How To Produce A Good Tone On The Violin

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Classical Violin By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Violin » Classical Violin
Last updated: 04/12/2017
Tags: cello, piano, recorder, viola, violin

Tone production is the most important aspect to the art of violin playing. My mum and I arrived home full of excitement with my new violin.  Our neighbour looked on as my mum placed the key in the door and asked 'is that a violin?'. The look of concern was evident across his face. No doubt he was worried about the infamous screeching and scratching noises that may come through his walls as I practise.  

Thankfully I have never had this problem and have always enjoyed playing my violin to this day. However, I have come across students who wish to improve their playing and want to find out how to get a better tone out of their instruments.  

The violin is a very delicate and at times temperamental instrument, making it one of the most difficult and frustrating to learn. First it is vital to develop a sound technique.  Make sure that the bow is held correctly and that you are holding your violin up and not staring down at the floor. 

Holding your violin up is important because it allows more contact between the strings and the bow but you will also project your playing out towards the audience. As you are bowing, do not pull back with your arm. I encourage you to 'bow out' by pushing out with your right arm allowing your bow to move in a straight line.

Never position your bow across the fingerboard. To produce a fuller tone it is important to keep the bow central to the finger board and the bridge. Do not allow your bow to stall and keep the bow moving at all times. The screeching and scratching happens when students use a tiny amount of bow and push too hard into the strings, especially the E string. Ideally you should be relaxed as you play and you should aim to practise scales using long bows.

There are many bow techniques for the advanced learner that fascinate me. Spiccato bowing is the acrobatics of violin. Watching the bow take off at great speeds to play those runs of semi quaver passages in a Bach sonata or indeed the infamous Flight of the Bumblebee always amazes me to this day. I first came across this technique watching Vanessa May play the Four Seasons and I too wanted to play like her.

Months of practice went by before my bow started to 'take off' but there is a method to learning this astonishing technique. Allow the bow to defy the centre of gravity by flicking your wrist. I think there is a lot more to it than that but I always enjoy showing people how to do it. Other techniques include ricochet and vibrato. 

How one stands affects everything. I encourage violinists to stand with their left foot forward and their right foot at half past two or even three o'clock as this allows your shoulder to be facing the audience. Your violin must be on your shoulder and not your chest. Pivot your head so that you are now facing the music. 

Yes all this can sound complicated and you may need to be shown, but tone production is crucial in the pursuit of good playing, whether it is for your graded music exam or purely for the art of violin playing.

Matthew Le-Mage Classical Violin Teacher (East London)

About The Author

I have been teaching for over 10 years and enjoy helping my students pass exams after a lot of preparation.

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