(Important things to consider
while applying your bow to strings)
you feel dissatisfied with the tonal qualities you're achieving with
your bowing technique, please consider the following tips and techniques:
1. Pressure of the Bow: This certainly can affect tonal quality...experiment with adding slight
pressure and increasing it as you draw the bow. The first finger of
your bowing hand is where most of the pressure is applied. You'll want
to work with a qualified teacher on this since bowing technique it's
such a critical aspect of learning to play well.
2. At what point on the strings is the bow applied.
There's a "sweet spot" where the strings are the most responsive
to the drawing of the bow without any harshness in tone. I've found
this to fall right at the end of the fingerboard. You'll want to experiment
yourself to determine where the "sweet spot" falls on your violin. Many
time this can be directly between the end of the fingerboard and the
bridge. If you play above the fingerboard, the violin loses presence
and volume. Even so, you might some songs call for this mellower tone.
If you play too close to the bridge, you'll notice that the sound becomes
more trebly...and has a certain whistling quality.
3. The bow needs to be in a straight line above
the strings drawing a perfect plus sign. As you draw the bow over
the strings, you'll want to focus on keeping the bow as straight as
possible...the plus sign should be as accurate as possible throughout
your playing. Try practicing this technique by drawing the bow from
the lowest part to the tip of the bow. As you draw the bow its entire
length, carefully observe the angle you're playing...and make sure that
you're drawing a straight line across the strings. Keep the speed of
the bow consistent...be careful to allow the bow to exert its own pressure,
against the string, through natural gravity.
4. Are you using the full flatness of the hair
of your bow against the string. Many good violinists will use approximately
3/4s+ of the hair applied to the string as the bow is being drawn. To
do this, simply angle your bow just slightly so that part of the hair
is raised closest to you. Again, you'll have to experiment with this
to determine if it improves the tone. You may find that variations of
using both the flat surface of the hair and 3/4s will contribute to
songs in different ways. Experimentation is your best research.
5. How tight is your bow hair? When tightening
the bow hair, be sure to leave it slightly loose and not over tighten.
Over tightening the bow hair leaves too much tension and can affect
the tone and the arch in your bow. The wood of your bow should still
have a very slight arch to it after tightening the bow hair correctly
(it should not be a straight line). You should be able to tap the bow
slightly on one of your fingers and determine that the hair will barely
touch the wood part of the bow.
6. Did you apply just
the right amount of rosin? If you have too
much rosin, there will be a scratchy sound as you draw the bow...with
too little, the tone will seem to disappear as you draw the bow. If
you find that you've applied too much rosin, do not attempt to clean
the hair. Cleaners and Oils can ruin the capability of the hair to grab
the string and create a clear pitch. It's best to play until the rosin
slowly dissipates. If you feel that the rosin doesn't appear to be applying
itself to your bow, this can be determined by gaining a whispering tone
instead of a full clear pitch, try sanding the cake of rosin with some
sandpaper so that it has a rough surface.
Do you have the proper grip on your bow? A few things to
consider include: do not grip your bow too tightly, do not add unnecessary
pressure to the bow, be sure to rest your little finger on the top of
the bow, and keep your entire bowing arm and hand as relaxed as possible.
violins will have tonal characteristics that differ even within the
same makes...some fiddlers look for a scratchy sounding violin; most
violinists look for a deeper resonance with warmth...
Here are some further notes on preventing squeaky sounds:
rosin cake was not properly started so that it will rub off on to the
hair...this only requires some sandpaper so that there's dust on top
of the rosin cake before you apply it to your bow...too much rosin will
cause a scratchy sound; too little rosin will cause some squeaky tones
and usually more of a whisper than a clear pitch...be careful not to
use any type of cleaner or oils on your bow hair...
2. Be careful to keep your fingers from touching
adjacent strings while drawing the bow...this will most definitely cause
some squeaky overtones...
3. Make sure that your bow hair is properly taut...there
should be a slight bounce to it...and the back ark of the bow should
still show up slightly...
4. Make sure that you're pressing down with the
tip of your finger as you play...if you let up even slightly, you will
not gain a clear tone...
5. Make sure the bow is being drawn directly
where the fingerboard ends...there's usually a sweet spot on every violin...if
you draw the bow too close to the bridge, the tone becomes tinny and
harsh; if you draw the bow too far up the fingerboard, you will not
have good presence tonal quality...
6. As you draw the bow, try tilting it slightly
away from you as you play...this will create less contact between the
bow hair and the strings...and will usually soften the tone slightly...
Here are some tips and avoiding adjacent strings with
be a few of reasons why your bow is touching adjacent strings:
1. The bow hair is somewhat loose...and should
be tight enough to bounce slightly...not too tight....
2. The strings themselves may need to be tuned
up to pitch...if they're not tuned to concert pitch, they may be too
loose to keep the bow above the adjacent strings...
3. You do not want to add any force, downward
pressure, on the bow...the bow should be lightly resting on the strings
as you draw it...
4. Your bridge may have been flattened by the
previous owner so that it was adjusted for fiddling...many fiddlers
will flatten the bridge so that there's less arch and the strings are
relatively close to being on the same plane. This makes it easier to
play double-stops (two strings at once) which is quite common in fiddling...
How to Prevent Violin Bow Bouncing
bouncing can be caused by a number of things:
1. How tight or loose the bow hair is...evidently,
you've already tried loosening your bow hair...remember, you really
do not want your bow hair too tight...
2. How you hold the bow can be a large influence...You'll
want to follow the images on our lessons section on proper bow-hold
position...very critical...you might already be following our illustrations...
For instance, keep the little finger resting at the top...this adds
immense control over the bow...
3. What pressure you're applying with your
bow...too much pressure will cause more of a scratching tone...and
fluctuating the pressure will cause the bow to bounce uncontrollably...
4. How fast you draw the bow...keeping controlled
speed on how fast you're drawing the bow, will give you a controlled
approach, and minimize potential bouncing of the bow...try drawing
the bow slow and steadily from the frog to the tip as an exercise.
5. The angle the bow is drawn...this will not
influence the bouncing as much as any of the above, however, it's
still critical in good bowing technique...be sure to be drawing the
bow in a straight line...evenly, without adding force...
Factors that may influence your tone when performing long bow notes
1. How much hair is making contact as you draw
the bow. I use on average about 3/4's of the hair...Tilt the bow very
slightly which ensures that not all the hair is making contact at
2. You want the ideal amount of rosin on the
hair. Too much, and the long bow technique can sound scratchy; too
little, and it will sound too airy.
3. How much pressure you're applying to your
bow. Be careful to let the bow play itself. You should not have to
add any pressure at all to achieve the sweetest possible tone.
4. The point of contact on the strings...between
the bridge and the fingerboard. Try to find the sweetest spot your
violin offers...where the tone seems to be most responsive.