August 2011

Siblings. Encourage the Rivalry?

August 25, 2011 11:57

If you have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have a brother or sister then you know what it's like to have a rival.  I know that at times, they can also be allies...but not today!  Today, I want to address the competitive side of kin.  Some are reading this and may be thinking, "wow, she has some sibling issues."  Or, "what does this have to do with the violin?"  To those, I would say, "you betcha," and "don't worry, I'll get to the point."

For those of you that have read my Mozart vs. Beethoven blog, you have had a slight introduction to my twin brother.  Despite his questionable taste in music, he is a knowledgable and talented musician (P.S. Don't tell him I told you that!).  We both started singing in kids choir around age 4 and started piano lessons at age 7.  He caught on to theory quickly and could memorize songs after playing them only 3 or 4 times.  In fact, he still remembers some of the early songs 20 years later.  I wasn't struggling, but I had to practice twice as much to make the same progress.  

At the time, I was so mad that I was practicing more than he was, but I was practicing!  The rivalry I felt only spurred on my participation and my desire to learn.  By age 10, I realized that I loved music and I started the violin.  There wasn't any competition driving me to play the violin, I just wanted to play.  I don't think that I would have gotten to that point though, if I didn't have that early rivalry stirring me up and pushing me on past the point of music being a chore.

Practical application time.  I've seen and heard of teachers and parents trying to silence the rivalry of siblings when it comes to music lessons.  I think they could be missing a tool they could use to their advantage.  I'm not saying that any parent or teacher should breed this in their children and I'm not saying that when things  get out of hand that no action should be taken.  What I think is that a little rivalry can fuel a student forward when no other motivation will (candy only goes so far).  

I'm not the only one that thinks so.  Some psychologists suggest that sibling rivalry is vital to social development skills.  Fighting may be a way to test and gauge their own emotions.  Regardless, parents and teachers have the last word on how to handle siblings and their rivalry.  

Today, I have switched from violin to cello, although my interest in the violin still lives on.  I am an active member in the music community working in music business and playing with symphonies, quartets, and a rock band.  My brother wen't into journalism and film and won "Best Comedy" for a short film he did last year.  The rivalry is still there even if it isn't so much on the surface.  He insists that he is going to become a household name in his field before I do.  We'll see.

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Shopping list-ruler, pencils, and...violin strings!

August 16, 2011 11:24

My friend Heather Case wrote this.  I thought it was super helpful.


Back to School. As a mom, it means I “get” to take my kids shopping for new clothes and school supplies. But, for music students, it also means getting ready for a new season/year of rehearsals and performances. Now is the best time to make sure your instrument is ready for hours of play. You can always take your instrument to your local music store to have it completely inspected and set up for the year, but that usually comes with a premium price tag. However, there are so many things that every string player should take the time to learn about their instrument.

For younger students, it is always good to make sure that they are starting the year with the correct size instrument. The tried and true method of sizing a student to a violin is putting the violin into position under the chin with a fully extended (straightened) left arm under the instrument. If your child can wrap their fingers all around the scroll practically reaching into the peg box, he/she is ready for a larger violin.

If the violin is the right size, it is probably time for a new set of strings. Strings can stay intact for years, but they can lose their playability and projection, especially if they are synthetic core strings (Dominant, Zyex, etc.). When changing a set of violin strings, always start with the E string, then proceed to change the G, D, and A strings. A few months ago, Joel wrote a blog on slipping violin pegs. He demonstrated how to change strings properly onto the peg. It is important to wind the strings onto the peg correctly to avoid slipping pegs. And, while you are changing your strings, it is always a good idea to take the time to clean the rosin build up with some violin polish. Never use any other type of cleaner or polish on a stringed instrument. The oil rubbed finish of most instruments have unique properties that can be critically compromised with household cleaners or polish.

When changing strings or polishing an instrument, always be careful with the bridge. Avoid bumping the bridge when cleaning, and watch the angle of the bridge during and after changing strings. New strings will need a day or two to stretch out. During that time, the angle of the bridge can be pulled by the strings. For the most part, the bridge should be angled perpendicular to the body of the violin. If a bridge is left tilted at the wrong angle for too long, it can eventually warp and even break.

One thing that is worth taking your instrument to the luthier for is to get a bow rehaired. Like violin strings, bow hair can visually appear to be in pretty good condition. Eventually, though, rosin can build up and the surface of the bow hair can become dull and almost slick. When bows get to this point of wear, it is difficult to pull sound from the strings, no matter how much rosin you use.

While you have everything out of the case, it is a good idea to grab a vacuum with a hose attachment and clean every nook and cranny. Open each compartment and get every trace of rosin out of the case. Eliminating the build up of dust and rosin inside the case will help keep your violin and bow in great playing condition for a long time to come.

For a newly sized violin or new strings, check out our selection at Kennedy Violins. If you aren’t sure which is the right one for you, please feel free to contact any of us. We have recently added a few new musicians to our sales, customer service, and luthier staff, so we are all ready to help you gear up for the new school year.

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Mozart vs. Beethoven

August 11, 2011 14:22

 Today we will answer a very important question; a question that has plagued classical music scholars for centuries, I’m sure. The first person to actually ask me this question was not a learned professor or a talented colleague, it was my twin brother. Which was surprising at the time since his favorite musician was Weird Al Yankovic and his favorite instrument was his hand in his armpit. The question is this: in a no holds barred battle to the death, who would win-Beethoven or Mozart?

Initially, I was shocked that he knew the names of more than one classical composer and secondly, I was shocked that I had never considered this myself. The question, while slightly inane, does bring a certain humanity to historic figures that are often set upon pedestals as gods of composition. These high and lofty figures were mere mortals in their day with strengths and weaknesses. Besides, why shouldn’t we pit them against each other for our own amusement?


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born: January 27, 1756

Lived In: Vienna, Austria

Composed: Nearly 1,000 works in just over 30 years including everything from simple piano songs to epic operas.  His most famous works include The Magic Flute, A minor Piano Sonataand his Requiem.

Fun Fact:  He was a very fashionable guy who always had the best clothes and wigs money could buy.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Born: December 16, 1770

Lived: Bonn, Germany

Composed: Just over 200 published pieces exist from his lifetime as well as dozen of unpublished sketches.  His most famous works include Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor)Symphony No.5and the massiveSymphony N0. 9.

Fun Fact:  He started to loose his hearing at the age of 26.

When setting up this match, important things must be considered.  Location for one.  I would hold the fight in Vienna.  Mozart did travel all over Europe as a child prodigy but his favorite place was Vienna.  Likewise, Beethoven might have considered Bonn his home, but he did spend time in Vienna in his 20's studying under the top composers and music theorists of the day.  Vienna would be the most neutral territory for the two.

Another consideration must be the referee.  We would need to have an individual that while respecting each composer’s talent did not have a definite bias one way or the other.  I would suggest bringing Hayden out of retirement to judge the match.  Hayden was a teacher to both and saw great potential in both composers.

Now, for the Battle Royale.

‘The bell rings and the composers approach each other.  Mozart, being the excitable little scrapper he is, throws the first punch using his impeccable counterpoint he mastered while still in puberty.  Beethoven is stumbles back, but this is nothing he hasn’t seen before.  He counters with a one-two punch using his ability to develop a theme and genius use of codas.  Mozart is shaken by this since it in no way follows the musical forms he himself had mastered.  He quickly retaliates with his innovative comic operas but it’s deflected by the strength of Beethoven’s symphonies. 1, 2, 3, 4…9! 9 punches right to the throat (He wrote 9 symphonies).  Beethoven thinks he’s won but while his back is turned, Mozart takes he out with the sheer prolific volume of his compositions.  Beethoven is down for the count.  As Hayden is counting, Beethoven struggles to get up.  I don’t believe this!  He’s standing again!  Mozart looks nervous.  He’s got nothing left to throw at his opponent.  Beethoven throws down Mozart using his pent up Daddy issues.  That’s right folks, he had to put his career on pause in his late 20's to take care of his family because his father was a belligerent alcoholic.  There’s a lot of pain there folks.

I guess it doesn’t matter how much music you write, when it comes to a fight, he with the most issues wins and Beethoven had issues.  I won’t even get into his “Immortal Beloved.”

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