Mary-Elizabeth Brown - beginning & intermediate violin expert

How to Make a Beautiful Sound on Violin

Learn the basics to have a beautiful sound on your violin

In this first video, Mary-Elizabeth Brown, our new and critically-acclaimed Beginning-Intermediate Violin Expert, tells you how to make a beautiful sound on the violin.

Released on September 2, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi there, this is Mary Elizabeth Brown from Strings Around The World. Here today for to talk a little bit about how to make a beautiful sound on violin. One of the most common questions I hear from beginning and intermediate level violinists is, "How do I make a beautiful sound?" And it really comes down to three factors. First of all, we need to realize that the sound that we make is directly related to the way we use our bows. We will talk a little bit about the left hand later, but the primary source of that is here, in your right hand. We effectively need to develop a recipe for our beautiful sound. We have three ingredients to use in that recipe. They are bow weight, bow speed and our choice of contact point.

So when we talk about bow weight, we're talking about the amount of pressure that we put on the string with our bows. If you hear crunching sounds when you're playing, it's likely that your bow is too heavy. I like to use the word 'weight' instead of 'pressure', because the word 'weight' sort of implies that we relax our arms and let our arms do the work, in terms of putting weight on the string. As opposed to 'pressure', which might mean that we could lift our elbows or use our shoulders, which we don't want to do. So we're looking for a relaxed weight in the right arm that will allow us to have a good contact with the string. This is what we mean by bow weight.

When we talk about bow speed, we're really talking about the rate of travel in the bow, between the beginning and the end of a note. We need to make sure that we balance the speed of the bow with the weight that we put with our arms, in order to produce a beautiful and resonant sound. If the bow is too fast, you'll hear a sort of skidding or skimming sound on the violin. And if the bow is too slow, we'll move back to that crunching sound that we talked about earlier. So we're really looking for a balance of bow weight and bow speed.

The last element we need to talk about is the idea of 'contact point'. If you think about the space between the bridge and the finger board as a highway, we'll see that we have lane one here, right next to the bridge and lane five, over here by the finger board. Now, we could think about lanes one and lanes five sort of as the shoulders of the road. So we're going to drive our bows there in emergencies only, or for special effects, which means we will spend the majority of our time in lane two, three and four. If I play in lane two, I'll have a different sound from if I play in lane four. As we move closer to the bridge, we'll have a more intense sound. And as we move closer to the finger board, it will be a softer sound.

Once you are familiar with these three elements of sound production, so bow weight, bow speed and contact point, it's time to do some experimenting to find a sound that you really love. Keep in mind that no two people, and no two violin and bow combinations will be exactly the same, so it will take a little while. I would suggest using some review repertoire and scales, so that you can really focus your attention there, on sound production. Once you've done that, it's time to incorporate it into your repertoire. If you know a little bit of vibrato, that will help to make the sound really sing.

That brings us to the end of our video for today. I hope you'll join us for the next one. Be sure to leave your comments and your questions below, so that I can address them in one of the next videos. Thanks and see you soon.
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Yvonne Lu * VSM MEMBER * on November 2, 2015 @12:00 am PST
Thank you for the wonderful lesson. Could you please let me know how to control my bow easily.
Thanks Ella.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on November 9, 2015 @6:49 am PST
Dear Ella, Mary-Beth will hopefully answer you very soon. We are trying to reach her as we speak. Thank you for your understanding, and for standing by!
Zryan on September 30, 2015 @11:25 pm PST
Could you provide me the Note of the piece music you played
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on October 2, 2015 @8:17 am PST
Hi Zryan,
Thanks for your question! The piece I played was Bach's Minuet in G Major. It's a wonder piece for beginning and violinists alike. Happy practicing!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 2, 2015 @8:19 am PST
Yes, thank you Mary-Elizabeth for letting Zryan know about it. We currently don't have the sheet music for it, but we'll work to make an arrangement of it for violin and piano available on Virtual Sheet Music as soon as possible.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on November 2, 2015 @10:47 am PST
Zryan, we have just published the Minuet in G for violin and piano:

I hope you'll enjoy it!
Rajan Babvu on September 30, 2015 @3:18 am PST
Can you suggest me a REALLY good-sounding violin available in the Dubai market, as I am visiting it next week. Name of the Shop, location, contact number if available. Could be of nominal price - not too expensive and at the same time not too cheap - I mean a good one. . Thanks
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on September 30, 2015 @6:53 pm PST
Hi Rajan,
Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, I'm not very familiar with the current instrument market in the UAE. Perhaps a professional violinist or music educator on the ground in Dubai could help. Good luck with your search!
Joy Wilsted on September 23, 2015 @3:22 am PST
How to do vibrato for beginners. Is it wiggling or rolling back and forth, or both? Explain wrist vs. finger vibrato.

Teaching vibrato is a challenge. Is there an easier way?
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on September 24, 2015 @4:58 am PST
Hi Joy! We'll definitely have a look at developing vibrato in an upcoming 3-part series. In my experience, if I teach it very gradually, it doesn't have to be a hard process!
Paul Landefeld on September 16, 2015 @8:05 am PST
I noticed that the voice recognition of my last post showed the word air. The intent was the word hair.
Paul Landefeld on September 16, 2015 @8:03 am PST
In a future video would you please address the issue of coloration of sound through the amount of air contacting string.
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on September 22, 2015 @11:18 am PST
Hi Paul! I'd be happy to talk about hair and sound colour in a future video - it's certainly a useful tool in making a beautiful and varied sound.
Hank Schutz * VSM MEMBER * on September 9, 2015 @4:30 am PST
Keeping the bow lined up parallel to the bridge is also important for good tone production.
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on September 11, 2015 @9:39 am PST
You are absolutely right, Hank! Having a straight bow is a really important building block of sound production. Stay tuned...I'll be sure to cover it in an upcoming video!
Stephen Collins on September 2, 2015 @9:53 am PST
I love your video, MB!! One production suggestion would be to experiment with your lighting; sometimes the colors are odd and there is glare too. Very happy for you!
Mary-Elizabeth - host, on September 11, 2015 @9:38 am PST
Thanks, Stephen! I'm glad you enjoyed the video. We'll be sure to tweak the lighting for the next one.
CC * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @5:49 am PST
Very helpful. Looking forward to more from you especially how to prevent the squeak.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on September 2, 2015 @10:58 am PST
Lora Staples made a video on that subject a while ago:

But I am sure Mary-Beth will have something to add about it. Thank you for your comment!
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