How firm should the finger press be on the violin?
Please give me your opinion on whether my "scratch and squeak" sound on the fingered stopped notes may result from insufficient pressing of the strings down the fingerboard.
I press violin strings down no more harder than I do on my electric guitar.
The problem is this: when I play open strings my sound is nice and full. Once I start fingering (stopping) notes on any of the 4 strings I get exactly that - "scratch and squeak" sound that is very unstable.
The perceived audio effect is that of a bow without or maybe too little rosin. However you already know - my open strings sound nice, so rosin is there and it's just the right amount of it.
I searched YouTube and in one of the videos prof. Fitzpatrick suggests just the opposite of what I'm worried about - he says the violin strings have NOT to be pressed all the way down to the fingerboard.
I insert the YT references below. Not sure if the embedding codes will be accepted here but I also insert the direct link (first).
Prof. Fitzpatrick suggests that a piece of paper should be easily removed from under the stopped finger for proper violin sound.
when I started violin, my teacher made me quit playing guitar. It just messed up my violin playing so badly, and he could always tell when I came to lessons if I'd been playing guitar that week. The whole sound production and physics is totally different from guitar. In violin, you should use the minimum pressure needed to play the note the way you want to. The post above gives ways to find that. There could also be a number of other factors affecting tone- a lot more goes on in violin. In guitar, you just need to get the string moving. In violin, you need to get the wood moving.
Sergio, that video's advice will work if you're using a nice violin, but it's less likely to work if you're using something very cheap. What type of violin are you currently using? (a very cheap violin could have multiple issues leading to the sound you're describing, but the main ones that tend to be a problem are: a warped/poorly planed fingerboard, an overly high nut -- it's called an action on a guitar -- or an overly high bridge.
Basically as firm as necessary and as light as possible. You should experiment with the effect of finger pressure on tone, and you should realize that you don't actually need that much pressure to get a solid tone. This will then allow you to always seek as much lightness and relaxation as possible.
On the violin your finger is the fret so contact needs to be solid enough to produce the sound you want.
My 2 cents: I suspect the issue is not with the finger pressure at all but with the right hand/bow. There could be several issues here, bow pressure, tension in the right hand (even very subtle tension in the right hand can mess up the sound!), contact point with the string, sound point, bow speed, bow tilt etc. In my experience, problems with sound or tone, especially with a beginner, are usually due to a whole variety of issues with the right hand/bowing. In 99% of the cases, it's the bowing, not the fingering. (Though tension in the left hand might come into play later, e.g. when adding vibrato).
It depends on how much of a beginner you are and on how difficult the left hand fingerings are. If they are complex for your skill level, then your right hand will be thrown and won't be bowing properly for good sound, because the brain can only control one hand at a time until you have had more experience.
As above - enough to get a clear sound.
"finger-release". Yes, it's really not a skill you can learn from playing the piano! In theory woodwind will teach you.
Gordon, if ever we meet I am going to be very disappointed if you don't look like your icon...
It can also be effective to "pop" the finger down rather than "pushing" on the string; the speed of the finger-fall will provide the clarity of the new note, and the release to a minimum pressure will be faster.
Dear Jasper Diedrichsen: Thank you a BUNCH for your insightful reply. I feel your advice is right on topic without additional guesses.
Gordon: "...then your right hand will be thrown and won't be bowing properly for good sound, because the brain can only control one hand at a time until you have had more experience."
Maybe it would be helpful to practice some harmonics.
Sergio: When playing the piano, practise hands separately as the exception, not the rule!
Gordon: There is absolutely no agreement on this in the piano circles. Often I see just the opposite as an advice.
If the comment (which I really appreciate and readily accept) on deficient bowing technique (read: once starting to add bowing to the stopped notes) is 100% correct than I think there is a sure way to check that:
Sergio, what type of violin are you using?
In a hypothetical world where people didn't suffer from fatigue and hand injury, you'd ideally press the finger down as hard as possible. This is why open strings sound so resonant, because instead of a soft mushy finger, it is stopped by a solid piece of ebony. Of course we don't have unlimited energy and we are likely to get injured by pressing too hard, so as dumb as this sounds, the objective answer is to press as hard as you can without injuring yourself. Now obviously I'm aware that especially for newer players, this is much easier said than done. It is probably not possible for most people to follow this kind of advice and for anything fruitful to come out of it... but I do believe it is the scientific truth and it's good for people to be aware of it.
Press the string hard enough to be in firm contact with the wood of the fingerboard, no more. We tend to press too hard when playing loud. Also: How high you raise the fingers between the notes makes a difference. Too low; not enough force, the notes sound mushy. Too high; the fingers land too hard, you can hear popping sounds from some players. And it takes a little longer for the fingers to get there. For me a lift of about 1/2 inch, one cm., is about right.
In practice, what Professor Fitzpatrick describes is more pronounced and observable in the higher positions, although the ability to move a piece of paper underneath the finger can be done on the whole length of the fingerboard. Ideally, since the finger stops the string given the projection of the modern fingerboard, there is a threshold where we exert just enough force to stop the string, but not so much that it is crushed against the fingerboard.