Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sometimes, It's The Little Things That Count

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

Okay, so you have practiced, and practiced, and practiced (just like you're supposed to!). You have a nice violin (viola, or cello), you've matched it with a good bow, and hopefully you have a nice set of strings.  Is there anything else you can do to bring your instrument's sound to the next level? Of course! We previously wrote a blog on 10 things to improve the sound of your instrument. In addition to these 10 things, there are a few other simple steps you can take to get the most out of your instrument.

There are always the little things you can do to make your instrument sound more beautiful. Just because we refer to them as the "little things" does not mean that they are unimportant. You probably put lots of time and effort into your playing, so it is definitely worth investing your time and money into picking out the right rosin, shoulder rest, and/or endpin stopper.

Rosin plays an important role in making sound for your instrument - without it, you wouldn't be making any sound at all! Without opening up your case, do you know what brand you have? Is it light rosin, or dark rosin? What's the difference? What did it cost? Where did it come from? Does that matter?
At our shop we sell a variety of rosin, and they are all brands we personally recommend. Our blog Rosin-clearing the dust! (written by professional violinist and Fein Violins shop Manager Amy Tobin) thoroughly explains differences in types of rosin as well as why it's so important. If you didn't know any of the answers to our rosin quiz, check out that blog so you can make the right choice next time you buy rosin at your local violin shop.

Shoulder Rests
Shoulder rests can also play an important role in creating sound. You need to be sure that your shoulder rest fits you properly and is comfortable! Most shoulder rests are adjustable, so you can raise or lower the height of it to be optimal for you. When you put your instrument on your shoulder, your shoulder rest should help you play in a more relaxed way.
There are many brands and styles of shoulder rests available, with design features that can really make a difference in the sound of your instrument.

For example, our shop carries 3 brands of shoulder rests; Artino, Everest, and Kun.

Front to back: Artino Maple, Artino Rosewood, Everest, and Kun

There are two different Artino shoulder rests, both of which receive the highest marks from us! Both Artino shoulder rests are made with wood. There is the Rosewood Artino shoulder rest, and the Maple Artino shoulder rest. The wood helps quite a bit with the instrument's sound because, well, wood resonates with wood. The Artino shoulder rests also feature small sound holes which help the sound to resonate as well. The Rosewood shoulder rest is quite beautiful in appearance, as is the Maple shoulder rest, and both will enhance the sound of your instrument. (Note: As of now, the Rosewood shoulder rest is available for both violin and viola, but the Maple shoulder rest is only available for violin. I am hoping this changes soon, because this is definitely the one that I prefer!)

The Kun and the Everest shoulder rests are made primarily from plastic, which does not really help to enhance your sound.  If you take the time to try out different shoulder rests you will find a difference in the sounds you make. Wood shoulder rests usually sound better. (You should always choose a shoulder rest that is most comfortable for you, however. There is no point in purchasing a fancy shoulder rest if you injure yourself and can't play!)

Endpin Stoppers
There are also sound differences in the type of endpin stoppers you use. Our store carries one brand: Artino. The Artino Pin Stopper is made of wood which, again, resonates with the instrument. Other endpin stoppers seem to either dull the sound of your cello or slip out from underneath as they get dusty or dirty. Neither trait is considered desirable.

The Artino Pin Stopper also features a sound hole to help strengthen sound. Our friend and great cellist Robert DeMaine sent us a simple note after trying the Artino Endpin Stopper, "Andy, I love my Artino Endpin Stopper."

Artino Endpin Stopper
You can hear Megan, the professional cellist at our shop, compare the sound of a cello with and without the Artino Endpin Stopper. There is nothing you can do with your cello that is as inexpensive ($22) and will improve the sound as much!

So now you have some insight into the little things that can improve your sound. Although there is no replacement for spending time practicing, these things will help you play better, and feel better doing while doing it. Rosin, shoulder rests, and endpin stoppers are all things a player (depending on your instrument) needs to have. It is worth taking the time to pick out the better quality items. Sometimes, it's the little things that count.

Are you a string musician or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violin, Violas, and Cellos!

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