November 2008


November 27, 2008 09:26

Sculpt the sound—shape the music.

Hi A,

Good to hear from you, as always.

"leaning/further feeding the weight towards the thumb side of the bow"

We do this, but need to be careful that there is no accompanying twist causing the elbow to rise. The weights are to be absorbed and directed for total ease and fluidity of action. A good 'rule of thumb'—the thumb is the fulcrum and, as such, the weight added to the bow rests on the thumb and the string(s). The thumb should not push up into the bow.

"bringing the wrist up at the heel"

This is dependent upon the amount of hair, therefore the tilt of the bow and the accompanying height of the right arm. You will feel this action most when going from the flat hair to the side as you complete the up-bow and when changing from the flat hair finishing the up-bow to side hair beginning the down-bow.

In general keep the plane of the bow through the bow changes. Maintain the flow of line in the bow arm, hand and fingers using the joints as hinges.

• When using the flat hair for the fullest of tones the wrist will not rise as if rolling over the bow—it will simply continue it motion with the trajectory of the bow.

• When playing with a tilt where the stick is on the far side of the hair, the hand, wrist and arm are higher relative to the floor. 

BUT, relative to the imaginary line coming perpendicular off the side of the bow and projecting over and beyond the upper right arm, the arm is lower when higher—a dichotomy, of sorts. With the flat hair this perpendicular line barely clears over the arm. 

In some techniques this projected perpendicular line off the side of the bow will pass through the arm and in still others this line will pass below the arm. 

The last (a too high right arm) can easily become extreme and leads to many other malfunctions that must be regularly dealt with. The two greatest malfunctions are (1) the arm's weight lifting away from the bow and actually shrinking the tonal palette combined with (2) extra stress in holding the arm’s altitude higher then needed.

The opposite of this is too low, (1) dramatically shrinking the resonance as the shoulder holds too much of the arms weight and (2) hindering the quickness and agility of the arm especially when going to the lower strings.

Whether extremely high or extremely low, the player is forced to force—needing muscular tension to press down from too high or hang down from too low—with the sound giving the illusion of big to the player, but really squeezed and restricted to the audience. The fluidity of stroke and ease of action are all tremendously hindered and restricted, as balance and proportion are not present.

To summarize, when I play on the far side of the hair my right arm is higher then when using the flat hair, but relative to the above mentioned perpendicular line off the side of the bow it is not extreme and retains ease and balance at all times.

Hope this helps —


Author of

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

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The Long & Short of it… SameSameSameSame

November 14, 2008 12:19

Slow Bows / Fast Notes

Long Bows/Short Bows

Try Quarter = 60 and/or use 8th = 120 (my preference)

Vary tempo for ease starting slower, as needed. Play note values of Whole, Dotted-half, Half, 8ths, 16ths and 32nds (optional/advanced). With the Whole note use the whole bow—every millimeter of hair.

Maintain: Same bow speed, Same resonance, Same point of contact, Same quantity of hair, Same string, Same length of vibrating string (i.e., open string or keeping the same note).

Do faster notes (not bows) in all areas of the bow.

Reverse the progression—depending on the direction of the stroke the changes of rhythm can begin with either Down-bow or Up-bow. Again, you must not change bow speed and the tonal quality must be maintained.

Good, now change the string and/or note.

Prescription: Minimum of one set per day. Do until sound is healthy.

Have at it—


Author of

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master…

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

8 replies | Archive link

Weighty Subject II

November 9, 2008 00:07


(a follow-up as Al raised a very good question)

From al ku


Posted via on November 8, 2008 at 3:15 PM

"drew, great and thoughtful blog as usual.  simpletons like me need to read about 5 times to get some of it, and still not sure how much out of it:)

here is my question:  when you talk about bowing here do you consider the difference in upbow and downbow  or even with regard to the influence from gravity...

for instance,  with what you have described in this blog, personally i feel it is tremendously revealing when i apply it to upbow motion where an elbow too high or too low  allows me to experience very different tracking of the bow with string.  with me, i feel that an elbow "a little higher"--may be it is close to your table elbow elevation description--allow me to bow with more sustained control and power, whereas with downbow, to get the similar feeling, my elbow tends to track lower. 

so from a distance, with both up and downbow, the tip of my elbow does not track on one line, but follows an oval, with the upbow motion taking the upper half and downbow the lower half.

prof, say it ain't so! :)"

Hi Al,

You tell me, ha:-) Read the following 5-10 times…

It does sound as though you are doing a more circular pattern in your described stroke. If I am correct, you are thereby running 2 planes—higher for the up and lower for the down. If fact, they would not truly be planes if you are actually curving the line as described.

Try doing 2 open strings and note if it is difficult to maintain the plane. You want to develop a true line to your stroke. This is necessary in double-stops and of tremendous help in drawing a stable and elegantly refined tone, ppp to fff.

It is also required to vary the line into curves, i.e., anticipating and moving toward a new string which is constantly done, but when the plane is held as desired for a given note or phrase it is that kind of control and artistry we hear in the greatest players.

Excepting the moment into and out of string crossings, the plane of the bow is also extremely important in faster détaché strokes—preventing our collision and sideswiping of the other strings.

Ultimately, I do not want to know whether I am hearing an up-bow or a down-bow—just the right artistic expression. Gravity is our best tool, or our worst enemy. Using it makes all we do far easier and being used by it defeats or slowly wears down all we do.

The tabletop rise is not to turn up the elbow, but rather to easily show us how to generally transfer the arms weight through the wrist, into the hand and onto the bow in a most efficient manner. In the last couple days I have used it with 6-8 students that have been inconsistent with the quality and quantity of their tone. We did it twice at my desk and they instantly caught on to the degree that if their sound wavered, a simple reminder put them right on track.

In teaching this, I also emphasized the fluidity, ease and lightness felt in the arm even when playing fortissimo. It goes without saying, that they are all doing Crescent Bows and are constantly refreshed mentally as to the advantage of doing so. :-)

Another aside—it sounded that you might also be rolling to different quantities of hair. This is also good—when desired.

Hope this helps—


P.S. Ovals are necessary and very good; Crescent Bows with phenomenal planes are to be mastered at all costs—AND CB’s are far easier and flow in the plane…go figure:-)

Author of

Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

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A Weighty Subject

November 4, 2008 20:34


I am sitting at the kitchen table and simply extended my right arm out resting it on the table.

Then I transferred the arm's weight toward my hand gradually raising the arm (not the shoulder) — this caused the weight to distribute into the base of the palm just beyond the wrist.

Then I loosely curled my fingers toward the palm and leveraged the hand off the table with just fingers in contact with the tabletop and thumb floating free.

Upon doing this you can feel the weight clearly transfer into the fingers via the knuckles. Do not allow the elbow to sag down, thereby losing the full transfer of weight. You can ‘rock & roll’ the hand and get a feel for different balance points. Do absolutely minimal arm rotation noticing how easy it is to keep the elbow from rolling and twisting up, causing tension to travel up into the shoulder.

This can be done on the fingertips, as well.

Similar to what we should feel when playing forte at the tip of the bow, draw an up-bow gradually lightening the weight allowed onto the bow (sustain the forte or vary the dynamic as desired). Either change bow at the frog with a light fluid action along the plane of the bow’s path or adjust altitude, maintaining the plane, and gracefully lift off the string—probably as Ray would take off down the runway, but he would lift the nose of the jet thrusting more of our weight to the back of the seat.

We don’t lift the tip of the bow; we raise the altitude—maintaining the plane.

Practice long détaché strokes with pulses. Maintain the level of the bow-hand with the plane of the bow’s path and mix in a little Crescent Bow to complete the recipe. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes a day until well done; apply throughout your playing—including tuning.

It should become a rich, elegant and delicious sound.

(Also see, January ’08 blog: “GPS” — 3.1 Upper Right Arm)

Sculpt the sound—shape the music.

Hope this helps —


Author of 


Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master… 

Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master…

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