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Dynamics Problems


Honeysuckle
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My instructor has me doing exercises to improve my skill at changing dynamics. Up until now, I understood the concept, but couldn't quite make the sound loudness change.

The exercises are excruciating. Last night the dog growled at me it sounded so bad. The exercise briefly is half notes downbow fff, upbow ppp.

I get the concept, now my question is how do I make the sound nice?

On the fff sections, there is much scratching and especially over on the G string a loss of friction between the bow and string unless I am absolutely grinding into the string. Can this be the right technique? Why does it sound so awful?

In the ppp sections, things are better, but the sound is still a bit thin. Any advice on how to make the sound richer at the lower levels?

Thanks,

Sharon B.

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Hi Sharon,

Since none of the real guru's here have responded yet, I'll make an initial attempt at a suggestion.

The process is not so much as producing a good sound, as it is to produce a good tone. Many things can go into producing it -- the instrument itself, the strings used, the bow, the sound post placement, how close is the bow the bridge, and on and on. Beyond the equipment, bowing also has an effect. For some background reading I would direct you to an article by fellow maestronet member Jerry Pence (djerzy):

http://www.artsconservatory.com/Articles/ToneProduction.html

While it may seem to be addressed to beginners, it is a good read regardless of experience.

Beyond that, I would suggest when doing your exercise(s) that you do it as slow as possible with a relaxed bow hand/arm and note where the weight of the bow hair is in relation to the string as it is drawn.

Varying the "loudness" can be done with bow speed as well as weight (try using the arm) as long as the weight (not excessive pressure) and elasticity of the hair is even across the length (draw) of whole bow.

In this regard, I was told to think of the bow as a ship on water. If a ship is fully loaded it will sink EVENLY in the water but if over loaded at the stern(rear), the balance is gone, and the bow(front) floats up in the water causing more vibration (porpoising). So to make a better sound, let the "boat" float evenly on the string.

Hope it helps.

(I know as a kid (diff. inst.), and to this day, I still like fff. Don't understand why my parents didn't? )

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Theoretically, neither fff or ppp should sound good. These are dynamics that are beyond what you can physically play. You need to go that far to understand how to vary and control your dynamics, however. What you will eventually do will be a controlled f or ff and a pleasing p or pp.

Keep in mind that not all music is supposed to sound pretty.

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Honeysuckle,

Yes, this is such an important issue that I wanted to contribute my 2 cents. For me, the placement of the bow is important. I say, it does not matter if you want to play piano or forte, the bow must always be close to the bridge, regardless. This has to do with projection of tone. In this light I say the basic sound is the same for forte and piano. So you ask, how do I then produce a forte sound? My answer is, by accenting the beginning of the tone with the bow. It is the accent that creates a forte effect, whereas the piano dynamic should have smooth bow changes, no accent

Hope this helps a bit,

Pag

PS: To get rid of the scratch when playing close to the bridge, is the vibrato which comes in to protect the bow, the faster (not wide) the vibrato, the less scratch. Words from my dear friend Maestro Redrobe. There is much more to this but let it suffice for now

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I have found that by playing naturally and relying on your inate sense of what the music should sound like frees you from having to consciously think about placing the bow in this or that position. Play naturally and listen carefully. Forget about the rest unless of course you can't pull a long straight bow. Your right hand will guide you in the dynamics through the pressure it exerts.

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Thank you all for your advice. The article is good, I have started trying to exercise in this way as well as the others that my teacher has assigned.

After another lesson yesterday, my teacher convinced me that a large part of my problem is that I don't play loud or with much intensity.

In my head I have been playing forte all along, but when she plays next to me, I realize I am really only at about a mezzo piano level. I think it is a confidence problem. I have been away from violin for over 20 years.

This weeks exercises are near to the bridge with much intensity. Hopefully these exercises will help.

Thanks everyone,

Sharon

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>For me, the placement of the bow is important. I say, it >does not matter if you want to play piano or forte, the >bow must always be close to the bridge, regardless.

i have to say i disagree with this somewhat... i would say the best placement of the bow is extremely dependent on your instrument. in some instruments, my former instrument being one, yes, near the bridge is best. but i was also surprised to learn when i bought my new instrument that it sounds best when the contact point is actually a fair way from the bridge, at about the halfway point to the fingerboard or depending on the kind of sound you're trying to get, a little farther.

i'm sure everyone has a different method to these things, though, so my suggestion would be to try it all and see what sounds best on your instrument with your own playing.

-liana

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