Small Things About the Violin #1: Scrolls

SMALL THING #1   SCROLLS                                                                   

Does the shape of the SCROLL affect the sound?                                                                   Here’s a standard scroll: scroll                                                                                OR maybe …..    scroll2 OR …yikes! scroll3

ANSWER: No, IT DOESN’T – “the shape/design of the scroll (including the peg box), does not affect the tone” (if it is attached properly).

ha ha ha ha  … someone blogged: ‘the tone of this violin was improved greatly by adding an Irish cow horn to the scroll. Many clients have asked f0r Irish cow horns  for their scrolls …



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Perfectly in Tune: is that possible?

                                                                                                                                 Can anyone play the VIOLIN perfectly in tune?                                                                      Yes?                                                                                                                                                    No?                                                                                                                                                  Read on …                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Some people work for their entire violin-lives to improve their tuning (more correctly known as their INTONATION). Some actually quit playing, because they are convinced they will never get there. Others go to bed and analyze passages till four in the morning.

Most of us (the more balanced lot) accept the truth: our fingers feel different from day to day; the strings have variable tension and composition;  the violin itself is sensitive to humidity and temperature. Imagine: some of us think we hear differently (especially the danged E-string) from one day to the next.                                                                                                             So? Is there any hope of getting it right?

Here it is: We, the more reasonable lot, accept that perfect intonation is an elusive, likely impossible skill. We can come very, very close. We can do our best.

Wait: there’s more.                                                                                                           About fifths (what’s that? Wiki knows all).

Story about Fifths                                                                                                                                     Recently, I went to hear a very famous soloist. He bowed, and tuned his instrument in smooth, confident manner. What I heard then made me uncomfortable: I was certain his ‘A-D’ fifth was too narrow, that is to say, the ‘D’ was sharp, relative to the ‘A’. But he left it there. He was beginning with unaccompanied Bach – OMG!  (It’s overflowing with ‘open fifths’.)                                                                                                                                              The opening G minor chord seemed to my ears to be ‘off”. Who was this guy, who I paid good money to hear? Can’t tune his violin, grumble, grumble … Well, I have to tell you that within a few seconds, the intonation question resolved itself, and I enjoyed the performance thoroughly.                                                                                                         What’s going on here?                                                                                                                                       It’s seems that our ears are very forgiving (at least, when listening to someone in performance). We get used to what we’re hearing. Examples: the violin & the piano, having different tuning principles, should sound out of tune with each other. But, after a minute or two, they seem just fine together. Most fiddlers, who often play fast and loose with their sharps and naturals, sound, well, okay, after a tune or two.

Still, there is a standard to be met: when you tune your violin, use the keyboard for the ‘A’ and tune fifths from the ‘A’.  Please, don’t tune the other strings to the piano!                                                                                                                                                                                                                    YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST LEARN THE SOUND OF A FIFTH. (Get help)

Last word to everyone: if you keep re-tuning and re-tuning any pair of strings, and there’s still something wrong, get yourself a NEW STRING. It’s impossible to get a true fifth from old strings ….

How do you know which string is too old? Look for a later blog: “Small Things About Your Violin”.

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All About Your Fingertips

OK – the idea here is to play IN TUNE!

If you’re a classical player, you work forever to play in tune. From China to Vancouver to Chile – everyone agrees on what the notes sound like. So – we have to get it RIGHT! 

Every day, it’s the same old thing – TUNE those notes. Casals, the famous cellist said: after sixty years, every morning I still go out on the balcony (this is in sunny Italy),  pick up my cello and remind myself where the notes are.

You’d think that after years of lessons and a hundred thousand exercises (or half a million fiddle tunes), the fingers would know just where to go. So why don’t they always go there?

Here’s the deal: a fingertip that touches the string one millimeter (1/16 inch) out of place is OUT OF TUNE!  Arrgghh! How so?

Consider the shape of your fingertip:   The end is round, right

Now – I’m assuming you know the spacings between the fingers: you can get close to the right pitch, but sometimes, the note is a bit off. Why so? 

Take a closer look:  See the fingertips?

CLUE: If your finger lands on its point and touches the string in the EXACT CENTRE of your fingertip, you’re very, very close to being in tune. BUT if you land on the curved part of your fingertip, it’s touching a different place on the string. Get it? QUIZ: if you land on the curved part, will it be sharp or flat?

LAST CLUE: What about being perfectly in tune? Uh-oh – this takes a good ear. What’s that? It’s this: (see next post).

SO – pay attention. Like painting a wall, or maybe mounting a butterfly –

it’s in the details.   


By the way: you need very short fingernails.                                                                         These are too long.   Sorry, ladies …

These are cut very nicely:                                                                    ATTENTION! If the nail touches the string: Too Long!

These, other the other hand,  just won’t do ….                                                 …. makes for jerky notes … maybe some weird effects?

Bye now.


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Violin and Gravity: partners for a good sound!

  ViolinWorks Post #1         Return to ViolinWorks: click the back arrow

This post is for Beginners,  for Fiddlers and for Teachers

Why do we hold the violin UP? Does it really matter?


It’s all about Violin and Gravity? Why so?

You want a smooth, clear sound, right? You want to feel loose and natural when you play? Read on!

Question: Violin and Gravity: what’s that all about?

Answer: When violin strings vibrate, you hear music.  It’s this simple: the more natural the vibration, the more pleasant the sound. Natural vibration happens when a  bow lies gently on the string. The bow is heavy enough by itself (almost).

  like this….

SO?  If  you hold the violin parallel to the floor (more or less), and just let the bow lie on the string, GRAVITY will provide the weight. If you press too hard,  you know what happens (screech). If you angle the violin toward the floor  there’s not enough weight, and you sound thin and unconvincing.

What to do: keep the violin up (more or less). If you’re aiming at mice or birds, that’s not it!

Uh-oh: keeping the violin up is:  annoying, uncomfortable, too classical!

On an upcoming Post (#?): Tips on keeping comfortable under your chin.

   a student & myself: very conventional

 Classic: too formal for you?

Fiddler – it works, but …

How about these?   Well, now and then …

Return to ViolinWorks: click the back arrow or go to

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