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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