Violin Student Hypersensitive to Volume

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Esther Tiedemann said: Aug 18, 2012
Esther Tiedemann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Magalia, CA
4 posts

I have a violin student (started 3 years ago – traditional method) who tells me he finds the E string sound too loud/harsh/uncomfortable under his ear so he has taken to practicing with a foam ear plug in his left ear. This sensitivity to the sound also translates into bowing very softly. I’ve played his violin and find the sound acceptable. I’d appreciate any suggestions to help him play out while becoming comfortable with the sound in his ear.

Note: this student is socially immature, quite tall for his age, and takes tutoring for math twice a week. I try to lovingly work with his unique set of factors to help him be successful in violin playing.

Sue Hunt said: Aug 19, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Ouch, I feel for him. Switch him to the viola!

Sally said: Aug 19, 2012
Sally Taniguchi
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Cello, Viola
Brixham, United Kingdom
1 posts

Has this student a condition of Hyperacusis? Perhaps suggested he be tested by an audiologist for this.

Barb said: Aug 19, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Sally, that’s what I was wondering. I was also going to say viola or cello. Much easier on the ears. In the mean time, musician ear plugs are better than the foam kind. They cost more, but are re-useable.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rebecca Markowski said: Aug 19, 2012
Rebecca MarkowskiViolin, Viola
Jonesboro, AR
1 posts

I had a student with the same problem. He started the viola and loved it. No more complaints or bow problems.

Rebecca Markowski, director Jonesboro Suzuki Institute

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Aug 19, 2012
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

I have also had experience with a violin student who was sensitive to high pitches. He was quite a hothouse flower, precociously smart, and on the physically uncoordinated side, with long lanky limbs. He was also socially awkward and prone to enter into imaginary sword fights with himself after which he’d drop to the floor with great drama in the middle of the lesson.

When I would help him with his playing posture, align himself and comfortably bring his head up, release tension and feel free in the back, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, he would say, ‘ow, that hurts’. When he was around 7 or 8 he used to complain that it hurt his ears to hear the notes on the E string, whether I played them, or he did. I showed him how he could use his bow to play more sweetly on the E string, and gave him the challenge of producing the deepest sound at the top… bring the sound of the G string to the highest notes. Scratching and screeching was not allowed!

Interestingly, this student outgrew this sensitivity after about a year. He never mentioned it again, and now he gets compliments on the beautiful sounds he makes on his violin, both in the bottom range and his upper range.

Hopefully you can find a way to help your student find a way to resolve this problem, whether by attuning him to the potential sweetness and depth of the E string, and avoid the shrillness! and if that doesn’t work, by switching to a lower instrument.

p.s. I think that learning to play the viola should ideally be required of all violin students, at least for a year, at a point when the student is well set up on the violin and playing at or above Bk 5 level. Learning the alto clef, adjusting to the extra bow weight and wider finger spacing, and developing the muscle strength needed to make the viola sound good, helps to develop deeper tone on the violin, enriches musicianship on both instruments, and makes for a more versatile player. And if a few violin students discover they love the viola more, that can only be a good thing!

Wendy Caron Zohar

Sue Hunt said: Aug 20, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Wendy, I love your approach to E string tone. Tonalisation is so much more than going for volume.

Merietta Oviatt said: Aug 20, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Wendy—I just couldn’t help but think of a quotation from Primrose when reading your post about violinists all learning the viola:
When David Dalton was interviewing Primrose Dalton asked: “What do you have to say about violinists who play viola?”
Primrose: “Perhaps shoot all violinists who play viola publically”
Bazinga!!

I know this is a given, but please remember that learning to play the viola should be viewed by violinists as learning to play the cello. It is a completely different instrument with different technique. I have found great benefit from learning violin, viola, and cello. Perhaps at some point all students should learn the basics of all three :0)

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
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Esther Tiedemann said: Aug 21, 2012
Esther Tiedemann
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Magalia, CA
4 posts

Thanks to all who shared their insights! I had not considered the viola for him, but the success stories that were here mentioned make a case for considering it. I’ll broach the idea at the next lesson.

Barb said: Aug 21, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

There is therapy for hyperacusis… might still be worth looking into it to see if this is an issue, even if he does switch to viola. After all, violists usually play with violinists…. :-)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

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