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How do you cultivate a unique sound?
To establish an identity
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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Composer
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September 5, 2012 - 1:14 am
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1.  Technique - just be better than everyone else, thus you sound better

2.  Vibrato - pretty much every pro uses continuous and adapted to the music

3.  Timbre - ???

#3 is a bit of a mystery.  Is it possible for every note to have a same attractive timbre via some peculiar combination of a)very slight pressure change on the bow b)width of the vibrato c) precise placement of the finger within a pitch zone (in other words not blatantly out of tune).

So much of intonation seems to be concerned with being correct in a particular context (example: expressive intonation for melodic lines) but Joachim seemed to violate "correct" tuning principles and got away with it even though the press (George Bernard Shaw in particular) sayed he played out of tune.  Because it just seems like with the bow the only objective is to make the middle of the string between the stopped note and the bridge vibrate sideways as far as possible.  This is supposed to provide the ideal quality of sound that also carries across a large concert hall.

Kriesler seems to have a unique sound, and the typical explanation of "its his vibrato" doesn't seem very convincing.

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cdennyb
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September 5, 2012 - 1:25 am
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practice...practice...pratice.

The unique sound will come AFTER you learn how to play. Your individuality will come thru automatically without any forced effort. It's only natural.hats_off

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Composer
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September 5, 2012 - 1:56 am
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Sibelius practiced practiced and practiced.  And he got rejected due to a harsh tone.

Then he got angry and wrote a difficult concerto that noone could play until he later altered it.

There are lots of aspiring pro athletes practicing and practicing but in reality are spinning their wheels because it never dawns on them that they have to differentiate themselves in some way. 

It just seems queer that violinists focus so much on graded content (example: suzuki) while experimenting on sound quality is hardly considered.  The typical Tone Production exercises seem more like loud/intense production than anything worthy of artistry (hello anne sophie). 

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DanielB
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September 5, 2012 - 3:54 am
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I would say that every musician has a unique sound.  As you practice, technical errors decrease, and so it comes through more clearly.  Parts of it that you, your teacher, or your audience like, you naturally develop more.  Any facets of your playing that don't go over so well get more of your attention/work or you might get some ideas from having heard other players where you like what they do at such moments and that you will imitate somewhat.  You will still never sound exactly like them, though, it will be your version of that sound.

But if we could get everyone on this forum to record something like "Twinkle Twinkle", even done in the same key and tempo, no two would sound exactly the same.  Other than maybe the very few who started playing recently enough that the particular piece was still challenging, they would all be technically "correct".  That is one of the best things about music done by real live musicians, I think.  There are so many ways it can be done right and still sound fresh and different from each person who does it.

So I believe everyone already has a unique sound, even if they haven't been playing long at all.  But to redirect to the topic question of how to actually cultivate it.. Play, and listen to your playing.  Hear what is good in it and work to get more of what you feel sounds good.  

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Oliver
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September 5, 2012 - 9:15 am
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My guess is that most amateur players never quite make it to the level of interpretation because of the common worship of technique.  And, indeed, style is at the pinnacle of technique and not that easy to reach.

In the last few months I myself have been on a campaign to listen to my playing and the results have been mediocre.  No, not the usual poor intonation but rather a rendition of music I would not care to listen to as an audience.

BLAH!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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ftufc
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September 5, 2012 - 2:15 pm
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This is a very interesting thread.  Composer makes some very good observations.  I kind of agree with parts of Denny & Daniel's comments,,, style, good or bad, is sort of innate to each individual, which might have been what made the "Greats" so unique, it's their personal artistic characteristic.

But then, as Composer and Oliver are pointing out,,, style can be developed; but if it's not unique and innovative and just fundamentally appealing, isn't the composer's and conductor's stylization the desired style.

I am so new to the violin that, as Oliver points out, I'm just trying to get the fundamentals right; but after I've played the same song a few hundred times, I start thinking about how I really want "my song" to sound, and then I try to work on embellishments that I find appealing/pleasing/interesting/entertaining.

Anyway,,,,,, Oliver, YOU'RE KING!!!!!!!!!  Congratulations!!!!!!!!  Btw, with your new gig and new development, how does your electric seem to be working into that???

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Picklefish
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September 5, 2012 - 2:32 pm
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How do you cultivate a unique sound? When I was opening restaurants one of the rules was try not to open a similar joint within 10 miles of each other because you will have competition from the start. I think the same is true of being an individual performer rather than performing as part of a group. You have to see what others are doin, and then do something else thats not being represented. Taylor Davis plays her own arrangements of video game sound tracks. Bryson Andres is doing that tapping on your electric looping violin thingy (brusk?). These are not people who looked around for an oppourtunity to be unique, they followed their own personal interests and developed their own style from that. But they certainly arent competing with others either. So to be origional, find something no one else is doing, be passionate about it and persue it despite all the nay sayers out there. Otherwise you will be part of a group that all sound the same. This has been a presentation of "in my opinion inc". jimi-hendrix

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Picklefish
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September 5, 2012 - 2:33 pm
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oh and as far as Suzuki is concerned, personal creativity should be encouraged with each piece once the basic is learned. Just sayin.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Composer
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September 5, 2012 - 4:11 pm
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Some remarks about Kreisler's unique sound:

1. Tended to stay on a single string to exploit its particular tonal quality

2. Avoided use of 4th finger to maintain a warm continuous vibrato

3. Changed position frequently, with each change offering an opportunity for an expressive slide (portamento)

4. Idiosyncratic approach to fingering (non-rational)

5. Willfully ignored the marked dynamics, phrase-marks, and even rhythms

6. Largely abandoned serious violin study and instead worked on his own, developing an individual technique and style of interpretation.

7. Screwed his bow to a high point of tension

8. Only used the middle of the bow

9. Would change bow more often and with considerable arm weight produce a remarkably pure, penetrating expressive tone

10.  Fast vibrato with considerable variety

11. Hated practicing

 

Every single item breaks the rules of today.  Especially puzzling is #8 and #9 which is heresy.  Considerable arm weight?  That is supposed to kill the sound quality.   Could anyone win a competition following the Kreisler way?

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Oliver
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September 5, 2012 - 4:17 pm
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@ftufc

There was a surprise outcome to all that.  The electric was preferred vs. an acoustic !

The electric had/has a beautiful tone and is capable of exact intonation which the racket of the acoustic could never match.

I tried to bring in the acoustic and was booed !!

 

Kreisler  "avoided use of 4th finger"    I hope he had some other choice than open strings.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Grofica
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September 6, 2012 - 12:38 am
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Composer said
Some remarks about Kreisler's unique sound:

1. Tended to stay on a single string to exploit its particular tonal quality

2. Avoided use of 4th finger to maintain a warm continuous vibrato my pinky is possessed....

3. Changed position frequently, with each change offering an opportunity for an expressive slide (portamento) sliding rocks

4. Idiosyncratic approach to fingering (non-rational) dig it

5. Willfully ignored the marked dynamics, phrase-marks, and even rhythms do that all the time... annoys my teacher ha ha ha ha

6. Largely abandoned serious violin study and instead worked on his own, developing an individual technique and style of interpretation. i dig drumming to your own beat... i try to do that with my songs at least

7. Screwed his bow to a high point of tension I am a seriuosly over tightener.... i found that out today

8. Only used the middle of the bow

9. Would change bow more often and with considerable arm weight produce a remarkably pure, penetrating expressive tone

10.  Fast vibrato with considerable variety I dont do this with this... vibrato is hard....

11. Hated practicing

 

Every single item breaks the rules of today.  Especially puzzling is #8 and #9 which is heresy.  Considerable arm weight?  That is supposed to kill the sound quality.   Could anyone win a competition following the Kreisler way?

 

I think i love him <3cheers

~Grofica 

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Oliver
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September 6, 2012 - 12:10 pm
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Creativity such as yours often has a rough start. 

Hang in there.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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myguitarnow
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September 12, 2012 - 9:31 pm
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