How to improve sound especially in difficult passages?
I’ve spent a ton of time working on technique this past year, and after working on things such as right hand bow control, left hand flexibility, and tone production techniques, I feel like I have a firm grasp on the skills required to play the violin. However, when I play anything other than open strings, especially fast passages with different bowing connections and string crossings, the sound quality that comes out is really scratchy and does not sound good anymore. I’ve tried slow practice, shortening bow strokes, trying different things in pressure and bow speed, but nothing has worked. I’m concerned because I have been working hard on improving technique and tone production, but the sound I produce is not musically pleasing. I would like advice on what I should do moving forward to make my violin playing sound better.
I must admit. I have the same problem
Two other variables: sound point (distance from bridge) and orientation (vertical/flat hair vs tilted away from you).
Impossible to really help you from a distance I am afraid. A few visits to a knowledgeable teacher will do wonders. But just one thing that crossed my mind because a long time ago that helped me too: are you sure you play enough on the tips of your (left-hand) fingers? If your fingers are too flat on the strings they dampen adjacent strings and your violin can not resonate fully. Just a random suggestion.
Barry, basically what you are saying is that playing the violin is hard. Not trying to be snarky, but the difficulty you describe is experienced by pretty much everyone up to, say, the Bruch Level. This is why your teacher wants you to play study after study after study because studies are all about moving your bow back and forth on your strings and figuring out how to generate a nice tone and play in tune when the material gets gradually (VERY gradually) faster as you develop your technique.
I am just a beginner so my comments may not be valuable, but I have a few thoughts:
Agree with Paul D.-- The Violin is an instrument that needs Balance.
We could get into quite a discussion about the physics of the bowing process, but the reason I made the analogy to a simple resonance phenomenon (child on swingset) is because I think the most critical question is how
When did you last change your strings? And are you keeping the rosin buildup on them under control? And sometimes people get into a habit of not using enough rosin, and compensate for that by bearing down to hard on the bow. But don't use too much rosin either. I apply a little at frequent intervals, rather than a lot infrequently. And you might need a re-hair, though I admit that's something I do extremely rarely myself, and I believe that if you treat the hair properly it almost never wears out. Those are my suggestions.
In addition to all the excellent technical tips above, I'd like to mention: anxiety leads to tension in the bow hand. Especially for someone still learning the instrument, when playing a difficult passage faster than you're prepared to play it, it's common for the right hand and wrist to stiffen, which can lead to excess bow pressure and the bow skidding up and down the string.
My two centimes d'Euro..
@Barry George ~
Ms Matesky, so in this exercise we are holding the bow only with two fingers? But then how can we keep it above the string? I would need my pinky, or in the worst case my third finger, as a counterbalance to keep the bow horizontal in the air. I am probably misunderstanding something.
I am currently working on the Devil's Trill sonata, and one of my challenges is improving sound in the difficult passages.
@Jean Dubuisson ~
thanks for the clarification!
Barry, not knowing your overall level, I want to recommend Sevcik Op. 3 as a foundational exercise series to learn most of the basic bow strokes, bow control and distribution. I mostly play viola but when I was picking up the violin the first few times, I worked on this book to concentrate on getting good tone and articulation on the violin, which is a bit different than the viola even though they are played roughly the same way. I agree with the other posters as well that slow practice is critical. One "trick" often used to increase clarity on difficult passages is to play the string crossings on open strings only, no fingerings, until you can play it really cleanly. Then add the fingerings. The left hand is yet another animal to tame, and working out good fingerings is an art in itself. Good teachers can of course help with both, and zero in on the problem areas with left and right hands. Here's a link to the Sevcik Op. 3: https://preview.tinyurl.com/y6puk3qb
Attention: Chris Keating
Yehudi Menuhin said hold the bow like a baby bird to put it gently back in its nest.
As a maker, you will depend on the instrument's response, that must be quick, and clarity, that is, notes must not get mixed.
One rarely-mentioned aspect which I have observed with my students:
Re: Menuhin's Quote on How to hold the Bow ~
I haven't had the same amount of experience with Menuhin as some of you (including on-line friend E.M.). I did only one concert with him, in his orchestra. I was only a teen-age student, but I remember that I thought his playing was strangely disconnected from self. His writing is very undisciplined and subjective. A transcript of one of hes lessons was long on verbiage and very short on technical help. I thought his music history and appreciation book was so full of factual errors that I got rid of it. His technical book is very specific about the bow-hold and bowing mechanics, but I consider the book to be more dangerous than useful. His use of Yoga, eastern style meditation, in my opinion, is the wrong kind of self-absorption, that creates a distracting mental feed-back loop. In an interview he admitted to the danger of the technical self-analysis of his playing, telling the centipede story; When a centipede was asked what was the order of using his feet, he replied that he did not know, had never thought about it. So he thought about it, and from that moment, could not walk at all. The moral of the story; If you have that level of talent, learn the fundamentals that young, if playing is that instinctive; Do Not analyze your playing.
My two centimes d'Euro..
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