Can a violin be too loud?

January 10, 2014 at 07:04 AM · It would seem that the topic of "projection" is often discussed. But as a beginner, I'm not sure how to parse out "projection" as different from simply being a "loud" violin. Is there a difference? Can someone explain it?

It seems like many time the discussion is about how to get better projection, etc. But are there cases where the inverse is desired? A violin that is so powerful under the ear that it needs to somehow be dialed back?

I'm not talking about a shrill, harsh violin, but rather one that simply has the volume knob turned up to 11.

Replies (25)

January 10, 2014 at 09:22 AM · Loudness is certainly a form of projection - but its not the only one. Listen to any great violinist play a concerto and you will hear passages where they are playing piano (to be honest its 'soloistic piano' which is not the same as 'piano' when you play in an orchestra) and yet the violin caries clearly over the orchestra and to the back of the room. I think this is what we really mean about 'projection'

I started a topic on that - how do you detect a projecting violin - not so long ago that has a lot of information worth reviewing. My impression was that a projecting violin has notes that are highly focused - that is the overtones are in harmony with each other. If this is the case you can have a violin that is loud to your ear but dies in a large hall because the overtones are in essence cancelling each other out. This could either suppress the sound or make it unpleasant

I tried a violin like the latter - very loud under the ear, but in a hall it turned into a shriek. This contrasts my current one which is not really that loud - but it soars over the orchestra.

January 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM · It is interesting to search "singers formant" in Google: how can solo singer be heard over a symphony orchetra!

Two acoustic aspects to "projection":

- a strong formant in the 2-4 kHz range, not shared by massed strings and wind;

- a strong vibrato, which "detaches" the solo notes from the background.

Then there is the sheer power of the violin or voice over its whole range: think of the problems Dylana Jenson had when she married and her borrowed Guarnerius was withdrawn; "You play very well, but we can't hear you!" And neither Dylana nor Guarnerius lack "projection"!

I have measured the sound level of my very modest violin at violin-to-ear distance: 95 to 100 dB, and it's a non-projecting violin..

January 10, 2014 at 01:08 PM · Yes, a violin can be too loud and powerful, depending on the application. I've run across some quartet and ensemble musicians who placed high priority on "blending" with the group, and this placed some restrictions on using powerful instruments.

Perhaps they could have made them work OK with a change in playing style, but there was already a lot of time and work invested in the style which had served the group well for years.

Sometimes a violin can be turned down a few notches with adjustment and string selection, if needed.

January 10, 2014 at 01:14 PM · If you are working in the recording studio then a loud violin up close, under the microphone can sound terrible. A darker sound might be preferred in this case.

January 10, 2014 at 03:34 PM · I have a student who complained that her violin was too loud in her ear. Even though the sound to the audience was fine, her opinion of the sound was inhibiting her practice. Switching her to a violin with a more subtle warm sound was the answer and she loves her violin now.

Laura M.

Suzuki Violin

January 10, 2014 at 05:11 PM · Laura, I wonder if you considered / tried some kind of partial ear protection. My daughter has the same issue since going to her first full-size violin and I am looking for a solution that will not cause me to have to go hunting for a violin again.

I had occasion to play the violin part for a Vivaldi guitar concerto and the solo guitar was so soft that I was tempted to use a practice mute!

January 10, 2014 at 05:20 PM · @Elise, I certainly am keen to learn more about this "projection" quality of a violin that people talk about. I don't really see how overtones can be out of tune with one another at all, let alone in a way that varies among violins. Phase relationships might matter, but I'd have to think about that more. Maybe that's what you meant by "in harmony." Principles of broadcast antenna design are probably relevant.

This comment was sponsored by a weirdly shaped tail piece that claims to be better.

January 10, 2014 at 05:41 PM · I use an earplug in my left ear when playing my "Le Beast" violin.

January 11, 2014 at 01:32 AM · I'm in the left earplug camp, too.

I took up violin again 5 years ago. Before that, my left ear was my "good" (less bad) ear. Recently, the right ear hears way better than the left.

I have two main bows. One is a "quiet" bow that's really nimble. The other projects a lot more at a distance. In fact, I chose it largely because it projected with the best tone to the back of the recital hall where I tried it out. But I can pick up the quieter bow when I don't want to blast away.

If you feel your violin is too loud, one option could be to shop for a bow that gives more subtle sound.

January 11, 2014 at 02:28 AM · How many flutes are in a symphonic orchestra?

How many violins are in a symphonic orchestra?

Why?

Because a single flute can over-power many violins.

In other words, violin can never be too loud.

To be precise, a GOOD violin can never be too loud.

To be even more precise a GOOD acoustic violin can never be too loud.

Electric, yes, but that is completely different subject.

Now, the difference between power and projection is nicely explained by James Ehnes in his interview on DVD "Homage".

Take a look.

January 11, 2014 at 03:12 AM · So how do I test projection?

I imagine I will require a large hall and someone in the back row?

January 11, 2014 at 01:45 PM · Its interesting to explore the limits of your instrument but perhaps the most important question is, realistically, what are you going to use the violin for? If its a recital in a typical room with a piano then projection usually is not an issue. Likewise in many churches - the acoustics are often too good and the problem is not projection but clarity. However, if you are to solo with an orchestra then you really do need an instrument that is both clear and that carries over all the competing sounds. As far as I am aware, the only real way to test that is - with an orchestra but maybe the experts here have a better way...

January 11, 2014 at 05:54 PM · "If its a recital in a typical room with a piano then projection usually is not an issue."

Depends on the pianist and what kind of music you are playing. The piano should really be able to have the lid wide open but with some violins the balance doesn't allow it.

January 11, 2014 at 06:47 PM · One could rotate the piano 180 degrees.

There's also this.....

January 11, 2014 at 07:16 PM · I had loudness in my palatino violin and loudness in my Heinzel violin. Loudness in my heinzel is much better. Loud is not necessarily bad as I thought it was when I knew nothing more than palatino language

January 11, 2014 at 08:02 PM · "One could rotate the piano 180 degrees"

That works particularly effectively on the horizontal axis...

January 11, 2014 at 08:11 PM · Cool. Then one could play lying on their back! :-)

January 11, 2014 at 08:46 PM · How to attach a shoulder rest to that trumpet violin?

January 11, 2014 at 09:13 PM · I seem to recall that years ago I met someone who was the page turner for the accompanist to a famous violinist (I don't remember who). The page turner told me that the sound of the violin on the stage was so loud that it was almost painful.

Sandy

PS. Is there a name for that instrument pictured above? The buglelin? The trombolin? The violombone? The French Hernia? The violhorn? The tubalin? The flugelin? The violrumpet? The trumpolin? (which is probably something you can bounce on, too)

January 11, 2014 at 11:33 PM · Violet?

January 11, 2014 at 11:36 PM · Two or three years ago I got an opportunity to play a home-made trumpet violin. I was visiting family in Leuven, Belgium just before the Christmas and went down into town to do some shopping. As I entered the big Grot Markt I heard this very powerful trumpet-like sound coming from 100 yards away at the other end of the Markt, playing an Eastern European folk tune. It didn't sound only like a trumpet, there were distinct violin overtones both in the sound and in the playing.

A few minutes later I met the player, a Rumanian street musician who was working the smaller towns in the area. We conversed (carefully, in English, our only common language) and it turned out he had made his fiddle at home. The neck, fingerboard, scroll and pegs were from a real violin. The bridge was a home-made affair, and the body was a wooden box. Inside there was some sort of pickup which I couldn't see, a small circuit board, and a pack of dry cell batteries. The sound came out of a cut-off trumpet clamped to the box.

I don't known whether there was a soundpost - judging by the solidity of the box it was probably unnecessary. There was a minimal chinrest for basic comfort; no shoulder rest, and a standard tailpiece for the metal strings.

The owner let me have a play on it, and the response was almost frighteningly loud. I played an Irish polka from the far west of Europe which was probably audible several streets away.

Afterwards, a suitable monetary appreciation passed between us (he was the professional, after all), and we parted the best of friends.

January 12, 2014 at 01:10 AM · See here:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroh_violin

January 12, 2014 at 01:55 AM · Some Stroh violin clips

Pop

Jazz

January 12, 2014 at 03:57 AM · We have a very fine musician in Austin who uses a Stroh violin on occasion. And his gets mic'd

January 12, 2014 at 07:24 AM · I believe the renowned tango violinist Julio de Caro used a Stroh. As recording techniques improved, his fiddle sounded worse and worse!

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