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Mechanics and acoustics of violin bowing: Freedom, constraints and control in performance
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Speech, Music and Hearing, TMH, Music Acoustics. (Music acoustics)
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.
Series
Trita-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2008:20
Keyword [en]
bow-string interaction, bowed string, violin playing, motion capture, bowing parameters, performance control
National Category
Other Physics Topics Musicology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9826ISBN: 978-91-7415-208-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-9826DiVA: diva2:133385
Public defence
2009-01-30, KTHB Salongen, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 10:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-12 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2010-08-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. An empirical investigation of bow-force limits in the Schelleng diagram
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An empirical investigation of bow-force limits in the Schelleng diagram
2008 (English)In: Acta Acoustica united with Acustica, ISSN 1610-1928, Vol. 94, no 4, 604-622 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An experimental study of the upper and lower bow-force limits for bowed violin strings is reported. A bowing machine was used to perform bow strokes with a real violin bow on steel D and E strings mounted on a rigid monochord and on a violin. Measurements were systematically performed for 11 values of relative bow-bridge distance and 24 values of bow force at four bow velocities (5, 10, 15 and 20 cm/s). The measured string velocity signals were used to compile Schelleng diagrams, showing the distribution of different classes of string motion (multiple slipping, Helmholtz motion, raucous motion). It was found that the maximum bow-force limit for Helmholtz motion corresponded well to Schelleng's equation in modified form, taking the shape of the (hyperbolic) friction curve into account. The minimum bow force was found to be independent of bow velocity, which is in clear contradiction to Schelleng's prediction. Observations and simulations suggested that the breakdown of Helmholtz motion at low bow forces involves a mechanism related to ripple and corner rounding which was not taken into account in Schelleng's derivation of minimum bow force. The influence of damping showed only qualitative agreement with Schelleng's predictions.

Keyword
bow-string interaction, bowed string, violin, bow-force limits, Schelleng
National Category
Musicology Other Physics Topics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9822 (URN)10.3813/AAA.918070 (DOI)000258950400012 ()2-s2.0-51349142169 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-09 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2011-11-08Bibliographically approved
2. The violinist's sound palette: Spectral centroid, pitch flattening and anomalous low frequencies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The violinist's sound palette: Spectral centroid, pitch flattening and anomalous low frequencies
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.

Keyword
bowed string, violin, timbre
National Category
Musicology Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics Other Physics Topics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9823 (URN)10.3813/AAA.918221 (DOI)000270735800014 ()2-s2.0-68149119899 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-09 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2012-01-18Bibliographically approved
3. Extraction of bowing parameters from violin performance combining motion capture and sensors
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Extraction of bowing parameters from violin performance combining motion capture and sensors
2009 (English)In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, ISSN 0001-4966, Vol. 126, no 5, 2695-2708 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A method is described for measurement of a complete set of bowing parameters in violin performance. Optical motion capture was combined with sensors for accurate measurement of the main bowing parameters (bow position, bow velocity, bow acceleration, bow-bridge distance and bow force) as well as secondary control parameters (bow angles: skewness, inclination and tilt). In addition, other performance features (moments of on/off in bow-string contact, string played, and bowing direction) were extracted. Detailed descriptions of the calculations of the bowing parameters, features and calibrations are given. The described system is capable of measuring all bowing parameters without disturbing the player, allowing for detailed studies of musically relevant aspects of bow control and coordination of bowing parameters in bowed-string instrument performance.

Keyword
bowed string, violin performance, measurement, bowing gestures, motion capture
National Category
Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9824 (URN)10.1121/1.3227640 (DOI)000271507000064 ()2-s2.0-70449357433 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100714. Uppdaterad från submitted till published (20100714).Available from: 2009-01-09 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2010-07-14Bibliographically approved
4. The player and the bowed string: Coordination and control of bowing in violin and viola performance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The player and the bowed string: Coordination and control of bowing in violin and viola performance
2009 (English)In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, ISSN 0001-4966, Vol. 126, no 5, 2709-2720 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An experiment was conducted with four violin and viola players, measuring their bowing in performance using a combination of motion capture and sensors. The measurements allowed for a detailed analysis of the main bowing parameters bow velocity, bow force and bow-bridge distance, as well as the bow angles skewness and tilt. An analysis of bowing strategies in détaché playing of notes of three durations (0.2, 2, 4 seconds) at three dynamic levels (pp, mf, f) on all four strings is presented, focusing on the "steady" part of the notes. The results revealed clear trends in the coordinated variations of the bowing parameters depending of the constraints of the task, reflecting a common behavior as well as individual strategies. Furthermore, there were clear indications of that the players adapted the bowing parameters to the physical properties of the string and the instrument, respecting the limits of the playable control parameter space. A detailed analysis of the bow angles skewness and tilt showed that skewness played an important role in controlling bow-bridge distance, particularly in crescendo and diminuendo notes, and that tilt was used to control the gradation of bow force.

Keyword
bowed string, violin playing, motion capture, bowing parameters
National Category
Musicology Other Physics Topics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9825 (URN)10.1121/1.3203209 (DOI)000271507000065 ()ID: 19894847 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-70449449194 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100809Available from: 2009-01-09 Created: 2009-01-09 Last updated: 2010-12-07Bibliographically approved

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