MCH Blog

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Gavin Min

Parent Purchasing Frustrations

One of the biggest frustrations that parents have when coming to MCH is a lack of information regarding the items they are purchasing for their children. Most often they are new band or orchestra parents and have not yet been initiated into the wonderful world of music accessories and books. It is not uncommon for us to field questions or statements such as "There is more than one type of string?" or "What do you mean brand and strength of reed?" or my personal favorite: "My child said I need to buy a book." For those of us who have been involved in music for a while, these may seem like silly questions, but to a new band/orchestra parent are very important and quite valid. To help the parents out there, here are a few things to find out from your child before you stop into a store, regardless of where you shop.

1. Reeds: There are a few different brands available and they are also graded by strength which will be indicated by either a number such as 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 or Medium-soft, Medium and so on. Knowing what brand and what strength is important for us to get you the appropriate product.

2. Strings: Each string instrument comes in a variety of sizes and there are many different brands of strings to choose from. Be sure to at least know the size of your child's instrument (ie. 1/2 violin, 15-1/2" viola, 4/4 cello) before you drop by. Also, most schools and private instructors like to use a specific brand of string and the price range can be quite extreme. If you don't know for sure, we can probably identify what type of strings are on your instrument if you bring it with you and will be able to match them. Otherwise, we can suggest a string based on your need and price range.

3. Books: At MCH we have over 3,000 titles in-stock and are able to place an order with most of the major publishers around. Many parents often don't know the title of the book they are looking for and may describe it saying: "it's the purple one," or "it has a yellow cover and it's the book 2." The most important thing for us to know if you do not know the exact title is what instrument it is for. Next, would be knowing the Publisher or Edition, and finally, what type of music it is: solo, scale book, etude, etc. Obviously knowing the title would help the most, however, if you tell us the school or private instructor your child goes to, we can probably figure it out.

These are just some basics guides for the most common product questions. There are many other products that have a good deal of options. If you or your child doesn't know the specifics of what they need, just remember that we are here to help and will try our best to provide you with the appropriate product.

Saturday, January 2, 2010 | Darin Harada

Slide Grease: A "Slippery" Situation

Your brass instrument has very few moving parts--usually three or four valves and a number of slides. While most of the action happens with the valves (you are oiling your valves, aren't you?), keeping your slides greased is essential in maintaining your instrument. The layer of grease on your slides does more than keep the inner and outer slide from grinding against each other; it prevents mineral deposits and other buildup from freezing your slides in place. Saliva, acid and other "stuff" that comes out of your mouth will stick to an ungreased slide, then dry to become a hard, greenish-white substance. Removing the stuck slide can be difficult and time-consuming, especially when removal requires separating the solder joints. Difficult and time-consuming often means -expensive-. However, with a little regular maintenance, your slides will work smoothly for years to come.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Gavin Min

Getting the most life out of your reeds

Clarinet and Saxphone students don't often have the time to break-in their reeds properly, however, if done correctly can increase the life of their reeds and reduce the number of trips to the music store. It can also become very costly for parents as they will undoubtedly need to purchase more reeds since the student is not getting the most life out of their reeds. The breaking in of your reeds can be a time consuming practice, however, if done regularly, can maximize the life of your reeds while saving money.

Whether purchasing Rico or Vandoren reeds, they need to be broken-in. After removing the reed from it's package, dip it in water and lay it on a hard, flat surface with the flat side down. Smooth glass works best. Next you must cure your reeds. With your thumb or index finger, gently rub the vamp of the reed from the filed end down towards the tip. Do this about 10 times. This will help to seal the pores of the reed so it will hopefully not become water-logged too quickly. After curing the reed, place it on your set-up and play it for about one minute and then put it back in its case or if you have an aftermarket case such as the Rico Reedguard or a Vandoren Case, place it in there. Continue this process until you have gone through all the reeds you have purchased. This is all time you should play the reed for the rest of the day.

On each subsequent day, you will want to play each reed again for about another minute or so adding on more time each time you play them. When you have repeated this process between 5-7 days, your reeds are ready to be used for regular practice. It is important to remember that during the break-in process, you should not be playing any one reed for more than 10 minutes and this length of time should only occur on the last day of your break-in process.

I know that this is a long process that most students don't have time for. However, if done regularly, you can extend the life of your reeds by weeks. For the student who doesn't have time to do this, the best thing you can do for yourself, your reeds and your parents' wallet is to have a rotation of AT LEAST 4 reeds. Number your reeds from 1 - 4 or however many you have. You can write on the shiny, bark of the reed with a permanent marker. Use reed number 1 the first day, then use number 2 the next and so on. Never play the same reed twice in a day. For example, if you have a band class during the day and then a sectional afterschool, don't use the same reed. Basically, you need to allow the reeds to dry out properly before being played again. Playing on one reed for a whole week will cause it to become water-logged and it won't respond correctly or will become more difficult to play on. Just think, if you have a rotation of 5 reeds and you have band 5 times a week, you can potentially use just one reed a day. Each reed will be used just once a week translating into a much longer life and less trips to MCH, saving money on equipment and gas.

QUICK TIPS: 1) Cure your reeds if you have the time. 2) Rotate your reeds on a DAILY basis. 3) Use a reed case. Even a cheap one is better than the flimsy plastic sleeve your reed came with. 4) Allow your reeds to dry out before playing it again.