Tension and Release: Tone Production on the Viola

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Music

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Linda Kline


My research explores how a musician's arm forces enacted on the string of an acoustic instrument will affect the tone quality that instrument produces through analysis of relative amplitudes of overtones to a fundamental pitch. I apply a spectrum of forces to the string through direct finger or bow contact and record the resultant frequencies and their amplitudes. I observe the prominent harmonics amplitudes of 8 sampled experiments on the extremes on a spectrum of some to all arm weight and arm pressure to determine how various force applications alter tone quality. Results show that more arm weight and less tension correlate with reduced overtone amplitudes in relation to the fundamental amplitude. Less arm weight and more tension correlate with larger overtone amplitudes in relation to the fundamental amplitude. Implications are that musicians should relax their arms and use natural arm weight in both right and left arms to produce a clearer tone.

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