June 18, 2008 at 10:22 PMI've always had challenges with my bow arm, but this year especially, as I keep moving to harder repertoire, I've realized that I really need to make improvements in that area. This semester I had a master class with Brian Lewis on Introduction and Tarantella. The sautille was giving me some trouble, so he suggested that I practice it in my scales daily. Reading around this site, I've noticed several people discuss how important it is to practice different bowstrokes daily.
Ever since I started working through the Flesch Scale System, I've used basically the same practice method for scales. I think it originally came from some well-known teacher (Galamian, maybe?? or maybe I'm just imagining things). Anyway, the way it works is you set the metronome to quarter note = 60, and start with half notes. Then you do quarters, quarter note triplets, eights, eighth-note triplets, sixteenths, sixteenth-note triplets, and lastly, thirty-second notes. Also, you alternate two beats slurred and two beats separate notes (so you end of playing in all portions of the bow). Oh, and there's also this little turn at the end that makes the rhythms work out better (for example, if you were doing C major, you'd play c-e-d-c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c and so on up the scale). Later on I developed a similar system for arpeggios.
This method was a good start, but is not nearly thorough enough for the level I'm at now. I need a good system for covering as many bowstrokes as possible on a daily basis. So, I went through the Flesch and racked my brain for as many possibilities I could think of. Here's what I've come up with so far:
Legato (frog, middle, tip)
Spiccato (starting 4 strokes per note for the entire scale, then repeating that process with 3 strokes per note, then 2, then 1)
Portato (3 and 6 note groupings)
3 notes per slur (frog, middle, tip)
6 notes per slur (upper half, lower half)
12 notes per slur (whole bow)
24 notes per slur (whole bow)
1 separate, 2 slurred (frog, middle, tip)
1 separate, 2 up bow staccato (frog, middle, tip)
2 slurred, 1 separate (frog, middle, tip)
Up bow staccato (2 slurred, 10 stacatto, 2 slurred, 10 stacatto, 2 slurred, 17 stacatto; see Flesch, p. 56)
- Dotted eighth/sixteenth/straight eighth (separate bows up the scale, hooked on the way down; frog, middle, tip)
- Sixteenth/dotted eighth, straight eighth (separate bows; frog, middle, tip)
I'm sure there are a lot more combinations of rhythms and separate/slurred patterns. Probably way too many to do them all every day, so maybe I'll challenge myself to think of an extra 'bonus' pattern each day. :)
I tried this new method all the way though for the first time today, and I felt like my brain and my body were really engaged. It took just under an hour to do both this and my old system, plus arpeggios and double stops, but I never felt bored. After doing all those bowstrokes, I felt like I really knew my way around my instrument. I'll have to be careful and take some breaks so that all that repetition doesn't tire my left hand, but overall, I'm happy with this plan. Yay for scales!
If you have any comments/suggestions, I'm always grateful for advice. :)
Then when you finished one day's scales, you could just start on the next!
Have you considered practicing bowing patterns daily in context along with your scale work? The Paganini caprices, Wieniawski Op. 10 or even Bach all help to cement the skills we gain in scales. One topic often overlooked in scale work is that of stroke transitions, which are more suited to the more intricate meanderings of etudes. Additionally, scales can cause us to underestimate how the hands affect each other (bilateral transfer); the rapid shifting and reaching of the left hand during complex passages can easily disrupt the carefully nurtured motions of the right hand, no matter their accuracy during linear scales.
Good luck, and please let us know how your investigation proceeds!
I raided my school library and found some interesting sources:
Galamian, Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching
Gerle, The Art of Bowing Practice
Flesh, The Art of Violin Playing, Book One
Cutter, How to Study Kreutzer
I've just skimmed through them so far, but I can already tell there are a ton of great ideas here. I also laid my hands on the Flesch Urstudien, so I'll see what I can do with that.
If only I had thought of this earlier . . .
I'm also thinking I should take a break from the Gavinies etudes I've been working on and go back to a thorough study of Kreutzer. That would be much more beneficial to me right now.
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