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Thread: Stupid Questions About the Violin

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    Default Stupid Questions About the Violin

    I have or once had rudimentary knowledge of the violin.
    Questions come up when I watched advanced violinists play. Many stupid questions, I admit, or rather questions that show my ignorance. I wonder if anyone would care to answer them.

    The violin is the highest pitched stringed instrument in the orchestra, but the open G string is pretty low. I have no idea where this note would be on a piano (nor do I know anything of pianos). How much deeper does a piano go?

    In most repertory, how often does a concert violinist even play on the G string, what percentage of the time? They seem to be on the A and E strings 90% of the time.

    Also, when an orchestra all sounds the one note simultaneously while warming up with the concertmaster, just before they play for real, is that always the same tone? It sounds like the open A string on the violin to me, is it?

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    The low G on violin is three white keys below middle C. You can see the piano goes way, way lower than the violin



    Amount of time on G string maybe 25% max... maybe as low as 10%

    Tuning is the open A string
    Last edited by Vasks; Jun-11-2019 at 16:55.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    I have seen pieces played where the violinist is playing on two adjacent strings at once. Is it possible to be playing on three strings at once in any virtuoso pieces?

    Modern-made violins pretty much have the same design as violins have always had. Is there any reason they are not more streamlined in design today? Would their sound be affected if the neck didn't end in a fancy scroll? Maybe no one wants to find out.

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    I have seen pieces played where the violinist is playing on two adjacent strings at once. Is it possible to be playing on three strings at once in any virtuoso pieces?
    The angle of the four strings is such that the bow can only play two adjacent strings simultaneously. It's called a double stop. Triple and quadruple stops are "broken" or "arpeggiated"

    Instrument design is beyond my pay grade
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Senior Member senza sordino's Avatar
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    There is no such thing as a stupid question.

    It's hard to know what percentage of time is spent playing the G String, possibly 25% because there are four strings. But it might be less than that for first violins, who usually play higher pitched notes than second violins. Usually but not always, sometimes the same, sometimes lower. I remember playing a Brahms symphony (don't remember which) where the seconds played a section in a higher register than firsts, and then another section where the seconds played lower notes than the violas.

    A triple stop is possible. On the opening page of the Bruch Violin Concerto there are some triple stops. They are loud. The bow hair bends around three strings, all bowed down bow, and you bow further away from the bridge where the curvature of the strings is a bit less. But triple stops are not used often. Almost always triple stops, as mentioned by Vasks, are broken.

    The scroll is convenient for the luthier when she is making the violin. The violin is hung up in her workshop on a wire. I sometimes see people hanging their violin by the scroll from the music stand. I would never do this because if the stand is bumped the violin falls. Ouch! I don't know if the scroll has any particular sonic qualities.

    Orchestras tune to A above middle C. It's a resonant frequency of the violin. When the brass and winds are tuning, and I'm waiting to tune, I can feel my violin vibrate when the brass and winds tune, my violin isn't being played. It already feels alive under my chin.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senza sordino View Post
    There is no such thing as a stupid question.
    Uh, who's buried in Grant's Tomb?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    The low G on violin is three white keys below middle C. You can see the piano goes way, way lower than the violin



    Amount of time on G string maybe 25% max... maybe as low as 10%

    Tuning is the open A string
    The G string just seems like a deep note to me but probably only in comparison to the rest of the violin's range. That is close to midrange on a piano.

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    On a stringed instrument you can achieve the same note with more than one string. With the D string, 4 fingers will bring you to A, the next string with no fingers pressing. Any compositions ever require open string?

    More fingers on the D string would bring you to the same note as the open E string and beyond. Is this sometimes required instead of actually playing the next F note on the E string with one finger, just because it produces a different sound even though it is the same note at its core (forgive my non-technical means of expression)?

    Is there a method of indicating in the written score which string must be used?

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    Quote Originally Posted by senza sordino View Post
    There is no such thing as a stupid question.

    It's hard to know what percentage of time is spent playing the G String, possibly 25% because there are four strings. But it might be less than that for first violins, who usually play higher pitched notes than second violins. Usually but not always, sometimes the same, sometimes lower. I remember playing a Brahms symphony (don't remember which) where the seconds played a section in a higher register than firsts, and then another section where the seconds played lower notes than the violas.

    A triple stop is possible. On the opening page of the Bruch Violin Concerto there are some triple stops. They are loud. The bow hair bends around three strings, all bowed down bow, and you bow further away from the bridge where the curvature of the strings is a bit less. But triple stops are not used often. Almost always triple stops, as mentioned by Vasks, are broken.

    The scroll is convenient for the luthier when she is making the violin. The violin is hung up in her workshop on a wire. I sometimes see people hanging their violin by the scroll from the music stand. I would never do this because if the stand is bumped the violin falls. Ouch! I don't know if the scroll has any particular sonic qualities.

    Orchestras tune to A above middle C. It's a resonant frequency of the violin. When the brass and winds are tuning, and I'm waiting to tune, I can feel my violin vibrate when the brass and winds tune, my violin isn't being played. It already feels alive under my chin.
    Probably the basic shape of the violin and other features are critical and will remain, huh?

    Are there master violin makers today who are as highly regarded as the ones of the past?

    Do the ones from the past, Stradivarius and others, have an expected shelf life beyond which their sound will deteriorate from age?

    I'm sure I'll eventually ask a true stupid question, if I haven't by now.
    Last edited by Open Book; Jun-12-2019 at 18:07.

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    Senior Member Dan Ante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    The angle of the four strings is such that the bow can only play t o adjacent strings simultaneously. It's called a double stop. Triple and quadruple stops are "broken" or "arpeggiated
    Instrument design is beyond my pay grade
    I remember 15 - 20 years ago a Bow was developed with some sort of lever that reduced tention and enabled quadruple stopping obviously it did not catch on, also did not Anna Sophie Mutter do triple stopping in some works my memory may be a bit hazy on this one.
    "Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    Probably the basic shape of the violin and other features are critical and will remain, huh?

    Are there master violin makers today who are as highly regarded as the ones of the past?

    Do the ones from the past, Stradivarius and others, have an expected shelf life beyond which their sound will deteriorate from age?

    I'm sure I'll eventually ask a true stupid question, if I haven't by now.
    The basic shape has not changed in centuries. It's not likely to change. But I'm not a luthier.

    There are luthiers who are renowned and sought after.

    Old violins can continue to sound great as they age. In fact many violins will sound better with age. But the violin needs to be played regularly. I've read that violins that are in museum display cases are periodically taken out to be played. My violin is 121 years old, and it sounds great. I wonder how a Stradivarius will sound 500 years from now? If it has been taken care of, I'm sure it'll sound great.



    Quote Originally Posted by Open Book View Post
    On a stringed instrument you can achieve the same note with more than one string. With the D string, 4 fingers will bring you to A, the next string with no fingers pressing. Any compositions ever require open string?

    More fingers on the D string would bring you to the same note as the open E string and beyond. Is this sometimes required instead of actually playing the next F note on the E string with one finger, just because it produces a different sound even though it is the same note at its core (forgive my non-technical means of expression)?

    Is there a method of indicating in the written score which string must be used?
    The composer will sometimes indicate on which string a section of the music is to be played. Typically that would be the G string for the richer tone quality. There is a section of a Paganini Caprice that is played way way up there on the G string. Air on a G string is played entirely on the G string. There is a section of Ravel's Tzigane to be played way up on the D string. (Though I have never played this piece, it's beyond my ability).

    It's unusual for a composer to indicate fingerings, that is left to interpretation of the performer. Sometimes bow direction is indicated, but often not. There is a lot of interpretation of each piece.

    The composer will write in to slur or not, but not fingerings, and not often which string or which bow direction.

    (Slur = multiple notes with one bow direction. Not to slur = each note is a separate bow direction.)

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    Senior Member Dan Ante's Avatar
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    Another thing that I remembered last night was one thing that surprised researchers into what made the Strad such a nice sound was that it was asymmetrical.
    "Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.

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    Quote Originally Posted by senza sordino View Post
    The basic shape has not changed in centuries. It's not likely to change. But I'm not a luthier.



    The composer will sometimes indicate on which string a section of the music is to be played. Typically that would be the G string for the richer tone quality. There is a section of a Paganini Caprice that is played way way up there on the G string. Air on a G string is played entirely on the G string. There is a section of Ravel's Tzigane to be played way up on the D string. (Though I have never played this piece, it's beyond my ability).

    It's unusual for a composer to indicate fingerings, that is left to interpretation of the performer. Sometimes bow direction is indicated, but often not. There is a lot of interpretation of each piece.

    The composer will write in to slur or not, but not fingerings, and not often which string or which bow direction.

    (Slur = multiple notes with one bow direction. Not to slur = each note is a separate bow direction.)
    I actually didn't know Bach's Air was played entirely on the G string. You can see some details in this video. Are you sure she's not on the D string part of the time?

    Is slurring the same as legato or is legato not always in one direction?


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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Uh, who's buried in Grant's Tomb?
    Uh, who's buried in Grant's Tomb in a G-string?
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    It is possible to do quadruple-stopping, but it involves disassembling the bow and wrapping the hair around the strings.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

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