Can easiness encourage bad technique

September 29, 2019, 10:29 PM · Hi all, first post here but a long-time reader. This is another string topic, be forwarned, but I'll try to keep it from becoming a "is this string better" kind of thing. First thing, I'm a bluegrass and old-time fiddler that's been playing about 3 years. Started when I was a 15 or so. Despite being a non-classical player, I do strive for good technique in everything I play. I have a fairly proper bow and violin hold, a decent vibrato, and decent tone. I've been complemented on my tone by several other fiddlers but I'm still not happy with it. I don't feel as if I'm as comfortable with bowing and producing good tone as I would like. Right now I use steel-core Helicores like so many fiddlers. I like their stability for cross-tuning, responsiveness, their richness on certain double stops and their clarity (when I feel like I'm playing them right). Although a lot of times I feel like I get too many whispy tones and I'm working too hard to control them from being either harsh or whispy, especially on the G string. Working too hard eventually makes me more tense and all-around just makes it less natural and fun. Now I put Dominants on, or most any synethetic for that matter, and a lot of it seems to flow easier. I can bare down more agressively without worrying about scratches. The G is easier to play without whisps. It just seems smoother. I do lose that crystal clarity, the stability for alternate tunings and the purity on some double stops, however. Now my question is this, I feel like if I use the Doms I'll be running away from the problem of bow control and tone and just burying it. I would like to go back to the Helicores eventually, but I'm worried if I use the Dominants, my bowing won't improve a noticeable amount by the time I switch back. Do you think sticking with the Helicores will make me work harder at improving the problems, or are Helis just not likely to sound good on it? It is a bright and loud fiddle and helicores are on the bright and loud side too. So maybe it's just amplifying my problems?

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded post. I'd appreciate any thoughts.

Replies (5)

Edited: September 29, 2019, 10:41 PM · Might not be you or your strings. Could be your violin.

If your violin is easier to play thats a good thing!

September 30, 2019, 2:24 AM · I tend to believe that, if the instrument is easier to play, it enables you to fine-tune your technique more easily. Improvement is almost always gradual. If you have to play just right to get a good sound, then slight improvements in technique are harder to hear, and it's harder to tell if you're on the right track.

Also, it's quite possible that Helicores are just a poor fit for your violin.

October 1, 2019, 6:01 PM · There are other brands of strings both steel core and synethetic core. So you could try out different brands.

You could try out a mixture of brands for the four strings.

Unfortunately it can be expensive to try out many options but if you find a solution that works really well for you it is just great.

What works great of one violin might not be the best solution on another violin, so even if a lot of fiddlers use steel-core Helicores something else might work better on your violin. In that regard I don't think there is any difference between playing fiddle music or classical music. Different violins respond differently with the same brand of strings.

Edited: October 1, 2019, 9:08 PM · Check out at listing of string tensions on Google.com, perhaps you would co better with lower tension strings.

Some rosins can get stronger responses or smoother or harsher or easier.

As to your title question, that summer, 55 years ago, that I had full-time access to a really great cello (probably worth $500K now) I was able to play things that I have never been able to play on cellos I can afford (and on many that I can't). And I was able to do it playing the way I was taught - so the converse, of what you asked about, is probably so - a bad instrument probably will encourage bad technique.

Edited: October 2, 2019, 9:48 AM · "if the instrument is easier to play, it enables you to fine-tune your technique more easily"

I am not all that convinced that this is how it works. Electric violins are surely easier to play, but are also thought as limiting the development of proper/advanced techniques. Students instruments are also supposedly more lenient, hence easier to play in a way, but also more limited in what can be achieved with them given their limited tonal complexity and dynamic range, hence why as a student progresses it is recommended to upgrade to a more capable, and inherently more difficult to master, advanced instrument; at least it is what we are led to beleive. Many Strad players have indicated that it took them considerable effort to bring out the best out of their instruments, sometimes months, which would suggest better instruments require better more refined technique. Conversely, better instruments make possible what would otherwise be very difficult to do on a less capable one, hence appear easier to play in a way. Ditto for bows.

Addendum: A good instrument will resonate when played exactly in tune, hence can be said facilitates the development of acurate tone, but is also more difficult to play because it needs more accurate tone. So which is which? Is a less lenient instrument more or less difficult to play? It depends how you look at it I suppose.


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