Feedback on the tone of this violin in this video

Edited: March 9, 2019, 12:37 PM · This is not an attempt to diss the musician's playing. Perhaps it's the quality of the recording, my headphones, or something else, but the tone of this violin sounds strident and slightly harsh. Or perhaps "reedy" or buzzy. Seems out of place for the context. Or perhaps someone boosted the treble too much on the recording, as even the applause sounds too high pitched or grating to the ear.

Julia Bushkova on violin

I was looking at one of her video tutorials on YouTube and googled to see what else was out there on her.

Replies (22)

March 9, 2019, 12:44 PM · I would describe it as "reedy", which can be valuable when trying to stand out from the orchestra.

But also notice that the violin is very close-mic'd, so we could be hearing something very different on the video, than what the audience in an auditorium heard.

March 9, 2019, 12:48 PM · Thanks for posting this video. I like her playing and tone. To me this instrument has a nasal quality and am interested in reading of others perceived description of her sound.
March 9, 2019, 3:01 PM · The piece itself is of course 100% saccharin. So I find it laudable that her tone is not also on the sweet side.

On another video (with the Andante un poco form Bach's A-Major Piano/Violin sonata) her tone is quite different (though the whole acoustic is too). Both performances strike me as rather monotonous though.

March 9, 2019, 3:37 PM · @Jeff, yes, nasal is another appropriate term. However, if you listen to the applause at the end, it has a very grating quality to it, which makes me think someone messed with the EQ a bit heavy-handedly.
March 9, 2019, 3:41 PM · I think in Andante un Poco, you're getting more of a room sound, which is mellowed somewhat.
March 9, 2019, 3:44 PM · Thanks from me too for reminding me of her. I found the video on vibrato quite a turning point last year, so generous in sharing knowledge, bless her ---
March 9, 2019, 3:53 PM · Although I like "nasal" (actually, more upper mids richness vs hollowness in that frequency area), one cannot entirely trust youtube videos as an apt representation of any player's or violin/bow's tone. It just gives you an idea, and then you need "proper" speakers/headphones to get closer to the possibly altered acoustics of the recording. That said, a good sort of nasal tone (not closed at the top, as the real "nasal" term implies) projects well, and I usually enjoy it.
March 9, 2019, 6:40 PM · As David noted, we are hearing what happens when a violin that has been especially made for projecting in a large Hall, played in a manner designed for projecting in a large Hall, is mic'd from just a few feet away.

Edited: March 9, 2019, 7:17 PM · I'm intrigued with the terms we use to try to describe tone. I associate "nasal" in violins with a nasty emphasis around 3.4K that I find unpleasant. "Reediness," on the other hand, I think does describe this example, and I think it's lower in the spectrum, maybe around 1.5K-2K (?). I don't find it at all unpleasant, but I do think the closer microphone placement emphasized that; they used a large diaphragm condensor, and from that distance I think a ribbon mic sounds better/truer... The microphone wasn't THAT close though. When you listen to the English horn solo before the violin comes in, you can hear a similar reediness compared to the violin tone. The 3.4K presence in the violin sound is there, but I think it is balanced with the rest. I'm with Jeff, I think she sounds good. Nice-looking violin, too.
March 9, 2019, 11:29 PM · She sounds great. A wonderful teacher and violinist.
Edited: March 10, 2019, 3:17 AM · Yes, reedy and nasal are good terms. My E string sounds like that sometimes. Kind of along the same tone as bagpipes. Not that extreme, obviously, but slightly gives off that bagpipe vibe. Especially on the lower stings. And yes, the audience applause sounds like too much high end. Bad EQ I would guess is the culprit.
March 10, 2019, 11:03 AM · I think its gorgeous: A side order of grits to make this syrupy composition palatable!

There is a hint of nasal I guess but it is integrated into the overall sound - I usually think the 'nasal' epithet is the kiss of death (excuse the 1" displaced metaphor) to describe a violin whereas this instrument is terrific. Its intoxicating to listen to her playing.

March 10, 2019, 11:19 AM · A true nasal tone quality has the top and bottom end frequencies cut sharply, which is generally undesirable, as aforementioned. "Upper mid richness" is what I mean whenever I describe a good "nasal" tone. I have forgotten any other audio term to describe that sort of tone. It's not just "edge", but an emphasis on those frequencies.

"Edge" alone is not upper-mid richness, IMHO. Many hollow-sounding instruments have plenty of edge without having lots of upper-mid frequency emphasis (especially good instruments.)

Edited: March 11, 2019, 12:57 AM · My original video, as linked above, when played through my laptop speakers, does not have the same grating eq sharpness, and the nasal quality we spoke of is appealing, and not a tone I tend to hear from violins.
March 11, 2019, 7:35 AM · I'm listening on a $6000 stereo and it sounds like a lousy recording, nothing to do with the violin, just a bad recording.
March 11, 2019, 8:12 AM · The sound is very good, little bit middle tones "nasality" is made by equalisation (natural by space or more probably equalised by recording/editing)
March 11, 2019, 8:20 AM · It's a bit buzzy, no bass.
Is it really that close? Is it a large diaphragm condenser? is it a ribbon?

My prize for worst recording goes to this one - you want close-mic'ing, every instrument has got it! There's more compression than in Anaconda!

March 11, 2019, 9:40 AM · I heard it again last night with a good anp and several good headphones and it sounded less sharp-the recording is not good, but I get an idea of the violinist's tone. It's not too sharp (nor nasal), just a nice and bright tone. From laptop speakers it will sound way more mid forward, which some may not appreciate.
March 11, 2019, 9:45 AM · I listened on my consumer level earbuds and I admire her playing.That bump in the 1.5khz range is probably nothing a little EQ wouldn't tame or a ribbon mic. Probably the main reason they didn't use a ribbon is because they are usually figure 8 polar pattern.This would have maybe picked up some undesirable slap back in that space. It wasn't enough to make me cringe or to distract my listening experience. I watched her videos on YouTube. She makes a good argument in one of her videos that the Russian bow hold isn't from Russia and not all Russians use it.

In addition, most Russians I know are not in a hurry 8-)

Honestly, the most distracting thing to me was the spray to the left of the podium at 2:25. I have no idea what it was.

March 11, 2019, 10:46 AM · Spray?! You mean the reflections off the trombone plumbing?
March 11, 2019, 10:52 AM · Thanks Paul, I'll be wiping my glasses off now.Looked like some kind of sprayer to me and I'm thinking WTHeck?
March 13, 2019, 9:28 AM · Phenomenal tone to my ears. The reedines makes it stand out. I strive for this tone. In fact i just bought an instrument that does this.

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