Half-unlocked from Covid-19 again!

August 27, 2020
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

The Stringed Instrument Company is delighted to join you all back at Level Two – halfway out of lockdown and with Spring just round the corner (you can tell by the amount of rain we’re having).

Appointments and social distancing

Yes, we will be open at Level Two, but by appointment. Because we still have a little way to go in getting Covid under control, we need you to phone us on 09 6308421 or email us: to reserve a good time to visit us. This way, we can guarantee social distancing, to keep you and your family safe.

We look forward to seeing you again!

Contact tracing
We strongly support contact tracing, and – as before – we have several QR codes on display, to help you with this. For those of you who are struggling with the app, we have paper records as well.

Handwashing and sanitisers
We will ask people trying instruments or bows to hand-wash first. Anyone else is very welcome to handwash too! We have plenty of liquid soap and a paper towel dispenser in our bathroom.
Please don’t bring your alcohol-based hand sanitisers with you – alcohol eats varnish!

Instead we can supply a liquid viruscide, and we will be regularly cleaning all contact surfaces with this, before and after you play.

The word is out – masks can help protect you and the people you come in contact with!

See you soon!

Cath and the team

Read More

Level One is here!

June 9, 2020
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Congratulations on all your efforts to help New Zealand get to this point. It has involved huge sacrifice, with musicians and other Arts creatives taking a massive hit. I am in awe of all of you!

Now we’re back to “normal”…


We are so pleased with some of our Covid layout changes, we are going to continue with them. The showroom counter has been a great success and has enabled us to inspect instruments with you and fill in forms so much more easily. And we now have a mobile eftpos terminal, so you can pay anywhere in the building, or even in the carpark!

We still need contact tracing, which we will do both with the Government QR Covid Tracer app, and with paper records as before. If you have the Tracer App on your phone, you can scan it on our veranda whiteboard as you come in. But if you prefer not to use it, that’s fine too.

We are continuing to disinfect surfaces, including the contact areas of instruments – so you can be sure our chinrests and instrument necks will be Covid-clean.For this, we will be primarily using a viruscide, not an alcohol-based product, so that we don’t damage any varnish. We will also continue asking you to hand-wash, if you are going to handle our instruments and bows. Please don’t bring any alcohol-based hand sanitisers with you. Alcohol eats varnish!

At Level One, you won’t need to make an appointment to see us for repair consultations or for small things like buying strings and rosin.

But we still urge you to make an appointment for longer processes, where you need to spend extended time in our showroom trying out bows or instruments, or if you want to hire an instrument from us.

Having an appointment means we will be able to look after you much better than we can if you just walk in the door.

Congratulations on all your efforts to help us all get to this point!



Read More

Alert Level 2 – We Are Open!

May 13, 2020
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

We are really thrilled that Level 2 will allow us to see you again, and to help you personally with any repairs, needs or problems.


We will be open by appointment during our normal working hours: Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9.30am to 1pm.


Our Level 2 customer space is small, so we have created a new normal to keep you safe when you visit us. We have been hard at work making changes to our layout, and developing good protocols once you’re here.



Please ring or email us to make an appointment: 09 630 8421 or . If you happen to be passing, we will do our best to fit you in, but it may not be possible.


Remote options

If you still feel nervous about leaving your home, we can arrange Zoom meetings to discuss repairs and possible pick-up, remote payment and delivery options. Please call or email to book a time.


Group size

We are now working with customers in the showroom only. Because of limited space, we can only see one person or group of people at a time. This group can be up to 3 people, but if you absolutely need to bring an extra person, ring and discuss this with us first.



When you arrive at The Stringed Instrument Company, ring us on 09 6308421 from the carpark or our veranda – we’ll have seats for you there. If we confirm that there is no one else in the shop, come to the front door and we will let you in. If you have an appointment, you will be given priority.



When you arrive, we will ask you to wash your hands, if you are going to be handling instruments or bows, or trialling accessories. But if you’re just buying something like a string or a mute, we won’t need you to do this!


Do not bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you – alcohol damages varnish.










We are using a hospital-grade virus-killing fluid called “Viruscide” to clean all surfaces, including the eftpos machine, and we are happy for you to bring protective gloves and masks.


We need to maintain a 1 metre distance between you (and your group) and our staff at all times. So we have reconfigured the showroom to allow for this. You can stay for up to 2 hours, but because of our new appointment system, we need you to discuss why you are coming in when you ring ahead, so we can plan your appointment time length.


Contact tracing

After hand washing (if needed) you will then sign a register in the showroom to provide contact tracing.


Handling and playing instruments and bows

Within our Level 2 protocols, we will try and give you every opportunity to examine and play instruments and bows. Hire instruments will be checked by you as well as by our staff, both when issued and when returned.


Instruments and bows for possible sale can be played by you, and will be sterilised with “Viruscide” afterwards.


Take care and keep safe!


Read More

Covid-19 – what it means for you and your instrument!

March 23, 2020
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

We have been very much drawn into the Covid-19 crisis here at the Stringed Instrument Company, as we witness so many wonderful concerts being cancelled, and musical plans disrupted.

And our new workshop recruit from Germany, was to arrive in early April. But she is now stranded in Berlin and none of us know when she might be able to get here.

At the Stringed Instrument Company, we are putting stringent processes in place to lower the risk of cross-infection.

And we have some advice to help you as you continue to play at home or in small groups.

What we are doing in our showroom
Because Covid-19 can exist for up to 3 days on contact surfaces, we are taking the following measures:

We are asking everyone who wants to trial instruments or bows to wash their hands thoroughly first in our washroom, using soap and warm water. Paper towels are provided so you don’t have to share towels with anyone else.

Soap damages the “envelope” that surrounds the virus cell and destroys it very effectively.

Sterilising surfaces
Every time an instrument or bow is played, our workshop staff wipe the main contact surfaces afterwards, either with alcohol or with warm water and soap. We use 98% pure alcohol, and this will more than do the job.

The surfaces we are treating with alcohol are chinrests, bow frogs, fingerboards and unvarnished necks. In addition, we are using alcohol wipes on our eftpos terminal, doorknobs and the counters in the showroom and payment areas.

But we have to be very wary with alcohol on other surfaces!!! Varnish is very sensitive to alcohol and will usually melt and dissolve!

So please don’t bring your alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the showroom – if you use it before you try out an instrument, it could damage the varnish!!!


What can you do at home and when you’re playing with other people?

Handwashing is still the first and best resort.

Reminder: If your alcohol-based hand sanitizer is strong enough to kill Covid-19, it’s strong enough to damage your varnish!!!

And vodka (or your favourite gin or whisky) can still damage your varnish, but are too weak to kill Covid-19 – they’re around 40% alcohol by volume, and you need 60% at least.

Don’t swap instruments and bows with your friends!

Make sure you’re standing or sitting 2 metres apart – think about the amount of space you all need for some particularly wild bowing…

And stay at home if you’re sick.

Read More

Violin Maker/Restorer Position Available

October 9, 2019
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

A full-time position is available for a qualified violin maker and repairer to work in our small but busy violin workshop in central Auckland, New Zealand.

The successful applicant must be a graduate of a recognized violin making school who has some post-graduate workshop experience. Skill in violin repair and restoration techniques is required, and an ability to communicate well in English is essential.


For more information please contact

Cath Newhook

The Stringed Instrument Co. Ltd

Ph: 0064 9 6308421


Read More

Looking Back…

June 21, 2019
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

I’ve been to a couple of performances recently with a point of difference. Both featured concertos from fine young Auckland musicians!

Eric Scholes and NZ Barok

The first was a performance of the Dittersdorf double bass concerto No. 2 in D Major, featuring Eric Scholes, with NZ Barok. Eric was playing a double bass set up as a baroque instrument, using gut frets, and tuned in what we call scordatura – where the strings have a different tuning to the conventional one.

                                              Eric Scholes and his baroque double bass



The tone was lovely – resonant and clear – and Eric played beautifully, and with a relaxed demeanour that belied the real virtuostic difficulties of the piece.


I’ve known Eric all his life, from his early years as a self-confessed reluctant violin student to his discovery of the bass and his developing passion for the instrument in all its forms, right through to his return from graduate studies at the prestigious US Peabody Institute.

Grace Leehan and the AUSCO

The other concert featured Grace Leehan on viola, in Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G Major. Grace graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) and is on the brink of what I’m sure will be a great career as a violist. She played with elegance and a lovely full sound that showed off her musicianship superbly.


Grace was accompanied by a new little orchestra in town, the Auckland University Student Chamber Orchestra, conducted by fellow viola player Josh Kirk. The orchestra has been set up to give university students who are not advancing in music a chance to keep on playing music together.

The orchestra is a great idea – so many students practise hard at their instruments all through school, then find themselves in musical limbo once they reach University.

Read More

Tragic Fire at the Double Stop Fiddle Shop

June 21, 2019
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

As a violin restorer, one of my worst fears is fire.


We are incredibly vigilant, at The Stringed Instrument Company – we take more than the usual precautions and we’re always super-alert for any unusual smells.


One of our fire extinguishers in the workshop


There are so many things that can catch alight in a violin workshop, from wood to varnish to all the unusual solvents used in our special recipes for cleaning instruments.


And we’ve never had any problems. Touch wood. (Oops, wood burns really well…)


It’s not just our own hopes and aspirations we’re worried about, it’s the dreams of our repair customers that would go up in smoke along with their beloved instruments.

So I was utterly shocked when I recently came across a news story about a fire in an Oklahoma violin shop – and it was owned by one of my fiddle-playing heroes, Byron Berline.

Byron Berline


Byron is an ace musician who not has only dominated the US fiddle scene for over five decades, but recorded with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Elton John. He judged the Australian Bluegrass Fiddle Championship at Tamworth, the year I won it back in the early 1980’s, and I even got to shake his hand.

His violin shop, which burned down last February, not only contained around 400 violins, but all the memorabilia from Byron’s long career. It’s not hard to see why almost nothing survived.

The Double Stop Fiddle Shop in flames

Even the safes, where more precious instruments were kept, were no protection from the heat of the flames.


That’s Byron on the right, trying to find out whether anything had survived.

The story does have a miraculous finish. The last case Byron pulled out from one of the safes contained his treasured 1923 Lloyd Loar Gibson mandolin. When he opened the case lid, he was stunned to find the instrument almost undamaged. It was even in tune – as you can hear on You Tube.


Following the fire, Byron has had a huge amount of support, from music fans through to Oklahoma City officialdom. While mourning the loss of all his “friends”, he and his supporters are determined to see a new fiddle shop rise – almost literally – from the ashes of the last one.


There are precautions you can take too. Make sure your instrument isn’t close to a heater! And pull the plug of your heater out from the wall, to be doubly sure. And, as we all know, smoke alarms are a wonderful thing – check yours are up-to-date!

Read More

Bugs and Bow Hair

June 21, 2019
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Have you ever opened a violin or viola case and found this?


Your first reaction is that a mad dog or crazy kid has broken into your case and had too much fun with your gear. But you’d probably be wrong.

The most likely culprit is much smaller, and much stealthier.


This is the carpet beetle and it’s tiny, maybe a quarter of the size of your little fingernail. Its larva – the furry beastie on the left – loves munching on protein, and the protein in natural animal hair especially. Wool is a favourite, and horsehair, which is used on violin, viola, cello and double bass bows, is another.


You can confirm this measly little bug is the villain by looking at the broken ends of the hairs. They are often chewed in a distinctive way, rather than being cut clean through.


The chewed end of a bow hair


What should you do? First, don’t panic. It looks like a right mess, but it’s easily fixed, and the bugs aren’t hard to kill.


Remove the bow and its tangled hair from the case and chop the hair off with scissors – you’ll need to get the bow rehaired anyway – and throw the hair into your outdoor wheelie bin.


The bugs will still be in the case, though, hiding away. So take the instrument out, along with all those bits and pieces in the pockets, and spray the inside of the case thoroughly with fly spray, making sure the spray has reached into all the corners, pockets, nooks and crannies. Let the case dry for a few hours before putting everything back inside, in case the spray affects your instrument’s varnish.


If you feel nervous, bring it in to our workshop, and we’ll do it for you – and we’ll rehair your bow at the same time!


Some people get quite upset that they’ve been harbouring bugs. But it’s no reflection on your housekeeping. The beetles can fly, so an open window is all they need to get into your house. And an open instrument case is an invitation to lunch!


For the more scientific among you, here’s a diagram of the beastie’s life cycle.


Read More

Full time position available

May 1, 2018
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Sales, Showroom and Office Manager – The Stringed Instrument Company

 This full-time position offers a fantastic opportunity for an enthusiastic self-starter to join a small, friendly, tightly knit team, managing the showroom and office/business administration of an iconic violin business.

The ideal candidate will enjoy people and unusual situations, and have a strong interest in music. Ideally you will be a string (violin, viola, or cello) player at a reasonably proficient level. Strong administration skills are essential, and also a professional and friendly personality. You will work with musicians, students, and their families – it is important that you can relate to people from all walks of life, and be welcoming and accommodating.

You will have a high level of responsibility, to ensure the business runs smoothly and customers are kept happy. Your duties will include, but are not limited to: customer service; instrument sales and hire; researching, sourcing and buying stock; managing accounts and payroll; office administration; website administration; running errands; maintenance and upkeep of the premises. Experience with Xero and Excel are an advantage, but thorough in-house training will be provided for all aspects of the job as required.

To be successful in this role, you will need to actively multi-task, fitting administration duties around sales and customer service.  Personally you will be confident, able to work both independently and cooperatively, and possess a good eye for detail. A full driver’s license is necessary.

We will be offering three weeks full-time paid training at the start of your employment.

This is a full-time position Monday to Friday (8.30-5), with one to two Saturdays (9.30-1) per month.

For more information or to apply for this role, please contact Cath at: or Ph 09 6308421

Applications close on the 27th of May.

The successful candidate will need to be available from the 11th of June.

The Stringed Instrument Co Ltd

Read More

The Running Viola

December 19, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

It’s not every day that someone breaks the Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon run by someone dressed as a musical instrument.













Later this year, in the Birmingham International Marathon, the same runner, Alistair Rutherford, became the fastest full marathon runner dressed as a musical instrument, his time of 3 hours, 20 minutes and 33 seconds beating the previous record, set by a human cowbell, by a breath-taking 54 minutes.

Alistair’s outfit was made from lightweight Plastazote foam and came complete with a striking headpiece that mimics the shape of the viola’s neck and pegbox.

Alistair, a performance student at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, was raising funds for ARCO, a joint UK-South African project which delivers weekly Skype lessons to young musicians in South Africa.

As well as providing transformative music education activities, Birmingham Conservatoire staff and students – including Alistair – have been acting as role models for vulnerable youngsters living in Soweto, a Johannesburg township deeply affected by poverty and crime.

Student smashes second world record with musical outfit











Read More

From the Showroom: Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

December 12, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

The world (or the string playing part of it) is divided into two halves, one which is passionate about their latest rosin and one which thinks rosin is a small something that sits in a pocket in your case, gets wiped on your bow every other day or so but has no further role in your musical life.

Years ago, I learnt the hard way that rosin can make a huge difference. I’d finished a big restoration on a client’s violin and we were both pleased with the sound. But 6 months later, he came back, his violin now sounding scratchy and thin.










Worried about what had gone wrong, I picked up my workshop bow and had a play. It sounded lovely.

But when we played the same violin with his bow, I immediately heard why he was worried. Inside his case was a cheap rosin, packaged in the same coloured wrapper as his old Hill rosin. Someone at a rehearsal must have accidentally swapped them. A quick clean of his bow hair and a new rosin, and my client was happy again.

When I went to the recent Viola Congress I was keen to find out more about the latest rosin sensation, Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin.










Handcrafted in Australia for violin, viola and cello, Leatherwood has two different start-up recipes per instrument, “Crisp” and “Supple”.  And Leatherwood can make your own special blend, depending on how much attack, traction, clarity or texture you want.

We have sample rosins to help you decide what works best for you.

Leatherwood is starting to make quite a stir, gaining endorsements from world-famous fiddler Mark O’Connor, and a growing array of Classical soloists, and picking up some excellent reviews internationally. People keep saying it has solved playing issues they have been battling for years.















Mark O’Connor, fiddle player extraordinaire

Warning! It’s not cheap. But then, we can spend the same money, without thinking twice, on a new set of strings or even just one string. And the rosin will last much longer.

Think of it as a gift – to your favourite player or to yourself.

Happy Christmas,


Read More

Concert Review: the Auckland Chamber Orchestra

December 4, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Peter Scholes and the ACO have a well-established reputation for performing little known works by famous composers, famous works by less well-known composers, almost-unheard works by completely obscure composers and everything in between.











Last Sunday’s final concert for 2017 was no exception. Maurice Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, with its gloriously transparent harmonics which placed schoolgirl harpist Ning Chiang in a well-deserved spotlight, was instantly recognisable, though I confess I had never witnessed it in performance.

But the most extraordinary sounds of the evening were created, if not always written down verbatim, in Concerto for Bassoon and Lower Strings by the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, a colleague of Schnittke.

Under a soaring and often plaintive bassoon, four cellists and three double bassists created a remarkable palette of sounds ranging from floating glissandi to dense groaning chords. While the score contains many specific notes, other sections make symbolic suggestions only, allowing the players some creative freedom without letting them completely off the leash.


















A page from Concerto for Bassoon and Lower Strings by Sofia Gubaidulina

Jacques Ibert’s humorous Capriccio gave the upper strings, elegantly led by Andrew Beer, the opportunity to open as well as close the concert.


Read More

Auckland Trio: Festive Season Concerts 2017

November 29, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

The Auckland Trio will be heralding the start of the festive season with an imaginative combination of Mozart, tangos and Celtic tunes. For those of us who have become traffic-weary, the programme will be repeated at three separate venues across the city.

The group’s core members, violinist Elena Abramova and viola player Greg McGarity, are no strangers to Auckland audiences. For these concerts they are teaming up with cellist James Yoo to explore the realm between classical music and other genres.

One of Mozart’s last great chamber works, the Divertimento for String Trio K.563 will occupy the first half of each concert, after which Greg McGarity will switch between his customary viola and a classical guitar for the group’s own unique arrangements of Piazzola and Celtic music.














1st December 7.30pm
Highwic Historic House
40 Gillies Ave, Newmarket – entrance off Mortimer Pass

9th December 4.00pm
St. Francis Anglican Church
96 Park Rd

10th December 4.00pm
The Rose Centre
School Rd

All three concerts can be booked on Eventfinda , or you can buy tickets at the door.

$20 adults, $10 seniors/students, children free.


Read More

Bob Berg, pioneer of carbon fibre bows

October 3, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Carbon fibre bows are a truly ecological development in the violin family world. While excellent work is being done to create sustainable sources for pernambuco, the traditional  wood used for bow making, the emergence of carbon fibre as a viable alternative has taken some of the pressure off this threatened Brazilian rainforest tree.


While carbon fibre technology is now being used all across the globe to make a wide range of qualities and styles of bow, it is little known, outside New Zealand, that some of the pioneering research and development work was done here in Wellington by Robert Berg, a US-born double bass player in the NZSO.

In a nice exchange of skills and nationalities, Bob Berg, on returning to the US, passed this knowledge on to New Zealand-born Michael Duff.
















Duff developed it further and built Berg Bows into a world leader in carbon fibre bow making from his workshop close to Indiana University, gaining feedback from some of the world’s finest string players, including Janos Starker, Joseph Gingold, Ruggiero Ricci and Rostislav Dubinsky.





While Bob Berg was still in New Zealand, he made a significant number of bows, many of which are still in the hands of professional players here. These regularly come into our workshops, and from time to time, we are lucky enough to be asked to sell them on.

While the finish of the heads isn’t as elegant as the modern Berg bows, neither is the price! And the performance of the bows, overall, is excellent, making them a great buy for advanced students and young professional players.



Read More

Too wet or too dry?

September 18, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

Right now, wet and damp and cold are very much on all our minds. When will it stop raining? And what effect does the climate have on our instruments?









Most stringed Instruments survive well in Auckland’s temperate climate if they’re being played often – taken out of their cases and exposed to body warmth, fresh air and ambient temperatures. While we Aucklanders lament our lack of central heating and air conditioning, its absence does rule out excessive dryness, one of the major threats to any wooden object.

Wood normally absorbs a certain amount of moisture from the air, but when the air is dry, the wood can dry out too, and shrink. Which means your precious violin, viola, cello or double bass can crack, usually up or down from an “f” hole.









This is a particularly dangerous problem if you’re on an aeroplane for any length of time, where the average humidity is well below safe levels, at less than 20%.

A safe level for wooden musical instruments is between 50% and 60%, so you can see what the problem is. Increasing the humidity inside the closed case is key, and there are several brands of humidifiers commercially available, including Dampits – most of them look like big green worms!






But too much moisture can also be a problem, especially if you are not playing your instrument often and you have left it in a cold, damp part of the house. Water dissolves animal glue, the glue used to assemble all the 70-plus parts your instrument is made of. And with damp comes mould. If mould gets into the glue, it doesn’t just soften it, it can destroy its ability to hold your instrument together.








Keep the violin and its case away from the southern end of your house, and avoid any cupboards, wardrobes or “under-the-bed” storage areas close to “outside” walls – those where the outside world, cold, bleak and wet, is just on the other side of the wall.

Check the instrument regularly, and if you are not going to play it for a while, lower the string tension by at least a semitone, if not more. The main thing is to keep enough pressure to hold the bridge and the soundpost in place, but release enough tension to keep the strain on vulnerable parts of the instrument low.


Read More

The Viola Congress.

August 29, 2017
/ /
in News
Comments Closed

In a few days, I will be heading down to Wellington for the 44th International Viola Congress, one of the most keenly anticipated events on this year’s string playing calendar.

The Congress promises an amazing range of events from high-profile concerts to masterclasses, lectures, panel discussions, lecture recitals and a massed viola performance featuring pieces with names like I Am Lost Without My Beautiful Viola!





Gillian Ansell

Local viola players include the indefatigable Donald Maurice and the New Zealand String Quartet’s Gillian Ansell, while the star-studded international line-up includes Roger Myers, Roger Benedict and Anna Serova, who will feature in “The Three Altos”, a high-profile public concert with the NZSO.







I’m really looking forward to rubbing shoulders with my fellow luthiers, old friends who are coming from as far afield as Australia, and meeting up again with that fabulous community of viola players, the heart and soul of any classical ensemble.

If you can’t get down to Wellington, come to our showroom and play on some of the violas we have here. We have instruments by some of New Zealand’s best viola makers on display, and some fine sounding student instruments as well.

When: September 1st-5th  2017

Where: Wellington, St Andrews on the Terrace and other venues

Tickets: Visit the Congress website


Read More
Copyright © 2014 The Stringed Instrument Company.