William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Whether playing on or off the string, isn't it still the same sound!

An advanced technique for improving your violin sound

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick explores different ways of producing sound on the violin. Which one will give your full potential sound?

Released on August 1, 2018

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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

As you can tell, I'm curious. So why don't we look into something that I find fascinating? That being that short notes, you know short notes, are only long notes played shorter. I know this sounds stupidly simple, but consider what I am saying to be true. Well, if it is, then the quality of sound for a short note could be the same quality of sound for a long note.

Again, this must sound so stupidly simple, but the ramifications are enormous in terms of keeping or controlling the quality of sound the same, regardless to the bow stroke being used. Imagine being that much in control of the quality of sound, of the quality of that bow stroke.

Okay. So first let's consider the variables of making a particular sound with a whole bow. I mean, they are very simple, or should I say very easily understood. The first would be the speed of the bow. The second would be the pressure or weight. And the third would be the point of contact, where the bow touches the string. Again, speed, weight, point of contact.

By the way, the point of contact should not be confused with sounding point. The sounding point refers to that point of contact which makes the string vibrate at its fullest. So for the D string, I'm getting the string to vibrate at its fullest. So this would be the sounding point for that string. You can see the string vibrating at its fullest.

So using this concept of trying to get the string to vibrate at its fullest, if I wanted to play piano, I could move my bow closer to the fingerboard. I change my point of contact. Or I could put it in the middle, let's say speed up my bow. You see. The quality of sound changes with each manipulation of those three elements. These are the variables that we use to manage the sound that we are striving to achieve.

So now that we've understood these variables, let's consider how many ways we can start the production of a sound. I think there are only two, one being from the string, and the other being from above the string. Why don't we start this exploration with sounds that originate from the string? Oh, yes, let's wait, because I have to use my special bow. It is marked with colors at the half, quarter, etc. Hold on. Let me get it.

Et voilà, here it is. You see. There's the blue and the silver; everything is marked at a halfway point, at a quarter. And when I play, I can see these markers. It is a brilliant idea, borrowed it from Professor Kurt Sassmannshaus, the expert. So, why don't I play a whole-bow D natural on the open D string? Now, if I use say this point of contact from the middle, the red, with the same speed, same pressure, same point of contact, well obviously the note is shorter.

What if I had from the silver to the tip? You see? It started to sound like a staccato, like a Martelé. So, using this distance could help us clearly or more clearly define the strokes that we are trying to do. Why don't I try it from the silver to the blue? I mean, it is really rather obvious what is going on; at least I think so. Okay?

Well, if it is obvious for from the string, would it be obvious from above? Here, why don't I do this and slow it down so you can really see it. You see. Even though it is from above the string, I still... I am still using the bow. I am still using a part, even though it is a very, very small part of the bow. The bow comes in contact with the string, just like for a longer note.

So the way I see it, no matter whether we come from the string, or above the string, it is still the same sound. It is still the same quality of sound. That quality of sound stays, or at least should stay the same, whether we come from or above the string. In doing that, we have achieved a certain consistency.

Now, who knows? We may want to alter that. But by being able to control that, by being able to understand that, we can -- at least in theory -- we can do anything we want to do from or from above the string.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Stewart H Holder on August 29, 2018 @5:38 am PST
Many thanks for your video I understand that (all other things being equal ie same sound point, speed and weight of bow) we should expect the same quality of sound. But can it be said of a single staccato note or even a run of staccato notes ? Stewart
Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on August 1, 2018 @10:03 am PST
Interesting to see & hear the super slow-mo of the spiccato! I think the fuzzy start to note is evident on some instruments more than others. Certainly the halo of sound after an on-string note differs from off-string. And for ensemble players, better to start on-string (or the ensemble sounds sloppy, loses clarity).
William - host, on August 6, 2018 @10:34 am PST
Hi! Thanks for the comment! My videos start from a solo playing point of view but I do agree that in ensemble playing "from the string" would be a generally preferred starting point. Thanks again!
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