NS Artist Laurie Anderson visited San Francisco last week as Resident Artistic Director at SFJAZZ Center for a four-night performance series. Anderson, who plays the NS CR electric violin, shared the stage on night one with her NYC Improvisations Series collaborators – virtuoso bassist Christian McBride and cellist (NS Artist) Rubin Kodheli; night two included the strings duet of Kodheli again, with Anderson; the third evening also included Kodheli with the addition of avant-garde vocalist Mike Patton, of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More; night four featured Anderson’s solo performance with her NS violin, keyboards, and filters.
NS Design Artist Anna Blanton has spent years playing a wide range of musical styles from bluegrass and classic country to Celtic, folk and orchestral pieces. Blanton started her early training in music at her grade school orchestra program under the direction of Catherine Moeller-Cunanan. As a child she particularly enjoyed Irish music which led her to study Irish and Bluegrass fiddle tunes and the mandolin under Jeff Guernsey. Later, at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, Anna studied classical violin and continues to perform and record with area symphony orchestras. In 2016 and 2017 she partnered with Kentucky Shakespeare on their productions of Twelfth Night and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead under the music direction of Jack Ashworth and in 2018 Anna was part of a 52 piece orchestra that recorded Bear McCreary’s The Professor and The Madman movie soundtrack.
NS Artist Anna Blanton (left) with the New Bees Band.
While dedicated to performing with acoustic instruments, after finishing a challenging tour with Canadian singer-songwriter Colter Wall and experiencing environmental issues with her acoustic violin, Blanton felt it was time to explore available electric options. Anna was introduced to the NS series of electric violins while performing with the roots-rock five piece Jericho Woods. Jory Hutchins, Jericho Woods’ former fiddle player had a CR Series Violin and their bassist, and fellow NS Artist Paul Priest, who plays CR RADIUS and NXTa RADIUS bass guitars, encouraged her to try out the NS.
Anna found it very easy to transition to the NS CR5 electric violin, only having to change her bow angle to accommodate the low C string. Now a dedicated NS player, Anna appreciates how easy it is using her CR5 violin on the road. She says, “I’ve played lots of scorching hot outdoor gigs. I’d always worry about my 200+ year old acoustic fiddles getting damaged or going out of tune. This CR5 fiddle not only sounds great and looks cool; it also handles the heat outside remarkably well! I’ve had no tuning issues and don’t have to worry about seams coming open at any of my outdoor gigs. I can just enjoy playing and not stress about my gear!”
NS Artist Anna Blanton with Jericho Woods guitarist, Aaryn Martin at Fourth Street Live! Louisville, KY.
Anna’s advice for acoustic violinists considering the transition to electric is to keep in mind that the electric violin’s sound isn’t as loud as an acoustic in a player’s ear. To that end, Anna uses a Fishman Loudbox Mini mainly for self-monitoring on stage while running a direct line out the front-of-house PA. Along with the Fishman, Anna occasionally uses a Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedal, MXR Phase 90 and a boost pedal.
NS Artist Anna Blanton plays the CR5 Violin with Jericho Woods | Abbey Road on the River.
Anna’s schedule is as full as you might expect for someone playing a wide range of music. Whether touring with Jericho Woods in support of their new album One Perfect Song, releasing an album of traditional instrumentals and original folk music with her band Croghan’s Crossing, or working with students of all ages through private instruction, Blanton keeps building her fan base and her career with a dedicated passion for music.
New owners, Charlie and Anna Blanton in front of their Kentuckiana Music Center, New Albany, IN.
NS Artist Anna Blanton plays “What Happiness Looks Like” for Red Barn Radio with Jericho Woods, also featuring NS Artist Paul Priest with the CR RADIUS Bass.
Classical crossover trio Simply Three plays music that is anything but simple.
They have performed covers of artists from Adele to Michael Jackson to Queen, winning the hearts of thousands of concert-goers and millions of YouTube followers. Blending top-notch musicianship with high production value and a dose of good humor, their recent music video—a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”—sums them up pretty well:
(Please note: NS Design does not endorse playing your bass on top of a moving car. Even if you can.)
NS Design’s electric bowed instruments are integral to Simply Three’s music, both live and in studio. They perform with a matching set of CR Series instruments (CR Violin,CR Cello, CRM Upright Bass) with custom slate gray finish, in addition to their acoustic instruments.
The group takes full advantage of their NS instruments’ broad tonal palette and strong, clean signal. They also rely on NS Design’s ergonomics and patented support systems for their choreographed performances.
After all, not just any cello sounds good inside an AMC Pacer!
Here’s what Glen McDaniel, Zack Clark, and Nick Villalobos say about their NS instruments:
“NS makes a fantastic violin. It stands out against all the major brands in its ability to produce a warmth and resonance that sound natural despite being an electric instrument. To me, it has the most interesting and visual appeal as well.”
“The NS CR Cello is the best sounding electric cello on the market today. I absolutely love its unique look as well as the versatility I have with its dual pick-up system. It’s the only electric cello I use both on the road and in the studio.”
“I continue to discover the versatility of this instrument and it continues to impress me every day.”
Acclaimed by everyone from the Boston Philharmonic to the Huffington Post, Simply Three has over 1.1 million followers on YouTube. (Check out their channel here.) Their upcoming East Coast tour begins in Delaware on June 19. A new album is due out later this year.
If you could take all the energy you use to hold your violin and apply it to your playing, would you play differently? Optimal chin rest position is crucial for player comfort. Full adjustment allows each player to customize the chin rest to fit vastly different body shapes and playing styles. Using your hand to overcome the friction of the clamp allows you to experiment to find a desirable chin rest angle. The chin rest can tilt forward and back, as well as left and right.
The clamping screws in the center of each hub can be adjusted to provide the desired amount of friction to insure that the chin rest does not move in use.
Using the 5/32″ hex wrench (provided) to adjust the level of friction, the chin rest position can also be moved closer or further from the instrument. It can also be rotated more to the center or more to the side.
The electrifying trio of Glen McDaniel, Zack Clark, and Nick Villalobos, together known as Simply Three, have been captivating audiences worldwide with high-octane performances since 2010. Be sure to catch Simply Three at upcoming appearances. Link to their website for more information on the new album Undefined: https://simplythreemusic.com/
Performance by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck at TED2017 – The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED
NS Violinist Jason Yang follows his creative instincts into innovative musical territory. As a young classical violinist growing up in New Jersey, Yang enjoyed performing with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. He broadened his interests beyond classical music while at the University of Southern California, where he met musicians who sparked his interest in composing and improvisation.
Yang began composing, arranging, and teaching, and developed his own unique style. In 2007, he began playing the NS Design CR Series Electric Violin, which expanded his sonic palette and offered a new array of technical possibilities. Jason’s performances came to encompass a variety of genres, bound together by technological innovation and his deft, playful musicianship.
Yang is pictured here at NAMM 2017 with his composing mentor Mick Baumeister (left), and Ned Steinberger (right), founder and designer, NS Design.
In 2008, while still at USC, he started posting YouTube videos of himself from his dorm room jamming on the CR4 with various pedals and layering effects. Layering and mixing using the NS electric violin, his acoustic violin, and other instruments, Yang constructed an orchestral base for his music. The success of his YouTube videos raised his profile among a new generation of experimental violinists. Today, his YouTube channel has 198,000 subscribers.
At Yang’s workstation, pictured in foreground: NS Design CR4 Transparent Black Cherry High Gloss Custom Electric Violin displayed on the NS Violin Caddy; background: NS Design CR4 Amber Satin Electric Violin.
After college, Jason found increasing success as a professional musician. In 2012 he joined Madonna’s MDNA World Tour as her violinist. He continues to collaborate with dancer and performance artist Lil Buck, who also tours with Madonna. Lil Buck and Yang have also performed together on The Colbert Report, and recently at TED2017, in the premier of a performance as MAI: Movement Art Is, co-led by dancer/choreographer John Boogz. That work, “A Dance to Honor Mother Earth”, combined dance, spoken word, and Native American song and music performed by Yang on the CR Violin.
Performance by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck at TED2017 – The Future You, April 24-28, 2017, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED
Watch the full performance here:
Jason has played the CR Violin for almost a decade. In his own words, the instrument is “hands down the best electric violin available … sound, response, design, build quality, dependability.” Jason goes wireless in his live performances, with a wireless pack in to his CR, and wireless in-ears for monitoring. He uses Boss pedals and loop stations for his effects.
Here’s another example of what Jason does so well, in what he describes as: “Spontaneous 100% freestyle jam of Moonlight Sonata. With a lil’ bit of distortion…” in a video post with fellow Movement Art Is collaborator, John Boogz:
Recently Amazon.com approached Yang to host his own live streaming channel on their online streaming service TwitchCreative. Growing out of TwitchTV, which originally focused on live-stream gaming, TwitchCreative has channels for music, cooking, painting, and crafts.
Jason’s live shows feature jamming, requests from among his 14,000 followers and guest appearances by other artists he hosts from his living room studio. Some of the most popular streams include work with ChewieMelodies, The Luck, Cellist Mariko, and several collaborations with his sister, pianist Pauline Yang.
For more information about the CR Series Electric Violins that Jason plays and the entire selection of NS Bowed Electric Instruments, including the new Eco-friendly and battery free NXTa or the affordable and road-worthy WAV Series or to see a selection of our Custom CR Series Finishes, and available accessories for the NS Electric Violin, please visit our website: ThinkNS.com.
NS Artist and multi-instrumentalist Margot Lane is an accomplished writer, pianist and is currently violinist, keyboardist and music director for former child actor and musician Corey Feldman’s new outfit Corey Feldman and the Angels. Corey and the Angels includes Lane and three other musicians. They made an impact last summer with a unique performance on the Today Show, and by doing so created a social media storm filled with criticism and accolades.
Feldman explains in an article by Brett Callwood of LA Weekly: “There’s a strong buzz, and the reviews from the first show have been fairly tremendous,” Feldman says. “It’s not rocket science. We’re not The Beatles. But there’s an importance to what we’re doing. It’s tongue-in-cheek and we’re all having fun with it, but it’s also an important and positive message: Don’t ever think that your day is done. As long as you have the fight and fire in you, you can achieve anything.”
The momentum of that particular performance last year inspired Feldman to find testing ground for an exciting and theatrical production collaborative with the ‘Angels’ in a mini-tour. He continued to garner more attention and a full spectrum of press coverage from this new performance concept as Corey Feldman and the Angels, and a full U.S. summer tour was recently announced with several dates slated for venues all around the country.
Tour poster photographed by Maggie St. Thomas & with artwork by Chris Canote.
“Corey’s Heavenly Tour: Angelic 2 The U.S.” kicks off June 9th in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino with Margot Lane featured on the NS NXT4a Electric Violin. She plays on hits from Feldman’s notable movies such as “Stand By Me,” “The Lost Boys” and even “The Goonies.”
Lane is no stranger to the theatrical realm and since moving to Los Angeles has written, performed and recorded soundtracks for film, worked in Asia with the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network and is also currently violinist in the Las Vegas based rock string group Bella Electric Strings. She also has time to lead a heartland rock band called The Grey Birds and Margot Lane.
To kickoff Winter NAMM each year Michael Angelo Batio and Neil Turbin host a metal concert, an artist collective of bands and players that play in benefit to a particular charity. Lane played her NS violin in the 9th Annual N.A.M.M. All-Star Metal Jam in benefit for the Rock Against MS Foundation. Here’s a great shot of her from that show playing her NXTa.
Joining him with an NXT Electric Cello is fellow multi-instrumentalist, composer and tour mate Mark Stewart who has been recording and touring with Paul Simon since the late 1990’s. Stewart is also one of the All-Star musicians inBang on a Can, awarded Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year and heralded as “the country’s most important vehicle for contemporary music” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Mark is also a member of Steve Reich & Musicians and the comic duo Polygraph Lounge with Rob Schwimmer and in 2013 was in a year-long residency at MIT in the Glass Lab teaching students to design and create a glass orchestra.
Photos: Bakithi Kumalo and Mark Stewart in rehearsal for tour with Paul Simon.
Watch: Paul Simon‘s debut performance at Austin City Limits with “Wristband” from his album Stranger to Stranger. The album is described by Andy Greene of Rolling Stone as “an experimental album heavy on echo and rhythm that fuses electronic beats with African woodwind instruments, Peruvian drums, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers.” A great showcase for Kumalo’s talents, who opens this funny song playing his NXT Upright.
Watch: Bass Musician Magazine Interviewwith Bakithi Kumalo in which he describes how he got his start on stage at just 7 years old playing a Gibson bass in his uncle’s band in South Africa; his ultimate respect for finding the tone, the most influential bassists for him and his willingness to share lessons he has learned along the way to a successful career playing his music for audiences around the world. And at 22:00 in this interview…see and hear the slap sound technique he’s having fun with these days on his CR5 RADIUS Bass Guitar, it’s a real treat and is as fun, adventurous and masterful as Kumalo himself. Enjoy!
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.
It is Wednesday, July 27, 2011 and I have my first concert performance today at Interlochen Summer Music Camp with the Intermediate Concert Orchestra. It has been a great 9 days of teaching and rehearsing and I can truly say that my ensemble is ready for their performance. We finally had a rehearsal in the hall yesterday and it really changed the way that the musicians and I heard the ensemble.
If I am honest, the rehearsal in the hall didn’t start out the way I had hoped. I thought that we would run the program, hit some spots, and run the program again. As it turned out, I think the ensemble was a bit overwhelmed by the room, the anxiety of the first performance, and 5 or 6 of their instructors out in the hall, watching the rehearsal, taking notes for me. All of those factors, put together with the general fatigue that they are starting to feel led to a sup-par start. The kids were missing entrances, phasing tempo, missing bowings, and generally freaking out. I have to admit, I was surprised and a bit upset. As a result, I scrapped the “run-through” and just rehearsed. This proved to be much more productive and we were able to “right the ship” and salvage the rehearsal.
For my string educator friends that read this, I want you to know what we are playing and the things that we are focusing on. This is a middle-school group with musicians whose experience and ability ranges from quite high (my concertmaster is working on the Lalo Concerto and many of the students are quite accomplished soloists) to students with very little experience in a serious ensemble with attention to watching, tempo changes, uniform bowing style, etc. I tried to program varied repertoire with lots of opportunities for expression and musicianship. We will start with the Latham Suite for String Orchestra, by Theron Kirk. In the March movement, we focus on “breathing” into beginning of phrases, short sixteenth notes on the hooked bowing, dynamic sustained notes, and energy in general. The Elegy 2nd movement is an opportunity to really emphasize the importance of watching the conductor and huge changes in style within a movement (ranging from very sustained and sad to “incalzando” or “with fire.”) I really stretch and tug the tempo in this one. It takes a huge amount of maturity and patience from each player. The final movement, Finale, is a syncopated dance that requires attention to rhythm and articulation from start to finish. Our second piece is Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Major, arranged by my friend, Tom LaJoie. The kids will perform this work without a conductor and the focus has been on terraced dynamics, intonation, and moving with the music, leading from any and every chair. Next, we will do Percy Fletcher’s Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance. This old string orchestra standard is one of my favorites. The Folk Tune is an opportunity to teach tempo, key, and meter changes within a movement. We have worked on phrasing, dynamics, watching, and many other ensemble techniques in this one. The Fiddle Dance is reminiscent of Copland’s Hoe Down and is simply a blast to perform. Dynamics and drive are paramount in this movement. We will finish with Nanigo, by my friend Tom Sharp. It is cool tune based on West African rhythms. We will be adding a 7-piece authentic African drum section for this one. I will also be joining the group on my 5-string NS Design CR violin, soloing over the last section of the piece. This work starts out “piano” and builds throughout, ending with a huge fortissimo. This is great for teaching a tricky 2 against 3 rhythmic pattern in the context of a really fun work.
We have a short rehearsal this afternoon and a warm-up on stage right before the performance. I am rally psyched for the entire day. I know that it will be great fun. I am so proud of this ensemble. I often say that an ensemble has to do the rigor first. But, when that is accomplished, they then can release any stress and simply play from the heart. This group has done the rigor. I hope that they can play today with joy and expression without losing their attention to detail. I believe that is the key for this group of young musicians today. I know that I will enjoy the ride today, with the knowledge that we have prepared well.
Just a quick note to remind everyone how handy it is to travel with a CR Violin for practice in hotel spaces. I am on the road with my family – heading up to Interlochen, MI to conduct for a few weeks and my 14 year old son will be attending the camp. We spent a night in a hotel in Ann Arbor last night and he wanted to take a few minutes to run over his audition piece for orchestra and seating placement at the camp. We didn’t want to disturb the other guests with his acoustic instrument, so I told him to plug his Ipod headphones into my CR violin. He practiced for about 45 minutes without bothering a soul and felt really good about his preparation.
It is easy to overlook this important feature of the CR series instruments. They sound fantastic in headphones and don’t require any other hardware. All you need is a set of earbuds or headphones with a mini-plug and you are good to go!
I will be posted updates periodically from Interlochen over the next few weeks. So, look for more posts in the near future!
For the past two weeks, I have been teaching at the Lamar Stringfield String Camp at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. It was another great year at Lamar Stringfield with many fantastic moments.
I am frequently asked how I incorporate electric strings into my teaching. This week, at the camp, I programmed a little blues piece as part of the repertoire for the “Haydn” Orchestra which consists of students from 4th grade through 8th grade. As part of the performance, I brought in professionals to play guitar and drums and I played my CR violin. I had the kids play through the piece 2 times and on the second pass, the guitarist (my friend and colleague, Todd Miller from Apex, NC High School) and I took turns improvising over the chart. As part of the rehearsals, I also took the opportunity to have a 20 minute Q and A session with the kids on electric violins, how they work, and how to play them. I was thrilled to tell them all about the WAV Violin and the NXT Instruments as well. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone. The students really took to the style, especially when we added the drums and the performance was really successful. The linked video will give you a good idea of how things went.
I encourage string educators to give something like this a try. Regardless of whether you do classical, jazz, bluegrass, or some other style of music with your orchestra, the NS Family of Instruments are perfect for this type of performance. And, I guarantee, your students want to not only see you perform, but perform with you as well.
This week, I have been at the American String Teacher’s National Conference in Kansas City. It has been a fabulous week of instructional seminars, exhibits, and networking for string educators and students around the from around the United States and even some from around the world. Electric bowed strings are always a big part of this conference and this year was no different. The conference included a huge “Eclectic Strings Festival” that focused on jazz, rock, and other “Alt” Styles. Several NS Design dealers were featured in the exhibit hall with booths. It was a great week and NS Design was certainly a big part of it! There was certainly a fantastic “buzz” around the NS Design products and educational possibilities.
Scott with the guys from Electric Violin Shop at the ASTA Exhibits
I performed last weekend with the Carolina Cool Jazz Orchestra in Spartanburg, SC and this was one of my solo tunes. In this song, I create a loop with my guitar and a Lexicon Jamman and then solo with my NS CR Series violin. I hope you enjoy this. I wrote this song for my 8 year old son, Joseph.
This weekend, I will be performing at the Durham (NC) Performing Arts Center as part of a pit orchestra for a school district-wide show choir gala called “Evening of Entertainment.” The pit for this show traditionally uses professional musicians from all around NC. This year, a few high school students will be joining the pit, including a violinist from my school (NC School of Science and Math) This is a huge venue and the sound guys were planning to simply mic up the acoustic violins. I suggest that they let us use NS violins for the performance. I put a Wav violin into my student’s hands yesterday and we have a rehearsal today. I’ll be playing my CR for the show. The show is tomorrow night. I am certain that the NS violins will prvide a more consistent tone and volume and be able to compete with the huge brass section, rhythm section, etc.
The student violinist couldn’t believe how comfortable the Wav was to play. She was initially concerned with the learning curve of getting used to the instrument. Once she played a bit, she was sold. I will update this after the rehearsal today and again after the performance. I can’t wait to showcase the instruments!
Post rehearsal update: Rehearsal today was great. The brass section thought the electrics sounded great. Blend was fantastic and everyone agreed that the NS instruments would be a better choice than the acoustics miked up. My student loved the Wav violina and played great today. She really liked the dots on the fingerboard and used them for some precarious sections when she had to start out of nowhere on a high G. The visual reference was a great help. All in all, the NS instruments were a big hit and will definitely be used tomorrow for the show!
Post performance update: The performance went great! We heard reallypositive reviews from so many folks. I think my favorite was from a string player friend of mine that came to the pit during intermission to congratulate us on the violin solo on the tune “Mona Lisa.” We were chatting and she looked over at the NS violin and asked when we were going to play it. I told her that I had been playing it the entire first half of the show. She couldn’t believe that we were playing electrics. She had no idea. What a testimony to the tone quality of the violin! After the show, the arrangeer for most of the music stopped me, to once again, tell me how much he liked the sound of the NS violins. After the show, my student told me that she “just has to have one of those!” Bottom line, this was a huge success.