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Zlata Brouwer

How to STOP Your E String from Whistling, Squeaking or Scratching

October 30, 2014 09:07

This episode is all about how to STOP you E string from whistling, squeaking or scratching.

Kaari writes...

Hi Zlata, sometimes while playing, a horrible squeak plagues me when I change strings to play on the E string.

What is it? Is my elbow down too far? Is the weight in my hand wrong? Certainly it can make embarrassing sounds and I change position on the A string to avoid the E if it happens in practice.

Sincerely, Kaari


There are 5 things that cause those strange sounds coming from your E string. The problem you experience, can be caused by one or several of them.

Some causes are in your playing technique and some causes are in the material you use.

Most of the times the problem is in the technique. In the video I will show you what exactly happens when your E-string makes squeaking sounds and how you can avoid it.

Whether your E string is whistling, squeaking or scratching (or something else) the causes are most of the times the same.

1) Have a good bowing technique. You need to have a good balance in speed, pressure, amount of bow hair, place on the bow.

The E string throws everything that is wrong with your bowing technique right in your face. You need to be more precise with your bowing technique than on other strings.

For example: when my bowing speed is too slow versus the pressure of the bow on the string, the E string will scratch. When I do the same, but I use less pressure (or weight!) or more bowing speed (or both), the E string makes a normal sound.

Another example: when you bow at the frog and you use all the hair, the E string becomes scratchy very quickly. When you do this and the bowing speed is a little too low and the pressure is a little to high, the E string will squeak.

The solution to play around with using a little less hair by tilting the bow, making sure that you use enough bowing speed, making sure you don’t use too much pressure and match this to the part of the bow you are using.

Kaari writes her elbow might be down too far. On the E string your elbow will be down more than on the other strings. Your upper arm is almost all the way down touching your body. It’s hard to have your elbow too low on the E string. However, when you use a lot of arm weight in your bow, the E string might scratch anyway. When that happens, the cause of the problem is not the position of your elbow, but too much weight.

2) Bow straight. With lots of students the cause of a squeaking E string is that they don’t bow exactly straight and that the bow ‘wanders’ over the string back and forth. The E string will whistle when you don’t bow straight, listen to (and watch) the demonstration in the video to hear and see the difference.

3) Make clear string changes. There shouldn’t be sounds in between the string change. You should change strings clearly and confidently.

You can practice the clarity of your string changes by practicing the string changes with stops. Bow, stop, change string, bow etc. Your fingers, bowing and string change should all be synchronized.

When you are playing chords including the E string, make sure that you get a good response from both strings and that you don’t just touch the E string slightly with your bow. Otherwise the E string will whistle.

These are the three most common playing technique causes for a whistling, scratching or squeaking E string. In most cases it’s the technique, but it some cases it’s the material you are using and the strange sounds are really not your fault. In that case adjusting your playing technique will not help. Here are some causes that are in the material you are using and there solutions.

4) It can matter a lot what strings you have on your violin. High tension strings whistle more likely than low tension strings. Warchal Amber E strings have a lower tension than most E strings. Besides that they have a very innovative design. They solved the squeak, scratch and whistle problems with lots of my violin students and violin shop customers. I have this string on my violin too and I can highly recommend it. Click here to get yourself that non-whistle E string (worldwide shipping).

5) When you use too much rosin and you don’t clean your strings with a clean dry cloth every time you play, this can cause strange sounds when playing. You will have a grinding sound, because there is (too much) rosin on your bow and on your strings. The solution is to clean your strings with a micro fibre cleaning cloth and to use a little less rosin when you are rosining your bow or rosin your bow less often. The response of your E string will improve and it will whistle, squeak or scratch less or not anymore.

In rare cases, the cause can be in the set up of your violin. A luthier can optimize the response of your E strings for example by moving the soundpost slightly.

When you are struggling with a whistling, squeaking or scratching E string, follow the playing technique tips above, buy a new E string and keep it clean. In 99% of the cases this will be the solution to your problem.

Please always be aware that violins are ‘living' instruments that respond to humidity and temperature. A combination of the two can affect the response of your instrument. We string players just have to accept it sometimes and sometimes you will hear a squeak that you can’t prevent. It happens to the best.

Is this useful to you? Do you have tips to share on this topic? Please let me know in the comments below!
Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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3 Tips To Play Together From the Heart

October 23, 2014 02:09

In this episode of Violin Lounge TV I answer a question from one of our viewers Maddy. She writes:

Hi, I think you should do a video on not just learning how to play the notes in a piece but to really put passion or some umph into it.

My whole band and I struggle with that. We just play the notes but not the things that make it a song.

You seem very passionate about violin and I think that would help alot of people to learn how to enjoy playing music but playing with your heart. If this is at all possible I think this would make a great video. How to play the music not just the notes.

Maddie


You are lucky, because I have already made a video about this subject of not just playing the notes. In this video I turn one of the most boring etudes into beautiful music. I explain how you can do this too with the pieces you are currently playing. Watch it here: How To Make that Boring Piece Sound Like Beautiful Music?

When you are playing together, it can be different to play from the heart. A lot of musical ideas, visualizations etc happen inside your head. I recommend watching the above video first and then going into this video to learn how you can do this together.

Here are 3 tips how to play from the heart together:

1) Dare to do it! A lot of people can pour there deepest feelings into their music when they are alone in their practice room. However, when they are performing or playing together, they are just playing the notes and worrying about what other people will think about them.

Dare to be different, to exaggerate, to express yourself, to try out different things and to play the same piece in very different ways.

Playing around will make your music better and more interesting. Don’t be afraid to show your feelings for your music.

2) Visualize with your band and talk about it! Talk about what you see in your head when you think about, listen to or play this music? What do you all think this music is about? What kind of images do you see? People can have very different views on the same piece played by the same people.

In your band you should exchange your different thoughts and ideas. All this different thoughts together can make great creative ideas and results.

It’s important that in the end you all agree on the ideas. When one person thinks it’s a romantic piece and the other thinks it’s an angry piece. When you play together it will sound weird.

When you agree about the ideas behind your music and your band will become a unity. You will not be separate persons playing the right notes together and trying to be in the same rhythm.

3) This last tip will sound weird: to able to play from the heart, technique plays a very important part. You might think technique is separate from the emotional side of music.

Imagine: when you are writing a poem in a language you are not so familiar with. You will be struggling to find the right words and to find the right expressions. You don’t have the material to express what you want to say. This is the same for music: you need to have the right tools to be able to express yourself. 

For example: when you want to sound sad or romantic and you know 25 ways of vibrato, you can color your sound more than when you just know 1 way of vibrato. It’s the same for tone production: when you have explored all the ways your instrument can sound, then you can put your heart in the music.

I see lots of people struggling with the technical side of expression. They feel a lot when making music and have lots of ideas, but they are not able to communicate this through their instrument to someone else. This ‘someone else’ can be a band member or the audience.

Don’t forget this technical part of expression, even when it sounds like a contradiction to you. Making music or playing the violin and viola is one whole thing anyway. Everything depends on everything.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Oh No, Kittens are Killed for Violin Strings! - the Truth about Catgut

October 16, 2014 09:16

Some say that violin strings are made out of catgut...

In this video I will show you the truth about catgut.

Just to reassure you... violin strings are not made out of the guts of cats. Sissi (starring in the video) is still alive and kicking and I’ve got vegetarian strings on my violin.

Why do a lot of people think that violin strings are made from cat intestines?

The name catgut is confusing. There are two explanations for the mix up.

Catgut is an abbreviation of the word cattle gut. Gut strings are made from sheep or goat intestines, in the past even from horse, mule or donkey intestines.

Otherwise it could be from the word kitgut or kitstring. Kit meant fiddle, not kitten.

Find more information and how to make gut strings on Wikipedia (click here),

These gut strings are still used today by players specialized in authentic performance of baroque music and music from the classical era. They use catgut strings to imitate the sound from the era as good as possible. Some people just use gut strings, because they prefer the sound of gut strings to other type of strings.

You might be wondering... What are modern strings made of?

At the moment there are roughly three types of strings in the market:


  • gut strings (mostly used in authentic performance practice)

  • steel strings (very durable, clear and thin sounding, mostly used in the folk scene on fiddles)

  • synthetic core strings (most popular strings at the moment)


The type of strings depends on the violinist and the violin, so it’s hard to say what strings will suit you best.

Are you relieved by this video? What type of strings do you use? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Ma Vlast - Vltava theme - Smetana - Violin duo - FREE Sheet music

October 9, 2014 01:26

1920px-Vltava_in_PragueWith a friend I had a gig to play Czech music by two violins. I couldn’t find a violin duo version of the Vltava (Moldau) main theme, so I arranged it myself. I hope I can please you with the sheet music. Download it for free here: Vltava Main Theme.

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New World Symphony theme - Largo - Dvorak - Violin duo - FREE Sheet music

October 9, 2014 01:23

new world symphony theme DvorakWith a friend I had a gig to play Czech music by two violins. I couldn’t find a violin duo version of the New World Symphony Largo theme, so I arranged it myself. I hope I can please you with the sheet music. Download it for free here: New World Symphony theme - Largo - Dvorak - Violin duo

PS: I have no idea to make the proper punctuation mark for Dvorak on my Mac... if you know how to do this, please share it in the comments below and I am very thankful to you.

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Interview with Paul Reynolds, Violist, Teacher and Inventor of the Wrist Rascal

October 1, 2014 01:08

Do you know what a Wrist Rascal is and how it can help you to improve your intonation, vibrato and position play?

In this episode of Violin Lounge TV I interview Paul Reynolds, violist and inventor of the Wrist Rascal. He couldn’t stand the collapsed left wrists of his students anymore, so he invented this tool to help him and them. 

A collapsed wrist is very natural for beginning violinists and violists, as students are afraid to drop the violin or viola.

Lots of violin teachers start their students with exercises with the hand against the soundboard, which is roughly the third position. Beginning students have support on the violin and don’t collapse their wrist. A great solution, but we have to switch to the first position for our first songs.

When learning vibrato, most students start in the third position. That’s why vibrato is learned relatively late, after learning the third position.

The Wrist Rascal brings the third position to the first position and is a reminder for students.

Most tools shape your hand or arm in a certain position and make you dependent of this ‘aid’.

The Wrist Rascal shouldn’t be used all the time, but from time to time. Your hand shouldn’t lean against it: touching the Wrist Rascal is a reminder that your wrist is collapsing. This means that you develop your muscles and gain independence. 

In this interview Paul Reynolds and I talk about:


  • why the Wrist Rascal is made,

  • how one should use the Wrist Rascal,

  • what the results are of using it,

  • what makes it different from other tools.


We also talk about the advantages in group lessons, where teachers have to split their attention. The Wrist Rascal can prevent students from developing bad habits.

Often lots of technical habits need to be corrected when a student switches from group lessons or orchestra lessons to private lessons.

We talk about the wish of lots of students to learn vibrato early and about how it’s possible with this new tool.

Would you like to order your own Wrist Rascal or just read some more information about it? Go to www.wristrascal.com. Please e-mail Paul directly if you have questions.

Is this useful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Have you invented a product or service that violin and viola players can benefit from? Have you invented an accessory (mute, chinrest, case, teaching tool, whatever), written a book, recorded a CD or made something beautiful that serves violinists and violists? Just e-mail me at info@violinlounge.com.

If I think your product or service is interesting for Violin Lounge TV audience, I might invite you for an interview. Being interviewed on Violin Lounge TV will get you visibility and sales. In this way I hope to support innovation in the area of violin and viola playing.

PS2: Take a look at more interviews I did here!

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Previous entries: September 2014


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About Zlata

Zlata Brouwer is from Hilversum, Netherlands. Biography

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