Prepared instruments are instruments that have had their timbre changed by having various objects on or between the instruments vibrating strings. It is usually found on piano’s but there are compositions for prepared violins.
Wrapping a small piece of wire around a string causes the wire to create a buzzing effect. The amount of buzz can be controlled by bow speed and bow pressure. The wire buzz works on all strings, but I used it on the G, as it resonates the most the buzz lasts for longer. As the wire is vibrated it travels along the string touching harmonic nodes and these nodes can be heard. Care must be taken when performing this technique as the strings could be damaged by the vibrating wire and the bow hair could become damaged.
Another technique is to place a hairpin over the strings of the violin and to pluck it. This gives a plethora of different pitches. Stephen Montague introduces thimbles to the strings in Silence: John Yvar and Tim. He instructs on how to play the prepared violin.
1. Violins and violas are held in the lap with the scroll against the chest (similar to the cello position). The bow is not used. The strings are played with 2 thimbles – one thimble on each hand (probably easiest to play if it is on the middle finger of each hand). In general each thimble (right hand and left hand) plays across two strings. Each of the strokes of the thimble across the two strings produces complex non-harmonic pitches due to the pins. The right-hand hits the E and the A strings, producing a higher pitched timbre, while the left hand strikes the A and D strings, producing a lower.
2. A “hairpin pizzicato” is produced by plucking on the end of the pin
3. On occation the players “slap” the strings with the flattened fingers to produce a very different sound from the thimbles. However the thimbles simultaneously hitting the fingerboard help with the intensity.