Violin Corner Board Archives

  • © Sheila Helser BOW

    Bowing flexibility 13-Sep-98You will not need to have started at an early age to develop fluid bowing. It is all in the practice, and what your end result advances to. As you get older like myself, I'll be 53 in March, and being a plumber all my life, I tend to practice less at times. This loss of practice time, all my fault, has a serious effect on the tone and fluidness of my playing. My teacher, in l955, told me that if I miss one practice session I could tell. If I miss more than one session everybody could tell. Just relax and practice and it will come gradually. Pete
  • Bow location on strings ...sounding point 22-Aug-98
    Schools of violin playing differ over where the bow should be drawn. The Galamian method emphasizes set "sounding points" for the optimum in rich tonal sonority. These sounding points differ on which bow stroke is used...and is slightly different for each violin, but generally, *all* detache strokes (short and long) should be drawn *very close* to the bridge. It doesn't matter whether one is playing piano or should be drawn close to the bridge. The "sounding point" for spicatto/sautille type bowing is more towards the middle area between the bridge and fingerboard. The Auer pupils (i.e. Heifetz et al) also played in this manner. The idea behind the sounding point is that the string gives back the most tone for bow drawn. The detache s.p. is near the bridge because the string provides the most "springy" resistance there. However, just drawing the bow stroke in these sounding points isn't enough...the proper bow arm form/technique must accompany it to make it work. Hope this helps. con_ritmo

  • What is the perfect bow? 11-Sep-98
    Bows can make a difference in sound, playability and comfort. As each bow is different in length, graduation, camber, weight, stiffness, elasticity, density, grain and pore structure, tip shape, balance, height, mountings, mounting weight.... it all changes the tone and other factors that go in the bow. I don't understand how all of these play together, I understand that these are most of the factors. When you compare bows of similar quality, you can feel in the thickness that some are bigger than others and some are thinner. Some people have difficulty gripping smaller sticks. Some people have different sized hands, so balance and hand placement can change the results of the bow. I had in my posession a Pfretzschner and my Raum. The Pfretzschner was actually a slighty finer bow- stiffer wood, more focused tone, slightly better construction. HOWEVER, my Raum has a much warmer, darker, more projecting tone. The Pfretzschner played a little better than my Raum, not by much, but it was enough to notice. I didn't like the tone of it. This was the consensous of everyone in the orchestra at my church. I decided to keep my Raum. There was another violist, who was mentioned anonymousls in an interview I read. He had a wonderful viola, but his bow didn't pull the full potential out of his instrument. After commissioning a bow from the interviewed maker, everyone was astonished at how wonderful he sounded at a later concert. One man asked him "Did you get a new viola? You sounded wonderful..." he replied "No, a new bow" I decided to keep my Raum. The perfect bow is the bow that the player does not feel at all. There is no resistance to the player. This will change over the years. Daniel

  • String ensemble/orchestra question Aug-98
    Most composers write for instruments that they do not play well, so sometimes it is necessary that the piece be altered by interpretation, breathing patterns, or bowings. That is why your teacher loves to add her own scribbles. When it comes to bowings, *most* of the bowings come from the concert master. Each musician should watch him as much as they can, if not, watch the section leader who watches him. If there are disagreements in parts, then the bowing needs to be worked out by the section leader, who is in most cases the absolute authority on the part. Section leaders are always right, but concert masters are more right. The bowing is usually marked on the music. There are also some general rules about bowings, such as that one uses a downward stroke on the downbeats in 4/4, or an up stroke on single pickups. A lot of it is picked up by the feel of the music like a down, up, up in 3/4-when appropriate Sometimes the bowing is marked to reenforce these given rules. Sometimes the group is at a level where each individual follows the rules in his head, and all the bows are in sync without needing to discuss it, although the different interpretations become obvious as mine are the most obvious in some situations :-)

    One little tidbit Aug-98
    Back in the old days, baroque and earlier, bows were not necessarily in sync, as each player expressed himself with his own bowing. This did look sloppy compared to today's school of thought. During the transitional bow years ca. 1700-1750 leading up to the modern bow, people were discovering that different tones were acheived from different parts of the bow. Some orchestras seemed to coordinate the bows to balance sound a little, and others did it just for the look. With the arrival of the modern Tourte-style bow during Mozart's time, it was a necessity to synchronize bowings for all of the reasons, visual organization, tone agreement, and style agreement. I stated that the modern bow was developped in Mozart's time, but there were only a couple makers who made the bows, François Tourte the inventor, who taught his father and brothers. To have equal opportunity, François taught his daughter to hair his bows. Since there were only three makers of the Tourte bow, Mozart didn't have too much opportunity to see this bow. (plus he died when the modern bow was catching popularity.) Transitional bows can be seen in a few issues of the Strad or Strings magazines, or in the Historical section in the Violin Making: as it was and is,. By Ed. Heron-Allen. You can see that some are so similar to the modern bow, all but the camber.. That will conclude today's history tidbit, have a nice day :-) Daniel Medina

    Those bowing gagdets 14-Oct-98
    My experience is that they don't work. You have to understand why it is that your bow isn't going straight and correct the fundamental problem. Although it has been a number of years since I've tried the devices with my son, my recollection is that you can't do off the string bowings with them. It is really just a crutch and won't solve your fundamental problems. There can be a number of different reasons for your bow not going straight. A couple of the most common things I look for in my young students are: 1- the bow hold -- is it flexible so that the hand is moving back and forth as the bow moves from frog to tip and tip to frog. 2- What is the arm doing -- in the upper part of the bow the motion is from the elbow hinge and moving towards the frog I ask them to follow through with their upper arm so that the upper arm becomes the engine for the bow -- this is a very simplistic explanation and it is difficult to put it in writing without any visual explanation. 3- How are you distributing the weight from your arm into the bow -- are you pressing it in with your index finger or is it rather evenly distributed. Visually and feeling-wise, I have them think of the bow as moving in an arc rather than in a straight line. For the bow to appear straight, it actually has to arc very slightly because of the curvature of the bridge. So, when the bow is at the tip, it would be very slightly pointed towards the bridge and at the frog, the frog would be pointed slightly towards the bridge. If you can visualize a clock, your hand would be moving from the frog to the tip as it would be moving from a 7:00 or 8:00 position on a clock to a 5:00 or 4:00 position on a clock. Again, this is hard to explain without demonstration. Basically, you need to learn how this all feels with your eyes closed. Sensitize yourself to feel what your muscles are doing. Sensitize your ears to hear what the bow is doing when it is moving correctly and when it is moving incorrectly. Hope this helps. Mary

    Bouncy bow September 2 2002
    Bouncy bow is usually a matter of the distribution of weight in the fingers on top of the bow. When you are at the tip there should be more weight in the index finger. When you are at the frog almost all the weight is on your pinky. The bow tends to hop around the balance point more on the down bow than on the up bow. Try to be aware of a smooth transfer of weight from the 4th finger to the first finger as you pull the down bow. Also look at your bow hold. If you have the bow on the tip of your thumb, try to get the bow to rest on the fleshy part of your thumb instead. This helps to get a more balanced and stable bow stroke. Stephen

    Bouncy bow September 2 2002
    Well I kind of disagree. the index finger and the pinky, but mainly the index finger, should not be used for pressure. but remember that all rules can be broken i.e (up bow staccato we use first finger to propel it along). you should be able to draw a straight bow without your index or pinky fingers. if you haven't been able to do this, it's time to cultivate it. first of all, check and make sure you're taking up the bow with the right grip. i doubt that you use the old school bow grip, so i won't go into that. middle finger over the U shaped part of the bow, adjacent to or touching the metal. ring finger next to it, i like to put it over the dot. pinky is curved, and close to the ring finger. index finger can be a variety of places, depending on the stroke. as you take a down bow, you'll notice that your hand strains because you're trying to keep the pinky on there towards the tip. well, nobody will really notice if you take it off. the main thing here is though, play around and find whats most comfortable for you. if your teacher tells you to hold your violin really high up, but you can't even function with the bow in the upper half because of too much tension, lower it. do whats comfortable, find the shoe that fits. make sure you can get to the tip comfortably without straining your hand. sometimes this will end up making you switch shoulder rests or chinrests or whatever, but that's all part of finding the shoe that fits. we can't do good work with a rotten configuration. andrew

    Bow Rehairing September 19 2002
    The hair has an outer "cuticle" and an inner component which is different. The outer shell is apparently tougher or better able to hold rosin or whatever. In any case, It will eventually wear away leaving a flat facet.
    If you look down the hair at a glancing angle toward a light, the hair should look matte. If rosin does not leave it looking matte, then perhaps the hair is not taking the rosin. If it is very shiny and cannot be made non-shiny, then it is shot. I don't mean there can be NO shine, but you should see that it is not glossy. John Masters


    instrument position 15-Sep-98 I suggest that you ensure that BOTH shoulders should remain down and relaxed, otherwise the arms would get tense, which would tense up the wrist then the fingers (vibrato?). To ensure the left shoulder doesn't raise to hold the instrument, I suggest putting the bow down and instrument in concert rest, and put the right hand on the left shoulder. Put the instrument into position. You should not feel the shoulder raise- only muscle movement. When holding the violin, your head and shoulder should remain as in place to natural postion, the shoulder should not raise, and the head should not move down onto the instrument. Chinrests and shoulder rests have been invented to assist with this. Left hand grip can be easily defined by making a light fist (thumb in front, not side) and relax the hand completely (shake it a little if you need to). You can see that the thumb would be between the index and middle finger, as it should be on the violin, otherwise tension is built up while playing- you can see this by a finger popping up (pinky, or in my case the first finger. I know a violinist whose middle finger shoots straight up! :-) Happy playing! Daniel Medina

  • In Reply to: Re: Pain posted by Caroline Walcot on August 25, 1998
    When I practice violin, my right shoulder gets sore and remain tender most of the day (especially if I lift the elbow up in a bowing type position). Could someone explain to me just what is going on and how to prevent and/or recover from this recurring thing? Is it a strained muscle? A torn ligament? An inflammed tendon? Just what happens when a person gets an injury of this nature? Thanks, John. ****Hmmm .. normally it's the left shoulder and centre back and neck muscles that get sore from the player having too cramped a hold on the instrument. The pain is always due to unwanted tension. If it's the right shoulder that's painful, I suspect you are not using your whole arm to make the bowing action but are restricting the movement somewhere artificially. this creates the tension that builds up over a period of time into a painful situation. Why not use a large mirror to check these things: (PS the order of importance is probably wrong)
    (1) your right hand hold of the bow - this should be really loose, not a grip at all, but just enough to stop the bow falling to the floor. When you make bow strokes, your right hand's fingers should follow what the arm is doing, not dictate to it.
    (2) your right shoulder should stay DOWN even when you raise your elbow, wherever you are with the bow, frog or tip. And you should be standing well balanced on your feet, or sitting down well balanced, with your shoulders over your pelvis, not behind it.
    (3) your whole arm, including elbow, should participate in making a bowing movement - this may sound exaggerated but after 2 years of remedial lessons I can tell you it is true. Every bit of the arm has its own tiny contribution to make to the bow stroke, however long or short. If you allow the right elbow to go up while the whole arm feels light and balanced, and the wrist appears to hang from your arm and the bow appears to be just lightly balanced in your hand, then tensions are relaxed and you should be able to play for hours. There are incredibly few bow strokes that require only one part of your arm/wrist/fingers mechanism to move.
    (4) look in a mirror and check that when you make a full down bow your right wrist does not bend upwards , and when you make a full up bow, you are not making the bow change entirely with your fingers. Both of these indicate that there is a block somewhere to the whole-arm movement.
    (5) finally check in the mirror that your bow strokes are definitely at right angles to the bridge and that you are bowing on a point that is at least midway between bridge and fingerboard, or even closer to the bridge. This gives you the cleanest sound with least effort. If you want to sound louder, don''t press on the bow harder, just move the contact point closer to the bridge. Having made all these checks, if you find that there's nothing wrong with the way you bow, why not try gentle stretching exercises before you play? Then find a teacher or a helpful friend to watch you as you play to see if you are not tensing up somewhere. Daniel Medina


    Fingering-Bowing Coordination Sep-98I have a problem when I practice a fast piece. My left hand fingers and bow can can not act simultanuously, which means when the bow has started the next note, my finger is not on the position yet. This lag makes the music sound bad. Any one has the same problem and knows how to fix it? Thanks. Kirk

  • Re: Fingering-Bowing Coordination Sep-98 Three other suggestions: 1. Practice the passage staccato, so that the finger change happens between bow strokes. Start this at a slow tempo with the metronome, then gradually move the metronome speed up. At some point it will be no longer possible to have spaces between the notes, but at that point your fingers should have trained themselves to change at the right time. 2. Try playing the passage with different rhythms, such as dotted 8th + 16th (Galamian's scale book has an excellent series of rhythms for practicing passagework.) This should improve coordination. 3. It's possible that your fingers are doing fine, but your down-bows and up-bows aren't even. Play the bowing on an open string and really listen to the evenness. Are your down-bows longer than your up-bows? If so, the best way to train them into equalling each other is to bow the passage BACKWARDS, that is with an up-bow on every downbeat. Also, if the passage is in triplets try putting a little accent on the start of each triplet that begins with an up-bow. Good luck! RS

  • Re: One point on that though - LH in general Sep-98 Unlike bow technique, there are not a lot of schoolings on the LH. The general varation between them differ only in the placement of the thumb. -alongside the neck, underneath the neck, etc However, there are many aspects of LH playing which can go wrong. Improper positioning/gripping, playing on the tips rather than the pads of the fingers, pounding the fingers/tension, holding the fingers too high, using the wrong joints to move the fingers...these are just a few. At all levels of playing the fingers should remain close to the string. Its hard to visualize the LH positions you describe. Clearly nobody should have to move their fingers 1-2 inches more as you describe...or to hold their fingers uncurled. However, could it be that the teacher is attempting to correct a certain aspect of your LH one step at a time...this being just the first step of a multistep process? If there is something deficient in one's technique it is better to regress and relearn now...than regress and relearn later. Technique is more than about proper playing or just playing better. It can make the difference between a lifetime of violin enjoyment...or a brief moment cut short because the player burned a muscle, got tendonitis, etc. Just something perhaps to pay attention to... :) con_ritmo


    NO CHALK! Sep-98Chalk is a no-no! When you apply chalk to the peg, it acts as a rubbing powder that slowly sands the hole more open, making need for repairs. Also, there are many pegs who, although they hold, they don't turn slowly, as the chalk continues to grind in the hole. Daniel Medina Violist and luthier.


    Re: Problems with Memorization Sep-98There's a remarkable book available within the lsat year about a remarkable system of learning and memorizing music called mapping. I have an earlier version of the book, and its title is *A Practical Guide to Mapping: The New Way to Learn Music. The title may have changed. The publisher has a website which, of course, I can't remember. The author is Rebecca P. Shockley. Search the Web for *Shockley* and *mapping* and you should find it. The book is written for pianists, but the system is useful on any instrument. It will be obvious to you how to adapt it. Basically, when you map, you look at the music in small sections *away from your instrument,* for one or two minutes per section, making as many observations as you can about whatever catches your eye. You might notice rhythmic patterns, harmonic structures, melodic shapes-whatever interests you. Then you go to your instrument, without the music, and play the section you just studied. Of course, you probably won't be able to play it exactly. You may not be able to play any of it exactly. No matter. You just fake it-play something *like* what you saw. Then you go back to the music and start filling in gaps. There's more to it than this-lots more. It's strange, but it works. It is the most *musical* solution to memorization that I have ever seen. You learn and memorize at the same time. Listening to recordings helps lots too, and reinforces the principles of mapping just beautifully. Good luck! Stephanie


    23-Sep-98 Re: Fine tuners - keep them or lose them? Fine tuners are almost like "training wheels" in most cases. Younger musicians have a harder time to know how far to turn the pegs, etc. Plus, it is easier to make the small adjustments in an instrument which the pegs are not necessarily in best condition. There are reasons why to remove the fine tuners: the excess tuners may become loose and rattle. Another thing is that the tuners may look bad if they are all mismatched. Now for sound: optimal sound comes from the resonation behind the bridge as well as in front of the bridge. The best length is 1/6 the open string length. This makes the behind the string length two octaves above the next higher string. Like if the G string is properly done, the tone behind the bridge is a D (two octaves above the open string). The choice is yours whether to keep or lose the tuners. Daniel
  • 24-Sep-98 I find that I get the best tone from my violins when the Gstring afterlength is tuned between E and F#. William
  • 24-Sep-98Follow the above advice about the tailpiece. Fine tuners are not like training wheels, they are like what they're called- fine tuners. They simply allow you to tune your violin with more accuracy- there's nothing amateurish about that. I know very little about the physics of the string set-up , but given the arguments the above postings about the post-bridge string length, if you can get the tailpiece with the built-in tuners for the 2 upper strings, at least give it a trial run and see for yourself. I've been playing for 20 years and my current teacher has been after me to get a fine tuner for my A-string. t.c.
  • 25-Sep-98 I decided to take them off - and it sounds good! Well, I decided to lose the fine tuners except on the E string. And yes, it does sound somewhat better - more "resonance" if you call it. I don't know how to explain it, but it rings more and sounds more better, especially with the vibrato! It's like I can "feel" it more; oh well, hard to describe! I think I have the tuning down with the pegs, although I'm not too good at distinguishing perfect 5ths yet, but it sounds great! Thanks for the suggestions people! Ken
    25-Sep-98 Hi Ken, Tuning help... What you say about more resonance is true- the string behind the bridge vibrates as well as the string being played. When the string behind the bridge vibrates properly, it rings more, causing more resonance... If you are having troubles tuning, like in a high-noise situation, you could make the take the harmonic octave of a higher string and the 4th finger (in 1st postition) harmonic to make sure they match for a perfect 5th. Try not to do this at auditions, as they would take it as a hearing impairment. I use it as a double-check when I feel I need to. Daniel
  • 26-Sep-98 Hill-type tuners- The Hill fine tuner is similar to the large lever types, but the lever is very small (barely a 1/4 inch) and the prong which holds the string is in the slit where the string is normally placed without fine tuner. The lever has the motion range of a few mm, which is a far distance from the belly. With these tuners, only open ball ended and loop strings fit, as there is only one prong to hold the string. Most of these tuners are made in Germany and are available from most mail-order companies and good violin shops. Daniel Medina
  • 25-Sep-98 Re: Fine tuners - keep them or lose them? I agree that many fiddles sound better with a normal afterlength. The fine tuners have to be watched carefully depending on the clearance at the tailpiece. Crank the tuners out and adjust the strings with the pegs. That should keep them off of the top in most cases. Fine tuners are a near necessity for steel strings (which probably lets out most of this board). They make it easier to deal with an electronic tuner(which probably raises a few hackles). I dunno, how close can you tune with the pegs alone? jeff
  • 28-Sep-98 Fine tuners - keep them or lose them? Hi Vic,The tuners aren't hard to install (or uninstall). What you would need to do is purchase the tuners, from a shop or company (1 to 4 tuners), remove the old tuners and replace the new ones. To remove the fine tuner, take off the screw, and take off the nut that holds the tuner in place (it's on the top, not hard to miss). When you unscrew it, you can remove the tuner from the bottom. Try to do this one at a time (it can get a little cumbersome) because removing the tailpiece can result in a soundpost falling, not worth the trouble. To install the tuner (Hill), feed the tuner from underneath and make sure the prong enters the slit in front of the hole where the string goes. Use the nut to tighten the new tuner on (tight so that it doesn't rattle) and make sure that the nut fits into the string hole as much as possible. Insert screw. Install string. Tune. Play. Learn Paganini. Perform at Carnegie. Have fun. :-) If you don't know where to get the tuners, feel free to email me and I can refer you to several mail order companies that carry them. If you get the German type, they cost between 3 to 5 dollars.
    28-Sep-98 Re: Fine tuners - keep them or lose them? Vic, Hill type tuners are pretty small, as the prong is where the fret of the tailpiece is- giving you a proper afterlength, where the large lever types have the lever underneath the tailpiece and extends 1/4 of an inch or so, giving you too short of an afterlength. You are correct, you don't have to remove or change tailpieces in order to get different tuners on. Daniel Medina
  • 06-Oct-98 Re: Fine tuners - keep them or lose them? I used to play with a fine tuner on the E string for many years. Motivated by this discussion I removed it - and indeed it seemed to sound better. Unfortunately one week later the edge of the tailpiece was split off by the string. I think the reason was not actually the removal of the tuner, more likely a weakness within the wood structure. Most interesting was the reaction of my violin-maker who firmly stated that I would not be able to play without a fine tuner. So he installed a new one... Tino