transition at tip and frog

June 29, 2007 at 12:19 AM · I'm a beginning adult struggling with bowing. I'm struggling at the tip and frog on how to fluidly transition to the corresponding down or up bow. Someone has suggested that the bow (or is it the hand and arm) should move in a figure eight. What exactly does that mean? Can someone please explain the proper transition from down bow to up bow and up bow to down bow? Thank you very much!

Replies (26)

June 29, 2007 at 01:34 AM · Greetings

there are veyr extnesive discussion of this in the archioves. As a beginenr I reocmmend that you pay attention to bow speed IE not slowing down or speeding up before or after the bow change (although somepeople advocate a very slight slowling immediately befor ethe change) rather than the figure of 8 thingy.



June 29, 2007 at 01:53 AM · There are different approaches to this issue. For mine, visit my website. Click on "writings" then "fundamentals" then "the bow".

June 29, 2007 at 01:57 PM · The best bow change is no change. Think about it.

June 29, 2007 at 02:15 PM · The elbow, ideally, should trace out an elipse going up a hair before starting the up bow and elbow down a hair before starting the down bow. That adds smoothness and I fine the tones is just a smidgen better, too. A smidgen here and a smidgen there start to add up to overall better tone.

July 2, 2007 at 11:22 PM · VMC = Violin masterclasses

I thought about this awhile, and still am not a hundred percent certain what the figure 8 thing really means; but, I do know that preparing for string crossings is something I've practiced since day one. This means to me about half way through playing the last note on A for instance, start moving very subtly toward the double stop on D before that note's beginning when descending, and the opposite when ascending and so forth. Also, I learned from VMC 'a long long time ago', when doing a multi-string crossing from G or D to E, that the elbow comes back ever so slightly. This preparation for string crossings (I hope) will make sense in what follows about bow changes.

The point: preparing for string crossings is kinetically similar in spirit to preparing for bow changes.

For example (this is totally from memory), the pinky's role becomes very important at the tip, in bow changes at the tip as well as the frog, and I'm recently finding overall though not in an over accented fashion--i.e. bowhold: light as holding a baby bird (Perlman), but not to the point of not using the pinky (me);).... (See VMC's legato videos for the pinky's role in seemless bow changes in a legato continuing note.)

So, just as we prepare for string crossings, we prepare for bow changes on a basic level. My understanding though I think I remember it not being universally accepted, is that we use the pinky at the frog to reduce the weight of the note; and, at the tip as well to make a seemless bow change. A note that is not continuing and is beginning at the tip w/o a return, I'm not really so sure about myself--but I just apply stable weight (and recently a little arching as the note continues) to get the note's color I'm trying to achieve.

Now the only thing I really see with the elbow in this respect, might be better served by checking out VMC's video on the "Geometry of Bowing". I'm thinking that if there is 'some' figure eight, that it would be as subtle as the imperceptible arching that is part of general bowing (Fischer).

And everyone else's comments here are food for thought as well.

July 2, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Greetings,

Al said:

>My understanding though I think I remember it not being universally accepted, is that we use the pinky at the frog to reduce the weight of the note; and, a t the tip as well to make a seemless bow change.

According to Fischer it is useful to put the little finger on at the point to counteract the extra weight being filtered in by the forefinger. However, I am not convinced keeping the little finger down is ne3cessary (don`t do it myslef)and on the whole I think more players let it lose contact with the bow than kepe oit on and I am including the greats here.



July 2, 2007 at 11:24 PM · Buri surmised: "However, I am not convinced keeping the little finger down is ne3cessary (don`t do it myslef)and on the whole I think more players let it lose contact with the bow than kepe oit on and I am including the greats here."

Point taken and appreciated... I'm a little behind the curve in playing on the lower quarter (think discussions months ago about this), and find a little manipulation by the pinky for now at the frog helps keep the note light and singing when applicable--I only dream of having dig-in abilities at the frog at this point--but someday will likely further deemphasize the pinky action in spirit of your remarks.

Thanks. al

July 3, 2007 at 05:07 AM · Greretings,

no, no, no!

You were talking about at the point. At the heel the weight is supported by the litlte finger and the next one along. That is crucial.



July 3, 2007 at 05:20 AM · Buri, only you may shout at me!. Thanks--I see now. Actually, I remember the earlier conversation now as well...

Incidentally, it's only because I've practiced it for months, but I can lighten at the tip using pinky, as well as use vibrato to hide bow changes on slow things. I have a feeling though that you are more than correct for real players though.

I remain,

Mr. Legatomeister

July 3, 2007 at 07:26 AM · Ha, I thought that said "Lego-master". If that were the case, then I would have to challenge you.

July 3, 2007 at 01:01 PM · A smooth downbow-upbow combination traces a very flat figure-eight. It's easiest to visualize if you think of where your hand is in space. Using a handsaw or a bow saw actually works the same way (when sawing a log, not a fiddle, to you joksters out there.) Did you ever watch two people using one of those two-man bow saws. They don't go back and forth parallel, they each push a little when it is their equivalent of the downstroke, and let up a little when an upstroke, making a flat figure-eight. ;) Sue

July 3, 2007 at 04:18 PM · Just keep the beautiful photos coming Emily! ;)>

Sue, I think that is true--and the source of the arching I was 'in search of' and found. Being a good renaissance man, unfortunately out of perspiration rather than inspiration, that image about sawing, though with a hand saw, turned a little light on. I can see my figure eight now.

And loving math, I shall call it a vertical infinity symbol instead. And having a good imagination, I shall call it an imaginary vertical infinity symbol, that is heard rather than seen keeping true to Fischer's remarks as well as the more flat and symmetrical nature of that symbol; as well as the extra dimension sometimes inferred?. .

So, obviously I'm been kept real busy lately. No shoulder rest, parallel instrument, better arching, revamping almost everything--though it's not as bad as it could sound, more subtly active pinky, and...... canning quarts and quarts and quarts of garden stuff.

But the savior of the month will be that I think I'll be seeing Hilary Hahn live in a couple weeks!!!!.

July 3, 2007 at 05:42 PM · Drink a glass of good wine befor playing and the eight will appear magically

July 3, 2007 at 07:14 PM · For me, one of the most important things is not to make independent movements with the (right) hand/fingers. It never looks, sounds or feels good, almost impossible to control, and under duress is unreliable. (This holds good if the hand/finger movements are too large.) If you are taught to go from a down bow hand position to an up bow hand position the movement must be small. The bow changes are really done with the arm.

As to the figure 8 "thingie", as Buri calls it (Hi, Buri!), I have heard and read about it all of my violin playing life but have no experience with it whatsoever. (There are some things about it that my brain refuses to compute.) Again I would say that movement must be small. If the person in the back of the hall knows that you're doing a figure 8 you know it's a tad much. :)



July 3, 2007 at 07:40 PM · "Figure 8"?

I've heard things like that too, but like so many things said or written about bowing, I think it misses the main point.

What is it you are trying to do? You are trying to transition from downbow to upbow or upbow to downbow without the change being heard. The string is vibrating. Idealy you would like to make the change at precisely that instant that catches the direction change of the vibration - but since there are about 200 to 1,000 vibrations of the fundamental tone per second, that is obviously impossible.

The best you can do is to move the bow in such a way that there is not an abrupt change in direction of the hair across the string. If you notice some players, like Pincus Zukerman or Nigel Kennedy you will note that they actually tip the bow off toward the fingerboard when changing from downbow to upbow. Now, it may be that their arms are a bit short - but this techique does work. Perhaps ot appears as a "figure 8" motion of the arm and bow (as a whole) but that is not the important thing - it is what the hair is doing on the string that counts.

The reason this works is because the volume of sound is reduced and the overtone balance is reduced when bowing near the fingerboard - so the change in motion makes relatively less difference in sound during that small time period and the bow change is less audible.

Thered are players who appear able to bow straight back and forth with inaudible bow changes, but I assume we are not talking about them - and it may be partly a function of the venue acoustics.

July 3, 2007 at 08:32 PM · My understanding such as it is, is that the 'very small subtle symmetrical' eight motion, is that it's not something that's perceptible with the eyes. So one wouldn't be able to see it even if it appears a complete perfectly linear bow action is taking place.

If it were the whitewash of an ocean wave, it would be the smallest moment as the water sinks back into the sand. Sorry for the out-there imagery.

But I can feel the motion since I've started using a scooping/arching/pushing-pulling a note action, though I doubt it would be noticeable unless I exaggerated it. And when I have exaggerated it, things can become messy pretty quickly, so I've had to reverse engineer the motion back to it's subtlest form--and yes, I can still feel it in my forearm.

Rather than think of it as something in the elbow or hand, I think of it as my entire right side including shoulder, forearm, wrist, hand, and etc. that is leisurely making the notes sing by sort of scooping (scooping is somebody else's image), the notes out of the instrument. The upbow reminds me of maybe like frosting the side of a round cake or something--maybe like stropping a razor.

Now with all that said, and remembering what Fischer said about the arching of the bow on the string ("if you can see it, it's too much), I feel it does, look like my bow is perfectly linear, but my right side knows better. And--, I think I'm talking about the bow's action across it's entirety rather than at bow changes--an important distinction.

July 3, 2007 at 08:36 PM · The figure of eight is a way of keeping motion in the bow at the time of change of direction, so that you don't just go up then down. There is a little swivel that keeps the hair moving on the string (pivoting between up and down), so that the sound doesn't stop at the point of direction change.

At least, that's the theory as I see it. I don't use it... ...yet.


July 4, 2007 at 02:44 AM · Hello,

I believe the whole "figure-eight" idea was something supported by Ivan Galamian and also popularised by cellist Leonard Rose. Rose felt that playing with a straight bow made smooth bow changes difficult and made string players tense over time.

This is certainly a bit of an esoteric idea, and if you are just looking to improve the smoothness of transitions from up to down bow and vice versa, it is likely best to start by playing around with different combinations of bow pressure, sounding point, and bow speed.

Some teachers also teach a "cushioning" movement of the wrist and fingers, though I find this to be an excessively meticulous approach.



July 4, 2007 at 03:13 PM · Steve,

I think Adam knows what I meant when I said the best bow change is no change. I believe that was said to my teacher from one of his teachers Leopold Auer. It essentially means that you don't change anything to do a smooth bow change. Any excessive movements in the wrist or fingers or arm etc. will create a bump in the bow change. It would be a lot easier if I could demonstrate this in person. My teacher had me draw a straight down bow to the tip and stop, then without changing anything start an up bow. The stops between the down and up bow became shorter and shorter as I Practiced this, until I was able to change the bow without any sign of a bump or disturbance in the sound. Of course, you know that you can hide some of the bow change with vibrato (but that is only after you know how to change the bow's direction smoothly)

July 4, 2007 at 03:49 PM · I think that's what Buri said initially as well in reference to the figure 8 thingy as well. I practice what you've said using VMC's vibrato motion and pinky on the whole notes on Air on G String, but haven't practiced the full bow--shortened spaces yet--I'll be using that --thanks.

Just at beat 3.95 I start the vibrato and engage the pinky really lightly and have gotten that 'fairly' nicely. My real goal though is as you have mentioned: just shortening the transition w/o any pause.

July 4, 2007 at 08:35 PM · Joel is talking about something I know very well. I've had to painstakingly learn all about controlled bowing. My teacher in college gave me an open A to practice one week--FOR FOUR HOURS EVERY DAY! After trying it every way my creative brain could come up with, here was my earth shattering discovery concerning slow sustained bows: Just Change the Bow. When you get to the tip, change. When you get to the frog, change. No hoopla, no tricks, just change.

The best way to practice it--at least from my personal discoveries? Try to make the most annoyingly unchanging sound you possibly can for as long as you can. It should sound like a fire alarm that is constant and grating and unchanging. Once you've learned to make a completely consistent, unchanging sound, then you can start playing around with all the effects. Your base sound must be sound, or you'll play with false accents all over the place and you will not be master over the effects--that's why I still go back to practicing that open A when I sense my fundamental base sound has been taken over with ill-placed effects.

July 4, 2007 at 05:11 PM · I agree Kimberlee. And keeping smooth and stable always...

July 4, 2007 at 05:13 PM · <>>


July 4, 2007 at 09:36 PM · I wasn't only practicing legato, if that makes it any better--I had spiccato, ricochet etc., work to do too. Glad I went through the torture, looking back. It taught me how to listen to myself.

Oh! I just noticed Steve, you're an adult beginner. That kind of practice isn't for beginners--and, as Roy pointed out, maybe not for anyone! I'd been playing for ten years by the time I was asked for that, and I agree with Roy--I certainly wouldn't reccommend that four hour torture to anyone. At your stage, and I do this with all my beginners, I think it would be beneficial for you to learn that "fire alarm" sound. I wouldn't work on it any longer than ten minutes, though.

Sorry. I only brought up my four hour exercise as a means to describe my process of learning to understand bow changes. I wanted you to know I've earned my knowlege the hard way. I hope what I gleaned will help you, and anyone else, to know my experience and never experience it yourself!

July 5, 2007 at 12:37 AM · Thank you, kimberlee for sharing this. You are a toughest cookie I've known. I’m known to be stubborn and hardworking, but I can’t imagine myself to go through what you’ve described. I’m glad that this is not a norm to be encouraged, thank you Roy for quickly pointing this out.

July 5, 2007 at 04:02 PM · That sounds like someone's advice for playing those cool four-note slurs that have one note on a lower string and repeat several times in succession. Starting with the lowest string, and then the highest string, keep the up-down motion, switching the bow on every note that happens on the lowest string. The path your hand takes should make a sort of eight-shape. Don't think too hard about it!

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