Learning to play the violin is by no means a simple task. It takes weeks and sometimes months before a beginner can produce even a single note that can be considered beautiful.
In contrast, a student taking their first piano lesson will not only be able to produce relatively pleasant sounds in a matter of minutes, but also string these notes together to form a melody before lesson's end.
I would like to examine the reason for this a little more closely. There are three components to both instruments.
1. The string, where the sound originates.
2. The body of the instrument, an acoustic chamber that amplifies this sound.
3. The mechanism that draws the sound from the string; hammers that strike the string in case of the piano and the bow for the violin:
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 complex series of pulleys and levers move the hammers to strike each string individually, all perfectly aligned and calibrated by design. This creates all the conditions necessary for good sound no matter how hard or soft the player hits the keys.
By 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. Only later did I realize that this concept was not at all philosophical, but firmly grounded in the concrete world of practical application.
In fact, the right hand’s movements resemble the actions of the piano’s internal mechanics, but as each aspect is directly controlled, with much greater expressive potential.
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 for optimal sound quality and expression.