Good tone quality

November 30, 2017, 5:58 PM · Hi, I'm playing the Bruch concerto and de beriot etude no 20. Both of those pieces require good tones. Can someone tell me how to achieve a good tone. Thanks. Also can someone tell me the tempo of the Bruch concerto mvt 1.

Replies (20)

November 30, 2017, 6:02 PM · Also, solo and ensemble is coming up and my teacher chose some solos for me and my friends. I got the Bruch Concerto 1st mvt. My friend got Concerto no 4 in d major by Mozart 1st mvt. And my other friend got the Lalo symphonie espagnole 1st mvt. Can you please rank the difficulty of these pieces? Thanks
Edited: December 1, 2017, 4:33 AM · I'm surprised that the teacher apparently hasn't concentrated on teaching good tone production long before the pupil tackles a major piece such as the Bruch. I remember my own teacher telling me right at the start of my studies that what an audience likes to hear from the violin above everything else is a good tone. Get a good tone then acquiring good intonation and other areas of technique will be that much easier.
November 30, 2017, 11:10 PM · What aspect of tone quality do you struggle with? In other words, what is bad about your sound quality?
November 30, 2017, 11:44 PM · Those are three difficult pieces to be just starting now with solo & ensemble coming up, unless you've all already been working on them (which I certainly hope is the case).

Your teacher really should be giving you the tempo for your solos, but there's always Youtube. I recommend looking up some videos of the Bruch and listening to them--professionally performed videos, not the seven-year-olds.

Tone production has a lot of variables: bow speed, bow placement (nearer or farther from the bridge), angle of the hair, bow weight, left-hand finger weight. Does your teacher work with you on this?

Edited: December 1, 2017, 10:08 AM · I'll answer with a question:

Hopefully you do a lot of listening to the great violinists. Whose tone do you like and would like to emulate? For example, I think the young Stern had a fantastic tone. And I like Grumiaux and Francescatti. But I'm not into Kremer's tone.

But regardless of who you like, you have to have a sound in your ear you want to get. If you don't then there is a big problem. Students who aren't driven to reproduce a certain sound may never produce one. I remember the rock guitarist Eddie van Halen (went to Juilliard, by the way, as a pianist) saying that he had a "brown sound" in his ear that he strived to get.

"Tone" is a complicated concept. It implies evenness, shades of clarity, projection, and of course vibrato, which itself encompasses width and speed, and consistency between fingers. It means different contact point in different positions, and varying bow angle.

I'm surprised that a student at this level would ask something as broad as "how do I get a good tone." Isn't your teacher always asking for better tone?

It would be like a tennis player who is already doing tournaments asking "how do I hit a back hand?"

Edited: December 1, 2017, 3:39 PM · OP, just post a video. Otherwise a bunch of posters are going to give you speculative advice which you probably won't be able to use.

Specifically, post a video of the most beautiful, slow G Major 3 octave scale (Without vibrato) that you can manage. That will give us something to start with, since the tone of the piece is irrelevant if you can't manage a scale beautifully. Then, if that goes well, you can post a video of a piece of music.

EDIT: also, literally everything requires a good tone (or should). Not just those selections.

Edited: December 1, 2017, 4:01 PM · I'm not sure what posting a video will do to elucidate issues with tone quality. That seems to be an automatic response here. The tone coming through will be greatly affected by the recording device and the room.

I don't have the greatest tone, but I have improved my tone over time, and there is probably work to be done in both hands. There is the ability to simply draw a solid tone on an open string, get a nice free resonant sound without getting a pressed sound, and then there is getting a nice sound on stopped notes and different bowings, and then add in vibrato and you have to figure out what speed of vibrato you want, and keep a relaxation in your vibrato at the speed.

Basically it's a lot of different elements coming together, but it's not a bad idea to do some very long bows and listen for the core of the tone, and really listen carefully for different characteristics of the tone, and just see if you can work on your tone on an open string at the most basic level. You always have to have an idea of a nice sound for whatever the music calls for.

It's up to you to figure out what elements of your tone production need work.

December 1, 2017, 4:47 PM · Christian:

Uhhhh yes the tone will be affected by the room and the mic, but an experienced player/teacher will be able to filter through that and determine what the player needs to do.

If you're honestly not sure how posting a video would help in this situation, then I really don't know what to say. That's about as silly as saying 2+2 = 5.

Let me give you the extent of the info the OP provided: "Hi, I'm playing the Bruch concerto and de beriot etude no 20. Both of those pieces require good tones. Can someone tell me how to achieve a good tone. Thanks. Also can someone tell me the tempo of the Bruch concerto mvt 1."

So, this isn't a lot of information. In fact, it's pretty much none at all, since anyone could theoretically say that they're playing Bruch. But what if we're giving a ton of advice regarding tonality assuming that he's actually AT the Bruch level, when in reality the core problem is simply that the repertoire is too relatively difficult for him?

See, that's just one example of something that would be an easy fix with a video, but is almost impossible to determine without one. So we might spend 100s of posts trying to hone in on what the basic core problems are, when a simple video would do the trick.

Let's say a patient calls a doctor on the phone and says "Dr, my skin has an issue. I've heard that skin is important, so I'd like to get rid of any issues with it. Can you help me?"

So the doctor say "sure, can you start by sending me a picture of the issue?" Then another person sitting in the background and overhearing the conversation chimes in smartly, saying "OMG, why is this always the automatic response that doctors have? I mean, the lighting could change the the look of the skin issue, so what's the point? Listen, bro, skin issues generally are just caused by a bunch of different stuff going on in the body, so we need to start with a nice healthy diet and go from there. It's really up to you to figure out your skin issues, and which parts of them need work."

So the patient listens to the bystander instead of the Doctor, and two years later dies of skin cancer that ended up metastasizing.

Proper teaching requires specificity and not generalizations, just as a proper medical diagnosis requires - at the VERY LEAST - a picture to get some idea of what is going on. So in this case, a video is the best possible way of getting specificity in the process.

December 1, 2017, 8:04 PM · A video is better than nothing. Especially with a very vague question.
December 2, 2017, 1:06 AM · Just the opening solo bit of the Bruch, call it 1 or 2 minutes long, shot using a smartphone and posted to YouTube, would be sufficient to understand the tone issues, I think.
December 2, 2017, 12:24 PM · Thx for the advice on tone quality but I don't need that. I think I was confused with something else.
Edited: December 2, 2017, 12:53 PM · Posting a video seems like a good idea. Hmmmm...I'll think about it. I'll probably post the link here. Should I play a 3 octave scale slowly? Or the beginning several lines of Bruch? Thanks.

EDIT: Do you only want audio because I don't want to show like my face and stuff? Thx

December 2, 2017, 2:44 PM · You can play both items, and you could have the camera angled so that your face doesn't show. It's a good idea for us v.commers to see how you're playing (posture, position, etc) in addition to hearing you play.
December 2, 2017, 3:37 PM · I would *much* prefer to hear playing in the context of the Bruch than in the context of a scale. The tone in a scale is generally unvarying. In the Bruch, it's full of a range of colors.
December 2, 2017, 8:32 PM · Your point is valid, Lydia, but the OP requested "how to make a good tone," not "how to make a good tone on the Bruch." This makes me feel like he doesn't understand how to make a consistently solid tone in general, so I figured that'd be a nice place to start.

Ideally the OP would post both, but I suppose if we have to choose one, the Bruch would probably tell us more.

December 2, 2017, 11:08 PM · Good tone production is a balancing act of three major factors: bow speed, weight (or leverage) and the point of contact ("sweet spot") that are constantly changing. If it were easy everyone would play violin. After that there is the quality of the instrument, the set-up, choice of strings, choice of bows, choice of rosin, vibrato speed and width...
Edited: December 3, 2017, 10:35 AM · Getting a nice sound out of a violin requires concentration, but it does not require a whole heck of a lot of physical effort, thankfully, in comparison to other instruments. The physical effort required to get a big sound out of a violin has been minimized to the point that if it were minimized even more, playing soft could become a huge challenge.
I agree that the Bruch would tell us more about the OPs playing abilities.
December 3, 2017, 5:09 PM · Simon Fischer has a DVD called "Secrets of Tone Production" which I recommend to you very highly. He will show you how to combine pressure, sound point, and bow speed to maximum effect.
December 3, 2017, 6:41 PM · I agree with Lydia. The first a few bars of Bruch tells so much about one's tone production in that the subtle shades of colors and one's unique voice if one has will not so clearly displayed in playing scales or etudes.

I also second Paul's suggestion of Fischer's tone production DVD. Especially the first DVD.

Another thing worth mentioning that it's insufficient just working on bow control and vibrato, it's important to build a habit that is conducive to producing good tone naturally and reliably. I think it's Nathan Cole who said that one should always play with the best sound one can produce.

Edited: December 4, 2017, 3:33 PM · I agree with Christian. The poster can't even define the issue in any meaningful way. Sure, if his bow is sliding all around or something really obvious, then a video can help. Getting a nice tone is a long-term project, and my hunch is that people that think about it a lot are ones that take the steps to examine their own playing and do the necessary work.

The original poster should go back and break this down. Did someone tell you your tone is poor or is it something that has been bugging you? Is it bad all the time or under certain conditions? Have you looked around for resources on improving your tone production, which are easily searched for? Have you actually tried anything?

This original post isn't meant to be taken seriously.

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