Is tone a factor of time?

June 28, 2021, 1:30 PM · I came back to the violin six months ago after an almost fifty year hiatus. I have a private teacher. He seems less concerned with instrument issues than I. He keeps saying he likes the sound of my violin. I’m not sure I do. He always makes the joke that our memories of how we think we sounded in our youth was probably a little worse than we remember. Well, I remember better tone. Much better.When I started playing in January I could not read music- or at least I didn’t think I could. I learned quickly. Or I practiced a lot. He started me in some Suzuki books. He and I amazed ourselves. Each week he moved me forward much faster than I thought I would have. But, generally I have been performing much better than I thought. Apparently my violin teacher in the late sixties and very early seventies taught me well. I’m now in a few Mazas and Wohlfahrt etudes. I found my old books and I’m playing things I played when I was 14-15 years old. My new violin teacher told me to buy Kreutzer, which I haven’t started yet. My first repertoire piece was Vocalise. While I can play it adequately, I find it difficult to master. I’m fighting my tone. I’m now playing Mozart’s Third Violin Concerto. My teacher didn’t say this, but I suspect he assigned it because it is a little less dependent on gorgeous tone as pieces from the Romantic era (to which I gravitate). But I’m still not liking my tone. I am on my second set of Obligato strings. I use Obligato rosin (too much? Too little? Generally I think I use what is adequate. I have a small amount of dust coming off, which I clean daily).

My question. Does good tone simply come with time and practice? Is it less dependent upon string choice and rosin choice? It’s just that I remember having much better tone when I was playing high school on the same violin. My violin maker was a guy with the last name of Hellmer. Lately people have told me that it wasn’t. But violins made by this maker have sold, at auction, for the exact amount that people have estimated my violin’s worth to be. I have a bow with an estimated value of $1.5- 2K per a quick estimation of a well known violin maker in LA. Any thoughts on tone? Should I not worry too much and simply keep playing? Will it improve as my technique gets better?

Replies (45)

Edited: June 28, 2021, 1:47 PM · First, if your violin has not seen the inside of a luthier shop in 30 years, go there and get a good overhaul -- sound post, bridge, nut, fingerboard, different strings, bow rehair or hair-cleaning, whatever the luthier says you need.

Second, you said you're fighting your tone. That could be your problem. Tone is part making it happen and part letting it happen, and better violinists always seem to enjoy more of the latter!

There is a video course on tone production by Simon Fischer that has been highly recommended by others on this site, but basically you need to spend time -- real time and mental bandwidth -- in a systematic exploration of sound point, bow speed, and downward pressure as three main variables which will depend also on the string you are playing and the left-hand position.

If you trust your teacher and (s)he says your violin is not holding you back, then that's that. Of course you can get a second opinion. Have a good violinist that you know play your violin -- and then you play theirs. Have you played your teacher's violin?

It sounds to me like your use of rosin is appropriate. Rosin isn't your problem.

June 28, 2021, 2:15 PM · It seems like you are not in a place in the repertoire journey where a student typically has a lot of insight into tone. I would follow your teacher's advice - I found myself making strides in developing tone while learning the Rode Caprices (there is always more that can be done).

You should be heartened that tone is such a concern of yours - The goal you have in mind is the goal you work towards.

Edited: June 28, 2021, 2:56 PM · Christian- I was a fairly good violinist as a kid from about 7 to 18. Although its been a long time, I was instilled with good techniques and a very good ear.

I don’t say that to “correct you, but simply to give you some perspective as to my background.

I edited my comment as I felt it came of as a tad abrupt and I do appreciate your comment. As I’m 67, who knows how much time I have left to get this thing (my violin) right. I already had some arthritis issues with Dancla’s Air Varie #5 where there are double stops. The one with a B on the E string and a G on the A string caused massive pain each time I played it. I kept at it and weirdly enough the pain lessened after about 100-150 times.

June 28, 2021, 2:43 PM · Paul- thanks for you thoughtful reply. I should have mentioned that the violin has been dissected by three excellent luthiers. I really wanted to have it completely restored. But each luthier recommended against it. Some young, stupid kid caused some structural damage to the thing back in the sixties which was repaired in a cost effective way. I wanted it restored as some sort of penance for being that stupid kid.

I think your comment about fighting is a very astute one. I tend towards perfectionism when playing the violin (always have. It’s a result of a strict father who first taught me) and it tends to cause tension. I’m doing more reading and investigating into that aspect of my training as we speak. Several weeks ago I decided to just “let loose” without worrying about intonation and rhythm. I have to say my violin sung better that one time than it has since I started back on this journey.

Again, thanks.

June 28, 2021, 2:59 PM · This is an interesting question. I returned to playing after nearly 30 years. I've completed my 3rd year since returning. My final repertoire as a teenager was Bach 3rd partita, Lalo SE, Mozart 5, Mendelssohn VC.

For about the first 1.5 year after returning, I had some significant problems controlling a shaky bow. Mild pressure (i.e., at a violin lesson) made it worse. This had never been a problem as a kid. One teacher told me it would resolve on its own, that it was due to unused muscles becoming accustomed to violin playing again. It did go away without any attention. However, now tension seems to bring out crunching and cracking--I seem to press too hard.

One thing to know is that not all teachers are good at evaluating violins, even if they are good violinists. I would ask your teacher to play your violin (along with your bow) and judge whether the combo is preventing you from doing certain things.

Edited: June 28, 2021, 3:01 PM · "Fighting for tone" is like the catchphrase for a poorly adjusted instrument. When I feel I have to wrestle with my violin to get a good sound out, I know right away something needs work (usually just a couple knocks on the soundpost or a different size string). Some violins also just have a more difficult character than others. When no amount of knocking does the trick, you should consider trading in the violin for another.
Edited: June 28, 2021, 3:10 PM · Let's not forget that 50 years is a long time. I for one would not trust my memory on something as ephemeral as my sound of 50 years ago.

I don't actually think tone per se is worth spending a lot of time on. A tone for a specific musical situation, yes, absolutely. But that would have to be found in the context of the piece one is learning.

June 28, 2021, 3:19 PM · Jocelyn, you raise several very good points. First of all, you were playing at a much higher level when I when I left. I went through a slow, painful two year burnout the first time around that still brings up some issues of regret.

When I asked whether tone was somewhat a function of time, I think I was thinking about muscle memory. Let’s face it, the violin is a difficult instrument to master. There’s a lot going on. It’s only been six months since I began again. And, like I said, I couldn’t even read music when I re-started. So, I’m wondering if I should just relax, “do the work” and accept that it will come back soon.

One thing that did help was relaxing the pressure on my bow and playing a bit more lightly and gracefully. Maybe there was some unresolved anger at my violin when I first started and thought everything should be played forte! Ha Ha. I’m just kidding.

My violin teacher is very good, He’s a Juilliard graduate, has played in over 300 soundtracks, has played with many of the top pop acts, including Celine Dion, Streisand and Taylor Swift. He plays in a chamber orchestra. He knows his stuff. He has three violins. The one he teaches me with is his worst. He uses it in case an accident happens. So it wouldn’t be a good representation of my skill level. He has played mine and said he really likes it (as did several of the luthiers). I think the violin is ok. No it sure about the Obligaoto strings. I might play around with the strings a bit. I hate Dominants as I liken them to a Lamborghini that snarls.

Thanks again for your ideas!

June 28, 2021, 3:21 PM · Albrecht, there’s wisdom in your comment. Thanks. I think that is similar to what my violin teacher might say. He doesn’t seem concerned. This is all coming from me. I’m pretty hard on myself.
June 28, 2021, 3:30 PM · No offense taken Rob. It's my personal experience that working on more romantic and lyrical literature is what pushes a student towards playing "bigger", and where tone and variations in the kind of sound sought come to the forefront of awareness, and that typically, the time that teachers introduce Kreutzer etudes and Mozart concertos (which I think are played way too early in America) is a time in a generic student's playing where they are not really able to get that deep of a tone, even if they really want it. I'm sure many teachers could provide counter-examples of their students that had developed solid, burnished tones by then.

I just remember times of being constantly frustrated, and feeling like I was fighting my instrument, and contrary to Cotton's experience, I think in my case, it was about my frustration with not being able to get the sound I wanted, rather than any particular issue with my violin. If your teacher is good and likes your violin, it makes me think that you are experiencing some natural growing pains, and that your ear has developed beyond the limits of your current technique - In my experience, these frustrations are part of the process, and the technique catches up. That's just my experience.

June 28, 2021, 3:55 PM · This might fall under the classification of “Ya pay a teacher for their expertise. Wouldn’t you actually want to relax and just take the teacher’s advise that you’re paying for?” Said by a recovering control freak! heck I started playing Meditation (which I played in a solo/ensemble festival in eight grade) simply because I’ve been obsessed about my tone. I played the first line probably 100- 200 times trying to get the perfect tone.
Edited: June 28, 2021, 4:00 PM · I wasn't suggesting you get your violin totally rebuilt, and I can understand your luthier's reluctance to do that. But they can check to make sure that the sound-post and the bridge are well fitting, as these are crucial to your sound.

You might try Vision Solo strings. I like them a lot, but of course that's for my violin. They will be a little brighter than Obligatos. You DO want to play "into the string." You don't want your bow to be skittering when you are playing regular detache strokes. But you just have to avoid the feeling that you're forcing your sound. Often moving your bow a little closer to the bridge -- like a couple of millimeters -- will give you a more focused sound. Use a mirror to make sure you are really doing what you think your brain is telling your hands to do. :)

This is why we practice stuff like studies that just have back-and-forth bowings like you see in Mazas Etudes and Wohlfahrt, because they help us "groove" our bow stroke. If you were learning tennis you'd be doing the same thing -- an hour a week with the ball machine just grooving your ground strokes. The same with drop shots, volleys, etc.

One thing that us old guys also lose is our hearing. Not sure about you but I give mine a C+, and you've got 11 years on me. I probably need hearing aids. That's a rabbit hole I'm putting off as long as I can.

June 28, 2021, 4:30 PM · No, I knew you didn’t suggest a total rebuild. That was me, at the time, wanting to restore the instrument to the condition it was in before I laid my grimy little pre-teen hands on it. Supposedly the sound post is in the correct spot. But I wonder if sound post positioning is universal. Could different violins be improved by a slight variation in the “perfect” spot. I might address that soon. It’s weird that you mention the bow skittering on detache’ strokes because that happened this weekend for the first time since I started playing again. I attributed it to bowing arm issues and worked at it from that standpoint. I started wondering if I like Obligato strings as much as I thought I did. I might try the Vision Solos and see how they sound on my violin.

As to the hearing thing, watch what you say youngster! LOL. My hearing is just fine. My wife will tell you otherwise but I’m just ignoring her. Ha Ha.

June 28, 2021, 7:22 PM · Some things that might cause your tone to differ from your memory (in addition to what was already said):

The room is different
The humidity is different
Your hearing has changed (mine has and I'm not quite as old as your playing hiatus)
Your right arm technique is changed from before
Your left hand technique had changed
The way your chin contacts the instrument had changed
You are using a different shoulder rest arrangement
Your strings don't agree as well with your instrument.

Regarding the "your technique had changed" , if your were like me as a teen your technique then was probably not very conscious so you may not know if you are doing it the same. I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong, but these are areas where subtle and very individual changes can have a big effect on sound.

I recently discovered in a lesson that moving from my jaw on the chin rest looking almost ninety degrees right of the instrument, to chin on the chin rest looking straight with the strings, made a quite large change to the sound, confirmed by my teacher. I have no explanation. He says it must have something to do with balance. It also changed by off the strings bow strokes a lot. Violin is weird :-)

Edited: June 28, 2021, 7:32 PM · Different luthiers have different approaches to post and bridge. Some will say the bridge actually matters more. If you have a way of monitoring that and putting it back to neutral, that could count for a lot. For some reason, bridges on my new instruments sometimes wander around.

As for technique, there are always things to discover. Recently, I outfitted an instrument with Tricolore strings (gut A, and light weight on the A and D). I also started trying a variety of older French bows and some new ones that were allegedly more like some of the antiques. Basically, the pre-Sartory/Lamy cohort often require a lot more care with the right arm, and I now vaguely recall some of the instructions I got from teachers who probably grew up using all that twitchy stuff. Modern equipment can be more forgiving, which means you won't always know when you're doing worse than you should.

Another odd insight, I forget from where: when you have the violin on the string closer to the frog, you don't have to grab hard with the thumb. You're really only pushing down with your fingers to make sure the tip doesn't jerk the thing out of control. Just loosening up your hand like that can improve the volume of sound.

Anyway, my problems, my experiences. You will probably find many of your own moments like that. Have fun!

June 28, 2021, 11:01 PM · This question is potentially simply answered. You mentioned taking this violin to three excellent luthiers, which suggests you probably have three excellent violin shops nearby. Visit them. Play the nicest instruments they have in stock (emphasize to them you want to try the best-playing, not the most expensive, things in their inventory).

If you sound awesome on new gear, it's the violin. If you still don't like how you sound, it's you.

June 28, 2021, 11:17 PM · If one reads my post carefully one will understand that it really isn’t about whether i would sound better on a Strad. It’s whether better tone is a function of practice and the time, I only even brought up any specifics about my violin to help others understand that I don’t expect to sound wonderful on an eBay special from China. Further discussion of my violin was initiated by other posters, to which I appropriately responded.
June 28, 2021, 11:33 PM · Francis- Yeah the violin is weird at times isn’t it. You aged me in your post. Ouch! I’m a very young 67. I can out hustle kids 1/3 my age. No offense taken. My violin teacher (who is in his early 50’s), when I asked why we weren’t working through Mazas etudes from beginning to end told me something to the effect that we’re not sure how much longer I have and he wants me to enjoy playing pieces and not just only work on etudes. I took that to mean that I should be practicing more and upped my practice time.
June 28, 2021, 11:45 PM · Stephen, some interesting thoughts. I had been wondering if the strings were more of a factor in tone than I had first thought. I have done a fair amount of reading as to the fact that there is no one best string- that a string that sounds great one on fiddle can sound terrible on another. I’ve tried Dominants and Obligatos so far. The Obligatos sounded far better on my violin than the Dominants. Maybe I will get some incremental improvement with other strings. I think I was using gut strings back in the pre-historic days. As a result of the damage I did to the violin when I was a stupid kid, I am almost forced to use a shorter bridge. One of the luthiers (who is a good friend of one of my nephews) gave me a shorter one he had lying around. Maybe I should see about an upgrade to that one. The difficulty is not acting like an ungrateful jerk for something he gave me.
Edited: June 29, 2021, 2:42 AM · So after this discussion I thought it might be fun to evaluate violin tone of a variety of different people. Laurie recently put up an article she wrote along with a link of African-American violinist Randall Goosby’s rendition of Adoration (no not the one written by Felix Borowski). This Adoration was written by an African-American composer, Florence Price. It is a beautiful, lyrical piece. Augustin Hadelich did a really cool thing. He asked people to record themselves playing this piece and send him the recording. He then played a piano accompaniment and then cut and spliced some of the players together to form a complete version of the piece. I really enjoyed watching this version as well as Goosby’s. But there are maybe 10-15 violinists in the video. Knowing that most recorded themselves on their smartphones, which of the players do you think has what we think of as great tone? Here’s a link to the YouTube video. Come back and share your thoughts. I might have a follow up comment after anybody that wants to post, is able to.
June 29, 2021, 2:56 AM · If you play something slow and easy, can you get the tone that you remember? If you can, then poor tone on the Mozart concerto is probably because it's too difficult. Certainly string technology has changed in 50 years. I don't suppose you used gut way back then, though.
June 29, 2021, 3:40 AM · Gordon, yes I played on gut strings back then. I do not think its a function of the tempo of the piece. Although when learning a new piece I’m sure my tone suffers as I am learning the piece itself and not working on making the piece sound better as a result of better tone.
Edited: June 29, 2021, 4:45 AM · The way my teacher explained it was that when you take on a harder piece, and the brain is thinking more about your left hand, it has less control of your right hand, and thus your tone degenerates, for a while.
June 29, 2021, 5:55 AM · That makes sense to me.
Edited: June 29, 2021, 7:59 AM · A shorter bridge? Well, that WOULD have a big effect on the sound. What necessitated the change? A collapsed neck? I'd get it reset in that case, if the violin is worth the trouble.

To answer your question, yes, tone does improve with technique. That said, Augustin Hadelich could not make a Stentor sound like a Strad.

June 29, 2021, 8:19 AM · This is an online hearing test:

Read the instructions and take the test. It will be an hour well spent!

If you still have really good hearing (which you probably had 50 years ago) it is probably the violin, strings, rosin or bow. Otherwise it is YOU. Hearing degrades in many people as they age. Some instruments are very "picky" as to the strings that work well and those that don't.

Edited: June 29, 2021, 1:02 PM · If you played gut way back then you really should try gut again (wound gut like Eudoxa, at least to begin with). I have always played on gut strings until fairly recently when I bought a couple of sets of "plastic" for budget reasons. Gut sounds better and reacts more readily to changes in bowing or vibrato.

Of course gut strings don't hold their pitch as well. So there is a choice to be made between better sound and easier management.

June 29, 2021, 8:30 PM · When we listen to recordings of our favorite violinists and admire their tone, I sometimes wonder how much of the tone is the result of post-production work. TwoSet Violin had an episode on that topic.

June 29, 2021, 9:04 PM · I see your point Rob but I see a lot of live performances, too. Watch Aaron Rosand's YouTube video on tone and vibrato. I don't seriously believe videos like that are subject to significant post-production editing of the violinist's sound.
Edited: June 29, 2021, 10:12 PM · Greetings,
Is tone a function of the practice and time?
I’m not sure I completely understand the reference to time, but the question itself is of great significance. Fortunately, there is a very simple answer. Yes, tone is a function of practice. Furthermore, I do not believe it is a good idea to think in seasons, as it were of one’s development where tone as an issue may be more or less to the fore . The violin is ultimately about sound, beautiful sound! This should be emphasised right from the beginning or even the clearly not beginning level that you are at. In essence, One should strive to produce a singing, beautiful sound whatever one is doing. More or less. sadly, this is often not the case.
for example, there is a tendency to ignore tone in favour of the left hand facility during technical work such as scales. This is a disaster, appoint I will touch on in a moment.
I can’t comment on the violin much except to say that in my experience, on the violin, obbligato strings are not always so great. On the viola and cello they often work substantially better.
Getting back to tone,one of the first things one needs to be clear about is that one must play in tune to the best of one’s ability otherwise the sound will not resonate at the optimum level.
One of the first people to really clarify the essence of tone production in a way comprehensible to everyone has already been mentioned on this thread. That is, of course, Simon Fischer. If you don’t want to buy a copy of ‘the violin lesson’, it is at least worthTaking a look at him teaching these principles on YouTube videos. Free education is indeed a wonderful thing. (Nathan Cole, Who generously admits to being much influenced by Simon in these areas, has produced excellent work on this topic in his new scale manual and on some of his YouTube videos.)
There are many different ways of working on a beautiful sound as opposed to just repeating something over and over again and hoping that it gets better. One of those, described by Simon in his book ‘Basics’ and elsewhere, is to play a passage on Lane five (near the fingerboard) and then lane 4,Lane three, Lane two and lane one. As the lane changes the tempo, degree of bow weight,And bow speed will buy necessity change. This will sensitise you to these factors and you then perform it without giving conscious consideration to these factors. The result will be a considerable improvement in tone,
One of the oldest and most efficient ways of increasing depth of tone is the pulsing exercise which can be traced back at least as far as to Mozart’s father in his book and probably earlier although I am too lazy to check. One simply uses pronation or added finger weight to pulse within a note.Daniel Kurganov has produced An excellent video explaining how to do this on YouTube. Simon also demonstrated on a YouTube video. This exercise is so universally recognised across the field of violin pedagogy that I am not sure how anyone can possibly ignore it as a part of a staple diet. Check out Dounis, for example.
Getting back to the question of tone, Mozart and scales is is interesting. I would like to offer the suggestion that if we start thinking in terms of rich romantic sound for romantic music and some other kind of tone quality for Mozart I think we are starting to tread just a little bit on dangerous ground. Is there honestly any reason not to produce a deep and rich sound in Mozart? If we are not supposed to, how come pere Mozart thought deep and resonate tone development exercises were so important?
The difference actually may have a lot more to do with articulation and accentuation. Getting off track for a second, many years ago when I wrote blogs regularly for this site, I excitedly plugged a videoOf Isaac Stern playing a Movement from a Mozart sonata or rondo or something like that because I had been so deeply moved by it. I was very surprised to find people whom I knew to be musically extremely sensitive and also knowledgeable about the violin react in a very negative way to that recording. I did not, if I recall correctly, question this reaction at the time, but I do remember thinking that I wanted to ask the nay-sayers a number of questions. For example, did he play basically in tune? Rythmically? With a good sound? Using articulation and phrasing relevant to that particular style of music? A beautiful tone?
Honestly speaking, the answer to all these questions was yes, and yet somehow it seemed for no concrete reasonOther than a personal belief that Mozart, a euphemism for ‘classical era music’ should have some kind of ‘lighter’ or ‘thinner’ tone perhaps, that an example of great music making was being rejected out of hand.
In the same way., I think we should try and get the best possible tone on the notes of the Mozart concerto too. However, rather than keep hacking away at the concerto to the point where the practice could become slightly unfocused simply because one was worrying about all kinds of related musical issues, one might consider breaking down or analysing the various types of bowing required by this particular concerto and practising them to make them as beautiful and expressive as possible well working on scales. This approach has the double whammy effect of actually making your scale practice interesting because it now exists for a genuinely musical purpose and also creating a Practice room/laboratory where necessary skills are easily developed. After that , When returning f to the Mozart concerto, one is freed from the necessity of focusing on secondary skills and can enjoy the pleasure of using wider, more integrated conceptual thinking.
June 29, 2021, 10:14 PM · I think tone comes with practice. You can visualize in your mind where your bow should be in relation to the bridge. I don't advise looking at your bow while playing (unless you are using a mirror) but I find it helpful to visualize in my mind where my point of contact and where it should be.
June 30, 2021, 2:53 PM · Unfortunately, neither OP nor any of the responders acknowledged that the word "tone" implies many aspects of sound. To me it implies three things:

1. The innate sound of the violin itself
2. Use of the bow to draw a clear, even, focused tone (including during spicatto).
3. The use of vibrato.

Vibrato can go a long way to make up for issues with the violin itself. Yes the violin could need adjustment, new strings, new rosin, or a new bow, but we haven't really heard from the new teacher what other tonally deficiencies might need to be addressed. It might be that the OP needs to work on a wider, more consistently used vibrato.

Few students can afford violins with the type of fantastic tone that just play themselves and require minimal vibrato finger motion. That's why people buy old Italians. The rest of us need to learn how to compensate.

June 30, 2021, 11:23 PM · Paul, The secret to getting hearing aids is to get a proper fit and you need an audiologist who understands what you want as a musician. Feel free to contact me for free advice about the pitfalls I went through so you know what to ask about.
July 1, 2021, 2:33 AM · Buri- lots of good points. But the most important, in my humble opinion, is your connection between intonation and tone. I have found that to be of utmost importance. If my intonation is off, even a slight amount, the tone I seek is elusive. Thanks for the heads up on Simon Fischer. I have watched a couple of excerpts of his videos and his style is difficult to watch. I will try to get beyond that and maybe even try one of his videos.
Edited: July 1, 2021, 1:39 PM · Scott- It’s interesting that you mention #2- Use of bow to draw a clear, even, focused tone (including during spicatto). For it was when I began the third movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto #3 when I noticed my tone was actually taking a step backward. The portions that I am playing spicatto sound much too rough and crunchy.

And, after having come back after a 49 year hiatus, my vibrato, among many things needs work. My teacher has worked me on that exact thing. A slower, wider vibrato is needed and would tremendously help my tone. All in all, I’m amazed at my progress in six months. But obviously I don’t expect to be at the level I desire in such a short time.

July 1, 2021, 3:03 AM · I wanted to thank everyone for their responses to my post. It meant a lot to me that you would take time and discuss this with me. After being away for such a long time (as was pointed out, longer than some of you have been alive!), it is important to me that I work hard and practice smart so I can regain the ability I once had, and move on beyond that as well.
Edited: July 1, 2021, 4:04 AM · Violins don't play themselves. I strongly subscribe to the idea that tone is made by the player, not the violin. Irrespective of the make of strings, rosin, even the bow, I think it's possible to make a good tone on most violins in at least some music. Then you try a different kind of music and think "no". The music I play is technically straightforward and I've got a clutch of inexpensive violins on which I can make a sound I like. Some, however, that sound fine in lyrical salon pieces don't make the grade in flashy stuff or chamber music, but I suspect would sound fine in other hands.
Edited: July 4, 2021, 1:56 AM · Yes but..
We can only obtain the sound that the violin can offer.

Folks can hear that when I play on a student's violin, it sounds better than when they play on it, but quite different from my own.

July 3, 2021, 8:08 AM · But to answer the OP, I find that after a break it's my bowing that has deteriorated the most.
I must use my right hand and arm for so many things that I lose the memory of those fine contacts and motions needed to recreate the lovely sounds going round in my head.
Edited: July 3, 2021, 8:42 AM · Steve makes a point. I remember when my daughter was playing her first solo recital, with a 1/2 violin. Book 3 and 4 kind of stuff. As the guests were arriving, her teacher took her violin to tune it and played a few bars of something. A huge sound exploded forth from the violin. Even my dad, whose hearing has been terrible for a long time, noticed the difference, and he asked me how that was possible. I said something to the effect of "that's why I'm hiring that guy for her lessons."
July 7, 2021, 2:14 PM · When I recently picked up my violin seriously after a long hiatus, I hated my tone. I practiced more. I got Simon Fischer’s books. I looked at videos. I took the violin to the luthier. I got new strings. I got a new bow. I got new music.

Finally, sort of by happenstance (someone had given a violin to my dad who doesn’t want to pick up playing after his long hiatus) I got a new violin.

That was it, Night and day. I don’t know what happened to my old one, it was always loud and bright, but never this shrill.

You never know.

July 7, 2021, 2:28 PM · It could have been your sound post or your bridge or your tail piece or your strings or your rosin or your pegs or your fingerboard or your nut or your bow hair or ...
July 7, 2021, 4:28 PM · or a crappy violin......
July 13, 2021, 7:11 PM · I have a lot of catching up to do after a one week break, never mind several decades, beside what you remember doing as a kid is quite embellished compared to reality.
Edited: July 14, 2021, 1:06 AM · Rob, you suggest time and practice.
I could possibly add "(re)acclimatisation", to everything - playing again, instrument, modern strings, bow, etc. Reacclimatisation to listening to the sound and the new hardware and maybe also new accomodation and acoustics. All part of time and practice. And maybe you are rustier than you imagine. Sorry, haven't read this thread in a while.
Simon Fischer won't help as much as your ears or a Nikky Benedetti video.

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Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine