Best exercises for producing a beautiful tone please!

November 24, 2015 at 04:16 PM · What have you found to be the most essential exercises or techniques in developing a beautiful tone?

Replies (22)

November 24, 2015 at 05:36 PM · Consistent lessons with a qualified and caring teacher.

Consistent and careful practice.

Attention whilst playing.

And proper use of a shoulder rest...

November 24, 2015 at 06:07 PM · ... especially the shoulder rest as used by Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein and many others of their era ;)

I recommend it.

Seriously though, for me it has been a stellar teacher who taught me how to listen to myself, long slow bows, and gut strings wherever possible (my personal choice).

November 24, 2015 at 07:57 PM · and of course Baker's rosin for our bows.

November 24, 2015 at 09:01 PM · I'll see your Baker's rosin and raise you Simon Fischer's "Secrets of Tone Production" DVD.

November 25, 2015 at 01:43 AM · Greetings,

if you dont have a sound concept in your head to start with that is a problem. So spend time everyday listening to a variety of great violinists and building up a repertoire of sound in your head. This is essential in my opinion.

A second prerequisite is accurate intonation. Consult Fischers scale manual and The violin Lesson.

Then Fischers exercises for tonal development as mentioned in the previous post.

The vibrato will also be a key factor so get a copy of Fischers warming up and do the exercises in there everyday.

Bobs your uncle,


November 25, 2015 at 10:28 AM · hi Alain, the tone production exercises in Simon Fischer's "Basics". you need that book anyway.

November 25, 2015 at 12:49 PM · Hi,

In masterclasses that I give, I find that observing a few basics are more essential than any exercises. These are:

1- keeping the shoulders down and open on both sides

2- remembering that weight sits

3- not pressing the fingers into the bow, which adds only tension and chokes the sound

4- leading with the forearm not the shoulder. The hand only connects the arm to the bow, but doesn't really lead

5- remembering that there is no real up-bow and down-bow, only opening and closing the arm

6- bowing is lateral, not vertical.

7- one string, one level of elbow. Maintaining the same level of elbow throughout a stroke helps in having a smooth sound.

Hope this helps!


November 25, 2015 at 02:45 PM · What Christian said - PLUS Simon Fischer's Tone Production DVD.

There really is a wealth of wisdom in the DVD. He covers much of the same ground in Basics and The Violin Lesson, but the DVD brings it to life.

November 25, 2015 at 04:41 PM · Stephen got it: you HAVE to have a sound in your ear that you are trying to emulate. So few students spend much time listening to the great violinists. The best violinist they hear all week is probably me--a very scary thought indeed. So I pull up YouTube and have them listen to a variety of fiddlers. How does Salerno-sonnenberg differ from Heifetz or Rosand or Perlman? The bow just has to draw an even, clean sound, but the vibrato is the statement of personality. I have some good vibrato exercises,which some students do and some never do.

Once in a great while I may even point out to the student (in a light-hearted way) that if they just don't want to produce a beautiful vibrato that they might consider switching to the clarinet...

As for shoulder rests,not has always come down to vibrato for me, and not shifting or the minuscule difference in violin body resonance. The problem I see is that many who don't use one or take them off can't vibrate effectively on all notes in all positions. It utterly changes the ergonomics of vibrato. I think people who can get away without are those who favor a wrist vibrato. I've found it much harder to use an arm vibrato without one. But there are always those that put the cart before the horse and believe that "going commando" trumps their ultimate sound quality.

November 25, 2015 at 05:05 PM ·

Practice improvising dynamics, articulations and bowings e.g. round, crescent, angled and figure 8 with simple pieces that you can play from memory; it's good to do this with your eyes closed.

November 25, 2015 at 09:41 PM · Which are the exercises in Basics and The Violin Lessont or the DVD that you've personally most benefitted from?

November 25, 2015 at 11:25 PM · Greetings,

Its hard to state a preference between my two favorites.

For a basic warm up almost everytime i practice I will play wbs strating at mm 80 on sp5 the fingerboard. Then lower the tempo sp4ditto sp 3. This develops tone, courage, and sems to stimulate emotional energy as well as requiring intense self critical listening.

The other one is pulsing, which is one of the most repected traditional exercises on the block. I use this in pieces to ensure i am getting the maximum depth of sound.

To comment a little on Christian's point that it isn't about exercises , I have had an experience that agrees with that. I have always been a heavyset (now fat) dude and my self concept and sound concept somehow linked up with Oistrakh for many years. Then I had a one off Alexander lesson with a very high level teacher and for some reason all my preconceptions about what my playing should be disappeared and what one might call the sound I was destined to produce emerged. It was very much closer to Milstein in essence , although sadly not in quality. That may be why as i get older and very sligtly wiser I tend to gravitate to Milsteins recordings more than really juicy violinists.

The point is that if all the mechanic are working correctly and your mind is cleared of the messy jumble and baggae we carry around with us all the time, then -your- personal, beautiful to some degree or another sound will come out naturally. I gues sthis is more or less what Christian is saying.

Simon's exercises provided an objective means towards that goal but we still need teachers to onitor the kinds of things CV refers to.



November 26, 2015 at 05:35 AM · Please tell me what sp5 (etc.) refers to.

Thank you.

November 26, 2015 at 07:07 AM · Sure.

as you know, tone production depends on the interaction of three things: weight, speed and sound point. The sound point (sp) is the place where the bow i

s sting on the string relative to the bridge and fingerboard. Somepeople use the opposite, but for me and in Simons work, SP5 is the lane nearest the fingerboards. SP4 is halfway between the finger board and the mid point betwween fingerboard and bridge, SP 3 is this midway point, sp2 is halway between this mid point and the bridge. Sp 1 is almost bowing onthe bridge, an area that many beginners to intermediate players often believe cannot be played on. In fact it can be done as easily as any other sp if the two other factors are correct.

Is this ok


November 26, 2015 at 02:34 PM · As a listener, not a player, I'd encourage you to drop the idea of The Beautiful Tone and think in terms of developing a variety of tone qualities that you can call on when the occasion demands, that are appropriate for the mood of the music.

That probably means precision and repeatability of technique, along with what Scott Cole mentions: being ever searching for qualities you want to make, and trying to find them on your violin. Part of this certainly rests on having a violin that will do different things, as well, rather than one that insists on making it's own sound.

Listening, the most boring and simultaneously irritating violinists can be the ones who are playing the equivalent of a one-stop organ, who think they've found The Sound, and that's all they can make. It can be pleasant for a while, then grating and unrelenting when it doesn't vary to suit the situation.

November 26, 2015 at 06:49 PM · Greetings,

abolsutely. Milstein often told is students they had t `learn to play ugly otherwise the beautiful sound had no meaning.`



November 26, 2015 at 07:12 PM · Buy the $1000 shoulder rest and the gold-flaked rosin. With the aid of these two powerful enchantments, you can channel Heifetz, Paganini, and whoever else you want. Stardust, rainbows, and moonbeams will stream from your instrument whenever you touch bow to strings. Forget teachers and technique; these two simple money sinks will solve all your woes.

November 26, 2015 at 10:17 PM · 5 sounding points

Perfect tone = control of toneS

November 26, 2015 at 10:20 PM · From Stephen Brivati

Milstein often told is students they had t `learn to play ugly otherwise the beautiful sound had no meaning.`

Love it. And indeed, once I figured out how to reliably make that horrible scratch sound (great for clowning around), I also knew how to avoid it.

Now that I've finally almost figured out how to make my bow stay in one lane, I've come up with a tone exercise that moves it around. It's based on an orchestral passage I'm working on, which alternates half notes with quarter notes. All notes must be played at the same volume, but I have move the bow at twice the speed on the quarter notes to wind up back at my starting place for the next pair of notes. So I play the half note in lane 2 or 3 (midpoint or a bit closer to the bridge) with a bit more weight, then move to lane 5 (fingerboard) with less weight so the doubled bow speed makes (hopefully!) the same sound.

November 26, 2015 at 11:21 PM · Yes, but the six million dolar question is -how- do you move the bow between lanes. Much of the time it is done by angling. In orde rto get a clear image of this watch a video of a great player ending a fairly slow phrase in for example Mozart. In common time this might be a half note slurred to a quarter note followed by a quarter note rest before the next phrase starts. Watch how the half note is played closer to the bridge and then as the bow is angled it slides towards the fingerboard to tail off the sound and end the phrase.

This us eof angled bowing is covered extensively in Siimon Fischers works and is actually very important.Paradoxically, in many cases, people who have trouble with getting a straight bow solve the problem by practicing exercises that consciously angle the bows in various ways. That provides the kind of yardstick from which awarness of e straight bow stroke emerges. Incidentally the notiin of straight bow is important but not something one should really start to obsess about. The actuall point is retaining the same soundoint throughout the stroke, if that is what you wish to do, which it may well be a lot of the time. Thinking of it this way can be helpful for more advanced bowing.



November 27, 2015 at 02:54 AM · I've been told by my soloist (jazz) neighbour that the tone is all about bowing.

Confidence in fast strokes and softness in slow strokes. Basically, I do all the scales that I learned so far, four full notes for each note at each practice then move on to practice pieces. This eats up about 45 mins of the practice. It'll go for over an hour once I've found better intonation above 6th position. It really pays off.

I'm still puzzled by down stroke staccatos on Liebesfreud that Anne Akiko does. It looks as if she is striking down with the bow.

November 29, 2015 at 07:33 AM · Many thanks for your thoughtful and informed replies. Mr. Brivati - your practical suggestions and those of other generous souls on this site are already helping me out.

I got the Fischer DVD. Actually, the second time I've ordered it. Neither time do they play on my iMac; has anyone else had this problem with the Secrets of Tone Production DVD?

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