How to Avoid Making Bad Sounds

I am following a discussion on the Facebook group, Adult Starters – Violin/Fiddle, started by a member about the “annoying scratchy under-sound” she gets when playing her violin. Her question is should she buy new strings and a bow. Would that help? While some members responded her strings and bow might be contributing to her bad sounds, it is most likely poor techniques, a common problem many beginners experience.

I found one member’s insight rather helpful. She wrote, “There are some great drills where you learn how to make scratchy sounds intentionally – once you know what creates the sound, it’s easier to avoid! When I get scratchy, I know I’m not bowing parallel to the bridge, or using too much pressure, tension, etc.” This member also recommended a Michael Sanchez video which I am finding helpful, so I thought I would post it here.

Just an aside: This is the second Michael Sanchez video this member recommended in one of her posts this past week. I also posted that first video in my blog post here a few days back about Left Hand Position. I have to watch more of Michael Sanchez. He explains and demonstrates things well. Here is the link to his YouTube Channel: Violin Tutor Pro.

This does not mean that cheap, worn out, under or over rosined, or contaminates from foreign substances on strings and/or bow can’t contribute to bad sounds. It is important to use good quality strings and keep the rosin from building up. Never use alcohol to clean strings! It can penetrate the windings and affect the core. Strings should be changed about every six months on average. Bows and bow hair should be of good quality also, and the bow hair replaced about every 120 hours of playing time.

Here is a Violin Maintenance Guide that not only covers these points but other aspects of keeping your violin and bow in their best conditions.

In my latest purchase from the Fiddlerman, one of the items I bought is The String Cleaner. It only arrived yesterday so I haven’t used it yet, but it looks like it can be very effective in cleaning rosin and oils off of the strings.

Take care of your fiddle, strings and bow, and work at the techniques Michael Sanchez so clearly illustrates, and better sounds will be the result!

  3 comments for “How to Avoid Making Bad Sounds

  1. Stewart H Holder
    September 21, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Hello MoonShadows,
    Please ensure that you have enough rosin on your bow.
    Then very lightly draw the bow across the top of the string and hear rather than feel the sound of the open string.
    More to follow when you get the sound then you have the feel to find the next time.
    Best wishes

  2. Tom
    June 7, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Before blaming equipment, start eliminating what you might be doing. First, open strings only – no left hand. Next, short bow strokes in the middle of bow to eliminate shoulder rotation being the cause. If the tone is still poor, work on your bow grip and the amount of downforce from your index finger. Too much and you scratch, too little is “wispy”. Just remember that amazing players can make mass produced violins sound good and poor players can make even professional level instruments sound bad.

    • June 7, 2019 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Tom. Nice to hear from you. It’s been a while. I’m not blaming equipment. In fact, I think I made it quite clear in this post that the “bad sounds” are more likely to be from poor technique…unless I am somehow misunderstanding your comment. I do think, and maybe this is what you are saying, that so many beginners are ready to blame their equipment first, and not their technique. I guess for us humans, it is always easier to “blame” something else rather than what we might be doing, huh?

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