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Claire and Adam's Violin Lessons, Blog 2b (Adam) 'Squeezing the Sponge'

Adam DeGraff

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Published: December 29, 2013 at 4:01 PM [UTC]

EDITOR'S NOTE: Violin teacher Adam DeGraff and adult violin student Claire Silvester are sharing their thoughts from their Skype lessons together in this series of blogs. Here are links to other blogs in the series: Blog 1: Claire's introduction: Approaching New Year - reflecting and resolutions. and Blog 2: Claire's question: Squeezing the Sponge

This is a response to Blog 2: Claire's question: Squeezing the Sponge

True that Claire. I love a modern approach to Bach. I loved those classes Sergio Luca taught at Rice University about Baroque Performance Practice, but it isn't to my taste. I like the way Milstein and Heifetz and Hahn play Bach, thus, that's the way I teach it! :-)

Speed, Pressure, and Point of Contact mean nothing if you don't use them to serve the music, and in all cases, the music is served better if you are where you want to be in your bow. In measures 8 and 9 in the Giga from Bach's Partita #2, 4 sequences that crescendo (3 slurs down, three separate up, down, up, start over) can be well planned if each subsequent sequence starts, say, one inch lower on the bow, ending up at the very frog for the big arrival on the open G.

Squeezing water out of the sponge, or squeezing quality sound out of three slurred down-bow notes while using a minimum amount of bow feels the same to me. Releasing the sponge and letting it resume its open, air filled shape, feels like freedom to me, allowing me to recapture some of that bow I just spent and now I can zig-zag my way down to an inch lower than where started the previous sequence. (Zig-Zag = slightly lighter/faster up bow, heavier/slower up bow, lighter/faster up bow, and surprise, you are where you want to be!)

[Claire, you said "Even though I comprehend the description, for me, this is all abstract. I cannot execute the bowing, I do not know how it feels. I can squeeze an actual sponge for a concrete sensory starting point though."]

Very True! Which is why you aren't expected to get it right away. Like that old joke... it only took her 10 years to become an overnight success. It just takes mileage. If you feel it "right" one time out of 1000, then you are on the right track. Find it 1 in 100, then 1 in 10, then 1 in 2 and you are on your way! If you don't find it 1 in 1000, then leave it alone and, with your teacher, approach it from a different direction some other time. There's plenty to work on for now. (for ALL of us!)

So the technique at hand here? Bach Partita #2, Giga, measures 8 and 9, starting on beat 3. Goal? To craft each 6 note sequence beautifully while making an overall crescendo to the G at beat 3 measure 9. Be at the frog for the G.

Hope that was helpful.

From William Wolcott
Posted on December 29, 2013 at 9:46 PM
Hey, Adam. Great comments! :-)

Did you want her to lift the bow at all?
And have you mentioned catching the string to her at all?

Great sound and teaching!


Posted on December 29, 2013 at 10:57 PM

if you are around Alfred bookshop branch, look at Step By Step by Kerstin Wartberg, volume 2A, page 40, Bourree.

The paragraph The Crescendo passages in the Bourree - Wandering while using more and more bow

with its picture may help you. It is not with slurred notes
but the principle is the same what your teacher is asking you to do.

Posted on December 30, 2013 at 1:08 AM
In the past, teachers would tell students simply to "travel" a little farther with the bow on the first separate note after the slurs. By traveling a little farther each time after the slurs, the student can end up lower on the bow, even to the frog.

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