• In the Spotlight… Becketts Music

    Becketts Music... In the Spotlight

    trio of images of the inside of becketts shop
    In the Spotlight today is Becketts Music, based in Southampton. In 2021, this extensively stocked music shop celebrated its 75th year since opening in 1946! We caught up with the owner, Dan Redhead, to find out what they’ve got to offer in the shop and how they can help you, our lovely Take it away customers.

    What is the story behind Becketts?

    The business was started in 1946 by Mr Beckett senior, so we celebrated our 75th year of trading in 2021. I joined Becketts in 1980 as a sales assistant and subsequently became manager. Mr Beckett’s son at that time was running the shop and eventually, we became business partners. I had always wanted to do something within the music sector and a plan was agreed to allow him to eventually retire at which point I took over the business. It was a very amicable arrangement and Mr Beckett still carries out repairs for the store as a 3rd party repairer today.

    Old black and white image of becketts music shop front

    What can customers expect when they come to visit you?

    We can offer a great wealth of knowledge having been involved in the music industry for many years. Our staff are knowledgeable on the instruments we have for sale, either as players or from years of sales experience (or both!). We have a reputation for good honest advice and help which is not earned by being a “quick box shifter”.

    timpani inside shopWhat’s the most unusual instrument in your shop?

    At the moment, probably a 25″ timpani sat in the shop – any takers?

    What additional services do you offer?

    Repairs to instruments are the main additional service we offer. We don’t have much physical space so we’re unable to offer tuition but we do work closely with local teachers – do ask us for recommendations!

    Go on, tell us about your most famous customer…

    Over the years we have had involvement with many celebrities as we are located only a stone’s throw from the local Mayflower Theatre. We have had last-minute requests from musicians appearing at the theatre, musicians who were performing for the Queen on board a ship following its launch but had left gear behind, as well as James Last (a blast from the past) who wanted music stands within an hour.

    Name a favourite piece of music. (From any genre you like, absolutely no judgement!)

    There would be so many, I guess it really depends on your mood at the time. I have quite a range of interests but it would have to be something with a decent melody. Sorry, I can’t pick from such a vast library to choose from!

    How do you get involved in your local community?

    We visit schools to explain how instruments work and meet with bands to give talks on instrument care. If we can, we always try to help with any musically orientated project.

    In one sentence, why do you think music shops like yours are vital and important to your community?

    You will never be able to experience the joy of trying that instrument and getting invaluable advice through a computer screen.

    Why do you think payment options like the Take it away scheme are of value to your customers?

    Money can be tight for all of us and Take it away gives that opportunity for customers to purchase that instrument which in turn opens up a whole world of opportunity.

    Thanks, Dan!

    Visit Becketts Music at: beckettsmusic.co.uk

    And follow them for updates on Facebook + Twitter:

    Tell us what you think @Takeitawaymusic 

  • Violin vs Viola: What’s The Difference? – Caswell’s Strings

    Violin vs Viola: What’s The Difference? - Caswell's Strings

    They look similar, and may sound similar too, but what makes the violin different from the viola and vice versa? String instrument specialists and Take it away music shop member Caswell’s Strings are here to help!
    Read on to find out more about these fantastic instruments and which may be best for you to pick up and start playing…
    This article was verified by the director of Caswell’s Strings, Lance Tunley who is an experienced purveyor of stringed instruments and accessories with over 30 years of experience in the field.

    The String Family

    The string family of instruments has a rich and respected legacy in the world of music. Although not the oldest pedigree of string instrument, the violin family now forms the backbone of the modern symphony orchestra and choosing an instrument from this family is a popular choice for beginners and intermediate level players alike.

    The basic violin family is made up of four instrument voices: cellodouble bassviolin and violaWait…violin and viola, but they’re the same thing, right? If you’re not a musician yourself or have never seen/heard the instruments compared then you can’t be judged for thinking this.

    However, if your child expresses an interest in one and not the other then it’s time to get on board with the less than nuanced differences between these instruments. Understanding the unique variations can help you support your child’s choice more constructively.

    Size 📏

    Of the two instruments, the violin is the smallest. Measurement wise, a full-size violin body is about 36 cm (14 inches), but a full-size viola body is typically somewhere between 39 and 41 cm (15.5-16.5 inches). The body of the viola is also wider and deeper than the violin.

    Violin size 36 cm - viola size 39-41cm

    Bow 🏹

    (Not that type!) 

    One of the biggest differences that you can also observe is that these two instruments cannot share a bow.  The strings of a viola are heavier and need a bow with more weight to create the darker richer sounds.

    Violin bows are, on average, a whole 10 grams lighter than a viola bow.

    A little harder to spot is the difference between the bow’s ‘frog’ (that’s the part of the bow that players grip). On the viola bow, the frog is chunkier and often curved, compared to the straight edge on a violin bow. This impacts how the musician draws the bow across the strings, changing the sound created.

    Strings 🎻

    Typically, violins and violas both only have four strings (electric variations can have more).

    Violin strings are tuned G, D, A, and E, with E being the highest, and G being the lowest. The strings of a violin are one-fourth down from each other.

    The Viola is tuned one fifth lower than the violin. Viola strings are C, G, D and A strings, with A being the highest, and C being the lowest. The strings of a viola are also tuned one-fourth down from each other. They are also thicker and longer than their violin string counterparts.

    Therefore, when compared to the violin, the viola produces notes of a lower range and this lower note range is often the choice of players wanting to play the alto voice in the orchestra.

    Sound 👂

    The sounds produced by the thicker strings of the viola are slower, deeper and more mellow than the violin. In an orchestral setting, the viola is the harmonic accompaniment. Ask any violist and they’ll point out that the sound of their instrument isn’t necessarily prominent in a full orchestra.

    Yet, it doesn’t make the harmonising tones of their notes any less essential. Volume isn’t everything, and violas are key inclusions for balancing out the voices of other string instruments such as violins and cellos.

    In an orchestra, the violin is the highest-pitched instrument, making them the obvious choice for carrying melody line and for solo parts. The notes are brighter and sweeter than a viola; one of the reasons it’s such a popular solo instrument as well as an ensemble one.

    And there are a lot of violinists in an ensemble. Orchestras actually have first and second violinist sections, meaning their numbers far outweigh all other instrument groups. No wonder they’re so much louder and steal all the spotlight!

    Violin stats

    Clef 🎼

    A Clef is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes. Placed on a stave (the parallel lines you see on sheet music), the clef indicates the name and pitch of the notes on one of the lines.

    The viola is a mid-range alto voiced instrument and is the only string instrument to use the Alto Clef for notation.

    The violin is played in the Treble Clef. Violins are known for being the “soprano” (highest) voice of an orchestra or ensemble.

    Alto Clef is not some mysterious, difficult to conquer form of reading music (all sheet music looks like alien jargon to non-musicians after all). Switching between the clefs can be difficult but can be done should your child ever wish to swap between the instruments.

    Which is easier to play?

    This isn’t a simple answer. The violin family is notoriously difficult to learn given the amount of precision and focus that goes into creating a tone that doesn’t make cats wail. Not only does the young musician need to conquer the positioning of their hold but also the movement of their fingers… all while running a bow across the strings in a specific way.

    The two instruments do share a lot of similarities but there’s no easy route to either. The viola is the heavier and richer sounding of the two instruments requiring a stronger built player with above-average hand size.

    Viola stats

    How to choose which is best for you

    The choice will entirely depend on personal preference and where your child wants to take their instrumental journey. Violins are more versatile and are used a lot in more modern music but there’s less competition for the viola player in orchestras.

    The viola requires more reach and strength but if you can master the violin, you can often swap over to the viola if required. If your child desires the spotlight, the violin is probably best but it will always be a climb full of competition and challenges.

    If the spotlight isn’t everything and your child could happily contribute to being part of a greater whole, then the viola makes more sense. Choosing a viola is about choosing to move away from the crowded world of violinists, and notoriously, having a sense of humour!

    Why not have your child try out one of these instruments for themselves? Contact Caswell’s today on 01280 707140 or email sales@caswellsstrings.com

    Caswell’s Strings is a Take it away music shop member based in Banbury that offers a wide range of instruments, repairs and more!

    Find out more and get in touch by visiting their website: caswells-strings.co.uk

    Caswell's Strings logo

  • 60 Seconds with… Bridgewood & Neitzert

    Bridgewood & Neitzert have been serving London, the UK and the world with their expert repair and restoration of string instruments for almost 40 years. Their busy shop in Stoke Newington is full of beautiful instruments and extraordinary skilled luthiers!

    We spoke to founder Gary Bridgewood to find out more.

    How would you describe your shop in three words?

    Leading Violin Dealers

    How did the business get started?

    We opened our first workshop with two other colleagues, Robert Louis Baille who now runs a prestigious shop in Seville, Spain and Craig Ryder, a very fine bow-maker who settled in Paris. Both Robert and Craig left for Paris in a black taxi whilst Tom Neitzert and I stayed here and started our partnership in 1982.


    What does your shop specialise in?

    Expert repairs and restoration, sales of violins, violas, cellos, double basses, bows, cases, strings and accessories, both modern and baroque set up. We have a large selection to suit every taste and budget! We’re also here for advice, expertise and consultation.

    What additional services do you offer?

    We have two floors of workshops at our Stoke Newington shop and have some of the finest luthiers in Europe. We pride ourselves on making any repair no matter how small or how extensive. We’ve repaired double basses back to health that have fallen off the back of an aeroplane or violins that have been driven over and look impossible to put back together. Sounds impossible but that’s what we do! We offer the same for bows and cases.

    We also specialise in baroque and classical period instruments and are known worldwide for this, we have a large selection of baroque instruments for sale, and for conversion work – putting instruments back into period set-up. We offer specialist string sales and have the widest possible selection, these are sent all over the world.

    We have a dedicated team handling our hire scheme where students can hire good sounding, easy to play instruments.

    We are conservators for the National Trust, recently we visited Buckingham Palace to repair their Basse de violon. We manage the hire scheme for the Viola da Gamba society, for those looking to hire viols and a similar scheme for the lute society.


    What’s your favourite item for sale in the shop right now?

    There are so many that I love! A wonderful baroque cello by Jacob Haynes made in London 1745, a fantastic violin by Johannes Cuypers, the Hague 1773 but my favourite is a violin by a rare maker called Marcell Pichler, Austria 1677 with a beautiful carved lions head.


    Name a favourite piece of music. (From any genre you like, absolutely no judgement!)

    Ginette Neveu Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor recorded in 1945


    Do you get involved in your local community? If so, how?

    We have been involved since its inception with the Stoke Newington Early Music festival, such great players as Monica Hugget, Catherine Mackintosh and Emma Kirby have performed. We support music at Sutton House possibly London’s oldest house. We have also supported a local radio station and sponsor many musicians in their concert activities.

    Visit Bridgewood & Neitzert at:

    146 Stoke Newington Church Street
    Stoke Newington
    N16 0JU
    +44 (0)207 2499398

    Tell us what you think @Takeitawaymusic