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--We are a small, locally owned neighborhood shop in the old European tradition.

--Please stop in and see our shop at 7330 NE Bothell Way, Kenmore, WA, on the second floor of the Schnitzelbank Bavarian Chalet (formerly a German restaurant), above Snapdoodle Toys. 

--There are five dedicated free parking spots, and you are welcome to use the elevator (inside the big brown door), or the stairs on the side of the building.

-- We are in our 7th year at this location and our 24th year in the violin business.  20 years in Seattle!

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We specialize in violin, viola, cello, bass, their bows, and accessories, and we occasionally buy used instruments of good quality and condition. 

We do not sell or repair fretted string instruments, or brass & woodwinds.

Although we dabble in concertinas…

 

 

Please note our new email address:  info@kenmoreviolins.com

 

We are on Facebook!

 

We would like to thank the many customers who have written kind letters regarding our services.  This means a lot to us.  We will do anything we can for our loyal customers!

 

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These things do not equal each other

 

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Cheap Internet violin       vs     Violin in professional shop

 

 

                                             Internet Violin                                      Shop Violin

Priority of maker                       low cost                                        sound & value

Sold by                                     sales staff                                    professional violin maker

Familiarity with seller           None.  Remote                                 Close, personal

Sales approach                       mass marketing                                     one at a time

Target market                     beginners (children)                         amateur players (youth, adult)

Materials                              poor to moderate                             moderate to excellent

Craft                                     mainly machine                                  mainly handmade

Case                                       styrofoam                                     plywood or fiberglass

Strings                                 cheap Chinese                            premium European, American

Setup                              Not setup (or very bad)                        to professional standards

Guarantee                   None, or return at your expense          Personal guarantee (1 year)

Trial                            None, can’t play prior to purchase           Generous trial period

Trade-in                                      None                                             Yes, full value

Prognosis for student      Quit! = failure                            Continue! = success

 

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Did the Violin Descend from Heaven in Perfect Design?

 

Most things are invented, then develop and are changed a great deal over a long period of time.  Look at the automobile and the airplane.  However, it’s different with the violin.

 

People always look at us strangely when we tell them about the history of the violin (based on an enormous amount of historical and scientific research; not just our opinion).  But it’s true: the oldest depictions of violins are 1490’s church paintings in Ferrara, Italy showing violins in the arms of angels descending from Heaven.  Then there is a gap in the record because the oldest existing instruments were made by Andrea Amati during the 1560’s (we made a copy of the Charles IX violin, which is on display in our shop).  These don’t look any different than the violin that you might own today (but please note that Amati did not invent the violin, as is incorrectly reported on many sites on the web).

 

Yet it is confirmed that the design of the violin is based on mathematical archetypes of nature including the Golden Section, Fibonacci numbers, the curtate cycloid arch, the exponential curve, and other geometrical parameters discovered in Ancient Greece and re-explored during the European Renaissance (14th-17th Centuries).  Even today, these are the most perfect design parameters known, and the basic rules are followed by plants, animals, crystals, and other natural forms.  These mathematical archetypes are also the foundation of vibration, resonance, and music.  These things are all related.

 

When violin maker Carleen Hutchins investigated violin acoustics in the 1960’s, with the help of gifted physicists, she found that the traditional violin could not be improved mathematically.  It was already optimized acoustically, in terms of having two principal resonances centered on the middle two strings.  The full-size violin has a 14 inch body, holds a specific air volume, and even the ff-holes must be the area of the classic instruments.  You can’t change the body length, air volume, or design much without losing sound.  But you can scale the parameters of the full-size violin up and down to invent Hutchins’ ‘Octet’, a family of optimized instruments.  This work, and the invariable failure of countless variations to the classic design, confirms the basic perfect violin design which came to us over 500 years ago.

 

You might ask, what did the famous Stradivari have to do with it?  Didn’t he ‘perfect’ the violin?  Actually, he appeared about 100 years after Andrea Amati’s violins were already in the hands of players.  However in his senior years, beginning in his late 50’s, his large shop with many workers produced many excellent violins and cellos (violas were not so good).  These were modeled on earlier designs, particularly by the Amati family, with slight modifications, generally to attain better Golden Sections in the body outlines.  Like other makers of his time, he made instruments almost exclusively for the Church.  For his efforts Stradivari was given the title ‘Attendant to the Pope’.  It is important to point out that history’s greatest music was written at this time during the Baroque era (1600-1750).  So in these important years for lutherie and music, violin family instruments were used mainly to honor God in the great cathedrals of Europe, playing music by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and others.

 

Is it too fanciful to suggest that the violin descended from Heaven in perfected condition? 

 

I would only add that you don’t need to look far in history, or in our modern world, to find life forms, objects, and happenings that have no rational explanation.  Perhaps it’s Devine Providence.  Maybe it’s not, but it would be arrogant to assume that we really know.  Do you want examples?  Start with America winning the Revolutionary War… against all odds.  Got a better explanation?  I doubt it…

 

 

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Play the Size that Fits You!

We see a lot of young players, some successful and some not.  I think that there are four factors that determine a young person’s musical success:  personal motivation, parental support, equipment quality, and quality teaching.  All are essential; students quit if one is missing.  Efforts should be made to maximize these factors!

 

A common equipment-related problem is that a student is given an instrument that is the wrong size (often too big).  For example a student who fits ¼ violin is given a ½ or ¾ size violin.  The player might like the idea that they are playing a louder instrument meant for an older player, but they are forced to modify proper technique in order to handle an instrument designed for a larger person.  Consequently, playing is painful and sound is poor.  Joint configurations do not enable comfortable and efficient bowing.  Progress is stalled because energy is spent straining to overcome ergonomic issues (arms are too short) for which the only solution is time.

 

We usually see these “mis-fit” players only once, because they soon quit out of frustration.  Sadly, this could have been avoided.  They might have been successful if they were given equipment that fit their body.

 

Some of the best teachers even recommend playing a smaller size for longer than necessary.  Facility is greater.  Pain vanishes.  You learn new methods like shifting without problems.  It works!

 

But playing a huge instrument never ends any better than when a child tries to ride an adult’s bicycle.  Sure, they can do it, kids are agile, but …badly and for only a short time before they crash.

 

We are happy to measure arm length to inform you about proper instrument size.  We favor the Viometer, a plastic gauge with instrument sizes marked on the side.  You simply hold it like a violin, pull out shaft to the middle of palm, and read off size (if borderline, defer to smaller size).  Cello is sized a bit differently, but we can offer an opinion on that too.

 

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Music stimulates all areas of the brain

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How Long Do Violin/Viola/Cello/Bass Strings Last?

They can last forever in terms of not breaking, but they lose their best sound within a few months, maybe up to one year.  People bring in 80 year old instruments with intact strings--so you can’t wait until they break to replace them.  We don’t wait for our car’s tires to pop before we replace them either, we judge them by their age and condition.

 

Busy players putting in a lot of hours, or those who play a lot of loud, bombastic pieces, will need to change strings sooner.  Professionals change strings before important gigs.  But give the strings a few days to stretch and stabilize.

 

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Kenmore Violins donates German-made 4/4 cello to Kenmore Junior High!

We have donated a European made full-size cello, with bow and case, to our local high school music program.  We hope that this instrument might make it possible for young players to take part in the music program, despite financial limitations.  It is important that young people in our community learn to play these fine instruments!

 

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Words to Live by, in Music and Life

“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.”

-Miles Davis

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Avoiding low quality instrument woes

 

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Entertaining yourself is infinitely better than being entertained by someone else” 

What better way to entertain yourself than to learn to play an instrument?

 

 

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We make violins and violas!

We have studied with some of the world’s best makers, and our recent violins are played by expert players in local symphonies and string quartets.  We are currently accepting orders.

 

We recently received beautiful one-piece Master-Grade curly maple backs from Bosnia.  Please come in and ask to see them!

Yes, we are proud of pieces of wood…

 

We currently have a handmade Loen 16 inch viola modeled on the Brothers Amati viola of 1615, and a Charles IX 7/8 violin, a copy of the World’s oldest existing violin from the 1560’s.

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Loen 16” viola

 

 

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Mapping the Gibson (Huberman) Stradivarius violin (1713)

 

Our research on classic instruments is internationally known.  We recently produced color contour thickness maps for a poster and article on Joshua Bell’s $4 million Golden Age Stradivarius violin for The Strad, an elite violin magazine from London, England. The maps show how top and back thicknesses pinch and swell (thickness in millimeters).

 

The Gibson is one of the greatest violins in the world. Violin maker and author Sam Zygmuntowicz asked us to make thickness graduation maps of the top and back of the Gibson for a full-size poster that also shows detailed photos, CT scans, and other data.  This violin is an important example of Stradivari’s Golden Age, and has an interesting 20th Century history of loss and recovery.  The article and poster appear in the November 2013 issue of The Strad. 

 

We previously wrote two articles for The Strad on Stradivari’s and Guarneri del Gesu’s wood and thickness graduations.  If you would like to read these we have a few copies at the shop.

 

 

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We do not profit from our Instrument Rental Program

A huge amount of our time, energy, and resources goes into providing and maintaining quality rentals for students.  About half of customer visits (300-400 people/year) to the shop involve rentals.  You might think that such a rental program would be a profitable venture, but 100% of after tax income from the rental program goes to pay overhead costs.  Plus, we see it as a valuable neighborhood service to help develop the new crop of talented string players.

 

If you have ever run a small business you understand that paying bills is the first priority in the rough and tumble game of staying afloat.  Costs are high (thousands of dollars/month) to run a large shop with a big inventory.  Money from rentals goes to the building owner, suppliers, shippers, insurance companies, utility providers, communications companies, credit card processors, equipment makers, accountants, Federal, State, and local government tax collectors, and dozens of other entities.  This operation, like many small businesses, helps to power the local economy but please note that the owner does not profit from this rental enterprise!  In some cases, we decline to offer rentals because our overhead bills are fulfilled.  So please understand that supplies are limited.

 

 

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Perks from Kenmore Violins upon purchase or completion of rent-to-own contract

-One year service guarantee (30 days on bows)

-Free maintenance, tuning, adjustment (no time limit)

-Trade-in value makes it possible to advance as you grow or as your skills improve.

For upgrade in size or quality of same instrument, bow, or case; equipment must be kept in same condition as purchased for full value; no damage or excessive wear (refurb fee applies).

 

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