Changing strings or bow rehairing - or just practicing

July 20, 2023, 11:24 AM · After five months with Pirastro Tonica with something rare more often intense practicing (for an adult beginner, like more than 1h a day) on my Gliga 1 I got the doubt if need to change or rehair.

I'm a beginner with less than one year of experience. Playing in the first and second string I got the feeling playing with a saw on the cardboard. Also depending where I play respect the bridge if I stay in the middle where I have played so far I get scratchy sounds on every strings.

Due this is my first violin, string and bow I have no experience to judge. I have no near luthier I have a relationship with, also learning lately mostly with my wife (with musical education but also a violin beginner) with occasional teacher lessons, so that for this first time I wanted to ask some opinion.

Replies (17)

July 20, 2023, 11:57 AM · For the violin and bow, you need to ask some one more experienced to test them for you.
For bow technique, in any chosen contact point between fingerboard and bridge, we have to experiment to find the best combination of pressure and speed.
I suggest starting with short, very light, slightly swung strokes in the middle of the bow, to find the minimum pressure to make a soft, clear sound; then gradually widen and deepen the swinging motion for more volume.
In soft playing, we caress our strings (without just tickling them); in louder playing, we massage them (rather than scrub them).
July 20, 2023, 12:06 PM · Thanks Adrian, remember you also have some Gliga.

Playing first or second string lightly or even medium produce only noise, I need a really energic movement and pressure to get a sound. That's where I got the doubt might be also a bow problem. I got the bow used with the violin, was still in tension after three years of hiatus from previous owner, so maybe the hair are not good anymore.

I have played third and fourth string x3 the time of the first two, so here my doubt might be a string problem.

I can follow on practicing of course, I'm not in any group to showcase, simply is starting to be exhausting getting an acceptable sound.

July 20, 2023, 12:38 PM · You might just need to rosin the bow
Edited: July 26, 2023, 8:05 AM · DZ.
Do you wipe your strings often (i.e., every time you put your violin back in its case)?

Have you ever cleaned your bow hair?
(Simply using a clean (old, dry) toothbrush will do to separate the hairs if they are stuck together.) There are other things you can learn to do online.

How long have you been using the same strings?

What kind of rosin do you use and do you check to see there is enough on the bow, not too much and not too little?
(I always wear dark trousers and check the rosin on my bow with a short swipe on my trouser leg.)

Are you bowing "straight" and fairly perpendicular to the strings.

Edited: July 20, 2023, 1:30 PM · Thanks all, always so good hints from everyone.
I got this rosin with the violin, using it every 2-3 sessions.

I clean violin, bow wood, strings after every single session. Just started cleaning the bow hair this week with an used toothbrush, I suppose need to be done once while. I tune it almost every session.

I don't know how to check if rosin is too little or too much to be honest, was wondering this since a long time.

Playing sometimes straight, more often not, this mostly due the fact I didn't learned by memory all the Suzuki Songs + some others I have learned so far (lately I'm playing all of them on all the strings for further practice, here why I noticed the horrible sound from the first two strings, scratching middle btw fingerboard and bridge are coming out since last weeks).

July 20, 2023, 1:30 PM · Sounds like you need a violin teacher.
Edited: July 20, 2023, 2:56 PM · I will probably visit a bow maker this or next weekend - a 5h round trip due the fact he is collaborating also with a luthier with Romania made violins we are interested on for my wife.

Will be also the opportunity to check my and her setup. I suppose he will tell us to do something, also a reason I wanted some insight before, to have a clue why something might be needed.

Anyway after this probably some more lessons with a teacher will be also beneficial pushing the technique in the right direction.

Still, playing has become like a muscular training, with sweat and pain at the end...

I have read years are needed to get a decent technique and pain is in the process, this topic is to get some info if current accessories can contribute to the fatigue.

July 20, 2023, 4:02 PM · I agree with Lyndon and Andrew that the first steps are to make sure that you're maintaining your violin and bow correctly. Places like Shar and Johnson String Instruments or Southwest Strings will have videos on their websites for basic maintenance tasks including changing strings, cleaning your violin, and so forth. One thing you do not want to do -- which they will recommend, doubtlessly -- is to slather your violin with polishing chemicals. Really you just need a soft cloth and you need to do it every day. Also on YouTube you can find instructions for cleaning your bow hair if you want to do that. Andrew Victor's method is as good as anything I've heard. He just uses isopropanol "prep pads" -- the kind you can buy by the 100 at the pharmacy and you just unwrap, wipe the hair once or twice, and toss. Repeat with maybe 8-10 wipes and your bow hair will be super clean. Keep the alcohol away from the frog, tip, mortise, and stick.
July 21, 2023, 1:44 AM · I'm cleaning all only using a leather cloth provided with the instrument, nothing else.

I think dirt it's not the problem, will investigate with the luthier and teacher, and concentrate practicing and memorizing the different songs so to better concentrate on the technique.

July 23, 2023, 9:34 PM · Producing a good tone is a long journey that starts with a straight bow. Laurie, our host, posted an exercise she uses with her students (you can search archives for it). Stand in front of a mirror. Draw the bow across each open string, if I'm remembering correctly, 10 strokes. Check yourself in the mirror to make certain you are drawing a straight bow. Eventually the muscle memory in the right arm kicks in. This exercise isn't the end game by any means but the starting point; and what Bruce Berg said.
July 24, 2023, 7:30 AM · Indeed a good full bow stroke is straight seen from above.
Seen from in front, it is often a very flat, swinging curve, so that their is an instant of zero pressure between the notes (unless we want a fine "pinch-and-release" attack).
July 24, 2023, 3:29 PM · Bruce has the correct answer
Edited: July 24, 2023, 9:35 PM · Rosin every time you play, several strokes up and down the bow. If there are any spots that feel more slippery, rosin them a little more aggressively. (Rosin should slide easily but like a cloth over carpet, not like ice skating!)

If the surface of your rosin is still perfectly smooth you possibly have not been getting sufficient application. You can "break in" the block by rubbing alone but also feel free to rough it up a little to release more of the good resiny stuff. A nail file, paper clip, or chinrest key is what I usually use just to put a few scratches in.

Hard to say for sure over the internet, but if you're having trouble producing actual sound, rosin is a very likely culprit. While the muscles do take some building in the beginning, you should absolutely not have significant pain or fatigue, especially from just trying to produce sound!

Also, I would probably not suggest using a toothbrush on your bow hair...this certainly could be part of the problem! You may indeed need a rehair at this point. It certainly won't hurt, esp if the previous owner might not have cared for it properly. Get your luthier to give you tips for proper care, if possible.

Good luck!

Edited: July 26, 2023, 6:04 AM · Another for Bruce. Plus you need patience.
Now in my sixth year of violin playing (albeit with only 12 or 13 lessons in total) my tone is finally 100% reliable. Perhaps not every contact point in every position automatically, but in those cases I can correct by ear without having to think about it.

Rosins vary - some only last a day. Some last several.
Scratchy/hissy sounds can result from too much dark rosin. When I changed to Guillaume (dark amber) the sound mellowed a lot. You are in Greece using light rosin? Sounds doable (although bits of Greece can freeze in the winter). Probably you need to use a bit more and more often. (if that is incoherent, it's because when I first noticed "melos" I assumed dark)

A trip to an archetier when you've been playing less than a year sounds like an expensive gamble. At the moment I have a JonPaul Carrera and a Coda GX. They are likely to outlast me.

August 5, 2023, 6:39 PM · Just to give a closure, after all your good hints we didn't invested a 5h road trip to the luthier/bow maker (the idea was going there not for a bow but searching a violin for my wife due he has about 100 used and new of all levels laying in his studio. Being he an international renowned bow maker his bows was really way way too high for our level).

We looked carefully at our bow position and of course was totally wrong on first and second string. Focusing on this will sure become part of our practice. This get us immediatelly a better result.

We adopted my Melos rosin for her bow cleaning the old $1 rosin she got with the Allegro, and immediatelly noticed also a benefit.

She will need probably to change her $20 bow sooner or later, but the next step was first asking to start again lessons from next Wednesday.

So thanks to your help we are back on track looking at the really important elements in our learning and current setup.

August 8, 2023, 9:01 AM ·

Itzhak Perlman has a master class on that you might enjoy. I found it to be really excellent. It's a series of videos on all aspects of violin playing. He begins by demonstrating violin playing at a basic level.

I believe that one can sign into the website at a reasonable, monthly subscription price.

Edited: August 8, 2023, 10:32 AM · "We adopted my Melos rosin for her bow cleaning the old $1 rosin she got with the Allegro, and immediatelly noticed also a benefit."

"Chinese summer rosin" (yellow glass) is often given away and is not worth the dollar asking price. Bin it.

I've still got a $20 Chinese carbon bow. I'd still use it if I had to.

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