What is the swift end movement of upbow

Edited: August 22, 2017, 2:37 PM · Hi,

As a 2-year self-study violin beginner I have a question,

When professional violinists make bowing movements with right hand, I notice:
1. The wrist curve naturally towards the end of upbow and downbow.
2. At the end of upbow, she/he makes a swift and subtle jerk/movement upwards before beginning downbow. This is particularly obvious when the professional is playing a slow, expressive piece. I haven't seen any beginners who can actually do this.

I would like to ask, what is the function of this movement at point 2. and how long does it take to do it? For me from an artistic look it looks awesome!!!
Thanks everyone so much in advance!!!

For example this video at 0:07:

Replies (18)

August 22, 2017, 3:19 PM · Looking at the video you cited, this up-bow is a staccato slur, a brief pause between connected notes. It is not limited to up-bows. When you see a slur connecting notes with small dots above the notes that is how it looks on the printed page.

FWIW: Being an autodidact (self-teacher) can only get you so far. If possible find a live teacher as that will make things easier for you in the long run.

August 22, 2017, 3:22 PM · She's using her fingers to make the bow change smoother; basically, what's happening physically is that your wrist starts making the downbow while the fingers, bending, finish out the upbow, so the transition is cushioned somewhat.
Edited: August 22, 2017, 3:37 PM · If I could make my question clearer, I referred to the swift jerk movement up near the end of the upbow (when her right hand fingers are near the bridge) before the violinist begin her downbow. Sorry it's at around 0:07 to 0:08 in this video but if you watch till the end of her up bow, you would see this movement quite clearly. Thank you very much for your replies so far.
August 22, 2017, 3:39 PM · Yeah Irene, but I wonder whether we have any professional term to call it ...
August 22, 2017, 3:55 PM · Seems to me that it's portato bowing.
Is this what you're talking about?:
Edited: August 22, 2017, 7:11 PM · Thank you George and Paul, I was referring specifically to the movement at the END of the upbow, not during the up/down bow. Does this end-of-upbow movement also belong to the portato category? It looks very artistic (like dancing with your bow hand) yet painfully difficult at the same time. P/S I see that the teacher in Paul's video also use this end-of up bow movement a lot.
August 22, 2017, 9:17 PM · With advanced players, the fingers can act like shock-absorbers to cushion the change of direction of the arm. Something like a fly-fisherman changing direction of the rod before the lure has finished completing its travel in one direction. What I thought was interesting was that she frequently took the third finger off the stick. The third finger frequently causes problems. jq
Edited: August 23, 2017, 10:19 AM · The first thing my current teacher made me do when she first started teaching me was that bow movement. I had had a very stiff bowhand so she wanted to correct that.
During up-bow I have more of a Russian bow-hold (with a somewhat straight pinky) and down-bow I have a Franco-Belgian one. That way my right wrist isn't stiff and my sound is smoother.
August 22, 2017, 9:57 PM · Will,
I think what you are referring to is the technique to make the change of bow direction smooth. You will hear people talk about pulling the bow, not pushing it. The bow change of direction involves the wrist and the fingers as well as the arm, to make bow changes smooth and unnoticeable. In some violinists it's more noticeable than other and is a more advanced technique.


August 23, 2017, 12:53 AM · Then there are the great players (mainly Russian School) who do not believe in the complication of those flexi-movements of the fingers and wrist that are *supposed* to make bow changes smoother, and just bow from the shoulder in one simple unit. One excellent example being Nathan Milstein.
August 23, 2017, 5:14 AM · Thank you so much! This is exactly what I was looking for!!!
Edited: August 23, 2017, 7:23 AM · There is a story (legend?) that when Gingold was considering taking on Joshua Bell as a young student, one of his main concerns was that Bell "already knows how to change bows." So I guess you can conclude it's an important aspect of technique ... or you might conclude that it's one of the more difficult to teach, one that Gingold was hoping to avoid.

One thing to remember is that there is naturally more arm weight conveyed to the bow at the frog, so you can imagine yourself "carrying your bow" from approximately the balance point to the frog. When you do, you may notice a slight upward movement in your elbow. I was taught this is a natural part of the bow-change movement.

Anyway here in the US it's not the "swift end movement" but rather the "Swift Boat movement" ...

Edited: August 23, 2017, 9:11 AM · Hi Will,

That's what some people call a follow-through motion, related to a paintbrush motion, as you would do in any released throwing motion. A good analogue is the wrist/finger action used with a pool cue. More than for a smooth sounding bow change, it's useful for a smooth physical change in direction, in other words, for bowing straight. Getting back to the pool cue, if you don't follow through with the fingers, the cue will miss its mark on the ball. Only by coordinating with the wrist and fingers can you aim the cue at the ball. Similarly, if you care about straight bowing (which evidence would suggest pedagogues are more concerned about than performers,) though we don't have to hit any target with the tip of the bow, the follow-through enables us to trace a straight path, perpendicular to the strings, at the bow changes. A similar, opposite motion can be used at the change at the tip.

For a smooth sounding bow change, what matters is a consistent speed and pressure into and out of the bow change, which can be achieved in a variety of ways.

As for how long it takes to train, it of course depends on the student, but can be taught in one lesson, and ingrained over several weeks to months, depending on your kinaesthetic ability, and how concentrated is your study of it.

August 23, 2017, 9:13 AM · Will,

What you are noticing is the softness and flexibility in the wrist and fingers. This allows for smooth bow changes. It is more noticeable at the frog because the wrist and fingers are in a more rounded shape at that time. In some violinists, it is also quite noticeable in other portions of the bow. Watch young Itzhak Perlman for a good example.

You don't see this as often in beginners because it usually takes some time to develop. Beginners often try to hold the bow too tightly and this creates a lack of flexibility in the right hand.

August 23, 2017, 10:10 AM · Galamian calls this "springs" in his book. I find this to be a good metaphor for describing what the fingers and wrist are doing.
August 23, 2017, 3:56 PM · That's right -- the Galamian "springs"! Some methods call it "round and soft" to describe the curved nature of the fingers and thumb, and non-tense nature of the bow hold.

Edited: August 23, 2017, 8:51 PM · Galamian's system of springs actually refers to all the joints of the arm, shoulder to fingers (+ the springs of the bow.) He was more concerned about the sound of the bow change than the action. As long as the change sounded smooth, he didn't care whether the change was generated at the shoulder or the fingers. He would only interfere if a jerky motion in the bow change caused a rough sounding change. He says smoothness of sound is produced by a slight slowing and lightening of the bow just before the change, rather than anything to do with which joints or muscles are employed.

P.S. if I remember correctly, the follow-through idea was Paul Rolland's; the paintbrush motion is attributed to Dounis

August 24, 2017, 2:17 AM · I was so pleasantly surprised that my question has been attended to in such a cordial and enthusiastic way. Thank you all for the replies, and Viva V.com :-))

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