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Drew Lecher

Lads & Lasses, 'Draw your Bows!'

October 4, 2007 at 8:03 AM

My first blog, encouraged by Laurie…

Crescent Bow
The most important technique for the development of tonal resonance and fluidity of bow arm motion.

The partial slightly orbital path around the scroll of the instrument (player’s left hand) enabling the tone to resonate with greater clarity and projection, additionally offering a natural way to free up the right arm’s motions through the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

1. The bow strokes are to be accomplished with a slight rounding-of-the-path, thus Crescent Bow – the curved drawing of the bow.
2. The down and up-bow paths are mirror images of each other.
3. The down-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the lower 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing out/forward in the upper 1/2 as the bow continues toward the tip.
a. The point at which the right elbow is 90-degrees determines the upper and lower 1/2 of the bow stroke.
4. The up-bow must have a pulling back of the upper arm in the upper 1/2 of the bow followed by a pushing up diagonally of the left hand for the lower 1/2 toward the heel of the bow.

NOTE: The Crescent Bow is necessary to compensate for the natural resistance of the bow caused by the string/bridge combination – the nearer to the bridge, the greater the resistance. It is like walking into the wind – we lean into the counter force.

It is late and I have been teaching all day, so I will try and be clear in thought.

In the Discussion Section: “Following the curve of the stick”

Initially I was not sure what aspect of the “Curve of the Bow” was being discussed, so I jumped in and gave my thoughts and explanations –– hence the “Crescent Bow,” which is speaking of the horizontal/lateral path of the bow’s plane. (4th & 7th discussion) Also, the “Messa di voce” is mentioned here.

It became clear from Buri’s question put to me (5th discussion), and others’ comments, that we are discussing an “arched draw/flow/sinking into the string.” There is, in my opinion, a great danger tonally and musically with this concept. Articulation and rhythmic precision can be greatly compromised if this is the basis for all bowing technique. This is why I believe the “Curve-of –the-Bow” stroke to be a type of Détaché.


Following are my thoughts on various Détaché strokes:

Détaché – The basic but all-important stroke from which everything else is derived – notes are well sustained and played with individual and connected bow strokes of any length.

1. Détaché Décisivement/Decisive Détaché – A sustained tone with distinct bow changes.
2. Détaché Lancé – A very quick, short and lively stroke, without accent and yet released from the initial start.
3. Détaché Porté – No initial accent due to a slight swell or sneaking into the note at the beginning of the stroke followed by a lightening and relaxing of the tone to the end of the stroke.
4. Grande Détaché – Similar to détaché with extraordinary length given to the stroke, increases breadth of tone and character that is well sustained.
5. Détaché Pulsé/Pulsed Détaché – Begin the stroke with additional weight and speed of bow followed by a release, retaining fluidity of motion and never stopping the bow. In certain instances the bow may minimally leave the string at the end of the stroke – make sure the return landing is of utmost elegance and refinement appropriate to the passage.
6. Détaché Lié/Legato Détaché– Seamlessly connected strokes. See Bow Fingers/Hand/Arm, 8c.

The above and later below are excerpts from my books for the violinist and violist.

So with all of these variables, and many more, I cannot accept the “Curve-of-the-Bow” stroke to be a legitimate method/technique to base one’s entire way of handling the bow –– it simply is not applicable and/or possible in so very many instances. (Perhaps this is not the intent of the contributors.)

I do accept it as another variable and feel it to be closely related to the Détaché Porté mentioned above, but not necessarily exactly like the DP. (12th discussion)

I also relate the “CotB” to “Messa di voce” (also, 4th conversation) because we at times do this on a long note for shape, beauty and resonance. Obviously, this is more deliberate and for a very special effect, but this is what happens in a more subtle way when doing the “CotB.”

Regarding the Tilt of the bow: Of course the motion and sound are affected. This is true of every single adjustment for every single millimeter we use the bow:

The 1) point of contact, 2) speed of bow, 3) weight of bow, 4) amount of hair, 5) string selected and 6) vibrating length of string/position number are brought together in order to bring out the desired dynamics and character of the music ––

Side Hair – Not a stroke, but a method or technique used in virtually all the strokes, particularly for the lightest and most delicate of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is rolled away from the bridge thereby giving the hair a diagonal tilt to the string. This enables the player to achieve the lightest tones possible and the gentler lyric effects in varied types of bow stroke styles. For greater security, ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair and thumb are rolled toward each other. When they touch, the bow gains total stability, enabling the player to have complete ease and security of action. Note that this requires a slightly higher wrist/arm and forward right arm positioning. Its counterpart is the Flat Hair.

Flat Hair – Not a stroke, but a method or technique, used in virtually all but the lightest of touches. A most basic and important bow technique where the stick of the bow is directly above and perpendicular to the hair. This enables the player to achieve the fullest tones possible and the crispest, quickest responses in all types of bouncing and springing strokes. For greater ease and technical stability, it is best when the hair is rolled out from the thumb. Note that this requires a slightly lower wrist/arm and pulled-back right arm positioning, as the rolling out action moves the hair toward the fingerboard. Its counterpart is the Side Hair. Also, see Thumbless.

Bow Strokes
The true artist/master musician will incorporate a wide variety of bow strokes with subtle transitions that enhance the phrase appropriately in order that the music is fully served.

In many instances the “Bow Stroke Style” will meld from one style, or aspect of a style, to another.

There will also be many situations of a distinct change from one stroke to the next, as in Détaché to Martelé.

Everything affects everything.

From Roy Sonne
Posted on October 4, 2007 at 4:56 PM
"Everything affects everything."


From kimberlee dray
Posted on October 4, 2007 at 11:59 PM
Yes. What I hear when I play and experiment confirms what you say.
From Albert Justice
Posted on October 5, 2007 at 1:32 AM
I almost think the violin as a living thing--it is soooooo variable.

Welcome aboard again Drew!.

From Ray Randall
Posted on October 5, 2007 at 5:53 PM
Good points.

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