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Playing with soul (tone)

August 31, 2012 at 1:18 AM

hey everyone,
I hear all the time, if you move when you play the violin, it is more expressive. While it looks very showy and emotional, I don't find it to be up to the hype. For example, i've seen videos of Heifetz playing with little movement, but under all of it was a fire-y passione. Recently, i've been trying out an awesome bow, and it has taught me some ideas on tone and powerful playing. I hope what i learn can help someone else out there looking for that burning tone.

1. Weight/heaviness - obviously the string needs to vibrate, and the more effort you can put behind the bow to just pull the sound right off the sounding board, the better
2. evenness - virtuoso pieces emphasize the g and e, but the A and D should also be able to sound as intense - never let those die out; also when a chord is played, both the lower two and top should be heard, the same goes for a double stop - both should be the same, like a and e, with only the overtones of the e soaring over the A
3. grip - the hair needs to be into the string, not literally the bow, and one of the only ways to have the string vibrate.
4. BOW - and i mean it! the more bow you are able to spend on a note and also stay in rthymn, the better- like sixteenth should still be getting 4-6 inches if possible, like the bach fugue.
5. fundamental tones- that high squeak beginners get if often a problem with not drawing out the fundamental tone of each string. Focus on the core of the note, the fundamental 441 hz of the wave, not some floppy hissy overtones. (will come later with the fundamental, but better to emphasize undertones)
6. Core of the tone - focus on the center of the note
7. time - time is your friend, give each note some love and care, and TIME
8. brilliance - mean what you play; like totally serious
9. courage - enough said
10. strings - each string has its own voice, even though they are even (timbre) emphasize those to give range of colors throughout the spectrum
11. over all is power! the violin must resonate. the more energy soaring through it, the more it will vibrate, especially during chords, and allows you to further push more and more through it till it just RESONATES (and it MUST be in tune at all times for max potential)

12. please respond if you found this useful, or you would like to add anything to my list. - ill add more if i think of them later


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on August 31, 2012 at 6:08 PM
Hi, I found these to be very true with myself too! I also found a wonderful bow lately and it is amazing how much one becomes even more aware of sound issues. As for moving while playing, I always said I better liked to watch a "little soldier" playing with sometimes more soul than a wonderful dancer with a little less soulful or beautiful sound..

Nice blog,

From jean goon
Posted on September 1, 2012 at 12:12 AM
As for moving while playing, I really like Lindsey Stirling being able to dance while playing. Very creative young violinist.
From steven su
Posted on September 1, 2012 at 4:53 PM
Nice blog. One of my fav violinists, Pinchas Zukerman always says it should be your music that moves the audience not your showmanship. As long as you are moving because the music moves you, I think it's fine not the exaggerated movements some musicians make to be more "expressive"
I think Lindsey Stirling is pretty creative that she combines the art of dancing with violin playing. There was also another person who does it. He was blogged a couple days ago but I can't recall his name. I also remember seeing a violinist who sings while playing!

As for tone production, it is very true that a lot of violinists tend not to focus on the middle notes. Since A and D are harder to bow on cause they are in the between of two strings, it takes more time to practice. I think one thing you missed is bow speed. I taught some friends and sometimes their problem is not just not using enough bow but their bows were moving so slowly, they were barely making sound. One should always remember to give it enough speed so you don't sound dead.

Assuming one understands the mechanics of tone production, instrument is crucial! I've been trying out some amazing violins and bows at a local luthier's shop. My violin is like a cheap car. When I try to build up for a huge bang, it just runs out of gear to go to compare to other violins I've tried. My bow is also too stiff to be able to have a good "grip" on the string or to be able to bounce properly or even to be able to produce dynamics at ease. I am hoping for a funding source so I can have a decent bow to produce more colours in my playing!

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