The 2016 NAMM Show: New Technology, Gear and Instruments

January 25, 2016, 6:53 PM · On Friday I spent a day looking at new strings, new instruments and innovations at the 2016 NAMM Show -- a giant gathering of the National Association of Music Merchants that attracted some 100,000 attendees from 137 countries to the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, Jan. 21-24. There were about 1,600 exhibiting companies, representing 5,100-plus brands.

NAMM Show 2016
Outside the NAMM Show at the Anaheim, Calif., Convention Center

This was the first time I'd attended NAMM, and it was rather overwhelming. Bowed instruments (i.e. violins, violas, cellos, bass) represented just a small segment of merchants, which included the makers of guitars, drums, keyboards, all kinds of gear and gizmos. Really, there was every kind of instrument imaginable, and even a few I could not have imagined before seeing them!

Happily, it was a violin that won "Best in Show": Yamaha's new YEV, or Yamaha Electric Violin, which I wrote about after its premiere last week. Pop/Classical violinist Caroline Campbell played it in several NAMM demonstrations and shows; here's some video, if you missed it:

I didn't get much of a chance to play the instrument the day it was unveiled, so I went back Friday to noodle around with it. I had to wrest it from longtime member Gene Wie, who was giving it a workout with some Ysaÿe. It was easy to play and comfortable, but I think I'd need much longer to understand what to do with all the electric-violin effects. Here we are, having fun at the Yamaha booth:

Gene Wie and Laurie
Longtime member Gene Wie and Editor Laurie Niles.

I also found some other Yamaha peeps there:

Yamaha booth
Yamaha's Ken Dattmore, violinist Jesùs Florido and Metzler Violin Shop owner Tom Metzler at the Yamaha booth.

Over in the main building, I came across the American-based M&M Distributing, the wholesale wing of Shar Music. Among other things, I checked out their SL Super Light Compact Violin Case, which does indeed feel very comfortable and light on the back and comes in fun colors.

Around the corner, AcoustaGrip inventor and violinist Albert Stern showed me the AcoustaGrip shoulder rest, which adheres to the back of a fiddle without leaving any residue, and can be left there even when putting it in the case. Apparently, he used the self-adhering foam rest for three years on his own 1778 DeLay Guadagnini and for five years on his 1697 "Napoleon" Strad, without any ill effect. I tried it myself, and it was surprisingly comfy. Below is the version for little kids, and some of their BowGrips.

The Acoustagrip Shoulder Rest, size small, and bow grip rings

Another big presence was Connolly Music Company. At their corner booth I ran across Sam Finlay, designer of The Realist electric/acoustic violins and stringed instruments. member and rock violinist Adam DeGraff is a big fan of The Realist.

Sam Finlay, Realist
Sam Finlay, inventor of The Realist violin

I also discovered something new: Here Lance Rohrecker, of Connolly, shows me a bow strung with "Coruss," which is synthetic bow hair:

Lance Rohrecker of Connolly
Lance Rohrecker holds a Revelle bow strung with "Coruss," a synthetic bow hair.

Coruss bow hair was developed by the French Institute of Textiles over three years for the Orchestre de Chambre de Toulouse, which was seeking something with more durability and lasting power. Members of that group say that, while they used to rehair their bows every month with traditional horse hair; now they do it once every three months with the synthetic hair, according to Rohrecker. They use it with regular and Baroque bows. Connolly uses it in its Revelle bows, which have the option of either synthetic or horse hair, priced the same. The idea is that the "Coruss" hair lasts longer and there is less breakage, which can be an issue with children using bows.

Erik Martens of told me about a new kind of Jargar Strings, a synthetic core string set that was introduced in November, the Jargar "Superior."

Erik Martens, Jargar
Eric Martens, with Jargar Strings "Superior"

"It was important to have a new set of strings with all the new technology and with the Jargar sound identity," Martens said. He described the strings as being somewhere between Dominants and Evah Pirazzis.

Here's something for the orchestral musician who sits through long rehearsals: the Gelco G-seat, which provides cushion for your tushy and thus helps your back.

Gelco Gseat
The Gelco G-seat

I also dropped by BAM, maker of lightweight cases. I had to show everyone this Texas line of cases, covered in cowhide and leather, Yee-haw!

BAM Texas models
BAM's "Texas" line of cases

There were so many things to see at NAMM, and I certainly was not able to visit everyone and see everything I wanted to see in my one day there. Next year I'll plan to stay longer! Even by the end of just one short day, even with my NAMM app guiding me, even with a pretty decent plan, I found myself wandering around like a lost toddler, marveling at aging rock 'n' rollers mixing with the new-tech hipsters mixing with the business people in suits; the traditional instruments next to the computerized keyboards and new-fangled devices. The last thing I visited was just for me: the Washburn display. I still want a new mandolin, as the old one just doesn't fit my hands, so I gazed at a wall of them.

Washburn mandolins
Washburn mandolins

Until next year!

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