Help!! My finger positions make the sound scratchy!

February 21, 2018, 12:14 AM · No matter what I do I can't stop it to sound scratchy. The amount of rosin isn't making a difference neither the bowing. I've tried everything but I just don't know what to do. I've been doing this for hours for days but I can't improve at all. It just continues to sound scratchy. I've even tried tuning my violin but it just doesn't make difference. I see other people do the same thing I do but they sound amazing. And here I am stuck on 'open strings' because I can't advance from it because of my my scratchiness! Help me!

Replies (11)

Edited: February 21, 2018, 12:56 AM · Try to take a deep breath. You've not been at it long, this is a common beginner problem and it's nothing to fret about. Scratchiness can be related to many factors.

One can be over rosining the bow. It can also be rosin left over on your strings from your last session. If you have an excess amount of rosin on the top of your violon or on the strings during or after your session, you may have over rosined your bow.

Another can be the bow speed compared to bow pressure. If I slow down and apply enough pressure, I can make a sound similar to rubbing a ballon. This is a drastic case but it makes the point. If you are practicing slow but putting too much pressure on the bow, it will be scratchy. Give this a try so you can get the relationship. If this is the reason, you just need time to get the proper feeling of your bow.

There are other factors that contribute which many here will be able to enlighten you on but I really suggest a quick youtube search. As I said, this is a common problem which many have dealt with and there are an abundance of help videos out there concerning the topic. Breathe and don't get frustrated. Respect.

February 21, 2018, 1:41 AM · I thought I was alone in this because I see a lot of violin progress videos and people are already playing 1st and 2nd finger in their first week. I thought there was a problem with my violin but you're probably right; it's must be bowing problem. The first finger on the e string sounds good enough but the other strings have been squeaking and scratchy. I guess I'll have to experiment with different pressures and speeds until the sound is right enough.
Thank you for your help! ^_^
February 21, 2018, 2:22 AM · Violetta, how short are the nails on your left hand?
February 21, 2018, 3:01 AM · Erik! +500)))))
And yes, i need to control my son's nails. Can be a good point. ))))))
February 21, 2018, 5:18 AM ·

Tension is the most common cause of the scratch sound, it plays a havoc with bow pressure and speed. A good teacher will address tension issues in the left and right arms in the beginning lessons. Tension in the left thumb will cause tension in the right arm, etc....and so on and so on. Once tension is suppressed, you then will have more control of bow pressure and keeping the bow straight.

February 21, 2018, 6:49 AM · @Erik they're not very short. I'll have to cut them. I had no idea that my nails could make such a difference.
Edited: February 21, 2018, 7:32 AM · Yes, huge difference. Lots of violinists I know keep a nail clipper and an emery board or diamond file in their cases. You should only barely be able to see the white part of your nails. And by the way that goes for your right hand too because, especially your thumbnail and pinkie nails on your right hand can interfere with getting a proper "grip" on your bow.

Now put your bow onto your "A" string. You're going to play one open string -- so it doesn't matter if your violin is not perfectly tuned. Make sure your stance is erect, your violin is up on your shoulder and approximately level from end to end (it will not be level side-to-side). Place your bow on the string so that the middle of the hair is touching the string, and is perpendicular to the string, halfway between the bridge and fingerboard. Check all that in a mirror. Importantly, you should see an approximate square from your bow-to-string "contact point" to your right hand to your right elbow and back to your neck. Here are some pictures so that you can see what I mean:

Keep your right hand *just* firm enough to hold onto your bow nicely, and draw back and forth with your elbow so that your bow moves ONLY about THREE INCHES in either direction. (With little kids, the teacher will often tape a 6" plastic drinking straw onto the middle of the bow so that the child knows visually to only use that section. You can accomplish that with a couple pieces of masking tape as well.) As you are drawing your bow back and forth, you may notice that your contact point moves around between your fingerboard and your bridge -- sometimes that's caused by movement in your right shoulder, so bring that under control first. Then you may notice that it is hard to keep your bow perpendicular. It's the job primarily of your wrist to adjust that angle, so if your wrist is totally stiff or locked, you'll need to loosen it up so that it can help with your bow angle. Remember that we're talking about SMALL adjustments here. The violin is study in subtlety.

Once you have those basics you can experiment with bow speed and gentle downward pressure on the bow (which you do with your right hand, at this point mostly by twisting your index finger against your thumb). Work on that until you get a smoother sound on your open A string, just drawing back and forth, A - A - A - A - A. Try to get five or six nice ones in a row that aren't scratchy. Then try it with the other open strings. Once you get a hang of that then you can experiment with stopped notes and with using more than 6" of bow. Drawing a long, whole bow even on an open string is not the first lesson in violin playing. It's very hard to coordinate all those movements along the whole length of the bow. Take it a step at a time. You can play the first few pieces in Suzuki Book 1 with 6" of bow, that's perfectly fine.

February 21, 2018, 11:23 AM · Let us know if cutting the nails on the left hand (as short as possible) fixes the issue :)
February 22, 2018, 7:15 AM · @Erik Williams it did change the sound somewhat. It's not the best but I'm starting to feel motivated again. Thanks. ^_^
February 22, 2018, 8:56 AM · I also found out that my bridge was tilted and after cutting my nails and fixing the bridge things have somewhat changed. It's not a drastic change but it's there. I can feel it while playing.
February 24, 2018, 11:19 AM · I don't know how long you have been playing, but when I started I had the same problem. It hasn't been too long since I started, so the frustration I felt is still fresh in my memory.

I actually took the violin back to the luthier I bought it from and explained to him that, "when I play open strings it sounds ok, but as soon as I put a finger down it sounds really bad". He took it, played a few notes, and it sounded amazing. He smiled and reminded me that he didn't want to sell me a violin unless I had a teacher, but I decided to buy it anyway. He gave me some contacts he had and a week later I had me a teacher.

Looking back at it, I can say that the problem was just my brain being overwhelmed. Bowing by itself is a very complex thing to learn. I was able to make open strings sound acceptable, but as soon as I involved fingers, is like half of my focus was on the fingers, leaving less focus on the bow.

That is actually a problem that keeps popping up for me. Whenever I introduce something new, the tone takes a big hit. I eventually managed to get a decent tone from fingered notes, until I started trying to use the 4th finger, then it started happening again on all fingers, not just the 4th. Coordinating the left hand and the bow takes time and for a very long time I was struggling to dis-associate them... it may sound counter-intuitive, but I found myself pressing down on the strings really hard with my -left- hand, to try and get a good tone out of the notes, while at the same time not playing with enough "weight" on the bow.
I solved that problem eventually, and it popped up again when I started practicing shifting. I started clamping with my left again and not playing with proper weight on the bow. the tone simply sounded awful if I played any note on 3rd.

I have been practicing for like 2 years now. I think managing to get my right arm and left hand to do their thing independently may be the biggest obstacle that I overcame. But I know it is not over, sooner or later I'll start practicing something that will cross me up again. But at least I am able to recognize this problem, it no longer mystifies me to the point I think my violin is broken.

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