Those were the words of my teacher yesterday. I'm working on Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile from String Quartet No. 1. I played it solo unaccompanied for the first time in a lesson, feeling very nervous about my tone. After the first part, I was told it was very nice. "Except for the noise and scratchiness," I declared glumly. "I heard no scratchiness," he countered, and proceeded to tell me how nice the tone was in the pp passages. The same pp passages which, to me, sounded hissy and scratchy at best.
He then 'borrowed' my fiddle and demonstrated, having me listen standing next to his left, then again from the other side of the room. I understand exactly where he's coming from. from more than 10 feet away the sound takes on a beauty you can't hear directly under the ear.
"There are violins," I was then told, "that will sound noisy and harsh to the player, but project beautifully to an audience. Likewise, there are violins that sound smooth and pleasant to a player, but cannot be heard beyond the fifth row!" Of course I've read all this before. This phenomenon is well known and documented, and though I always understood the concept academically, I've never had the opportunity to experience it with my own fiddle.
In trying to get a sound that sounds sweet to me, the player, I've skimped on rosin to cut the noise, and played with a weak bow arm. Invariably my teacher would call the tone weak.
This may be one good argument in favor of finding a good teacher. Or if that's not feasible, at least record yourself. It's important to have an ear that is not immediately involved, in order to identify and correct issues.
Or perhaps to affirm, if even once, that you sound better than you think.
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