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Drew Lecher


June 23, 2013 at 7:51 AM

Questions & Answers

    If you have a second...a second??? — I am fast, but not that fast:-) 

Spiccato — see excerpt at end of blog.
1. Is the clarity of spiccato ever compromised because of the shortening of the string (the ascending or descending of notes)? If so, how to do you accommodate that?
Yes…higher-nearer to bridge; lower-further from bridge.

Bow Placement, excerpt, pg xi—
Do in relation to the bridge/fingerboard with variables based upon: 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 in order to bring out the desired dynamics and character of the music.
1. Higher/nearer.
Higher strings are played nearer to the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
Higher notes on the same string are nearer to the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.
2. Lower/further.
Lower strings are played further from the bridge, if all else is kept equal.
Lower notes on the same string are further from the bridge in bow placement, if all else is kept equal.

2. Is the bow hold changed during spiccato?
I have never done surgery before spiccato passages, though I have wished I had a few times:-) Actually, with spiccato in moderate tempos, the strokes will tend to be longer and I might use a bit more flexing of the bow hand's thumb and fingers—this is accomplished with the same bow hold.

3. Is the upper arm still and the forearm/fingers/hand making the bouncing happen?
Not truly still, but the upper right arm initiates a very small and important action. Try doing the spiccato stroke without the violin and bow, and you will see how the upper right arm comes into play. Per usual, the upper right arm dominates our moves of the bow with tremendous ease. Additionally, when it is desired to give a note extra zest/exuberance it is necessary to use greater action throughout the bow arm, hand, thumb and fingers—all working in concert.

4. What fingers are most involved in spiccato execution?  
The right thumb is truly the ruler of all actions in the fingers. When it comes to the right hand thumb and fingers, I am a minimalist. Very slow and broad lyric spiccato will have a little extra proactive flexing of the thumb and all fingers in coordination with the right arm. As it speeds up I favor the 1st & 3rd fingers along with the thumb.

Many players will use the 1st & 2nd fingers with the thumb. Due to pronation and counter balance issues that must be controlled and natural in action, I have never been satisfied with this extreme balance change in the right hand and feel far greater control using thumb with 1st and 3rd fingers.


excerpt, pg xiii—
Sautillé – Often initiated on the string, the bow jumps or hops up from the string in a very excited fashion. It is a more flamboyant version of Spiccato sulla corda/on-theing Spiccato and is accomplished with the use of very small strokes and flat hair. It is generally a grouped series of notes as the natural sequence of strokes is often initiated in patterns of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, etc. As with Spiccato, the bow placement and ratio of height/length determine the character and degree of brilliance afforded to the passage. Higher speed will be higher up the bow and lower speed will be lower down the bow. It is often best in higher speeds when the thumb, 1st finger and 3rd finger are proactively used; the 2nd finger simply releases away from the stick (do not lift as this action is tense and inhibiting); and the 4th finger is also released, hovering over the bow in a natural and relaxed curve.

5. How fast does a tempo have to get before you change over to sautille?
This is individual to a slight degree, but when you speed up the spiccato to the extent that the hair is not leaving the string and the stick is bouncing (Spiccato sulla chorda), transitioning into sautille will require the releasing of weight. This is when I truly use only the thumb with the 1st & 3rd fingers—2nd is hovering extremely close to the stick and 4th has been off for some time, hovering over the stick, as well.

6. Does the bouncing point change per string and if so, how much? Does this have anything to do with the weight in one's individual bow? 
Yes, and yes, along with our use of gravity for ease of action.

The bow is naturally heavier on lower strings due to the angle/plane of the bow and the gravitational force affecting it. In addition to any lightening or weighting that we contribute, based upon desired tonal color and character, combined with the weight and balance of the actual bow, all affect the action of the bow.

See Bow Placement excerpt above.  

I'm working on Schubert's Death and the Maiden. And then Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo. I find I'm clean if I do multiple repetitions of each pitch, but then when I play as written, the clarity is totally compromised.

Slow back down at the point of compromising clarity, as this leads to total brake down of the stroke. You are most likely tensing up when you switch to the written passage. That is a very important time to adjust your tempo a bit slower to the degree that it IS as clear and easy as in the repeated bowings. Tiny Crescent Bow strokes are critical for keeping ease of action throughout the bow arm, wrist, hand, thumb and fingers—think of little commas.

Left hand fingers should lead the bow's action. Along with rhythmic variations, practice all the varied ways without the bow. Listen to your left hand’s rhythmic and intonation accuracy. Temporarily give a slight accent to string crossing moves in the left hand and arm. Make sure you are using a lower altitude of the left hand and arm to the neck/fingerboard.

Remain ahead of the game mentally.

I will get this stroke. I will!! :-)
But, of course! I have no doubts:-)        

Okay, second is up……:-)

Hope this helps…

God bless,

Author of
"Violin Technique: The Manual, How to master"
"Viola Technique: The Manual, How to master"

excerpts from above books, pg xiv—

Spiccato – An enunciated, springing, jumping bow with evenly proportioned action and a clear ringing tone – play each note on a separate bow stroke. More individual then Sautillé, it will take on many characters of interpretation depending upon the point of contact, speed, weight, amount of hair and placement of the bow. From the air (1, 3, 4 & 5) and from the string (2).

1. Spiccato dramatico/Dramatic Spiccato – A more aggressive and excited style of stroke that lends greater individual identity to each note, predominantly done in the lower quarter of the bow using various degrees of Collé for added inflections.
2. Spiccato lirico/Lyric Spiccato – Consists of a brushed and broadened lengthening of the bow-hair contact with the string, tilting toward the fingerboard to the side of the hair, thereby achieved with greater horizontal action and less vertical height. (Lower in the bow.)
3. Spiccato secco/Crisp Spiccato – A dryer, crisper stoke, it has a greater vertical drop and rebound with less horizontal draw of the bow. (Higher in the bow.)
4. Spiccato sulla corda/On the string Spiccato – At higher speeds the Spiccato will be on the string. The stick will maintain a bouncing, springing action – vertical articulation – but the hair will not actually leave the string. As in Sautillé, it is often best in higher speeds when the thumb, 1st finger and 3rd finger are proactively used; the 2nd finger simply releases away from the stick (do not lift as this action is tense and inhibiting); and the 4th finger is also released, hovering over the bow in a natural and relaxed curve.
5. Spiccato volante/Flying Spiccato – A stroke related to Staccato volante but of greater height above the string and individuality of strokes with notes. Also generally done in the upper portion of the bow with the added ability to remain in place or even recover territory traveling towards, or fully to, the heel or tip as needed via the Retake.

NOTE: These types, 1 – 5, often are mixed within the same passage and/or alternate with another bow stroke style to convey the desired effect.

Practice Tips:
1. Drop the bow vertically to the string at various points along the bow – note how it bounces – then catch or ?control the next drop, gradually adding the direction of the down and up bows.
a. Flatter hair bounces with a crisp, very distinct response and angled hair has a gentle, less distinct articulation.
b. Use the Crescent Bow, even in these small strokes, as this will prevent the usual stiffening of the wrist and elbow.
c. Use a small Thumb/fingers Stroke, adding greater arm motion as required.
d. In faster passages use less bow and keep closer to the string.
2. Set the bow on the string, at first in the middle. Use flat hair, weight the stick down so that the bow touches the hair (not the string) and then suddenly draw the stroke (down or up) and spring up and off the string. Maintain the Spiccato action. Apply points 1a – d above.
3. When done correctly, the bow does 90% of the work.
4. Do not tighten the bow hand/wrist/elbow/shoulder.
NOTE: Accented triplets are very good for developing evenness and control.

From Roy Sonne
Posted on June 24, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Welcome back, Drew! Good to see you here again, dispensing your splendid knowledge and wisdom.
From Drew Lecher
Posted on June 25, 2013 at 1:35 PM
Thanks, Roy—it's been a bit hectic of late.

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