How to make a bigger sound with less effort

September 26, 2017, 12:10 AM · How do I make a bigger sound on the violin with more ease. I know its all about the upper arm weight but its easier said than done. I feel like my fingers are doing too much pressing. Does anyone know any good excercises that will help me produce a bigger sound with less strain?

Replies (43)

September 26, 2017, 1:16 AM · What is the value of your violin?
September 26, 2017, 1:20 AM · Do you know the concept of sounding point?
If you need long loud strokes, go closer to the bridge.
September 26, 2017, 2:31 AM · And slow down your bow speed - seems paradoxical but it works.
September 26, 2017, 3:51 AM · It is not just important to produce a big sound, but also a good ppp piano sound, and all between them, and in this case a good instrument, with a generous dynamic range is very very important.

With a good instrument, the sound volume and colour changes a lot when you adjust the bow speed/ pressure.

With bad instruments, you will change your bowing and almost nothing will happen.

September 26, 2017, 5:19 AM · Move towards the bridge more? I don't know if you already do but in louder pieces, it helps for sure.
September 26, 2017, 5:34 AM · Of course a good violin and violinist must have both, but he explicitly asked for a big sound.
I agree that there are many shouting instruments that cannot manage to get silent out there.
September 26, 2017, 5:43 AM · Sometimes lower tension strings will allow the violin to vibrate more freely, while being easier to )lay.
September 26, 2017, 5:59 AM · Hi Alena, I recommend that you purchase an inexpensive Hrimaly scale book and start with the one octave scales in the beginning of the book. They do look at first deceptively easy and I think people tend to gloss over them but they will help you with your sound if you put in a lot of time on them. It is the dynamics which I think makes these basic scales so effective. For instance , first note is marked Forte and next note is marked piano and this simple scale exercise forces you to change your soundpoint and pressure and speed to achieve these different volumes. And then there are many more complicated variations of dynamics to work on which is why I am such a big proponent of this book.
September 26, 2017, 8:16 AM · The three components of sound production are bow speed, pressure and point of contact.
Regarding pressure it helps me to think about it as if I'm hanging my arm weight onto my index finger. That enables the hand and fingers to actually be very relaxed.
Now, to get the sound you want you need to experiment with the three components of sound production to find the optimal combination. This sounds more complicated than it is. Play a scale very slowly staying on each note with as many bow changes as you need trying out more or less arm weight, more or less speed of bow and higher (nearer the bridge) or lower point of contact. For a big sound the string needs to be able to vibrate as free as possible which you can see by looking at the string. Also vibrato enables you to put more weight on the string.
I hope this helps you.
September 26, 2017, 10:04 AM · Also sound quality changes. You can produce a loud sound near fingerboard by increasing speed,less pressure, it sounds more reverby. Near bridge, bit more pressure, less speed, its a loud sound with a bite. Also i think (correct me if wrong) equivalent sound points vary from lower strings to higher ones.
September 26, 2017, 11:29 AM · I dont know if you can really get loud near the fingerboard but the idea is exactly right.
September 26, 2017, 12:01 PM · Everyone has made good points. Three things to keep inind:
1. use all hairs
2. straight bow
3. firm contact of index, middle and ring fingers through the transmision of arm weight against bow stick with index making the most contact
Edited: September 26, 2017, 1:18 PM · Hi,

A quick way to release tension in the hand is to make sure that the thumb is not pressing in the bow. If the thumb doesn't press, neither can the other fingers, as the muscle that contracts the thumb contracts the whole hand.

Also, although there is debate about this, not over-spreading the fingers of the right hand, in particular the index, can help many achieve more relaxation. To be perfectly natural, the fingers should be at hand width.

Lastly, for me, it is to feel the arm/hand/finger as one for the weight, and making sure that the bow is moved from the forearm/elbow.

Hope this helps...

Cheers!

September 26, 2017, 1:23 PM · I guess I'll ask again: what is the value of your violin?
September 26, 2017, 2:29 PM · How is the value of the violin relevant?
September 26, 2017, 2:45 PM · Partly. A cheap (not so good) violin has to be treated a bit differently in bowing positions than a good one. Or put better: You wont be able to get a good sound close to the bridge with a bad violin.
September 26, 2017, 4:31 PM · Cheap doesn't exactly mean that a violin's not going to respond normally to bowing. The OP is probably busy and hasn't had a chance to reply yet.
September 26, 2017, 8:18 PM · I understand that cheaper violins are usually not as nice as more expensive ones. I wasn't trying to generalize on cheap vs expensive violins and was referring to bow response only.
September 26, 2017, 9:13 PM · Bow response is one of the main differences between bad, ok, good and great instruments.
Edited: September 27, 2017, 6:28 AM · "Pressure" is an interesting concept. Could be an oversimplification at times? I like Yehudi Menuhins' book on how to play the violin partly because it is very poetic. Being poetic can actually be MORE not less precise. It seems there IS pressure where the bow touches the string, or it just rests. One can always no doubt measure pressure there if one had the right instrument. But does that mean "pressure" is the best concept to use, or even an accurate one? Perhaps not.
How about getting a loud sound by keeping an array of movements balanced with muscular tensions thrown in - like pressing down on a marble sitting on a smooth surface with a cushion - and you get stasis or the marble suddenly jinks off in one direction? Someone else can do better than that I am sure:
I just find the concept of "pressure" a little crass and misleading.
September 27, 2017, 6:54 AM · @Sylvan "pressure" and "weight", I thought the same. There has got to be a better way to describe when it comes to the violin.
September 27, 2017, 8:55 AM · Hi,

Here is the easiest way to understand pressure vs weight. Weight is the shoulder/arm/wrist/hand/fingers/bow resting on the string and moving laterally from the elbow/forearm leading the way. Pressure is pressing the fingers into the bow, of which the major finger being the thumb that contracts the entire hand. Like I said above, the easiest way to avoid pressing is to make sure that the thumb doesn't press in the bow which releases the entire hand.

Energy and volume come from movement of the bow laterally. Different violins have different levels of resistance which will involve more or less speed or movement. To explain it quickly, a good example is Strad vs Guarneri Del Gésu. Generally, Del Gésus have more resistance and will require a slower bow speed (sometimes much more than) than a Strad. It is simply mechanical (in the physics sense of term).

Cheers!

September 27, 2017, 9:22 AM · If I were drafted into a heavyweight woman's wrestling match as punishment and a 500 pounder sat on me would I be thinking of weight or pressure?
Probably both, and how much longer I would live while trying to breathe.

Ok scratch that one, bad comparison.

In a much smaller version we have the violin bow "sitting" on the string. Every dynamic has inter related dynamics and they all tie together. Pressure and weight are one here. How much extra force you need to apply depends on many other things. The type of strings, the amount of volume you need, where you happen to be playing with relation to the bridge. The ability of the violin to project in response to the bow. They type of bow.The hair on the bow. The tension on the bow.The angle of the violin. The way you hold the bow.

I have heard good violinists play superbly with good violins and bows and very little pressure on the strings. In fact they explain it as not much more than letting the bow do most of the work. I realize my setup isn't to that level, so I compromise with a bit more pressure and need to play slightly closer to the bridge.The trade off is loosing probably some dexterity and speed. A violin that allows playing slightly further away from the bridge would allow faster string crossings would it not?

Edited: September 27, 2017, 8:03 PM · What made the biggest change for me on both my 1894 vln & 1926 vla was a change to Kaplan strings and a Glasser braided carbon fiber bow with the right rosin (Millant dark/Jade).Oh, and I took off the shoulder rest- it really dampens resonance.
September 28, 2017, 2:09 AM · Just turns out I was not playing close enough to the bridge because I've always been scared of the tone there but my violin can actually handle it pretty well. My violin is about $4000 btw.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 5:09 AM · I would like to offer a more rigorous description of the difference between weight and pressure. Weight is the downward force that is exerted on a massive object in a gravitational field. Pressure is simply the same exact force divided by the surface area of contact. Since one cannot control the surface area of contact between the string and the bow, then whether one *thinks* one is using "weight" vs. "pressure" they are, as a practical matter, indistinguishable. The "shoulder/arm/wrist/hand/fingers/bow" concept that Christian describes is a mental construct that is intended to explicitly recognize and ultimately facilitate the coordination of the various muscle groups used in drawing the bow.

The problem with "only pushing down with your index finger" is that it is extremely difficult to regulate bow pressure (force/weight) with one very small muscle. The "weight" construct is designed to distribute some of that effort to the larger muscles of the arm, as an intimate function of bow speed. The "weight" concept makes a lot more sense when you are playing at the frog. When playing in the middle or at the tip, then one additionally needs to consider the distance from the fulcrum and its role in the relationship between the applied downward force at the contact point and the torque exerted by your arm and hand. As you proceed to the tip, it becomes increasingly difficult to apply that torque using the larger muscles of one's wrist and arm. That continuous transition takes years to learn.

But in the end, the "weight" (force) of the bow is simply the vector sum of the weight of your arm and bow plus any of the forces applied by your musculature, when your hand is directly over the contact point. Well away from the frog, the force is the torque applied at the frog divided by the distance to the contact point. And the "pressure" is simply that same force divided by the surface area of contact, which for the purposes of this discussion can be considered a constant.

I think it's just fine to teach students how to coordinate their muscle groups to draw their bows with good tone and articulation. The counterproductive disservice comes when they are taught that somehow physics is wrong. A good teacher will bring the two into harmony. That is one thing I really appreciate about my teacher -- he knows all that "pros know" stuff but his approach is scientific. Same with Simon Fischer.

September 28, 2017, 5:09 AM ·
September 28, 2017, 12:56 PM · At the tip I find that thinking about the elbow and shoulder is useful for understanding how to keep the torque "weight" applied correctly.
September 30, 2017, 8:06 PM · I haven't seen anyone saying this ... but does replacing the current bridge with a higher bridge can make the sound louder as well??? (not too high of course) As far as I know, too low a bridge can cause your violin to lose its character.
September 30, 2017, 10:52 PM · It can, but it doesnt have to.
Edited: October 1, 2017, 7:21 AM · Interesting - Thanks for the clarification. I actually thought of using the word "torque" in my post, but wasn't sure enough about the meaning of torque. Sounds good to have an approach that is scientific ( as well as poetic of course - one wouldn't want to insinuate that somehow poetry is wrong , would we !)
October 1, 2017, 7:22 AM · Wait what kinda strings do you use?
October 1, 2017, 3:54 PM · Speaking strictly scientifically, there is a distinction between weight and pressure. Pressure is basically the weight divided by the area onto which it presses.

Also strictly speaking, weight is the force generated by the pull of gravity. But for violin bowing, when you closely examine what people are talking about, it becomes obvious that be "weight" they mean the total force exerted by hairs on the string. Whether you use only the index finger or all four fingers to press into the stick, the result at string is the same: force, aka weight.

For example, if you have a certain weight sitting on the bow, the pressure it exerts on a string will depend on how much of the hairs are in contact with the string. But full hairs or partial hairs, the total weight, or force, on the string will be the same.

In terms of playing loud, this is proportional to the weight (force) times the bow speed. The biggest sound requires you to aggressively press the bow into the string while moving it as fast as you can.

Unfortunately, the amount of weight (force) that the string can handle and still make a recognizable tone is sensitive to how far from the bridge you are playing.

If you are playing near the fingerboard, the string can take a fast bow speed, but not much weight before the tone breaks. At the bridge, the string can take a lot of bow weight and speed. So that is where you can generate the biggest sound.

People sometimes say using more bow hair creates a bigger sound. But that is not technically correct. The same force and bow speed will create the same loudness regardless of how much hair is on the string.

October 3, 2017, 7:37 PM · The Art Of Bowing Practice by Robert Gerle. Excellent book for the bow arm.

https://www.crescendo-music.com/en/?w=Robert+Gerle&x=0&y=0&i=search&z=semi

Edited: October 6, 2017, 4:39 AM · I still think pressure is a concept of limited usefullness. To get the effect needed it may in fact be necessary to start thinking in grander terms, or further back as it were, in terms of something more fluid and dynamic , where the word "force" or "pressure" then becomes something misleading to focus on, and something more poetic and including intention, may be more helpful.
October 6, 2017, 6:46 AM · Hm, at aech bow speed and position and sound colour wanted I use different down force on the string. Definitaly an imporatant part of it.
October 6, 2017, 2:32 PM · Back muscles. I read an article a number of years ago and haven't been able to find the article in the last few years again. But, it talked about how the bow stroke begins in the back muscles. After reading the article and employing the techniques in it, my sound got much larger and easier to produce. It is particularly useful on piano sections.

After that I also attended a Alexander technique workshop where the instructor talked about bow stroke starting in the back.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 3:06 PM · here is what I do:

1. Vibrato. It's 10x more important than anything else. A thick fast vibrato in upper register ans broad deep vibrato in lower ones. It makes you stick out from the orchestra like a stick from a bucket of pig swell.

2. Pull the sound out of the violin (as opposed to pushing it in with bow pressure). This means variable bow pressure within a single stroke. Dig in to get the string to vibrate, than imagine pulling sound out of the instrument. You will automatically ease the pressure and allow the string and instrument to vibrate. Works in up and down stroke.

3. Attitude. Force yourself into the public. Force your focus into other people. It's a mind game. Violin is a piece of wood. It doesn't play. You do. Persuade people YOU are twice as big. 3 times as big. You will sound bigger.

October 7, 2017, 2:38 PM · Simon Fischer’s dvd on bowing- Clear teaching on speed, lacement, pressure relationships.
October 7, 2017, 2:46 PM · I actually think less efford is the opposite from that vibrato projection thing and everybody should first have the bowing technic strait, than he can think about the left hand supporting this sound.
I think its a lack of playing quality if you need the vibrato to be heard. The vibrato should be available full range to create the soundcolour you wish and not be forced on the tone because otherwise it will get small. This will strip you of a lot of possibilities.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 2:39 AM · Laura McDermott is correct in her explanation of the back and shoulder muscles which, when added to the right arm weight, produce maximum volume. Carmen Tanzio also has a wordy but effective explanation of using the term "weight" of the bow hair on the string. Playing close to the bridge also lets the string vibrate with maximum velocity.

Another factor is using the tilted bow which frees the vibrating string to oscillate much more intensely. Its amazing how close the bow can come to the bridge using only a few bow hairs with a fair amount of weight on the oscillating sting.

This technique was used by a few Auer students - namely Toscha Seidel and Oscar Shumsky. Here is Shumsky's unaccompanied version of the Austrian National Hymn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSWF55D1gMI

October 11, 2017, 3:37 AM · Also you can add a very slight sidemovement whereyou put the tip towards the bridge at the end.
I know this sounds a bit strange but it works quite well.
October 11, 2017, 2:10 PM · I couldn't resist having this violin community listen to Oscar Shumsky play the Preludio to the last J S Bach unaccompanied Suite:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97OcqrdDyJQ

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