Tag Archives: bass

It’s Coming…5th Annual Photo Contest!

Photo by Michele Wiler Kolbas
3rd Annual Photo Contest Artistic Winner, Michele Wiler Kolbas

Get Ready!  Our Annual photo contest has been a favorite of KV staff and fans for several years.  We are so excited to start it up again!

Theme: Musical Bucket List

While working at Kennedy Violins, we don’t just have the opportunity to provide our customers with the instrument that is best suited for their needs, we also have the privilege of helping many people start a new musical journey.  As well as, accomplishing long held personal goals.  This year, we’d love to see photos portraying how playing a stringed instrument has allowed you to mark things off of your “Bucket List.”  What have you learned?  Where has it taken you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

The contest kicks off at 12:00 am PST on August 24th and ends at  11:59pm PST September 30th.   From our entries, three winners will be selected.  A second runner up will receive  $5in store credit,  the first runner up will receive  $100 in store credit, and a grand prize winner will receive a $200 in store credit.  The winners will also be featured in the Kennedy Violins blog and monthly newsletter.

Entering the contest is super easy!  There are two ways.

1.) Post the photo on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #musicalbucketlist and tagging Kennedy Violins. *Important:  the picture must be public for us to see it and include it in the contest.* 

2.) E-mail us at photocontest@kennedyviolins.com.  Please include the full name and contact information of the photographer.

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

Brent Jacobson's Winning Photo.
4th Annual Photo Contest Winner, Brent Jacobson

Photo Contest Rules

Term: 
Kennedy Violins, Inc. 5th Annual Photo Contest begins at 12:00 am PST on August 24th 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 5th Annual Photo Contest is “Musical Bucket List”  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, Twitter, or on Instagram.  Any entry must tag Kennedy Violins in the photo and contain the hashtag #musicalbucketlist to be valid.  All entries submitted through social media must adhere to the rules of each individual platform.  Any entry submitted through e-mail must include the photographer’s name and contact information.  No entries sent through mail will be accepted.

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.

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

Entry deadline: 
All entries must be received through the Kennedy Violins, Inc web site by 11:59PM Pacific Time on September 30th, 2015.

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 social media and Kennedy Violins’ blog in October 2015. 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: $200 store credit.

The first runner-up will receive: $100 store credit.

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

Final Disclaimer:

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.

Looking for something to do?

Looking for something to do this summer?  Take part in Kennedy Violins first official video contest.  The theme of the video contest is: “Play.”  We want to see how you play, why you play, where you play, your favorite way to play, anything!  We will choose a winner based on their ability to best embody the theme.  The winner receives a brand new Prodigy bow from Coda Bow!  For more information click here.  For complete rules click here.  If you have any questions, call (1.800.779.0242) or e-mail us (rachel@kennedyviolins.com).

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.

Beginner Basics: Where to get started

Your kid just came home from school and announced that he wants to join orchestra. How did THAT happen, especially since nobody else in the family has ever touched a stringed instrument before? Basically, your child has three to four choices, depending on the orchestra program — violin, viola, cello, or bass. What makes these instruments different? How can you decide which instrument is best for your child who is suddenly excited about their budding career as a musician? And, how can you decide which size you need for your child?

Most people are familiar with the violin. There’s a fancy wooden box with four strings and a bow that pulls the strings to make sound. Usually, that initial sound is stereotyped as something screechy and piercing. If you were to put that sound on a diagram, it would fall a few notches above nails across a chalkboard. But, really, that sound doesn’t happen that often if you invest in a quality student instrument and properly care for it.

To set the violin apart from the other choices, it has the highest range of notes or pitch. It is tuned in fifths starting at the G below “middle C.” Even if you aren’t a musician, this is a reference point for the other instruments to come. The violin has the smallest body size, so it will be the lightest and least expensive instrument. Violins come in sizes from tiny (1/32 or lower) to full size (4/4). There are charts online that can help you measure your child to help you decide which is the best size for your child, although I have seen the greatest amount of error when using these charts. Usually, a teacher can help figure out which size is the best for your student, or an experienced string player at a violin shop can usually figure it out very quickly. This holds true for all of the stringed instruments.

The viola is somewhat larger than a violin, but it is still played between the shoulder and chin like a violin. It has a lower range of notes starting at the C below “middle C” and is still tuned in fifths. That gives this instrument a deeper and darker personality that most people appreciate right away. One of the unique things about playing the viola is learning how to read alto clef, which is pretty rare compared to the treble clef (violin) and bass clef (cello and bass). Up until the student reaches about five feet tall, she can usually use a violin strung as a viola, although some teachers would argue this point. There are smaller sized violas available, too. The main difference between a small viola and a fractional violin is the thickness of the body. The viola will have a thicker body which allows more room for the sound to travel. That’s a good thing. Violas are measured in inches — 12″ to 16 1/2″ are most common.

Most kids think the cello is cool due to its massive size. All cellists play their instrument while sitting and resting the end pin of the cello on the floor. The cello is tuned just like a viola, but it is an entire octave lower. We’re talking TWO C’s below middle C now. The main reason some people do not choose the cello is due to the cost. Cellos can be expensive, not to mention cumbersome. Many families choose to rent a cello in the beginning because of the price tag on a good cello. That isn’t a bad way to go if you can find a rental program that allows you to accumulate credit toward the purchase of an instrument later down the road. Cellos are measured in fractions like violins. These also range from tiny (1/10) to full size (4/4).

The least common of these instruments is the double bass, which is even bigger than the cello. That means you should have a vehicle that will fit a gigantic instrument without having to stick it out the window or leaving the trunk wide open. The bass is tuned in fourths and starts with a very low E. Basses are available in fractional sizes as well. Some programs will have kids playing bass very early, while some wait to add them until the kids get older, which brings up a good point.

If your child starts with one instrument now, is it possible to switch later? Absolutely. There are many string players who are able to play more than one within this family, but they usually are strongest with one of them. For instance, I started playing viola when my high school teacher sent me home with a school owned viola and told me to take it to youth symphony rehearsal. Before I knew it, I was enjoying a completely different section of the orchestra. I had to adjust the position of my hand and read music from an alto clef, but playing the violin made it very easy to translate everything over. Another common transition is from cello to bass, although most string players understand the basics of all of the instruments if they are involved in a group program.

So, here are the basic questions to answer once the shock of this new venture as been leveled out.

  1. Which instrument will your child be most interested in playing?
  2. What size does he/she need?
  3. Should you buy the instrument or rent?

At Kennedy Violins, we are all string players and look forward to helping people answer all of these questions. We have experienced teachers who answer the phones and emails from people who just want information about how to get started, even if you don’t know which questions to ask. Contact us and start with the three questions above. Our affordable violins, violas and cellos are available for purchase or rent, and we take such great pride in them that we offer a 45 day return policy. People who spend time talking to us by email or by phone often comment that we give great attention to detail just like your area music store would, even though we run a website that serves people across the country. It’s like finding a local violin shop on the internet, and we are passionate about helping kids get a great start on their path as a string player.

Where can my kid play?

Early Portland Youth Philharmonic

OK, so you’ve taken the plunge and started your child on a stringed instrument. They’ve practiced, gone to lessons, done group recitals, maybe even started playing in a school orchestra.

But what if your school doesn’t have a string program? Many school districts around the country are cutting back, and usually the first programs the school administration looks at for cuts are the arts programs – music, art, etc. And then they look at enrollment in those programs, the cost of keeping a specialist teacher on staff and the first thing you know, there’s no orchestra program. Gone, bye-bye, so sorry.

Of course, there’s still a band program because that usually also supports the sports programs, and heaven forbid the sports programs get cut! (Don’t get me started on the merits of arts education over football – that’s a whole blog unto itself.)

But, OK, you’ve got a kid who is really getting along rather nicely with their instrument and has no groups to play in. What to do?

It’s important that your child not only learn the instrument, but also to have opportunities to perform and play with other students – hopefully with students at varying levels of proficiency.

The very act of sitting in an orchestra surrounded by other musicians who play the same instrument you do, takes on a significance and adds an educational and experiential level that you simply can’t get while practicing alone or one-on-one with your teacher.

So playing opportunities are important to the development of any musician.

The obvious place to start is to ask your child’s teacher for recommendations, as they are the most intimately familiar with your child’s development and skill levels, and can readily assess your child’s readiness to step into the world of ensemble playing.

If you live in a larger metropolitan area, there are usually youth orchestra programs available.

The oldest youth orchestra in the United States resides in Portland, Oregon. Over the 80+ years of its existence, Portland Youth Philharmonic has developed a program comprised of several groups, from younger intermediate level players all the way through some of the most advanced college students.

This venerated program very early on became the prototype for youth orchestras across the United States and continues to train young musicians to the highest levels. In fact, there isn’t a major symphony in the United States that doesn’t have someone playing in it that came up through the Portland Youth Philharmonic. It truly is a training ground for very successful musicians.

Admittance is by audition only, but once admitted, you can be assured that your child will receive some of the best musical training available.  Parents are expected to be very involved and as dedicated to their child’s experience in the orchestra as their child.

Check out this video of a young woman who came up through the PYP system. You’ll see how it changed her life:

YouTube Preview Image

This particular orchestra is, of course, only available to students in the Pacific Northwest, but there are many, many similar organizations around the country. One need only to consult Mr. Google to find lists upon lists of youth orchestras. One search yielded a pretty terrific site that covers the US, as well as many other countries. Musicalchairs.com is a great place to start your own research – you can find the listing of youth orchestras across the country here.

Even if you live in a small town, there are usually community groups available to play in that are organized by like-minded people who simply love to play and want to have a place to play.

Ask around, find a place to play and get your child involved. It will change your kid’s life, and give them something enriching and fun to do for the rest of their lives.

We at Kennedy Violins are all products of that early involvement and training and are here to help you bring your child up in a musical tradition that will stay with them their whole life.  From beginning instruments all the way through professional quality instruments, we are here to assist and encourage what we already know can be a life-enhancing activity.

The Soul of the Violin

How does an instrument so small and delicate as the violin produce such a wide variety of musical tone and energy? Under the fingers of an accomplished player, the violin can be amazingly expressive and powerful. The construction of the violin is extremely intricate and fascinating, and one component in particular is responsible for much of the sound production.

Violin Sound Posts

Take a look inside your violin. The interior is bathed in rich light filtered through thin wood and varnish, looking almost like a miniature cathedral. Continue reading The Soul of the Violin