Would you believe that ever since the first day I heard the violin being played (this is quite a long time though), I’d always wondered what the magic beneath the unique sound produced by the instrument is until recently?
You’ve always harboured similar thoughts too, right? Oh… I see!
Now the good news is, there is no need to wonder anymore because Musical Instru has finally decided to help you unravel this mystery we have discovered. Of course, it has always been our preoccupation to enlighten you on every aspect of musical instrument you find interesting or difficult.
To make this journey of learning about the violin sound an interesting one, let’s begin by familiarizing you with the instrument.
The violin, also called ‘the fiddle’, belongs to the stringed instrument family. Other instruments in that family include the guitar, cellos and harp – with each instrument, unique in its own way.
The violin is actually a small instrument which has a hollow wooden base with its strings arrayed in perfect fifths. It has the highest sound pitch when compared with other instruments in the strings family. It is beyond obvious that this beautiful instrument produces such beautiful tonal colour. Whether it’s classical or contemporary music, the violin blends perfectly such that its effect cannot but be noticed. You can play the violin by placing it firmly on your shoulder (that also makes it spectacular).
What’s the magic exactly?
No point holding up the suspense, let’s just hit the nail on its head.
There are two basic dimensions to why the violin sounds so electrifying, sensuous, angelic, melodious and brilliant. These are
• The instrument itself
• The player
1. The instrument itself:
Of course, the acoustic makeup of the instrument itself, i.e. the way it has been specially designed makes the sound it produces special too. The science that surrounds the production of its tonality is worthy of note if you would appreciate or understand the magic that surround the sound produced by the violin. We’d attempt to make this as simple as possible for everyone to understand.
Now there are some crucial things to consider about the violin that aids its sound production, these are the strings placement, string tension, string length, bridge, the bow and the body of the instrument.
• Strings placement:
Notice those thin threads that run across the face of the violin? about four of those actually, those are called ”strings.”
These strings are actually stretched across the nut and bridge of the violin such that their ends are left motionless. This is to allow for the creation of the standing waves on the strings which is fundamental for the creation of the required sound. It is also important to point out that the material qualities of these strings go a long in determining the harmonic overtones and frequency of the sound produced by the violin.
• Strings tension:
The tension on the strings actually affects the sound produced by the violin. This string tension is facilitated by the tuning pegs. When a peg associated with a corresponding string is tightened or loosened, the pitch of the violin increases or decrease.
These pegs can be tightened or loosened until the desired pitch level is achieved.
• String length:
The length of the strings also affects the sound produced by the violin. This is why violinists are taught to master the act of shortening or lengthening the sound of a string with their left fingers. Most times the strings are shortened on the fingerboard of the violin. A raised pitch is produced when the strings are stopped at shorter lengths.
• The violin bow:
The bow produces the vibration effect of the violin. It majorly consists of a hair-like thread which is stretched between the ends of a tensioned stick. The placement of the violin bow provides some essential influence on the strings.
This built in feature supports the playing length of the strings. The bridge also provides the necessary vibrations from the strings to the violin top. The bridge is very essential to the sound produced by the violin. It also acts as a filter that influences the timbre of the violin.
• The body:
How the violin has been structured impacts on its timbre. Basically, the violin is hollow at its base and this hollow base forms its sound box. Mostly, violin is strengthened at its base to be able to withstand the tension of its strings especially when plucked by the bow.
From the foregoing, it is clear that how the violin has been designed aids its tonality. The eclectic vibrations and tensions produced from the strings are responsible for the dynamic blend in its sound.
Having looked at the essential characteristic of the instrument itself that aids its sound production, now, let us consider how its player can work wonders with the instrument after all ‘only a magician can wave a magic wand; at the hand of a common person, it is only a stick.’
2. The player:
It is not enough to focus on the instrument without giving our attention to the players too.
Of course, it is a given that the violin is a spectacular stringed instrument but of course, you wouldn’t agree less that it can’t play itself (someone has to do the magic!). The point here is, as possible as it is for the violin to leave you fixated when it is played by a doyen, at the hands of a beginner or an amateur (it just could sound like any normal instrument).
Wonder why guys like George Enescu, David Garret, Hilary Hann, and Julia Fisher are regarded as ‘Devil violinist’? Well, it’s because these guys are good at what they do. They bring their A-game in whenever they play. They leave their audience ever captivated.
Some techniques used by these professionals to thrill and captivate their audience include the following;
Most professional tune their violin properly. Even some prefer to tune the string A slightly above that of the piano. This is to enable the string go flat when lengthened.
• Note phrasing:
They concentrate on the notes they are playing and are in control of their bows. They know what to play, how to play and the right time to play it.
• Scales and improvisation:
These guys are familiar with a lot of scales and utilize them to sound better when they play. By incorporating several scales, they go beyond the ordinary to sound extra-ordinary
• Trills and drills:
They make the instrument reverberate and most times this is just perfect for the aura.
• Bow pressure:
To get the most of the sound, profession increase the speed of the bow to get heightened tension on the strings.
• Charisma and stage presence:
Beyond their dexterity on the instrument, professional violinists play for the audience. They captivate their audience and thrill them to the climax of the heightened sound produced by the instrument.
Interestingly, as revealed by this piece, the player aggrandizes the qualities embedded in the violin already. They bring out the beauty of the instrument. Isn’t that a mystery?
Lastly, of course you too can turn out like these guys; you can play to such heights that your audience is rendered tranquilized or blown away by your performance. All you have to do is
• Never stop practicing
• Improve on a daily basis by learning new techniques,
• Let others sharpen you
• Track your progress
With this, we guarantee that the violin would sound just as appealing on your hands soon.
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