We are bringing it back to March of 2011 for this week’s #TimeMachineTuesday post. This week we feature another article written by Brian Berk, who discusses the lesser-publicized instruments that are generally sold in music stores.

So let’s bring it back and check out the hidden gems of the past. Here it is

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By Brian Berk

When customers enter your store, the majority might be looking for the hottest new guitar, the coolest percussion product, or the most exciting DJ or pro audio product. However, many other instruments feature the hottest new innovations and are sure to result in sales, while leaving a healthy margin in your pocket.

Hence, The Music & Sound Retailer has brought back its “Salute to Lesser-Publicized Instruments” once again. This is the third installment of our series, which will feature some of the hottest lesser-publicized instruments on the market today. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. To list every lesser-publicized product would require a book’s worth of pages. But here are some great products to focus on before you sit down for your Thanksgiving feast.

Let’s begin with one of the hottest-selling lesser-publicized instruments available today. Banjos deserve much more ink in our pages, so let’s give them their due. Deering Banjo Co. released its Eagle II banjo. According to the company, it is the company’s newest and most affordable professional-grade resonator five-string banjo. One feature of the banjo intended to separate it from competitors is Deering’s patent-pending Twenty-Ten tone ring. The tone ring produces a high-quality sound that is versatile for many styles of playing and represents a refinement in the quality of a banjo tone, said Deering.

To learn more about the Eagle II, visit www.deeringbanjos.com.

Another instrument that receives little press is the harmonica, a favorite of┬ámusicians such as Taylor Hicks, John Popper and Steven Tyler. Hohner Inc. offers a new addition to its MS series of 10-hole diatonic harmonicas. Blue Midnight, manufactured in Trossingen, Germany, was named after the blues instrumental of the same name, which was written and recorded by Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer “Little” Walter Jacobs.

The harmonica features a trademarked plastic comb intended to provide a comfortable mouthpiece for ease of playing. It also offers a durable material that will never swell, according to the company. Stainless steel cover plates with wide-open back ends and closed side vents are designed to allow for a maximum volume and a tone that can “alternate between sweet and ornery.” Additional features include custom “Chicago-style” tuning and strong chords that are required when playing vintage blues, said Hohner.

Blue Midnight is available in seven keys: A, Bb, C, D, E, F and G. Visit www.hohnerusa.com for more information.

Let’s whisk our way east and take you from a harmonica manufactured in Germany to two violins made in its neighboring country, the Czech Republic. Debuting in August was the four-string NXT-4 electric violin from NS Design. And reaching your stores last month was the NXT-5, a five-string violin.

Both instruments are lightweight, with the NXT-4 tipping the scales at 585 grams; the NXT-5 weighs 610 grams. The violins are designed to adjust to any musician’s style. They come equipped with the NS Custom Shoulder Rest and the company’s Balanced Shoulder Rest, designed to secure the violin so that it can be played in an optimal and comfortable position for a violinist. Also, both models in the NXT series are the company’s first to incorporate its JackPot potentiometer in its volume and tone controls. The JackPot incorporates a rotary switch that disengages the ground when turned fully clockwise, sending 100 percent of the instrument’s signal to the amplifier. According to NS Design, this results in a fuller, richer tone, with more power, detail and overall intensity.

To learn more, visit NS Design’s Web site at http://thinkns.com.

Violins might be lesser publicized. But a recorder? That pretty much falls in the “never-publicized” category, even though it’s sometimes the first instrument a young child ever plays. Alfred Music Publishing has focused on that market with its recently released Harry Potter for Recorder and the Strawberry Shortcake Easy Recorder Songbook. The Harry Potter for Recorder book and recorder pack offers the essentials needed to play seven theme songs made popular by the first four movies, based upon the record-breaking J.K. Rowling book series. Alfred Publishing’s book features a beginner’s guide to playing the recorder, along with a simple introduction to reading music.

The Strawberry Shortcake Easy Recorder Songbook delivers the basics needed to start playing six of the character’s favorite songs, including “Jammin'” and a “Berry Happy Birthday.” Also a book and recorder set, it contains a beginner’s guide to playing the recorder and an introduction to reading music, featuring large print music notes.

Log onto www.alfred.com to learn more about both of these recorder products.

Shhh! It’s about to get really quiet. We’re talking about Yamaha Corp. of America’s SLB-200LTD Silent Bass. Best for jazz or pop settings, the bass features a hollow-body design and an internally mounted pickup system intended to deliver a solid and rich pizzicato tone. The SLB-200LTD delivers a flamed maple neck, ebony fingerboard, gold-toned geared machine heads and an acoustic body design that the company said, “enhances the tone compared to previous bass models.” Management of the SLB-200LTD’s tone can be accomplished via its volume, treble and bass controls. Active electronics eliminate the need for external pre-amplification.

Although transporting a bass can perhaps be a difficult process, Yamaha says the 15.3lb. SLB-200LTD is easily portable. According to the company, the bass features a compact design that allows the instrument to break down and fit into a compact case. Bass players can then take it on the road, due to the case’s shoulder strap.

For more, visit www.yamaha.com/band.

Let’s shift from being silent to keeping this next product on the “down low.” And we mean that literally. Kala Brand Music Co. debuted its Subductive Series of Solid Body U-Basses. Called the S-U-B series for short, it is inspired by the term used to describe how the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the Pacific Ocean, was created. How do S-U-B U-Basses relate to the Mariana Trench? They are equipped with Kala’s proprietary strings, which, the company said, “produce incredible bottom end that can be described only as seismic.”

The S-U-B series four-string fretted version is available in Sunburst, Red and Black finishes. Manufactured in the U.S.A., the U-Basses are designed to provide an affordable alternative to Kala’s California series. The product line includes a Shadow Electronics pickup system with volume control, two-band EQ, custom hipshot tuners and a Custom Deluxe Logo Gig bag.

The S-U-B series is manufactured to be portable and meet all airline carry-on requirements. For more information, visit www.ubass.com.
Our last instrument is so rarely covered that we’ve never even featured one in our previous stories promoting lesser-publicized instruments. We’re talking about a dulcimer. Offering the Appalachian and Hammered dulcimers is Folkcraft Instruments Inc. Folkcraft has designed the Appalachian version of the fretted instrument since 1968, using a variety of hard and soft woods. The Woodburn IN-based company gave the instrument its name because it is native to the Southern Appalachian region of the United States. According to Folkcraft, the Appalachian dulcimer is the U.S.’ oldest known instrument.

Folkcraft’s Hammered dulcimer allows musicians to use small hammers to produce the instrument’s sound by striking its strings. The manufacturer produces several sizes of the Hammered dulcimer and usually tags each with a name that corresponds to the number of notes on either side of the instrument’s bridges. An example is the Folkcraft Legend 17/16, which features 17 treble courses and 16 bass courses.

Log onto www.folkcraft.com to learn more.

As you busy yourself stocking electrics and acoustics, drum sets and mixers, and mics and speakers, don’t let these lesser-publicized instruments slip your mind. There’s a market for them out there, they’re terrific products and, perhaps most importantly, they can mean profit for your retail store in this challenging business environment.

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