Improving Tone

I know my Fiddlershop Concert Violin has very good tone; I’ve actually heard it, but not all the time when I am playing. This common problem for beginners. There are times when the tones emitting from my fiddle sound scratchy, whiny, thin, dull, heavy or have some other undesirably quality. Now, I’m not talking about intonation, pressing my fingers in the proper places on the strings to produce the right note, but the overall quality, or timbre, of the sound . How can I improve my tone?

Bow Pressure

Proper bow pressure takes a lot of practice, and the amount of bow pressure greatly affects the tone. Pressure of the bow on the strings is mainly applied by the index finger with the pinky finger kind of regulating how much or how little pressure is applied. I find when the tone coming from my fiddle has a less than desirous quality, it is usually because I have shifted the pressure of my grip to the back of my hand and am not applying enough pressure. I have started paying more attention to the index/pinky pressure duo when practicing my scales, and this is helping to approve my tone.

Bow Location

Bowing straight is part of Fiddle Playing 101. When not bowing straight because I forget to pay attention, or I pay too much attention to another aspect of my technique (so many things to monitor), I often start bowing at an angle, or worse yet, begin to drift up the neck or too close to the bridge. Usually it is because I’ve tightened up my bowing wrist or drop my bowing arm down too low. Once again, concentrating on these mechanical pitfalls while practicing my scales at the beginning of each session is helping.

Bow Grip

Keeping my bow grip relaxed, but not too relaxed, so it is firm enough to apply the proper pressure without a death grip, is a balancing act all beginners have to learn to modulate.

The trick is to remember and employ all three (bow pressure, location and grip) properly at the same time. Riding a bicycle while balancing a glass of water on my head while shooting at a target is how I think of it. Only regular, concentrated and deliberate practice combining these 3 facets will get me to a point where I can consistently produce good tones with my bowing.

There are two other factors that will help me produce good tone as well, but are probably less important than the mechanics I have already mentioned. Most tone deficiencies come from improper bowing than these next two factors, but both are worth mentioning and following for the best tone to be produced.

Rosining

Right now, rosining is a mystery to me. How much is too much? How little is too little? How do I apply it? I’ve read a few articles and watched a few videos, and it seems like everyone has there own method and timing for applying rosin. One says apply rosin using long and even strokes over the entire length, back and forth. Another says short, fast strokes, working along the bow. Once a day-once a practice session-every other day-every few hours of playing. It’s all very confusing. I imagine, like so many other skills, how and when I rosin my bow will be found with trial and error on my part.

Strings

Inexpensive strings are harder to play on and don’t sound as good as more expensive strings. Nylon or synthetic core strings produce warmer, richer tones and are easier to play. How long strings are kept on the instrument is another factor when it comes to tone. The rule of thumb is to use the best strings I can afford and to change them at least every six months. And, keep in mind, there is a “breaking in” period and an “end of life” period when all bets are off!

My Fiddlershop Concert Violin is ready, willing and able to produce beautiful tones. I have to do my job as its player in producing them. These are five things I have to do in this partnership, and together, we can make great music!

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