Dorothy DeLay Big Tone. Technique.

March 5, 2004 at 06:50 AM · I read somewhere that Dorothy Delay was famous for teaching her students a big full tone and how to project it. Can anyone tell me her secrets? Is that the "tone" I can hear when I hear Isaac Stern play in recording of the Brahms concerto? Is it an actual bowing technique or left and right hands, or is it more of a mental thing combined with the hands? I think Schlomo Mintz was one of her students...? I heard him play the Sibelius in a live concert and it blew me away! It was really top notch.

Replies (37)

March 5, 2004 at 08:07 AM · It varys very much from student to student. Some of Delay's students were fantastic, some not as good. My violin teacher believes that she had a policy of making the index finger of your right hand go further up the stick than the other fingers (hard to explain, think Midori's bow hold) and he thinks this is no good for tone production. Others I'm sure will disagree. A lot depends on the quality and condition of the instrument as well.


March 5, 2004 at 08:32 AM · Was she the one who used to hang a heavy purse on the student's elbow?

March 5, 2004 at 09:14 AM · That would do the exact opposite.

March 5, 2004 at 11:38 AM · Greetings,

Imeet a lot of DeLay students here in Japan and tehy all say more or less the same thing. The bow speed exercises where you do one pulse on a wb then two then four etc gradually increasing the tempo. Do the exercise on all sound points in many positons. It is described very well in Basics.

I use this a lot and have found it does build up a ringing sound very quickly because you have to pay attention to the absolute minimum extra pressure needed to start the string vibrating at a higher speed than the rest of the stroke. It sensitises the bowing arm very rapidly.

A big sound is not a product of pressure , forcing or anything profoundly handbaggy.

As Flesch repeatedly argued, although in theory pressure, speed and soundpoint should all be considered with equal weight, inpractice if you allow the point of contact to dictate theother two your playing will benifit enormously. it"s a sort of screwy version of "yes, the chicken did come before the egg"



PS Handbags are for putting prunes in

March 5, 2004 at 12:57 PM · Producing volume and projecting your tone to the far corners of a hall is rather complex and fun….

My teacher Paul Stassievitch told me that Leopold Auer both told and demonstrated to his students that (when bowing towards the tip of the bow) the stick should gradually gravitate into a location almost underneath the right hand knuckle (similar to Dorothy DeLay’s comments). During this movement towards the tip of the bow, the thumb also slowly gets straighter but is still very limp. At the tip of the bow, some of Auer’s short armed students had contact with the bow grip using only the thumb and first three fingers. At that point you could easily draw the bow past the tip. My teacher had a very powerful sound with great bow contact and volume (flat hair and close to the bridge).

During class, Auer explained that, to gradually increase volume, the Index finger slowly pushed downward, while the thumb acted as a bottom support, and the other fingers just rested gently on the bow grip. Also much individual experimentation was done in Auer’s class when a student lacked the desired louder volume or wisp like softness. Auer vehemently stressed that the point of bow contact was the main consideration and starting point as to what your right arm and hand was to do.

Stassievitch further related to me that, in Heifetz’s playing, medium downward pressure by the index finger was used at a super fast bow speed. You could gravitate towards the bridge for a more cutting edge to your sound. This combination produced a steely sound which was loud, brilliant and which also resonated around the hall. Three and four note fortissimo chords were produced by having your right hand index finger in medium contact with the bow and quite straight, and applying a fast bow speed. This straight index finger technique is amply demonstrated by David Oistrakh’s playing of the the Shostakovich concerto in the Art of Violin video.

Afterwards the students would congregate by themselves and demonstrate and really exaggerate the high and low volumes which they could produce. Stassievitch told me that Tocha Seidel could draw a downward bow, and at the middle of the bow have contact with the wood and the hair, produce absolutely no scratch, and produce a resonance that made the other students hold their hands over their ears.

Fun was had by all !!

Ted Kruzich

March 5, 2004 at 06:12 PM · I am sorry if I sound ignorant, but Buri, is the excersize which you are reffering to the excersize where you make a bite-like movement at the frog with the right hand fingers, then lift the bow in the air and carry it over to the tip in a motion, like you would as if you would be drawing actual sound, and then do the same biting motion at the tip?

March 5, 2004 at 09:31 PM · Buri,

thats the exercise she gave my teacher for big tone, which he in turn gave to me.

March 5, 2004 at 10:25 PM · Greetings,

BSB, not ignorant. Just my fuzzy late night description.

The bow stays on the string. Play a wb at mm52. Near the bridge. No vob. Watch the string vibration. Now, mentally divide the bow into two half notes. At the beginning of each half note (within one bow stroke) do a speed accent. This may require a slight increase in pressure. The [purpose is to find the absolute minimu extra pressure it requires. the bow slowsafter the speed accent and then repeats. You then do this three times to a wb, four times, six, eight etc up to 32 or more times when the speed accent just becomes a pulse within the sustained stroke.



March 6, 2004 at 12:11 AM · I see, I understand a lot better now, thank you very much. However, by speed accent do you mean an accent that comes more from the forearm, or forearm with added motion of the right hand fingers? Also, what kind of right hand pressure should be applied on the part of the stroke without the accent (lighter with more bow speed, or with more fuller sound and)? In general, what are the dynamics in this excersize (piano with accent, or forte with accent, etc)?

March 6, 2004 at 03:09 AM · Greetings,

thing push and pull, not down. The bow stroke speed is changed by a change in the bow arm. It does not invole up or down in any way. Any small extra pressure is applied by the hand. It shoudl be very small indeed. Just enough to get the string vibrating,



March 6, 2004 at 04:06 AM · Thank you very much.

March 9, 2004 at 08:49 AM · Thankyou everyone for all your helpful advice. I really appreciate it. Jenny.

March 9, 2004 at 10:07 AM · Greetings,

there is a small book (actuallyit is more of a monograph I suppose) by Flesch called "Problems of Tone Production in Violin Playing.' That is well worth egtting. Teh sound point exercises are excellent,



March 9, 2004 at 08:24 PM · Maybe the rumour (sorry, rumor) of the big purse (of the wallet rather than handbag variety!!) stemmed from a big fee???? With all these famous pupils over the years, she must've had a right to command one(sorry, can't resist the play on words........) Is Ms DeLay still teaching out of interest?

March 9, 2004 at 09:21 PM · Greetings,

alas, Mis s DeLay is now deceased,



March 9, 2004 at 11:09 PM · Well, I don't know exactly if it was Dorothy DeLay or the talent of the students that really made them have the big sound- perhaps both. I do know that DeLay was a Galamian student, as is my teacher now, and he knew exactly how to get that sound. A good book to get is Galamian's Art of the Violin (or something very similar to it- I can't remember the name). It talks about the sounding point, bow pressure, and bow speed and how to use the three of them to your advantage.

March 10, 2004 at 12:09 AM · I had the privilage of studying with her. She did not teach a big sound, she taght a full sound. Meaning how to play with a solid tone useing a full bow and fast bow speed. I know this because I now have a big sound. I changed from a Franco-Belgian grip(Flesh style) to a Russian grip(Heifetz style). My current teacher Neil Weintrob, faculty at Manhattan School Of Music, has facilitated my learning of this. I can now say that I enjoy my sound- my intonation is another story-Garry

March 10, 2004 at 01:30 AM · Greetings,

Tina, that`s a great book (if you can afford it)! Personally, I don`t think Delay`s students have a bigger sound than any other top teacher`s students. That`s no disrepspect to her, she just seemed so good at getting the best out of everyone. The biggest sound I have ever heard on a concert stage was one of Mr Eto`s (Geidai University) top students who is now in her early twenties. I heard her doing Saint seans 3 a month or two ago and since I have heard Perlamn in the same hall many times over the years I can tell you that her sound was er, bigger. Astonishing considering how tiny she is! However, the idea of a `big sound` in of itself is, to my mind something of a red herring in violin playing as it so often seems to displace musicianship, intonation, and the rest of the package as a numbe r one priority and causes enornmous physical stress on the way. Perlman is still playing magniicently at 60 whatever but I don`t think this young player will be. Rosand, Milstein et al just kept on going because they kind of went in the opposite direction playing wihtin the limitations of what is a very small instrument, after all.

I think Galamian knew exactly what he waa doing and he has a well earned place among the greatest teachers of all time. But when I here teachers talking about how the teach the Galamian method or system I am always very suspicious. Firstly because he did not invent anything new, he was just brilliant enough to sytemize it and second , because Galamian was a unique human being who , video tapes to the contrary, taught every student differently. The difference is what lies beneath the surface , not th e application of rythms in scales, or the in out of the bow arm or whatever.

One of the side effects of greatness is that the figurehead`s ideas become a little distorted on route (by lesser teahcers) so it often seems that the three factors of sound point , bow speed and pressure exist equally with a slight emphasis on pressure.

But, Flesch suggested that although the equality exists in theory , there is a very chicken and egg situation between sp driving pressure and vice versa and ultimately his conclusion was that the most successful playing is usually done by having the sound point drive the presusre and the bow speed. In my opinion, as a result of lack of critical analysis of what Galamian did, this is actually not the way the violin tends to be played so much these days. The use of synthetic strings is also a factor , I guess.

Since Alison (the resident Alexander specialist) is on this thread I also think I will have a rant about that while I am at it. I have spent years and thousands of hours practicing just about every bowing and left hand exercise under the sun (not a procedure I recommend to anyone) but the people who taught me how to play the violin physically (not musically that is anothe rball game altogether) were Alexander teachers. they have shown me that virtually any tehnical aspect of playing takes care of itself (including producing more than enough sound to fill a concert hall) if your hea d is in correct relation to the spine and the back is expanded. When the back is expanded the arms float freely and the violin virtually ceases to exist. This also sheds light on the never ending warfare (sorry-debate) about rests. When the back and neck are operating as they should be it is possible to play anything without a rest. If they are not, which is true of virtually everyone then forget it. Playing without a rest is a joke. The great violinists of today have , apart from better musicianship, simply not acquired a screwed up body over the years. But a lot of them get by on this and are actually playing with a great level of discomfort they are unaware of and maybe ten or twenty percent less natural, beautiful sound than they are capable of,



March 10, 2004 at 03:13 AM · I am pretty sure that it is in Galamian's bow hold that the index finger is seperated more from the rest of the hand. DeLay may have agreed with this and taught it to her students as well. I believe it was Gingold who said that Galamian later abandoned this theory. Also, the excercise Buri describes is in Dounis's "Daily Dozens." It's the excercise titled "to develop a big tone" or similar.

March 10, 2004 at 04:07 AM · Buri, for big sound, have you ever seen a video of Kogan?

...there is a cannon of a sound.

March 10, 2004 at 05:31 AM · Greetings,

as brian says, the extended forefinger was Galamian`s thing. Steinhadt said that he abandoned this after a time because it caused him tension but others continued to use it without trouble. Flesch also changed his views on things quite a lot. It is a pretty poor teacher who does not.

As Brian also points out, the exercise is in Dounis but I do not dind the explanation adequate. Basics contains all the fine points plus a useful extension of this exercise in which you use the slanted stroke to change sound point while making the speed accents. That`s real fun.

Dounis advises alternating with a classic exrcise in which a sustained note is helt and separate notes are played on anoter string. It is not really possible to rodcue a big sound with this but done correctly it developes both volume and quality -extremely- fats. i is one of my favorite exercises. Again, I commend people to the Flesch tone production exercises.

Joseph, yep I have Kogan on DVD and video. =Fantastic- and not a handbag to be seen,



March 10, 2004 at 05:03 PM · Sorry Buri, but I have a question about what you'd said earlier. How does one find the 'ideal' position of the neck and back, and/or, is it possible to do this effectively without Alexander technique?

I have heard a saying that your sound comes from your back--perhaps it is similar to the fact that your back must "breath" in order to be able to produce a great sound--something similar to pianists? Do you think that saying has to do with the "correct" porsition of the back? By the way, where is it possible to buy the book by Flesch that you have mentioned? Thank you.


March 10, 2004 at 04:48 PM · Like Tina mentioned a few posts back, a good book that explains this, is Galamians book, "Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching". I have the book (along with a couple of Galamians videos). The book has instruction on how the sounding point changes, as your bow speed and/or bow pressure changes. The book gives you some exercises on how to find the best sounding point in different situations and says that finding and keeping the sounding point is an important part of learning to produce a full, robust tone.

But, you could probably do the same thing without buying the book. Just move your bow at different speeds and move it closer or farther from the bridge, and find where the best sound is. Then do the same thing by varying the pressure on each bow stroke. You will find that it starts to come automatically after you play this way awhile.


March 10, 2004 at 10:40 PM · Steve - >alas, Mis s DeLay is now deceased

I didn't like to ask whether she was still alive or not hence the more euphemistic question. But I figured she'd be a fairly elderly lady if she was still teaching or alive. I see the shoulder and chin rest as vehicles for filling in the gap b/t the chin and the shoulder and adjust the combination/height/shape accordingly. Generally in violin playing that's something that often isn't considered initially - we're generally given inadequate support and learn to fill in the gap by raising the shoulder/pulling the head to the side and down etc etc and that's where all the problems start because that then becomes part of our playing such that we don't notice we're doing it until it starts to hurt or restrict our facility/stamina etc. I generally suggest a central chin rest and a Willy Wolf Secondo rest simply because the former enables more of the face to be incontact with the rest (rather than half of it being empty) and the latter because it has the most adjustment of any of the rests I've tried to date. Of course, it all varies according to the shape and use of the person you're working with and some prefer a different set up. For some people however, playing without a rest is impossible however good their use. They just ain't the right shape. As you say Steve, it's important to consider the head and neck in all of this. No good trying to sort out the chin and shoulder rest set up if the neck is stiff and the head is pulled back. Joseph - it is possible to work out the correct position for the head and neck - I won't attempt to explain here but suggest you see "Towards Perfect Posture" by Brian Door - He does a much better job than I ever could in words. OK, Alexander teacher mode, off............ A

March 11, 2004 at 01:09 AM · Greetings,

Joseph, an Alexander teacher will usually throw up their hands in horror at words like `correct position` or `posture.` I once attended aseminar where I met an AT teacher `hopper.` She explained to the the teacher that she had been to 5 AT teachers who had each shown her the `correct posiiton` for her shoulders and although this had worked for a time it eventually became painful again. She had not understood that the previous teachers hadsimply shown her a range of options so that she took responsibility for working things out for herself. Thus, what I am talkign about is actually a correct relaitonship between things (at a given moment) and also emphasizing thepoint that relaxtion lies in movement not a fixed position of anyting. As somebody once said `100 wrong positions are better tha 1 correct one,`

I do not think this relationship can be found by an individual without help even though it already exists within them. The reason is one of the central concepts of the AT: we have little awareness of what we are doing and when we do chec it is so habitually that better often seems -considerably- worse. As asults we have learnt to deny and dostort what we see or comprehend so it is the expertizre of an Alexande rteacher that helps us take responsibility or seeing ourselves more truthfully. They give us choices which we can act upon or not. When an individual does not that is referred to as `inertia.`;)

The Flesch book isreadily available in Jaopanese music stores but i do not know about the rest of the world. Have you tried Amazon? You might have to go more specialist. Maybe Shar?



March 11, 2004 at 01:25 AM · Again, thank you very much, but do you think any of the trully greatest violinists like Oistrakh, for example, who had an incredible range of motion while holding the violin (complitely free neck, shoulders, etc), or Milstein, who seemed to be one of the most natural violinists, actually ever used this technique? I guess what I am asking is, if a person by himself/herself cannot find a position that drastically increases one's ability to play, comfort, sound, etc, then how can one explain Oistrakh's freedom of motion, or Milstein's, or Elman's sound, or Kogan's or Heifez's ability to practice 10 hours/day, half of which they would probably spend on scales, without ever getting tendinitis?

March 11, 2004 at 03:04 AM · Greetings,

the Alexander Technique`s name is in itself perhaps miskeading. It simply removes the inapprpriate habits we accumulate over a lifetime so tha we function naturally and freely asthough becoming a child again. . The great players did not need to takelessons in this tecnique because one f the common features of all their playing , irrespective of style is a perfetc relationship between head, neck and back, whaetever they were doing. That is why books on AT often show views of Heifetz` neck, or doing a fencing lunge with Achron on top of a skyscarper or the perfect `use` (not posture) of Rubenstein at 90.. The freedom Oistrakh had to move his head around during perfromace was only possible because of his instinctive understanding of correct use of the body.

If you want to prevent tendonitis take some lessons...



March 11, 2004 at 03:55 AM · My teacher told me that Kogan said himself to not look at his bowhand because he believed it was so messed up. The only reason it worked so well was that his violin was a Guarneri del Gesu that could take anything. My teacher said he played on it himself and found it to be the best violin he'd ever played on. In Mozart Concerto No.3, he tried to actually crunch the sound but the sound that would come out was a beautiful sound with no choke.

March 11, 2004 at 05:35 AM · Greetings,

Brian, don`t know if you read the Strad but there is an interesting article about a great Czech player in this month. This guy tudied with Sevcik and is famous for palcing most emphasis on an elegant left hand. Apparently he oncle told a student `Just grab the bow at the heel end and push it across the strings` so adamnt was he that no prescription for a correct bow hold exists,



PS Of course I can`t remember the name. That is in Mattias` job description

March 11, 2004 at 08:49 AM · The correct relationship ...... position if you like - call it what you will - b/t the head and neck can indeed be found wihtout the help of an Alexander teacher. After all, Alexander himself did it (see Use of the Self, Chapter 1). It's just that it took him a hell of a long time..... A. Teachers help you to speed up the process. And the AT doesn't remove all our habitual ways of doing things/thoughts etc (and it's also a fallacy to think that children don't pull themselves out of shape - they do - it's jus that they let go of it all much quicker than adults do - it's not a constant thing with them by and large). They are an indelible part of the nervious system so amputation at the neck would probably be the only way!!! It merely provides us with a means of not exercising those habits thereby giving us the choice of doing/thinking something different....... see It's all on there to read about....... The great violinists didn't necessarily have this relationship b/t the head and neck etc, it's just that the majority of them didn't really pull themselves out of shape in playing particular - if something is relatively easy for you then (and lets face it, most of the people we are talking about were prodigies of some kind) then misuse isn't really an issue for you. Were some of these people screwed up and eccentric in their everyday lives though? Well, yes, some - though others seemingly pretty well adjusted and successful people in every aspect of their lives - of course we don't know. The other thing about misuse is that you invariably can't tell what someone is like by looking. That's one of the reasons why teachers put their hands on pupils - not just in order to recordinate them but also to register what is going on in the first place. It's not all about how it looks....... Ultimately, of course as Steve says.........the way to prevent all sorts of problems and realise your potential in all sorts of ways is to take some lessons. Better and quicker than reading a book and talking about it. A

March 11, 2004 at 11:33 AM · Buri is of course talking about the great Jan Sedivka (1908-2004).

March 11, 2004 at 11:33 AM · Greetings,

Alison, I agree with you compeletly that the AT doesn"t get rid of all our daily misuses of the body. I think that is not the point. For me it is a quesiton of choice; I can look at what I am doing and choose to do it badly or not. The problem is when an action isnot subject to thinking.

Young children epitomize this fluidity. They learn to get screwed up pretty fast from the adults though. That process surely begins the momentt they can see enough to imitate anything?

The question of self teaching and Alexander technique isI think an ongoing topic in the AT world. However, I do think ther e is a consensus that at the moment it is not something one can do more than nibble at without a teacher.

The top violnists all played/play with coordination and ease that is only possible with fefctive use of primary control. Away from the isntrument they may have been complete klutzes because that would be consistent with the position that we choose to use it rather than suddenly and miraculously attain it. Howver, there tends to be a correlation with thes e players "use" in performance and in real life IE they are pretty good at sport and stuff that involves coordiantion.

I am gonna repsectfully take issue with your idea that they played and misused because I have the rather strong opiniin that the effective relationship between head neck and back is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for being a great soloist. For one thing, they all manage to by pass the fear/flight response even when so mervous they would rather die than appear on stage. That is done through not compressing the top of the spine (or drinking a lot, I get confused sometimes...)



March 12, 2004 at 11:54 AM · Well, all I know is that nerves are a product of misuse (pulling yourself out of shape) whoever you are and the way that many deal with it, is by pulling themselves out of shape even more to suppress/control the nerves. Whether those guys did that or not who knows - we certainly can't know otherwise we'd have been up there with them. However as far as playing the violin was at least, they must've done it with pretty good use otherwise they wouldn't have been able to make it to, and stay at the top. (That's not to say they didn't have misuse on a general basis though.) Same for any profession. If you don't do it well, then you end up either having to stop or at least not realising your full potential.

Meanwhile, children do learn by imitation (we all do) and therefore imitate the misuse and general reactions to all sorts of situations of those around them , but they also pull themselves out of shape in response to noxious (unpleasant stimuli) just like all of us do. It's just that by and large they are able to let that response go as soon as the stimulus passes. That changes as we get older. The stimuli increase in frequency and duration - our perceptions of stimuli change e.g. even pleasant stimuli can become noxious (e.g. witness someone having happy birthday sung to them........depends on the singers of course!!) so the reaction of stiffening the neck, pulling the head back, shortening and narrowing the back and bracing the knees continues and over time become fundamental to everything we do. It is our constant state if you like. That's what we are dealing with in the AT - our habitual reactivity be that in terms of playing an instrument, answering the telephone or just the way we think about something - it's our reaction to life in general ultimately....which is why those of us who know about the AT realise it's gargantuan importance. Steve, you should read the book I keep banging on about if you haven't already. I don't think its author would advocate that books are the best way of learning and wrote the book in response to a request. But it is a good one if you're going to read a book on the AT. It's not that long and and you'd "eat it" as you are clearly someone who assimilate info. very easily and I suspect you have an elephantine memory too .......(lucky b*****d!).........unlike those of us who have to hear/read something over and over to remember it..... Now where was I............

March 12, 2004 at 08:22 AM · P.S STeve - this isn't at all related to D. Delay or the AT, but since we are talking unusual people here, I thought you'd be interested to hear that I had a cup of tea with John Ludlow yesterday p.m. He was in Brum...... lovely guy. He seemed well......... A

March 12, 2004 at 06:05 PM · I thought I might chime in here, as I studied with Miss DeLay for eight years. At no time did she ever hang anything from my elbow. What she taught about the spacing of the bow hand fingers was actually the opposite of what Carl Fulbrook's teacher guessed. Miss DeLay asked me to shake my right hand loose and let it hang loosely, as it would if I were asleep. She had us observe the spacing of the fingers. She taught that this natural and relaxed spacing (quite opposite to the widely spaced index finger) was the model for finger spacing on the bow. Like all fine teachers, she taught that the word grip doesn't belong in a sentence next to the word bow! And she taught that the idea of one single bow position is a false one, as the look of a properly functioning bow hand flexes and changes as the bow proceeds along its length. When someone asks me: "What bow grip do you use?" I always answer: "None, I hope!"

March 12, 2004 at 07:12 PM · Thanks for clarifying, Oliver. Sorry for my mistake!


March 12, 2004 at 07:16 PM · Oliver,

having seen many DeLay students perform, I believe what you said. Many of them, however, seem to be forming "grips" on the bow.

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