Technical advice for a better sound(video link posted)

April 10, 2019, 12:44 AM · Hi, I would like some technical advice to improve my sound. I have a video of me playing.

What I've noticed:
Left hand: Sometimes a bit tense, my vibrato is a bit tight, and I should try to make it more relaxed. When I shift, I tend to be a little bit sharp.
right hand: I'm trying something new with the bow arm, I try to lift a little bit near the frog. Is this the correct thing to do?

Which exercises or etudes should I do. Thanks!


Replies (10)

April 10, 2019, 12:48 AM · What quality in particular would you like to hear from your sound that you are not getting?
Edited: April 10, 2019, 1:29 AM · Hi Lydia, so sound is very subjective. However, objectively I think my sound is not very rich when I play forte. I think my sound quality gets weaker briefly when I do bow change at times, and I want to sustain that better and play more cleanly in general. So one place in particular that I didn't like about my own video is at 0:22-0:25. Other than the fact that it is slightly sharp and that I had to mask the intonation with vibrato, then correct it, I used a lot of bow when I am on the E string, but it kind of doesn't have that zing kind of sound that I am looking for. I tried to slow it down, and mentally visualize the bow change, but still not getting that crispness that lots of violinists have.

I would also like a better "soft touch", when I release the pressure a little bit in some places. An example of the sound I want is in 0:45 of this video of ray chen playing Estrellita

So I really like the way he changed his bow speed while taking off the pressure near the frog.

Another example is in this video, where Xiang Yu plays the meditation from thais.

So at 1:26, he shows a soft touch, and some sensitivity.

While I do sometimes like the way I play glissando, I think it's a bit unconventional as well compared to some others. What's a way to get the same effect, but maybe play more cleanly and less like the old school violinists? Thanks!

April 10, 2019, 2:40 AM · I just got bummed yesterday by my own shitty sound at a solo performance and came here for some comfort - and LO AND BEHOLD, the first post is about sound.

And your sound is not shabby at all. It's pretty good.

What I think these guys do is they use an intensity that can not only be described in terms of bow pressure, speed and placement. This seems to be a trait of great soloists - to be able to use the same intensity of sound at pianissimo and fortissimo.

This is more a note to myself, than advice. I can not give advice, as I currently dwell on my sucking yesterday's performance...

- Play at maximum intensity no matter if piano or forte (difference between piano and forte is less than 6 Db anyway)
- Control bow more. Never connect personal emotion to bow directly. Always connect emotion to sound you aim for, then sound to bowing.
- Consistency and calmness in bowing is paramount. In speed, velocity, position, angle and pressure.
- Never scratch with the bow
- Never glide with the bow
- Never tremble


April 10, 2019, 3:58 AM · Probably the first thing I would do is limit the amount of open strings that you allow, especially given that you're using consistent vibrato and seem comfortable shifting.

Also, if you could play closer to the bridge and use more consistent pressure and a slower bow, (you might even aim for a gritty sound under the ear) I think it would help "concentrate" your sound (make sure you have ample rosin).

It all sounds a bit detached right now, because you're using brief bursts of bow speed too often. There are no "swells" in the intensity, because you're giving it all away with each bow stroke. So try to " concentrate" it with the slow bow speed near the bridge to start with, and constant pressure. From that foundation in overall sound, you can then allow yourself to visit the fingerboard occasionally to change the color of the tone, but make sure this doesn't become your primary bowing style for this piece again.

Edited: April 10, 2019, 4:02 AM · For exercises , I think the piece itself is the best exercise, but you might try kreutzer #1 to reinforce the slow, concentrated bowing concept.

Tony, might I recommend beta blockers for future performances? :) Remember, idealism is the death of progress!

April 10, 2019, 4:13 AM · Erik, hey.

And no. I am not in for the BB. There is chemistry in my brain that needs to be controlled, much like everything else and I intend to do it without external help.

But just for the record... I am constantly on the stage. I just never ever played Chaconne in a chamber with people glued to my face before.

It was far more unnerving than I thought it would be. I generally have very little in the way of stage anxiety, but apparently standing "naked" with only my instrument brought it out in a colossal way.

April 10, 2019, 6:48 PM · Have you never done a solo performance before?
April 10, 2019, 6:57 PM · Hi Erik, thanks for the feedback. I am usually comfortable with playing near the bridge on scales, and open strings, but not as much in pieces. I will try to do some slow practicing transitioning between sounding points to see it it helps me get better results. I also have the same problem as Tony. I think what helps me is to have a good get ready sequence, and practice that many times.
Edited: April 10, 2019, 7:59 PM · Shawn in your response to Lydia you said you want a richer sound. Well first of all your sound is pretty good to start with, at least I think so. It's a little monochromatic. Schmaltz doesn't come from your heart -- it comes from your hands. You just have to make it happen. My hint is that you have room to exaggerate a little more.

I agree with Erik about your sound point. That's the first thing that I noticed in your video -- it's kind of random, and your bow only comes to the bridge in softer parts, which is contrary to general practice. I also agree with Erik that you should not be too concerned if you hear some grit under the ear. An excellent pro told me that he tells his students not to be afraid to scratch. If you don't scratch a little, then you will never learn where that boundary is. And you want to be quite close to it a lot of the time. It's like only using the middle third of your bow because you're afraid of running off the end.

Your vibrato is okay but I see that you're doing nearly all arm vibrato and I wonder if you can get more richness by changing to a wrist vibrato or a hybrid of the two.

I further suggest you watch your bow hand in the mirror and try to get an idea what your fingers are doing (if anything) during your bow changes. Your fingers can help a lot in smoothing those out and helping you manage your playing force as you change bows.

Finally, I agree with Erik that this piece is a perfectly fine "study" for all of the above.

Edited: April 11, 2019, 2:30 AM · Shawn - I agree with Paul on the bow usage.
More bow - more possibilities of expression.
Overdoing it is just right - just look at Ray Chen.
But the trick is not to go overboard (and become too scratchy).

As for wrist vs arm vibrato... Thicker vibrato (deeper and sometimes higher frequency) will give it more richness. It's a romantic piece, it's allowed even by purists :)

Erik Williams - slightly off topic :)

Solo as in violin and band yes, a lot.
Solo as in, me my violin and passers by - only busking.
Solo as in me, Chaconne and audience - never. This was my first time.

It was quite frustrating not to be able to live up to my 'klangideal'. Need to do that many more times to get brain chemistry under control.

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