Thursday, June 30, 2011

Magik*Magik Orchestra - Crossover artistry!

By staff at Fein Violins

Magik*Magik Orchestra
Ever wondered if you can really make a living being a classically trained violinist, violist, or cellist? These days, there are more opportunities than just soloing or playing in a symphony orchestra. In fact, the members of the Magik*Magik Orchestra have found a way to be successful musicians by thinking outside the box.

Minna Choi is the music director of the Magik*Magik Orchestra.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Superb Violinist in a Strapless Gown

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

 Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the premier violinists of our time. Born in Rheinbelden, Germany in 1963, Mutter started performing in her early teen years, when she was asked by conductor Herbert Von Karajan to play with the Berlin Philharmonic at age 13.

Anne-Sophie Mutter

Starting off her stage career at such a young age did her well. From then to now she has taught, recorded albums, conducted, and performed worldwide.

She picked up some no-big-deal awards on the way, too;

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ennio Bolognini - Serious BadA$$!

Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

Recently, National Public Radio asked the question 'Who was the most bad-ass composer ever?' This, indeed, has gotten us all thinking. Of course we all came up with the usuals......Wagner, Berlioz, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. After doing a little thinking and research, however, we here at Fein Violins were treated to the discovery of one of the most gloriously irreverent personages that the classical music world has possibly ever seen! So, dear readers, it is my great honor to introduce you to:

Ennio Bolognini!

Ennio Bolognini

Monday, June 27, 2011

'Lady Blunt' Going Once, Going Twice, Sold - For $16 Million Dollars!

Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

I am a little late in posting my reaction to the recent sale of the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius. Perhaps I just needed a little time to process the fact that this gorgeous, near perfect condition, absolutely incomparable violin sold at auction for nearly $16M dollars! Here, let me put the zeros after that so you can get the full effect: $16,000,000

File:Lady Blunt top.jpg
The top of the 'Lady Blunt'

image by Tarisio Auctions

The 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius is the new record holder.
The almost $16M that it sold for is nearly 4 times the amount of the previous record, set by the sale of the 'Molitor' Stradivarius, for $3.6M, to Anne Akiko Meyers in 2010.

The other astonishing fact about the sale of this instrument, put up at auction by the Nippon Music Foundation,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Value of Violins, Violas, and Cellos

Written By: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

A question I'm often asked is "Why is that violin $400 and that other one $40,000? They look the same to me."

While many violins can look very similar, to a player there can be tremendous differences in sound. To my way of thinking, that should be a reflection of the price difference - the $40,000 violin sounds and feels far better to a player than the $400 violin. And if it doesn't, it's not really worth $40,000!

With violins, violas and cellos, how the instrument plays and sounds to you, the player, should be the paramount consideration in valuing an instrument. If a $2,000 instrument sounds

What's Wrong With My Bow?

 Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

In the process of writing posts about violin bows, (how to take care of them, round vs. octagonal bows,  how much bow tension is correct, and whether a better bow really makes a difference) I thought it would be appropriate to write one more post that is sort of a diagnostic of violin bows. This will also apply to cello and viola bows, but, from hereon, I will write "violin."

There are a few things that can happen with violin bows that can worry players.

Friday, June 24, 2011

J. Emil Züst, Swiss Violin Maker

Written By: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

Switzerland is influenced by three main cultures - Italian, French, and German - which intertwine and enhance each other to form the Swiss culture. The Swiss violin makers embody this same tradition - taking the best characteristics of their neighbors, and enhancing it to make it their own.

J. Emil Züst was one of these violin makers. 
His violins

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Judy Kang's Dream Life - From Bach, Lalo & Glazunoz to Lady Gaga

Written By: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
Stefan Aune and Angela Newgren

"I live in a dream world." Judy Kang is an extraordinary Canadian violinist who has lived the dream life of many musicians. She first picked up the violin at age four. Shortly after, she was auditioning for solo performances and soon began appearing as a soloist with orchestras around the world. At age 11 she was accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music where she earned a Bachelor's degree in music on a full scholarship. At age 19, (two years after finishing her Bachelor's) she was awarded another scholarship and began work on a Master's degree from Julliard.

Judy Kang

Judy Kang has performed in many great places and for many great people. Her career as a violinist (solo and chamber) has taken her to Carnegie Hall (sold out show!), Tokyo Suntory Hall, Schubert Hall in Vienna, and many other famous venues. She has performed for Bill Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and other important leaders around the world.

She was also chosen by Lady Gaga to join Gaga's "Monster Ball Tour" (January 2010 to May 2011). Putting down her 1689 "Baumgartner" Stradivarius,  Judy Kang picked up a pink Mark Wood "Viper" electric violin for the tour.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Planetary Perfection Pegs

Written by: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

For many students and players, tuning the violin is a major impediment to playing and playing well. Traditional pegs can slip or stick. Learning the right amount of push, pull, turning and tension is very, very hard to learn. And frustrating. And expensive when you keep breaking strings. I think that some type of mechanical tuning system is necessary for students and would ease the lives of most players. I have favored using tailpieces with fine tuners built in such as the ones made by Wittner or Bois d'Harmonie.

I just finished putting the first set of Knilling Planetary Perfection pegs into one of my A. Fein/ R. Riva violins. Some things I like about them, some things I'm not in love with, some things just seem wrong.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finding Your Violin Online

Written by: Amy Tobin, Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins, and Mikaela Marget

These days, shopping has become a completely different experience than it was even a few years ago. With a few keyboard clicks, you can be directed to nearly any product or service that you are interested in, with options to purchase from nearly anywhere! This is no different in the world of musical instruments. In fact, we have adapted to this new environment and most of our sales these days come from the internet.

Admittedly, it can be a little more difficult to handle such a subjective and personal thing via the internet, but I am going to give you a few tips to help you find your perfect violin, viola, or cello if you are looking online! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ouch! - When Playing Hurts

 Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

We love playing music. It is our passion, our relaxation, our outlet, and, sometimes, our purpose. Some of us devote our lives to it and make our livelihoods from it. But there are times when we feel discomfort, or even pain associated with this.

First of all, if this is happening to you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cellist of Sarajevo, Vedran Smajlovic

Written by: Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
Stefan Aune and Angela Newgren

Sometimes, the most powerful thing we can do is play music. That is what Bosnian cellist Vedran Smajlovic did in some of the worst conditions Europe has seen since WWII.

Smajlovic is a Bosnian musician born in 1956. He was living in Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, when it fell under attack on April 5, 1992, during the Bosnian War. This year, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the devastating Siege of Sarajevo.

 Smajlovic playing at a bombed building in Sarajevo

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Soundpost

Written by: Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins

The soundpost is the dowel of wood that you see inside the treble (E or A) side of your violin, viola or cello. For a small piece of Spruce that's about 6mm thick (about 7mm on a viola, about 10mm on a cello) it makes a tremendous difference on how your instrument plays and sounds. In French, the soundpost is called "l'âme", the "soul" of the instrument. I completely agree.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rosin - clearing the dust!

Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

Rosin is an absolute necessity to a string player. Without it, we wouldn't make any sound at all, so learning how to use it, and which kind to use, is essential!

When it comes to rosin, for any string instrument, there are two basic kinds: light and dark. Light rosin is usually lighter in color (this is not always the case, especially with cello rosin), and it is a bit harder than dark rosin. Light rosin can be a better choice in the summer, or in warmer climates, because it takes a little more heat and humidity to soften it. Dark rosin is a great choice in the winter because the softer rosin will provide a little more grip on those cold, dry days.

As I mentioned before, the world of rosin can be extremely overwhelming! There are so many different kinds, so many different prices, how do you know which kind to use?!

Bonnaroo 2011. A Great Year for String Players.

Written by: Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins
and Angie Newgren

Bonnaroo is an annual music and arts festival held in Manchester, Tennessee. This was it's tenth year. Hope everyone stayed cool and had fun!

Just in case you're a violin, viola or cello player, and need some inspiration to play outside the classical music box, here is a list of some of the musicians performing this year who include stringed instruments of the violin family in their performance. The genres vary to the extreme:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bows - How Much Difference Can There Be?

Written by: Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

When I have musicians come in to look at instruments, after finding their perfect match, I then say "now let's look at bows." In many cases the next question is then "how much of a difference can that make?" The short answer to this is a lot!

When it comes to bows,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Violin Bow Hair: Having a Good Hair Day

Written by: Angie Newgren of Fein Violins

Since I first started working at Fein Violins, my knowledge of stringed instruments and bows has grown quite a bit. One thing I was particularly interested in was bow hair, and what goes on before it is in the shop. I knew that most comes from horse hair, but I didn't know specifics, so I did some research.

There are only a few types of bow hair that makers select to use on their bows.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finding the Right Violin Teacher, Viola Teacher, or Cello Teacher

Written by Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

When you, or your child, have decided to start playing the violin, viola, or cello, one of the most important things you can do, other than get a good quality instrument (see our violin tone post), is to find a good teacher.

A good teacher can be the difference between creating a lifelong love of music or making the learning process a chore, so it is definitely worthwhile to do a little research before making a decision.

There are a lot of ways to learn the violin (or viola, or cello).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Violin Bows- Too Tight, Too Loose, Just Right

 Written by Amy Tobin of Fein Violins

When you are learning how to play a bowed string instrument (violin, viola, cello), there are a lot of things about the process that can seem a bit nebulous and mystifying. It can be overwhelming for a beginning student because so much of what we do is seemingly done by feel.

One of those things that seem to be especially difficult to grasp early on is how much to tighten the bow when you play. Today I am going to give you a couple of quick tips to help you with this!

First of all,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Violas. Size Matters.

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins

If you read the previous blog (and you should) you will learn that the air volume inside your instrument has a fundamental frequency that helps power the low tones on your instrument. The bigger the air volume inside your instrument, the lower the fundamental frequency will be.

For violas, where an adult might play anywhere from a 15 inch body length up to 16 1/2 inch body length (and sometimes larger) the larger violas will sound better. That is, a 16 inch viola will sound much better than a 15 inch but not quite as nice

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sing to Your Violin

Hey! This is a fun parlor trick and will teach you something about your violin!
Put your mouth near the f holes on your violin. Now sing a scale. Do you notice a single pitch that resonates/vibrates more than the others?

Now pluck your D string. Same note! (Or close.) Assuming you're using a full size violin.

Let's get technical (not too technical, I know it's mainly musicians reading this!):

The fundamental frequency of an object is related to its volume. (Whether within a room, an instrument, etc). For full size violins,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

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

Do you have an extra 12 million dollars to spare? How about using it to buy a Stradivarius violin!
File:Lady Blunt top.jpg
Lady Blunt Stradivarius

Photo by Tarisio Auctions
The Nippon Music Foundation is auctioning off their prestigious 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius. Made in 1721, this Strad is one of two Stradivarius violins in near perfect, original condition. (The other being the 'Messiah' of 1716)

The 'Lady Blunt' Stradivarius

It bears its original neck, re-angled at the heel, and also has its original bass-bar and fingerboard. It has