Controlling the volume

There are many things that will affect the volume  of the notes you play on your fiddle. Part of this will be down to your instrument (both the fiddle and the bow) and the strings on your fiddle.

You can control how loudly or quietly you play any tunes, phrases, notes, or parts of notes though understanding the effects of different ways of using the bow. Being able to do this at will will enable you to add dynamics into the tunes you play.

If you want to play a note loudly you can

  • move the bow very fast – the faster it moves, the louder the note becomes
  • play with the bow close to the bridge
  • add some weight to the bow. This is different to pushing on the bow. If you push, you’ll feel the muscles in your upper arm contract, which will tend to make the note sound very rough. What we’re aiming for is to let the weight of your arm transfer through the index finger into the bow. This requires you to be able to completely relax your arm (particularly the upper arm) and shoulder.
  • Play using the bow at the heel end

To make a note or phrase sound loud, you could also play the notes before and after it more quietly.

To play more quietly, you can:

  • move the bow very slowly – the slower it moves, the quieter the note will be
  • play with the bow close to the end, or just over the top, of the fingerboard
  • take some of the weight of the bow into you hand. To achieve this, you can exert a little but of pressure on the heel of the bow, using the pinkie. As the bow pivots around the thumb, this will lift the tip of the bow slightly. Play around with placing the bow on the fiddle, then gradually pushing down with the pinkie until the bow tip just lifts off the string. To play a note quietly, you need enough pressure on the pinkie to put some of the weight of the bow into your hand, but not so much that the bow loses contact with the string.
  • Play using the bow at the tip end

Try practicing each of these techniques on an open string. You can then try combining different things – play with a fast bow close to the bridge, or a slow bow, with hardly any weight. You can also try playing a long note where you start quietly, and build the volume to a crescendo towards the end of the note.


Working on volume on the fiddle
Photo ©Ros Gasson

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