Develop beautiful tone with the one-minute bow (VIDEO)

August 1, 2016, 11:10 AM · Even Mozart's dad made him practice long tones. Trust me... it's worth it to get to 60.

Whether you call it a long tone, son filé, a one-minute bow or just a royal pain, this exercise has been around for centuries. Leopold Mozart, the most famous violin teacher of his time, insisted on the importance of developing a beautiful sound through practicing extremely long bows lasting a minute or more. And who was Leopold's most famous pupil? Only the composer of some of our most challenging repertoire! So why would you try to play Mozart's music without practicing the way he did?

The beginning of his 5th violin concerto in A, for example, is the easiest thing in the world once you're able to sustain a bow for an entire minute. Suddenly you realize that you have the power to shape the phrase however you desire.

Worth the climb

So start wherever you are, but start climbing today! Watch my video to see how to work your way up gradually to a smooth bow that lasts 60 seconds or more. It doesn't matter if you can't even hold a bow for ten seconds yet. With just a few minutes a day working on the one-minute bow, you'll gain powers you never knew you had.

Watch the video, try it for yourself, then let me know in the comments how it works for you!


August 1, 2016 at 10:16 PM · With little kids, I call this the "How Slow Can You Go Bow"! I time them for their first try, then have them keep trying to make it longer and longer.

August 1, 2016 at 10:32 PM · Nice! I don't remember ever doing this until much later, but it would have been great to start early. Maybe I just don't remember it from my Suzuki days.

August 2, 2016 at 12:35 AM · Great advice and demonstration.Thanks! Going to implement it into my practice.

August 2, 2016 at 02:30 AM · Fantastic, Nathan!

How much rosin do you use? I've been doing two swipes (one down, one up) the last year and that seems to have been working well for me, but sometimes I wonder if three would perhaps be better. Would love to get your thoughts on that in the context of this exercise.

August 2, 2016 at 04:32 AM · I might have to make a rosin video... but for now, you can learn a lot from cellist David Finckel. He made a video a few years back for cellists, but so much applies to us. In fact, I've been there when he has raked some violinists over the coals for shoddy rosin application! But in short, I don't think "swipes" are going to do it! :) Take a look at what he has to say:

August 2, 2016 at 09:53 AM · Hello, super interesting, thanks. Do you do this exercise on up-bow as well ?

August 2, 2016 at 10:46 AM · Very interesting, I will certainly try all these tips, thanks !

August 2, 2016 at 02:34 PM · Thanks so much Nate, great to see son file demonstrated by you! I was always wondering if it is OK that the sound goes on and off during this exercise, now I know it is OK!

August 2, 2016 at 04:19 PM · Yes, you can certainly do this up-bow, and you should! I didn't want to burn another minute of video putting you through that, but it's equally valuable in both directions. Give it a try!

August 2, 2016 at 07:43 PM · Nathan, that's great. Other than using violin rosin instead of cello/bass rosin, are there any major differences in what you would recommend vs what Mr. Finckel says in the video above?

I had just recorded myself last night and played it back and thought I sounded airy. I'm looking forward to trying again tonight but after having laid a significant layer of rosin first as recommended above.

Thanks again!

August 2, 2016 at 11:50 PM · I am not a professional but it seems to me that rosining a violin bow the way Finckel suggests, would apply way too much rosin. Apparently it works for cellos with their heavier bows and more hair; to say nothing of their longer and thicker strings which I suppose would need more friction. I've always heard that violinists and fiddlers tend to over-rosin, not under-rosin. I haven't tried the son-file' in awhile, but I had managed to achieve a minute and forty five seconds from frog to tip.

August 4, 2016 at 02:55 AM · You're right that cellists' rosin needs are different from ours... for one thing, as David says in the video, he's using a blend of cello and bass rosin! That stuff is super sticky.

The major things to take away from the video for us: if you're going to rosin, make sure to get it in the hair, which means more slowly and with more pressure than many people are used to using; rosin all parts of the bow equally!

August 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM · Good advice! Someone said to rosin not only the flat of the hair, but each side of the hair as well. BTW, you(Nathan Cole) are a really great player!

August 4, 2016 at 05:28 PM · Nathan, I don't doubt that it works, but can you address a potential misunderstanding I have/had about son file?

I was under the impression that son file was about extending the length of a sounded note, and that this would initially be very short, but that over time, you could eliminate the little jerks and drop-outs of sound that you will get on a very slow bow. I guess I'm wondering what the purpose of the 1 minute bow is when it isn't tied to the tone you are trying to generate, and how that is supposed to translate to increased comfort with the bow?

For example, I can get a constant tone for a little more than 20 seconds, but I can't imagine I would have anything in the repertoire that would require a longer bow, but I would imagine that I need to be able to maintain a healthy sound on a very slow moving bow in repertoire, so I would imagine that practice extending the length of a healthy tone would make more sense as an exercise than focusing on keeping the arm moving at a very slow and constant pace, which doesn't result in much of a tone at all.

August 6, 2016 at 12:42 PM · Dear friends, I had this experience when I studied in Vienna 45 years ago. My teacher asked for a one-hour practice every morning before anything else. I did that for a year and believe me never after. I still have the feeling and I am grateful for that.

Mikis Michaelides

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