Welcome!

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.

Hottest Gifts for Violinists and Fiddlers 2018!

Happy Holidays! And welcome to my annual list of gifts for violinists and fiddlers.

I asked my students what items are secretly listed in their letters to Santa, and added some things I personally enjoy.

There are items in this year's list for every budget.

For the student suggestions, I'm including screen shots from the Group FB page to give credit to the idea person. 🙂

HOT VIOLINISTS GIFTS: IDEA #1 – SLEEK VIOLIN CASE WITH GOLD HARDWARE

Right up front I want you to know, this is not going to be the most durable, longest-lasting case you can get. But it looks like the old school ones the mafia would use to hide a machine gun, so it's making this year's list!

It would be great for someone on your list who doesn't do a lot of heavy traveling. And wants to show up to the occasional jam session with classic style.

I posted a pic with this yesterday on my Instgram, but here's one where you can see more of the case:

My violin case matches my belt! Weee fashion savvy!

 

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA # 2 – MICROFIBER CLOTH

Rosin build up. The struggle is real!

I'm a wipe-it-off-with-my-T-shirt-girl myself, so I appreciated Jim suggesting this.

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #3 – IN CASE HUMIDIFIER

Good idea Steve! I'm always making these out of sponges and plastic bags when the humidity dips, but it would be better to have a nice one.

Another fellow hot violinist Derek recommended this one that seems pretty amazing. The gel packs hold much more water than the standard sponges and it comes with a Velcro strip that adheres to the inside of your case for primo placement.

 

Most geographic areas either get super dry in the winter or are dry in the first place.

Moisture is your violin's friend for staying in one piece and holding your tuning.

I linked to Amazon for the best price, but I always recommend going to your local smaller shop whenever possible. Shar has these too, so it would be a convenient stocking stuffer add-on if you wanna get the case I suggested in gifts for violinists suggestion #1.

(Btw I don't recommend buying a violin at Shar even though they are a decent back up plan for accessories when you can't make it to the local shop.)

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA # 4 – BOSS RHYTHM PARTNER

This is for the violinist that has all the necessities but loves toys. I found it while searching for a metronome solution for a student who hates her electronic metronome and doesn't wanna mess with the ones on the phone.

I watched the video on Boss's website and this thing sounds really nice! I like how it has a big loud speaker so maybe there's a chance of actually hearing it over the violin blazing in your ear.

More like a jam buddy than a metronome….

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #5 – STRING SWING WALL HANGER

A couple years ago I first shared the Hot Tips Tuesday suggestion to practice 5 minutes a day minimum.

One of the newsletter readers pointed out that this is so much easier to do if your violin is already out and handy.

This is hands down the best $12.75 I've ever spent on my violin life. How amazing is that to give someone this stocking stuffer that means they'll be able to play violin more frequently next year!?

This pictures looks great and all, but it's actually not a good idea to hang your violin near a window. Opt for an interior wall for the most stable temperature and humidity.

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #6 – ROSIE THE FIDDLER TEE SHIRT

Violin maker Andrew Caruthers makes some really cool stickers and shirts in his spare time.

I imagine it's an Edward Scissor-hands-like frenzy when he wields traditional violin carving on linoleum printing blocks. Viola! Unique art for violin related tee shirts.

I've seen a few of my students wear his designs for their own casual performances and out to see live music.

Adult learners… We can do it!

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #7 – SAND PRACTICE TIMERS

Old school! 

Here's an elegant way to time your practice without getting interrupted or distracted by your stinkin' phone.

Phone on airplane mode and flip the timer over. And play!

The black sand is 30 minutes and the white sand is 5 minutes. I recommend using the big one for working on learning tunes and small 5 minute one for bursts of technique practice, for example keeping bow straight in the mirror.

One newsletter reader told me she gets more focused practice by thinking, “I only have 30 minutes to work on this so I better make it count,” rather than, “I will try to focus on this for 30 minutes.”

I thought that was a cool way to flip the script and trick your own brain into practicing good stuff.

Shoot for a minimum of 5 minutes per day with your violin and the small sand timer!

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #8 – WITTNER GEARED TUNING PEGS

Gabs pretty much summed it up:

I'll say no more. Except that heads up, these require installation which can run about $100-$200 in addition to the cost of the pegs. So worth it, if you can swing it.

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #9 – GIFT SUBSCRIPTION TO FIDDLER MAGAZINE

Thanks for letting us know about this Mary!

I think any fiddler would love a gift subscription, plus the website offers a treasure trove of quirky fiddle gifts like these note cards featuring a vintage etching of fiddler dancing with dog.

How cool is that?

It's a good sign of progress when your pets are dancing instead of running away when you play.

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #10 – MASSAGE GIFT CARD

What to get for the violinist who has everything?

Find me one violinist (or anyone who has a computer for that matter…) who doesn't have a bit of a stiff neck.

Boom! Massage gift card…

Violin is a tough sport!

HOT VIOLINIST GIFTS: IDEA #11FIDDLER CAP (OR SOME OTHER AMAZING AND/OR WEIRD HAT)

Because we all know and accept that fiddle music sounds much better when the fiddler is wearing a hat.

This website has a ton of variety from silly to serious in different price ranges including this one that is literally called the Fiddler Cap.

So that's my list for 2018! Please let me know if you end up getting any of these for your friends and loved ones.

And do you have any ideas of gifts for violinists and fiddlers? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Platforms That Help Musicians Make Money on the Side

I'm excited that this is my first ever guest written blog post to share with you guys.

I got an email a few weeks back from Sarah at a company called Fat Llama.

I've always thought Llamas were adorable, and I once had a bandmate who we all called The Llama.

But I had never heard of this website where you can rent gear from other musicians. It's kinda like calling an Uber, only they'll fill up your truck with what you need for a gig!

It's also a way to make a little side money on the gear that you have on the nights that it's just taking up space in the closet… I think it's a cool idea!

This is a special Fat Llama link for The Hot Violinist readers that gives you $25 credit to get started. They also give a small commission to me if you sign up and arrange your first rental.

They seem really on top of things! And I guess they've put a lot of thought into creative ways for musicians to make money.

My methods were always so low tech compares to this. Like put on an elf hat and burn diesel fuel all around the United States to play on dirt paths for anyone who will listen…. totally analogue!

So without further adieu, here is the guest post written by Sarah at Fat Llama!

Over the last few years tech has changed the music industry beyond recognition, but the musicians’ main concern remains the same as ever. How to make a buck?

There seems to be an unending stream of stories about the ways tech is taking money away from musicians. But on the flip side there are some platforms out there to help us out!

Here are 5 of the best:

Qrates

Vinyl doesn’t seem the most likely money-making avenue for the modern musician to explore. But, by using tech to bring it to music lovers on demand, Tokyo-based Qrates are reinventing vinyl for the 21st century.

The site can be used by artists to either take pledges for a crowdfunding project or preorders on a record that’s about to drop; all you have to do is upload your audio, design a label, and then Qrates will press and deliver the disc on your behalf. The site is designed to empower musicians, by giving them direct access to their backers, customers and Qrates support team.

Encore and Fat Llama

Peer rental was brought to transport by Uber, and to travel by Airbnb; now it’s being brought to the music industry by Encore and Fat Llama. Fat Llama is an online marketplace for lending and renting (almost) anything, which includes musical instruments and equipment of all kinds — from keyboards to omnichords, double basses to didgeridoos; Encore, on the other hand, connects musicians and event organisers (who can compare quotes, reviews and videos, and then book an act through the site);

Nuno Oliveira, who is a session drummer and member of bands Canoe Duo and RESET, uses both platforms. He says: “I use Encore because it’s a great way to get booked for gigs, speak directly with the customer and have all of the fees and gig details at the ready and organised. I use Fat Llama because it’s a fantastic way of getting stuff done, without having to buy certain products that would otherwise be a big investment.”

And if you’ve already made that investment in expensive music gear, which is now doing nothing other than gathering dust? List it for rental on Fat Llama, and you could earn the money back.

Artisound

Using Artisound to source royalty-free music for a media project means you can rest assured that the artist will be paid a fair 50% — regardless of the processes and costs involved. Musician and entrepreneur Yann Ireland created the site, hoping to bring a more human touch to a marketplace increasingly driven by algorithms. Yann continues to personally curate the Artisound catalogue, and he handpicks each of the tracks that go into it; submit your music for him to review here — although be warned that not everything makes it past his well-trained ears!

Musicoin

If you thought being a musician meant that you could avoid ever having to learn what the blockchain is, you were sadly mistaken. Musicoin is both:

a) a streaming platform that uses the transparency of the blockchain ledger system to streamline the process of musical revenue generation and distribution and

b) a currency designed for paying artists directly and instantly.

None the wiser? Put simply, the company promises “100% free streaming for listeners, industry best compensation for musicians” by eliminating the intermediaries between artists and their fans.

The finer details of exactly how this works aside, you don’t need to be a cryptocurrency expert to use the platform. Just get yourself verified as a professional musician on the site, upload your music and design your licensing agreement. And then, hopefully, the streams will follow.

-Sarah at Fat Llama


Jenny back again. I think this an important topic because the world is a happier place when artists don't starve.

I'm a big fan of author Jeff Goins who says the whole “starving artist” thing is an unnecessary myth, but I have to admit it's been a struggle at times along my journey of being a professional folk fiddler.

Please share in the comments below if you have any thoughts to share about your own struggles or successes in the land where art and money meet.

My 3 Favorite String Sets

Online violin learning works great for adults, but I've gotta say… there's one thing that remains the most difficult to troubleshoot online:

Equipment!

Some days the sound is great, and other days it can be likened unto a dying cat…

How do you know when it's your technique vs an equipment issue? A great place to look first is at your strings.

These two things are often overlooked:

1) Strings need to be changed about once a year

2) Quality matters a TON

If it's been more than a year since you've changed your strings, order a new set or bring it in to your luthier for a fresh set. If you're practicing or playing several hours per day consistently then you may be ready in as few as 4 months, but most hobbyists can go a year.

If you've passed the “one year test” and still aren't sure about your strings, answer this quick quiz.

1) Do you see any wear or corrosion?
2) Have you been sweating on the strings without wiping them off?
3) Do you have a hunch they are dead?
4) Do your five-note rolls lack crispness?
5) Do you feel like you're pressing harder than you used to to get a good sound?

If you answer yes to any 2 questions, then give new strings a shot.

There are so many types of strings and each one has strengths and weaknesses. Here are my top 3 favorite strings!

Helicore 

I really like these affordable strings. The price is good, so they are a go-to for me on tour when I'm going to blow through a bunch of sets.

They are steel so they work really well with electronic pickups such as my fave the Baggs Bridge.

That said, they are kinda bright sounding. This makes them perfect for fiddle music, but maybe lacking for drama and long slow notes. They still sound good enough for smoother darker stuff, but it's not their strong area.

Vision 

At about the same price point, Vision strings have a more balanced sound. I wouldn't quite call it dark, but leaning more that way. If you're more into playing moody sweeping melodies and not so much into fiddle ornaments and tunes, this could be a great choice for you.

Evah Pirazzi

Now here's where I become a bit of a bad influence. These are my all time favorite strings.

The Evah's are considerably more investment, but they will pull the richest tones from your violin. They have a sort of impossible balance of depth and sparkle.

One possible downside is they are higher tension. It's never bothered me but some players find these harder on the left hand.

I hope you'll use this as a starting point to have fun and experiment with strings.

If you purchase strings using the links above, a small commission will go to thehotviolinist.com at no extra cost to you. I always recommend supporting your local shop whenever possible.

Please post a comment below with your favorite type of strings and why!