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from bass to violin

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by groooooove, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. do any of you play violin?

    I'm taking a string course to finish my bachelors in music education, and they spend the whole semester teaching one instrument. I decided to go with violin since it would be the biggest challenge, so i got my self a used $100 ebay violin that turns out to look perfectly fine for my purposes. (and appears to have no plywood in it- nice surprise)

    the fingerings are of corse different, but make sense given the size of the instrument. trying to play with vibrato feels impossible since the movement is entirely different (along with how / where the instrument is held) than it does on bass.

    I don't plan on taking any "real" lessons until after i finish the corse, but am anxious to get in shape on it. as you would suspect, for someone who's already a musician, watching beginner violin videos on youtube can be pretty useless.

    just wondering if anyone has experience with this, tips, advice, or just to discuss the idea. what used to be a half step is now about a 4th. yikes. time to get practicing.

  2. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Subscribed. I'm curious to hear the opinions because I've considered it myself. I keep hearing the advice not to dilute my practice time unless it's with the piano or drums. But still, there are times I'd just like to sit in one place and play something less bulky than the upright.
  3. thats how i feel about guitar. it's of course not anywhere near the same thing, and i dont enjoy it as much, but theyre small, easy to move around, and relatively cheap. i have one i love that i got off of craigslist for $350.

    i've spent a fair amount of time noodling on the violin. i find myself thinking in solfege a lot, and not necessarily knowing what pitch i'm playing without having to think about it. memorizing the notes i dont think will be to hard though.

    so far, i dont think it's that hard. a big change, though.

    and yes, diluting practice time is a big sacrifice, but for me, it's worth it (pursuing music education, ill teach a lot of violin eventually, im sure)
  4. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I feel whatever makes you a better musician, makes you a better musician.

    When I couldn't play bass (or anything else) for years due to an arm injury, I sang in a choir. When I went back to bass, I was a much better player because the singing helped with my tuning.

    Recently, I have been playing some of the Bach Cello Suites on guitar. When I play them on bass now, I have a much better grasp of their musical architecture because I worked it out on an instrument that is much less of a struggle to play.
  5. thats a big reason to become competent on piano. but to keep going with that- i've been learning a movement from a violin partita on electric bass, and it's a great piece, but quite challenging applying it to electric (or DB) bass. i was able to read through a few bars (quite slowly) on violin, and it's true, it gives a fresh perspective on the piece; especially since we know bach was a very good violinist himself, i can trust how the phrasing falls naturally on a violin fingerboard.

    and singing in a choir is certainly a huge lesson in ear training, and i agree helps tremendously. in schumann's book "Advice to young musicians" he makes the point several times to become a good singer and to join a choir regardless of your instrument.

    anyway, my fine tuners just arrived in the mail- tuning with the pegs is really not easy- so i'm excited to be able to tune easily now. i might pursue that Bach partita, it'll be hard but it will help.

    so far my impression is- i love how small it is, vibrato is hard, and i'm amazed at how big of a range the violin has without shifting up far at all - the open strings alone go from a G below a treble staff to the E in the to space.

    as with anything, the amount of practice time invested in it will make all the difference. but as a string player, it's not too hard to be able to pull of some simple melodies.
  6. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    You just described Christmas at my parents house.
  7. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I am trying to think of tips and little things that might help, seeing as many years ago I made the switch in the other direction.

    The Violin bow hold is different from the French bass bow hold. That would be a youtube video or two worth watching because your little finger is on top of the stick and is used for balance and weight distribution, and it's just a slightly different approach.

    You need significantly less weight in both hands, and significantly smaller motions on violin. You have likely figured this out and adjusted some, but there is a very good chance you need to let up even more.

    Although a cheap violin might fight you a bit, everything should be significantly less work, strings start a lot easier etc. It is very easy to over play the violin if you are coming at it as a bassist. Your bow changes could be accented unintentionally because you're used to the amount of effort it takes to start a string 4x longer. You mentioned how small the intervals are, and depending on how big your fingers are and how far up the fingerboard you get, you will have to move your previous finger out of the way to play the next one because the notes are that close together. Shifts are little strolls in the park by your house, not a mountaineering excursion to the other side of the continent. You get the picture.

    Violin is often taught from first position, then third, then fourth or second, then everything else. This actually means something on violin, where on bass you start shifting very early, and the concept of "positions" is less meaningful because you don't have 2+ octaves in one position. For example, a two octave major scale looks like this:

    Where in the above "tab" the - means a space between fingers (whole tone) and no - means no space (semitone) If you start that in "first" position, it is an A major scale. Half position, it's Ab. Want Bb major? put your first finger on Bb. This works all the way up to about D where the body of the violin starts to get in the way. But, that 1-2-34 (next string) 1-2-34 is a major scale ANYWHERE on the instrument. Those kind of patterns are great, and makes second position great for "awkward" keys etc. While I still advocate knowing what the notes are and what your fingers are doing instead of a tab-based education like how some people learn guitar, this modular nature becomes very helpful when improvising. Your favourite licks can move around the instrument in different keys, that kind of thing.

    Otherwise, you now have a melody instrument at your disposal. While it might be a little over you head to sink your teeth into some Bach, things like folk tunes, Christmas carols, or even pop tunes. Go to your local music store or dig through your current library and find something you're interested in and play the melodies. It's a great way to think lyrically on the instrument, and it helps you figure out the fingerboard in a fun way.
  8. ^^ great post!

    an update on this-

    after a bit of a transition period, and a fair amount of practice time (nothing too hardcore, really) i'm doing fine. i've been reading though a bunch of level 3 pieces, just because thats what i've been able to find. i think i'm okay to start working on some Bach and things like that. after getting used to the fingerings, they start becoming a bit more natural, and all of a sudden i'm starting to sound like i know what i'm doing.

    its funny but, the two most major developments in my violin journey were 1. finding out how it feels to play with a shoulder rest (and realizing that it's a requirement to be able to play well) and 2. putting tape on the bridge of my violin to act like a mute to darken the horribly bright sound of my $100 instrument.

    i know the duct tape mute is probably a scary idea to most of you, but without it the sound is seriously intolerable. with it, it's not a great sounding instrument or anything, just much less harsh. i ordered a practice mute, and probably should get a performance mute for this purpose, but for now tape is fine.

    even more exciting than my violin playing itself is that now i'm really quite comfortable on cello. i've only ever played one 2 or 3 times in my life, probably for a collective 15 minutes i'd say- 5 of those minutes were yesterday, and i sounded pretty good, and felt totally confident and comfortable. having tackled the 5ths tuning on violin i'm excited to learn the other string instruments, and if all goes as planned, i will pursue cello on a somewhat serious level. my ultimate goal would be to be able to play some classical quartet stuff, since thats what i've never had a chance to play as a bassist.

    so now i'm stuck deciding weather i should upgrade my violin, or go ahead and start shopping for a cello. either way i'm really, really happy that i learned violin.

    especially since i had no trouble finding a perfectly suitable student instrument for $100, i highly recommend you guys try it out!
  9. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I've always been afraid to try other stringed instruments not tuned in 4ths. Was it hard to adjust to the new fingering? When you switch back to bass, do you find yourself mistakenly using the new violin fingering?

  10. not at all. i still have to think a little when reading violin music, but i haven't had to think about "where is a C#" type of things on a bass in many years, i can't imagine new fingerings getting mixed up with the ones ive known as second nature for so long.

    i recall reading somewhere that both bottesini and dragonetti were both very good violinists- bottesini started on violin, and i know for sure that dragonetti owned at least one strad violin and several violas and cellos. if they can do it why cant we!
  11. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    The "new" fingering isn't new, it is just different. Similar to how a guitar and a viol has a third thrown in the middle, you adjust. A lot of your "bass patterns" aren't going to work on a violin not only because the instrument is tuned differently, but it plays a very different role musically in almost every situation. As one example, if you have experience playing jazz your walking patterns are going to be pretty useless, because you wouldn't typically "walk" on a violin. It is a completely different instrument, and you need to learn it as such.

    I am not trying to say that there isn't common ground. There are a lot of similar concepts, and learning to play violin after playing double bass would be a lot easier for most people than say learning flute, because there are some overlaps. It definitely is more of a learning curve than going from guitar to bass guitar though, if you are looking for another comparison.

    As for coming back to bass, it really depends on how your brain works. When I'm playing two fundamentally different instruments like bass and violin, my brain separates them as such. All of the "violin technique stuff" goes in one place, and the "bass technique stuff" in another. There is some "musicianship stuff" overlap, which is usually a good thing. You start to think not just about how you would do a certain thing on a certain instrument, but how you want to execute it musically. Sometimes that means playing violin-type things on bass or the other way around, which can really help you grow as a musician. If your brain works in the "all of my music stuff is in the same place" then you could find yourself getting a little confused, but I doubt it.

    The biggest problem I have with wrapping my brain around changes back and forth is switching between double basses or electric basses tuned in 4ths and 5ths. I usually can compartmentalize fairly well and the individual instruments are different enough, but that can be a really rough head game if you aren't used to it. If you are going to go down that road, I suggest you rehearse switching between the two and get comfortable doing that before gigging that way. I was once switching between three double basses in 4ths, 5ths and Viennese tuning, and I would not wish that brain pain on anyone.
    Seanto and gerry grable like this.
  12. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Nice to know that learning a new string instrument wont totally throw a wrenc in my bass playing :) I've thought about gettng a violin for my wife, now maybe we can share one to learn on.
  13. As you have discovered, going from bass to violin, everything transfers and nothing transfers. Be careful to approach it as it's own instrument and not as a soprano bass :) as you will have troubles down the road.

    I've been playing violin for over 30 years and my day gig used to be teaching future teachers how to play, and teach students to play the violin. You can pick up a lot of good advice on the internet, but nothing will replace lessons with a GOOD teacher. Finding a GOOD teacher is it's own struggle as there are hundreds of horrible hacks teaching out of their house and music stores too. Hit up the nearest university with a decent music department and ask to talk to the violin teacher. See if they might be willing to offer one or two lessons now and then or recommend a GOOD teacher who is taking on students.

    A trip to a music store ought to pay dividends if you can get your violin looked at by a competent luthier. Sounds like, at the minimum, your sound post needs to be adjusted. (My current day gig is fixin fiddles! Yee haw!!!) It shouldn't cost more than a few bucks to have it moved into the correct position.
  14. Keep in mind that a violin is four times smaller two octaves higher and backwards. and to add to all this its clef is two notes up from bass clef
  15. i actually am a "future teacher learning how to play," thats what started this

    several of my colleagues are very good violinists, and i've taken lessons (in return for bass lessons- perfect!) with one of them.

    as for the violin itself, it's a $100 fiddle. it will never sound great, and i accept that. maybe it does need to be adjusted, but for now i just leave a mute on the bridge all the time to take away the harshness.
  16. I was playing the solo violin on Brandenberg 5 with the local symphony last winter. It was brutal cold and I used a $100 fiddle for a few of the rehearsals, and it was OK. I'd never choose it for a performance, but it was decent enough for a rehearsal. You'd be surprised what can be done on a decent $100 fiddle if it is properly set up.