Striving for tone
Hello again! As I said in a previous post, I'm a Bluegrass and old-time fiddler with no classical training. However, I do have a fiddle teacher and strive for classical technique, even if I'm not able to achieve it; especially that luscious tone. Everyday when I practice, I practice long, slow bows from tip to frog in a scale. No vibrato. Only focusing on purity of tone and making sure my bow arm and wrist are operating as I feel they should. Is this combined with my passion for it enough to achieve beautiful tone or will I end up needing a classical teacher eventually? If not, are there any books or exercises you recommend in addition? Should I attempt more advanced classical bowing techniques even if I don't need them for my style of playing?
Any help whatsoever is greatly appreciated!
Just remember that you need to use the correct amount of weight/pressure to make the string vibrate as widely as possible. Experiment with different amounts of weight/pressure and find out whats optimal for your instrument. Not all are the same :)
At where your right thumb goes, there's always a "bad sound" button. The more you press it, the worse you'll sound.
There's a Nicky Benedetti video on tone production.
Working with a classical teacher would be best. Words can only go so far in tone production, but seeing and copying and having a person there to watch what you're doing is best. Until you do get a teacher, in addition to the fine suggestions others have made, I suggest you start playing "classical" music. By that I mean playing from traditional string teaching books instead of trying to get a classical tone while playing bluegrass and old-time music. The String Builder series is quite good, and Solo Time For Strings is also quite good. Start with book 1 in each series and play all the exercises and songs as they are presented.
It may be that the specific tone you want to achieve can't be achieved without vibrato. And are you also using a fiddle with steel strings in your attempt to achieve this tone?
Still, the bow is a crucial and difficult element. If you can flash back 100 years to when many soloists didn't use much, and get their sound, you'll be in fantastic shape when vibrato does enter the picture.
And when a Strad cost 75USD, lol.
Having a teacher would help in developing the right mechanics that's for sure. In the absence of a teacher, at least practice in front of a mirror as without a straight bow, there will not be good tone production. Then focus on your arm weight and bow speed, feeling the pull/push of the string without "slipping"/losing the grip of the bow hairs, which will depend on a combination of bow speed, contact point and arm weight. There is no single perfect combination, all 3 are interdependent and you have to learn what work best to achieve the desired tone production. Don't over apply rosin unless you love gritty sound.
We cannot completely separate technique, style, equipment, and repertoire. Classical violin lessons will only improve your technique, but trying to play Mozart And Bluegrass with the same Violin, bow, strings, bowing style, will always be frustrating. Violinists that own a baroque replica violin will not use it when asked to play a Tchaikovsky symphony. What worked well for me was to separate my two worlds; I did classical Viola and non-classical Violin, and the feel of the bowing was about the same. You might have to own two violins; a classical violin with a mellow tone, and a bright, fast fiddle with steel strings. And at least two bows with different weights. If you own only one violin then use a compromise choice of strings, something like Helicore steel or a bright, loud set of synthetic core strings. There are of course exceptions; Mark O'Connor does a variety of styles with one set of equipment.
No one here is going to tell you that getting some classic lessons would be a bad thing for your tone production, because it won't be - but very few things are truly impossible, and I"m sure there are some ways besides that you could make progress. Simon Fischer has a video called Secrets of Tone Production that I highly recommend. Even after playing classically for many years I learned some new things from this. And Mark O'Connor manages to have a quite nice legato tone with almost entirely fiddle-style lessons - but then, he is kind of an unusual case.
Second vote here for Simon Fischer's video. And the one on youtube with Nicky Benedetti. And pay attention to folks like Joel who are serious players in both worlds.
And don't forget your bowgrip and fingers! As long as there is tension in the bow grip or you play with stiff fingers, the tone poduction is not optimal.
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