Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bow Care 101

Written by Debra Krein, violinist at Fein Violins:

Your bow is HALF of your sound, so it needs just as much TLC as your instrument!

Bows are very fragile (except for good ol' carbon graphite bows), so you need to treat them like you would treat an infant. Hopefully, you aren't the type of person who would lean on an infant while standing, or use an infant to tap on your music stand - I think we've all seen people doing both of these things (and worse!) to their bows. These are, of course, the same people who seem so astonished when their bow breaks. I guess some people need to break their bow, before realizing that they are not made out of titanium.

However, you do not have to be one of these people! The following tips on how to take care of your bow will help prevent costly bow repairs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Size Violin Does My Child Need?

Written by Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
& Angela Newgren

Sizing an instrument to its player is important. A correctly sized violin will allow for correct posture and ability to play. There are a few ways to tell what size instrument is best for the player.

A person only needs to size a violin for young players. All adults and children over about 5 feet tall use full-sized violins.

Here are some tips for choosing the correctly sized violin for young players:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons-When to Start

 Written by Amy Tobin, violinist and manager of Fein Violins:

We have a busy violin shop, located directly with our window facing lovely Grand Avenue in St. Paul. It is a nice neighborhood, with many families living in the area and lots of wonderful walking space. Because of that, we tend to get a lot of walk in traffic. People who are specifically looking for an instrument, people who are exploring which instrument they would like to learn (violin, viola, or can be a tough decision!), and people who are just walking by and are curious about the shop.

It is no surprise, then, that we get many parents with young children who come in to take a look around. And when they do, there is one question which reigns supreme in the list of questions that we get asked; "When should I start my child on violin (or viola, or cello) lessons?"

Now, the short answer to that question is

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Instrument Maintenance

 Written by Amy Tobin, violinist and manager of Fein Violins:

Ah, spring time is finally upon us. The weather is getting warmer, the flowers are blooming, and the spring time rains are beginning. Is there a more glorious time of year than spring?

With all of these signs of growth and new beginnings, the idea of instrument maintenance comes to mind. 'Why on earth would spring make you think of that?' I hear you ask. Well, once the winter is over and the weather stabilizes a bit (humidity levels increase and inside and outside temperatures become more even), it is the perfect time to make sure that your instrument is in perfect playing condition.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yehudi Menuhin and His Discovery of Yoga

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
and Angela Newgren

Yehudi Menuhin was an extremely talented violinist from New York City. Born on April 22nd 1916, his career started at the age of seven after his first public concert.

Throughout his career Mehunin suffered from a variety of muscular and skeletal aches. In 1951, he was introduced to the practicing of yoga and immediately took interest in its key concepts of relaxation and meditation. A year later, on a two month tour of India, Prime Minister Nehru and Mr. Menuhin found a common bond in yoga practice. It brought the media's attention to the two, which broadened Menuhin's affiliation with gurus and yoga instructors.

Menuhin started working with Iyengar, a guru who taught him true meditation and relaxation. It cured Menuhin of his insomnia and Iyengar remained his personal yoga instructor for 15 years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Strings for Violins, Violas & Cellos

Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier, Fein Violins:

Gut, Perlon, and Metal. These are the three basic materials used for making strings for violins, violas, and cellos. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. The best string is the one that works the best for you.

Natural gut, often referred to as "catgut", was the material of choice for strings for several centuries. Made from sheep intestines, not from a cat, these strings had the advantage of being from a material that was readily available.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fine Tuners

 Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier, Fein Violins:

An instrument in tune always sounds better than one out of tune.

Seems like a simple statement, but violin family instruments are constantly going out of tune and players are constantly re-tuning their instruments. Does it matter how you get there?

Most students start out on violins, violas or cellos with four fine tuners. They rarely touch their pegs except to change a string. With good reason - learning to tune with your pegs is very, very hard. The fine tuners have an easy to use screw mechanism that lets you tune quite easily. Almost no skill required.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pablo Casals & Bach

Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier at Fein Violins,
and Angela Newgren:

Yesterday, I heard cellist Alisa Weilerstein talk about Pablo Casals discovering an old book of the Bach Cello suites in a rare book store in Barcelona. At the time, he was only thirteen. The year was 1890.

Casals knew he had something special. Already an accomplished cellist, Casals lived with, studied and played the suites almost every day for 12 years. At age 25, he was ready to perform them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier, Fein Violins:

Pernambuco. Per- nam- boo- koh.
Pernambuco wood has been the standard wood for violin, viola and cello bows since about 1780 when Francois Xavier Tourte began to use Pernambuco and developed the modern violin bow. Pernambuco is the best possible material for bows. It possesses the right qualities that can be transformed into a good bow stick - rigidity, strength, responsiveness, elasticity, acoustic quality and beauty. Anything else is a substitute.

Amazingly, your bow is half of your sound.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Violin Tone

 Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier, Fein Violins:

"No one hears with your ears but yourself."
I say that to students, teachers, and players at least once a day. It's my way of emphasizing that whatever sound you hear and whatever sound you like is right for you.

Violins (violas & cellos, too) can range in tone color from very bright and tinny (like a piccolo) to very mellow and dark (like a string bass). As long as you stay away from the extremes, any sound that you like is a good sound.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Written by Andy Fein, owner and luthier, Fein Violins:

Stradivarius. If there is one thing most people know about violins, it is Stradivarius. The name is almost like a knee-jerk reaction mantra. "I'm a violin maker." The response is often "Stradivarius." But with good reason.

Antonius Stradivarius (or Antonio Stradivari in Italian) really was one of the greatest makers. His wood selection,