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The West Music Blog
The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and worldwide customers.

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Choosing Rosin for Your String Instrument
By West Music Company
6/8/2017 7:07:00 AM  

Rosin plays a significant role in orchestra playing, but it has been given little attention compared to the bow and the instrument. Many players choose to purchase better quality rosin that suits their instrument. Below is valuable information about rosin and tips on how to choose the best for your instrument.

Student rosins are often less expensive and produce more powder when used, and is often preferred by for fiddlers, too. Most classical players prefer professional grade rosins, as they usually produce a smoother and more controlled tone.

The color of the rosin, light or dark, and is occasionally known as summer (light) or winter (dark). For violin or viola, light colored rosins are preferred, as they tend to be harder, denser, and less sticky than their darker counterpart. Dark rosins, being much softer, are used to activate thicker strings — especially bass, and are used more in cool, dry climates, as they will tend to stick in hot and humid conditions.

Prefer a paper copy of this information? Download and print this handy PDF version of the article and keep it with you in your instrument case for reference!


Jade rosinJADE ROSIN

Jade rosin is a famous synthetic rosin made in France. It comes wrapped in a cloth inside of a hard plastic container. The rosin provides a great grip, and hardly produces any dust which is great for players with airborne sensitivities or allergies.


dark and light rosinHILL DARK AND LIGHT ROSIN

Used for violin, viola, and cello, the amber (light) is slightly harder and has moderate powder. The dark (green) is slightly softer and grips better than the amber.


D'Addario RosinD’ADDARIO DARK AND LIGHT ROSIN

All natural ingredients are combined in a very special process make D’Addario Natural Rosin. This rosin is perfect for either horsehair or synthetic hair bows. The streamline packaging fits nicely in cases and the unique plastic channel provides an easy grip for students. Designed and manufactured in the USA.


magic rosinMAGIC ROSIN

Used by top soloists, professionals, teachers and students, Magic Rosin™ is a premium rosin for violin, viola, cello, and bass. Invented by a professional cellist and teacher, Magic Rosin™ provides excellent resistance and allowance for a clear, complex tone. Formulated from only pine resins and no other ingredients, its appearance is almost clear, presenting a whole new generation of visually appealing rosin.


hypo-allergic rosinCLARITY HYPO-ALLERGIC ROSIN

For advanced and professional players, this hypo-allergenic rosin is made from a synthetic hydrocarbon resin compound that substantially improves the properties of rosin producing a clear string response.


Hidersine RosinHIDERSINE ROSIN

Hidersine is a premium rosin formulated for cello players and made in the UK. This rosin is intended for advanced bowing techniques. Rosin comes in light or dark and can be ordered for violin players, as well.


pops bassPOPS BASS ROSIN

Pops is the most recommended rosin for beginner to experienced professional bass players. This rosin comes as a large, soft cake for easy storage and application. You can’t go wrong with Pops.


Kaplan RosinKAPLAN ROSIN

A nice rosin in a nice case, this premium rosin is for violin and viola players. Kaplan rosin produces less dust keeping your instrument and case cleaner.



West Music has a 75-year tradition of helping beginner, intermediate and advanced musicians play their best. Find rosin and other orchestral string accessories designed for beginner and intermediate musicians on our website or at our stores. Professional musicians, orchestra directors and student are encouraged to contact West Music Orchestra directly for the best selection and bulk pricing.

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Finger Placement for String Instruments
By West Music Company
5/12/2017 10:57:00 AM  

West Music Pro Tip Before You Start

When someone talks about having correct finger placement when playing a stringed instrument, they are typically referring to two things: how you place your fingers on the strings and where you place your fingers on the strings. Building good finger placement habits is extremely important for playing in tune and with ease. West Music has been working with musicians and music teachers for over 75 years. In that time, we’ve learned a few tricks to help you or your student play like a pro. 

One tip we give new players is to use finger tapes. Violins and other orchestral stringed instruments do not have frets like guitars. That means there’s no visual guide to help you determine where your fingers should go.  We’ve found the easiest way to get around this issue is by placing finger tapes on the fingerboard. We like to think of finger tapes like training wheels; eventually they will come off because you will have developed “muscle memory” to recall exactly where to place your fingers.

Violin Finger Placement

As a beginning violin player, the initial hand position you will learn is called first position. First position allows you to play the first five notes on each violin string. 

To get your hand into the right position, turn your left hand towards you and curl your fingers like you are examining your fingernails. Now, slightly spread your fingers apart. As you do this, you will notice that there is a naturally wider gap between your 1st finger and 2nd finger (index and middle) as well as your 3rd and 4th finger (ring and pinky). You will also notice that there isn't a very big space between your 2nd and 3rd finger (middle and ring).

Now pretend that your hand is in this same position, but curl it around the neck of your violin. Place your first finger about two half-steps up from the nut, and there you have it! First position. In this relaxed position, there are two half-steps between your 1st and 2nd finger, one half-step from the 2nd to the 3rd finger, and two half-steps between the 3rd and 4th finger.

Violin Finger Placement
Violin Finger Placement

Viola Finger Placement

If you were looking at the strings on the viola from left to right, the string on the far left would be the thickest as well as the lowest-pitched string (C String). The strings ascend in perfect fifths until reaching the far-right string which is the thinnest and the highest-toned string (A String). 

Keep your right hand relaxed around the fingerboard and your wrist gently rounded. Take care not to rest your wrist on the viola’s neck. Maintain a curved, open space between the thumb and index finger, so that it makes a backwards "C" shape.  From this position your fingers can move easily and hover over the strings comfortably.

viola finger placement
viola finger placement
Cello Finger Placement

To form the proper cello hand and finger position, place your fingers tips on the string. Your thumb should be placed on the back of the neck, directly opposite from your second finger.  By positioning your hand in this way, it should form a curved "C" shape with your fingers.

As with the other string instruments, using finger tape on the fingerboard is a smart way for beginners to memorize the placement of different notes. On the cello, the tape is usually used to mark a regular 1st finger (the E note on the D string), 2nd finger (the F note on the D string), 3rd finger (the F# note on the D string), and the 4th finger (the G note on the D string).

cello finger placement
cello finger placement 

Double Bass Finger Placement

The double bass is the largest instrument in the orchestral string family, correct hand and finger placement is especially important. Similar to the cello, proper hand placement includes your thumb opposite of your 2nd finger on the back of the neck while your hand forms a curved “C” shape.

Your thumb shouldn't squeeze the neck of the bass or fully support the weight of the instrument, and it is advised to have the instrument lean slightly forward. This can help your fingers press down on the strings while preventing your thumb from squeezing at the same time. By keeping your hand balanced and curved into a “C” shape, this also allows the fingers to push down without the support of the thumb.

No matter what string instrument you play, correct finger placement is vital to play in tune and have a clear sound. By learning and practicing the correct technique from the very beginning, you are laying down a good foundation and ensuring future success with your instrument.

West Music Commitment to You!

We at West Music have a motto: Play Now. Play for Life. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play and enjoy music. As part of this commitment, West Music’s Orchestral Division offers a wide selection of hand-selected, quality stringed instruments for the beginning, intermediate and advanced musician. With options to rent or purchase your instrument, it’s never been easier to play!

If you live in Eastern Iowa or Western Illinois and would like to take lessons with a West Music instructor, visit our Music Lessons & Classes page.


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Tags: beginner, school, orchestra, strings, how-to
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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West Music Recognized as One of the Top 100 Music Stores in the World
By West Music Company
5/11/2017 8:42:00 AM  

Top 100 DealerCoralville, IA – May 9, 2017  West Music has been named as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the global association of music products and music retailers. The organization will formally present the award to West Music on Friday, July 14 at the Top 100 Dealer Awards event held as part of the 2017 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee.

"At the heart of West Music, there is a story of inspiration, dedication and a pursuit to create a more musical world," shared Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. "The Top 100 Dealer award underscores their commitment – to their communities, their staff, and the industry to create a space which welcomes and inspires music makers through their products and services." 

West Music was selected as a Top 100 Dealer by an independent panel of judges who reviewed hundreds of submissions. Each submission was numerically rated across categories that included customer service, music advocacy, store design and promotions and were scored in accordance to determine the Top 100 list. 

"For the seventh straight year, West Music is honored to be recognized as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants. This perennial recognition is a direct result of our committed associates' passion for delivering an outstanding customer experience through quality products and services and our belief that participation in music has a positive impact on every person's life," said Robin Walenta, West Music President.

 

     NAMM Logo

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately10,300 Member companies located in more than 103 countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit www.namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

To learn more about NAMM and the Top 100 Dealer Awards, please visit https://www.namm.org/summer/2017/top-dealer-awards

 West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.


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Extraordiany Associate of the Month April 2017: Ann Kephart
By West Music Company
5/10/2017 12:52:00 PM  
Ann is an absolute pleasure to work with. Her insight, feedback and analysis of sales and operational strategies are greatly appreciated among her colleagues. Ann’s customers greatly value her service and are as loyal as they come.

Have you seen the Decorah store lately? The store is expertly merchandised and always looks fresh for her customers, accomplished through Ann’s leadership. Ann took the re-brand to heart and has worked with our Marketing Team to develop a sharp layout and look with an inviting hometown vibe.

Ann is an active leader in the Decorah business community and serves on the Decorah Chamber of Commerce and is part of a Small Business Retail Board. In addition to her business outreach, Ann is the Director of the Nordic Dancers, which is a really big deal! It doesn’t stop there; she is constantly volunteering at Decorah High School, Luther College and at Nordic Fest. You could not get any more in-tune with the happenings in a community. The associates in the Decorah store constantly share their admiration:

“Her dedication to our customers and our team is essential to our continued success. She is always positive and encourages us to always be our best, also! Ann is constantly thinking of new ideas and new ways to help us be successful and is always willing to lend a helping hand, no matter what.”

“She is always going above and beyond for everybody she works with. We could not ask for a better Store Manager for our store and I can’t think of anyone that deserves this kind of recognition more.”

Congratulations, Ann, and thanks for all you do!

As told by Katie Senn,
Retail Sales and Operations Manager

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Tags: Kephart, decorah, commerce, Nordic Dancers, Luther College, Nordic Fest
Categories: Extraordinary Associate of the Month, West Music Decorah
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70th Birthday Surprise for Mom
By West Music Company
5/3/2017 4:25:00 PM  

Customer Becky Steenhoek shares his story of planning the perfect surprise birthday gift for his mother, a life-long piano player. Dennis and his family lead his mom on a scavenger hunt that ended at her very own grand piano at West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery. 


birthday grand pianoBy: Becky Steenhoek

For our mother's 70th birthday celebration, the planning started months in advance, as we knew we wanted to do something extra special to celebrate her big day. Our mother has always been the one to go above and beyond to do things for others, so for once, we wanted to surprise her and make her feel special.
Music has always been her passion. Playing the piano and organ, singing, directing church choirs, composing music and creating beautiful Easter and Christmas cantatas, music has been a huge part of her life, and something that continues to bring her great joy. But the one thing she had always (secretly) wanted was her very own grand piano, which became the inspiration for her 70th birthday surprise.

birthday grand piano
Dad spent 6 months planning for Mom’s big day. After doing some research on his own, Dad revealed to us kids that he wanted to get Mom a grand piano for her birthday. Over the next five months, Dad enlisted the help of Store Manager Jeff Musel at West Music, who not only taught Dad a lot about pianos, but also was an integral part in helping us create a magical day for Mom. While Dad talked pianos with Jeff, my brother (Brian), sisters (Julie and Amy), and I (Becky) plotted and planned the surprise.

After coordinating airfare and travel plans for siblings who lived out of state, we created a birthday scavenger hunt that began in our hometown of Pella, and ended in Urbandale at West Music, where Mom would be welcomed by Jeff and a showroom filled with grand pianos. At each "stop" during the scavenger hunt, she was greeted by one of us and given a clue to her next destination, all of which had some sort of "grand piano" related innuendo. Throughout the day, the scavenger hunt led Mom to the Marriott Hotel on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines to the Dueling Piano Bar in West Des Moines, to the White House Black Market store at Jordan Creek Mall, and of course to the final destination, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery, where there were seven grand pianos with balloons tied to each of them, one of which our mom would get to pick out and bring home.

Needless to say, the entire weekend was full of fun and surprises, and it's something our family will never forget. It was a very special day, and a big part of that is because of the people at West Music, who were so helpful and accommodating throughout the entire process. From Jeff decorating the pianos with balloons to Tanner playing "Happy Birthday" when our mom walked through the door, they really were the cherry on top of a perfect day. Thank you Jeff, Tanner and West Music for being a part of making a dream come true for our mom. I only wish you could see the way she smiles every time she sits down to play at her very own Yamaha Grand piano!


Thank you Becky for letting us be part of this incredible day! Follow us on Facebook for more stories and suppries like these: facebook.com/westmusic


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Categories: Pianos, Digital Pianos & Keyboards, West Music Piano Gallery, piano
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Coralville April 2017 Musician of the Month: Alyssa Wasmund
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Alyssa Wasmund is in the 7th grade. She studies voice with Jessica Saunders and piano with Tina Chapman. Her voice instructor nominated her to be a featured student because “Alyssa is an excellent all around student and musician. As a singer she has a lovely voice that is mature for her age, without being forced. Alyssa is always willing to try new styles of music and we have worked on everything from pop to Italian art song! Alyssa is wonderfully musical and expressive during performances.” She also plays the flute.  Alyssa earned a 1 rating at the recent IMTA piano festival and has started to work on her second Italian song in her voice studies!

She has always wanted to sing in musicals, and also likes modern rock music. She loves that music is not just about creativity, but also about learning new things and challenging yourself. Her advice to other musicians is “Never give up. Even if you mess up in the middle of a song, don’t stop!” Other hobbies include reading, writing, drawing, ice skating and GLOW club. 

Congratulations, Alyssa!

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Tags: voice, vocal, lesson, teach, piano, Jessica Saunders, Tina Chapman,
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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Cedar Rapids April 2017 Musician of the Month: Benjamin Hollinger
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Our musician of the month for May 2017 is Benjamin Hollinger. Benjamin is a piano student of James Jenkins here at West Music Cedar Rapids. He is in the 3rd grade at Prairie View Elementary school. He has studied piano with Mr. Jenkins for 1½ years. Benjamin is always prepared for his lessons and always has a great lesson.

Benjamin’s musical goals are to learn to play the drums and play in a school band and church youth group. His advice to other musicians is to NOT quit even if you get frustrated! The thing he likes most about making music is to listen to the music he plays.

Some other interests Benjamin includes are soccer, chess, working on projects, building things, and computer programming. His favorite music is 80’s rock. Something that you might not know about Benjamin is that he was born with a club foot.
Congratulations, Benjamin! Great job!

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Tags: West Music, Cedar Rapids, piano, lessons, James Jenkins
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Marion
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Cedar Falls April 2017 Musician of the Month: Aveinda Rusk
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Aveinda Rusk is a student at Denver Elementary. She has been studying the violin with Andrea Alert for two and a half years. She loves to play the violin because of the sound that it makes. Her advice to other musicians is to not overthink what you are playing.

Aveinda plays both the violin and oboe, and her goal is to learn the viola and cello too. Her favorite musician Lindsey Sterling. Something that might surprise others to hear is that she has five sisters. When she is not making music, Aveinda can be found playing Minecraft, Dragon City, and playing with her sisters and friends.

Way to go, Aveinda!

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Tags: lesson, cedar falls, violin, Andrea Alert
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Cedar Falls
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Des Moines April 2017 Musician of the Month: Kimball Mendenhall
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Kimball Mendenhall has been a piano student of Dr. Asia Grant for 6 months. He is a 2nd grader in the Waukee Community School District. Kimball loves using his hands to make music and learn new pieces. He is smart, fast, and loves to play sports. Kimball’s favorite sports are soccer, basketball, and football.

Kimball participates in Boy Scouts, as well as playing soccer and basketball. Dr. Grant believes Kimball deserves recognition because “Kimball is very hard working, responsible, always comes to lessons prepared, is a fast learner, and he loves music.”

Congratulations, Kimball!

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Tags: des moines, urbandale, piano gallery, lesson, Asia Grant
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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Coralville April 2017 Musician of the Month: Lauren Spence
By West Music Company
5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Lauren Spence is a 4th grader studying violin in the West Music Lessons program with Gayla Drake. She has been in lessons for over a year and has made great progress on her musical path!

When not playing violin, Lauren enjoys dance (aero and tap), spending time in her church group, writing, drawing, cooking and singing. Her favorite music is Irish jigs. “Irish jigs make me feel happy! I love getting new songs to play!” Her favorite musicians are Gayla Drake, Lindsey Stirling and Celtic Woman.

Lauren delights me every week with how dedicated she is, and how quickly she learns tunes! She loves the music of Ireland, and has been acquiring tunes since the very beginning. I have loved Irish music since I was a kid, too, and having someone to share and pass tunes on to has been so much fun. She's always happy, positive, and a joy to work with. Lauren makes me look forward to Mondays! - Gayla Drake

Lauren’s advice to other musicians is “Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get it the first time you play. Keep trying! Make sure you play the kind of music you enjoy.”

She is a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and America and travels to visit her family in Northern Ireland every summer. Lauren also enjoys time with her hamster, Bert, and her bunny, Ginger. 

Congratulations, Lauren!

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Tags: lessons, lesson, violin, gayla drake,
Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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West Music’s Nancy Cree Keyboard Recitals to Honor Prominent Composer
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Finger Placement for String Instruments
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West Music Recognized as One of the Top 100 Music Stores in the World
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