How to play loud and soft on the Violin
How to play loud and soft on the violin
The making of a performance: adding dynamics to your playing.
When you learn to play the violin, the first thing everyone is concerned with is how to bow the piece and where to place the left-hand fingers. Once you have developed past this stage, the next step in performance preparation is to decide on phrasing and articulation and add louder and softer sections to make a performance more interesting to listen to. How to practise loud and soft playing is discussed in this blog.
It is worth remembering that loud and soft, or forte and piano, are relative terms: it depends on the style of the piece how loud is forte and how quiet is piano.
When you first start off playing with dynamic variation however, it is a good starting point to play as loudly as you can and as quietly as you can initially.
There are three ways to increase or decrease the volume of sound on the violin:
- Use more bow for loud playing and use less bow for soft playing.
- Play the bow more firmly into the string for loud playing and less firmly for softer sections.
- Play the bow closer to the bridge for loud playing and nearer the fingerboard for quiet playing.
The first method, to use more bow for loud playing and to use less bow for softer sections is a good starting point for beginners.
The second method is closely related to the first: when you use longer bows and you want to retain control, you will automatically press slightly harder on the bow during sections of loud playing, and you press less when you play quietly. The art of making a full-bodied sound is to try and bring more weight into the string, rather than pressing harder on the bow. Do bear in mind also that if you play with longer bows, you are likely to play closer to the heel of the bow, which in turn asks for a more developed bow hold.
The third method is to bow closer to the bridge when playing forte, and closer to the fingerboard when playing piano. There is an interesting exercise which you can do to practise this: keeping the bow strokes equally long and the bow speed the same, bow on an open string and manipulate the bow towards the bridge. If you listen carefully, you will find that the volume of sound increases. Now, keeping bow length and pressure exactly the same, move the bow towards the fingerboard while playing long bows. You will notice a decrease in volume.
Developing this idea, you may play around with different bow speeds, pressures and contact points to create different tone colours. There is literally no end to the number of combinations you can make and exploring these sound qualities is an important part of performance preparation.
As players, when we see a dynamic marking in the music, it is easy to think that we are already playing loud and soft and as a rule of thumb, I would suggest to exaggerate all dynamics markings, as if you want to make it abundantly clear to the listener what you mean. Do also watch my Youtube video about playing louds and softs on the violin.
For more advanced players, I would suggest that you make sure that all phrases lead to somewhere, either crescendo or diminuendo and never be static in your dynamics. Once you get into a habit of playing with the ebb and flow of rising and falling dynamics, you are well on your way to developing your playing towards expression.
Visit www.proamstrings.comfor more in-depth techniques. Happy violin playing!