What determines the maximum pressure you can put on a string

March 15, 2011 at 06:13 PM ·

Andrew, I had a question today regarding bows and violins that i wanted to ask you after seeing that old post on bow hair float up. Can you share with us what do you look out for when matching bows and violins? Or bows and cellos for that matter.

I've been crushing the G-string of the violin with my good bow, and today I used a cheaper student bow for fun, and try as I might, it was much harder to crush the G-string on that same violin. I'm quite sure the maximum pressure I can exert with either bow is the same. Do you have any thoughts on this phenomenon?

I found the higher the string tension, the harder to crush the sound with pressure. I observed that with a lower tension string, I could easily flatten the string with my bow to the fingerboard (at least pretty close). So this could explain the "crush" phenomenon.

What determines the maximum pressure you can put on a string? Is it the bow? The strings? Or the violin? And when does the strength of the violin top comes into play or is it not a factor at all?

From my basic understanding of physics, the more energy you put into the string, the louder the sound you will get.

Replies (35)

March 15, 2011 at 06:41 PM ·

I think the more pressure you put on a string, the more sound it makes, but it is not that simple. I don't think I can answer your main point, but I do think that there are quite a number of things going on with strings that change as the pressure increases; not all of them are good.

When you play a string lightly, it starts a wave pattern.
http://www.physicscentral.org/explore/action/fiddle-1.cfm
If you put more pressure on the string, that wave is wider, because the string distorts more before the slip. This not only changes the volume, but affects the tone; it is broader, and not as 'clean' sounding. You can also completely eliminate (or create alternate) harmonic waves.

I would suggest looking for sound quality, then finding how to reproduce that with more volume. Methods could possibly include bow placement, how the hairs are placed on the string, different strings, etc.

 

March 15, 2011 at 07:08 PM ·

 Greetings,

Roland, you arer right that it is not that simple.  Talking about amount of sound only in terms of pressure and string resistance is not the road to the best or @loudest` sound.   In my opionion, the `best@ sound comes from the maximum vibration of the string at a given moment coupled with the individual intonation of a given instrument.  This is usually more to do with faster bow speed than pressure.   If you compare older players with those of today one of the things which is often immediately apparent is the incredibly fast bow speed that players of yore used (look at Hirschon,  Varga,  Heifetz Milstein et all).  In comaprison todays player soften seem to play with less bow  and yes,  having heard both generations to some extent I don`t mind saying that the older players often (but not always!) filled a cocnert hall with a more ringing resonant sound.  Was it louder?  In my book,  yep. 

Cheers,

Buri

March 15, 2011 at 08:04 PM · also depends on consistency of speed of bow, plane of bow (angle and consistency), amount of hair, type and quality of the bow itself (and hair), type and quality of the grip, type and amount of rosin. If it was easy, it would be a guitar! haha

March 15, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

It is, indeed, a complex issue. Some of the basics that go into determining the sound that the bow gets out of a violin include such basics as a balance - a sometimes shifting balance - of speed, pressure or weight, contact point (how close to or far from the bridge or fingerboard) amount of bow used, tilt of bow, how the bow is held, how far you choke up or down, the player's particular physique, etc. - and the bow and violin, themselves. I have a collection of violins and bows, and I match certain bows with certain violins. There are no really bad combos, but some matches are a more ideal fit than others.

As to the original question, more string tension basically suppports more pressure. Thus in the same position, you can press more on the E string, than on the D. And on any given string, you can press more in a higher postion. Correspondingly, you need to be nearer to the bridge. But I actually prefer "weight" to "pressure" in word and in deed. Pressure as muscular constriction is not the same as using the natural weight of the hand and arm. Auer used to say "as more you press, as less comes out". For a large sound, that really projects, and doesn't just sound loud under the ear, we do need to dig in but then also to draw the sound out, so that the string - indeed the whole fiddle - rings. Never crush the string. Let it vibrate. Glenn Dicterow, who is a great projector, likes to say "get those overtones flying out of the instrument, and into the hall."

But there's more than one way to accomplish this. Isaac Stern used a slower bow speed, and and a more 'glue-y; approach. He dug in with more vertical weight, but did not crush the sound. Milstein, as Buri pointed out, exemplified the fast bow, more horizontal sweep. Some other players are inbetween, or have aspects of both. Typically Strads are said to require the more horizontal sweep, whereas del Gesus are said to typically give the most in response to a more verical dig. (Not surprizingly, Milstein used Strads, and Stern used del Gesus.)

March 15, 2011 at 09:53 PM ·

Is it too early to start discussing types of bow hair, and types of rosin?

March 15, 2011 at 11:54 PM ·

I'm maybe much more ignorant ; )  but I totally agree with Buri on that one! 

I would also add that it shouldn't be seen as "how much pressure I can put on the strings"

but as

"How much muscle relaxation can I put in my right arm and how can I be efficient with my larger group of muscles..."  Great masters have told this again and again but since people want to always be more precise or afraid to make a false note???, they reduce the bow and tend to forget to use the larger muscles (what many refer as the whole arm) when needed.  (but still, some do use larger muscles only...it's to dance and move and somehow get physically tense   ; ) Also, how can I use the gravity (violinist's best friend) to my best advantage...Some have that easier than others but I guess everyone develops tricks.

After all, gut strings can't handle pressure like synthetics and I personally find the gut string era players to "usually" have more sound.  So more pressure doesn't = more sound to my ear... I still remember my transition from synthetic to wound gut.  The first days, I could hardly play on my gut strings because all they did was bbbbbbuuuuzzzzzzz  sounds.  I was pressing way too hard on them.  I was used to Pirrazzis  ; )  But when I learned to use them, they have been a great teacher.   

March 16, 2011 at 12:04 AM ·

So there's actually a maximum volume that you can get out from a fiddle? When you have the most optimal combination of bow speed and pressure? It's not possible to force out more sound from a crappy violin?

I'm also wondering why cheap violins that are too thick and heavy with wood aren't the loudest. Wouldn't a "stronger" top resist bow pressure better and give you a higher maximum? I've played a few good "hard to play" violins that you have to really dig into to get sound out, but they don't really crush... they just give more sound.

From the explanations so far, it seems like crushing depends on 1) the interaction of the resonances between bows and violins, 2) maintaining adhesion between bow and string, 3) the tension of the string. So the limiting factor of how big a sound we can produce, given the string is well oscillating, is the efficiency of the violin in converting that maximum energy into sound. More pressure at that "maximum oscillation" point won't help get more sound and causes the crushing phenomenon?

March 16, 2011 at 12:09 AM ·

In order to have a discussion about power, one needs to specify how it is perceived. An assessment "under the ear" is fine, and long as one only plays for oneself, or if the audience is six to twelve inches away. ;-)

Measured power (in decibels) is not the same as perceived power. A heavy bow, close to the bridge, may produce only equal, or even less measured power than the frenetic bowing style of past players, but it concentrates sound in the "singing formant" range, the range which opera singers highlight to increase projection.

If one doesn't know what to listen for, and how to play to get the most out of a particular fiddle, excellent violins can pass through your hands unnoticed. I've had several cases where amateurs or students weren't impressed with an instrument, and then pro orchestra section leaders embraced the same instrument based on how it did in a hall, or under battle conditions.

Since the projection of Dicterow has been mentioned, when I spent a little time with him, he was one of the people who quickly tested (almost first thing) how hard the fiddle could be "pushed" (heavy slow bow close to the bridge) ; how effectively and easily it could be taken into the "projection formant".

By the way, the string swinging from side to side  isn't the only force acting on the bridge and producing sound. There is also a more direct coupling between the bow force and the bridge. When  the bow pushes the string to one side,  much of the energy goes directly into pushing the bridge to one side, linked through that short section of string. So the bow vibrates the string, which alone produces some sound, but the string is also a timing device, controlling the timing and frequency of the more direct push on the bridge from the bow.

If you bow the string near the upper nut, it will vibrate the string just fine, but most of the direct bow energy to the bridge will be lost, and a good portion of the sound and power will be lost. Try it. That's one advantage of playing near the bridge (which necessitates a slower bow), if the instrument will tolerate it.

Edit: I don't know if I explained the direct force from the bow very well, so I'll try another approach: If you pull a string to one side near the bridge with your finger, it will rock the bridge to one side. When that pressure is released (without plucking the string), the bridge will rock back to its normal position. This rocking is the main type of motion which produces sound from the instrument. If you were able to do this 440 times per second, the instrument will play an A, even if the strings are restrained in such a way that they can't vibrate, and don't contribute any sound themselves from normal vibration. In normal playing, the bow hair sticks to the string, and similarly pushes the bridge to one side. When things have been pushed far enough that the adhesive property of the rosin is no longer strong enough to maintain the grip, everything snaps back, and the process starts over again.

So there are two things contributing to the sound: One is the vibrating string. The other is jerky side forces created by the bow, and transmitted to the bridge.

There's more to the picture, but that's probably enough for now. Or too much already. LOL

March 16, 2011 at 03:35 PM ·

"But there's more than one way to accomplish this. Isaac Stern used a slower bow speed, and and a more 'glue-y; approach. He dug in with more vertical weight, but did not crush the sound. Milstein, as Buri pointed out, exemplified the fast bow, more horizontal sweep. Some other players are inbetween, or have aspects of both. Typically Strads are said to require the more horizontal sweep, whereas del Gesus are said to typically give the most in response to a more verical dig. (Not surprizingly, Milstein used Strads, and Stern used del Gesus.)"

That is interesting!! I've always loved Milstein's playing and sound, but never liked Stern's.

When I was a student a few centuries ago, my teacher encouraged me to play nearer the bridge for a big sound. I think players of stringed instruments avoid playing nearer the bridge as the sound under the ear is a bit hard, but it sounds good a few feet away.

March 17, 2011 at 08:21 AM ·

David, if you've got more information to share of course I'm all ears for it. What you say makes sense, which is something I've never considered before.. the portion of string between the bow hair and the bridge is a soft lever that moves the bridge. That's a very useful visualization.. the more tense the string, the stiffer the lever arm is, and the further away from the bridge a person has to bow to obtain the same tone.

Still, the interaction between the bow and the top of the violin is not entirely clear to me. I hope you could share more insight on that.

The bridge G foot, and E foot are resting on very different parts of the top, with different structures underlying. I have no problems visualizing what happens on the E-string side. But the G-string (where I tend to crush) is very very difficult to visualize due to 1) the tilt of the violin itself, relative to the direction of bow pressure, 2) the bass bar.

I feel that perhaps on the DAE strings, when we put more pressure, it has more of a horizontal component to it pointing away from the fingerboard, thus there is more dynamic range. But when it comes to the G string, bow pressure has a much stronger vertical component into the fingerboard, due to the tilt of the violin, and this causes crushing (due to greater vertical oscillation of the string hitting the fingerboard).

March 17, 2011 at 11:39 AM ·

David - when you say

 "the frenetic bowing style of past players" - surely you don't mean the aces of the past like Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein, Menhuin, Elman, Seidel, etc., who, apart from artistic merits, were known for their projection in a hall?

But this "formant" concept sounds very interesting! I remember coming across it elsewhere - maybe the VSA Journal? Anyway, could you elaborate on it a bit?

March 17, 2011 at 02:50 PM ·

The word "formant" seems to be used to collectively label resonance peaks inherent to a particular instrument. There has been quite a bit written about this in The STRAD Magazine in recent years (I think Joseph Curtin wrote one of the articles). In particular, there was an article that described the way vibrato engages the resonance peaks near harmonic overtone frequencies of the note(s) being played. It is by using vibrato to engage these "formants" that each individual player seeks to creates his/her characteristic sound.

Playing different instruments will require the player to use different techniques to achieve a self-satisfying sound. I can recall a concert almost 50 years ago, in which I had to play some principal-cellist solo passages on a really bad (Kay) student cello (my own cello was broken) and I had to work my vibrato so hard that my hand actually flew off the strings at one point (very embarrassing); but I could achieve "my sound," nevertheless.

Another interesting "formant experience" I had was at a concert years ago where Eric Friedman performed the Brahms violin concerto. His sound was pretty much buried by the orchestra's - except for the wonderful overtones that rode over the top of it all. It was the first time I had really appreciated that aspect of the marvel of good concerto composition. Other violinists I have heard in concerto concerts, like Heifetz, Stern, Hahn, and Perlman had the shear power to bull through the orchestral sound.

I think Ken's original question has been well answered, but since the sound of a bowed instrument will vary with the bow actually used, there is more to this than has been written in this thread. Bow sticks and hair do vibrate - and I think you want to minimize the residual hair vibration, since it will affect the way the hair interacts with the string. Obviously the stick that hair is attached to is the major influence on this.

The further your bow can displace the string the more potential sound can be produced - BUT for that to happen, the bow hair must have minimum sliding friction force on the free motion of the string as it is restored to an equilibrium position. I think the rosin one uses has a strong influence on both the static friction (that displaces the string) and the siding friction that allows the string to "restore."

G strings can be tough to make sound good on some violins. I have found that Larsen Tzigane strings can help on some fiddles. Thomastik PI (π)  even better. Too much hair on a bow can mush things up, too.

Andy

March 17, 2011 at 03:59 PM · it may not be useful to think in terms of how much "pressure" you can put on a string or "crushing" the string. Most are "crushing" the sound, not the string. You're looking for maximal amplitude of the string vibration in a certain plane, and almost all factors (including pressure and weight) involved are functions where some is great, but more can be worse, and just right, in combination with all the other factors, is best. The goal is to find that sweet spot, which better players do instinctively.

March 17, 2011 at 04:29 PM ·

"David - when you say

 "the frenetic bowing style of past players" - surely you don't mean the aces of the past like Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein, Menhuin, Elman, Seidel, etc., who, apart from artistic merits, were known for their projection in a hall?

But this "formant" concept sounds very interesting! I remember coming across it elsewhere - maybe the VSA Journal? Anyway, could you elaborate on it a bit?"

Well, I am kind of talking about the aces of the past. It's not a slam though. They did what they could with what they had to work with. Newer string technologies offer more options in playing style, and violins can be adjusted to take even greater advantage.

Cellos were the most interesting group to follow during the recent string evolution. When I started out, most cellists were using a gut core C and G. You'd still see some players using the old pure gut technique, where they would pizz the C at the beginning of a bow stroke to get the string moving and get better response. Then they discovered Dominants. That was short-lived though, as all-metal strings came along which were even more responsive, gave a clearer and more focused sound, and allowed playing even closer to the bridge.

When I used the word "formant", I was using it differently than Andrew (although his way of using it is perfectly correct). What I was talking about is the ability to mold the sound by the distance between the bow and the bridge. That this can be done isn't  news, of course. What's new is that some of the newer strings offer more variety in the bowing "sweet spot" than past strings. This can be used to advantage when it comes to projection.

Pluck a violin string in the middle with your fingernail, and then repeat, moving the plucking point progressively closer to the bridge. The change in sound you hear as you get closer to the bridge is largely a change in the harmonic content of the string. More high frequencies are excited in the string as you get closer to the bridge. Something similar happens with the bowing point.

How this relates to projection is that human hearing is most sensitive in the 2000 to 4000 cycles per second region, which starts about three octaves above middle C. Sound concentrated in this region is most effective at providing listeners with the impression of loudness and volume. That also happens to be the region that singers accentuate when they sing in "their funny opera voice". So the concept is nothing new. It's just that singers had the equipment to do it before string players did. This is in addition to the effect I mentioned in an earlier post,  having bow impulses acting more directly on the bridge because of closer proximity.

The newer playing style still isn't universally accepted though. Some instruments won't tolerate being pushed that way. Also, the sound under the ear isn't what a lot of players are accustomed to, kind of like having an operatic tenor singing in your ear. LOL  Some older players want to play the way they always have, and their students learn that way. And some ensembles are very much about the "blend".  They don't want a particular player sticking out, unless it's the soloist.

Juilliard is the school I associate most with turning out players who are capable of playing in this style, although it's turning up all over these days.

March 17, 2011 at 07:19 PM ·

David,

I suspect another factor in generating the audible "formant" by playing closer to the bridge is relate to the relationship between the thickness of the string and the distance from the bow to the bridge. It is not unlike the "anharmonic" overtones of thick, short, bass piano strings - one can barely tell if they are in tune because the overtones are all over the place.

I also suspect we are talking about the same thing - just different ways of accessing it.

Andy

March 17, 2011 at 07:36 PM ·

Well, I don't know. Probably nobody had more edge - and maybe projection - than Heifetz - and he used a naked gut A and D! According to one article, there is a passage in the Chausson Poeme where every other violinist got swamped by the orchestra - except Heifetz.

But getting back to "formant" - if our most sensitive hearing starts - is it 3 octaves above middle C? That's really high - the 2nd C on the E string! OK - so what do we do before we get there for maximum projection? Is the idea that depending how we bow, vibrate, etc., we can excite and bring into play, more of some of those high overtones on lower fundamnetal pitches?

March 17, 2011 at 08:25 PM ·

Yes, I too thought that 3 octaves above middle C was maybe an error!!

March 17, 2011 at 08:26 PM ·

Yes, it's really that high.  Most musical tones are a combination of many pitches, including tones much higher than the note being played, and one can alter this recipe when playing or singing.

Heifetz was the exception during his later period, wasn't he? I think of him as one of the first to really push a fiddle. I think it's much easier today, but somehow he got it to work. Probably had some special tricks up his sleeve. One may have been a snappy finger action, which can start a string vibrating before the bow reaches it. The one time I heard him up close back stage, the fingers hammering on the fingerboard made quite a bit of noise. Couldn't hear this out in the audience.

March 17, 2011 at 08:50 PM ·

Unfortunately age has been devastating my hearing in that frequency range - and I compensate by wearing an aid in my right ear that is most effective in that 2 - 4 KHz range (what luck! - and it only cost me $200 about 10 years ago).

The last time I heard Heifetz's del Gesu was in Nov. 2008 when Alexander Barantschik played it during  a brief solo in the SFO performance of Mahler's 8th (Grammy Award recording being made at the time, amalgam of 4 performances plus a brief "touch-up at the end" to get rid of audience coughing*).

The first time I heard that violin live was in 1950 in a Heifetz performance of the Beethoven Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Heifetz live was absolutely amazing. The balance I heard in that performance was just as it was on the Heifetz recording (78 rpm) that I had listened to repeatedly for the previous 6 months (while learning to play the piece). The violin dominated the sound, just as it did in the recording. The pizz. in the 3rd movement was shocking; I thought someone had fired a pistol; I actually looked around the hall to see if anything had happened - Heifetz was obviously OK because he was still playing. The pizz. wasn't anywhere near that strong on the recording. A couple of years later the concertmaster of my college orchestra reported on a Heifetz concert he had attended sitting in the 1st or 2nd row --- very gritty sound --- not the best place to sit.

From the 1st balcony in SF, it didn't sound as amazing to me in 2008 as it had when Heifetz played it. But too many different factors to assign blame: my ears were 58 years older, I was further away, different player, different hall, etc.)

Andy

* I know all this because my youngest granddaughter was in the chorus (and I was in the audience for the "touch-up" - they held us there so the musicians could get the job done). Fun!! The 3 Grammy's it won came later.

March 17, 2011 at 09:54 PM ·

Here's a video of Heifetz showing how incredibly close the  bow hair is to the bridge  when the sound gets really intense.

www.youtube.com/watch

March 17, 2011 at 11:00 PM ·

In my approach, I defintely believe in playing close to the bridge for more strength and intensity. The string is more taut near the bridge, and supports forte playing. The harder part is to play a little closer to the bridge in less than forte passages w.o. causing the ponticello effect. Heifetz does this. I would think that the higher overtones are more excited this way, right? So am i basically understanding the formant when i say - "Is the idea that depending how we bow, vibrate, etc., we can excite and bring into play, more of some of those high overtones on lower fundamnetal pitches?"

March 18, 2011 at 02:51 AM ·

That's my take on it, but I'll add that vibrato does some interesting things on a violin. Not only is the pitch varied, but the total tonal recipe can vary along with the pitch shift, because a violin doesn't sound exactly the same on any two pitches (somewhat of an exaggeration, but also somewhat true). Another interesting thing is that the sound radiating pattern shifts at different frequencies. So vibrato isn't just a pitch wobble. It's also a sound color wobble, and a sound direction wobble.

Andrew made an interesting observation earlier, about needing to modify his vibrato to make a substitute instrument "do the job".

March 18, 2011 at 02:57 AM ·

Cool!

March 18, 2011 at 03:49 AM ·

Raphael, I see from you profile that Dicterow was one of your teachers. I haven't spent a lot of time around the guy, but one thing which impressed me was that he could nail how a particular fiddle wanted to be played in about five seconds. That's not the same thing as saying that any fiddle would be a good fit for him. In my limited experience, he was a pusher, like in the Heifetz video. Some fiddles will crush under this routine.

There have been so many great posts in this thread. One mentioned different playing techniques needed to optimize a Strad, versus a Guarneri.  Strads tend to be very thin instruments, thinner than most makers feel comfortable making today, if they've done some restoration work on Strads. Paganini's Guarneri was almost impossibly thick, compared to the norm.

In some ways, a concertmaster playing solo passages has even bigger projection challenges than a featured soloist standing out in front of the orchestra, and perhaps being separately mic'd.

March 18, 2011 at 04:15 AM ·

 I found this thread to be very interesting and encouraging. I've always seemed to have a longer heavier bow stroke than almost every other violin/fiddle player I've ever run into. But I don't travel in classical circles. Mostly hobby players, buskers, fiddlers and such. Although I dabble in a few different things, mostly play blues. I'm thinking that classical players in general use a firmer longer stroke than the afore mentioned. But still, seem to see a lot of non classical players using a lighter shorter, dare I say kind of a non-committal stroke. I just can't seem to play like that. One of the reasons I traded into my current fiddle (which is only a Simon Jozsef around the 3k range) was that it could take more bow and project without breaking up as I call it. But I enjoyed hearing about the old masters who weren't afraid to use their bow on this thread.

March 18, 2011 at 04:23 AM ·

Playing almost on the bridge? 

imho but I'm not claiming to be right:

People always say: players like Heifetzh and Oistrakh play near the bridge. But I personally don't see much difference between their bow spot and  the other good violinist's ones on videos...  Yet I usually hear a difference in volume and tone. (well, I see it very well on that Heifetz Gluck Melody video but not on all his videos.)

Whatever each one did, they were amazing!  Both are seen as having an incredible sound and technique.  I certainly can't argue on that.  I love both.

To my ears, videos like this Cadenza by Oistrakh is the proof that one doesn't have to almost "sit on the bridge" with the bow to produce a big sound and tone.  (At least, not as much as on this Gluck Melody video) One can play very close if they wish but it seems that many other factors can do the job too.  Maybe, more than one path leads to Rome! : )

Anyway enjoy the video and one sees better the bow towards the mid-end of it

www.youtube.com/watch

March 18, 2011 at 05:23 AM ·

Greetings,

the beautiful `on the bridge` sound that springs to mind is Neveu playing Poeme in `The Art of Violin DVD.`

Cheers,

Buri

March 18, 2011 at 01:27 PM ·

Yes, Glenn Dicterow was one of my wonderful teachers! Yes, I'd also say that he's more of a "pusher". In an interview in the Strad he once said that for a Strad, you need to cater to it more, and use a more horizontal sweep, whereas with a del Gesu you can dig into it more vertically. For some time he used a Strad provided for his use by the New York Philharmonic. They eventually got a del Gesu for his use, which he preferred.

Besides his beautiful tone, artistic phrasing, and outsized virtuoso technique, Glenn is one of the best projectors in a hall with orchestra that I've ever heard - and I agree that it's harder to do from the concertmaster's chair. He's the only one of my teachers who consciously got into the subject of projection with me and other students. Once, when I got a point he was making, he said "There - you just projected 10 more rows!" He likes to say "get those overtones flying out of the instrument and out into the hall!" Once I asked him to elaborate, just to be sure I understood what he meant. He said that it involves using a lot of bow in the right way - digging in and then pulling the sound out, never crushing the string. But also he said that good intonation plays a role in spinning out the overtones - especially close leading tones. But there's more.

Once at an early lesson with him in his small Concertmaster's studio on Lincoln Center's Avery Fischer Hall, he demonstrated something kind of sotto voce for me. For that soft dyanmic, there seemed to be something exagerated that at first, I couldn't put my finger on. Then I realized that more than seemed to be necessary for me in that soft passage in that small room, he was using a lot of bow, a lot of left-hand finger action, a wide vibrato, etc. It was like stage acting or stage makeup seen up close. In that small room, he was projecting that soft dynamic with full body and presence in the same way that he would just downstairs in the great hall to the last row - a wonderful unspoken lesson!

It was fascinating a few years later to compare that with Aaron Rosand up close. I studied with him in his master class in Nice one summer. Rosand can play with great elegance, panache, and exquisite phrasing. He can also play with a bite and intensity second only to Heifetz. In that classroom I was especially struck by the latter. The bite up close  seemed almost a bit much; the gutsiness, the edge that what Perlman describing Heifetz up close called the "jhitt" were very much in evidence - again to a point where, it almost seemed a bit much up close, though breath-taking. His playing reminded me of a laser beam, with little spread at even a great distance. Rosand's "laser" had just enough spread in a hall so that the "jhitt" was balanced with the elegance and poise, to produce a particularly beautiful sound, both rich and focused, which is what is also heard on most of his records. Dicterow seemed to have more cushion to his sound. But both project wonderfully!

Hearing Glenn in recent years at public master classes, I feel more edge from hm as well. I got a most dramatic sample of his legendary ability to adjust to an unfamiliar instrument at the end of one such master class a few years ago. I brought a violin and bow to show him and asked if he'd mind trying a few notes on it. "OK", said, with a twinkle in his eye. He started tuning it rather loudly. Then he suddenly launched into the opening allegro of the Bruch G minor with a power, presence and intensity such that I could feel a palpable shock wave! It almost knocked me down! I hope to see him again next Wed. at another public master class. I've also been back in touch with Rosand and have attended his master classes as well. These guys are like twin peaks in the violin Himalayas!

March 18, 2011 at 02:01 PM ·

"Stage makeup", or a stage whisper. What a great way of describing it!
 

March 18, 2011 at 05:51 PM ·

"Once at an early lesson with him in his small Concertmaster's studio on Lincoln Center's Avery Fischer Hall, he demonstrated something kind of sotto voce for me. For that soft dyanmic, there seemed to be something exagerated that at first, I couldn't put my finger on. Then I realized that more than seemed to be necessary for me in that soft passage in that small room, he was using a lot of bow, a lot of left-hand finger action, a wide vibrato, etc. It was like stage acting or stage makeup seen up close. In that small room, he was projecting that soft dynamic with full body and presence in the same way that he would just downstairs in the great hall to the last row - a wonderful unspoken lesson!"

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think great players know a very simple fact.  If you want to be heard in the last row when playing pp, you must be able to be extremely powerful in F or FF. Then anything of a less intensity (as pp) will still cary in the hall and sound like a dynamic change to your audience. 

I think many players nowadays (and I've seen and heard this in masterclasses) have difficulty to play a huge FF (perhaps too much body tension or aggressivity?) so when they soften their sound to play pp, we don't hear anything in the audience! 

Interesting to hear that Raphael!

March 18, 2011 at 06:27 PM ·

One other thing about the sound is the bow tension. I can't really crush my strings when I am getting the best (subjective to my ear) sound, because I have reduced the bow tension. It makes my playing less harsh, but the cost is that when I use too much pressure, the hairs flex to the shaft of the bow. This is for both my better bows (my lesser bows don't have the shaft stiffness to do this). However, I can still get an adequate volume (subjective) with the lesser bow tension.

I can play with a stronger bow tension, but I don't like the sound, and it seems to be more unforgiving at speed.

March 18, 2011 at 06:37 PM ·

"Playing almost on the bridge? 

imho but I'm not claiming to be right:

People always say: players like Heifetzh and Oistrakh play near the bridge. But I personally don't see much difference between their bow spot and  the other good violinist's ones on videos...  Yet I usually hear a difference in volume and tone. (well, I see it very well on that Heifetz Gluck Melody video but not on all his videos.)"

Maybe you need a more powerul pair of specs!!  (wink)!!!!!!!!!

March 18, 2011 at 07:29 PM ·

If it's millimeters not many will see it... : ) 

Many things are in millimeters in violin!

March 18, 2011 at 07:43 PM ·

Anne-Marie wrote:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think great players know a very simple fact.  If you want to be heard in the last row when playing pp, you must be able to be extremely powerful in F or FF. Then anything of a less intensity (as pp) will still cary in the hall and sound like a dynamic change to your audience. 

Actually, I think it's more the opposite. Rosand has stressed repeatedly that the violin is not a trumpet, and only when we play a true piano can our fortes really seem like forte. But how does a fine string player, or fine singer for that matter, make a piano that projects to the back of a hall? Well, it's all the things we've been talking about - eg more bow, for more body, closer to the bridge (not right at the bridge) unless we want a real flautato effect, for formant, good intonation, etc. But yes, some players simply don't play loud enough, and others not soft enough - depending on the music and the performing context.

March 18, 2011 at 09:56 PM ·

That's interesting Raphael thanks!!

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