Monday, June 22, 2020

Some information about Germantown Violin Co. student level violins

Some information about Germantown Violin Co. student level violins


What is a “student instrument?”

We often hear the phrase “student instruments.” What is that? What does that even mean? Often the term student instrument is used in opposition to “professional instrument” or “step-up instrument.” In general, a student level instrument is an instrument designed for someone just getting started as a musician, and/or an instrument that can be played as a student progresses through middle and high school. Obviously, the difference between a brand-new string player and someone who's played for five or six years can be pretty large, so the meaning of this term may not always be easy to understand. In our case, we use the term student instrument to describe instruments that are designed for beginners or players in their first and second year of playing.

Lots of choices!

When you do a Google search for student level violin you will find that there are a lot of instruments out there, and choosing an instrument for a beginning violinist or violist can be a daunting task. If you will indulge a small amount of self-promotion, I would like to take a small bit of time today to talk about the two instruments from Germantown Violin Co that are in the student level instrument category: the Wilhelm model 85 violin and viola, and the Gafiano model 105 violin and viola.

Fully carved construction.

These instruments are both fully carved instruments. That means that both the top and the back are made from one single piece of solid tonewood. This is a critical element of creating an instrument, as this single piece of wood is going to resonate much better than a laminate product will. Laminate construction definitely has its advantages: laminate is stronger and will tolerate getting beat up a little bit better than solid wood construction will. However, it is widely accepted that solid carved wood produces a much better tone than laminate construction. And after all, tone is what we're going for when we're trying to get new musicians off the ground.

The “Gafiano” instruments.

Let’s start with the model 105 Gafiano violin and viola. As I mentioned before, this is a fully carved instrument. This is a hand-built instrument with a hand-carved top and back. It is finished with a lightweight spirit varnish. Spirit varnish is lighter weight and allows the wood to resonate more freely. It allows the sound to project a little bit better. All the fittings on the model 105 instrument are solid ebony including the fingerboard and the pegs. Solid ebony adds a little bit of cost to the instrument, but it is absolutely vital to having an instrument that will last and perform for a long time. Many economy violins and violas have fingerboards made of pine or other white woods that have been painted to resemble ebony. These softer woods simply cannot tolerate the pressure from a player's fingers over time and will often warp and dent and make the instrument impossible to play correctly. Ebony is the standard material, and we make sure that all of our instruments have Ebony fingerboards. The pegs are also made of ebony and are custom cut to each individual instrument. It sometimes comes as a surprise to nonmusicians that pegs are not interchangeable between instruments. On a properly constructed string instrument, the shaft of each peg is tapered. This taper allows the peg to “lock” into the holes in the peg box and hold its tune. The holes in the peg box must be custom cut to fit the shape of the peg. Our luthier spends time on each instrument making making sure that the peg fit is perfect for each instrument.

The “Wilhelm” instruments.

The model 85 Wilhelm violin and viola are essentially the same as the Gafiano with two key differences: First, while the instrument is fully carved, it is more machine carved than hand carved. You still get all the advantages of a carved instrument, but the sound quality isn't quite as perfect as a hand carved instrument would be. Second, the 85 model has an oil-based varnish as opposed to a spirit based varnish. The advantage to an oil-based varnish on a student instrument is durability. The darker, reddish-brown lacquer finish tolerates bumps and dents more easily than a thinner spirit based varnish would. This makes the Wilhelm a perfect choice for fractional instruments designed for smaller players that are still learning how to handle the instrument properly. The oil-based varnish on the Wilhelm can tolerate these bumps and bruises more easily.

Set it up!

Finally, we need to talk about setup. All of our instruments are professionally setup here in the United States in our shop in Gaithersburg MD . This includes cutting and fitting of the bridge, shaping and fitting the pegs as mentioned above, and stringing the instrument with Preludes strings from D’Addario. The instruments are then test played an packed in lightweight cases with an accompanying brazilwood bow. Once the outfit is together it is ready to send off to your local music store for you to take a test drive!

We're extremely proud of our instruments. We take pride in selling instruments that, while affordable, are still genuine instruments that will help musicians from beginner to experienced along their musical journey. We invite you to visit our website at, or visit one of our local dealers where you can play the instruments in person. We are certain that you will be impressed with what you hear!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Now you can HEAR our Wilhem VLN-85 Violin!

We have been talking about our newest instrument, the Wilhelm VLN-85 violin and viola for the past several weeks across all of our platforms. Now you can have a chance to hear it played! Diana Traietta, an accomplished violinist, plays and discusses this wonderful instrument for beginners. It would also make a wonderful addition to any music store's rental inventory. Learn more here:

See the video here: VLN85 demonstration video

Recruiting is the MOST important thing you do as a music teacher!

Recruiting is the MOST important thing you do as a music teacher!

If you are a music teacher in any capacity where your class is an elective, then recruiting is possibly the single most important responsibility that you have as a music educator. Teaching music is incredibly important and, as we have all come to discover in the last 3 months, vital (along with the other arts) to sustaining our soul as we move through difficult times. If you are a fabulous educator, but you don’t have students to educate… you see where I am going here? Every time an administrator considers cutting back on a music class, every time a guidance counselor moves someone into “Tech Ed” instead of your class, every time a parent asks, “what is this good for anyway?” You can overcome nearly all of it with a recruiting program that excites students and encourages them to get themselves into YOUR music program!

So get cracking! Here are six ways that you can up your recruiting game. How do you recruit? What works for you? Let’s start the discussion and help each other out.



With all of the craziness that COVID-19 has brought to school districts and their calendars, making sure your plans are known to your administrators is absolutely critical. Whatever plan you have formulated to recruit this fall, reach out NOW to your admins and get them into the loop. They can help you get the resources you need to make recruiting a success.

If you will normally travel to schools to recruit, contact those administrators and their music teachers now as well. You may not be able to visit in person, but you may be able to set up remote sessions. In any case, not communicating with the schools involved will lead to disaster in the fall.

If you have not already, please reach out NOW to everyone that will be involved: principals, admins, cooperating teachers, custodial staff to get them involved in your plan. Once you are all on the same team, your chances of success increase exponentially!


Now that you have chatted with your admin, and gotten their blessing to recruit this fall, you have to get on the calendar. School calendars fill up incredibly quickly, and with all of the additional uncertainty that COVID-19 had brought to our lives, there is little doubt that they will get all the more crowded! Whether you will be able to recruit in-person or virtually, you need to select the times and dates now, and get on the master calendar. There are several dates that you will want to make sure are secured:

·         Date(s) of the in-school / virtual presentation for EACH school you will visit

·         Date that you will need a response from each student as to whether they will join your program

·         Date and location of your parent meeting, either virtual or in-person

If you are not on the calendar, you don’t exist! Make sure you are there!


As you continue to plan your recruiting for the fall, hopefully you will be fortunate enough to be able to recruit in person. If you are able to do so, I highly recommend that you use student performers to demonstrate the individual instruments. As music teachers there are some instruments that we are just better at than others! 😁 It is a great idea to use student to demonstrate these instruments for a couple of reasons:

·         They are probably more proficient on the instrument than you are. After all, they play it every single day!

·         They will be thrilled to be entrusted with such an important function. It is a great way to reward you high performers.

·         The students that you are recruiting will be better able to relate to the students demonstrating the instruments. After all, your students were recruits themselves just last year! Many of the students that you are recruiting will know your performers. It creates a more relatable demonstration and will increase participation in your program.

If you are going to use student performers, reach out to them and their parents now to secure their participation and permission. Send them some music you would like them to work on. You’ll have a fabulous demonstration! 🎻🎺🎷


Now that you have your admin on board, your dates set, and your student performers all lined up, it’s time to get your stuff together!

Seriously. Get your stuff together.

Start gathering your materials now. You will need more stuff than you think you will need, especially if you are taking the show on the road! πŸš—πŸš— Some things that you will need are:

·         Instruments 🎻🎻

·         Instrument stands

·         Student information cards

·         Letters to send home to parents

·         Posters promoting your program

·         And many more. Here is a pretty comprehensive list of items you may need:

Be Prepared!


Now it’s time to start preparing for your presentation. You have a lot of material to deliver in a very short time. When I have recruited I have had as much as 50 minutes and as little as 25 minutes! You still have to get ALL of the information out there. I highly recommend developing a script and practice, practice, practice!!! You would never give a concert without hours of rehearsal to make sure that it’s right. This is no different! Develop a script and put in the time to get it right. It will make a HUGE difference in the outcome! Here is a good example of a script that I have used many times:


Recruiting is arguably the most important thing that you do you to sustain your program. After all, you won’t have anyone to teach music to if there is no one in your class. Believe me when I tell you that this is YOUR responsibility. Your administration, your guidance department, and your students’ parents may all be very supportive, but recruiting into your program is all on you.

Because of this, I recommend calling in the professionals to help: your local school music dealer. Your dealer is often the best resource for recruiting. It’s in their best interest, just like you, for you to have a robust instrumental music program. Often, an educational representative will recruit for 10-20 programs each and every year. Multiply that by 10-20 years of experience (or more!) and you can quickly see that your local ed rep may have recruited successfully over 100 times! It’s not unusual for a good ed rep to do more recruiting in one or two years than an educator does in their entire career.

Many of our dealers are also excellent recruiters! I encourage you to reach out to them today. Also, please leave a note in the comments and we can connect you to your local ed rep.

Happy Recruiting!! May you have an incredibly successful 2020-21 school year!