I've had my first few days here at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and they've all been fun and eventful! Musically speaking, I had my audition for the orchestra (in terms of seating) today at 4pm, and Dr. Culver said I was a very good player and he couldn't wait to have me in the orchestra. We will be rehearsing Monday and Thursday evenings from 7:30pm - 9:30pm, so I can't wait to have a couple evenings a week just devoted to playing with my favorite object in the world. (And it's cool walking through the campus and seeing all the trees here, thinking about how violins were made.) I'm also not planning on taking violin lessons this term, but I will do so eventually. I haven't really had time to truly obsess over the violin itself specifically, but I'm certainly excited for all the musical things to come (and whenever I hold my violin I will get excited, most of the time I keep it in my locker in the music building)! Dr. Bancks, my composition professor, gave me my first lesson today. Throughout this term, I am to compose a piece based heavily on Ravel's "Menuet Antique", and then I will be orchestrating that piece, as that is what Ravel himself did. This will allow me to focus on form, orchestration, gestures, etc. and do so in the world of my favorite composer. The Music 111 class I take in the mornings is pretty cool so far, too, where it's an encompassing course about all music. I tested out of the Theory portion, however. Overall, I am very much looking forward to a great term, and a great next four years of my life! They're going to fly by....
Hello! I spent this early afternoon putting together a little sneak preview of my string quartet where I played the violin parts of two small excerpts from the piece. Hope you enjoy listening!
Here's a little brief about the piece. Basically, in March (of this year), my friend asked me if I would write him a quartet he could play for a competition, and I said "Sure!". I wrote the first movement pretty quickly after that, and then sketched out ideas while I was in Italy. However, it wasn't until June where I actually began sketching the other three movements that made it into the final product. I composed all of that music over the summer while on walks around the neighborhood or in the forest preserve, and it has been my big project I am hopefully going to deem complete sometime very soon. I hope you enjoy this little preview, and stay tuned for the full quartet as played by my friends in the future!
Also, I'd like to introduce you to my Composition Website! I launched this a little while ago, but now you can browse through my multiple posts and listen to a few different pieces of mine. Thanks!
(Also, I literally just watched the moment rain began to fall from the sky. :P)
In the fourth movement part of the video, the second violin part at the second half of that excerpt is the technique I alluded to in my June 26, 2015 post (titled "The violin as a composing tool").
So I've spent the past half hour of my practice session this afternoon thinking about the "ring" of my instrument, especially as compared to the instrument I had rented a couple weeks ago - that is, how long do the tones still last after I play them? (I'm not really talking about ringing tones here. I'm talking more about how responsive a violin is when other tones are played, if you can still hear those tones ringing slightly, especially as you end a phrase and add a wiggle of vibrato.) It's something I know I had in the back of my mind when I picked up this violin way back in December (I think) 2009, and have just grown attached to playing it throughout these past five-and-a-half years. However, since I have had the strings raised by the new bridge, and I have had a little time since coming back from vacation (where I went on this beautiful forest trail and sketched a small symphonic work in New York's State Park) to play around with this adjustment, I have been trying to figure out how much I really do like the sound I am hearing, and I'd like to give a few examples before I come to my conclusion. I did discuss some of this in my last entry, but I wanted to spend a good hour-and-a-half conducting this short study on the subject, mostly just on my personal instrument.
First of all, the rental violin was one of the violins made by Sapp, so it's still a modern instrument. (Comparing my instrument to an older one would be much different!) I know I said in my last post how it has a somewhat muted sound, although that seems more evident when it is heard live. I also noticed instantly how some of the tones "bled" into others, just slightly, as I was playing it. The last day before I went to get my violin back from the shop (July 30th), I recorded Ravel's Violin Sonatine (his first one) with it. This is the piece I've been working on the most, and I recorded a video when I got my personal violin back on the 31st to go back and forth and compare, as I did today while practicing the same piece, which is how I began to think about this topic. However, the first time I really noticed the rental violin ring was when I began learning Mozart's Second Violin Concerto, the first movement (as a piece I could continue to work on in college when I don't have my private lessons right away). At the solo violin entrance, there is a simple D major I chord going from the top D6 to the lower D5. After, the triplet figure occurs, leading to the G, and the same to the B. For all of the quarter notes in this passage, I really noticed the "bleeding" effect much more prominently than with my own instrument. When I played the same passage on my personal violin, checking intonation to make sure there wasn't the factor of the violin simply ringing to tell me good job, I noticed it would still ring, but would die out in about half the time as it took the rental violin. However, the trill the follows immediately after the third triplet figure leading to the F# quarter note still bled, somewhat nicely, with both instruments. I'm not going to go through the entire piece, but it seems like there are some places where both instruments respond differently when I play different tones (and yes, the ringing tones ring on both instruments, but even after a bit of vibrato on the B the rental has a longer "ringing" sound than does my violin). My teacher even suggested that the rental violin could be even better than my personal instrument. From the "making of the violin" videos I had been watching, I do understand how using different types of wood or how responsive a certain piece of "raw" wood is before it is cut into the violin shape can have various effects on the overall sound of the instrument, so thinking even to the different trees where the wood came from to make both violins is reason enough for why this happens. From comparing the Ravel recordings, I noticed that the ringing also occurs when I'm changing strings, like when I have octaves going from one string to the other (slowly), and the sound from the top octave just barely bleeds over to the lower octave with the rental. However, today, I wanted to investigate further with how my violin changed from both having the fine tuners taken off (save the E string), as well as the higher bridge, which could allow the strings to ring more on their own anyway.
To do that, as I didn't have both violins to compare with physically with me, I went back to all of my (recent) older violin videos from this past spring, like my recital where I played my "Little Snow-White" violin concerto, and a couple of solo violin medleys I recorded. I tried to make sure I picked the spots where my violin was in a larger space, like my basement or, for the case of the recital, the choir room at my high school, although not a huge space like a concert hall, where the sound would go around the concert hall and "ring" anyway. A lot of how you allow the violin to physically ring has to do with how you release a note, how much bow you use, etc. I don't think the raising of the strings really did make much of a difference - maybe slightly allowed the ringing time to increase, which personally I don't think I mind. I do think some things did change for the better, however. For example, the pizzicato on my instrument generally does ring a lot more (and has less feedback from the other strings on the higher E string fingerings) than it did, because the string is raised and has much more room to vibrate.
In conclusion, although the rental instrument may be a better instrument overall, I do think that if I were to have continued to play that one, I would start to really dislike the fact that it rings so much, as in some instances there is way too much bleeding and it muddies up a passage of music, making it harder to hear the exchange between tones. I think that the violin I've owned for so long now - while it may not be quite as responsive as other instruments, and is certainly not the most expensive or best-sounding instrument in the world - to my ears, I really am happy overall with the sound I get out of it. I have spent the past couple years changing so many aspects of my violin. I got a new and higher chin rest in 2013, I got a new bow in 2014, new rosin in 2015, and most recently, a new bridge this summer, and all of these things, as well as my improvement on my bow strokes and intonation in general, have really helped both my instrument and its owner to create a much nicer sound than I had even since a year ago from this time. This factor is just something I happened to focus on today while I was practicing, and I think I am very happy with how my violin "rings". This study really opened up my ears to yet another factor that differentiates one violin from another, so this will be something to keep in mind for any other violins I may happen to stumble across to play in the future.
[Sorry this article was so long, and hopefully it wasn't too confusing to read. I know that using videos is definitely not the way to go when comparing violin sounds, and if I had both violins at hand I could do so more accurately. I used both the videos and remembering how each instrument sounded when I played both of them when writing this article.]
More entries: July 2015
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.