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Help with sound production in high positions
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JuanFiddler
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May 30, 2018 - 12:33 pm
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Hi folks. Here Im sharing a different ending to Ashokan Farewell where I shift from 3rd to 5th position back and forth. Problem is Im not happy with the sound im making. I cant figure out what to do or not to do to improve the sound quality.

Juan.

https://youtu.be/XggZWI6CE-Q

There's nothing better than a cold beer and the warm soothing sound of a violin.

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Jim Dunleavy
United Kingdom
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May 30, 2018 - 1:06 pm
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Hi Juan. It sounds pretty good on the recording.

The only thing I can suggest is experiment with the contact point of the bow. I've read that the higher up the neck you are, the closer to the bridge the 'sweet spot' for the bow will be. Though you do seem to be getting closer to the bridge at times when you're playing higher, you're not being consistent with it as far as I can see.

I also find using more bow pressure and speed helps, as the sound level can tail off as you get higher (unless it's just my old ears!). Worth experimenting with both variables till you get a sound you like though.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 4, 2018 - 11:08 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Sounds great brother. Try applying a bit more left hand finger pressure for a more pure sound.

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

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Demoiselle
Berlin, Germany
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June 8, 2018 - 5:26 am
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Even more strength needed on high positions! More bow pressure and speed... which would tire me sooner. This is very interesting. I'm very happy that for me there are no positions above the first position. It would be too much.

Before I started on violin my idea was: For playing the trombone you need to be tough and a little feeling, for playing the violin you need lots of feeling and a good ear. No, you need to be awfully tough to play the violin, because it is physically very demanding!!

I'm already telling people who think about starting on violin: Yes, you also need ear and feeling, but also awfully strong hands. There are definitely people who hardly have enough physical energy to make it through the day. Whenever they start on they violin, they often suffer. All over the internet you hear people crying because they struggle and suffer with  their choice to play the violin. I think there are psychological reasons in many cases, since emotional distress also weakens the body.

These people should be warned in time. They dream to play like those popular violinists, but this involves also vibrato on higher positions. Who out there has an idea how much strength you need for that?

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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June 9, 2018 - 3:31 am
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The reason the violin is physically demanding is not really the amount of strength it requires, it's that it requires strength in muscles that don't normally get a lot of use. Some of the muscles that are heavily involved in playing violin are barely used for anything else humans do, except playing viola. It takes time to build strength in those muscles. I'm badly out of shape these days, but I find playing viola less physically demanding now (while playing much more difficult material) than when I was a college athlete.

Use bow speed more than pressure in high positions. In high positions, heavy bow pressure tends to produce a "choked" sound. Also, when you press the string to the fingerboard, you're lowering it in relation to the other strings, and that effect is more pronounced when you're fingering farther up the fingerboard. As a result, bowing too heavily when playing in high positions risks hitting other strings.

And yes, the contact point needs to be a bit closer to the bridge as you go up beyond 5th position, because you're playing on a much shorter string. In 5th position, your third finger cuts the vibrating length of the string in half.

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Demoiselle
Berlin, Germany
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June 9, 2018 - 6:08 am
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AndrewH said
The reason the violin is physically demanding is not really the amount of strength it requires, it's that it requires strength in muscles that don't normally get a lot of use. Some of the muscles that are heavily involved in playing violin are barely used for anything else humans do, except playing viola. It takes time to build strength in those muscles. I'm badly out of shape these days, but I find playing viola less physically demanding now (while playing much more difficult material) than when I was a college athlete.

Use bow speed more than pressure in high positions. In high positions, heavy bow pressure tends to produce a "choked" sound. Also, when you press the string to the fingerboard, you're lowering it in relation to the other strings, and that effect is more pronounced when you're fingering farther up the fingerboard. As a result, bowing too heavily when playing in high positions risks hitting other strings.

And yes, the contact point needs to be a bit closer to the bridge as you go up beyond 5th position, because you're playing on a much shorter string. In 5th position, your third finger cuts the vibrating length of the string in half.  

That was great. It should be printed and handed to every violin student. Those who need more time to learn it understand it better than. I'm afraid many violin teachers make students change position too early. I told my ex-teacher, "I'm not gonna go there as long as I struggle on the first position."

Very demanding seems to be synchronization between bow and fingerboard hand. If it works it's easy, but whenever you try hard because it's not there, it takes more energy. It is great if you can change to legatissimo for a while and later try synchronization of non-legato again. The longer you play an instrument, the more technical options you can involve. But on high positions those options seem to narrow and that's probably the difficulty. Less choices in things bow speed (you cannot slow down, which is outspokenly baroque!) is definitely an issue. At some point I should do that, whether I will ever use it or not..... Biber was an exceptional violinist and indeed involved high positions already in the 1600s.

My violin is a 3/4 violin, made for right-handed players, though I play it left-handed. As I felt she was the best in the shop of all 3/4 violins I tried and the luthier agreed. I prefer Obligato strings together with Eudoxa E string.

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bluesviolin
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June 10, 2018 - 2:09 am
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I agree with Andrew that higher positions require a faster bow and not more pressure. I start bowing a little closer to the bridge on 3rd position. I've had quite a few different fiddles in the $1700 to $2500 range over 40 years, and ime some fiddles are just harder to play in higher positions than others. I'm happy to say that the 2 acoustics I have now play well in higher positions.

Question: my Mel Bay violin wall chart only shows up to 4th position which starts on the D A E B notes on the G D A E strings respectively. what are the start notes for the 5th position? 

I mostly use the A and E strings up that high and usually down shift on the A string at that point rather than cross over to the D string.

I'm currently working on the Gypsy theme from The Red Violin which involves some Gypsy jumps....

the instructor shows jumping up to the high F# & G on the G string at 0:47 - 0:49. not going there...doing the F# & G on the D string. other than that, I've got all the other notes. don't know how long it will take me to get it smooth enough to try a video....  

"Striving to attain Mediocrity"

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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June 10, 2018 - 5:34 pm
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One thought on the hardware side: if the bridge is too tall compared to the height of the fingerboard, it may be hard to press the string firmly with the left hand in high positions.

5th position is exactly the same notes as playing in 1st position on the next string up. 7th position has the 1st finger an octave above the string.

When you're in 7th position and higher, you really have to pay attention to the bow's contact point with the string. For me, bowing adjustments are automatic up to about an octave above the string, and then I have to consciously move the contact point closer to the bridge when playing higher than that. (I routinely play up to 7th position in orchestral viola parts, and have occasionally gone as high as 12th.)

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 11, 2018 - 10:22 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 13311

True that Andrew, though a lot of professional violinists and soloist want a higher bridge for more power. Some pros have sensitive fingertips and want the bridge shaped with the minimal height over the fingerboard while others are not the slightest bit concerned with the pressure of the string on their fingertips. Usually, a lot of playing and practicing results in less sensitive fingertips.

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

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