Tone produced with much bow and little pressure gives a light loose character
Tone produced with much pressure and little speed is dense and has a more concentrated sound
Bowing with the sounding point nearer the bridge has a brighter color
Bowing nearer the fingerboard the color is more pastel
Different vibratos will give different coloring
Qoute:Once the student has conditioned his ear - that is, his sense of tone colour-
he will find innumerable passages in his repertoire the fingerings of which
(some of them by well-known editors!) will no longer satisfy him. This is as it should be.
Joseph Szigeti- Szigeti on the Violin Dover Pub.
Qoute:Character is the general color given to the expression of the composition.
It is chosen by the composer to bring out his intention in a way that will seize the
soul of the listener by making him feel the sentiment that the composer wanted to portray.
Pierre Baillot The Art of the Violin Northwestern University Press
Sheila and Milly Mouse are enjoying some parlor music
Below are Sheila's favorite parlor violin solos
Sheila Mouse is practicing making different tone colors
These are her favorite short violin solo works
Romanza Andaluza Op.22
Pablo de Sarasate's Spanish Dances
Dance I Malaguena,
Dance II Habanera Op.21,
Dance III Romanza Andalusa Op.22
Dance IV Jota Navarra Op.22,
Dance V Playera Op.23,
Dance VI Zapateado Op.20
Wieniawski op. 17
Wieniawski married Isabella Hampton
He dedicated the Legende to her
Melodie from Orfeo ed Euridice
Christoph Willibald von Gluck
transcribed by Fritz kreisler from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice
Dance of the Blessed Spirit
The Fritz Kreisler Collection I
A favorite for violinist's repertoire
Salut D' Amour
Masters Music Publicatins, Inc.
Three Pieces for violin and piano
Carl Fischer - International Music
Rumanian Folk Dances
Songs My Mother Taught Me
Antonin Dvorak, Op.55 No4.
Transcribed by Fritz Kreisler
The Fritz Kreisler Collection II
No.4 of seven Gypsy Songs Op.55
Tone Color essay posted on the Corner Violin BBoard used with permission from Chi-Bong Chan
To me, the term (tone color) is really just a colorful expression (ok, so that's a bad pun, sorry) for
basically what's really a form of musical expression. One of the very special things
about the violin (or its cousins the viola, cello, and bass) is, unlike basically all the other instruments,
you can make so many different _variety_of_sounds_ on a violin. This variety is what I think of as
tone color. One of the most wonderful part about the violin is the same note sounds different when
played on different strings! It is things like this that makes the violin such a musically flexible
If you think about it carefully, it's really amazing how many varieties of sound you can make on the
violin. Besides the obvious things like arco vs. pizz vs. con legno, dynamics, legato vs. non-legato,
etc., you can:
1. vary the heaviness of the note by both bow speed and the amount of pressure, making your
violin sing in a deep, dark voice, or in a lighthearted, airy voice. Making the notes sound like they're
floating on air, or they're treading heavily on soil. Whisper the musical phrase delicately, murmur it,
or to push and punch it out with conviction.
2. vary the articulation of the note by various degrees of on- and off-string bowings, making your
notes flowing like a river, dropping down like little raindrops, or like big heavy pieces of hail;
marching maestoso-ly or skipping across the strings lightly and happily.
3. vary both the speed and amount of vibrato, thereby enhancing the musical phrase's ability to
wail, moan, plead; to sing with joy, or with grief; to meditate, to reminisce, or to tremble with anger
and contempt! Keep in mind that since the physical distance between pitches gets shorter higher up
on the strings, the same (physical) amount of vibrato sounds very differently on lower vs. higher
4. the placement of the bow on the string. Place it closer to the bridge and you're get a brighter,
more projecting sound. Place it closer to the fingerboard and you'll get a softer, more subtle, more
subdued sound. Sul Tasto is fingerboard to the extreme, resulting in a mellow but fragile sound
lacking in substance; and ponticello is bridge to the extreme, resulting in a dry, edgy, almost icy
5. the string your note is played on, as well as the position. The E-String makes bright notes that
sounds like sunshine. The A-String makes a mellow, sweet kind of sound. The D-String is also
mellow but sounds almost somewhat sentimetal. Finally, G-String is rich, has a deep, masculine,
noble sound. The four strings are almost analogous to the sound of soprano, tenor, alto, and bass in
a chorus. Also, the position affects the tone of the notes too. In general the higher positions sounds
more expressive, they tend to have more "emotional impact" for lack of a better term. On the other
hand, on the ultra-high positions the notes, especially on the lower strings, sounds dryer, and
brighter on the higher strings.
6. Accents. This is related to the articulation. Violins are wonderful with accents because they are
so many ways you can do them, each sounding differently. You can attack from the air, sweep the
bow, bite on the string, or a combination of those three. Unlike, say, the piano, an accent doesn't
mean your note have to sustain loud; in fact a fortepiano is essentially a quick accent (often the
sweeping type) tag onto an otherwise soft note.
7. shifting/"schmaltz": Nothing does that better than the violin and other string instruments. It can be
used strictly as a brilliant effect, or it can be done more subtly (portamente or something like that) to
heighten musical expression and the melody. A skillful violinist should be able to control the shifting,
no matter how far apart the notes are, so that it's almost absolutely clean with no slide in between,
or with various degrees of "audible shifting". It doesn't have to be uniform in speed; it might linger
on the first note and then quickly move to the second, or vice versa.
8. Harmonics. Isn't it lovely that you can actually make a violin sound almost like a flute?!
Harmonics, especially the artifical kind, always reminds me of babies, or of gazing at the stars at a
peaceful night. Harmonics are so delicate and peaceful! They can also be used to put a lingering
ring to certain notes, and sometimes as a brilliant effect (especially the open-string variety). A skillful
violinist can also put a small vibrato on artificial harmonics.
9. Other "special effects": Those include pizzacato, either the more harp-like "right hand variety", or
the shorter, dryer, spunkier left hand type; col legno (mostly for orchestral purposes); fast
glissando, chromatic scales, arpeggios (the kind where each note is on a different string),
harmonics. Double-stopping with an open-string, especially the E-string, is also a popular violinistic
effect, allowing a sort of bell-like sound. Sometimes even trills are used as effects. It's amazing, but
the violin really can imitate, within certain degrees, other instruments quite well.
I really am not exaggerating. Notice that for each variety of sound I try to couple it with a mood or
moods that it evokes. _Mood_ is the major reason for tone color. Thus tone color considerations
should be integrated into the whole idea of the general musical expression of the piece.
And yes, different violins definitely have different tone colors, as well as other characteristics. That's
why in principal, the student should experiment around and find the fingering that works best on his
or her own specific violin. Of course, usually the suggested ones are pretty good, but sometimes
your own could make a difference.
Playing a melody or a line all on one string is usually so that the tone color is kept more consistently
within the melody/line. This is espeically true for the E-string because on almost all violins the
E-string has quite a brighter sound then the A-string. However, keep in mind that even within one
string, the tone color does change as you go up higher and higher on the string.
I have an idea for starting to introduce to students about tone color. I think one of the first things to
do, to introduce the _concept_ of it all, is to have students listen to _orchestral_music_. With all
that different instrumentation, orchestral music makes for a huge selection of tone colors. Have the
student listen carefully, and have them try to explain why certain parts of the piece make sense to
be played by certain instruments. Have them see why, for example, replacing a part where the
trumpet has the melody by having it played by violins would ruin the purpose. Also at the same time
have them think about phrasing, articulation, and dynamics more. Play something with none of that,
and then replay it with all that, and ask them to describe the difference. Have them play something
one way, and then another way (say, on a different string) and ask them what difference do they
perceive. Emphasis on _mood_, because that's what you're really looking at with musical
expression. Have them listening to some music, any kind, and ask them to describe the feelings, the
emotions, and the mood they feel or they think the music is trying to evoke, and what they think
was the key that creates that mood or feeling. After they understand the concept better, start letting
them realize how they can control their playing to give different tone colors. In other words, after
giving them the general introduction to tone color, specialize it down to how to apply it on the violin.
Make them realize how many voices the violin has!!!
And while a good instrument certain helps, many of the basics of tone color are possible even on a
dinky quarter size cigar box violin!!! It might not work as well but it's still there if you pay enough
attention to it!
Tone color consideration is really but just one part of the many considerations in musical
expression. It is something that takes years of experience and playing to mature. It's something the
student has to build up bits by bits (perhaps a good reason to re-emphasize the importance of
practicing!). Usually the older they are the better they are with it. Also have them listen carefully to
various artists' rendition of the piece they're playing, and have them compare the interpretations as
well as describing what parts of the interpretation they like and what parts they don't like.