Avoid my wife violin strings from screeching during practice

Edited: August 30, 2023, 2:34 AM · I always think this is a "too pro" forum to post on for two beginner amateurs, still after looking every time the alternatives I return here asking my silly questions...

As from the title, since she begins learning violin end last year my wife often screech playing.

I know need years of learning before getting out a good sound, but screeching in the meantime it's not a necessity, just as example I'm screeching much much less (have the same learning time, sure I'm not a gifted talent :-).

With the teacher we are practicing the movement and she is screeching less, but practicing alone this come out again every time. She is starting getting frustrated with this and I want to help.

Wanted to ask if changing strings might improve the situation. I know it's not really fair solving (minimizing) the problem this way instead of just learning and improving the technique (teacher said "you need to be able to play with anything"), but we are adults learning for pleasure and culture, so I'm looking at the results and can cut corners a music student maybe can't.

She has tried playing with my bow and the situation improve, but not enough. Playing with my violin and my bow seems the best combination, but we didn't want to switch instruments for various reasons. Me playing with her violin and bow also screech much less.

The teacher told her to be much more direct in the movement and this seems the solution when he is teaching us, but I think this is simply against her soul, as a ballet teacher all her choreographies are gentle, even character dance, I think this is her style, and so possibly a main source of the problem.

Her violin has Larsen Aurora strings that was on that violin she rented and now become ours, not sure how much was they used, and didn't have the experience judging if it's in any case time to substitute them. We clean them every time and use regularly Melos rosin.

Was reading some strings are very reactive and play at a very soft touch, so that's why I got the idea substitute current one might be an improvement.

Replies (28)

Edited: August 26, 2023, 4:55 PM · I would find it really difficult to practice effectively if someone was in the other room and preparing a corrective regimen for me. The violin journey is very personal, and whatever insights and great intentions you may have, you aren't the one to transmit them to her. That's really for her to figure out with her teacher.
August 26, 2023, 5:00 PM · We are having lessons together, practicing mostly together, discussing together problems and next steps. Nothing is hidden, nothing is imposed of course.
August 26, 2023, 5:17 PM · Discussion is cool, but I don't really know what it means to practice together. Screeching is fairly natural at the beginning, and getting a good sound can take time. I think of a good sound as coming from a natural weight of the elbow, without holding the shoulder or arm up.

Coming from a ballet background, there may be some ingrained postural notions that result in stiffness or holding up of the right arm, rather than relaxing into the weight. It's kind of hard to diagnose over the internet, but I guess my point is that she'll need to work it out for herself. But I'm also not her teacher, so my notion of sound production might be different than what the teacher teaches.

Edited: August 26, 2023, 6:16 PM · Greetings,
For what it’s worth, I think learning to do a basic bow stroke with no weight is the necessary condition for everything else. It’s a reflective, meditative kind of thing. One places the bow on the string , perhaps in the middle and then examines the situation. Is my bow hold minimal? Really just the middle finger and thumb so check by lifting the other fingers from the bow. Is my arm on a single plane? The elbow isn’t dropped or up at an awkward angle? That’s ok. Next , how about the trapezius muscles? Are they relaxed and tension free? Can I do what is done in Alexander technique and ‘rerelease the muscles in my neck so my head goes forward and up as my chest and back widens with the release?? If all that is fine then one simply pulls the bow to the point with no weigh added. Just the weight of the bow. If you can do this with a pure sound. Then use a longer bow stroke and start adding the push (up bow) to the work. But we always go back to the same thing: a meditative state where we check to see that everything is in order. Without this elimination of tension , especially in the shoulder we may be building on a shaky foundation. Moving onto a deeper sound (as opposed to zero weight) is merely a function of a slight pressure from the first finger. All fancy bowings and articulation come from the hands and fingers operating in tandem with this floating , tension free bow arm. The idea thta violin playing must, by default begin with screeching and move on to ‘nice’ is fundamentally flawed in my opinion.
August 26, 2023, 6:31 PM · Stephen gives an in depth answer, you can't beat practice, no getting away from the fact violin is extremely difficult and takes a long time to get away from the beginner sound.

At first I used to practice keeping my bow straight and drawing it slowly down one string trying to keep an even sound all the way from tip to frog. A straight bow Goes a long way to a better sound.

August 26, 2023, 8:48 PM · I think this is the best thread title in v dot com history.
Edited: August 27, 2023, 1:56 PM · Yes, Mary Ellen. I clicked immediately.

Edit: The title of this thread was changed. Previously it was "Avoid my wife from screeching."

Edited: August 27, 2023, 4:44 AM · I have tried using translator on my title and I have chuckled for some time. It's so strange after all this years speaking English as self-learner for my work to discover how much funny/wrong seems to native speakers the way I'm writing. I suppose I will need some formal education to improve, like with violin. I have edited the title, hopefully now a bit nearer the original intent.

Thanks for your patience, we are practicing about position and movement sometimes alone, more often trying together the same song and looking at each other for comments. We are starting to understand the value of practicing alone anyway, due exactly the need to try and try and try these little things you need to feel in your body muscles. It's easier for her due her years of practice with ballet and the fact she is simply better than me in any music related topic, but curiously seems not the case for the squealing problem, thats recurring and persistent.

I suppose the problem (and reason for this thread) is we want to get results (so play interesting songs together) as soon we can. I understand the need for practice and practice, simply think every other help might be beneficial in getting more personal joy from it.

In the end I think we can eventually simply try, $50 or so for a new student level strings set it's not a big deal, and will be anyway interesting to understand the difference, if my wife will be onboard with this little experiment.

So far was just an idea after watching her practicing and complaining again on the topic. But maybe I just need to leave her complaining and finding her way into this.

August 27, 2023, 2:59 AM · It is not the strings. Like Stephen already suggested, she should practice bowing open strings, bowing as light as possible, close to the fingerboard, with long full bows, up and down. She can do the same also with shorter bow strokes, in the middle of the bow, at the tip, or at the heel. Bow as lightly as possible, almost not touching the string at all. This must be practiced first, before starting with fingerings.
August 27, 2023, 5:07 AM · I am not going to comment your strings choice, but as for the rosin, I would definitely switch to "Vienna's best".
August 27, 2023, 6:21 AM · Dear Mr. Warchal, your company strings are in my list for my own violin next change, so incredible for me finding you here in my thread. When will be time next months will ask for some advice.

Melos rosin seems very good already respect the cheap one my wife used before, so that maybe (without having learned enough about the subject to be honest) we will get marginal improvements and not a solution in changing it?

I have shared with her all the feedbacks received so she can also decide what she prefer to do.

August 27, 2023, 6:39 AM · The rosin choice makes a huge difference, especially if you compare the most scratchy and least scratchy one (as it is in this case). We have executed a big rosin test, you can have a look at our website. On our online shop, there is a Blog section with advice and tips on how to clean strings from a rosin buildup without shortening their lifetime. In any case, I would start with the rosin change. It is not able to substitute proper practice, but it can save you from an additional portion of frustration during practice sessions.
August 27, 2023, 7:22 AM · My cello teacher was in the habit of telling me off for not putting enough pressure on the bow. It's taken me quite some time to see just what she was getting at, but it's a matter - for me anyway - of pivoting on the thumb-second finger axis, to bring some pressure on the bow so it doesn't skitter over the string, yet not too much, so it doesn't dig in too much.

She also used the metaphor of "mosquito bites" for an incisive beginning to the note, that you could then cut off for staccato, or lean into for legato.

It's taken me some years to understand what she was talking about, but I eventually got there in the end, and have decided my faint cello tone of earlier, I should reserve for playing horror movie soundtracks with. :)

Edited: August 27, 2023, 11:00 AM · After trying most of the suggestions in today practice session - sure need to become an habit - and further exchanging and testing with our violin/bow combination, we discovered the excess of screeching seems mostly due to

- too high bow tension, with lower tension the hairs are not bouncing off the strings
- playing a bit to near the bridge, staying a bit farther away improve a lot on the problem (maybe also due a more uniform rosin layer available there)

With this setup she reached mostly the level of screeching I'm experiencing too, so a normal beginners starting point we need to improve from.

All your suggestions was really appreciated from both of us and sure we will try to put them in use in all next practicing and the evolution of our setup.

Edited: August 27, 2023, 1:22 PM · A new set of strings can work wonders for sound-especially since you don't know how old those are! The hair in the bow makes a big difference too. Rosin doesn't matter if the hair is worn out-is it horse hair or something like fiberglass? But really, your teacher I'm sure, has all this covered.

The bridge could also cause bad sounds, if it stops a string from ringing properly. I'd check that out as well.

Never, never, settle for the answer that all beginners squeak. That is not true and that is not necessary. Make sure the equipment is usable, then make sure you follow your teacher's advise on bowing technique.

August 27, 2023, 1:26 PM · Wesley Parish, yes.
I think a really good teacher observes what a student is doing, and then tries to come up with metaphors which fit in with the students' personal experience or beliefs.

But there are also some really fantastic players who have come from a background of, "This is the only right way, and everything else is wrong".

August 27, 2023, 1:54 PM · Let's hope "Vienna's Best" is better than "Milwaukee's Best."
August 27, 2023, 4:19 PM · Suggest following the advice of notable teachers such as Dounis, Havas, Suzuki, and very un-notable ones like myself, to treat bow strokes not as straight lines but as the lower arcs of large circles, so that each end of the stroke is weightless. Caressing rather than scraping.
August 28, 2023, 4:30 AM · Hi Jean,
Just a slight clarification here. I don’t advocate beginners playing near the fingerboard. Rather I would suggest playing on lane 3 erring a little towards lane 2. It is quite possible to play a pure note using only the weight of the bow and no first finger pressure. Some teachers will recommend adding the pronation but I think it is fine to just get this basic movement of the arm. The next stage is to add crescendos and diminuendos so that the functions of the fingers become an addition to an established arm movement.
August 28, 2023, 5:17 AM · Mary Ellen, coming from a lady, that is high praise indeed - I'd have expected the feminist in you to have wanted to subsititute "husband" for "wife".
August 29, 2023, 1:29 PM · For about a year, after a shift driving cab, I'd drop by a bud's and we'd spend all night working on a motorcycle and drinking scotch. For the longest time after that, whenever I drank scotch, way in the back, I'd smell motorcycle oil.
To spare my wife my screeching, I used to have to practice in the corner of the basement. By the cat box. For the longest time after that...
August 29, 2023, 4:18 PM · "Your scotch-and-motorcycle odyssey followed by basement screeching practice could be the modern-day symphony of life. As the great composers would say, 'Mozart had his symphonies, Beethoven had his sonatas, and you, my friend, have your scotch-fueled nocturne by the cat box. Bravo!"
August 29, 2023, 5:02 PM · thanks for the correction Buri. beginners already tend to play too close to the fingerboard anyway, so it certainly is better to emphasize bowing in the middle lane.
August 29, 2023, 8:31 PM · Amusing lead title. I reminds me: When I would practice the dog would leave the room. After changing teachers he stayed to listen. Definite sign of progress.
August 30, 2023, 10:27 AM · When I was very young, probably about 85-90 years ago, my teacher solved my screeching by having me grip the bow at the tip rather than the frog. This prevented me from adding too much weight to the bow, and solved the problem almost immediately. I still demo this when I run into a new player who has the problem.
Edited: August 30, 2023, 10:35 AM ·

I've heard stories of how cellists need a firm bow-hold that enables them to apply appropriate pressure.

I think of violin bowing as being the opposite. Of course, some bow pressure may need to be applied, depending on the music being played. But, my violin achieves its best tone on longer bows, when the bow-hold enables the bow to glide on the string under its own weight. (As Stephen Brivati suggests above.) It's a relaxed grip.

So, perhaps your wife is applying too much pressure? A counter measure would have her practicing long bows with a relaxed bow-hold that enables the bow to glide on the string under its own weight. (Of course, the bow needs to be in the proper lane.) Begin by playing only one note (open string?) back and forth with longer bows. If the bow is being played in this manner, with long, even strokes, seems to me, there should be no screeching. Then progress to scales played with longer bows, etc.

August 30, 2023, 10:36 AM · All my daughter's cello teachers preached extremely low force and learning to let the sound bloom from a very gentle stroke.
August 30, 2023, 8:05 PM · Hi Neil.
That’s interesting. My point about learning a basic action without applied pressure is that it teaches a kind of baseline to work from. Once this is functioning ok then we can start adding pressure by doing crescendos and diminuendos within the stork, and of course, bow speed exercises as well.

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