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Drew Lecher

Lads & Lasses, “Draw your Bows!” 2

October 12, 2007 at 6:07 AM

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.

I felt the above was worth repeating due to its import and the following observations.

Further to: “Following the curve of the stick”

The “Curve of the Bow” has to do with the flow of the right hand/arm sections mimicking/tracking the bow’s arch/camber. There is a natural need, especially at the frog/heel of the bow, to cause the bow arm to rise and, likewise, at the tip.

I will stand by this assessment.

I am not at all reluctant to follow the curve of the bow –– I just call it a good bow arm. It is absolutely necessary to allow for the simple fact that the bow varies in height from the hair and this must be compensated for, just as we compensate/adjust for the weight/balance of the bow every fraction of a millimeter it is drawn.

Everything affects everything.

As I approach the heel/frog of the bow I am consciously aware and adjusting the height of my hand/arm to allow for this structural fact.

I do respectfully and profoundly disagree with the concept of a “rotary motion” of the forearm for “the finishing motion of legato bowing.” This seems to be the gist of “playing to the curve of the bow.”

When rolling the bow hand clockwise (Supination) toward the pinky to finish the up-bow, one is shifting/changing/modifying all of the right hand’s contact points –– this is a huge effort. By the way, I learned this also –– and later rejected it.

My studies in London were with Yfrah Neaman, a pupil of Flesh and other very prominent teachers in the early part of the 1900’s. Neaman was phenomenal with the detailing of artistry he could inspire and was a tremendous mentor, colleague and friend over the years. He also taught this rolling rotary action –– one of the few points upon which we did not concur. My studies with Leonard Sorkin, founder of the Fine Arts Quartet and pupil of Misha Mishakoff (a pupil of Auer), always dealt with the stability of the right arm and hand in the bow changes, ala Heifetz, Milstein, Oistrakh, etc.

I teach the Classic Russian School of maintaining the level of the back of the hand and having the thumb as fulcrum and the fingers doing their relatively simply task of balancing the bow within its line of trajectory –– via the Crescent Bow linear path, and allowing for the structure and design of the bow, not to mention the bridge and strings with all the angles and resistances easily dealt with.

The Bow Hand:
5. Hand
a. Very slight cupping of the palm producing tiny hills in the knuckles – almost flat.
b. Back/top of hand should retain its angle to the bow at all times – this enables a consistent maintenance of the bow’s path across the string, providing tonal control.
c. It is the thumb and fingers, working independently, which flex and take out the bumps.
(Excerpt from: Violin Technique: The Manual and Viola Technique: The Manual)

I do agree that there is, of course, the necessity of the forearm to rotate –– The Forearm rotates clockwise (out)/counter clockwise (in). [Supination–palm up/Pronation–palm down]. This is primarily used in pulsations/accents of the given bow stroke, the most obvious being staccato and it also assists in many string crossings.

The weight of the right arm must flow evenly onto the bow via the hand/fingers without undo rotating action of the forearm.

If one over-uses the Supination/Pronation action, the player is in great danger of over stressing the thumb and thereby the forearm into the elbow into the upper arm into the shoulder into the neck and back. Need I say more? There are endless examples of this among students, amateurs and professionals.

I know that no one actually/knowingly advocates anything like this.

I am simply warning of potential tonal distortion, let alone physical injury. I am now writing for the individual who is incurring difficulty and perhaps pain in their right arm and hand due to undo stress from over-exertion.

Perhaps I have taken the ball too far, but if this answers a few questions in some players’ minds –– and bodies –– it is worth the effort.

Cheers to all and happy, free-ofain playing.

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 Alise Svoboda
Posted on October 13, 2007 at 4:53 AM
Nicely stated, Drew. =)
I am always thinking about the crescent bow, and I will say that is getting better, thanks to you.


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