicing may feel like

  • not brushing your teeth
  • wearing the same underwear all week
  • letting dishes pile up in the sink
  • not checking Facebook

 

WHEN NOT TO PRACTICE

Cut yourself some slack. Here are a few instances when you probably shouldn’t (or literally can’t) practice:

  1. Right before a performance. WARM UP, but don’t wear yourself out with a real practice session. Tune, play a few scales, and review a few tricky passages, but don’t wear out your fingers the morning of your big performance.
  2. During rehearsal.  We know you’re just itching to work on (or show off) that tricky lick in the concerto you’re working on, but spare your conductor and your stand partner. Rehearsal time is never practice time—it’s unprofessional and distracting.
  3. When you’re really, really tired. There is apparently no difference between driving sleepy and driving drunk. Practice when you’re that tired and you’ll likely not even remember what you practiced. You might even fall over and impale yourself with your bow. Don’t kill yourself—get some sleep and practice in the morning when you’re fresh and alert.
  4. When you’re injured. This totally sucks, but if you have tendonitis, a broken arm, or some other injury that requires rest and recovery, you’ll just have to take a break, perhaps missing an upcoming performance or even a whole orchestra semester or season. Take your mind off your inability to play by focusing on another hobby or skill you can practice or develop during your “off-season.”
  5. After you’ve played a recital. If you don’t take at least a day off after a huge performance, you’re probably obsessed. And that’s okay.
  6. When you really deserve a break. Maybe you’re just shy of your goal to practice 5 or 10 hours a week. If you just can’t squeeze in those last couple hours, think back on what you have accomplished and start fresh next week. It’s more about the quality of your practice—not the quantity—anyway.
  7. When someone asks you on a date. Seriously, music nerd! Put down your instrument and put on your dancing shoes! Bach isn’t your boyfriend—but this guy might be if you give him a chance.
  8. When someone dies. If you’re really hard-core, you may consider death to be a lame excuse. But when big life events happen—births, deaths, marriages, etc.—it’s time to focus on what’s really important in life, which is more than music or your personal agenda. Take time out to develop relationships, be there for others, and take care of your family and friends. That’s the real stuff of life.
  9. When you have a fever over 104°. Put your violin down and go see a doctor.
  10. When you’ve practiced so much that you hate your instrument, your teacher, and music all together. You may be at a point where your instrument is like a really annoying two-year-old constantly screaming bloody  murder in your ear, demanding all of your energy, and keeping you up all night. It’s time to get a babysitter (i.e. your violin case) and step away for a breather. People tend to appreciate things (kids, instruments, food) when they haven’t seen them for a time. Take a moment to step away and 1) ask yourself why you play your instrument and 2) think of all the things you love about music and how it enriches your life.

WHEN YOU COME BACK

When you do come back to your instrument after a short (or long, if necessary), reprieve, you’ll likely appreciate it much more than you did before your separation, breakup, or last “big fight.” Hopefully you’ll be able to kiss, makeup, and get back to making beautiful music together.

But in the meantime, enjoy the break. You deserve it!

 

Gift Ideas for Classical Musicians

You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music--even if you're not a preteen schoolgirl!
You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music–even if you’re not a preteen schoolgirl! (Check it out in our online store.)

Christmas. 

Don’t stress. Yes, it’s coming. Yes, there may be expectations to meet–real or imagined. Either way, gift-giving should be a pleasant activity; preferably, not something that leaves you popping Advil to keep your holiday-stress-induced migraine at bay.

Music is a great gift in so many forms. If you’re wondering what to get the classical musician in your life, check out this list of gift ideas that will bring a smile to any musician’s face. Happy Holidays!

______________________________

1. Sheet Music – Like the Taylor Swift collection.

Come on. You know you love her. And so will your violin-playing daughter for that matter. But beyond T-Swift, there’s plenty of sheet music out there (including Christmas tunes!) that will liven up the season!

 

2. A Spotify Membership

If you haven’t tried Spotify, you should. It’s amazing. With a monthly membership, you can access pretty much all the music in the universe with unlimited streaming and the ability to download music to your personal device. You’ll never have to buy a CD ever again and can discover new artists so easily. A monthly subscription makes a great gift for a music lover.

 

3. A Performance

The best gifts don’t come wrapped in paper and topped with bows. A personal performance for someone–or a group of someones–is super, super special and something that won’t be forgotten. It doesn’t have to be spectacular either, perhaps something as simple as a Christmas Carols sung on a front porch. Other ideas?

  • Get a quartet together to play for your family, at your Church, a nursing home, at a school function–whatever.
  • Prepare a recital to give during the holidays.
  • Organize a family concert with a Christmas theme.
  • Compose a piece and perform it for someone.
  • Teach your children Christmas songs.

 

4. A New Violin

Seriously, a new instrument one of the best gifts you could ever give or receive. No matter how old or young or experienced or inexperienced someone is, they will be absolutely enamored. It’s amazing to see the look on a person’s face when they hold a new violin in their hands. A thirty-year-old and a ten-year-old will have the same giddy expression of awe. Ditch the jewelry and jigsaw puzzles and puppies (too messy)! Give a gift that has unlimited potential as both a work of art and something to do (practice!) when the holiday parties are over.

violinsetupprocess

5. A New Case

If you or your loved one already own a great violin, a new case is another great idea. Cases wear out and get tattered like old sweaters–especially cheap cases. Go for a full-suspension case that’s both durable and easy on the eyes. Bam cases are totally fun with a selection of bright colors. They’re super strong and popular.

 

6. Mozart Balls (Mozartkugel)

These European chocolates are a total classic with such an original taste. One feels very classy whilst eating Mozartkugel!

mozartball7. Concert Tickets

It is such a pleasant surprise to open up a Christmas card or envelope and find a pair of tickets to the symphony, ballet, or any kind of concert. Giving an experience if often more meaningful than giving an object. Find out what’s going on in your (or your loved one’s) community and pick out an event that suits your giftee’s taste.

 

8. Cross Stitching

Whether you cross stitch a kit or give one as a gift, there’s something charming about good-old-fashioned embroidery. Check out music-themed cross stitch kits on 123stitch.com such as this “Music is Harmony” pattern. Grandma-chic is totally in!

musicisharmonyviolincrossstitch

9. Accessories: Metronome, Tuner, Music Stand

It seems that musicians can never really have it all–there are always accessories and upgrades that can enhance one’s musical life. Carbon fiber bows, shiny new rosin cakes, or even violin pickups can be exciting and original gifts!

 

10. Carbon Fiber Bow

Speaking of carbon fiber bows, I know it may sound strange, but these space-age bows (not to be confused with fiberglass bows) are like the iPhone of violin accessories–modern, high-tech, effective, sleek, and useful. Check out the Giuliani Carbon Fiber Bow, comparable to the Coda Bow brand, but more affordable.

 

11. Artwork

Prints, artwork, statuettes, crafts for display with musical themes are memorable items–you could even paint something yourself!

II painted a violin to give as a gift to a violinist1=.

12. Headphones

Classical musicians can be gearheads too! Just because we’re all old-school with our sheet music (paperless concerts, anyone?) and archaic wooden instruments doesn’t mean we don’t love a good listen with a pair of awesome headphones–think Bose. There’s nothing like sinking into a recliner, leaning back, closing your eyes, and enjoying a Beethoven Symphony with amazing clarity. Sometimes digital recordings offer even more acoustic clarity than you might experience in a concert hall.

 

13. Spankin’ New Strings

It’s amazing how many violinists play on old strings without changing them for years. Fresh strings can completely transform the sound of an instrument. A sampling of various string brands would make fun stocking stuffers!

 

14. Cheesy T-shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, etc.

Check out cafepress.com’s selectiong. They’re worthy of White Elephant Gift status at the least.

 

15. Christmas Ornament Sets

You’ll find plenty of ornament collections available online like these violin ornaments on amazon.com. Cute, pretty, cheery. Just gift them before Christmas so they can be admired on the tree.

____________________________________

So get out there and tackle that Christmas list! You can do it! It’s going to be amazing! But if the thought of shopping is just too much, no worries. Just give someone a hug or (even better) directions to stand under the mistletoe. After all, nothing beats good, old-fashioned, warm fuzzies.

Happy Holidays!

Love,

The KV Staff

Back to School Tips for Parents: Practice vs. Homework?

It’s that time of year again!  I’m seeing photos pop up on Facebook and Instagram of my friends’ children ready for their first day of school — backpacks on, fresh new outfits, big smiles. And while these courageous kids may be a little nervous to tackle a new year, it’s often the parents who feel more overwhelmed when school starts up again.

We’re getting a glimpse of that at Kennedy Violins as parents call us in preparation for orchestra season. There is so much to worry about — filling out registration forms, buying new school clothes, sizing up that endless list of school supplies, getting everyone fed and dressed in the morning, meeting with the PTA, getting to know your child’s teacher, hoping your child has good friends and stays out of trouble . . . it’s enough to make you want to just sit still at a desk for a few hours while someone lectures you about the Civil War.

And then there’s homework. Before you know it, the dining table is buried in notebooks and papers and textbooks and (these days) a laptop or iPad or two. And somewhere, underneath a pile of backpacks and sports equipment you might find your child’s violin.

For children in school music ensembles, there’s yet another somewhat-intangible task that needs to be accomplished between all that homework: PRACTICE. Because not all music teachers require their students to keep a practice log that will be graded, the expectations to practice are vague for most studens who don’t know how much, how often, or simply when to practice during the school week.

As a parent, you want your child to succeed in both academics and extracurriculars, but finding a balance can be a real challenge. (See “Back to School: Music, Extracurriculars & Life Balance.”) So when your child is stressing out about a book report due on Friday, is it possible to step away from Bronte to spend some time with Brahms? Does practice interrupt study time, or does study time interrupt practice?

Hopefully neither. When it comes to encouraging your child to practice AND do well with their studies, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Homework, homework, homework. (Photo by John Morgan)
Homework, homework, homework. (Photo by John Morgan)
  1. Homework and practice are both important. Neither are superior to the other; rather, they complement each other. If you want your child to take music seriously, emphasize how important practice is to becoming a great musician. Likewise, your child’s love for music shouldn’t keep them playing Rock Band for hours on end when there’s a huge exam coming up. Balance is key (see below).
  2. There IS time to practice during the week. Hard to believe? Yes. Impossible? No. Scheduling and setting aside time for both homework and practice is key. For elementary students, even ten minutes of focused practice every day is a huge accomplishment! Older high school students serious about their musicianship might commit to practicing an hour+ per day. Maybe practicing every other day works better for your child. But no matter what the goal is as far as how much time to spend practicing, the key is consistency and regularity. Practicing doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Just carve out a slot of time in the morning, while dinner is cooking, right after school, or whatever works for you and your child.
  3. Establish a place to study and a place to practice. Most students have a study space at home, whether at a desk in their room or at a table or in an office. Similarly, designate a place to practice. It could be a room or simply a corner somewhere where there is already a music stand set out, a metronome at hand, a shelf for music, a storage spot for the instrument, and decent lighting. So when you say, “Hey, Johnny, it’s time to practice!” he knows exactly where to go to make it happen.
  4. Being well-rounded is a good thing. Academics, arts and music, and sports/physical fitness are all wonderful and each require discipline. Encourage your child to embrace both academics and practice as exercises for different parts of the brain. Music sharpens the mind and will likely help your child do better academically as a direct result of learning an instrument.
  5. Practice can be seen as a nice break from time at the desk. When you notice your child’s eyes glazed over and drool trickling down onto George Washington’s face in the history textbook, try for a change of pace. Doing something physical like standing up to play an instrument is so invigorating after reading or writing for too long. Practice can be actually be really relaxing and rejuvinating when the brain is otherwise fried.
  6. Homework can be a nice break from time at the music stand. After practicing a really difficult exercise or piece, encourage your child to take a break–like flopping down on the couch to read an assigned chapter before returning to the music stand to finish up.

    Need a change of pace? Try practicing outdoors with a friend! (Photo by John Benson)
    Need a change of pace? Try practicing outdoors with a friend! (Photo by John Benson)
  7. Practice can be fun. Mix things up. Keep the act of both practice and study far from grueling. Keep a positive attitude about practice by talking about practice as if it is (and because it totally can be) an enjoyable activity and something fun to do. Talk about the instrument as something special and worth respect. Avoid treating practice as a form of punishment or your child will begin to view practicing and eating slimy green vegetables as similar forms of torture.
  8. Practice is a form of homework. If practice is seen as an optional activity, it may never happen. Treat practice like an assignment, as something that must be accomplished.
  9. Family time is essential. Doing homework and practicing don’t have to draw away from positive family relationships and time together. Try practicing with your child. Ask them (in a positive, inviting way) to play what they’re learning for you or to perform for the family. And when it’s time to hit the books, try sitting down to study with your child by helping them with their assignments or simply sitting next to them while you do your own reading, study, or work. Being present is a simple way to be supportive.
  10. Don’t take anything too seriously. Keep calm. Don’t panic. Everything is going to be just fine.

________________________

We wish you the best with the new school year, whether you are a parent or student. As always, feel free to contact us with all your musical questions–we always happy to help. Visit us at kennedyviolins.com or on Facebook and keep in touch. It’s an exciting time, so we hope you enjoy the ride!

Feature image by Phil Roeder.

Instrument Setup: How to Set Up a Violin

Bridge, pegs, fine tuners, fingerboard, nut — we do it all!

We recently created a new page on kennedyviolins.com highlighting our setup process and what goes into the finally assembly of a violin. If you want to learn the trade secrets of violin setup, check out our Instrument Setup page! You’re bound to learn something new!

Face to Face with Heather from Kennedy Violins

Today, we get to know Heather Case, a Kennedy Violins veteran!

Heather started playing violin in the public school system in the third grade. She continued through college where she studied music education. Currently, she performs locally with groups like the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra and the North Oregon Coast Symphony.

Heather Face1. How long have you worked at Kennedy Violins?
Two and a half years

2. What is your favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins and why?
It hardly ever feels like work! When I get up in the morning, I am excited to go play violin and talk to people about playing the violin all day long. From the very beginning student — to the parent who is encouraging a student to begin — to a teacher doing research for their program — to a professional player who wants to try new strings, I look forward to all aspects of the string world in my day.

3. What is your favorite instrument/product that Kennedy Violins carries and why?
That constantly changes because we are always getting something new! My current favorite is the Vitacek Violin Outfit because it has such an incredible sound and is easy to play. I’ve been calling it our “red violin” or the “gypsy violin” because of the color of the finish. But, our new David Yale line is quickly growing on me as we have been getting them in and playing each of them. They definitely have unique characters to them (you can click here to see more David Yale instruments).

4. What is your favorite band/musician/composer?
I always wanted to be involved in movie soundtracks or Broadway musicals as a kid. I find ways to play for cheesy occasions whenever I can. It is my guilty musical pleasure.

5. If you didn’t play the violin, which instrument would you play?
Piano, without a doubt. Performing an instrument with both hands seems to be a constant hurdle for me. I should say something more like the ‘bagpipes,’ but that’s not going to happen.

6. Which musician (alive or dead) do you wish you could play with?
For me, music has never been about fame or fortune. I am amazed by people who do it so well, but music is a very social thing in my life. Performing with my friends and family (especially my kids) is the best thing ever, and I wouldn’t give that up for performing with someone who would only intimidate the heck out of me.

7. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming year?
With our new retail location, I’m looking forward to working with new teachers and school programs in our immediate area as well as outreach across the country.

A picture of Heather drawn by one of her students.
A picture of Heather drawn by one of her students.

Violin and Fiddle: Are They the Same?

Fiddle players get a lot a lot of flack for being lazy violinists while violinists get teased for being snobby fiddle players. There’s even a joke: “What the difference between a violin and a fiddle? A fiddle is fun to listen to.”

So, what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin? At it’s core, nothing. Violin and fiddle players use the exact same instrument. The only difference that could occur is in the “set-up” of the instrument.

Itzhak Perlman, world famous violinist
Itzhak Perlman, world famous violinist.

Amplification set-up: Violinist tend to play in orchestras, quartets, trios and do not often have to use a mic to be amplified over other instruments. Fiddle players, on the other hand often play with bass, guitar and drums and often need a “pick-up” or microphone of some kind to amplify themselves over the other instruments.

String set-up: There are hundreds of kinds of violin strings. Each violinist or fiddle player will have their particular kind of string they like to use best. In general though, fiddle players prefer a steel string for their direct and clear sound. Violinists can talk for hours about different kinds of strings and why they use the type of string they do. It might be one of the reasons why violinists are considered snobby.

Bridge set-up: Often fiddle players have their bridge shaved down because fiddle playing has a lot of chords and double stops. Having a lower bridge helps to keep the strings on a more level plane, making it easier to hit chords. The classical violin style is associated more with single notes so having a more arched bridge is preferred.

So, what’s harder the violin or the fiddle? Violin players and fiddles players, while using basically the same instruments, have entirely different skill sets. A fiddle player is striving to often play super tricky rhythms and lots of doubles stops (playing two notes at once) and chords (playing three to four notes at once). A classical violinist, will be striving to produce clear tone, vibrato and learning the different positions on the violin.

I travel often and without fail whenever I am walking through an airport with my violin on my back a get the questions, “Is that an instrument?”. My response is always the same, “Yes, a violin.” I would say about five out of ten times the response back is, “Oh, my grandfather played the fiddle. Do you fiddle?” I always want to respond yes to this question, but instead I say, “I can fiddle.” I can fiddle and in fact I enjoy fiddle music but I was trained to play classical violin and know that my fiddle playing methods fall short compared to the great fiddle players.

The reality is that In whatever genre of music you play, being proficient at it requires practice, dedication and skill. This has very little to do with the instrument and more to do with the heart, focus and love of the genre of music you are playing.

Mark O'Connor-world famous fiddler.
Mark O’Connor, world famous fiddler.