Learning Russian bow hold
I am currently reading Simon Fischer’s ‘Basics’, and the book has been of invaluable help for me. I’ve been playing the violin for almost 12 years now, but no one ever really taught me the mechanics of the Franco-Belgian/Galamian grip, so getting a handle on the theory really gave me an edge in being able to consistently produce the sounds I wanted. Things that would make me go bang my head against the wall due to lack of knowledge, I can now easily fix. So props to Mr.Fischer for writing his book.
This led me to wonder if there are other books such as ‘Basics’, but geared toward a more Russian school type of grip. You may ask why I want to learn the Russian grip as well, and that’s for versatility’s sake, and because the hold has its own advantages..
So could anyone recommend books or resources as good as ‘Basics’, for learning the Russian bow hold?
There is a section on how to approach and make the switch to a Russian bow hold in Carl Flesch's
The notion of versatility is a good objective. David Oistrakh switched back and forth between "Russian hold" and "Franco-Belgian" - sometimes from one bow stroke to the next bow stroke. Closely watch Youtube performances that give a side view. You can see his hand changing at the bottom of the stroke, and different tonal qualities on the next bow stroke or two.
Is the "Art of Violin Playing" the same as Flesch's "Urstudien für Violine", which is the only work by Flesch in IMSLP's collection? The Urstudien mentions the Russian and Franco-Belgian holds.
Look up "Christiaan van Hemert Russian Bow Hold" on Youtube. He's made the only video that I could find (at least in English) that talks about the Russian bow hold in detail
Trevor: It is not the same. The Urstudien is a set of exercises, while the Art of Violin Playing is a massive two volume work. I think that in the modern era there is a retranslated first volume of the Art of Violin Playing, but I noticed that many passages/sections from the original have been omitted in the retranslated version.
Denis, many thanks for the link to Christiaan van Hemert's video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEKbVVZjMm0.
This magazine-size book by Harold Berkley was a big help to me when I worked on changing my bow hold 50 or so years ago: https://www.amazon.com/modern-technique-violin-bowing-interpretation/dp/B0007DX5CK
I second Andrew's opinion of _The Violin Lesson_. It's fairly comprehensive to every question of technique you may have, as he references all of the great works and opinions of the great masters of violin pedagogy and even frequently tries to resolve disputes between their advice when possible.
What about his latest 2 books, ‘Tone: Experimenting with Proportions’ and ‘Double Stops’? Did anybody get those, and knows what they consist of?
I have the book Tone, it is more of a booklet actually, if you have Basics you don't really need it. In Basics there are various great tone production exercises. In there, the author then writes something like "do this in all positions, in all places of the bow, on all soundpoints", now in the booklet Tone he has written this all out explicitly. But implicitly it is all in Basics already.
"Christiaan van Hemert Russian Bow Hold" on Youtube (Denis Chang's suggestion) has useful information. However, Christiaan's hands are huge, with long fingers. You may not be able to copy the way his hand looks in the video - unless you also have hands suitable for NBA basketball. His comments about finger placement and function are useful.
I am just reading Masha Lankovsky's "The Russian Violin School: the Legacy of Yuri Yankelevich". Despite the bow holds of Elman, Heifetz, etc, "Auer himself seems to have used the Franco-Belgian grip" with no dogma about elbow or wrist height, nor about finger joints.
Well in his book ‘Violin playing as I teach it’, Auer does say that there is no ‘right’ way to hold the bow, and that the ‘best’ hold is highly personal and dependant on the physical predispositions of the player.
Having been "brought up" on the F-B hold ever since I started playing the violin I had a go at the Russian hold yesterday as demonstrated in Christiaan van Hemert's video (supra). I was surprised at how easy and natural it felt, and I'm certainly going to give it an extended try out in my next couple of rehearsals and concert this weekend. How much of the natural feeling of the Russian hold is due to my previous life as a cellist I don't know, but is a possibility.
2 dB is not a big amount of difference ..... :)
The decibel is a logarithmic measure, not linear, so 2 dB is certainly observable to the ear.
Very barely, and only in almost ideal conditions.
That's an interesting experiment Trevor. Would you mind trying a followup experiment?
2 dB is roughly 35% more sound energy, and roughly a 15% increase in perceived sound level. It is noticeable to anyone with normal hearing. Here is a website that plays 440 A with 2 dB changes - up and down in dB level. Check it out.
It's physics that a mixed sound source has to be increased by 10dB in order to perceive an impression of "doubling the sound".
Trevor, yes, decibel is logarithmically related to energy, but so is our perception of loudness (that is why decibel is defined as a logarithmic measure in the first place).
I wouldn't trust a smartphone dB meter. In my experience over several smartphones, they saturate at sound pressure levels that are way too low for the reading to be of use.
Han, what meter did you buy?
I used this:
Thanks Han! Do you know of a model that can record levels over a period of time?
I don't have personal experience with them, but they do exist (I saw one for €115). You may wish to look for a"data logging" feature. I suppose your interest is not related to the violin?
Cool thanks! Will look for data logging. I want to keep track of decibel levels in the pit while we're playing. Levels are theoretically set by opening night, but as the season wears on, sound 'engineers' sure like to tinker. There were these fill monitors right above our heads last season that just killed us.
In the light of the preceding useful comments about the inadequacies of smartphone dB meters when any real work needs to be done, I don't think I'll proceed any further along that particular smartphone road. Suffice to say that I gained enough data from my experiments to indicate that there is a difference in the dB output due to change in bow hold, and that it is audible to my ear as well. So I've learnt something.
I think the difference is more in terms of quality of sound rather than loudness. I find the Russian hold sound is rounder.
Endre Granat gave a presentation at an American String Teachers Assn. conference in which he made a very thought provoking comment about the difference between the Russian and Franco-Belgian bow holds. He suggested that the Russian bow hold is designed to accommodate the "scroll to the left" position of the violin that was used by the Leopold Auer school. Positioning the bow along the index finger closer to the palm of the hand enables the violinist to play parallel to the bridge. With the Franco-Belgian hold, the violin is positioned to accommodate the bow hold, thus, the scroll is not directed so far to the left in order to bow parallel to the bridge.
Just tried this Russian bow hold. First word that comes to mind is "ham fisted" . Well I guess i should give myself at least 3 days solid with the Russian method, and not rely on first impressions. Maybe its' not so good
Just got back home from a concert in which I used the Russian hold (courtesy of Christiaan van Hemert's video) for the first time, and for the entire programme. No problems and it worked fine and felt natural. Main items in the programmme were Mozart Pft Conc #21 (no, we didn't play #20 by mistake, in case anyone's wondering!), and Beethoven Sym #4, for both which the Russian hold was ok.
Great Trevor! Christiaan is a friend of mine. If you ever need to get in touch with him for more info , let me know. He s a big violin nerd so he knows quite a lot about different violin schools and approaches... that said, he is quite an opinionated person and sometimes his opinions seem a bit strong. We often have debates about that haha
This is fascinating.
That's a fascinating experiment Lydia!
The maximum reading of 88-89 dB regardless of distance indicates that your dB app (or rather, the microphone) isn't capable of measuring higher than that for a typical violin spectrum. At the ear, it's probably way louder than that.
Well , trying the russian hold a bit longer now- even without vodka, I am noticing it can be a little less "ham-fisted" than my first impression suggested.
I have many problems with using the Russian bow hold. I tend to lift my pinkie up for some unknown reason each time I use it.
A further thought about the Russian hold. The bow now feels that it is much more part of my hand and therefore more immediately under control by the forearm and upper arm than by the intermediary of the fingers, which bring another neuro-muscular step into the process. Another thought that comes to mind is that if you want to throw a ball accurately and strongly you use your hand rather than the fingers.
I totally agree with Trevor. I was taught the Russian bow hold when I began studying violin as a boy in the 1950s. Heifetz and David Oistrakh were then my violin heroes, and I wanted to imitate them closely. More recently I tried the F-B grip as an experiment for a short period of time, but never found it as comfortable, fluent, or natural feeling as the Russian. It was probably too late for me to make a change, anyway, even if I'd wanted to. Nowadays I don't give it much thought -- best to stay with the hold that seems to flow from the fingers in the easiest way.
If your hold is Russian, it's fine to let the pinkie float off the bow.
Lydia, I posted about dB meters earlier in this thread. I would get one that can do A-weighted messurements from a reputable shop that sells measuring equipment. The cheap no-name $12 ones may be OK or may be 10 dB off and you have no way to know unless you compare against a known good one. (I have plenty of experience with noname thermometers that show water boiling at 70 °C rather than 100 °C and David Burgess has shown how unreliable hygrometers are.) I don't the reputable shops in the US.
Just a word. dB-A meaurements are "weighted" to have a frequency respnse similar to that of the "average" (!) ear; dB-C is less corrected and is closer to "real" sound levels. For a more technical explanation, use Google!
Yeah, I saw your earlier post, Han, but I was hoping you'd have another inexpensive recommendation. :-)
Actually youtube gazing a bit over the last days _ Julia Fischer, Janine Jensen, Hilary Hahn, Pinchas Zukerman and others - it seems to me that many people seem to use something between the Belgium and the Russian bow hold.
Trevor, how is your Russian hold experiment going?
@Roman, I've been using the Russian hold for about a week, entirely in an orchestral environment with different orchestra ensembles (1 concert and 4 rehearsals in that time), and spicatto and ricochet opportunities have not yet arisen. So far everything is natural and comfortable, with an interesting feel of security, presumably because the bow is more under the direct control of the hand rather than the fingers with hand. No problems playing close to the frog. It's fair to say I'm a convert!
Hahn has the most remarkably, completely inaudible bow changes of any violinist that has ever been recorded. If you hear her make a bow change, it's because she wanted you to hear it. I've been amazed seeing the utter seamlessness of her bowing live -- if I had my eyes closed, I would never have realized that she was taking three bows rather than one on a long note, for instance.
A suitable spot for this link about the history of the bow hold: