Harmonics

February 10, 2020, 8:01 AM · My daughter is going to learn the Bartok Roumanian dances. She plays harmonics ok.
We visited the exhibition in NYC of contemporary violin and bow makers.
She picked up a bow going and used it most of the time we were there.
The violins were all 20k and up so out of our range for now. But nearly every violin she picked up there played the harmonica for her easily, or a least more easily than her own. So my question as a non violinist- Was it likely the violin or the bow?

Replies (13)

Edited: February 10, 2020, 9:06 AM · It was most likely the strings. How old are the strings on your daughter's violin? It's much easier to play false harmonics on new strings than on strings that have gone false. Those violins on display all had new strings.

Change the strings on your daughter's violin and see if the harmonics have improved before you start wondering about anything else. I would bet money that new strings will bring a drastic improvement.

February 10, 2020, 8:50 AM · Based on my experience with my own violins I'd say it's probably more due to the violins than the bow. I've gone through that test, but with usually with a single bow.

The bow could play some part since a bow that enhances higher frequencies would likely also bring out harmonics more easily. I've done this test when choosing which violin AND bow to play on for certain music, but I don't recall doing it for harmonics.

February 10, 2020, 9:08 AM · Also it could be the bow hair. Nothing like nice clean bow hair, freshly (even if lightly) rosined to make harmonics really sizzle. I'd say strings, bow hair, violin, and bow stick in that order for what helps you get nice clear harmonics. Of course there is technique too but this particular experiment is controlled for technique since the player is not changing.
February 10, 2020, 9:30 AM · I wish that was the simple solution Mary Ellen. She has
recently replaced strings. Rondos with PI e string.
Bow was purchased November with violin, think hair was new.
We can pursue a rehair in the next month or so as she works on the piece and see if that helps. With orchestras she averages a couple hours a day playing, not sure how long now hair should last?
Certainly she has to improve technique, but she and I were both taken aback
by the improvement of her sound.
Her’s is a decent student violin, 1908 Colin-Mezin.
She has just begun this, and at the time she was on a 3/4. But still, she just picked them up, and they all sounded amazing. Especially an Isabelle Wilbaux
we both liked in particular.
February 10, 2020, 1:40 PM · How recently were the strings replaced? If she plays a lot, she may need to replace them every 6-8 weeks. I teach the Roumanian Dances frequently and have never seen the violin/bow combination that I couldn't make the harmonics speak on, as long as the strings were fresh. Even the crappiest of student violins.

If it really isn't the strings, then I would look at the bow. What bow was she using when she tried out the violins? Hers, or the dealer's?

February 10, 2020, 2:04 PM · Her A string is the only one that is more than a couple
Weeks old. We had changed them for an audition this last weekend.
Yes she used a random (but new very pricey I’m sure) new bow handed to her when she entered.
That’s part of what I guess I’m asking, could another bow help?
But I also want to say she can play harmonics, just the quality of sound was so much better. And she is just starting to read through the Bartok, she has not had a proper lesson on it. So I am ahead of things, it just was very clearly better at the new violin expo, her eyes got very large when she first tried an harmonic. We tried 18 violins I think, but only the one bow.

February 10, 2020, 2:04 PM · Her A string is the only one that is more than a couple
Weeks old. We had changed them for an audition this last weekend.
Yes she used a random (but new very pricey I’m sure) new bow handed to her when she entered.
That’s part of what I guess I’m asking, could another bow help?
But I also want to say she can play harmonics, just the quality of sound was so much better. And she is just starting to read through the Bartok, she has not had a proper lesson on it. So I am ahead of things, it just was very clearly better at the new violin expo, her eyes got very large when she first tried an harmonic. We tried 18 violins I think, but only the one bow.

February 10, 2020, 2:10 PM · What kind of bow does she currently play on?

Unless her violin is clearly holding her back, I'd look to upgrade the bow first if what she currently has is a low-level stick. It's easy enough to try out a variety of bows with her current violin. At the very least that will give you a great deal more information to work with.

February 10, 2020, 2:23 PM · I have a (beautiful) theory:

1. On her 3/4 violin, she wasn't really close enough to the bridge, which is the secret to clear harmonics.
2. When she went to try full-sized violins, she held her bow at the same distance out of habit, but due to the size of the violins her bow was actually closer to the bridge.
3. Voila--better harmonics.

February 10, 2020, 2:31 PM · Ooooh, I like Scott's theory a lot.
February 10, 2020, 3:00 PM · Good idea. As always I appreciate the help available here.
The violin has a good sound. The bow is German not cheap, newer,
commensurate with the violin. On the heavy side, I think. (remember I’m not a violinist, but 60.5 grams Is what I recall).
She has played on a full size since Thanksgiving but not so many harmonics as the Bartok.
Anyway, I will run all these thoughts past her teachers and get them to directly address the issue. Again, it’s not that she sounds so bad, just how
much difference there was, the ease for her of making a sound
that pleased her.
February 10, 2020, 3:06 PM · I also like Scott's theory. And that third Roumanian Folk Dance is challenging because it is nothing but harmonics - so consistently nailing them all with the right bowing and precise intonation is challenging.
February 13, 2020, 9:53 PM · Much improvement in the last week- moving toward bridge helped, so that may have been part of it. But also a lesson focused on the issue. She is loving the Bartok!


Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha YVN Model 3
Yamaha YVN Model 3

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Tomplay
Tomplay

Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe