How do I improve my spiccato? My teacher said I have to let the bow do the work, and not control it so much. I can do it in class averagely ok, but then at home, when I practice, my bow just feels heavy in my hand. How do I practice my spiccato?
Could you maybe post a video of yourself doing some spiccato, so we forum members can better give you suggestions? Make sure your thumb muscle is relaxed, or your spiccato can become crunchy. You can also search the site for some possible tips.
Are you talking about spiccato, where you both drop and lift the bow actively to create the articulation?
It's impossible to give you specific suggestions without seeing you actually do the stroke, but off the top of my head here are the most frequent things I find myself saying to students struggling with spiccato:
"My teacher said I have to let the bow do the work, and not control it so much"
Seems like Mary Ellen is describing a faster spiccato and Scott is talking about developing a slower spiccato.
For sautille, I've always had success telling students to use their right elbow to "throw" or "toss" their loose wrist/hand back and forth, while just barely holding onto the bow. It should start as a very unrefined movement, and the bow will bounce. If the throwing movement doesn't get the stick to bounce, then chances are that you're playing too close to the tip. If it bounces in a sporadic, heavy, uncontrolled manner, then you're playing too close to the frog.
This is the way I teach spiccato.(as differentiated from sautille.
This is the way I teach sautille.
A lot of otherwise good players don't have the orchestra style fast, light spicatto (or sautille, if you prefer french). I'm glad that someone else is using the basketball dribble analogy; gravity and the tension of the ball do most of the work for you. I have had some success using the Sevcik Op. 3 variations. 3 approaches may work; 1) start with the high , slow bounce using mostly arm motion, gradually get closer, faster, lighter, and let the wrist, then fingers take over. 2) start with a very fast tremelo, gradually take off the leverage from the 1st finger, and it might start bouncing, if it's the right spot on a good bow. 3) Use a piece with lots of string changes, like vars. 13, 27. The extra motion can be just the right amount of force to start the bow bouncing.
I found that Eddy Chen’s video helped me.
About starting on the string vs. off. I'm working on the Mozart Haffner Rondo (it's in the red Kreisler book). I want to play the opening passage sautille. I have tried very very hard to start on the string and I just cannot get it going quickly enough. Effectively what has to happen is a very quick downbow lift. I guess that's something I should be able to do, but it's not in my skill set ... yet? Maybe just hard because it's marked "p".
It's hard to describe in words Paul, but you don't want to actively lift the bow in from-the-string sautille. What you want is to start with the hair glued to the string (colle) so that there is some or complete compression of the stick onto the hair, which will apply enough pressure to bend the string sideways. When you suddenly release the compression the loaded spring will kick the bow up (which is why it's so important to learn how to release pressure as you move the bow,) at which point you can maintain enough compression to keep the hairs from kicking up off the string, or you can allow the hand to coordinate with the released spring and let the hair bounce off the string. If you hold with a more square hold, the vertical motion of the wrist will rock the bow, see-saw fashion, to keep kicking the bow back onto the string. If you hold with more of a lean, so the fingers are at an oblique angle, the angle of the 'hinge' of the wrist will cause the fingers to act on the stick at an oblique angle, which will keep kicking the bow onto the string (if you read that thread I linked to above, the former rocking sautille is what Finckel demonstrates, the oblique motion (with a dropped wrist) is what Nate demonstrates.)
I'm working on this right now. I'm trying to work my spiccato/sautille up to a faster speed for the 3rd movt of the Wieniawski 2, and I'm isolating some of the issues. Bear with me for thinking out loud, but working starting on the open e string, sometimes I work from higher and sometimes I work from the string, to get to that in-between spot.
Jeewon yes I agree that approach works, I have experimented with that. It's hard to do, though, without putting a significant accent on the first note of the passage, which I really don't want on the first note of the Haffner Rondo. I guess like anything it just takes more practice and experimentation.
N.B. the bow is designed to bounce on short, even, back and forth strokes. In the old days, all short strokes were assumed to sound slightly detached, hence detache. There was no distinction between on the string v. off the string playing. Then, after Viotti, we started to get a distinction based on how much detachment--separation--there was in the sound between strokes. It may be very late into the 19th century before a seamless detache was used, an "attache" so to speak. Now, we learn to counter that bouncy design feature of the bow to create on-the-string sounds, we learn "attache" first. So when we speak of letting the bow bounce we're talking about undoing that on-the-string action.
Thanks Jeewon. That's great. I had my lesson and my teacher had been out of town for long enough for me to start getting some weird ideas, but it seems like I was trying to split the difference between spiccato and sautille, and she teaches them as different strokes, so she set me straight a bit. I'll have to stay away from sautille speeds for the moment. I think that what you said about too much finger motion has been throwing the plane of my bowing off, and that I actually need to maintain a little bit more firm of a grip than I had for the spiccato.
$100 says that the OP hasn't even read these excellent, detailed responses.
You're welcome. Eventually, you'll be able to split the difference, or use lots of hand motion, use more height, i.e. add variety to a passage, even mixing in on-the-string playing (often done on the lower strings.) But it just takes time to train the different timing and coordination, so best keep things separate for now.
I do like the multiple strokes per note - tripling allows me to keep the same bow direction, although the feeling of string changes seems to be a little different still when you go back to single notes. It's an interesting problem to go from putting a pause before each string crossing and really starting on the new string from the optimal place to closer to tempo, where you don't want a big gap between the sound of the old and the new string.
For mixed bowing and passages with lots of crossings it's useful to ingrain open string patterns and feel them as 'units of meaning' for the right arm, much like finger/interval patterns for the left hand. First learn in detache, then sautille. Use added accents on the first note of each group to really feel the group as a single gesture. Repeat one pattern, then combine different patterns, then practice actual patterns for the passage you're working on, finally adding the notes.
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