Violin Squeaking

Edited: July 28, 2018, 10:05 AM · I just found out something recently ever since I started playing without a mute.

I'm playing GEE, DFF.

When playing near the fingerboard, sound is relatively clear
When playing middle of bridge, sounds like cat scratching
When playing near the bridge, sounds like cat dying

1) no finger near other strings
2) remove all rosin left on the strings
3) ensure that elbow is at correct angle when playing
4) tried another bow and had the same issue

Does anyone have a clue as to what is the issue? Thank you!

Replies (25)

July 28, 2018, 10:34 AM · You're not really near the fingerboard when you think you are. You're basically in the middle. And I'm not sure why you would ever want to play that close to (nearly ON) the bridge. Keep it in the middle for now, which is what you think is near the fingerboard. :-)
July 28, 2018, 10:42 AM · Maybe put the mute back on.
July 28, 2018, 11:03 AM · You're discovering the bowing "sweet spots".
July 28, 2018, 11:14 AM · Bad technique, basically. You can't just expect to rub the bow on the strings and make it sound right; you have to find the right speed and pressure for the place on the string, that string, that note.
July 28, 2018, 11:15 AM · @Elizabeth,

I think I stated it wrongly in the video but these are the timestamps!

When playing near the fingerboard, sound is relatively clear (00:43- 01:00)
When playing middle of bridge, sounds like cat scratching (00:00 - 00:27)
When playing near the bridge, sounds like cat dying (00:27 - 00:45)

July 28, 2018, 11:15 AM · Have you thought of doing animal impressions?
July 28, 2018, 11:20 AM · @Bruce, yeah I did that after my mother screamed, "it's me or the violin"
@Trevor, but I still did not understand why my tone would sound much better on fingerboard (00:43- 01:00) but at on the center (00:00 - 00:27).
July 28, 2018, 12:27 PM · hi Caleb, the closer you are to the bridge, the more pressure you have to apply, if you bow speed remains the same. this is why you are loosing your sound near the bridge. you don't press enough.
July 28, 2018, 12:43 PM · What Jean said. Playing near the bridge with no pressure is a bowing technique called ponticello. it's used for a creepy effect.

July 28, 2018, 1:23 PM · I think a mute, while deadening the volume, also tends to make a sweeter sound because it cuts out the scratch. I think that maybe your ears might be accustomed to the sweeter muted sound and then when you take it off and start bowing near the bridge for forte your ears pick up the scratch. This scratch sounds good to me in a way becaise it ttells me I am playing louder when need be. It also takes a lot more effort for me to play loudly.
July 28, 2018, 2:00 PM · To be serious as opposed to my first comment:

There are 3 variable factors in tone production.
1. The speed of the bow.
2. The amount of pressure exerted on the string by the bow.
3. The sounding point, or where the bow is placed in relation to the bridge and the fingerboard.

You noticed at 00:43 the sound was the best. This is because the 1. bow speed, 2, bow pressure, and 3. sounding point were correct to produce a good sound.

If, however, you were to keep #1 and 2, but used a different #3 (eg. playing closer to the bridge or to the fingerboard (3#) the tone quality would be altered.

If you kept #2 and #3 but used a different #1 The sound would be altered.

If you kept #1 and #3 but used a different #2, Again, the sound would be altered.

So, as an exercise you could, for instance, choose 2 of the factors and alter the remaining factor until you get the best sound. You could also choose one factor and experiment with changing the other 2.

In your demonstration video your constants were bow speed and pressure. When you got the right sounding point, the tone quality was good. Experiment with these ideas in mind.

July 28, 2018, 4:21 PM · by the way Caleb, this is all explained in detail in the book Basics that we talked about in your other thread.
July 28, 2018, 4:37 PM · Dude, just press harder. Keep the bow speed the same. Just press like 35% harder all of the time and almost everything will improve.
July 28, 2018, 4:38 PM · Also, you really should consider releasing your right trapezius muscle.
Edited: July 29, 2018, 10:27 AM · You might want to go easy on the rosin too. We don’t know how much you use, but if you rosin too much that won’t help with the scratchiness. I don’t think I apply rosin to my bow even once a week, and that is practicing on average 1-2hrs per day. Other people rosin every time they pick up their bow. Every one is different when it come to rosin and there is no single formula that works for all, but consider the possibility.
July 29, 2018, 2:13 PM · Stroke or massage the string rather than just rub it?
Nature has no straight lines, only very flat curves..
Edited: July 29, 2018, 4:16 PM · You've been advised well above.

It's simple physics, really. The static* friction coefficient between the rosin on the bow and on the string remains the same wherever your bow is located ("sounding point") relative to the bridge, but the amount of force required to get the string moving properly is greater as you get closer to the bridge because the string must be displaced a greater angle (because the distance from the bridge is smaller). This requires more force into the string (because the friction coefficient is the same). At the same time you have to move the bow more slowly so it does not slide on the string without gripping.

The kind of rosin you use and the amount of rosin you apply to the bow hair will affect the exact amount of pressure and bow speed you need to use AND if you use a lot of rosin, the speed and pressure relationships will change with time during any playing session. Most professionals I have heard or read have said one should not use too much rosin nor re-rosin the bow too often. However, cellist David Finckel (spelled correctly) ( who now also is co-coordinator (with his pianist wife, Wu Han) of Lincoln Center Chamber Music activities) has advocated rosining lustily and often. My experience has been that if you rosin the way he advocates you have to do it often to maintain consistent sound (at least to the player's ears).

* Static friction is in effect when the hair is properly moving the string. When the string's restoring force reaches the pulling (or pushing) force of the bow that grip is broken and the lower sliding friction coefficient is in effect as the string moves back in the opposite direction until it stops relative to the still moving bow, which grabs it again for another pull. This happens many times each second (for example, 440 times a second if you are playing your A string and it is tuned to A-440Hz).

So - the greater the static friction coefficient, the less bow "pressure" you need. I think, ideally one would like to have sliding friction = 0 (zero) since it reduces the amplitude of the vibration. I think a lot of the expensive rosin fuss in the market these days is to convince people that XXX brand of rosin will help toward providing such a range of rosin behavior. They ain't there yet, but I think there are some improved products. (I hope so, because I've spent enough trying them!)

Edited: July 29, 2018, 4:35 PM · @Bruce, Roger, Julie, Adrian, Erik, I truly appreciate all your advice and I would definitely put your wonderful suggestions to practice.

@ Jean Not much time to read Basics right now as I'm still interning and I can only afford 2 hours of violin playing/day.

@Andrew, a big kudos to you for providing me an extremely in-depth analysis of my problem. Thanks for always helping me out!

No offense to anyone (EVERYONE HERE REALLY HELPED ME IN MY TECHNIQUE IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER) but sorry to burst the bubble but it was neither the pressure nor rosin issue.

It was confirmed by my teacher that my bow was not parallel to the bridge and my bow did slide a little while I was playing which resulted in the squeaky sound.

It would be really hard to identify from the video as even I thought I was playing parallel to the bridge while looking at myself live.


Edited: August 1, 2018, 11:06 AM · Good to hear. Of course your teacher is right.

"...sorry to burst the bubble..." It is not burst. The bow weight is not well controlled, which probably contributed to the squeak, even if keeping the bow staight has cured it to your satisfaction.

August 1, 2018, 8:49 AM · Of the course the violin is sqeaky. That's why I practice piano now instead of violin.
Edited: August 1, 2018, 1:12 PM · If the bow slid a bit, that means contact point changed (if involuntary because of the direction of the bow and it's weak grab on the string). The change in contact point would necessitate modifications in terms of weight applied and speed, the lack of which will cause an aberrant tone. So it is all related, it's not just about the bow not being straight per se. There are interesting questions here:

- what do we mean by a straight bow
-some teachers and players conceive of playing with an arc (the center of which is in the bridge direction) and don't really conceive of bowing in terms of straight. )For instance Drew Lecher's notion of crescent bowing.). You can see that the bow is not "straight" yet they have good tone. Is the base principle then the notion of a straight bow?
-which is the more fundamental issue here: straight bow or keeping same contact point
with the corresponding speed and pressure required? (ie is which is the means and which is the end).
-what modification in your arm as a system of parts and joints (especially the elbow)is required in order to achieve your end.

I've been, as a student at an early stage, worrying and looking into this issue with different teachers and checking out different sources. In my experience, the intricacy of the topic is clear to some teachers. Other teachers will just tell you to keep a straight bow without delving into clearer instructions and reasons. For me this is a challenge and a process of discovery and I think you will find the same for yourself.

Edited: August 1, 2018, 2:47 PM · I don't over analyze it. I try to remember the string positions where things didn't squeak. Then I repeat the process. I use enough pressure to hear the tone well.I try to play with a straight bow in the middle of the open area. Things just seem to happen naturally after awhile. I still need to remain attentive.
Another factor for me is to make sure my bow is adjusted to the right hair tension.
I's a simple approach but it works.
August 2, 2018, 6:08 AM · Ever since I replaced my rosin with WD-40, the squeaks went away.

Of course, so did the rest of the sounds from my violin, but you can't have everything.

Edited: August 2, 2018, 7:17 AM · Madeye, that's great! You've killed two birds with one stone!
August 2, 2018, 7:32 AM · The natural motion of any single joint (elbow or shoulder) will cause the hand to move in a circle. So in bowing we must combine the motions of a number of joints to move our hand in a straight line.

Many professional violinists seem to "tip off" the bow (tip) toward the fingerboard at the extreme of a downbow. I have not decided yet whether they do this because their arms are short or because it reduces the sound just before a bow direction change. making it softer. But, either way - it does achieve that purpose.

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