Obtaining a good sound

August 1, 2020, 2:10 PM · I asked this the other day but I think my post was probably a bit too rambling so deleted it in order to re-ask the question.

I know there are many factors that go into getting a good sound - bow, bowing parallel to the bridge, right/left hand coordination, finger pressure, etc. I've read the previous posts on this topic, and it's interesting in that everyone has a different take on this in the past.

So I am curious - what is/was your main takeaways when focusing on getting that good sound?

Replies (13)

August 1, 2020, 2:36 PM · I practice a lot, and focus on what my teacher suggests. I've just been focusing on this search for a consistent good sound more and more as other things that used to be difficult no longer are.
Edited: August 1, 2020, 2:42 PM · I agree with Xuanyuan. Planning your bow division thoughtfully is also an important element. A relaxed vibrato is sort of the final element once your right hand is tamed.

There's a lot to be said for playing a lot of lyrical stuff and keeping your focus on the sound. It's also something that you can keep improving forever (I certainly have a ways to go). I'm convinced that the Rode etudes have really pushed my sound production, as the lyrical sections ask you often to play high up on the G string, which introduces the need for a very precise soundpoint in the bow and a very relaxed, light and fluid left hand.

I believe you are a bit earlier in your journey, so if I had something that I think I could have benefited from focusing on earlier, I think I would have spent more time at the mirror, really trying to draw a relaxed and straight bow. That's really a starting point, since you still need to let your ears dictate your bowing, but I had some bad tendencies that personally needed correcting.

August 1, 2020, 3:40 PM · For me it was becoming thoroughly familiar with the holy trinity: bow speed, bow pressure, soundpoint. You become familiar by first learning the theory (which is quite simple, see Fischer Basics) and then experiment, experiment, experiment.
Edited: August 1, 2020, 9:47 PM · Thanks to all 3 of you, I appreciate the comments! Christian. I am most certainly at an earlier stage of my return to the violin adventure :)

I do spend time at the mirror but I need to spend more. I consider it a good sign that my teacher is starting to focus on my sound, to me that's progress when he brings up new things.

Edited: August 5, 2020, 4:03 AM · May I add to all this good advice and suggest that repeating scales or passages with poor tone will only confirm the poor tone!

If I haven't played for a while, I start with separate short, soft tones, (caressed rather than rubbed..) with a slightly swinging hand & arm motion: "Hold the bow like a baby bird" (Menuhin).
Only then I gradually increase bow speed and pressure in the middle of each lengthened stroke. There are rather few straight line in nature, only flattened curves! I think of drawing with a brush rather than a felt-tip marker...

A few minutes like this, before "assembling" scales or pieces.

Remember, scales are like rainbows: not "art", but beautiful!

August 4, 2020, 8:26 PM · This sounds really simplistic, but listen to what you're doing and experiment. Be curious.
Edited: August 8, 2020, 10:12 AM · Rosin, of course, makes all the difference. Just try playing without any. The bow itself can make a surprising amount of difference, especially if we're including the range of bows included with violins in a kit, etc., which is not to say that an expensive bow is necessarily better than an cheap one - in fact, some of the better cheap bows can be better than some bows costing hundreds, but without getting into the "sound" of a bow itself and its interaction with a violin, how well the bow grips the string can make a significant difference to the sound. I'm making this point not to have people go shopping more instead of building their skills, but just to highlight that in some cases that might be a factor which would require an even greater amount of skill or effort to overcome.

The rest is of course about 50% or more of what it means to play violin (well). And playing in tune also helps the sound quality, beyond just being the right pitch, which of course is essential.

August 8, 2020, 2:15 PM · The three main factors, bow speed, force (weight), and point of contact were mentioned. The main reason to bow parallel to the bridge is to prevent the bow hair from wandering off of its optimum spot. The equipment of course makes a huge difference; violin, bow, strings, hair, rosin. Otherwise we would not spend mega-$$ on them. Then there is your overall attitude while playing. Avoid the temptation to play too loud when you see the marking ff. Strive for quality of tone before adding volume. A well-centered mf can project just as well as a forced, crushed ff. Develop a controlled bow-speed before adding force. To use a perhaps inappropriate analogy from physics; the energy pumped into the instrument is proportional to the mass X (velocity- squared).
The equipment can fool us. The specific bow needs to match, work well with the violin. Sometimes a set of thin-gauge strings, marked "soft", will allow an instrument to respond better than a set of thick strings, marked "forte".
August 8, 2020, 6:22 PM · "Reading posts online won’t reveal a secret recipe for tone."

Hah! Little do you know, it can do just that.

Violinist.com interview with Simon Fischer: The Secrets of Tone Production

But you're somewhat right. If a DVD could tell you a secret, the it'd no longer be a secret would it? For a mere additional £49.99, after signing an NDA, I will share the actual secret with you, and also how to get to Carnegie Hall.

Edited: August 8, 2020, 7:00 PM · My teacher told me the story of what his teacher once told him: the first year you’ll learn how to play the beginning of a note, next year the middle of a note, and the year after that the end of a note, and if you work hard, 4th year from now you may be able to play a note right!
August 8, 2020, 7:05 PM · And then the bits between notes. If you're attentive.

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