forte tremolo

April 26, 2018, 6:42 PM · I've been playing some pieces in youth symphony that require a very loud and fast tremolo for extended periods of time (pines of rome, for example). is there an easier way to do this other than furiously trying to move my entire arm as fast as possible? I've tried just using my wrist but I can't get a ton of volume or intensity from that. any tips?

Replies (14)

April 26, 2018, 7:05 PM · Use your wist, but tilt your right hand to get enough torque from your index finger (levered to your thumb) and SMALL STROKES.
April 26, 2018, 9:35 PM · Yup. You're trying to get a nice section volume, not personally scrub out a big sound. Don't press, and don't try to maximize the speed of the tremolo. Get a nice sound, and use vibrato.
April 26, 2018, 10:14 PM · You have to accept that the instrument is only going to produce a certain threshold of sound, and pressing more won't make it louder. Go for resonance. Don't kill your arm over stupid tutti tremolo.

Or you can also try shaking your head and look really passionate. You might trick of of the lesser intelligent conductors who might take that as signs of extra volume. Like in your profile picture.

Edited: April 27, 2018, 12:39 AM · A great picture! I play like that too - my conductor would come over and wipe my forehead with his towel. Better, I'd say, than just sitting there like a cabbage.
April 27, 2018, 1:40 AM · I continually alternate hand and forearm to avoid getting stiff, and try to feel arm weight rather than muscle tension.
April 27, 2018, 2:55 AM · Also, be sure to use the lower part of your bow and make sure your bowhair is flat against the string.
April 27, 2018, 5:11 AM · Remember that if you have 10 people in your section you don't have to be making half the sound.
Edited: April 27, 2018, 5:38 AM · I'd try playing closer to the bridge. That is one of the methods used to get more volume.

The better conductors aren't fooled by the orchestra but have their own ways of fooling the audience, using the orchestra as their tool. On one occasion we were at the dress rehearsal for the evening concert and the conductor wanted to get a true pppp from the strings at the end of a movement. He told us to lift our bows just off the string for the last bar but to keep them moving slowly until he stopped conducting. It worked - it was the best pppp the audience (n)ever heard! Now that is a useful bow control to work on.

April 27, 2018, 1:42 PM · Don't kill yourself trying to squeeze out maximum volume during orchestral forte tremolo spots. Let the brass section take over. Take all the weight off of your 3rd and fourth fingers of the right hand. Another conductor's trick is to not have the same speed of tremolo for all of the string section. The 1st violins can have fastest speed tremolo, the basses the slowest. Also; single notes divisi is actually a little louder than everyone trying to play double stops.
April 27, 2018, 3:48 PM · Make sure your violin strings are level or perhaps even tilted slightly up.

This way your arm can focus solely on both adding weight and doing the tremolo itself.

I think what happens with many people is that because the violin is tilted down slightly, when we add weight and fast action to the string, the bow slowly gets away from us and then the arm locks up in an attempt at controlling the wandering of the bow. So because now the arm is responsible for 3 types of motion, rather than just 2, it becomes a tiresome process that also looks aesthetically bad.

Also make sure that you're playing as close to the frog as possible *while also being close enough to the tip where you're only using elbow motion to do the tremolo*. --- this should be somewhere around the middle of the bow, but it depends on your arm length --- If you get too close to the frog, the weight will be easier to add to the string but your shoulder will have to get involved and then it will become an exhausting full-arm tremolo that will also want to jump off the string. Alternately, if you get too close to the tip, it will hard to add enough weight to the motion.

1) Tilt violin up

2) Enough rosin?

3) Flat hair on string

4) Somewhat close to bridge, but within reason... let the sound guide you... probably soundpoint 3 is the best you can hope for to provide a clean tremolo while also allowing enough loudness.

5) Only elbow motion, no shoulder motion (this involves being roughly in the middle of the bow.... try experimenting with a slow up-bow from the tip and see what point in the bow your shoulder feels like it needs to start moving... stay above this point).

On this point (#5), some might say that wrist motion is necessary here, but I would have to disagree. The wrist should ideally move a bit in loud tremolo, but only as a passive element resulting from being relaxed. The elbow is the active element, combined with weight imparted in the string via "arm weight" or index leverage. So although it would be great if your wrist flexed a bit in response to being relaxed, that would only be a sign that you're relaxed... it's important to realize that in max-loudness tremolo, your wrist isn't initiating the movement.

6) Ideally the bow should be parallel with the bridge, but maybe even a LITTLE outward angle, as this will encourage your soundpoint to remain consistently close enough to the bridge.

May 3, 2018, 4:34 AM · In forte, use a slightly longer bow.
May 3, 2018, 4:41 AM · My bows are all the same length ... (wink)
May 3, 2018, 11:10 AM · Next week my orchestra (i.e. one of them) is performing Rimsky-Korsakov's rarely played 2nd symphony (the "Antar"). At rehearsal figure 18 the 2nd violins are required to play, at dynamic p, 12 adagio bars of 4-line tremolo in stopped harmonics. The upper 2nds play the 2-octave stopped harmonic above the F# in the 1st position on the E, and the lower 2nds play the 2-octave stopped harmonic above the F# on the D-string, a note which sounds an octave below what the upper 2nds are doing - one hopes.

I sometimes wonder at the thought processes in some composer's heads!

Edited: May 3, 2018, 12:17 PM · I have to assume your overall tension level is too high.

Bur your question does broach a broader topic: what IS the role of an orchestral section violinist? Is it to carry the load themselves? No, it isn't. Ever.

It's to blend with your fellow section players. I could safely place a wager without hearing you that you're overplaying.

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