3 Ways to Make a Beautiful Sound: Beginning Violin and Viola
It’s all about the bow.
Re-position the bowing arm
Correct positioning is critical to producing a good sound. The shoulder and upper arm shouldn’t move much, because the majority of the work comes from the elbow. Think of the elbow like a hinge; it allows the bow to move while the arm is still.
Relax the wrist
The bow needs to be positioned correctly (we’ll get to that), and in order to do so, the wrist needs to be relaxed and flexible. When the frog (the small black piece at the end of the bow) is close to the strings, the wrist will be raised, and when far from the strings, it will dip. Practice bowing on an open string to feel how the wrist will move.
2. Bow technique
Like the wrist, the hand should be relaxed. Always bend the thumb. When you strike, use the natural pressure from the weight of your arm to produce sound rather than using the the strength from your shoulder (which is the natural instinct).
The bow needs to be – say it with us – parallel to the bridge. It should also be equidistant from the fingerboard and the bridge. This is where you will have the most resonant sound. You will change this distance as you advance and make different tones, but the position of the bow should always be parallel.
Pressure and Speed
The weight and speed applied will depend on where the bow is striking the strings. The closer to the bridge, the faster and heavier it should be. The closer to the fingerboard, the lighter and slower it will be. It may take time, but once you find the balance it will be easy to make a good sound!
Rosin acts as a grip to make the strings vibrate, so too much means the sound will be gritty. Too little and the bow will slide off the strings without vibrating. You will have to experiment, but after some practice, you will know just how much rosin you need.
If it’s hard to stay in tune or the sound has gotten worse over time, you may need new strings. Beginning students need to have their strings changed at minimum once a year. If you play more than an hour every day, they may need to be changed more often, every four to six months.
Making a beautiful sound will take time and practice, but keep working and you will be successful! Use this list to remind you of your basics, and check out our online store if you need to stock up on any products. Happy practicing!