Is there such a thing as Russian sound?

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I am just wondering...  Itzahk Perlman mentioned in "Art of

Violin" that the Russians use bow speed to produce big sound

instead of pressing the bow on the string.  Can this make a

distinct difference in sound from other schools?  Can you

 tell the difference by  listening?  If

so, can you describe it as be st you can?  

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I think, It depends on design, if bow speed or bow pressure are more effective to force the limit of sound. My humble experience, Del Gesu designs are more sensitive to bow pressure rather than speed while Strad(thin) designs go well with bow speed.

How ever it is very possible to design (both thin or thick) a violin to be sensitive to pressure, speed or equally both, which is the ideal I believe. It is a personal taste. Resistance(or friction) in bowing is an other parameter, some like, it some dont.

Russian sound?? I think it is rather Russian violin accepting speed rather than pressure.

Good subject.

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I think that the type of string plays a huge role in technique. A lot of the older Russian players used gut strings, which require a different technique. Itzhak Perlman is reported to use Dominants on his Stradivari, and such a string is quite different from gut. With gut, bow speed is where you get your sound, or where you bring power into playing, whereas sythetic strings do not tend to respond in as a great a manner to a light and fast bow. At least this has been my experience with gut and various synthetic strings.

As for the sound, gut seems to be much more resonant across the spectrum, whereas synthetics seem to hold their power of resonance within a more narrow band of the spectrum. At least this is true of the experience I have had with the violins I have played. A lot of people will tell you that gut is not as powerful as synthetics. This is true if one lacks the right technique, but if you know how to use gut you can actually get more from your violin, provided of course that your violin is set up to respond well to a lower tension string. On the violin I now play, despite my fondness for Eudoxa gut strings, I have found that the best strings for the setup are an Evah G and D, a Eudoxa A and a Hill E. This is a strange mix, I know, but it works best. A synthetic A chokes the violin, and a Eudoxa G and D was less effective. This violin (the one I now play, which is an older German violin from 1894) is more remniscient of a del Gesu than any other maker of which I am aware, whereas the one I played previously was a straight Strad copy (c.2001). The Strad copy LOVED Eudoxas. A couple of other violins I have played for a time (both older violins from the later 19th-Century, a Testore copy and one akin to an early Amati) did not seem to care so much about the strings. These are the violins I have played in my home and have had a chance to get to know. Of the others I have played, I have not spent enough time with them to make any sort of judgement regarding string preference.

Many of today's players use synthetic strings, and of course they do work well, but I suspect the reason many of them have abandoned gut is due to the fact that they are less convenient in that they respond to changes to their environment more so than synthetics. Having said that, I have not had to touch my A string in a couple of days, so gut can be very stable as well once it has settled in, however in a concert hall this could be a problem. Of course, nevermind that once upon a time everyone played gut, but when everyone else does so it is a different situation than when you are the lone gut string player in a group of others and their pitch-stable synthetics!

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I think the days of certain sounds (from certain "schools") are long since dead. I used to mention the world getting smaller and a general approach (with teachers all over the world from all over the world) homogenising. However, to a small extent the Russian approach to sound/tone can still be spotted, maybe not boldly audible in a player who learned with a non-Russian (but a teacher influenced by), but it is there "in the blood" as it were.

As teachers we have to listen and analyse what we would like to improve in our students. It is possible (and I sometimes do it) to describe the technical/musical approach to every last note....the "optimum" speed/pressure of bow etc.etc. But mostly, we have to let our students open their ears and be influenced by what they hear and what they actually like as well. We cannot manipulate every note, more often we discuss the approach to certain passges (how to play the semiquavers), how to balance the vibrato, how to create the ideal sound to match the mood. All these things are easier demonstrated then verbalised.

My teacher was Russian influenced (Russian/Israeli) but not a 100% pure Russian idealist. I listened to him produce a sound, and enough exposure to this tends to lead the pupil in a certain direction. I sound a little like him, and he a little like his teacher, who was a genuine Russian virtuoso player.

I would best describe the "characterisitcs" as a richness in tone, a certain warmth of vibrato, an attitude to "where" in the bow to play (probably lower than some of the other old schools) and, perhaps most noticeable a "focus" in the tone, where tiny inadequecies are mostly ironed out. To my mind, speed of bow (playing with lots) is NOT prevalent in someone displaying obvious Russian influence. I'm not saying it's the best way to play, nor am I saying that other schools are lacking, no, no but you can hear certain things and certain "shaping" of the music that say (to the experienced analyst) oh, yes, somewhere along the line, there has been some Russian players/teachers influencing this player!!!

It's not going to last much longer, all the distinctive "schools" are gradually merging....such a pity.

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Technique_doc, I'm so glad you came back. I almost posted a message saying "Thing harder!" Thank you for your input.

"It's not going to last much longer, all the distinctive "schools" are gradually merging....such a pity. " reminds me of food. There are so many "fusion" cuisine such as Vietnamese-French, Japanese-American, etc. After awhile, you want to go back to the original

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I think these things will all go around in circles. Sooner or later, someone is going to ask..."why does eveyone sound the same?, surely there are more shades to the sound canvas than just this?"

Interesting that Perlman perceives that the true Russian players use a lot of bow? I guess all these great players have developed a way to produce a tone that they feel combines the ideal mix of pressure and speed (not to forget how close to the bridge etc.) If they watch another player who they admire (or a stlye that appeals), it's natural to draw conclusions. It could well be that the efficiency of movement that Perlman plays with (it's not like he saws the thing in half!!) requires less overt effort and travel of the bow than he sees in the players he was referring to.

There are some very individual players out there even having said all these things. Joshua Bell, for example, expresses himself with all sorts of unusual approaches, but his sound is smooth and lyrical, never overpoweringly percussive or stacatto. It's a big topic.

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I still think it has so much to do with the strings. These older players ALL used gut strings and Heifetz himself said that bow speed, NOT pressure, was the ticket to power and projection with gut. This has been my experience as well. You would be amazed at what it does for the tone and potential of gut strings on a violin, and such a technique naturally results into a faster with less pressure, at least when such is called for (such as a forte passage, whereas a pianissimo passage still wants a slow bow, but with the same light touch). Also, a lot of these guys, well I guess all of the older-school players, did not use the modern-day shoulder rest. It is just another example of the changing times. However, I predict this one will come full circle.

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