September 03, 2020
How to Upgrade the Sound of Your Orchestral String Instrument
To a musician, sound couldn’t be more important. Countless hours are put into learning, playing, and practicing, all with the goal of improving the quality of sound that’s produced. To be sure, you can’t properly express yourself with a musical instrument unless you have the ability to produce the best sound. For musicians who play orchestral string instruments, such as the violin, viola, cello, or bass, this is especially true.
There are many ways to improve the sound of your orchestral string instrument, from increasing the amount of time you spend practicing, to learning to take the best possible care of your instrument, to even taking your instrument in for regular repairs. Additionally, after you’ve learned to play, and are committed to practicing and maintaining your instrument, you can improve your sound using certain accessories. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways you can improve the sound of your orchestral string instrument.
If you’re a beginner who’s just starting to learn to play an orchestral string instrument, the most important thing you can do (ask anyone) is practice, practice, practice. Take the amount of time you think you should be practicing and double it. Your practicing schedule, and how well you’re able to keep to it, should be a regular topic of conversation between you and your music teacher. Experts recommend setting a schedule that includes more frequent and short practice sessions, as opposed to infrequent marathon sessions. Violin players who are really interested in learning to improve their sound should consider playing between four and five days per week. In short, practice is one of the most important aspects of improving your sound. You’ll learn more about yourself, your instrument, and the sound you’re able to produce together by simply putting in the time. Check out our tips for successful practice from home!
After practice, the next most important way to improve the sound you produce when you play your orchestral string instrument is to take proper care of the instrument. In fact, after stressing the importance of frequent practice, your music teacher will likely begin to explain why regular maintenance is absolutely crucial. With orchestral string instrument specifically, you must always be mindful of the instrument’s strings (and when they should be replaced), as well as the climate in which it’s stored. When it comes to changing strings, it’s important to remember that over time, all strings will lose tone quality and lively response, which means that the overall sound will suffer. This process is gradual, which causes many inexperienced musicians to play with strings long after they’ve passed the point where they should have been replaced.
Taking proper care of an orchestral string instrument requires more than just changing the strings regularly. It’s also important to clean your instrument regularly. After each time you play, wipe down your instrument with a soft, clean, lint-free cloth to remove rosin buildup on the strings, as well as any dust, oil, or sweat. This is incredibly important for protecting the sound, as excess rosin will dampen the sound of your instrument’s strings. In the rare cases that your instrument needs to be polished, make sure to use only a commercial polish appropriate for your instrument. Using furniture polish could cause damage to the varnish, while using water could cause the instruments seems to open.
Another thing which can impact the sound of your instrument is the effect of the climate. Orchestral string instruments, such as the violin or cello, are extremely sensitive to temperature and humidity. Exposure to harsh climate even for short periods of time can cause structural damage to the instrument which will severely harm the sound that you produce when you play. To protect the instrument’s sound, make sure it’s always stored in a controlled climate. Never leave an orchestral string instrument in a car. Storing your instrument in a controlled environment, or utilizing a humidifier, will not only help to avoid damage caused by exposure to extreme temperatures and fluctuations in humidity, it will also help avoid accidental damage that can occur from kicks, bumps, drops, or other unfortunate incidents which can cause structural damage. Preserving the structural integrity of your instrument, protecting it from harsh climates, and making sure to clean it carefully after every use are fundamental to ensuring a quality sound.
Occasionally, you can upgrade the sound of your instrument by taking it in for repairs. If your string instrument has open seams, stripped endpins, cracks, or needs an adjustment to the string height, you’ll want to take it in to a professional to be repaired. Attempting to repair any of those things yourself will only cause more damage to the instrument, likely destroying its ability to produce a good sound. Even if your instrument doesn’t have any of these issues, it’s generally a good idea to take it in for repairs once every few years, just to get checked out. Sometimes, problems can develop gradually. Beginners, especially, should defer to the experience of professionals until they learn to detect these creeping issues. Talk to your music instructor if you’re uncertain about whether or not it’s time to take your instrument to an experienced repair technician.
Finally, once you’ve learned to keep to a frequent practicing schedule, and learned to keep your instrument properly cleaned and maintained, you can start exploring accessories to help upgrade your instrument’s sound. There’s no shortage of great accessories and alterations to consider for orchestral string instruments, such as a carbon fiber violin bow for your violin, a mute for your viola, or a pickup for your double bass. Each of these accessories will alter the sound your instrument in different ways, opening up a new world of sound for you to explore.
If you’re interested in upgrading the sound of your orchestral string instrument, head on over to Music & Arts!