Is your sound scratchy?

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People often expect beginner violinists to make a scratchy sound, but it doesn’t have to be this way! If you are moving your bow correctly there’s no reason why your playing shouldn’t sound good right from the start. Bear in mind that the most likely cause of sound problems is your bowing arm, rather than your left hand. Check the following technical points to help eliminate any unwanted squeaks or scratches:

  • Check the ‘point of contact’ of your bow with the string (see Violinworks Book 1, page 25). The bow should be positioned about half way between the bridge and fingerboard. If you play too close to either the bridge or fingerboard the strings won’t vibrate properly and your sound will be squeaky.
  • Is your bow moving in a straight line parallel to the bridge? Violin strings vibrate from side to side and the direction of this vibration is perfectly parallel to the bridge. Your bow therefore needs to move parallel to the bridge in order to set up a constant, smooth string vibration and make a clear sound. Regularly check your right arm position in the mirror and adjust the angle of your bowing arm as necessary. There are lots of exercises to help you with your bowing technique in Violinworks Book 1 (see chapters 5 and 6).
  • Are you pressing down too hard with the bow? The string needs to be able to vibrate freely under the bow, so try not to press down with the bow as this will ‘choke’ the string. Think of stroking the string and drawing out the sound, or of pulling and pushing the string with the bow (see Violinworks Book 1, page 27).