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reliable information about finding string instruments

Harris Shilakowsky

You're about to spend some money to get an instrument for your child...or yourself. Should you jump over to Amazon and grab the cheapest instrument that you can find? quick answer: no. 

An instrument isn't a toy. It needs to WORK. It needs to be set up correctly, or you won't be able to play it correctly or in tune. Some instruments will break very easily because they are made from poorly picked wood that has growth 'defects' which become cracks. I tuned a student's instrument that had stiff pegs one day and was dismayed when the cheaply made peg broke off in my hand. 'That should never happen, since the wood used should always be of an extremely hard nature...ebony is the norm. Many cheap instruments use softer, wider grained wood and then paint it black to make it LOOK like ebony.

What about Cecelio and some of these other lower priced brands?

Well...they are machine made, which isn't all bad, but they usually come with substandard bows. These are so low in value that they aren't worth re-hairing. Re-hairing, which has to be done periodically, since the hair gradually breaks and needs replacement. This is normal wear and tear. These bows that come in these kits frequently are so cheaply made that the cost of re-hairing is greater than the cost of replacing the bow! This is wasteful, of course. (I do have solution to this dilemma. I can recycle these cheap bows and replace them with higher quality carbon fiber bows that are more durable & have better 'action' Call or text me if you want info about this.

The instruments I carry at MusicStoreUSA meet ASTA (American String Teachers' Association) standards of play-ability. I only carry instruments supplied by distributors that carry Howard Core instruments or instruments made by more reputable Chinese, Polish, Roumanian, Italian and American makers.

1. "...Each outfit includes an A Brenton brazil wood bow with an ebony frog..."

Breton is the correct spelling of this brand, by the way. Bottom of the heap in quality, although a use-able bow. 

2. foam case...not a big deal??? Well, I have just completed the inventorying of a non-profit that loans free instruments to young students in the inner city in Boston. They take in donated instruments and loan them back out and provide lessons at low cost. I noted in the inventory which instruments were play-able (after kids bashed them about) and which not, and also noted which had functional cases. Most of the foam cases had broken hinges, meaning they couldn't close correctly. Translation: very poor protection for the instrument. There are so many wonderful cases for instruments and quite a few that aren't expensive at all, so why use the worst?

So two conclusions:

  1. buying or trusting Amazon retailers? Nah. Of course, you'll say, I'm prejudiced. After all, I'm a retailer myself, right? True! I have an ulterior motive for dissing Amazon or the retailers that sometimes are unidentifiable (mystery stores) or worse, complete scams (ask my customers. I make personal calls to check up on their orders, their satisfaction, to offer help and expertise.) 
  2. trusting blogs that are written by unknown authors who don't even put their reputation on the line by SIGNING their blog with the name of a trace-able expert in the field (my personal website is always open to the public and you can check my alma maters and any other info to check the veracity of my statements is NOT a good way to buy since you won't sleep at night if you don't know the truth.
  3. Cremona instruments specifically? They are ok. I used to buy these type of instruments for my rental line. I don't any more.  Don't worry. When your strings break later on, you'll remember my free help, and order them at MusicStoreUSA.com

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