Play in tune
This goes without saying, but when you play a chord really in tune, that alone will make the chord ring much better than when it is slightly out of tune.
Think about the interval of each note. If the chord involves any perfect interval, make sure the interval is sounding pure and clean. If the chord involves major or minor intervals, look for the maximum resonating spot for the intervals. As you carefully listen and practice patiently you will find exact intervals where the notes resonate well together.
Start at the frog
You want to play a chord with a big and full tone, but using a force or a lot of muscles will not help you achieve it.
To make a chord ring, we need to use the weight of the bow and our arm. When we can use the weight naturally without pressing, we end up with a well resonating chord that does not sound choked. So one of the keys to play a chord with a beautiful tone is to learn how to use the weight most effectively and naturally.
We should be at the frog to use the weight of the bow most effectively. When you start a chord from the frog you don't have to force at all to produce a full sound as long as you know how to use the weight from your arm and bow to the strings.
Feel the weight
Now we have to discuss how to feel the weight and how we can transfer the weight to the strings effectively. There are a few things I keep in mind when I play a chord.
1. Relax the bow hand
2. Fingers are well bent so that the palm of your hand is pretty close to the bow. You can feel the weight from your arm more naturally when the palm of your hand is closer to the bow.
3. Keep the elbow rather high than low to feel the weight of the arm gong to the bow, espicially when you are grabbing the lower strings.
4. Weight from the arm is focused onto where the inbex finger is touching the bow. You may have to twist your arm a little to shift the weight more towards the index finger.
Now, see if you can feel the weight of the bow itself at the frog. You should be able to if your hand remains relaxed.
After you did all of these, see if you can feel the gravity working for you as well.
When breaking a chord
When we break a 3-note chord, we play the bottom and middle note first, then switch to the middle and top note. The most important thing is to start at the frog and use the weight naturally as we discussed above. Here are a few more things to keep in mind.
- 1. Break to the top note at the end of the silver winding of your bow.
- 2. Put an accent when you get to the top note.
- 3. Do not keep adding weight once you put an accent at the top note.
- 4. Feel the weight and use the bow slowly when you play the bottom notes.
- 5. Do not play too close to the fingerboard.
You want to have enough power when you get to the top note. Aim for the end of the silver winding (your bow might come with different materials, it is where your index finger rests) when you get to the top note. Then you are still at a heavy part of the bow where you can utilize the weight to produce a powerful sound.
When you break a chord, the bottom note does not count as the beginning of the beat. The beat starts at the top note. That means you want to let everyone know clearly where your beat starts. That is why you need to add an accent when you get to the top note. You will be able to give a strong accent if you can start the top note by the frog.
Once you add an accent at the top note, do not keep the same amount of the weight for the rest of the note. Back off a little so you have the strength on your note but at the same time you should allow the strings and the instrument to vibrate on their own. You will be choking the instrument if you keep too much weight after the initial attack at the top note. Let your instrument to breathe freely.
The bottom note is the bass of the chord. We need to play with depth and resonance on the bottom notes which will continue to ring when you move to the top notes. By playing with a slow bow speed and feeling the weight from your bow and elbow conbined with the gravity, you should be able to produce a deep bass sound. And if you can use your bow slowly in the beginning of the chord you can get to the top note while you are still near the frog.
We are using a lot of weight when we play chords. Your strings won't be able to withstand the amount of weight when you play a chord if you play by the fingerboard. Instead, come closer to the bridge where the strings require more weight to start vibrating. You will end up with a strong and focused tone when you come closer to the bridge with sufficient amount of weight.