NS iNSight – Chats With Champions – Ned Steinberger

NS Design’s founder and legendary instrument designer Ned Steinberger was invited as a featured speaker at the Skidompha Library “Chats With Champions” series this past month in co-sponsorship with Sherman’s Bookstore in Damariscotta, Maine.

In the talk titled “Trial, Error and Invention” Ned discusses the evolution of his life’s work from his childhood passion for woodworking, early career as a furniture designer interested in ergonomic design challenges and the path that ultimately unfolded for the state-of-the-art innovations he brings to the musical instrument world.

Ned describes his forays into business, his early collaborations with Stuart Spector, meeting Les Paul for the first time, and the trials and tribulations of his process for finding the optimal sound potential of an instrument as it relates to its design and construction.

Guest guitarist, David Martin provides examples of the sonic variations and technological advances that make Ned’s instruments so exciting and versatile for players and listeners alike.

For more interviews and discussions with Ned, please visit the Interviews link on our website or go to the NS Design YouTube channel linked here.


The Levin Brothers Band on tour!

The Levin Brothers Band are on tour now.  With bassist Tony Levin and his brother Pete Levin on keyboard along with fellow bandmates sax player Erik Lawrence and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel, the band have select dates on the U.S. East Coast and in South America this Spring.

Playing the classic retro sound of the Afro-Cuban influenced jazz referenced from Tony and Pete’s childhood this combo is sure to please!

Check out Tony stretching his wings on the NS Cello and NS Bass on the first single from their debut album: “Not So Square Dance”

Click here for a recap of Tony and Pete’s appearance at the NS Design booth during Winter NAMM 2015.

For more information on the Levin Brothers visit their website at:  http://thelevinbrothers.com


NS Artist Abi Loutoo – Fusing Music and Dance with her NXTa Cello

NS Artist Abi Loutoo is a prodigious cellist and multidisciplinary artist. Her performances combine movement and music with an energy that excites the eye, ear and heart.

At only five years old, after piano failed to spark her interest, Abi started playing the cello. Within five years she had played for Robert Cohen and appeared on television with Yo-Yo Ma in a Master Class at the World Cello Congress.

Studying both dance and cello simultaneously gave her unique insight into how each artform complements the other. “I learned how dancers and musicians feel music differently. The beat divisions in music can be perceived as the human heart while the cello is the instrument closest to the human voice.” Her combinations of the two are deeply felt, as is her belief that each discipline depends on the other. “Every dancer should take up an instrument and every musician should go to dance classes—the two need one another to survive.”

The NS Design NXTa Electric Cello is the perfect instrument for Abi to combine her two loves. The NS cello with the Frame Strap System frees the player from the stand or chair. The mobility has allowed Abi to explore the connections between her music and her dance in ways that would be impossible with a traditional cello.

Likewise, the ability to experiment with amps and effects pedals has broadened her artistic horizons. Her rig is simple, a VOX AD30VT and an amp. The versatility and portability of this system mean more opportunities for her career: “I wanted to make myself a part of any type of band in any genre, be able to travel easily without sacrificing sound quality, have a more ergonomic set up, be able to combine movement with playing and last but certainly not least, help protect the environment.”

In much of her work and life, Abi commits to improving the environment. The capacitor system in NS Design’s NXTa Cello gives her the power of an active pickup while eliminating the need for on-board batteries. “NS Design is at the forefront of string instruments. The eco-friendly charge of the NXTa, along with its clear tone and portability, make it a must have.”

As might be expected of such a diverse talent, Abi’s influences span the musical spectrum. “I love playing hip-hop fusion with many different genres—be they electronic, R& B, jazz, soul, hints of classical, or gospel. As long as I am playing music, I’m having fun!”

Now recording and performing under the name “Abi-L-ity”, Abi is currently at work on a new EP. She just finished a project with DWayne Saint Orbin Bennett. She also continues to work closely with band mate Eddy Bayes, and is in collaboration with Joni Fatora, The Gallactic Effect among other artists.

For more information, news and videos of Abi’s work and collaborative efforts, visit her website www.abi-l-ity.com.


Watching for Foxes – Spring Tour 2017

NS Cellist Geoffrey Kartes leads Michigan’s indie-rock outfit Watching for Foxes on the 2017 Spring Tour supporting their debut album Undone Bird.”

“Watching For Foxes make every song feel like it’s that half-triumphant, half-weary, all-around cathartic march up the hilly knoll towards the unknowable-yet-still-hope-splashed horizon, as if every song were the build up to the closing credits of the indie-arthouse film of the story to your life. ” – Jeff Milo (Detroit Free Press, PASTE) – DEEP CUTZ

Check out their video from Session LIV performing the single “Bad Kids”:

“Arguably the band with the most buzz…This folk-rock ensemble out of Grand Rapids has crafted a cinematic showcase of emotion packed with as many memorable hooks as it has moving, existential passages.” – REVUE MAGAZINE

Here’s “Built Broken | Sofar Cleveland”:

“We love playing music together and we want this to be our entrance into doing music for a living; we work really hard at what we do. Our songs yearn to be heard, to tell our stories, and inspire others to do the same.”

Kartes moonlights as a teacher and shares his passion for music with his students at the Triumph Music Academy in Grand Rapids, MI.  He also has time to run a multimedia design company two9two.  He plays the current model of the NXT Electric Cello with an NXT Cello Tripod Stand and for added mobility during performances he uses the Frame Strap System. NS Design’s recently released version is the very popular NXTa Electric Cello and is part of the comprehensive NXTa eco-friendly active series instrument line.

Catch Watching for Foxes Spring Tour from late March through May 2017.

 


NS Artist Jacob Collier recieves two Grammy Awards.

Congratulations to NS Artist Jacob Collier on his 2017 Grammy Awards.

Jacob was awarded 2017 Grammy Awards in the Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella category for “You And I” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier) and Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals for “Flintstones”  — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier).

Here is what some of Jazz’s greatest legends are saying about Jacob and his amazing vision and gift!

“I’ve never heard anybody like that before, his talent is just frightening.”  – Quincy Jones

“Herbie Hancock says he’s an incredible pianist, Nathan East says he’s a fantastic bassist and Quincy says he’s an amazing singer who can it high notes like Michael Jackson but also has an incredible deep bass.”  – Billboard Magazine

“The 21-year-old’s one-man show defied both natural and long-established music laws, as he conjured any sound his imagination fancied on a variety of live-sampled percussion, keyboard and stringed instruments which were looped sonically and visually. This was topped by his multiplied vocals across a four-and-a-half octave range from bass to mezzo soprano creating a thick wall of layered rhythmic and melodic sound and images that swirled together to form an electrifying symphonic stew of breathless jazz, funk, pop, electronic, a cappella and more.” – Billboard

“The split screen YouTube videos that brought Jacob Collier to fame are feats of extraordinary talent and ambition. The byzantine arrangements, on which Collier plays every instrument and sings a choir’s worth of vocal parts, are astounding enough when delivered from his home studio in North London. So to attempt to recreate these arrangements live, seems near Icarus-like in aspiration. Yet in his solo show at the Brooklyn Bowl, Collier flies uninhibited to dizzying musical heights, delighting an audience attentive to his every note.” – London Jazz News – Review of Jacob Collier at the Brooklyn Bowl

Jacob Collier and his One-Man Live Show Creature is a truly amazing musical experience, performed live using looping and harmonizing technology.  Check out this live video from a performance of his original composition “Don’t You Know” Live @ Village Underground, London.

See more of Jacob’s amazing arrangements and videos and catch him on tour at http://www.jacobcollier.co.uk

Jacob plays the NXT Electric Upright Bass. NS Design’s new NXTa EUB is part of the eco-friendly NXTa active series instrument line. With many models and versions to choose from, the NXTa series is an extraordinary option for a variety of players in any performance setting.   thinkNS.com

 


NS Violinist Kate Liebisch “Umbriel” with Winterhymn releases a Mighty single

“Dream of Might”  is the newest release by Winterhymn from their current album Blood & Shadow.  It is a thrilling metal epic that ardent fans of progressive metal will love.

Featuring NS Design Violinist Umbriel (aka Kate Liebisch) this driving masterpiece “weaves soaring, epic, majestic progressive pagan folk metal elements with haunting violin and symphonic melodies.” – New Noise Magazine

For upcoming tour dates and more about Ubriel and Winterhym check out their website at www.winterhymn.net

Umbriel’s violin is the NS WAV, an exciting and affordable electric violin with great performance features, color finish options and a variety of available accessories.  The WAV is an ideal choice for any player who wants freedom, comfort and durability while exploring the world of electric and amplified sound.  thinkNS.com

 

 


NS Design announces the new NXTa Active series.

NXTa logo white large

72dpi NXT4-DB-SB SideBody c

The NXT Series Goes Active and Stays Green!

With the launch of the new NXTa series, Ned Steinberger and NS Design herald the introduction of battery-free, high performance active electronics for the full family of NXT instruments. These include the violin, viola, cello, Omni bass and double bass. The new capacitor-powered custom circuitry, designed for NS Design by Mi-Si Electronics Design, integrates with the NS Polar Pickup System to provide two distinct signal output modes, bringing the convenience, versatility and performance capability of the NXT to another level.

Operationally, for Active mode, the user plugs the supplied charger into an AC outlet for 60 seconds to power the circuit for up to 16 hours of performance time. The instrument can then plug straight into any amp, low or high impedance, no direct box necessary. Since there is no signal loss over the full frequency spectrum of the instrument, the fundamentals of every note remain clear and strong, even with extra-long cables.

In Passive mode, as with the original NXT series, the NXTa can be used with an amplifier with a high impedance input, or with any amplifier using a direct box. In either mode, an important facet of the NXTa circuitry is “eco-friendliness” and convenience. NXTa instruments are still “green” and battery-free, eliminating the hassle and cost of batteries while helping protect our environment.

 Michael Ioffe of Mi-Si with NS Design's Ned Steinberger and the new NXTa Active instruments

Michael Ioffe of Mi-Si with NS Design’s Ned Steinberger and the new NXTa Active instruments

Michael Ioffe, co-founder of Mi-Si (www.mi-si.com), comments “We are very honored to work with Ned Steinberger. We feel that we share the same design philosophy, it’s all about elegance and simplicity.” At the heart of all Mi-Si products is Mi-Si’s patented, battery-free technology which utilizes supercapacitors rather than conventional rechargeable batteries as energy storage elements. Mi-Si minimalistic design philosophy results in clean sound, high power efficiency, low weight, small dimensions, and elegant, environmentally friendly solution to onboard amplification.

72dpi NXT4-VN-SB Front Flat c

Created by Ned Steinberger, the NXT family of NS Design instruments, along with the advanced CR series, is crafted in the Czech Republic. Ned’s instruments are distributed worldwide and have become a mainstay for countless professional artists around the globe. For more information about our instruments and the players who use them, visit thinkNS.com.

The NXTa will be available in September 2016


Confessions of an NS Design-Loving Traditionalist

Reed Jones 1a

 

Convenience is an idol, and I have no desire to worship at its altar.  I don’t own an iPod, I prefer my 78 RPM records played on my vintage tube phonograph.  I don’t own a coffee maker, I would rather use my french press, or better yet, I would rather make a cup of pour over that would change your life, not just your morning beverage preferences.  But I know what you’re thinking:  “Good for you.  You and the rest of your little hipster buddies may not worship at the altar of convenience, but you love to sacrifice to the gods of high-horse traditionalism.”  Maybe, but not so fast.

I may be an old soul and I may love doing things the old fashioned way (I am a bluegrass player, after all), but to be more accurate, I do what I do because I want the best results.  That often means suffering for art’s sake, but other times it means bucking tradition, and when it comes to playing bass in a bluegrass band, it means you have to Think NS.

Bluegrass has always had its growing pains, and I am an ardent supporter of traditional bluegrass done with the spirit and hunger of the pioneers.  I like my bluegrass raw, in your face, powerful, edgy, and imperfect.  I don’t like pickups on guitars, mandolins, banjos, or fiddles.  It is less convenient to mic them, but if you’re playing grass, it’s the only way.  It is what works.  And not only am I a traditionalist in that regard, I play in Audie Blaylock and Redline, and I defy you to call us anything other than a modern bluegrass band in the traditional mold.  Audie spent nine years honing his craft alongside first generation legend and King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin; and while studying at the University of Old School Bluegrass (how wish that institution actually existed), Audie graduated with honors.  In fact, he now teaches the classes.  So why then are we (Professor Blaylock included) unwavering supporters and users of the NS Design upright basses?  Well I’ll tell you one thing:  it ain’t for the convenience.

It went like this.  I was hired at the end of 2010 to play in Audie’s band, and I started our travels together with my lifetime bass:  my 1938 King.  That bass rocks.  I recorded I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky with it and it can be heard on #1 singles.  But I needed something more conducive to travel for some upcoming shows out west, so I started working with NS.  It was way more convenient.  Then our record label at the time was recording a project at Bean Blossom, and if we were recording, I needed my King.  I played our first set with my traditional upright and was faced with obvious realization that my King (or any double bass, for that matter) was not what worked.  I put the King in its bag where it rested comfortably while the NS and I took care of business on the second set.  That felt better.

Shortly thereafter we were headed into the studio to record a song I wrote for a Travel Channel series, so I loaded up the King and the NS (for the shows we had to play following the session, not for the session itself) and headed to Nashville.  The King never left its case.  In fact, we just recorded a new record called The Road That Winds that will officially drop on July 10, and the NS is all over it.  I would love for you to hear how good the NS sounds in that environment.  I had the option of recording with a traditional upright, in fact doing so wouldn’t have been inconvenient, but the NS sounds like what a bass in a bluegrass setting should sound like and rarely does.  It is fat, punchy, consistent, and clean. It is immediate and unambiguous.  As Audie says, “It is a bag full of hammers,”  and that’s a great thing.  All you have to do is roll off the tone and put a little foam under the strings at the bridge (foam, by the way, is regularly used by grassers on upright basses in recording situations, so nothing shocking or innovative about that) and you have what uprights wished they sounded like.

 

Reed Jones 6a

To sum it all up, I want to sell you on two things.  First, check out Audie Blaylock and Redline’s upcoming record The Road That Winds on Patuxent Records.  We are crazy-proud of it and I know you’ll love it…the NS, too.  Secondly, NS Design basses are not just for convenience in the bluegrass world.  I want to hold them up to you as all around, first-in-line instruments that are not just designed for the road.  They do that better than any other option, but they are much more.  Consider stepping out of your comfort zone just for a second, and you’ll realize they should be used in the studio, as well.  Especially in traditional bluegrass.  Who is the strident traditionalist now?

Proof:

Audie Blaylock and Redline doing a Bill Monroe tune with twin fiddles.  Does it get more traditional?  Nope.  NS included.

Reed Jones is the bassist for Audie Blaylock and Redline and composer for film and television.


NS iNSight – A Perfect Fit

 

RADIUS Users cover

Music instrument aesthetics are rarely, if ever, considered from a scientific point of view. Yet for industrial designers and architects, form must meet function. And there is a lot of science and technology to apply in this way.

While technique for playing bass is often the subject of passionate discussion, and there are varying theories (plectrum, fingers, slap, tap, Simandl method, one note per fret method, etc.) the design of the instrument itself has a lot to do with the overall playability of the bass and the ability of the player to successfully use those techniques. When the very first electric bass was created it was just a squared, slab of wood with no cuts or rounded/beveled edges. Ergonomics took a backseat to sound production. And while there were changes over the years, they were an answer to specific player issues and ideas rather than a look directly at design. Even today, most of the emphasis and science in the music instrument industry goes into the materials and electronics of the instruments. Guitar and bass aesthetics are merely a function of what is pleasing or challenging to the eye.

RADIUS blueprint cover

Ned Steinberger is synonymous with innovative headless instruments. Yet it is not as well known that Ned designed the body of one of the most iconic basses of all time, the Spector NS-2 bass. Yes, the NS stands for Ned Steinberger. As a furniture designer and builder specializing in chairs, Ned understood that function and form are all essential to an aesthetically pleasing, yet functional piece of furniture. And it was in that Brooklyn co-op that he shared with some up and coming guitar and bass builders where he first applied those principles to music instruments. In collaboration with Stuart Spector, he designed something radical for the time, a rounded, radiused bass body with cuts and carves that naturally fell against the body of the player, making the bass exponentially more comfortable and easier to play. His body shape has been copied numerous times over the years, by some of the world’s largest guitar manufacturers.

With the NS Design Radius Bass, Ned uses ergonomic science and technology and has taken the body contour to a whole new level. While maintaining and refining the back body curve cut so that the bass lies on the player’s body comfortably, the front of NS Diradial™ Body has a 20 inch radius, which, in combination with the general wedge shape of the body, shifts it into more comfortable orientation for the right and left hand. The slight wedge shape of the body tilts the body and neck slightly inward so the fingerboard is more visible to the player, and the concave curve on the back of the body creates a more stable platform. The radius of the bass is continued along the entire body, to include pickups and bridge, to optimize the playability and comfort of the bass.

 

CR RADIUS butt

The pictures show how the radius has been built into the bass. Built in based on technology.

Simple, yet intuitive. Form, science, and engineering meeting function.


NS Insight: Highs & Lows

NS Insight: Highs & Lows

There’s a reason why professional bass players love the big, punchy low end and the glistening highs & harmonics of an NS Bass. Here’s what’s going on:

Human hearing is naturally strong in the mids (roughly between 1 and 5 kHz, the vocal frequency range), but drops off at higher and lower frequencies. Most instruments, including basses, have a matching problem producing sound: strong in the mids but tapering off at both ends of the sound spectrum where a great deal of important tone content resides. This is usually compensated for with equalization, boosting the highs and lows, suppressing the mids. However, that signal processing comes at a price: loss of quality and clarity.

Highs and Lows graphic

How are we different? One of the features of every NS bass is the Polar™ pickup system. Unlike an ordinary pickup, the Polar pickup doesn’t lose sensitivity above or below the midrange. The piezo technology embedded at the base of bridge harnesses the entire range of frequencies your strings produce – with full fidelity, and full force. And your ears can definitely hear the difference.


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.

Cellos

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


10 Practical Strategies at ASTA

Back in the middle of March, I had the opportunity to present an educational session to attendees of the American String Teachers Association National Conference in Louisville.  The session, entitled, “10 Practical Strategies for Incorporation Electric Bowed Strings into the Music Classroom,” is designed to give teachers some simple ideas for getting your string players’ hands onto these great musical instruments.  Ultimately, I believe that  young musicians’ creativity will be jump-started with electric strings and, in the end, the will be better musicians for the experience.  Teachers can tend to be cautious with technology, so I wanted to give them some super-practical ideas for putting this technology to good use.

There were about 50 folks in attendance and the energy in the room was great.  There were lots of questions and ideas throughout the session.  I had a ton of video to show and every suggestion that I made, was something that I have done in the past.  We had vibrant conversations about harmonics and overtones,  performance ideas, the exceptional tone quality of NS Instruments and their blend with acoustic instruments, practical assessment, and a variety of other topics.  In all, the day was a great success and NS Design continued to shine as the worlds leader when it comes to education and electric bowed strings!

Here is the outline from the session: 

10 Practical Strategies for Incorporating Electric Strings intoYour Classroom 

Scott D. Laird

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

laird@ncssm.edu

ASTA Conference

March 2013 

  1. New twist on traditional repertoire
    1. Try playing Bach Partitas on your CR 5 String!
  2. Enhance other ensembles
    1. Double Bass with band or jazz band
    2. Cello as bassoon
    3. Pit Orchestra – amplify your string section
  1. With rock bands
    1. talent shows, extra-curricular, FUN!
  1. Violin quartet  – (2 violins w/ traditional strings and tuning, one violin with viola strings, on violin with viola strings and a dropped octave pitch shift to cover cello parts)
  1. Direct recording (assessment and creativity)
    1. Audacity
    2. Other Wave Editors
    3. Step Sequencers – I love FLStudio as a sequencer and then add electric violin
  1. Technology education  (National Standard)
    1.  frequency, equalization, amplification, efx processing
  1. Composition (National Standard)
    1. Writing with  5 string
    2. Triads
    3. Melody and pedal tone
  1. Rockestra
    1. ASTA Curriculum Scope and Sequence 2A and @B: Tonal and rhythmic Aural skills and Ear Training
    2. Students listen to pop and rock music and create arrangements exclusively by ear
  1. Simple amplification (Use them for National Anthem at sporting events and other school-wide functions)
  1. Improv education   (National Standard)
    1. With jazz orchestra
    2. Looping or delay
    3. Band in a box
  2. Silent practice (with CR Instruments)
  3. Transposed for covering wind parts

 


The NS WAV Violin at Marshall Music Co. in Traverse City, MI

Hi all –

I am conducting again this summer in Michigan at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan.  It has been a great start to the summer and we are looking forward to lots of good times and music this summer.  I had a chance to play my CR Violin for an art exhibit opening here at the Interlochen Campus last Thursday and am sure there will be plenty of other opportunities to break out the electrics.  This afternoon, my son and I stumbled into Marshall Music Company in Traverse City Michigan (www.marshallmusic.com) and had a cool encounter with Dave Weber and all of the folks at Marshall Music.  It turns out that they have an NS Design Wave violin out on the floor and are super excited about the NS Design line of products.  I took the opportunity to touch base with Dave about a bunch of ideas about amps that work great with the wave, as well as some tone quality and efx processing ideas. I also shared some ideas about the videos on D’Addario Bowed’s Youtube site.   Thanks to Dave and everyone at Marshall Music for making me, my son Matt, and my whole family feel so welcome!

Dave Weber at Marshall Music, Traverse city, MI

 

Scott Laird performing at Interlochen Arts Camp, 2012


Thom Sharp’s Nanigo with Solo Electric Violin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey all –

For you string teachers out there:  How about trying the tune based on West African rhythms called Nanigo, by Thom Sharp (Latham Music)  with percussion section and electric violin?  I did this piece at Interlochen last week and it was a huge success!  This week, I will be doing his “Samba Me This” along with an improvised solo on soprano sax by my friend, David Kaye.  Thom’s charts are really well done and can be performed with or without improvised solos.  They almost all can can effectively incorporate electric violin.  I encourage you all to take a minute and check out Thom’s stuff!

All the best.

Scott


Concert Day!

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.

 

I’ll let you know tomorrow how it went!

 

Peace.

Scott


CR Violin in hotel room

Hey all –

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!

Peace.

Scott


Strings Without Boundaries

Hi All.

On Tuesday, June 28, I was in Pittsburgh, PA, at Duquesne University, representing NS Design at the Strings Without Boundaries Workshop. This is a great workshop each summer and I was really pleased to be there.  As part of the day, I gave 3 presentations.

First, I had the opportunity to speak with the teacher-track students at the conference.  This was essentially a Q and A session and we touched on the topics of recruitment for school programs using bowed electrics, the importance of good monitoring for dynamic performances, setting up electric ensembles, and the differences between active and passive instruments.  Next, I gave an elective session for students on the nuts and bolts of amplification.  Here, we covered some of the same topics for a totally different set of students.  These included monitoring, speaker size, speaker placement, use of DI boxes and preamps and other amplification-related topics.  Finally, I finished the day with an elective session of effects-processing.  In this session, we really got into the nitty-gritty of reverbs, time-based effects (delays, chorus, and flangers), filter effects (phasers and wah-wahs), harmonizers and pitch shifters, looping, and distortion.  We covered a bunch of vocabulary and parameters of all of these great effects as well as practical uses of all of them.  If you would like to see some of my sessions on effects, check out thelessonroom.com and search “electric violins”.

All in all, Strings Without Boundaries is a great event and if you are interested in expanding your improvising and alt styles skills, I highly recommend this event.  Special thanks to Julie Lyon Lieberman and Stephen Benham for inviting me to be part of the faculty this year!

Peace.

Scott


Great week at ASTA in Kansas City

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

 

Scott and Dalton Potter from Potter's Violins

A student tries out the new NXT Cello

 


Theresa Jenkins-Russ and Carolina Cool Jazz Orchestra

Theresa Jenkins-Russ and the Carolina Cool Jazz OrchestraHere at NS Design, we are really pleased to welcome Theresa Jenkins-Russ as a pioneer in our NS Design Artist/Educator program.    Theresa is a string and orchestra teacher in the Spartanburg, SC School District, Artistic Director of the Carolina Cool Jazz Orchestra, and President-Elect of the South Carolina Chapter of the American String Teachers Association.  Theresa is a fixture on the national string education scene, presenting sessions at numerous national conferences and is known for her work in the “Alternative Styles” world of string ed and for her work in promoting minority composers and musicians. At the recent ASTA national conference in Santa Clara, she presented a session on programming multicultural orchestral literature and conducted the alt styles new music reading session.  Her group, The Carolina Cool Jazz Orchestra, is a professional performing group in Spartanburg that brings together musicians of a variety of ages and experience levels to perform primarily great jazz literature.  They frequently feature guest soloists and are committed to promoting string instruments as an integral component of the jazz scene.  Recent soloists have included Matt Turner, Martin Norgaard, Joe Dread, and me.

Theresa is now performing on the NS Design Wav violin and absolutely loves it.  We had the pleasure of spending a good deal of time with her at the NS Design Booth at ASTA and look forward to a long and productive relationship.  Congratulations, Theresa, on all of your good work!!


Midwest Clinic Notes – Tuesday

Hi all.
Today, I am the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. It is one of the largest annual gatherings of music educators and music companies. If you are a music educator and have never been to this event, it is really worth the effort to get here at some point.

The string education sessions began this morning with a nice breakfast gathering that was sponsored by the Kjos Publishing Company. It was a really nice event and I had the opportunity to reconnect with many friends from around the country. I was particularly pleased to reconnect with Marvin Rabin, one of the true pioneers in the string ed field. He paved the way for so many of us that are making our careers in public school string education and at age 93, is really getting around well. I had the chance to thank him for the impact he has had on my career. For those of you that are familiar with some of my web-teaching, he planted the seeds for many of the concepts that I teach using finger patterns. (major scales and upper positions) You can see these concepts put to use  soon on the D’Addario site: www.thelessonroom.com. I believe that they will be posted very soon.

I also had the opportunity to see Mark O’Connor present a session on his new O’Connor Violin Method. It is available exclusively through Shar Music. I think that he has hit on something really effective here and applaud his efforts to be innovative in the traditional world of string education. There were several performances by students that have studied with Mark in various capacities over the years and they were all fantastic. I am going to check this method out very closely and try it out with my own sons.

Tomorrow, I will be giving a session with Doris Gazda, Matt Turner, Sean O’Laughlin, and Larry Clark. This session is sponsored by Carl Fischer Music and, as always, D’Addario Strings and NS Design are supporting me in this session. This session is called “Teaching the Nitty Gritty: Who Has Time for Anything More?” and will cover a variety of topics related to technique, literature and enrichment to traditional skills in the string classroom. I think that this will be a lively panel discussion and look forward to sharing this platform with my friends.  I will certainly have the opportunity in the session to discuss the way that I incorporate electric string technology and NS Design Instruments into my classroom teaching and guest conducting appearances.  I am always proud to be a representative of NS Design to the great music education community.

Meanwhile, I have just enjoyed a lunch in my room while jotting down this post. Time to head back over to the conference to get more new ideas! More later…

Peace.
Scott