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Drew Lecher

VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE: Spiccato (Détaché & Flat Hair)

May 6, 2009 at 7:06 PM

Your Global Positioning Satellite / Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important.

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

How do you think of, view and order your bow?

Plan actions > Accuracy with Fluidity > MASTERY

This is part of a series of articles dealing with:

  1. Left Hand
  2. Shifting
  3. Right Arm
  4. Right Hand
  5. Bow

They will be kept under the heading of VIOLIN TECHNIQUE/VIOLA TECHNIQUE for those who wish to follow the articles. I hope they are of benefit to you.

Intonation is one of the primary areas of focus in all we do. This applies to the rotations, settings and measurements of the left arm, hand and fingers in combination with the contact variables of the bow hair on the string—1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number—everything is to be brought together in order to accomplish the desired intonation, dynamics and character of the music.

Your Mental Positioning Satellite is all-important in the above. We must be knowledgeable of 1) where we were and what we did, 2) where we are and what we are doing, and 3) where we are going and what we are going to do—past, present, future.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numerous variables. They will free you to maneuver, easily flowing into and out of the various settings and positions of the left hand and bow, thereby accomplishing the passage.

Artistry is the fusion of technique with musical expression.

Spiccato

Everything affects everythingthis is true in all aspects of playing the violin and viola.

Question—

“Hello Mr. Lecher,

I have a quick question about spiccato.  Should I be landing in the same place on the string each time?  At the moment I am not. If I am supposed to, do you have any suggestions as to how to do so while still maintaining the crescent bow?

Thanks so much!

AF”

Yes, we should land at both the same place on the bow and the same point of contact on the string.

The Crescent Bow will enhance this by requiring a fluid action in the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints of the right arm.

Spiccato: The point of contact can be tremendously varied. When we are first learning the stroke it is best to remain a bit nearer to the bridge as this gives a clear feedback and response to the bow and our sense of touch in the right hand and arm. 

Gravity: Use it or it uses us.

• Maintain strings parallel to the floor or slightly ascending from us toward the scroll. Gravity will now be our friend and assist in all we do. 

Try this:

One—

• Use flat hair—it springs up with greater ease.

• Use small détaché strokes in the lower middle of the bow.

• Gradually speed up the small strokes until you sense the bow wanting to jump or spring up—slightly lighten the touch/weight of the arm if the bow does not indicate an eagerness to jump up and play:-) The German term is 'springen Bogen' and is a perfect description for the English of what the bow actually does. You want the bow to spring, jump and bounce.

At higher speeds the above will lead to "Spiccato sulla corda" or "Spiccato on the string." This is where the stick is springing, bouncing and jumping, but the hair does not leave the string—a most elegant and quick-silver (fast) spiccato.

Two—

• We can also place the bow on the string. 

Release a modest degree of right arm weight onto the bow, sinking in to the string.

• Then suddenly draw the bow, up or down, with a releasing burst thereby causing the bow to spring up.

This will initially have a crisp accent and can afterward be developed into a very subtle and suave transition.

The two methods above are my favorites, musically and technically. They are most elegant and can be easily modified to artistically shape the phrase as desired in a given passage. Rarely do we just drop and bounce, see Three below.

Three—

• Also approach it from a dropping of the bow onto the string.

• Initially do this with a straight vertical drop in various parts of the bow—lower quarter all the way to the tip. The bow is to land at the same point at all times—this will later be varied depending on the desired character and dynamic.

• When drawing the bow, we will begin having a ratio of vertical to horizontal. Be sure that the Crescent Bow path is highly developed at this stage or simply begin again with that concentration of effort. (Little bow strokes are similar to drawing commas.)

• Gradually adjust the ratio to have the horizontal draw of the bow be greater then the vertical drop. 

Depending on this ratio of horizontal to vertical, the character of spiccato will vary from crisp and dry (more vertical) to lyric and sweet (more horizontal). 

Additionally, as we vary the tilt of the hair and the point of contact the character of spiccato will change dramatically.

Further tips are in the excerpts below. Develop spiccato in all studies. With double-stops also do as string crossings of low to high and high to low, additionally alter the bowings. 

Spiccato—An enunciated, springing, jumping bow with evenly proportioned action and a clear ringing tone—play each note on a separate bow stroke. More individual then Sautillé, it will take on many characters of interpretation depending upon the point of contact, speed, weight, amount of hair and placement of the bow. From the air (1, 3, 4 & 5) and from the string (2).

1. Spiccato dramatico/Dramatic Spiccato—A more aggressive and excited style of stroke that lends greater individual identity to each note, predominantly done in the lower quarter of the bow using various degrees of Collé for added inflections.

2. Spiccato lirico/Lyric Spiccato—Consists of a brushed and broadened lengthening of the bow-hair contact with the string, tilting toward the fingerboard to the side of the hair, thereby achieved with greater horizontal action and less vertical height. (Lower in the bow.)

3. Spiccato secco/Crisp Spiccato—A dryer, crisper stoke, it has a greater vertical drop and rebound with less horizontal draw of the bow. (Higher in the bow.)

4. Spiccato sulla corda/On the string Spiccato—At higher speeds the Spiccato will be on the string. The stick will maintain a bouncing, springing action—vertical articulation—but the hair will not actually leave the string.

As in Sautillé, it is often best in higher speeds when the thumb, 1st finger and 3rd finger are proactively used; the 2nd finger simply releases away from the stick (do not lift as this action is tense and inhibiting); and the 4th finger is also released, hovering over the bow in a natural and relaxed curve.

5. Spiccato volante/Flying Spiccato – A stroke related to Staccato volante but of greater height above the string and individuality of strokes with notes. Also generally done in the upper portion of the bow with the added ability to remain in place or even recover territory traveling towards, or fully to, the heel or tip as needed via the Retake.

NOTE: These types, 1—5, often are mixed within the same passage and/or alternate with another bow stroke style to convey the desired effect.

Practice Tips:

1. Drop the bow vertically to the string at various points along the bow—note how it bounces—then catch or control the next drop, gradually adding the direction of the down and up bows.

    a. Flatter hair bounces with a crisp, very distinct response and angled hair has a gentle, less distinct articulation.

    b. Use the Crescent Bow, even in these small strokes, as this will prevent the usual stiffening of the wrist and elbow.

    c. Use a small Thumb/fingers Stroke, adding greater arm motion as required.

    d. In faster passages use less bow and keep closer to the string.

2. Set the bow on the string, at first in the middle. Use flat hair, weight the stick down so that the bow touches the hair (not the string) and then suddenly draw the stroke (down or up) and spring up and off the string. Maintain the Spiccato action. Apply points 1a—d above.

3. When done correctly, the bow does 90% of the work.

4. Do not tighten the bow hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder.

NOTE: Accented triplets are very good for developing evenness and control.

Détaché—The basic but all-important stroke from which everything else is derived – notes are well sustained and played with individual and connected bow strokes of any length.

1. Détaché Décisivement/Decisive Détaché—A sustained tone with distinct bow changes.

2. Détaché Lancé—A very quick, short and lively stroke, without accent and yet released from the initial start.

3. Détaché Porté—No initial accent due to a slight swell or sneaking into the note at the beginning of the stroke followed by a lightening and relaxing of the tone to the end of the stroke.

4. Grande Détaché—Similar to détaché with extraordinary length given to the stroke, increases breadth of tone and character that is well sustained.

5. Détaché Pulsé/Pulsed Détaché—Begin the stroke with additional weight and speed of bow followed by a release, retaining fluidity of motion and never stopping the bow. In certain instances the bow may minimally leave the string at the end of the stroke – make sure the return landing is of utmost elegance and refinement appropriate to the passage.

6. Détaché Lié/Legato Détaché—Seamlessly connected strokes. See Bow Fingers/Hand/Arm, 8c.

 

Flat Hair—Not a stroke, but a method or technique, used in virtually all but the lightest of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is directly above and perpendicular to the hair. This enables the player to achieve the fullest tones possible and the crispest, quickest responses in all types of bouncing and springing strokes. For greater ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair is rolled out from the thumb.

Note that this requires a slightly lower wrist/arm and pulled-back right arm positioning, as the rolling out action moves the hair toward the fingerboard. Its counterpart is the Side Hair. Also, see Thumbless.

(excerpts from, pages xii & xiv)

 

Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.

 

Hope this helps…

Drew

Author of:

"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master" 

"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"

 

 

 

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