Scenes from the NAMM Show 2018 in Anaheim

January 27, 2018, 12:16 AM · ANAHEIM, Calif. -- On Friday I joined more than 100,000 people from more than 120 countries and regions for the 2018 NAMM Show, a five-day gathering of the National Association of Music Merchants which runs through Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center, right next to Disneyland.

It's the third time I've attended this massive event, which has a heavy emphasis on popular music, electronics and gear but nonetheless has quite a bit for a violin-o-phile to enjoy and absorb. Here are a few of the highlights from my day -- with the caveat that I could not possibly get to every violin-related booth!

I knew that this year I wanted to try out the 3Dvarius Violin, a 3-D printed violin that I had missed at its debut last year, simply due to the logistics of NAMM! I had fun giving it a test drive, testing some electric guitar-type effects on the first few lines of Vivaldi Concerto in A minor.

So what exactly is a 3-D printed violin? Its inventor, Laurent Bernadac, explained to me that the transparent parts of the violin are all 3-D printed in one single piece, a process that takes 24 hours. After that, there are 20 days of further manufacture and assembly. Besides his original all-3-D-printed model, this year he had two new models: the half-printed, half (ash) wood Equinox , and the nearly all-wood Line, made of both beech and sipo wood.

Early last year I actually got a Yamaha Electric Violin (YEV - a five-string) for my birthday, and I'm still in the experimental phase with it! When I went to the Yamaha Strings exhibit (which is only one small part of their huge presence at NAMM), I checked out the amp that they recommend for use with the YEV.

NAMM is so bigger-than-life, I found myself occasionally drawn, zombie-like, to some display that I didn't plan to visit but that somehow worked a charm on me. Such was the case with the Wittner booth, with its long row of ticking metronomes: the cat and the penguin; the rainbow of plastic Taktells, the beautiful wooden pyramids, all made in Germany. They even have plastic mechanical metronomes, so you can see the inner-workings!

I also learned a bit more about Corelli Strings, which are made in Lyon, France. Here Cyril Maillot gives us the rundown on Corelli Crystal, Alliance and Cantiga strings for viola and violin.

And speaking of strings, I came across Thomastik Infeld's Chris Rohrecker, who told me a little more about the relatively new Alphayue synthetic strings for violin, viola and cello strings, designed as a low-cost alternative to the steel strings that beginners often use.

Along the way I also so these beautiful bridges, made by Despiau Chevalets:

Despiau bridges

I was delighted to meet in person fellow arts journalists Megan Westberg and Stephanie Powell, editors for Strings Magazine.

Strings and
Megan Westberg, Laurie Niles and Stephanie Powell.

I also found Ruth Brons, who explained the Bow Buddy, which she invented 10 years ago to help little bow hands. Sometimes people find these kinds of devices to be controversial (a "crutch"), but I'd argue that there is no wrong way to learn. If the end result is that a student grows into an excellent bow hold (and she said this has been the result in her own studio), then that's success!

I'll leave you with this example of literally reaching across the aisle -- it's what happens when you put the 3Dvarius Violin booth next to the Barkley Brazil mouthpiece booth: a little violin-saxophone jam session!

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January 28, 2018 at 05:16 AM · Thanks for your perseverance, Laurie :-) I'll have to come back to this later and play some of the videos. I got distracted when I saw the Despiau bridges and had to run off to see how many trees are on my viola bridge. (Two! not bad for a "machine made" instrument from a company no one seems to have heard of, including my luthier--Kremona Studio (Bulgaria).)

January 28, 2018 at 07:46 AM · Aren’t those pretty bridges? And very clever to use little trees as ratings, like stars! I guess having a three-tree bridge from them is a little like going to a five-star restaurant!

January 28, 2018 at 09:19 PM · Glad you posted this, Laurie! I've been meaning to give a 3Dvarius a go since last year too but haven't gone to the big similar show here in Frankfurt. Thanks

February 1, 2018 at 11:28 PM · @Laurie, I agree. And I didn't appreciate the significance until I read about your visit to their booth. I thought "Two Trees" was just a model name (something akin to "Three Twins" ice cream, although that's a company) when I read it in the Kremona advertising literature.

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