Tone Production: the core in one's sound
Amy Beth Horman wrote in her recent blog “Fall in Love with Your Sound!”Gorgeous sound isn’t about being impressive or flashy or loud. It is about being understood, centered, and clear.”
This topic deserves more thoughts and discussion. We all heard from time to time that even some accomplished players don't always produce a moving tone. Some would say that their sound is not centered or lacks core.
I've been told often that I've got a good tone, but I don't know if I can say my sound has a core. I don't know what's like to have a core in my sound. Do you? What do you do to achieve and mantain that core?
This is an interesting topic!
My 2 centimes d'euro:
To me, without looking it up somewhere, I would interpret "a sound with core" as being full, and focused. Perhaps influenced by my French background, were "corps" (pronounced core) would in this context mean full bodied, like a full bodied wine (un vin avec du corps). As I look up its English meaning, core as an adjective would mean "principal" (as in a core objective) and as a noun "central body" (as in the core of a nuclear plant). The central body meaning could be interpreted as "a well defined central element", in other word focussed sound.
I think "core" has to do with bowing nearer the bridge. People who have "core" do it and know how to do it. I often notice that beginner-level violinists are really uncomfortable, hesitant, reluctant, actually afraid of bowing closer to the bridge and are unable to produce a louder but still pure sound there. Once you have that feeling, it reflects also to your playing closer to the fingerboard. You simply have a "deeper", "faster", "more contact" sense of bowing. It is the ever so evasive concept of "tonus".
"More air" = "orchestral sound". Faster bow speed, more bloom and less focus to the sound, blends into a section.
I agree with what is written above. I was taught additionally that tone and intonation are closely related because strongest resonance is achieved when one is playing perfectly in tune. I believe this is one reason why teachers should focus on core ("soloist") sound from their students because when you are bowing for core sound you also can better hear the small imperfections in your intonation.
Many good points so far. I know we are talking about something that is very hard to put our finger on. What really made me think about this issue is what Amy Beth said that "gorgeous sound isn’t about being impressive or flashy or loud. It is about being understood, centered, and clear." Is "being understood, centered, and clear" are three different or interconnected qualities?
I think what you are calling "core" is a sound that has a strong fundamental balanced by many overtones. This sort of sound has many advantages, such as making vibrato more audible and opening up a variety of tone colors to the player. I generally refer to this as "richness" rather than "core". This quality can exist regardless of where one is playing in relation to the bridge.
Maybe now is the time for me to ask about two words often bandied about, two words with respect to sound quality whose real "meaning" escapes me: "core" and "focus."
I don't think that having a core to the sound depends on being close to the bridge. You can draw a sound with a solid core over the fingerboard, if you have to.
thanks Lydia, sure, I only tried to identify "learning to play closer to the bridge with a clear sound" as a fundamental hurdle one needs to take in their development towards having core in their sound. once the hurdle is taken it is likely that the capability is easily extended to developing a sound with core to it also at other soundpoints. I tried to write that, but wasn't clear.
Andrew, it remains an elusive notion. there is also an attempt at discussion at Westbury Park Strings:
Jean - Thank You. Marvelous site!
Isn't this the core of Simon Fischer's tone exercises and the relation between soundpoint, bow speed and pressure and making the violin string vibrate as much as possible?
Tammuz,it's related of course but more complex than that. When I heard people (highly accomplished musicians) commnented on a particular professional solo performer "lacks core in his sound", I think I kind of know what they mean. The sound was decent and clear, but kind of unthoughtful and boring.
I'd love to hear what some of the folks who trained in the "Heifetz Tradition" such as Elizabeth Matesky or Nate Robinson would say about this topic. I wonder how "core" relates to projection, but maybe that is a separate question.
Hahn's sound has a very focused core, yes.
Ms Hahn is a latter-day Heifetz: the same superb control and vibrato, fine shading of phrasing - and charm to top it all! I imagine even the petulant David Jacobson surely would admire her playing, which has indeed a good "core" tone..
I'm with Adrian in that it's not mere technical thing but a lot to do with player's tonal sensitivity that leads to magical impression of the sound. Of course it's interpretative at such level of music making. But I don't think lack of core can be musically satisfying for listener, at least not to my taste.
Water-colours (transparent) vs oils (opaque)?
I was comparing two recordings of Mozart's G major concerto: Grumiaux's presented the musical landscape in all its brilliance and subtlety, while Menuhin, with his more uncertain sound, seemed to take us by the hand on a very personal - and beautiful - exploration.
I'm not qualified to comment on technical issues on this thread, but the discussion of 'core' sound made me think of Hilary Hahn, so i was pleased to see Paul Deck's mention of her. Impressionistically, to me Hahn's sound is clear, focussed and has a quality of 'depth' which is not flashy or mannered. I suspect that quality is in part to do with articulation and interpretation, as well as tone, though as a strictly amateur violin player I'm happy to be corrected.
My teacher's conjecture is that Hahn's bow is practically (figuratively) glued to the string; she produces an amazingly intense, fluid sound. You'll note that unlike the Galamian/DeLay pupils, she doesn't play especially close to the bridge.
Bow "glued" to the string is so important! When I watch fantastic soloists or chamber players, I can't help noticing that no matter how much their body swing, the bow and strings are so connect as though they were glued together. This kind of bow control is what I aim to eventually achieve.
That close, almost fused connectedness between the player and the instrument is noticeable in many eminent players. It's wonderful to watch. One of the things that made me want to learn the instrument.
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