December 13th Violin Day

Brahms, Bach and Beethoven would have loved this day, it’s Violin Day. I don’t believe there is a musical instrument that represents classical music better than the violin. In the right hands it can sound beautiful and soothing. (Naturally in the wrong hands it seems to exude the complete opposite!)

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The violin is a is an essential part of the orchestra, normally involving numerous violins to provide the volume required to keep up with the other instruments. It provides excitement as well as subtle changes within music.

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In a quartet, it provides the base for the music taking the place of the piano for the melody. It has more range than a piano and can compete with the emotional aspect of any musical instrument.

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And it adds to country music when it becomes a fiddle instead of a violin. It’s the same instrument but played somewhat differently. Here the violin takes more of a supportive role, adding special accents and feeding on the emotional value of the music.

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And in hands of someone like Charlie Daniels it become a weapon against the Devil himself!

How to celebrate – Learn how to play violin. Listen to some classical music. Learn about Stradivarius.

December 13th National Violin Day

For years, the violin was to popular music what the guitar is today, and recently it has been making quite a comeback. A classical instrument by nature, it is widely used in concerts performed by orchestras, country music, and in some forms of rock. Now it is becoming popular in every medium.

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Probably the most widely known violinist today is Lindsey Stirling. She is not only a beautiful woman but a world-class violinist, dancer and performer. Such talent is rare to find anymore although she didn’t really become aware of her talent until she failed at America’s Got Talent and nearly quit. She owes much of her fame to YouTube.

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Celtic Woman also incorporate violins into their performances. It is key to most Irish music. It can be joyful, melancholy or symphonic when placed into the right hands. In hands of  a student it can also be quite annoying!

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Like any instrument, the finest ever made was hand crafted, made in the 1600’s by Stradivarius. They are widely sought after but astronomically priced as any piece of precious art.  And don’t trust that it is a Stradivarius just because it says it is.

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How to celebrate – Find out if you have any hidden talent for playing the violin. Most Christmas music will have a violin in it somewhere. Learn about what makes one violin better than another.

May 22nd National Buy A Musical Instrument Day

What a great way to start a Monday… trying to figure out which musical instrument you will buy and learn how to play, or start playing again if you played it years ago. There is a feeling of accomplishment even if you can play just a little bit, a song or two is good enough.

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Probably the most popular instrument to play is the piano. Now a grand piano might set you back 15 to 20 thousand dollars so I wouldn’t suggest starting there. But you can buy a cheaper piano, for maybe 2 or 3 thousand or a keyboard for a couple of hundred.  Now don’t expect to become Liberace over night, that may take a lifetime and many, many people don’t want to go there anyway, but again lower you expectations and learn a song or two. Impress your friends but never, never take requests.

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Now if you are the type that likes to annoy others, try the drums! Nothing wrong with drums at all but if you listen to someone play something loudly who has no idea how to play it, it does have its drawbacks. The nice thing about the drums are you generally can’t hear the complaints over your drumming. A drum set may cost you anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand or more. Or you can buy drum pads while you are learning and keep your friends! They shouldn’t cost you more than 10 or 20 dollars.

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I spent my youth as a guitarist. I practiced day and night, hour after hour and finally got pretty decent. A guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn, and is the most difficult to master. In fact, there are more notes on the average guitar than a piano, meaning there are more combinations than any other instrument on the market. When I traveled, I carried 56 guitars with me.  To this day I have no idea why. Anyway, if you chose a guitar please don’t buy a 50 dollar special, you are guaranteed not to learn it. That is partially why pros do not play on them. Give yourself a chance and spend at least a couple of hundred if not more. If you don’t stick with it you’ll at least be able to get more back out of it.

How to celebrate – Find a musical instrument that interests you. Careful of the instruments that look simple, none of them are simple… except maybe the kazoo. At least go to a music store, not a Walmart, and look at the instruments.

May 22nd National Buy A Musical Instrument Day

Just listening to music can change your day, your attitude and your life.  It brings us joy, makes us sad, helps us remember and gives us something to look forward to.  Most people can associate something in their lives where music was playing, it could be a song on the radio, a concert, a school band or just somebody humming a tune in an elevator.

But instead of standing by while someone else creates the music why not become one of them?  Of all the instruments available there should be at least one that you can find some ability at.  The rewards it will bring you will amaze you.

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I started out on guitar.  For much of my life I made my living playing guitar.  I was never that great, but I was more than adequate, and I made lots of friends, a living, and enjoyed nearly every minute I performed, rehearsed, or just sat by a bon fire playing for fun.  The one piece of advice I would give everyone is, buy something of quality. For years I taught people to play guitar and they would come in with a $50.00 special that only Superman could press the strings down on. It was defeating the students before they could ever get started. On a quality guitar the strings nearly lay on the fretboard giving no resistance, allowing the player to move quickly and freely, not leaving your fingers bloody and bruised. It makes all the difference in the world, and it sounds better too!

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I also played keyboards. (Piano, organ, etc.) and found the exact same thing.  The better the piano, the better it played. Believe it or not, there are less notes on a piano than a guitar but oh what you can do with it if you learn to play well enough. Even if you just learn a little you can still entertain yourself and friends. The most popular songs are the simplest. It’s done that way on purpose.  It takes a more advanced ear to appreciate jazz and all the changes that take place, but pop songs are normal pretty easy, hence why they are generally more popular.

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I also played trumpet, but very badly.  I learned to play before I learned my rule about quality. The trumpet I learned on was cheap (though none of them are really cheap), and it was hard to blow, it didn’t sound very clean (probably because it was hard to blow), and the values stuck a lot. Later on I tried a much higher quality trumpet and I found I could actually make it sound decent!  What a surprise! By then I had moved on to other instruments and never really went back to it.

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And of course there is the violin. It can sound so good in the right hands but when played wrong, it’s really, really bad. Once again, the strings need to rest close to the neck, the bow needs to be a decent quality for the rosin to work properly, and the tuning pegs need to work, not constantly slip.

Not all musical instruments have to be expensive to be good, a harmonica is a cheap instrument to play. You can carry it with you where ever you go and it sounds good whether it’s played alone or in a group.

Just remember to purchase something worth while. Even if you don’t stick with it, many instruments increase in value as time goes along. My main guitar is a 1958 Gibson ES 345. When it was brand new it sold for about $200.00, the last offer I got for it was above $7,000.00 and I turned it down.

How to celebrate: Buy some sort of a musical instrument and give it a try. Encourage others who are just learning.  Learn what makes one instrument better than another, and which one is for you.