Posts Tagged violin

Articulation, Vibrato and Gamakas on Violin

Violin - a primary accompanying instrument in Carnatic Music

Violin - a primary accompanying instrument in Carnatic Music

Articulation refers to the different bowing gestures on the violin. In the middle of a long, sustained note, each vibration of the violin string is nearly identical to the one that preceded it. The violin is said to be in a steady state. Of greater importance are differences in violin sounds coming from the transients: the short lived effects at the beginning and end of each note. These are achieved by different articulations or bowing styles.

In western terminologies, some common articulation techniques include:
  • Col legno
[col legno battuto] – is an instruction to strike the string with the stick of the bow, rather than by drawing the hair of the bow across the strings
  • Collé
The lower part of the bow (which can exert more force) strikes the string rapidly. The sound builds up rapidly at the start of each note, and then slows smoothly.
  • Pizzicato
Playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument, rather than using the bow. The sound is short and percussive, rather than being sustained.
  • Spiccato
The bow is held a short distance above the string and allowed to bounce, resulting in a series of short, distinct notes.
  • Sul ponticello
An indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) very near to the bridge, producing a glassy sound, which emphasizes the higher harmonics at the expense of the fundamental.
  • Sul tasto
An indication to bow (or sometimes to pluck) over the fingerboard; the opposite of sul ponticello. Playing over the fingerboard produces a warmer, gentler tone.
  • Tremolo
A rapid repetition of the same note or an alternation between two or more performed with the bow by rapidly moving the bow while the arm is tense.
  • Glissando
It is a glide from one pitch to another.

The regular rocking backwards and forwards of the finger on the left hand that stops the string changes the length of the string (and also, slightly, the tension). This causes a cyclical variation in pitch, producing a vibrato.

In its truest sense, every technique mentioned above has been used by violinists in Carnatic music. But of utmost importance is the glissando. It is the glissando that produces the gamakas. Continuous glissando [portamento] is the technique of gliding over a substantial range, and is possible only in unfretted instruments like the violin and stringed instruments with a way of stretching the strings, such as the veena and the sitar.

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Dr. Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan – the end of an era

There is a void left behind in the music world. A void which no one can fill in the future. The demise of violin maestro Dr. Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan is a great loss to the whole world. He was a man who entertained all class of audiences. He was a person who had in store something for every person among the audience. He described himself as a departmental store, which is fully true.

I am a student of the great legend. I had been learning violin under his tutelage for the past 8 years. He brought out the talent in me. He transformed me into a violinist. He passed on his knowledge and technique to every student of his.

I still feel like packing my violin and going to his violin class. The classes will be very informal,  without any teacher-student divide.  He rarely used his violin to teach us. He would sing the lines and we were expected to follow, bringing out the exact tune on the violin. This helped us in developing our accompanying skills too. When most music schools claim that to be proficient enough in music to perform concerts, it would take at least ten years, my guru trained us to perform concerts in less than two years. He himself started accompanying great artistes almost one year after he started learning violin from his father.

He was never a serious-looking and reserved person. He had a great sense of humour and his own style of keeping everyone around happy and laughing. He was a very good orator too. His alliterations and word plays were enjoyable. His “one minute stories” require special mention. He often would tell us short stories during class which used to be humorous and they carried a strong message. we used to enjoy the time we spent with him. We used to be like a family.

His confidence in his students was much more than our own and that brought out the best in us. He never used to tell us what songs we must play for the concerts. So we have never been able to practice. Every decision would be on stage. He was always confident that we would perform well at all times. That confidence of his, together with his blessings, helped us perform well during concerts.

He had a very good memory. He used to remember dates as if he were a history encyclopedia. He also remembered almost everyone whom he met in his life. He was a very humble person, never had any pride. He respected everyone and was very devoted to music and God.

I have still not come to terms with his loss. Every human is mortal. But his music is immortal. His violin would continue to play brilliant music and speak directly to our hearts. There can never be a violinist like him. He would continue to remain in all our hearts in the form of music. He would bless us all. May his soul rest in peace.

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