The NS Blog

  • Electric Strings Seminar at Northwestern High School, Rock Hill, SC

    Rock Hill Group

    On October 25, 2014, I headed down to Rock Hill, SC, to work with the orchestra students at Northwestern High School.  Their teacher is Marsha Gross and she had recently invested in a quintet of electric stringed instruments to use as part of her recruiting and retention efforts for the orchestra program at the school.  This is especially cool because she really didn’t have a background in electric strings and simply wanted to branch out and do something different and cool for her students.  She also picked up a bunch of Digitech effects processors to use with the groups as well.   I took a couple of NXT and CR violins, violas, basses, and cellos to the session, along with a ton of sound equipment so that everyone would have an opportunity to get hands on instruments during the day.

    The day ended up to be really an amazing day of playing and learning.  I headed out of Durham, NC around 6:00 AM in order to get started at 9:00 in SC.  I started with a quick performance for the kids, so they could see how I perform on my CR violin, using loops and efx processing.    I wanted them to understand that the key to being an electric violinist is to be a solid violinist and musician.

    Next, we talked about optimum set up for hearing yourself and getting comfortable with the sound coming from an amp rather than the instrument.  We also discussed tone controls and listening for the best tone possible.  Once everyone was set up with a great tone quality and a comfortable playing environment, we played for a while as an ensemble and discussed the experience as well as ways to optimize intonation, dynamics, and monitoring.


    After lunch, I gave them an extensive tour of effects processing, covering EQ, reverbs, time based effects, filter effects, distortion, and pitch shifters.  Then, we ended the day by getting everyone set up with an in-line effects processor and turning them loose to get creative.  I was also able to give the kids pens, lanyards, stickers, and other cool stuff from NS Design,, the Electric Violin Shop, and D’Addario Orchestral.  (There is nothing like free stuff to get everyone interested real fast!)

    In then end, it was a fun day, full of learning and playing.  I think that everyone left with a new set of tools for real creativity with bowed electric strings.   Congratulations to Marsha Gross for her innovation and forward thinking approach.   Congratulations to the students for great attitudes and preparation, as well as a real openness to my ideas.  The students could not have been any nicer and attentive. And, big thanks to all at NS Design for supporting this type of work in so many ways.


    Scott Marsha

  • New NS Artist: Adrian Stout of the Tiger Lillies

    adrianstroutBrechtian punk cabaret group The Tiger Lillies’s bassist Adrian Stout’s new CR5 Omni Bass should have an exciting home amidst the lingering scent of grease paint and french perfume, not to mention Adrian’s other instruments including musical saw and theremin. With founder/accordionist Martyn Jacques’s “Criminal Castrati” story telling, don’t miss the highly entertaining, clever, dark music of The Tiger Lillies.

    See The Tiger Lillies this fall at select European and US venues:

  • New NS Artist: Rick Marcel

    marcel_revisedLA-based artist and hit-maker Rick Marcel (of Lil Wayne, Stephanie Mills, and many other bands) has his hands in wide variety of music projects. He just finished recording a jingle for Harley Davidson, promoting their cool new electric motorcycle. He’s doing some Jazz cruises right now, and this September he will be working with Stephanie Mills again. In the last year or so, Rick caught the NS bug! He was so impressed by the performance of the RADIUS Bass Guitar, he has now added the NXT5 Double Bass to his arsenal. Check out this video showcasing Rick’s incredible artistry and versatility with the RADIUS bass.

  • Students and NS Design at Interlochen


    “Mr Laird!! It arrived! It arrived today!”

    These are the words I was greeted with on a Tuesday morning during my last week of the summer at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp.  Cello student, Luis Enriquez, from Belgium, has been a student at Interlochen for the past 3 summers and has been part of numerous performances where I would solo on my CR4 or 5 violin with my Intermediate Concert Orchestra on the famous Kresge Hall stage.  I must admit, when he told me he was getting a new NXT 5 string cello, it didn’t come as a big surprise.   It was, however a great thrill.  Luis brought the instrument to the next rehearsal and showed it to me and the rest of the orchestra with great enthusiasm.


    Earlier in the summer, we had spoken about the possibility of him getting the NS Design instrument.  We had discussed amps, effect processing, and possible choices of  retailers as well.  In the end, I know the NXT 5 cello will be a great choice for Luis as he begins his electric journey on the cello.  He also picked up a small effects processor which led to  a great discussion about reverb, delay, and “mix.”


    This is how NS Design and music education fit together so neatly.  Kids want to be creative.   Kids get inspired.    Kids spend more time with their instrument and build their skill set as musicians.    Everybody wins!!


    Congrats, Luis.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with as you begin to develop your technique on your new instrument,  new ideas as a result of the technology, and your new style of playing with your 5 string electric cello!




  • The Levin Brothers


    Tony Levin is featured in the September 2014 issue of Bass Player magazine, showcasing Tony’s new work (with an NS Cello!) on the forthcoming Levin Brothers Jazz CD. This intimate article journeys through Tony’s long-time association with NS Design and his enviable and disparate musical journey. Harkening back to the “Cool Jazz” Tony and older brother Pete (keyboards) grew up on, this release features 15 melodic-driven be-bop swinging tunes, featuring veteran heavy weight drummers Steve Gadd and Jeff Siegel, saxophonist Erik Lawrence and guitarist David Spinozza. Levin Brothers brings a myriad of references from Tony’s inspiration from Oscar Pettiford, to the pizzicato driven Latin tinged “Havana,” to a cover of King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai”.

    Tony’s diverse performance schedule continues throughout 2014, with a Levin Brothers upcoming jazz release in the Fall. This September he tours with the refreshingly reformed and possibly “final” version King Crimson, after which he joins Peter Gabriel’s “Back to Front” tour in the UK in November and December. Don’t forget to check out Tony’s tour dates and photolog.

  • Big stages, bigger hits!

    Featuring cellist Grace Chatto, UK pop sensation Clean Bandit has a hot summer hit “Extraordinary”, reaching #2 on the UK Dance charts and #5 on the UK Single Charts. Grace will appear at festivals, TV and arenas worldwide, playing her Poplar Burl NS CR4 Cello.

    Interesting background: Grace was “discovered“ while playing in a string quartet at Cambridge University while her current bandmate Jack Patterson mixed beats and electronica to Grace’s classical pieces, creating a unique blend of electronica.

    Enjoy this clip of their performance at T in the Park 2014.

  • Congrats: Violinist and Composer Gary Kuo Grabs His 6th Emmy


    A tasteful and refined soloist, Gary’s emotional and thoughtful style always affects listeners on an intimate level. With 130+ TV and Film credits to his name, Gary stands out in the Hollywood scene with his poignant compositions. Stay updated on our Facebook page and YouTube channel for more original tracks and upcoming videos featuring Gary and his CR5 Violin.

    Watch Gary create a haunting 21st Century treatment of “Nearer, My God, to Thee”.

  • The NXT Cello—Now Fretted!

    frettedcello-bThe new NS NXT fretted cello, designed by Ned Steinberger, blends the character and advantages of the guitar with the power and performance of the standard NS NXT cello. Available in 4 or 5 string configurations, either Black or Sunburst, and made in the Czech Republic, these sophisticated new instruments are beautifully crafted, yet surprisingly affordable.

    Even the most traditional cellist will find that frets offer certain advantages, as well as new performance and textural possibilities. The most obvious of these is that, particularly when playing pizzicato, frets provide “open string” sustain for every note. The fretted cellist can more fully exploit techniques such as tapping, hammer-ons, and “stepped” glissando. Frets also guarantee accuracy of pitch in high volume performance situations where there may be less-than-optimal individual monitor setups.

    The tone quality and dynamic range of the NS NXT cello owes much to the self-powered NS Polar(TM) Pickup System. Employing special piezo crystals, mounted beneath the bridge, the pickup captures the full sound spectrum created by the strings and body of the instrument. Arco versus pizzicato playing creates more vibration energy in one direction than the other, and a convenient switch on the side of the NXT actually allows the player to select sensitivity for either mode. The result is either more percussive response, or smoother and sustained response, adding a new dimension to what the player can create musically.

    As a pure electric instrument, the NS cello has certain built-in advantages over an acoustic. One is the virtual absence of wolf tones, an unfortunate fact of life for the acoustic cellist. Another is freedom from feedback in amplified performance settings, which means that the cellist can move about the stage at will, and better yet, can take solos at any volume. Since 100% of the sound comes via the pickup, using looping and other electronic effects in live performance is much easier and far more effective than with an amplified acoustic, where much of the unprocessed sound “leaks” out to the audience.

    Equipped initially with D’Addario NS Electric strings, NS cellos can be strung with any conventional cello strings. The 5-string version can be set up with either a high E or low F string. Since the electronics of the instrument are designed to deliver a powerful signal throughout the entire frequency range, the output is limited only by the range and quality of the amplifier or sound system.

    NS cellos are designed around a 4/4 cello string scale. The NXT weighs just over 4 pounds, and comes with a padded gig bag and tripod stand. Other support options include the Frame Strap System which lets the player stand and move around with freedom, and the NS End Pin Stand for a more conventional seated playing experience. An escutcheon pin on the neck, corresponding to the location of the heel on an acoustic cello, is standard; a more conventional wooden neck heel is also available for installation. The bridge can be readily adjusted for higher or lower action, tailored to the preferences and style of the player. The NS cello also features a truss rod, which permits adjustment of the neck relief – useful under changing humidity conditions.

  • Maputo and Interlochen

    IMG_0670 Hi all –

    Last week, I had the pleasure of performing with the Intermediate Jazz Ensemble at Interlochen, under the direction of David Kay, on the David Sanborn/Bob James tune, Maputo.  The performance was a ball and the reaction to the NS Design CR4 violin in that setting was magnificent.

    There were a ton of young violinists in the audience to see the performance and I was particularly pleased that a member of the National Symphony (Washington DC) was there to hear her son perform with the band on trumpet. Following the performance she and many of the students were interested to hear more about the instrument, specifications, the strings (D’Addario NS Design Electric Strings always!), what bow I use (Coda Joule always!), amps, and other details about improvising and performing.  The pics tell the story in many ways.