The Infuriating Thing
The infuriating thing about playing a bowed stringed instrument, take the violin for instance, is the number of variables that come into play when evaluating your sound and tone.
“I sound better today. I’m glad I changed out those Dominants for the Obligatos.”
“”Why do I sound so poorly lately? It must be those Rondos I started using.” THEN a week later, “Wow these Rondos sure sound better after getting a setup. Maybe I should get a new setup every time I change the brand of strings I’m using.”
“I sound scratchy. Maybe I need to get a rehair.”
“I sound scratchy. Maybe i need a bit more rosin.”
“I sound scratchy. I think I applied too much rosin.”
“I sound scratchy. Maybe I need another setup after getting that rehair.”
“I sound terrible. Maybe I need to practice more.”
“My thumb hurts. I better stop practicing so much.”
“I sounded okay before i started this new piece. Maybe I’m not ready for it yet.”
“I suck.Why did I start playing this damn thing in the first place?”
“”I’m sounding good today. I hope my strings don’t stretch out with the humidity we’re having.”
And so on and so on.
It’s enough to make a grown man, already struggling with his sanity, go utterly batty. (Not necessarily referring to myself. No, really.)
So, I put some new strings on my fiddle a couple of weeks ago. I had Obligatos on for six months or so. I was sounding…just choose a remark from above!
I’d also been struggling with getting back (after a large number of years) to performing both sautille and spiccato correctly.
I put on Rondos (which I’d never tried before but heard very nice things about here along with a Wondertone E string.
The first few days? Wow! I had reached violin nirvana. I finally started sounding like I misremembered I had when I was younger.
The weird thing is: All of a sudden I was playing sautille and spiccato MUCH better. I felt more in control of the coordination between my left and and my right hand.
My violin teacher was quite impressed as well. He always downplays my violin string concerns (I thing that’s called wisdom!).
Then, in the last few days, things have changed. The strings are still easy to play. But they don’t sound quite the same. I’m hearing a fair amount of weird tones. Maybe wolf tones? And my e string is whistling more than I can ever remember.
So now I get to go down that rabbit hole again. Why is this occurring?
So, a couple of questions. First, do some brands or types of strings make sautille and spiccato easier?
Second, has anyone ever experienced with Rondos or any other string?
If you’re going to tell me to get off the internet and get back to practicing, I’ll accept that remark as well. But I’ll just think of you as my father.
You gotta eliminate most of those categories, because it's not them. The poor craftsman blames his tools.
Just be glad you are not a double reed player. Their problems with reeds make our lives look very easy. Try not to sweat the small stuff so much. Technique is crucial; the rest is icing on the cake. String choice is an enormous rabbit hole for many string players. Try to avoid worrying about it, and let your luthier guide you on that issue and setup issues. And then, just play. Good luck!
If I may make a suggestion. One typical feature of stress in this kind of situation is the tendency to focus on and worry about 100 things at the same time.
1) Get rid of the word ‘tone.’. It’s all sound.
Maybe there is a silver lining: sometimes you are unhappy with your sound because your ear has improved, because your playing has improved, and now your standards are higher, which is a good thing...or, maybe not. Your choice.
Hi Buri, I am intrigued by what you might mean by "ease." Would you mind explaining further?
Just guessing: If your sound, rhythm, and pitch are causing damage to your mind or body then you need more ease even at the expense of the other three.
Epic use of semi-colon there, Paul; just perfect.
I think it's worth remembering that it isn't all about practice and "being the best possible me" but about performance and entertaining people. Most audience members are completely oblivious to all the agonizing and the micro-differences it makes. If you're enjoying yourself, they will too. If not, pretend you are.
So much wisdom here. I particularly like Jeremy's point about music in different styles, and I find it useful to make music from folk sources part of warm-up time. O'Carolan, kletzmer, Playford... .I don't play any of them at all idiomatically, but once memorized they allow you to use different parts of the bow, or to work with the mirror.
As a famous man once said, "Look within, Grasshopper." Hilary Hahn could make Supersensitive Red Label strings on a bottom of the line instrument sound wonderful. It's all practice. And realizing that what we hear under the ear is often radically different than what someone else hears 10 feet away. Too much analysis is a bad thing.
Strings can have a small effect on sautille, etc with changes in tension, but not between weeks for the same string. I suspect from your description that the exact geometry of how you hold your bow and violin is changing between practices (maybe even between measures of the same piece).
Weather-dependent bow tension?
Sander Marcus is right on the money. "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven" -- John Milton
In a recent "Late Show" Colbert interviewed John Oliver who, we learned, played the Viola while in school. He noted the ups and downs of playing his Viola, citing that one day you sound great, the next lousy. It never ends.
There are always days when I don't like how I sound. I try to ignore that and push forward. Next day will be different.
The Infuriating Thing....is that there is no infuriating thing. Just play the right note at the right time!
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.