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Why A Violin Can Sound Scratchy


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#1 chocl

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 21:40

While browsing around just now, I came across an excellent article in Plus magazine called "Why is the violin so hard to play?" It describes, in a scientific way, why a note played on a violin can sound scratchy, and what happens when a non-scratchy note is played. It's quite interesting. smile.gif

So, if someone says your playing is scratchy, you could just respond with "No, I'm just not achieving Helmholtz motion" and leave them totally baffled. biggrin.gif
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#2 jojo

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 22:50

QUOTE(chocl @ May 24 2007, 10:40 PM) View Post


So, if someone says your playing is scratchy, you could just respond with "No, I'm just not achieving Helmholtz motion" and leave them totally baffled. biggrin.gif

laugh.gif laugh.gif
I did see this article a while ago, thanks for pointing it out.
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#3 lizbun

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 06:45

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#4 sarah-flute

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 14:12

laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif Brilliant smile.gif
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#5 _rai_

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Posted 26 May 2007 - 14:57

Interestingly, the music below the violin in the picture with the caption, "But will I get Helmholtz motion?" is the grade 7 piece Kujawiak by Wienawski. laugh.gif
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#6 piello

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Posted 26 May 2007 - 18:23

biggrin.gif Interesting! ...

...But i didn't read it all... wacko.gif ph34r.gif
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#7 Violinia

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 11:33

In simple terms, it's all about achieving the right balance between hand/arm weight and position of the bow in the space between bridge and fingerboard. Near bridge = loud (at best) or scratchy (if accompanied with too much hand/arm weight). Near or on fingerboard = soft or flautato (at best) or whistly and faint (if accompanied with too little weight.

Good teaching accompanied with masses of practise will gradually refine your bowing arm until you can achieve the effects you're after without needing to think too much about it. Interesting to see the science though!

Violinia
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#8 mcm

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 12:02

Bow speed comes into it, too, I think.
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#9 AmandaL

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 12:24

QUOTE(mcm @ May 30 2007, 01:02 PM) View Post
Bow speed comes into it, too, I think.
Not strictly true. It's possible to bow very slowly, or very fast and still get a good tone. As violinia has pointed out, it's about controlling the pressure of the bow. In essence, very good muscle control in the right arm and hand is what dictates the sound quality.

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#10 Violinia

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 13:19

QUOTE(AmandaL @ May 30 2007, 01:24 PM) View Post

QUOTE(mcm @ May 30 2007, 01:02 PM) View Post
Bow speed comes into it, too, I think.
Not strictly true. It's possible to bow very slowly, or very fast and still get a good tone. As violinia has pointed out, it's about controlling the pressure of the bow. In essence, very good muscle control in the right arm and hand is what dictates the sound quality.


You're right, Amanda. I think what happens in the end is that you develop a connection between your expressive brain and your arm; in other words you can get your arm/bow to express exactly what you want to express. A lot of the frustration felt by beginning violinists is the inabilty to co-ordinate expressive brain and arm - as if you were unable somehow to get your voice to express what you wanted it to, even though the feelings and intent were right there and ready to go.

You have to get to the point where you are totally at one with your bow - like a dancer is at one with his/her limbs.

I think it's funny when you see violinists on television; the camera always wants to focus on the left hand, as if that's where it's all happening - when in fact the real magic is in the bowing arm, and what happens with the left hand is far more technical, and in a way easier.
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#11 AmandaL

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 16:47

QUOTE(Violinia @ May 30 2007, 02:19 PM) View Post
I think it's funny when you see violinists on television; the camera always wants to focus on the left hand, as if that's where it's all happening - when in fact the real magic is in the bowing arm, and what happens with the left hand is far more technical, and in a way easier.
A fixation that the left hand fingers are working very fast so that must indicate the place where all the work is being done.

I guess the TV camera view has to appeal to the lay-person/spectator point of view - the left hand looks far more impressive doing its 'stuff' than the right hand.

This might sound a bit of a militant idea, but I think everybody should be made to have some sort of musical instrument lessons at some point in their life, who knows they might enjoy it and keep it up, even appreciate music they didn't think they liked, but most of all, just so they know that being able to play an instrument well isn't a breeze, or an easy option and that it definitely takes more than a couple of years to achieve....
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#12 Violinia

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 17:05

QUOTE(AmandaL @ May 30 2007, 05:47 PM) View Post

A fixation that the left hand fingers are working very fast so that must indicate the place where all the work is being done.

I guess the TV camera view has to appeal to the lay-person/spectator point of view - the left hand looks far more impressive doing its 'stuff' than the right hand.

This might sound a bit of a militant idea, but I think everybody should be made to have some sort of musical instrument lessons at some point in their life, who knows they might enjoy it and keep it up, even appreciate music they didn't think they liked, but most of all, just so they know that being able to play an instrument well isn't a breeze, or an easy option and that it definitely takes more than a couple of years to achieve....


Yes you're right about the left hand looking more impressive for the lay spectator.

I also agree with you about compulsory instrumental lessons for everyone. After all, everyone's taught to read and write, so why not at least one musical instrument as well?

I visited a primary school in Vienna last week and was surprised to find no instrumental tuition at all is offered (only in specialist music schools) - not even recorder, although there's a lot of singing.

I think things are best in Scandinavia where there's been an enormous drive to get the playing of music onto the curriculum in recent decades. The results are already apparent with the enormous upsurge in Scandinavian music we are seeing today, especially jazz, folk and rock - and I imagine classical too. All very exciting and it just shows what can be achieved with some forward thinking and focussed financial investment. What a shame that in 10 years of Tony Blair we are no further ahead here on this one.
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#13 Roseau

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 21:07

QUOTE(Violinia @ May 30 2007, 07:05 PM) View Post


I also agree with you about compulsory instrumental lessons for everyone. After all, everyone's taught to read and write, so why not at least one musical instrument as well?

I visited a primary school in Vienna last week and was surprised to find no instrumental tuition at all is offered (only in specialist music schools) - not even recorder, although there's a lot of singing.


It's the same in France. No instrumental tuition is offered at all in primary schools. The specialist music schools are subsidised but it is quite a heavy time commitment with one hour's theory (on top of the 30 minute instrumental lesson) being compulsory from the very beginning. And remember that French primary schools don't finish until 4.30.

Recorder is systematically taught in secondary schools but in pretty awful conditions. The whole class learns at once and at the same speed, (in other words 30+ pupils, some of whom can already read music and play another instrument (or even the recorder) and some who have never seen an instrument in their life). They are taught by the class music teacher who is almost never a recorder specialist (and probably doesn't play any other wind instrument either).

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#14 AmandaL

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 10:00

QUOTE(kerioboe @ May 30 2007, 10:07 PM) View Post
Recorder is systematically taught in secondary schools but in pretty awful conditions. The whole class learns at once and at the same speed, (in other words 30+ pupils, some of whom can already read music and play another instrument (or even the recorder) and some who have never seen an instrument in their life). They are taught by the class music teacher who is almost never a recorder specialist (and probably doesn't play any other wind instrument either).
I'm not sure this sort of method does anyone any good whatsoever. Puts off those who may not be able to keep up, while those who are more advanced get bored very quickly. Surrey County Arts have tried this one-size-fits-all classroom approach with woodwind and brass instruments. A peri goes into the class and is assisted by the classroom teacher during a 30 minute lesson. SCA rave about it in all their newsletters, but I've not actually heard any feedback from the recipients or the teachers, so I get the impression they aren't exactly impressed by the affair.
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#15 Violinia

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Posted 31 May 2007 - 11:40

This European music specialist music school model probably has this effect: no music for most, but a sizeable proportion get excellent school musical instrumental tuition. You certainly couldn't say no decent musicians are coming out of Europe (I'm leaving Scandinavia out of this because they're do things differently again) so they must be doing something right.

I took on a pupil a while back who had been educated in a French school. She'd been learning violin and told me she'd had a weekly 45-minute individual lesson at school with an excellent teacher followed by compulsory orchestra every Saturday. She played extremely well, far better than anyone I've taken on from the Engish peri system where you get a half hour individual lesson in a broom cupboard at best and for an arm and a leg!

The stunning quality of her playing to me spoke reams. Happily I'm still teaching her. smile.gif

The Scandinavian model sounds best though because it gives so much opportunity for so many.

It's so rare that anyone reaches the top musically in this country without having attended either Chethams, the Purcell School or the Menuhin School at some point in their career. See Nicola Benedetti, Chloe Hanslip et virtually al. My heart sort of sinks every time I read the bio of a new star - it's nearly always the same, and it needn't be this way. Because of our lack of serious investment in children's music, so many are being denied opportunties that could draw out so much untapped potential.
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