Point of reference

September 9, 2019, 2:42 PM · Hello everyone, it's been a while! I've been on a plateau for over a year now. I've been trying to find a point of reference for tone and I'm having an extremely hard time finding anything to reference. It has been almost impossible to find any audio or video with people playing without artificially added reverb or people playing in places with lots of reverb outside of very young children with fractional sized violins. I do not know anyone around me who plays violin to listen in person or a place I can record myself playing with reverb. Any advice how to go about improving musicality without any point of reference? I regularly record myself playing for personal progression progress but it does me no good for setting goals to improve overall sound quality. I just don't understand how to produce a pleasant tone without hearing what a pleasant tone is supposed to be? What do you all use for points of reference for tone quality? I will say when I've recorded myself and ran the audio through a compressor, reverb, and British EQ it sounds great but at that point I still can't use it for reference. I feel like I've just been wasting time practicing as I'm not improving sure I can play more repertoire but it's meaningless if I can't play any of it well. I also know our ears improve so it seems like "we" don't improve and that is what I have been trying to find some point of reference.

Thanks for the help and advice!

Replies (9)

September 9, 2019, 2:49 PM · Most YouTube videos that are nonprofessionally recorded in something that's not a huge church or concert hall do not have a meaningful amount of reverb. What you hear is pretty much the natural sound of the instrument. (My YouTube channel is all non-engineered non-edited amateur recordings: LINK)

If you want a simple reference for tone, buy Suzuki violin recordings. They capture a natural high-quality violin tone without audible audio engineering. I prefer David Cerone's older recordings but for cleaner digital sound use the William Preucil modern recordings.

September 9, 2019, 3:13 PM · Thanks, Lydia! I don't get anywhere near that level of reverb in my apartment as in your video. I will start looking for a new location to practice. Hopefully that will solve my reference issues!
Edited: September 9, 2019, 4:13 PM · You don't want much, if any ,reverb in your practice room. If we did, we'd all practice in the bathroom.

If you're watching a video taken in my practice room, that room has as natural of an acoustic as I could manage, with very little reverb. There's furniture all over the place. There's the heaviest carpet padding I could by, along with wall-to-wall very thick carpet. It's a good rehearsal space, in my opinion, because you can hear what you really sound like.

However, you're listening to me produce a tone with significant resonance. That's my actual sound, not a room effect. Notice that notes continue to ring even after I take the bow off the string or the stop the bow. There's vibrance and sustain that is a combination of right and left-hand technique, plus a nice violin. You're not hearing any room reverb.

The most honest place to practice is in a room without reverb. What you're mistakenly hearing as reverb in YouTube videos might be people's actual sound, which is why you're only not hearing "reverb" in small children's low-quality tone production.

September 9, 2019, 5:25 PM · One place that is acousticaly the same, clean, without reverb., everywhere, for recording or listening , is;---- Outside.
September 9, 2019, 6:32 PM · I practice in an acoustically dead room - to the point where I think I sound horrific. The room is a half storage and half work-room/studio, and has a thick carpet on part of the floor. I used to get upset about the deadness of the room, but now I enjoy(?) it because it forces me to continually improve my tone.
Edited: September 9, 2019, 6:48 PM · Joel, You sure are right about that!

56 years ago, about a year after I moved from the east coast to the California Mojave Desert our Desert Community Orchestra accepted an invitation to perform an outdoor concert near the visitors' center at Death Valley. Talk about the sound vanishing as the environment sucks it away!!

September 9, 2019, 7:49 PM · So from what Lydia has said, you might evaluate the following:
1) The quality of your violin. I'm a newly returning player (after a 60 year break). I popped for a high end (I think) student violin. My instrument rings from resonance, especially when I hit notes that can vibrate other strings (like an A on the G string, or a D on the A string), and it continues to vibrate after I lift my bow as Lydia describes. It's my understanding that less well-made instruments may not do this. I can tell you with great assurance that the resonance does not occur because of great skill on my part. It's how my violin operates. You may be frustrated in your technique when the problem is that you're at a level where you need a better instrument to hear what you're trying to acieve.
2) Your intonation. When I don't hit those resonating notes right on (e.g. when I'm sharp or flat), they don't ring. I play with a tuner to confirm when I think I'm in tune, and I'm beginning to use the resonance as confirmation. If your problem is not your instrument, then your intonation may be off.
I can tell you with great assurance that the resonance on my violin does not occur because of great skill on my part. It's how my violin operates.
September 9, 2019, 7:59 PM · BTW, I reread your post and was struck by how it sounded to you that only childre's playing did not have what you're hearing as "reverb". When I first bought my violin, I bought a 4/4 violin. I have small hands and some arthritis and realized I'd never reach 4th finger notes. I traded it for a 3/4 size. The difference in the quality of the tone was astounding, and I was deeply disappointed. It was a good enough violin that I still could make some notes ring, but it wasn't the same. AND, the breadth and complexity of the sound was missing. That makes me think again that perhaps the problem is not you, but your instrument.
And to answer your question, about listening to instruments without "reverb", Fiddlershop has videos demonstrating instruments for customers. I believe what you hear is the straight sound of the instruments.
September 9, 2019, 8:55 PM · Thank you everyone! I appreciate all the input. I'm going to try a few different things and try playing in different places so I have a better idea of what I sound like in different environments. I'll also have my violin checked out. ??

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