Learning to play the violin is by no means a simple task. It takes months if not years before a beginner can produce even a single note that can be considered beautiful. In contrast, a student taking his or her very first piano lesson will not only be able to produce a relatively pleasant sounds in a matter of minutes, but also string these notes together to form a melody. Let’s examine the reason for this a little more closely. There are three components to both instruments.
1. The string, where the sound vibrations originate.
2. The body, an acoustic chamber that amplifies this sound.
3. The mechanism that draws the sound from the string.
If we look at the picture above, we can see that the mechanism that produces the sound of the piano is contained inside the instrument itself. A series of pulleys and levers move the hammer to strike the string, thereby producing the characteristic piano sound we are all familiar with. This mechanism is by no means simple, consisting of many parts and carefully calibrated to perfection.
In contrast the violin is nothing but strings tightened over a wooden box and a bow. So where is the mechanism that produces the amazing variety of sounds and effects? Well it is in fact outside the instrument; in the fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder of the violinist’s right hand.
I remember one of my first teachers explaining to me that a violinist’s right hand is a direct continuation of the instrument. While I did not realize it at the time, this is not a philosophical idea but is in fact a profound truth. The right hand’s movement resembles the actions of the piano’s internal mechanics in it’s complexity, but with much greater capabilities if studied correctly.
In the following series of articles I will break down the violin’s sound producing mechanics with a focus on understanding it’s components and calibrating your own right hand to better perform its role as the main driver of sound.