Near-fingerboard bowing: is it necessary?
Hello all, I am an intermediate player who is struggling with bowing technique nowadays. In terms of Simon Flesch’s subdivision of soundpoints, from 1(near the bridge) to 5(near the fingerboard), I play quite well on the points 1-3, but not on 4 and 5. The bow bounds.
Yes, I know that near-fingerboard bowing is necessary to improve my violin skills, but it doesn’t come home to me. Near-fingerboard bowing is not used with high position notes, nor with harmonics, etc.
To disregard my excuses, can you guys tell me its importance, or some examples where near-fingerboard bowing is used?
(Edit: and TIPS please!!)
Every single time you see 'sul tasto' in a score, or want an airy light sound. It's one of the three broad directions that composers use to tell you where to put the bow. The other two are ponticello (near the bridge) and normale (in the middle/normal spot)
Thanks Michael, but I’ve hardly seen those signs because I don’t play in an orchestra anymore. (I played when I was young, but I can’t remember.)
One of my violins has a 2-octave fingerboard instead of the usual 2-1/2, so that makes the sound points difficult to determine unless I define them by the width of the bow hairs, which has always worked.
They are a unique breed indeed Trevor! The composer is a young award winner who got a grant for us to record her quartet. The way I understand it, composers are judged by composers for such things and so there's a tendency to write for other composers. So on paper they try to make it look complex to impress. Not only do we have to follow those sound point instructions, but we have to do them in different dynamics, ranging from pppp to mf! So we're constantly doing the complete opposite of natural, and having to push the envelope of really light playing way over the fingerboard and bridge, and sudden, extreme lane changes (e.g. ord. accented mf to subito molto sul pont. in ppp.) It was hellish to learn, but I have to say we're starting to make a distinction between sul pont in pp and molto sul pont in ppp and I think I have more bow control for it, not that the listener could ever discern all the minute details. Nonetheless there is an overall effect. For your morning listening pleasure:
And for Cat...
You're welcome Cat! And sorry, I got a little carried away in reply to Trevor, procrastinating getting started practicing my piece ;)
Impressive performance by Lina Bahn. In the score of that piece it says to perform it in a place where there are ladders and other stage gear around (in Italian of course), so she's getting it exactly right.
"it's about increasing your palette of colours."
Jeewon, your composer didn't think of one other lane change - that's the one on the wrong side of the bridge! Can happen accidentally at all levels of violinistic achievement, and you hope the audience didn't notice; but it wouldn't surprise me if that bowing feature has been asked for in some modern compositions.
Thanks Jeewon! Our breakfast time has never been so riveting! I go to concerts of new music frequently but Lachenmann is quite exceptional. Going to such concerts for me is often like a lay person going to composer conferences. It does open one's ears and mind.
And not only on the other side of the bridge, but underneath your strings too. My 11-year-old daughter discovered this on her cello that she can play the C and A strings at the same time. I then realized this technique can be used on the violin to play two-octave double stops -- fingered! (A and A, for example, fingered 1 and 3). Won't be long before someone puts that into their concerto, and from there it will go into the Flesch Scales and conservatory auditions. Only it will have to be sautille too.
And the poor cello! I hope it was not an expensive one. I wouldn't try it on my Topa for sure.
Trevor, check out the Lachenmann, it has lots of behind the bridge playing (e.g. 1:23) I played a chamber piece of his years ago with him conducting (intense guy) and he really wanted us to dig into the strings behind the bridge, at which point you get this disturbing rattling. And Yixi, it was very harsh on the instruments. Some of the players got cheap instruments, which I should've done. There was lots of C-bout playing, well into fff, and I actually wore down some wood on my viola, at which point I started covering the bouts with post it notes. It was a nightmare to learn and perform in 4 rehearsals. Thankfully my current composer, a Newfoundlander, Bekah Simms, is into whispers and rustling more than rattles, scrapes and screaming.
I should remark all your beautiful words:
Not a lame question at all! I think playing well over the fingerboard is a very advanced and difficult skill, so don't worry about it too much if you can't get it immediately. In orchestra, you can just lighten up and kind of hide in the section. You don't have to worry so much about the tone, as long as you don't stick out. In solo and chamber music, you really have to make it sing, which is some of the hardest stuff to do on violin, and that much harder sul tasto.
I attended a chamber recital today and I saw a violinist -- an excellent professional playing a priceless Italian antique -- bowing in every "lane" from right at the bridge to an inch over the fingerboard. You can be sure it was deliberate. He got so many beautiful colors, incredible violin artistry.
that Tetzlaff Mendelssohn is quite something!
Yeah but as much as I like Tetzlaff, I don't think I'd pay to watch him play from a quarter-mile away. You'd need a telescope just to see his violin.
Well, he was certainly bobbing around enough for you to see something at that distance!
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