Do all violins respond the same to bow pressure?

January 9, 2016 at 03:56 AM · How important is touch with a bow and what can go wrong?

I was once in a small studio where I knew the resident teacher on a friendly basis. I was trying violins in one room and she was elsewhere, out of sight. This did not stop her from shouting "lighter"! (I think she meant the bow force?) She had no other student scheduled for this time of day. She repeated "lighter" two more times before I left and we simply parted with a smile. I did not want to be demanding about an explanation being I was not a student of the studio.

Two years later .....

I have a trial violin. It is a "pretty good" instrument. The best I have had in the house.

I need only to touch the strings at "whisper" level to get get a response and the note(s) can be maintained if I keep up the bow speed.

The violin is very loud with my usual bow pressure and sounding point(s)

Yes, I have scrambled my bows and rosins but the different effects did not change.

Do I really have a trial violin that has the enhanced bow/string sensitivities or is it my imagination?

The violin is using Dominant strings.

Replies (8)

January 9, 2016 at 04:08 AM · I think each violin would respond differently to the same bow pressure. From my limited experience and what I've read, besides the violin itself, the setup has a lot to do with required bow pressure.

In particular the string, bridge and fingerboard height. In general, the higher these are, easier to project, lighter bow pressure required.

I often had much better agility and projection out of "high" set up than low. I also had low setup in the past because the neck angle was funny then I swapped violins.

January 9, 2016 at 05:41 AM · Maybe, but I haven't noticed that.

January 9, 2016 at 06:26 AM · Violins respond hugely differently to bow pressure, and for that matter, to bowing technique in general. Minor but noticeable differences for the same instrument can also be created by different set-up, especially strings. For instance, (wound) gut will tend to require a little more effort to start to speak, compared to synthetics or steel.

You'll actually find that many really excellent violins don't respond well to a lot of pressure -- the sound seems to get crushed.

January 9, 2016 at 11:45 PM · They definitely don't respond the same, as I know from experience.

Two of my three fiddles have the same string combos at present. Between the 1869 and 1883 instruments, I notice the difference mainly on the D string. The 1883 instrument withstands more bow pressure there. The difference isn't great; but I can tell, and I adjust pressure when going from one fiddle to the other. Bridge heights are similar.

Fortunately, I know what touch I need for each one -- and the third fiddle as well -- since I divide my practice/play time among the three each day to keep them well played in.

January 10, 2016 at 02:51 PM · My experience of plain gut strings, which I play now almost exclusively except for the steel E on one violin, is that the bow needs to be tightened a little more than if I were playing on higher tension strings such as synthetics. It feels like the higher tension in the bow is necessary to control the lower tension gut strings.

Conversely, it would seem that a lower bow tension be better for playing on high tension synthetics such as Evas (which I've never used). Would this be a logical conclusion?

January 10, 2016 at 03:43 PM · Probably... I find that is true for gut too, though I hate an overly tight bow. :)

January 10, 2016 at 09:11 PM · A.O., if you were to make a 3-D graph between the parameters of string tension, hair tension, and response/playability I believe there will be a point or region on the graph where the response/playability (however that particular parameter is defined mathematically!) will be at its maximum. It is reasonable to suppose on a priori grounds that if string and hair tension are both too low or both too high then the response/playability will not be good, which of course accords with experience, and this would be visible on the graph.

January 10, 2016 at 09:54 PM · You are probably right on that too Sir Jennings, though I have yet to see the processes by which your mind comes up with such wonderings, as many of the good youth would.

PS: Why must you describe such simple concepts in such complicated words, my good fellow? :) Is it the Britishness in you, perchance? :D

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