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Damping
Damping string vibration
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libraquarius
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October 10, 2019 - 11:25 am
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I have caught myself and several occasions in the act of damping a string while playing; bringing a finger down onto a ringing string to stop the decaying note.

Is this a fault or a feature? Has the technique a name in violin playing?

I am also a guitarist, and damping strings in this way is de riguer in the fretted world.

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Pete_Violin
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October 10, 2019 - 1:46 pm
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@libraquarius 

I am not sure I understand.  What exactly are you referring to when a note "decays"?

Normally, a violin will resonate... this is a desired effect.  If you are talking about "quieting" the sound, often, a player will place mutes on the strings, the small rubber mutes are meant to reduce audible overtones of the violin in orchestra.  Music will often be notated as senza, indicating to mute.

If by decay you mean the note will "flatten" or fall in pitch, this is sometimes referring to a false string and may indicate that the string may need to be replaced.  Do you also find it difficult or requires much more effort to pull the sound?  These are also definite signs the string needs replacing.  A string in this condition is nearly impossible to tune correctly as well.

- Pete -

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AndrewH
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October 10, 2019 - 1:57 pm
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I sometimes damp the string with a finger if I'm playing pizzicato and don't want the note to keep ringing. But it's not a common technique at all. When playing with the bow, there is no reason to use the left hand for that purpose -- simply keeping the bow on the string will stop the note just as well with much less effort and without the risk of making any extra noises.

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libraquarius
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October 10, 2019 - 3:19 pm
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Hi @Pete_Violin,

I mean the amplitude decay. The strings ring on a little, as you say, resonate, and I instinctively stop them with a touch. The strings are fresh (about four weeks).

Hi @AndrewH,

Keeping the bow on the string makes sense, but I wonder if it's because the string I've just crossed from is ringing that I do it (I'll have to watch out for that).

It's not a behaviour I've seen noted anywhere, and I wondered if I had introduced a guitarist's perversion into my fiddle playing. Thank you both for your replies.

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wtw
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October 11, 2019 - 12:53 am
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I used to do that too, after string crossing from an open string because I thought the open string resonated too much (typically, in Bach's Prelude : the very first note and similar ones). I stopped doing it, working on getting better with my bow instead. I'm convinced that controlling the ringing at the end of the note is just another skill to practice...

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Gordon Shumway
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October 11, 2019 - 2:23 am
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Maybe it's an advanced technique. It's not in Fischer's indexes.

I wish more guitarists used damping. It's particularly effective on Leo Brouwer, whose jazzy chords need to be kept mud-free, but Youtube shows that plenty of people don't have ears.

But, as Andrew says (and I'm trying to remember if you said you were a beginner), keep the bow on the strings to begin with (if playing staccato) and they won't need damping. As to strings ringing as a result of string-crossing, avoiding that is a skill that comes.

I haven't felt the need for damping yet. Maybe it's also a problem that you don't yet realise that a lot of what the player can hear is inaudible to the audience?

Something I discovered for myself is that if you are playing a low Ab or Eb or Bb, you must resist the temptation to take your first finger off the string and let the G, D or A strings ring openly after the end of the note - sounds awful.

Andrew

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libraquarius
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October 11, 2019 - 3:09 am
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Thank you all, for your replies and advice.

I shall try to hold the bow on the string to silence it for rests.

I am indeed a beginner, with just one month's experience. The question I asked of you is just what one would ask of a violin tutor, but with no way of funding a tutor I can only ask fellow fiddlers. I suppose I should soon bite the bullet and upload a critique video, so that some of my errors and bad habits can be highlighted. This will have to wait until I have my acoustic violin back together, because the home-brew electric fiddle I'm practicing on has visual and musical qualities which would distract from any appraisal of my performance.

Best wishes,

Peter

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Gordon Shumway
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October 11, 2019 - 3:18 am
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Yes, an electric fiddle (especially if you are playing it amplified) will give little idea.

Teachers are tricky. If you've got a good one, you won't need to ask, you'll be told, whether you like it or not, lol! But finding one can be tricky. I'd always go for one with a performer's diploma, as I am totally in favour of good technique, but it helps if you can befriend one and get mates' rates.

Andrew

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AndrewH
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October 11, 2019 - 3:52 am
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I think the reason damping never comes up with string crossing is: the string also mostly stops ringing when you remove your finger from it, unless your finger was close to the nut. Whatever vibration is left at that point is not really audible, especially if you are reducing bow speed and bow pressure at the end of the note. At the very end, the bow is still touching the string but not really pulling it.

That means the string continues to ring with string crossing only in two situations: where you're going back and forth between strings (in which case it doesn't matter), or where you're playing an open string. Classical string players above a certain level tend to avoid playing on open strings except in fast passages, where there are enough other notes to cover any continued open string vibration, so unwanted ringing is hardly ever an issue.

I don't think damping with a left hand finger is taught as an advanced technique -- after 18+ years playing in orchestras, including the most recent several years in a semi-pro orchestra, I think I'd have noticed by now if people were doing it.

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