Abnormality of a violin

April 15, 2010 at 05:06 AM ·

Straight to be point -- During the time I've practiced, I have noticed quite some "abnormal" changes in violin sound. I come back from school, pick up the violin and pull a note -- sounds so horrible that I cannot go on for more than 15 minutes. Then I look up new posts on v.com, check the emails, listen to some classical music and pick up the violin again. Guess what? Feels like I have mastered just about all the short pieces I had, such pleasure listening to myself playing that I don't want to stop.

Because of that above, I have decided on a name for my violin: "Caprice".
So the question is, what is causing such.. differences in sound quality, technique and progress?

Just keeps me wondering...

All the best,


Replies (23)

April 15, 2010 at 06:15 AM ·


well one thing I would suggest is that you take this as a lesosn about life;)   When we come back form school or job or whatever to -our- space where we want to be we are carrying all sort of junk and stress we have picked up form other people  (emotional,  mental even physical)  that is detrimental to artistic activitiy. To enjoy productive and artistic practice it is actually better to clean off all this detritus before one pracitces,  unwind,  relax the tension in your body,  take a shower 8very useful...) have a bite to eat and a nice drink. Listen to your favorite player to get the energy going and -then- play.

At the moment you are somewhat arse over tit.



April 15, 2010 at 07:25 AM ·

It does indeed help to relax and sometimes take a shower before playing. But still, I just cannot understand it. It's like de ja vu everyday. I come back from school, try to play and as a result I feel like I have gotten worse at violin playing than ever before. Then I take out the violin out at somewhere after 7 pm and I sound pretty decent... YIKES!

After school I feel like I'm not bowing hard enough on open strings or the bow doesn't have enough rosin (which definitely is not true and I'm bowing just fine) I just cannot describe how the violin sounds at times.


April 15, 2010 at 09:29 AM ·

 What Buri said.

thinking about other stuff that's happened at school, transitioning to home, , being eager/even anxious to get started, may mean that you have a xcertain degree of tension in your breathing, your muscles etc, and that is going to affect how you put the bow to the strings.  Any subtle change in tension is going to be noticible - maybe more so to you becuase you are sensitive to it.

I find that if my thinking is not quite on violin, the same thing happens - its a demanding pet that needs our full and devoted attention every time we caress it.

April 15, 2010 at 12:55 PM ·

Alright, I'll do my best to be completely devoted to practicing.

Thank you.

April 15, 2010 at 03:08 PM ·

Hey Theo -

You might be carrying your days stress as was previously posted.  I have noted personally that when I'm tired, I become completely relaxed when I play (due to exhaustion) my tone sounds wonderful.  I'm working on trying to 'call up' that loose effect at will when I play.

By the way - I love the name you picked for your violin.

My viola is named BOWSCREAM because I swear it is a Decepticon.  It tends to "transform" at the slightest provocation from a deep, mellow romantic into a real 'fighter'.

----Ann Marie

April 15, 2010 at 08:15 PM ·

I love your name too! :D

I always thought that it's the exhaustion that was killing the tone although... I'm at a contradiction right now. I think I'm getting the hang of it (playing nicely all the time) or at least until one of those awful moments pop up. I think the problem was that I was putting the weight on the wrong part of the bow. It sounds as if the bow is not rosined or the strings were oiled unless I direct the weight at the index finger. -- at least this is what works for me.


April 16, 2010 at 12:54 AM ·


If you wish/need to practice right after getting home from school, develop a warm-up routine that gets you in a musical frame of mind.  Something like bowing slllooooowww open strings, a slow steady scale.  Nothing technically demanding, but something that helps put your day behind you and your music in the forefront.

April 16, 2010 at 01:26 AM ·

Everyone is so right!  I also have to put my brain on "on" before even attempting to play.  It's frustrating when I have a very short time (as 30 min only in my day to practice)  but it's compulsory...  otherwise I know I will butcher everything with cumulate stress and internalized anger of not beeing able to do what I like all day and also from sounding terrible... It's a viscious circle.  Don't forget that, we also sometimes need to have a little "kick" in the b...  to go ahead courageously when we're tired and just feel like doing nothing!  youtube is extraordinairy for this! Also as a source of motivation.

I also am better late at night or in the evening.  This fact is well knowned and I've read n article once on the fact that olympic records are often set in the evening (not as much in the morning) since the body is naturally more relaxed in the evening.  This can be appliable to music. By the way, if ever you have a violin lesson or an important musical event in the morning, getting up in the middle of the night is a way some artists "trick" their body or voice so that it thinks it's evening when it will have to play at the event in the morning...  (warning, does maybe not work for everyone. But I heard of a few musicians, including myself as an amateur who love this method)

Also recall an interview with Igor Oistrakh where he told that, in addition, everyone had "HIS" hour in the day to play well.  He said something like, if your hour is 7:00, at 9:00 it's too late ; )

Good luck,


April 16, 2010 at 10:23 AM ·

Hi, Theo --

It's funny that your post appeared on a day when MY practicing went to heck in a handbasket!! :)  I was exceptionally tired, and more than a little irritated (I won't say at whom!) when I started, and things went so badly that I might as well have not even picked up my violin yesterday.  Today I'm going to be sure that I'm in a better frame of mind!

I really love your violin's name!  Excellent!!  :)


April 16, 2010 at 12:41 PM ·

And music doesn't just follow our little emotions of the day but also our general mood for a long period. I've heard from and even knew some professionnal musicians who had very good starts and then, got divorced and very depress in one case (or whatever for the others) and never were able to play well again (or as well...).  Life, studies and responsibilities can so easily turn us off and make us become robot machines...  We have to be aware of this and try to avoid beeing like this when we play!!!


Ps: the last poster is right, Caprice is a wonderful name for a violin...  I love to refer to mine as "the Tiger"   (nothing to do with Golf be soooo sure lol It's because it's red/orange striped color and generous/powerful sound makes me think of a Tiger.)  A tiger is wonderful when he works in pair with it's trainer but watch out when he doesn't want to work with you...  All this powerful machine against you is deadly lol   In fact, it resumes pretty much our relationship... Good or really terrible but never "medium".     (I think this phenomenon of never playing "medium" is also what happens with an ordinairy student on a good violin.  Good... and bad things.... will project in the last row... )   Good luck with caprice!!!


April 16, 2010 at 07:25 PM ·

I don't even know where to start writing the reply from!
That's some good advice. I'll definitely remember to "live into music" before starting to practice pieces. I noticed that it takes about one hour of fully dedicated practice to get somewhere close to good intonation or luck :)
At least for a beginner like me. 

Thank you, I really like my violin name too (fits quite well).
"the tiger" is an awesome name! Fits the behavior of your violin :D

Oh and Marsha, this is a lesson for all of us, thank you. Always cheer up before the practice!


April 17, 2010 at 12:06 AM ·


if it takes you one hour to get into good intonation there is something a tad awry.

I would hazard a guess that you are praciticng according to the same erroneous belief about intonation work that not only beginners but rtaher advanced players often seem to suffer from.  That is,  the idea that if a note s out of tune and we correct it once that has solved the problem.  That is completely false In fact it means that fifty percent of the intonation work on that note was out of tune and fifty percent in tune (maybe) and in performance guess which one of the two will come back to haunt you;)?

A note that has been corrected needs to be repeated correctly at least three times or even six to eradicate the old erorr in favor of the new sound.  During these -correct- repetitions if one makes one error then it is back to the drawing board repeaitng correctly from number one.  This is the fundamental discipline of learning to play in tune and an awful lot of people just haven`t got it for some reason.

Second, there is an uterly fallacious beief that playing a note out tune, evaluating whether it is sharp or flat and to what extent, and then sliding the finger to the corretc psoition is how to correct intonation.  This is utterly false and yet it continues to be propagated by some teacher sas -practice- fro reasons I am at a loss to explain.  If one make an error of course one immediately evaluates the error but no corretcion is made on the string.  The finge ris lifted and replaced the number of times stipulated earler in this response.

Whty sliding a finger is utterly time wasting is hat we perfomr as we practice.  If you want to learn how to aim vagualey at a note and then slide to the correct pitch then pracitce that way. Other wise its time to get off the dead horse.

The otiose argument for this slither approach is that its what we do in performance. Of course we do. But we can only do that in performance because we have practice with precison using the correct mechanical ovement ot get right to the note.



April 17, 2010 at 12:20 AM ·

Yeah, I think you've got an excellent point there, Buri!  Sometimes I'm guilty of slacking off a bit on repetition (mostly to spare my family, who'd undoubtedly rather not have to listen to the "corrective procedures").  Lately, though, I've been issuing them a warning -- "Sorry, guys, this is probably gonna drive you nuts!" -- and then plunging into whatever repetitions are needed to get it right.  I sure wish there was a place to practice privately!  But the acoustics in the kitchen ARE very good! :)

April 17, 2010 at 12:56 AM ·

The first few pages of the Polo doublestop book solve many intonation problems.

April 17, 2010 at 11:40 AM ·

You got a point there Buri. So instead of sliding back to the right note, I should stop, take my fingers off the violin for a second and then hit the right note? *repeat that as many times as possible*

I just only recently realized that if a violin sounds bad (like after school) then the only reason for that is intonation, not as much bowing. Violin is pretty much trial and error?
Anyway! My bowing seems fine so right now my only thing I seem to need to practice is intonation. Naturally there will be speed and shifting in the future..
I think I'll be making a new video today, "Canon" has been improved quite a lot :)


April 17, 2010 at 06:59 PM ·

I have noticed that when I play in my apartment, or studio at school, or my teachers office I have to make adjustments ( bow pressure/speed/ etc.,) since the acoustics are different in all other places. So I have to play to readjust to the room I am playing in. I have to break myself in.. to the acoustics of any given place. Some changes are quite pronounced and some not.

April 17, 2010 at 07:09 PM ·

"I just only recently realized that if a violin sounds bad (like after school) then the only reason for that is intonation, not as much bowing. Violin is pretty much trial and error?"


Just my two cents and from what professionnals usually say too. 

Sure, intonation is a great part of sounding bad vs sounding like a "real violinist" but one must not neglect the bowing in the equation.  Bowing is so important, It's the articulation of your playing.  Perhaps one could say vibrato is expressivity but bowing is the articulation and the "drive" you give to your music.  Try to tell a beautiful thing if you're not able to articulate... No one will understand anything.  But if you articulate well and say ugly things, it's not better lol  A balance between the two is best!  

Good luck!


April 17, 2010 at 09:09 PM ·

I guess you're right! Better to practice both at the time. My bowing sure sucks when performing *in front of a family member or a friend*.
I remember the first time I really performed. Had about 15 people watching me at a birthday party. I was playing an out of tune birthday song. My left hand was shaking so bad!! I don't know why, but it just did :P

I kind of understand what is going on with the acoustics. It's so much easier to break in at the room of my violin teacher, especially when it's empty. In my own room, I really have to force it out :P ..Hitting the right notes and making them vibrate sounds so heart warming.. I'm just sad that the teacher wasn't there when I played a long piece completely in tune.. It was so good that my heart was popping out if you know what I mean ;)

I don't think I'll get it again any time soon but hopefully in due time.


April 17, 2010 at 09:41 PM ·

 Without the bow there is no sound. Tension or incorrect form in your right arm will kill any wonderful placement you have in the left hand. Practise intonation all day long, it will be of no benefit if you can't get the bow to work.

April 18, 2010 at 02:36 PM ·


April 19, 2010 at 04:09 AM ·


Theodor,  take a look at Drew Lecher`s blogs on repetition hits.



April 19, 2010 at 05:42 AM ·

This used to happen often to me. I once told my teacher "I think my violin is having a cold! it sounds horrible" she was confused, and picked my violin and played it, it sounded much better than when I played it of course. So I knew it's something wrong with me. As I learn more to improve my bowing (my bowing technique was horrible), I can control the sound quality better. Although there are times when it still sounds horrible, I suspect it's because of lack of (or too much) rosin, or maybe the violin and I are sometimes moody :) 


April 19, 2010 at 05:10 PM ·

Thanks Stephen, I'll take a look (btw, my intonation just got better thanks to the advice given here)

Reynard, yeah. Common reasons. I decided not to pick up the violin straight after school, so far it's working!


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