The violin can be a difficult instrument to master. Intonation is often challenging; unlike the guitar, there are no frets to guide the fingers, and even if all the notes are correct and in tune you’re still left with the issue of tone.
The purest and perfectly in-tune notes can still sound bad if they’re played with poor tone. However, there are many methods and tricks to help your violin bowing, which can instantly improve your tone.
5 Points to Consider for Violin Bowing
When you’re holding your bow correctly, increases and decreases in pressure are controlled with the first finger of your bow hand. Experiment by playing long tones and gradually increasing and decreasing pressure while maintaining bow speed.
When you create a beautiful tone, take note; identify what you did differently this time so that you can easily replicate it the next time.
You should always keep your bow as straight as possible. Try practicing in front of a mirror to monitor this.
Make sure your bow is making a straight line across the strings at all times. Practice your long tones all the way to the tip of your bow to master the angle of your violin bowing technique.
3. Flatness of Bow Hair
You don’t necessarily need all the bow hairs to be flat against the strings to produce the best tone. Most professionals have about three-quarters of the hairs pressed to the strings.
You can replicate this percentage by having the violin bow hairs turned very slightly toward you. Then, play with the angle slightly until you’ve established a tone that you love.
4. Tightness of Bow Hair
Your bow hair should be neither overly tight nor overly loose. If your bow is too tight, it may adversely affect the arch of your bow and may produce a scratchy sound.
Once you’ve tightened your bow, you should be able to bounce it on one of your fingers and the hairs should just barely touch the wood of the bow.
Make sure you’re comfortable with putting rosin on your own bow! If you don’t have enough rosin, the tone will disappear; if you have too much rosin, the tone will sound scratchy.
Applying more rosin is easy, but never try to remove rosin that you’ve already applied, even if it’s too much!
The “Sweet Spot”
The sweet spot refers to a point on the strings where they’re the most resonant; it’s different for every violin. As you become accustomed to really listening to your tone, you will find your violin bowing will naturally fall onto the sweet spot.
For most violins, the sweet spot is right at the end of the fingerboard. Experiment with placement between the fingerboard and the bridge until you find the best spot for your violin bowing.
Avoiding Squeaks and Scratches
Develop a pure tone first; once that becomes natural, then you can experiment with tone colors. If you find yourself squeaking often, here are a few common reasons:
- You may not have the right amount of rosin on your bow hair.
- Your fingers may be accidentally hitting any other strings.
- Bow hair is too tight or too loose
- Location of your bow: too close to the bridge will get scratchy, too far up the fingerboard and you’ll lose clarity of tone.
The absolute best thing that you can do to improve your violin playing – even more important than constant thoughtful practice – is to take private lessons with a professional.
Finding a teacher with several years of experience can be invaluable on your journey into the world of violin playing!
Photo by Anna