Tilting the violin forward

Edited: December 27, 2017, 9:42 PM · Hi everyone,
I’m a childhood suzuki student turned adult Irish fiddler and I’m experimenting with technique adjustments. One challenge of playing Irish fiddle is it is often done sitting down at a pub table in very cramped quarters. To find room to move the bow, I’ve started holding my instrument tilted further forward (but with the scroll still at chin height) so that my frog doesn’t smash into the table and to avoid stabbing the musician to my left. I’m doing this through a combination of moving the violin forward a bit on my shoulder (still supporting with weight of the head) and by leaning forward. The bow moves maybe 20 degrees from vertically. So far so good. One unanticipted side effect of this is my bowing touch has gotten lighter, and I think it is because gravity is no longer holding the bow to the string quite as firmly. It’s like having a small amount of pinky pressure by default. I rather like the effect but I am surprised that I have never heard of this before. Has anybody here consciously incorporated a forward tilt of the violin to get a lighter touch? Any words of warning?

Replies (11)

December 28, 2017, 5:00 AM · From your description it's hard to tell what you mean by "tilt forward".

I would expect it to mean that the line from button to scroll is sloping downward, bit you explicitly mention that the scroll is still at chin height.

A photo would be useful here.

December 28, 2017, 5:12 AM · By "tilt" I assume you mean a rotation of the violin about its length so more of the top of the violin is showing horizontally to the audience.

The weight of the bow pushing on the strings is rather light, especially from the mid-point of the bow to the tip. What you might be experiencing when the violin is held more flat is more weight of your arm resting on the bow (and thus the string). It does not take much relaxation of your bow arm downward to put quite a bit of force into the strings.

If you hold the violin so you must bow at a sharper angle from the horizontal, it becomes difficult to take advantage of the weight of your hand and arm to press the bow into the strings. You might have to use a stronger pinching action between your thumb and forefinger, or a rotation of the forearm/wrist into the strings to put more force into the strings.

In all cases, there should be a reaction force felt mostly in your forefinger. You might want to bow with less tilt and pay attention to how strong the bow feels against your forefinger. Then switch to a tilted violin. If the bow is pressing against your forefinger with about the same force, you should get the same strength of tone when bowed at equal speeds.

December 28, 2017, 5:39 AM · I found your description as clear as water. Lots of fiddlers do what you are doing. You're in fine company. Just be aware it can be hard to go back to classical posture should you ever want to.
December 28, 2017, 5:43 AM · In his last years Rugiero Ricci was advocating tilting the violin very strongly clockwise (as I think the OP is saying) as a technique that made it easier to play Paganiin's music - in fact he postulated that Paganini probably held his fiddle that way. It does make it easier to bow the G string!
Edited: December 28, 2017, 7:03 AM · tilting forward = leaning forward?
if so, and you stay in the 1st position, who cares.... except your chiropractor!
if, you want to go up the fingerboard, then the "tilt" works against you; you literally have to climb the thing. That is why most of the violinist I have met tend to hold violin parallel to the floor or even with the scroll just a bit above that axis, so the shifting is easier.
By the way, one of my violins has a worn out scroll - my luthier told me that some fiddlers in the past use to lean on the table. Also, in Indian violin style, the scroll points to the floor!
December 28, 2017, 6:42 AM · I cringe when I see an indian playing the violin!

PD: to the moral police and racial police, it's not because it's Indian, but because how they hold the violin. Hold the line and save your weapons!

December 28, 2017, 6:53 AM · Another effect of playing folk fiddle in a cramped pub is the tendency to use the upper third of the bow almost exclusively, which means a real reduction in sound output; or choose your seating arrangement so that there is sufficient bowing space on your left (easier said than done). This bowing style (using the upper third) was one of the very first things to be addressed by my violin teacher when I started taking classical violin lessons. Actually, it didn't take long to learn to use full bow on the violin, probably because as a cellist I had already been doing it for decades.
December 28, 2017, 8:45 AM · Or you could just get yourself a 1/2 size bow!
December 28, 2017, 3:16 PM · To answer the questions - yes, i mean tilting along the long axis of the violin so the F holes point closer to parallel to the ground.
December 28, 2017, 3:29 PM · @Trevor one of the main attractions of this solution is it does still allow me to use the entire bow, rather than having to cut my bow strokes short due to limited horizontal space (the frog is a wonderful part of the bow to use for rapid string transitions!). I have as much space up and down as there is room between the floor and the ceiling, but practically none at all from side to side.

@Carmen, you're bang on, it absolutely reduces the maximum force I can apply on the violin. It subtracts force across the spectrum, from the heaviest to the lightest bow strokes, but it does make the lightest strokes easier to perform at speed and gives a lovely breathy feel between notes. Since part of the adjustment is actually coming from the waist it's easy enough for me to lean back when I want the option of a little extra arm weight. It's entirely new territory for me but it's kind of a cool option I think!

@Rocky I think you may be missing the part about the scroll being at chin height. Rotation is along the long axis of the violin only.

@Paul My inner purist kind of cringes at the whole adventure and I have no doubt that this may be easier to do than to undo!

December 28, 2017, 3:52 PM · Yes but you used the right word... it's an adventure. I think in your shoes I'd be more focused on the musical opportunity!

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