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The sound of a violin Under ear vs. from a distance
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RockingLR33
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July 4, 2017 - 8:34 pm
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Hey everyone,

I've been thinking of this for a while and I thought I'd get everyones opinions here. I've been practicing A LOT more these days and some times I swear I hate my "under ear" sound. I think it sounds harsh or if i'm playing around in say 2rd position or even *gasp* 3rd position.... scratchy/hissy....however when I listen to the recordings of self playing it doesn't sound near as bad as I thought (however not good either). This isn't all the time but especially when i'm learning something new. Granted I can't play well at all in any position above 1st position but does anyone else hear a difference between under ear vs afar from your violin? 

Does this affect how you choose your violin when you're buying it? I've only ever bought 2 violins. The first the gentleman in the store played them for me since I didn't know how to play a single note and the other I trusted fiddlerman to pick out the best one for me after hearing the videos on his website.

How do those who get irritated with the 'under ear' sound handle playing the violin? Do you try to find one that sounds great under ear as well as from afar?  Now I absolutely love my violin like 95% of the time but the times it does really irritate me has made it something I've pondered for a bit.

I have played friends violin where i LOVED the under ear sound but from afar it sounded dull or at least not as....singing...on the notes. Hope that wasn't to much of a ramble and makes some sort of sense and that it's not a repeat thread but i couldn't find one like it in the search. 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Leana
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July 4, 2017 - 11:34 pm
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I am intrigued by this topic !

This week, while trying to join the 4th of July party, I realized a bunch of things about me, how I play, and how I practice, and maybe something about how I record.

All of the above I find deplorable this week. 

One good thing I know about how I play- IF !!! I have something memorized, I don't sound bad to my under ear. Problem is, I have very little actually memorized. When I am reading music, and recording, I have all the beginner sound you can imagine, and then I start to feel that I really suck at this (yes, this week was bad)

I have yet to listen to my playing from far away, but... how great would it be to be able to play so that it sounded good, and like you were 3 feet away.

I also habitually record from 6 inches away from the mic- I am sure that is not good, and I have plans on doing a recording test at various feet from mic- but again, the music is there- and I can't read it from a distance !  LOL.  Crazy crazy problems. 

I also think that a different type of string would be good as well-  I have had almost the same experience (nice sound- but way different). This I am sure will require more research.  I don't know if I really like the intensity of the strings I am using-- is that a thing ? is it me?

I keep practicing, and learning........... I know that eventually I will hit a happy medium, but your inquiry is deep. I appreciate that, and hope that we both learn more on this topic~

I swear- someday I will be playing as well as my imagination 

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Charles
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July 5, 2017 - 11:14 am
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It's normal for a violin to sound fairly different under the ear and at a distance (say, 3 feet (1 meter)  away or more. (That's the closest where you start hearing a noticeable difference. I'd say 10 feet (3 meters) if you want to really judge the "away" sound.)

Whether you should buy a violin more by the under-ear sound or the farther-away sound depends on what you plan to do with it. If you're going to be playing for other people mostly, buy for the sound further away - have somebody else play it, and get the one that sounds better (whatever your definition of "better" is) at a distance.  If you're going to be playing almost exclusively for your own pleasure, get one that sounds better under your ear. That's the only way you (or anyone else) is going to be hearing it most of the time, and if you occasionally play it for a friend or family member, they're not likely to be enough of a violin aficionado to notice the difference. (And if they are, they can buy you a second violin that sounds better at a distance. 🙂 )

@Leana, unfortunately, nobody can give you a lot of advice on strings. Every instrument is different, and a brand of strings that sounds good on one may not sound good at all on the next one off that same line. All you can do is experiment, and when you find some that work for you, on your violin, stick with them.  You can search the Internet for "string chart" to get some idea of the different kinds and what you might want to try next, but that business of each kind string interacting uniquely with a specific instrument means they're a vague guideline at best.

If volume is the problem, try getting a set of musician's earplugs. They won't interfere with the tone too much, but they will cut down the intensity of the sound. They're not cheap, but they protect your hearing some, make you less inclined to use less bow, and don't screw up the tone too bad. Fiddlershop sells some of the good kind: https://fiddlershop.com/earasers-musicians-earplugs.html?search=ear%20plugs&description=true

I got some because I realized I was unconsciously using less bow to keep things quieter. I have hearing problems, and one aspect of them is that I can't handle noises as loud as people with good hearing.  Add that to the usual beginner tendency to want to play softly so nobody will hear you, and you have someone using little bow, which means lousy tone, which means you sound terrible, which means you want people (including yourself) to hear you even less, which means you use less bow... I know that cycle and can mostly avoid it, but the high volume that using lots of bow produces was a problem, and the ear plugs helped that.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 5, 2017 - 3:52 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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This is actually a very interesting subject and discussed often amongst professional musicians. The sound from a violin is very different away from the ear than under the ear.
Some violins sound loud under the ear and do not project and some even sound soft under the ear and project like crazy. No rule, just randomly IMAO.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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damfino
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July 5, 2017 - 8:18 pm
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My main fiddle is one that sounds loud under and away from the ear. Sometimes it sounds harsher to me as I play, but my teacher said it never comes across that way to her. It's interesting how that works. I know she has one fiddle that plays quiet under the ear, but projects really well. 

My little old German fiddle plays quieter under my ear, and never seems harsh... I haven't heard it away from my ear in a while, so I can't recall how well it projects, in my head I always figure it just plays on the quiet side.

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Fiddlerman
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July 6, 2017 - 9:53 am
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Have you played your teachers violin Mandy? Have you had her play hers then yours to compare?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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damfino
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July 6, 2017 - 10:10 am
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I have played a few of my teacher's fiddles, she usually uses me as her tester when she gets a new one or is trying new bows, haha. The two newest she got were still in need of work so not totally pleasant under the ear, but a couple of her main ones are really nice and pleasant. She has played mine, too, and never notices anything wrong, and it always sounds nice away from my ear. I do think the Helicore strings toned it down a little, it was getting pretty loud there for a while. 

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RockingLR33
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July 6, 2017 - 10:41 am
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I love all the replies and opinions! After googling the subject you're not wrong Fiddlerman! There are so many discussions on it hahaha. Each violin has it's own voice and characteristics for sure!  It's very fun to read everyones experiences on the topic. 😀 

It's funny I have to agree with Leana that the pieces I know sound so much better under ear. I think when we (or at least me) are practicing and learning a new piece we are so much more hesitant and it causes some rough sounds. Then once we know it, other then say messing up finger positions, we make it sound smooth because we are relaxed and enjoying playing it. 

It's fun to to hear the differences in levels of violins. From beginner to intermediate to advanced/professional violins. Sometimes to my ear they don't sound that different but sometimes there is a marked difference in the tone. It really goes to show the quality and craftsmanship put into them. 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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8r4d
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July 6, 2017 - 10:55 am
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I'm constantly surprised by the difference in sound that I hear under my ear compared to what others are hearing.

For example, when I practice in the same room as my wife she can easily pick out my dynamics or she'll remind me to straighten my bow out because she can hear the subtle differences that I can't seem to find with the instrument so close to me. She totally picked up on when my instructor corrected my bow grip a couple months ago; I hadn't even mentioned it but out of the blue she commented that my sound was stronger for some reason.

Also, I usually practice in our basement and could swear the neighbours a few houses away are probably wearing earplugs... but apparently my family can just barely hear me one floor away. It's fascinating the difference in perception between a few inches and a few dozen feet.

I also noticed this when we went to a symphony the other week.  Sixteen violins in the orchestra and I would have though that would have drowned out the whole concert hall, but I had to really concentrate to listen for them. Weird.

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CyndieZ
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July 6, 2017 - 11:41 am
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Interesting thread - and the thread name jogged my memory about how much I like Bette Middler's From A Distance. So of course I did the logical thing and played in on the violin.....great song! smile

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Fiddlerman
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July 6, 2017 - 2:07 pm
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8r4d said
.........For example, when I practice in the same room as my wife she can easily pick out my dynamics........

Sounds like my wife, who also hears everything and all mistakes....

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Leana
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July 6, 2017 - 4:11 pm
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yup !  I figured this thread was a worthy endeavor. LOL

even a couple laughs, and a Bette middler reminder.  I did my sound test- sounds best in the middle of the room when recording-  (yes, I know this is not really the topic)

I think I just have to keep practicing !  🙂 

(with all the gusto I can muster !)

I swear- someday I will be playing as well as my imagination 

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Hermes
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July 6, 2017 - 8:54 pm
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Since string changing was mentioned, here are my two cents...

It's all a crazy violin world, and we never know what will happen 😛

Realising that a violin sounds way different from a distance, did only cause problems to my thinking. -just joking-

These days I am visiting my parents so I brought with me an old not-so-good violin that I constantly mess up with (in a not-that-professional way I am sure) to understand the mechanics of the instrument, and to achieve a better tone - After a few hours I am usually completely lost. For a few months, I have not changed something special (bridge, soundpost, etc) since I am relatively happy with the results.  I thought it was time for string change...

I decided to remove the Evahs, (I put them on when I want something bold in this instrument, and take them off when I realize I want something less tense) but did not know what to put instead. So I just recorded some scales on the G string, and only replaced the G. Candidates : Obligato - Violino - PI - VTS

Bunch of Results 1

Under the Ear: Obligato was the richest, Violino did not work with this violin, PI was the Brightest, VTS the loudest

From the recording (1-2 meters away, on a desk): Obligato was the loudest, Violino was the richest, PI was ok, VTS the Brightest.

So, I was lost, and put on some dominants, because the usually just work. (and since I sometimes cannot make up my mind, I keep coming back to them)

 

Bunch of Results 2

Under the ear : A little scratchier and "treblier" than the Evahs
Played resting on the inside of my left hand elbow: Darker than the Evahs

My father, next room: He did not have to close both doors -he enjoys the playing as long as it's Bach, everything else distracts him from his writing...

Next afternoon (today) I decided to check the Vision Titanium Solo, the whole set, on this instrument (it was a set used for less than a month in my primary instrument)

Bunch of Results 3

Under the ear: More focused, and slightly metallic compared to the Dominant
Played resting on the inside of my left hand elbow: More delicate and equally powerful to the Dominant

My mother, walking in: "What have you done? Sounds way deeper, heavier and darker"

Now we are officially lost. 😛

And I know, that all these mean nothing, because every violin acts differently. I am writing all these just to reinforce this point, and to underline that indeed some instruments sound different to the listener than us.

P.S. I always love how the Visions feel, play and respond, despite producing a slightly different sound (according to the violin of course). So for the moment, on this instrument VTS wins. 

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RockingLR33
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July 7, 2017 - 11:17 am
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yup !  I figured this thread was a worthy endeavor. LOL even a couple laughs, and a Bette middler reminder.  I did my sound test- sounds best in the middle of the room when recording-  (yes, I know this is not really the topic) I think I just have to keep practicing !    (with all the gusto I can muster !)

 

@Leana  of course it falls right in line with what we are talking about! 😀 Learning where your violin sounds the best is really what we are talking about too not just under ear! 😀 Glad you found the perfect sound spot! I should probably do that with my violin. I have the perfect mike to use to find out!

 

And I know, that all these mean nothing, because every violin acts differently. I am writing all these just to reinforce this point, and to underline that indeed some instruments sound different to the listener than us.

@Hermes  I loved reading your results! It's pretty amazing how the violins can react to the strings and how we perceive the strings vs listeners. Hopefully we will always find a balance of what we love vs what sounds the best but it always intrigues me to hear how violins react to strings. Sometimes they do the exact opposite of what the strings are designed to do so that begs the question should string makers really "market" their strings for one type or another? do they truly over all do as they claim they do or is it seriously each individual violin reacts differently? 

 

Kind of off topic but since strings really influence how a violin sounds and reacts i guess it's really not THAT off topic 😀 

Lead me, Follow me, or get out of my way!

             ~General George S. Patton

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 7, 2017 - 12:22 pm
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Thanks for your input.
John, am I to understand that your favorite would then be Obligato?
Are you interested in a bright or dark sound?
Good for me to know since you are making another purchase.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Hermes
Athens, Greece
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July 7, 2017 - 12:33 pm
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rockinglr33 said

 

And I know, that all these mean nothing, because every violin acts differently. I am writing all these just to reinforce this point, and to underline that indeed some instruments sound different to the listener than us.

@Hermes  I loved reading your results! It's pretty amazing how the violins can react to the strings and how we perceive the strings vs listeners. Hopefully we will always find a balance of what we love vs what sounds the best but it always intrigues me to hear how violins react to strings. Sometimes they do the exact opposite of what the strings are designed to do so that begs the question should string makers really "market" their strings for one type or another? do they truly over all do as they claim they do or is it seriously each individual violin reacts differently? 

 

Kind of off topic but since strings really influence how a violin sounds and reacts i guess it's really not THAT off topic 😀   

 

This balance - if found- is amazing. And then a new string pops up and off we go to test it haha. 

As far as the marketing is considered my thoughts are mixed. There is a hype regarding the demand, a trend. So most brands and models are marketed to have a nice and warm sound - because who would want an aggressive string? (I would, sometimes, and many people as well, but you get the point). This thing complicates the matter. As you say, it also depends on the instrument, but I guess that if a brand named X markets string model A and string model B, and A reacts in a different way than B, they should roughly describe that...Now if it really happens, and if it happens in every violin...that's another story. So within a certain brand, I guess that what the manufacturer says should be somehow real, but comparing models from different brands gets complicated. For example the TI sound is way different from the Pirastro sound (to my ears at least) so the classic comparison Dominant vs Tonica, VTS vs Evah is strange...Not to mention the different feel under the fingers which is sometimes mistaken for tension.

Now, when it comes to a certain manufacturer and their models, from a distance I usually get the experience they describe...Under the ear, its complicated againt. (for me..)

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Fiddlerman
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July 7, 2017 - 12:52 pm
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Great points John,
I like powerful strings that are on the darker side. 🙂
However, if the instrument is bright....it's another story.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Hermes
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July 7, 2017 - 1:48 pm
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Fiddlerman said

I like powerful strings that are on the darker side. 🙂
However, if the instrument is bright....it's another story.  

Me too Pierre... and I have not decided whether I consider the whole Vision line dark or bright...

May I add something? If the instrument is bright AND powerfull...then I am in trouble haha

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 7, 2017 - 2:21 pm
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I'll keep that in mind for your upcoming purchase. 🙂

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Schaick
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July 12, 2017 - 11:16 am
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Under my ear my fiddle is so loud I can't hear any people playing on my left side. Then I thought maybe need to get earplugs to protect my hearing.  

WELLLL!!!.... I heard the violin through my jaw!! AND !!!... it was louder yet!!! 

Anyway do you suppose the old time fiddlers held the fiddle down on their forearm so they could hear the other jammers?  They never have a conductor to help them through a song the way a violinist does?

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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