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May 19, 2017

The Caswell’s ‘Premium Bond’ Giveaway FULL WINNERS LIST

The Caswell’s ‘Premium Bond’ Giveaway FULL WINNERS LIST

We’re pleased to announce the Full and Final winners list for our daily prize draw throughout May.

Winners will receive their prize by the end of June.

Congratulations to the following:

Order number Customer Surname Prize won
121222 Crawford, York £150
120935 Siney, Yorkshire £50
121205 Burnett, Glasgow £50
120993 Price, Kent £25
120853 Arlidge, Birmingham £25
121118 Quarmby, Ripley £25
120877 Van der Linden, Bristol £5
121032 Belcher, Suffolk £5
120844 Lodhia, Leicstershire £5
121024 Cottam, Carmarthenshire £5
120962 Talbot, ROI £5
120940 Murray, Surrey £5
121073 Kolka, Leicestershire £5
120936 Khan, Beckenham £5
120989 Doyle, Kinross £5
121096 Russell, Glasgow £5
120903 Cornford, Buckinghamshire £5
120926 Dutton, Suffolk £5
121022 Lindley, Durham £5
121000 Harper, East Lothian £5
121077 Kroon, London £5
121117 Hunt, Hampshire £5
121139 Roxburgh, Perthshire £5
121145 Leong, Leighton Buzzard £5
121184 Carroll, Devon £5
121182 Lee, Southampton £5
121240 Wong, London £5
121268 Webster, Cornwall £5
121244 Lawson, Essex £5
121251 Heald, Nantwich £5
121235 Chapman, Cardiff £5
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June 16, 2017

So you need a new Cello bow?

So you need a new Cello bow?

From the start let me say that this article is intended for advancing players rather than professionals. We have musicians coming from all over the UK looking for the perfect bow – they spend hours testing, feeling, listening. These are bows from £1500 upwards!

So, you have upgraded your Cello, got your merit or distinction in grade 4/5 and your teacher has advised you to get a new bow! One that will take you through to grade 8 and beyond. And how important that is – the bow becomes almost an extension to your right hand and is the ‘heart’ of the richness of the sound that you dream of and want to achieve.

First off make an appointment with a reputable dealer to try out some bows and, if possible, with your teacher.  The choice is, however, an intensely personal one because the bow must suit your playing style and ‘feel’ right with balance and weight. Only you can gauge that, but by including your teacher or a more advanced friend it will give you more confidence and help you to come to a right decision.

Some characteristics of a Cello Bow

First off is the weight of the bow.  This can vary from about 65 grams to over 80 grams, and this can make a considerable difference – particularly if you are of a small or petite build! Heavier bows can be tiring to play for extended periods, but on the other hand can help to produce more sound with less effort. Lighter bows are more maneuverable, but could require additional effort to produce a sustained forte. The shop should be able to actually weigh the bows and sort them into weight order for you.

The next most important factor to look for is balance and at the same time to feel the ‘sweet spot’ of the bow.  Draw the bow across the strings from tip to frog and get a feel for the balance. A cello bow with a balance point closer to the tip will tend to feel heavy, whilst a balance point closer to the frog may feel lighter. Both may affect your ability to produce substantial tone or volume – what feels right for you is the critical quality.

Next check for strength and flexibility. Again, the result you want may be a compromise! An over rigid bow may have a very fast response, but could produce a thin superficial sound, whereas the softer flexible bows produce richer tones, but at the expense of the response. You will quickly find just the right feel for yourself that is suitable to your playing style

What is the bow made of?

At this point the input from your teacher or friend is helpful – although any reputable bow shop will have guaranteed these features beforehand.

Except for most ‘student’ quality bows, any cello bow costing over £250 should be made of genuine Pernambuco wood – the accepted material which has been used for many years. Of recent years Carbon fibre or synthetic bows have become popular – but that is another story! In fact, a good carbon fiber cello bow can possess many of the qualities of a good Pernambuco bow. The stick itself can be shaped as round or octagonal; which is more cosmetic than practical, – although some consider the octagonal stick to be stiffer.

The ‘frog’, which is the part you grip under your hand, is usually made of Ebony with various decorations such as inlaid mother-of-pearl. It also includes the adjusting screw to slacken or tighten the horse hair. It is unusual or even illegal to use tortoise shell or ivory these days. The grip is often made of silver wire, silk or “whalebone” – all of which you must consider what is the most comfortable for you. They don’t materially affect the sound.

The tip of a cello bow is usually made of plastic, unless you are considering an antique bow, because older material such as ivory are now banned.

Decision time

All things considered you have gone to a reputable dealer who offers a large choice, who guarantees his bows and even offers a free annual service – so the next most important thing is yourself. You have tested 20 bows, narrowed it down to 4, considered all the factors above and have got to the point of decision! At that point intuition is often the deciding factor – or take the four on approval and test them in your own environment and acoustics.

In the end the bow will choose you!

So you need a new Cello bow?

From the start let me say that this article is intended for advancing players rather than professionals. We have musicians coming from all over the UK looking for the perfect bow – they spend hours testing, feeling, listening. These are bows from £1500 upwards!

So, you have upgraded your Cello, got your merit or distinction in grade 4/5 and your teacher has advised you to get a new bow! One that will take you through to grade 8 and beyond. And how important that is – the bow becomes almost an extension to your right hand and is the ‘heart’ of the richness of the sound that you dream of and want to achieve.

First off make an appointment with a reputable dealer to try out some bows and, if possible, with your teacher.  The choice is, however, an intensely personal one because the bow must suit your playing style and ‘feel’ right with balance and weight. Only you can gauge that, but by including your teacher or a more advanced friend it will give you more confidence and help you to come to a right decision.

Some characteristics of a Cello Bow

First off is the weight of the bow.  This can vary from about 65 grams to over 80 grams, and this can make a considerable difference – particularly if you are of a small or petite build! Heavier bows can be tiring to play for extended periods, but on the other hand can help to produce more sound with less effort. Lighter bows are more maneuverable, but could require additional effort to produce a sustained forte. The shop should be able to actually weigh the bows and sort them into weight order for you.

The next most important factor to look for is balance and at the same time to feel the ‘sweet spot’ of the bow.  Draw the bow across the strings from tip to frog and get a feel for the balance. A cello bow with a balance point closer to the tip will tend to feel heavy, whilst a balance point closer to the frog may feel lighter. Both may affect your ability to produce substantial tone or volume – what feels right for you is the critical quality.

Next check for strength and flexibility. Again, the result you want may be a compromise! An over rigid bow may have a very fast response, but could produce a thin superficial sound, whereas the softer flexible bows produce richer tones, but at the expense of the response. You will quickly find just the right feel for yourself that is suitable to your playing style

What is the bow made of?

At this point the input from your teacher or friend is helpful – although any reputable bow shop will have guaranteed these features beforehand.

Except for most ‘student’ quality bows, any cello bow costing over £250 should be made of genuine Pernambuco wood – the accepted material which has been used for many years. Of recent years Carbon fibre or synthetic bows have become popular – but that is another story! In fact, a good carbon fiber cello bow can possess many of the qualities of a good Pernambuco bow. The stick itself can be shaped as round or octagonal; which is more cosmetic than practical, – although some consider the octagonal stick to be stiffer.

The ‘frog’, which is the part you grip under your hand, is usually made of Ebony with various decorations such as inlaid mother-of-pearl. It also includes the adjusting screw to slacken or tighten the horse hair. It is unusual or even illegal to use tortoise shell or ivory these days. The grip is often made of silver wire, silk or “whalebone” – all of which you must consider what is the most comfortable for you. They don’t materially affect the sound.

The tip of a cello bow is usually made of plastic, unless you are considering an antique bow, because older material such as ivory are now banned.

Decision time

All things considered you have gone to a reputable dealer who offers a large choice, who guarantees his bows and even offers a free annual service – so the next most important thing is yourself. You have tested 20 bows, narrowed it down to 4, considered all the factors above and have got to the point of decision! At that point intuition is often the deciding factor – or take the four on approval and test them in your own environment and acoustics.

In the end the bow will choose you!

By Lance

 

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June 02, 2017

Cello by Jenny Bailly

Just picked out a lovely old Cello labelled Jenny Bailly.

Ever heard of Jenny?

She must surely be the very first and most famous female Luthier of the last century. Jenny was the daughter and pupil of the famous Paul Bailly and Henley writes her instruments up – ‘strong tonal qualities – pure and homogeneous’. Her violins are fetching various prices at auction but the top price was about £9000 with others around £5500.

The Cello itself is slight ‘ladies cello’ of a warm golden colour and detailed meticulous workmanship of high standard.

It has two tiny wing cracks and is due into the workshop this month for a complete re-fit. When that is complete we will assess which strings to fit (although I rarely stray from Larsens, except sometimes fitting a Spirocore to the C!) The choice of strings is critical and I’m inclined to try Larsen Magnacore to bring out the mellow brightness which this Cello should be capable of producing.

We’ll keep you all posted

Lance

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June 02, 2017

My string broke days after purchase – is the instrument faulty?

My string broke days after purchase – is the instrument faulty?

We get it frequently: Panic-stricken Cello Mum on the phone – “I have just purchased this cello and the string has snapped. The cello is faulty and I want a replacement!”

Broken strings are a common occurrence, due to a number of reasons:

Firstly, no the cello is not faulty. We do attend to all the details when setting up the instrument but the strings are under immense pressure and sometimes the point of contact on the bridge or the top nut may be the cause of snapping and need a little more attention. This is quickly and easily sorted out.

Secondly, and probably the most common cause of snapping strings is the very excited and eager (understandably!) player overtensioning the string. There is not a lot of room for error and something has to give way.

To start with, if you’re new to the Violin or Viola or Cello, it is really very simply to replace a string. It does look daunting at first but there will be many occasions to practice the technique over the years!

As with all strings, be sure to order the correct size for your instrument: 4/4 is the full size instrument, but all string instruments are made in a range of sizes. Check the label inside your instrument or on the case; it will usually show a size designation such as 4/4, 1/2, 1/8, etc.

Here are some points to note to prevent breaking strings prematurely and to minimize inconvenience when breaks do occur:

  • As a parent, learn to tune the instrument properly. The easiest way to break a string, especially an E string on a violin or an A string on a cello, is to tune it too high. Don’t ask your 7 year old student to perform this operation!
  • Before installing new strings, lubricate the 2 contact points at the bridge and nut of the instrument with a small amount of soft pencil lead.
  • Don’t take all four strings off at the same time. The soundpost in the instrument will fall over and you may have to go in to a luthier. Replace one string at a time maintaining the tension on the others.
  • Where possible use an electronic tuner or a reference point such as a piano when learning how to tune, and then use the fine tuning adjusters to make small adjustments.
  • Practice often, and tune at least once at the beginning of every practice session. A neglected instrument is more likely to lose its tuning more quickly.
  • Purchase quality strings (not just the cheapest) that are correctly sized for your instrument. This gives better tone and are, of course, better quality.
  • Strings do break! Keep a spare set in your case, and perhaps more than one spare for the Violin E string.

The initial set-up of an instrument is of utmost importance. If the bridge, top nut and pegs are not seen to prior to an instrument being sold, there is a good chance it will take its toll on the strings – not to mention affecting the performance of the instrument and player alike!

Instruments must have quality tuning pegs that operate smoothly. Slipping pegs make you tune the strings more frequently, reducing their life and raising the chances of a string snapping.

For more information or guidance, please give us a call on 01280 707140

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June 01, 2017

Vacancy for a Violin teacher at St Faith’s Cambridge

Vacancy for a Violin teacher at St Faith’s Cambridge

St Faith’s, a leading Prep School in Cambridge is looking to appoint a Violin Teacher to join their vibrant Music Department.

The successful applicant will be an outstanding teacher, performer and communicator with the ability to inspire both the exceptionally talented and the less advanced in equal measure.

The Closing date for applications is 10am on Thursday 15th June 2017.

For the full advert and the application form please go direct to the school website here

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May 26, 2017

Humidity and String Instruments

Humidity and String Instruments

Moisture in the air (Humidity) affects the tone and the condition of String instruments because wood is a natural substance and can absorb and adapt to the humidity in the air. When the humidity rises, wood expands and when the humidity drops the wood dries out causing it to shrink. If you are familiar with a Hygrometer, humidity is expressed as a percentage known as ‘relative humidity’ which indicates the level of water vapour held in the air at a specific temperature.  (I’ll spare you the science!)

Violins, Violas, Cellos and Basses can adapt to normal changes in humidity, when the arched shape of the front and back rises and falls as the wood expands and contracts. Extreme changes, however, can be damaging and affect the sound of the instrument or, worse, could cause cracking.

What is the best level of RH for my instrument?

The best humidity is between 40% and 60%. Below 40% is too low for comfort and 20% is dangerous. So what happens?

In dry conditions the front and back can shrink back onto the ends of the sound post, which can change the instruments response from mellow to harsh. If the wood contracts still further, tension within the instrument will build up on the belly and back where the arching is less pronounced causing the outer edges where they join the ribs, to part company. Thus a running opening appears back and front reducing dramatically the sound produced and often accompanied by a rattle or buzz. This is condition which can be resolved but involves a visit to your favourite Luthier – but the obvious short term fix is to raise the humidity (humidify)

A worst case scenario is that, as a result of a sudden and extreme reduction in humidity, cracks form on the front or back. These cracks necessitate the whole back or belly being removed and the cracks repaired and pinned from inside. Other common symptoms of low humidity is a reduction in string heights, buzzing, bridges falling and soundpost dislocation. In conditions of excess humidity (over 60%) instruments can also change as the back and front slacken causing slackening of the strings, loose soundpost and again the bridge could fall. The most hazardous time of year is during the winter months when central heating drives down the humidity lessened by the cold conditions outside. Relative humidity can fall as low as 10-15% in a heated home when the outside temperature is low.

The Answer?

Check your hygrometer regularly, be wary of open fires or radiators which can dry out the air, and if you travel to dry countries buy a humidifier. These can be as simply as a Dampit-type sponge snake filled with water which is fitted into the f-hole, or more sophisticated devices for humidification.

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May 24, 2017

ESTA Summer School 2017

ESTA Summer School 2017

There is an amazing line up for this year’s ESTA summer school, so do come and join us for a truly inspirational week of learning, recharging your batteries, challenging yourself and meeting some fantastic people – all at a great venue too!

Professional development lies at the heart of the European String Teachers Association and each year the Summer School draws together a world-class faculty of teacher-presenters to share experiences and pedagogic insights into teaching and playing string instruments.

2017 promises an inspiring series of workshops, lectures, demonstrations and concerts. Participants range from young professionals to semi-retired players giving a unique mix of experiences and opportunity for sharing of ideas and knowledge. Informal chamber music groups spring up every evening around suppertime and after the concerts.

The programme retains its ever popular Basics (String Pedagogy) classes which take an in depth view of how we play and teach string instruments. Every year these classes take on their own special life as the presenter and participants change and the class evolves to suit everyone’s interests and needs.

Start date: 06/08/2017 3.00 PM
End date: 11/08/2017 3.00 PM

For more information and to book to click here

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May 19, 2017

Are you buying fake strings?

The dangers of buying strings online, unless from a recognised and trusted company!

We have often heard rumours about the infiltration of counterfeit Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass strings being offered online. We mostly presumed that these “counterfeit strings”, had poor packaging that looked like it came out of an Inkjet printer, and obviously cheap strings with noticeably altered thread colourations!

But, as popular brands of strings continued to pop up online at wildly low prices, it was time to do some deep investigating. A prominent string specialist company in the USA called SHAR MUSIC discovered some very troubling facts exposing obviously inferior strings of unknown composition and origin, but with nearly perfect packaging and presentation. SHAR began buying up these strings, dissecting them, showing them to manufacturers, and searching for the source of these fakes, which led them across three continents and deep into the shadowy world of counterfeit products and online marketplaces.

And the shocking truth is that half the major brand strings Shar purchased overseas were counterfeit. But how do these strings find their way to the UK and Europe?

Easy to imitate. Easy to smuggle. Easy to hide the tracks. 

With globally connected markets, it is simple to imagine how these counterfeit strings can deliberately and subtly make their way into the UK, just like many other counterfeit products. A similar problem is “Grey Market” strings, which were intended to be sold in the East, but somehow make their way here.  Shar traced one whole shipment from the manufacturer in the East, to Eastern Europe, to Mexico and finally to the US. They changed hands at each step, so there is no way of telling just how long they took to finally arrive and what may have happened to them along the way.

Sadly, these fake strings soon reveal their true identity when they are installed – through awful tone, falseness, short lifespan, or even high tensions that are dangerous to your instrument.

Here at Caswells Strings all our strings are guaranteed and sourced from the authentic manufacturer and string companies. When we have our own violins made and strung in China, we supply them direct with authentic strings such as the D’Addario Prelude or the Dominant violin strings set

These established string companies, such as Thomastik, Pirastro, D’Addario, Larsen and Jargar to name a few have traditions, histories, and manufacturing processes that in some cases go back centuries. They make strings to exacting tolerances, use pure and ethically sourced materials, follow rigid quality assurance, and offer excellent customer service.

It simply makes sense to purchase strings that you are confident are the original, authentic brand and priced at a reasonable level, which Caswells Strings can guarantee absolutely.

With thanks to Shar Music for granting permission to share this information

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May 15, 2017

The Caswell’s ‘Premium Bond’ Giveaway

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We’re giving away £450 worth of High Street Gift Vouchers in May

How does it work?:

We have 31 prize tokens, one for each day of May

Every day we will have 2 draws:

  • All the online orders from that day will be entered automatically* and 1 order drawn for a prize
  • The remaining number of prize tokens for the month will be entered and a prize amount drawn

Prize tokens:

 1 prize of £150 High Street Voucher

2 prizes of £50 High Street Voucher

3 prizes of £25 High Street Voucher

25 prizes of £5 High Street Voucher

Every order is a winner

  •  On top of that we are giving 5% discount on every online order in May.
  • Enter may17 in the coupon box at the checkout

Follow us on Social Media

The result of the draw will be uploaded on to our social media pages regularly

Visit us to see if you’ve won

 

Terms and Conditions

To be eligible to win one of the daily prizes an online order must be placed and paid for | There is no minimum spend required | Prizes will be distributed 30 days from date of purchase |*If you do not want your order entered into the prize draw, please let us know in the comments box when you order | Discount coupon cannot be used in conjunction with any other discount or offer

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May 12, 2017

Those pesky ‘Wolf notes’

Many a time I have demonstrated Cellos to aspiring Cellists only to get the teacher on the Cello and ‘woowowo’ – out pops the Wolf!

The teacher understands, because Wolf notes are a fact of life, even with the best and most expensive Cellos, but the affect on the student and parents is always interesting.

While the warble can migrate and come from almost anywhere, it most commonly lurks on the 4th position on the G string. By sliding your finger somewhere between the E and G you can often pick up the Wolf. Other common positions are high on the C string and first position on the D. On a recent £2000 Cello we were unlucky enough to pick up one on the A string – but which was successfully slain!

So what can I do to mitigate the ‘Wolf note’?

It is a fact that some professional players can ‘play around’ the wolf by using bow dynamics – a shorter upstroke , lighter touch, a different bow, playing closer to the bridge are some of the techniques used. Many prefer this because they find that a wolf note suppressor will sometimes dampen down the played string on a very expensive Cello.

Some suggestions:

Changing the setup of your instrument could be a useful way to reduce a wolf note.  Adjustments by a clever Luthier, to the sound post or bridge, can help to minimize a wolf note problem.

A common solution is to fit a wolf note suppressor to your cello. These little gadgets are fitted to the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece and then moved to the appropriate place. The usual eliminator is a small brass tube lined with rubber or the newish LupX range. Another approach is the New Harmony range which is claimed to reduce any dampening effect – they come in various weights which gives more scope for selection depending on the severity of the wolf.

In one particularly stubborn ‘wolf’ on an expensive cello we had to resort to an internal resonator . The wolf note was identified by fixing the eliminator to the outside of the Cello. Once the true spot was found this was then glued to the inside, which proved very effective

Often, on the positive side, we do find with new Cellos that the wolf will disappear of its own accord as the Cello matures.

See Wolf note Suppressors

New Harmony Wolf note Suppressor

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