The tone of a violin is very important to the sound that it produces. Knowing how to tone your violin is a fundamental step in getting better. And just like learning the guitar, the violin also requires a good ear to properly tone your instrument.
A good tone will make your music sound more pleasant, while one that is too bright or dull can be distracting and unpleasant to listen to. However, judging tone quality on a violin isn’t always an easy task for someone who doesn’t know what they are looking for. This blog post discusses how you can judge tone quality so that you have an idea of whether or not the violins in your store are worth buying!
A good tone in a violin is a mixture of many qualities. Some can be evaluated objectively, and some are based on personal judgment.
When you play the violin, many different words describe the sound it makes. One word is power. A violin should be loud and strong.
Power is measured in decibels. Decibels are facts. So much about how a violin sounds is subjective, but decibels are facts. If two violins sound the same next to a decibel meter, the meter can tell which one is louder.
Power is essential for classical players, but it is also important for violinists who play other types of music, such as jazz, bluegrass, country, and Celtic. They have to use microphones that need the power to be amplified. The answer to this is that power still matters. You have to control the instrument by being confident. If you are sure that you will be heard, then you can relax and play better. When the instrument has intrinsic power, then it is not as hard for you to pull sound from it. And if the sound is well balanced, then it will be easier for you to work on any differences between instruments.
A violin sound should be clear and not fuzzy. If it is, the sound will not carry, and the person playing will have to exert more effort to start making progress out of the instrument. A fuzzy, wooly tone might be loud enough in your ear, but it won’t carry far. It also makes bowing more difficult. A fuzzy note drops off faster than a clear and resonant note. This makes it a lot more challenging and complicated for you to move from one note to another smoothly. It is hard because if you need to concentrate on articulation, you are distracted from your intonation, rhythm, etc. When you play very softly, the quality of the sound becomes fuzzy. If you want to play better music, then it is best to have a clear tone.
A violin has four strings. All the notes need to be played at the same volume and quality. But if one string is weak, you will need to either play louder or softer on other strings in order to make up for it. If one string is weak, then you have to make the other three strings less strong. A violin will usually have one string that is weaker than the others. This would not be good if it were a string that is played more often, like the E string or G string. The virtuoso music is written this way to be difficult. It is hard to play past the fifth position on the middle strings. The only way to do it is on the E string and if that does not work, get another violin.
Even on a great violin, there are not-so-good notes. This makes it even more challenging for the violinist to produce an even tone. The player does not want any notes that surge or virtually disappear. On a well-made traditional bass bar, you’ll generally have a wolf tone on B natural or C natural above A 440. Another problem you might encounter is the F natural and the F sharp in the first position on the E string. Playing Beethoven’s second Romance is a good thing. It’s in a bad key for violins. The violin must start with the first finger on the E string, but this note is often hard to hear. There is also an F sharp that you should stop (and it sounds like an F natural). Obviously, it would be great if the notes on your violin sounded the same. I heard someone play the violin, and they hit a C natural above A 440. When they did that, the sound got thinner and weaker.
If the sound of your violin is too strong, it means you need to change something. Sometimes students will get a bright and brassy sound in the lower register. If you want a warmer tone with less brightness on the G and D strings, sometimes you will have weaker A and E strings. I made a bass bar that is warmer and richer in the G and D strings but makes the A and E string more brilliant and powerful. To do this, I added wood to the bottom part of the bass bar away from its surface. I don’t graduate student instruments unless they are much thicker than what they should be. The essence of my patent is that I discovered how to make an instrument louder in the middle by adding wood away from its surface. Therefore, the violin is more solid and can be played in different registers.
This is a quality that can be difficult to define. This means that the sound is strong and deep, like the lower part of a flute’s sound or the lower register of a violin. You will hear this kind of sound more often from these instruments than from other ones because they have been designed so that you can hear them well. The violin string sounds better than the flute. Let’s say that the flute tone is more pale rather than a good violin which is softer but has rosy cheeks—no offense to flute players. In chamber music, such as Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 5, a flute player can take revenge on the violinist. I have heard this many times! Mozart doesn’t like it because he wrote two of his most beautiful pieces for the flute.
It is challenging to distinguish the difference between deep and dark sounds. The viola has a dark sound in the lower register, while the cello has a deep sound in the lower register. The cello plays a lower octave than the viola, but it is just as loud. A deep sound is strong with overtones, while a dark tone has fewer overtones. You can hear this with two different instruments playing at once - they both have notes that are strong and have overtones of their own. The double bass would sound darker than the violins. The G string on a violin should also have some of the qualities of a cello and viola, but not too much. It should still be violin-like. The lower register of the violin needs to be deep with rich overtones, but it also needs to sizzle.
If the violin sounds smoother under the ear, it will not sound good to people who are playing it. It is essential for a player of a violin to get used to an edginess that isn’t heard by people in front of them. This edginess has more high notes, which are one of the components that make the sound richer. People listened very well to him when he spoke. When I first started learning from him, I could not understand his voice. But later, of course, I realized he was speaking much like an actor spits out consonant sounds. P’s and T’s and B’s are pronounced very clearly by him but up close, they sound rough. But 30 feet away, they sound smooth and rich.
Brilliance is like sparkling. It is very important in the upper register, especially on the G string and the E string. The higher you go up, the tighter it gets. Brilliance is easier to find on the outer strings than on the middle one. The tone should be bright. It has to have a deep quality. There are lots of overtones, and the fundamental is strong. Heifetz had a rich tone - it always had a bright shimmering sound to it. He would sometimes crash down on notes in high positions that made me jump out of my seat!
Responsiveness is how easy it is to get the tone out of the violin. It means if it takes too much effort, then you’re making other aspects of playing harder. If it’s challenging to get the tone out, then you need to take your attention away from intonation, rhythm, and phrasing. Generally, the more wooly the violin is, the more responsive it will be. If it is too bright, then it will not respond to you as well. You need to find a balance of these qualities in your violin. The tone of the instrument will get louder and sound like it is breaking. It can be helpful to put a little resistance on it. On the other hand, for larger instruments such as the cello and bass, we want the sound to “break” easily. These instruments take more physical effort, and we want them to make noise more easily.
Speaking about tension and nervousness, that is one of the reasons why some violinists start out a recital with a Baroque sonata. If you have rapid strokes of detache and martele in the music, it makes your arm muscles stronger. The left hand usually plays in the first or third position with open strings, which helps to loosen your fingers. A slow tempo, longbow strokes with pianissimo dynamics at the beginning of a recital will be hard!
Edginess can be defined as a lot of noise. If you have a good, robust sound, the edginess can be helpful. There are many overtones that are higher than others, and if there are more of these than lower ones, then it will help to carry the sound better. It is true that human ears pick up the high overtones better than low ones. If you put your finger on the third position of the E string and play a high C, it is better for your ears because it has less sound. Western music puts the melody on top and the lower part of the music with accompaniment or supporting behind. In an orchestra, the violin will usually carry the solo part, and the viola, cello, or bass will carry a supporting part. You can sound brassier if you don’t have a solid fundamental. But if you do have a strong fundamental, then your tone won’t be as brass-sounding at 20 to 30 feet away. Your tone will sound warm, rich, and clear from that distance.
A violin needs to have resonance. Without it, the sound will die when you change directions. You should make sure that there is not a big gap between notes when you play legato passages. If there is a short stroke and the tone dies immediately, then the melody will sound dead and clipped. A violin should have a nice, resonant tone. But too much is not good. Imagine the outcome if there were no dampers on a piano - one tone would overlap into another and another. If you play the violin without dampers, the music will die away if you don’t move to another note on that string. So, it is better to have too much than too little resonance when playing the violin!
To learn more about tuning your violin, click here.
Frequently Asked Question about Tone of Violin
The violin is the tiniest and highest-pitched member of the string family. This means that it is different from all other instruments. Violins are in an orchestra more than any other instrument, with as many as 30 or more violins in one orchestra!
Most violins are made of wood. They usually have four strings tuned to G3, D4, A4, E5. The violin is played with a bow across its strings.
A violin is a stringed instrument with four strings. It also has a shallow body, shoulders at right angles to the neck, and a curved bridge.
The violin is a complex instrument to play well. It needs, among other things, a good bridge, fingerboard, and bow. The bow should be made of real horsehair or Brazilwood, or Pernambuco wood. Also, you have to consider the price of your violin - make sure it is reasonable for its overall quality.
When you bow, keep your upper arm still. Only when you are bowing to the frog, do you move it forward and back. Keep your bow relaxed so that it is easy.
The bridge of the violin transfers some of the energy from the string to the body. It does this at a frequency that is where your ear is most sensitive. This is one reason why violin music sounds bright and clear.
The string on a violin moves up and down when it is vibrating. The bridge will carry the vibration to the body of the violin, which helps make a sound. When you are playing, you can use your bow to move it back and forth across the string.
Violins are loud because their strings make the bridge and top plate vibrate - energy from the soundpost transfers to the back of the violin, which also starts moving. Ribs that are stuck between the top plate and back also start moving when they vibrate.
A silent violin is designed to be quiet when you play it. Without the resonating chamber of a traditional violin, a silent violin will not produce much sound. But you can listen to your sound through headphones!
You need the rosin to play the violin, viola, or any other string instrument. Without it, the hair of your bow will slide across the strings and won’t produce sound.