My name is Jenny, and I'm glad you're here.

I'm guessing that you found me for one of two reasons:

  • 1 ~ You enjoy the music of my band, Circa Paleo and want to know more about it.
  • 2 ~ You have a Hot Violinist within and are seeking some tips on how to do all of this yourself.

I'm mostly focusing on the instructional stuff here, but this is also a great place to hang out if you want more behind the scenes info and unreleased previews of my music projects.

If you're just here to listen and watch, that's cool, but now a few words for you fiddlers and fiddlers to be:

I'm not claiming to be an expert of the violin, but I do know a LOT about starting violin "late" since I myself began my fiddle journey at age 18. I've also learned a lot about unique world music styles over the past several years of traveling all over the place.

Now I want to share all the quirky tips and music that I've learned. In other words…

I'm here to make YOU into a Hot Violinist.

Before we go further, lets define hot, shall we? Because the hot I’m talking about reaches far beyond smokin’ fiddle riffs and gym bodies. Check out my first blog post, "The Hot Violinist Manifesto," to read about what "hot" really means to me.

Carbon Fiber vs. Wood Bows for Violin

Which is better, a carbon fiber or wood bow?

It’s a question I’ve received a lot, so…

Here are my thoughts!

As many of you may have noticed, I actually play both a carbon fiber and wood bow. While it’s essential to try out a bunch of bows at your local luthier to find what YOU personally enjoy playing, I think I can help point you in the right direction using my experience!

Carbon Fiber

While technology hasn’t really improved upon the perfection of violin design from the last few hundred years, it certainly has improved the quality of reasonably priced, high performing carbon fiber bows. You can usually find them for a few hundred dollars, and they play like many wooden bows 2-4x that price.

Because the material is synthetic, bow manufacturers can be really specific on the weighting and balance of these bows, making their quality extremely consistent. In contrast, different cuts of wood have different densities, so quality can be hit or miss in the low to mid price ranges.

But on top of playing fantastically, carbon fiber bows are practically indestructible and totally immune to the elements (temperature, humidity, water). Take it from someone who performs 90% outdoors, these bows can take some punishment unlike their wooden counterparts.

If I could only own one bow, a nice carbon fiber bow would be my choice. They play extremely well and will last a lifetime.

JonPaul and Coda are two brands that make really nice carbon fiber bows, but there are many others. Here’s my JonPaul Bravo:

Wooden (Pernambuco)

If you happen to have a sizable budget (at least $1000) and want something absolutely luxurious that can bring out the best in your violin, I recommend you play some wooden bows at your local shop and consider this big upgrade. The subtlety and nuance of a masterfully made wooden bow feels like a dream.

But make sure the wood type is pernambuco, which is a sturdy and dense, yet very flexible wood which the HIGHEST quality bows are made of.

But be warned, wood bows can be fragile to heat, humidity, accidental water damage, and warping (i.e. leaving your bow tightened for a long time so it loses its natural curve). Keep that in mind if you are set on buying a wooden bow and treat it with care!

Here’s my German Heiko Wunderlich bow, which plays like driving a Ferrari.

Choosing what’s right for YOU

You really can’t go wrong with either option as long as you enjoy playing it and the bow feels amazing in your hand. I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of bows, and I can tell you that there are amazing carbon fiber AND wood options spanning across price ranges. You just have to seek them out.

Make sure before you purchase a new bow to play it on YOUR violin to make sure you like the sound. And even if you’re not in the market for a new bow, head on over to your local shop sometime and try a bunch out, from cheap all the way to high end, just to feel the difference and get an idea of what you may want if you decide to change or upgrade in the future.

I hope my answer helps you guys out! Leave a comment below with your thoughts on violin bows and what kind of bow you play. I’d love to hear your opinions!

More answers to questions and updates coming soon!

Bach vs. Folk Tunes Played By Hilary Hahn

I hope your Monday is going well so far, but just in case you need a little break…

Here’s a musical interlude from one of the world’s best violinists in an intimate setting:

She plays some pretty dense difficult classical music for the first 7 minutes or so, then throws on a fedora and busts out a series of folk tunes.

Hilary pulled those melodies out of a piece she was working on called Four Sonatas for Violin and Piano by modernist composer Charles Ives. (Hence the fedora). It would have been much more showy and impressive to actually play a part of the Ives piece since he layered folk melodies and hymns with all kinds of experimental composition techniques, yet she chose to play the hymns and tunes closer to their original form.

I’m just curious- which do you prefer to listen to? The Bach pieces at the beginning of her performance or the tunes at the end?

And why do you think she started with some of the toughest most sophisticated pieces she is known for and then finished with some simpler peasant music?

I mean sure, they both have their place…

The main reason I’m pointing this out is that I think a lot of times when we are discouraged to start violin, or when people say things like, “Well, it takes a lifetime, so you really do have to start as a kid or there’s no point,” they are really referring to the time it takes to learn the techniques to play the tough classical pieces and they are totally wrong about the “no point” part.

And if you want to play classical, that’s not off limits either. I’m just saying there are plenty of simpler things to work on along the way that are both fun to play and musically valid.

Hilary Hahn has found some great examples here for her NPR Tiny Desk Concert. I hope you’ll add your two cents to this debate in the comments section below.

And if you’re interested in learning the violin, there are still just a few spots left in my first ever group video program that is starting next week!

Visit my ViolinWOD blog post now to check it out and reserve your spot before enrollment closes Tuesday (tomorrow!) night at midnight Pacific time.

102 Year Old Hot Violinist Harry Hall!

I made a new friend and thought you guys might like to meet him. He served in World War II, conducted an orchestra on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, and has been playing violin for over 93 years.

Meet San Pedro California’s own, Harry Hall:

I’m so inspired by Harry and the fact that playing violin is an activity that we can enjoy during any stage of life.

If you’ve been wanting to learn, but aren’t sure where to start and don’t have time for private lessons, please send me an email!