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The violinist's sound palette: Spectral centroid, pitch flattening and anomalous low frequencies
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Speech, Music and Hearing, TMH. (Music acoustics)
2009 (English)In: Acta Acoustica united with Acustica, ISSN 1610-1928, Vol. 95, no 5, 901-914 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The string player controls variations in spectral content mainly via bow velocity, bow-bridge distance and bow force. Many combinations of the bowing parameters influence the pitch noticeably as well, in particular close to the upper bow-force limit in the Schelleng diagram. The influence of the bowing parameters on the spectral content and pitch were studied systematically by use of a monochord and a bowing machine. Bow force was found to be the totally dominating parameter in determining the spectral centroid. Bow-bridge distance and bow velocity serve essentially as indirect control parameters of spectral content by giving the player access to playable areas with high or low bow forces in the Schelleng diagram. Clear areas of pitch flattening could be distinguished below the upper bow-force limits in the Schelleng diagrams, confirming the role of pitch flattening as a practical bow-force limit in playing. The conditions for anomalous low frequencies (ALF), S-motion and other, higher types of string motion were analyzed, and it was shown that secondary waves might play an important role in their creation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 95, no 5, 901-914 p.
Keyword [en]
bowed string, violin, timbre
National Category
Musicology Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics Other Physics Topics
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9823DOI: 10.3813/AAA.918221ISI: 000270735800014ScopusID: 2-s2.0-68149119899OAI: diva2:133377
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-09 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2012-01-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Mechanics and acoustics of violin bowing: Freedom, constraints and control in performance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mechanics and acoustics of violin bowing: Freedom, constraints and control in performance
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis addresses sound production in bowed-string instruments from two perspectives: the physics of the bowed string, and bow control in performance. Violin performance is characterized by an intimate connection between the player and the instrument, allowing for a continuous control of the sound via the main bowing parameters (bow velocity, bow force and bow-bridge distance), but imposing constraints as well. In the four included studies the focus is gradually shifted from the physics of bow-string interaction to the control exerted by the player. In the first two studies the available bowing parameter space was explored using a bowing machine, by systematically probing combinations of bow velocity, bow force and bow-bridge distance. This allowed for an empirical evaluation of the maximum and minimum bow force required for the production of a regular string tone, characterized by Helmholtz motion. Comparison of the found bow-force limits with theoretical predictions by Schelleng revealed a number of striking discrepancies, in particular regarding minimum bow force. The observations, in combination with bowed-string simulations, provided new insights in the mechanism of breakdown of Helmholtz motion at low bow forces. In the second study the influence of the main bowing parameters on aspects of sound quality was analyzed in detail. It was found that bow force was totally dominating the control of the spectral centroid, which is related to the perceived brightness of the tone. Pitch flattening could be clearly observed when approaching the upper bow-force limit, confirming its role as a practical limit in performance. The last two studies were focused on the measurement of bowing gestures in violin and viola performance. A method was developed for accurate and complete measurement of the main bowing parameters, as well as the bow angles skewness, inclination and tilt. The setup was used in a large performance study. The analyses revealed clear strategies in the use of the main bowing parameters, which could be related to the constraints imposed by the upper and lower bow-force limits and pitch flattening. Further, it was shown that two bow angles (skewness and tilt) were systematically used for controlling dynamic level; skewness played an important role in changing bow-bridge distance in crescendo and diminuendo notes, and tilt was used to control the gradation of bow force. Visualizations and animations of the collected bowing gestures revealed significant features of sophisticated bow control in complex bowing patterns.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2009. xvii, 76 p.
Trita-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2008:20
bow-string interaction, bowed string, violin playing, motion capture, bowing parameters, performance control
National Category
Other Physics Topics Musicology
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9826 (URN)978-91-7415-208-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-01-30, KTHB Salongen, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 10:30 (English)
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-12 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2010-08-09Bibliographically approved

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Schoonderwaldt, Erwin
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Speech, Music and Hearing, TMH
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