My bouncing bow... spiccato
June 18, 2012 at 6:15 AM
The bouncing bow is a problem that many of us have experimented at a greater or lower degree. The thing is that I'm having a lot of trouble with a bouncing bow (that I don't want) and this problem involves spiccato.
But wait, spiccato is all about a bouncing bow isn't it? Well, of course it is, but my problem is more precisely with trying to return to the string and continue playing détaché or legato after having played spiccato.
The bow will simply bounce when I try to get it from the air into the string again. I have no idea of what the problem may be and I would really appreciate a tip or two. My wrist is relaxed and the spiccato is somewhat fine, I just cannot make this transition without a bouncing bow...
Feel free to give me a couple of ideas, any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance, fellow violinists.
My recommendation: When you are playing something that has such a transition, put a big, red stop sign right at the end of the spiccato section, before the beginning of the smooth section. Play the spiccato section, STOP. Then, land smoothly, like a butterfly, on the string, very gently. Continue with the next section. Practice many times. Make the stopping period slightly less and less, still keeping that extremely smooth landing. Shorten the stopping section until it is no longer there.
I like the stop sign idea. I like to think of the "landing" for the smooth passage as "placing the bow", just like when you first start playing any non-spiccato section. And yes, you need to practice the transition many times.
Interesting because I am working on the same issue right now, using Dont Op 38 No 2 etude. It has spiccato notes followed by legato of three or two notes. After an upbow spiccato I find it not so difficult to land a downbow legato, but after a downbow spiccato it is quite hard to land an upbow legato without bouncing. Playing at the heel this is much easier to control, but just for the challenge I am trying to play this in the middle of the bow. You can make the music sound much lighter also in the middle of the bow. It is really fun working on this bow control issue. Like almost anything on the violin, the best tip is, practice it slowly! Feel how you should hold the bow. I find the fingers to be particularly important here. They can act as some kind of amortizers and can also give the initial speed that is necessary to start the legato after a spiccato.
Thanks a lot for these ideas! I think I'm starting to get the catch of it, I like the idea of the red stop sign and Jean I couldn't agree more with you. I really like working on bow control, especially because I'm a lefty so this becomes more challenging.
I'm finding that concentration is really important into "landing" smooth on the string. It's good to anticipate the coming transition.
Still, there's a long way to go... you know what they say, practice makes perfect.
I'd say this problem probably goes deeper than just a spiccato issue. I think you might want to investigate all forms of bow placement because the real issue is setting the bow on the string quickly without ricochet (that is, if I understand you properly). I think just doing a bunch of down bows on open strings, lifting the bow off, and setting is a good exercise (not coming too far off). One exercise I love (and this works really well for bounced notes going in the same direction, too) is to play the notes with a lot of pressure very tersely on the string and press the bow into the string in between, trying not to make any sound. It should sound a lot like taka-taka-stop-stop style playing but you have to be patient and do a bunch. It's important also to be making the right sort of stroke; the movement should come from your index finger and it should almost feel like you are plucking the string with the bow. What this teaches you is how to connect to the string and after sustaining this sort of practice for a long time what you find is that your spiccato more easily grabs at the string. In other words, you are no longer bouncing, you are playing short notes and then coming off in between. It's a more controlled way to bounce, sounds better, and gives your index finger a good workout, too! Of course spiccato is a spectrum and sometimes you need to be bouncier than others, but I think doing this sort of gritty work can ease the transition between a legato stroke and a literal bounce quite nicely. If you can slowly shorten or lengthen your spiccato across the entire spectrum, you'll know you've succeeded.
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