Feeding Arm Weight.

November 29, 2007 at 07:26 AM · I've gotten to where I can play evenly from frog to tip after many many months, uh, most of the time. But I'm ready to start working with better understanding feeding arm weigh through a supple relaxed hand. Any advice on this?

I need to be able to visualize it better than just doing it so I can be a little more consistent now; and, form that muscle memory.

Replies (39)

November 29, 2007 at 01:37 PM · al j, the extra 2 cents from me on this, from observing kids playing around me, is that one can always relax the right trapezius muscle more during bowing. in other words, minimize the shrugging of the right shoulder upward during upbow...let the right upper limb hang,,,. you can obverse this quite easily in front of a mirror.

November 29, 2007 at 02:22 PM · Sometimes voice teachers use the imagery of an inflated baloon to explain a principle of singing: You contract your muscles to pinch the neck of the baloon and prevent air from escaping. You relax the muscles slightly to let a thin stream of air to slowly escape. You relax them completely to let a large volume of air pour out of the baloon. I find this to be a good analogy for the correct use of muscles in control of bow weight. I use the muscles which lift the bow off the string when I want a very light weight on the string. I relax these muscles more and more for increased weight. The weight of my bow arm alone is more than I ever need in violin playing. (I've eaten a good amount of Oreo cookies in my lifetime!) In singing and in violin playing, people sometimes incorrectly use the muscles the opposite way--more effort for more sound. When this is corrected, the quality of the tone and the effortlessness of the performance improves.

When I told Pinchas Zukerman that I was interested in learning about voice technique as it pertains to violin technique (I took some voice lessons and found them to be very helpful), he said: "I met Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (the great Schubert Lieder singer) and he said that when he sings pianissimo he makes his abdomen like a brick wall, but when he sings fortissimo he simply relaxes!"

P.S. When my wife sees that I've brought home cookies and sweets fom the supermarket, and looks at me disapprovingly, I explain to her that it is for professional reasons: The cookies strengthen my concept of sweetness and they add weight to my bow arm....thus helping my tone in two ways!

November 29, 2007 at 03:08 PM · Oliver, Thanks!

I've actually been pressing down harder when trying to play ff. I'll try relaxing more and see what happens.

November 29, 2007 at 06:44 PM · Though I posted this comment in another thread regarding the bending of the thumb I think this has relevance here so I hope this helps Al.

"To produce a rich tone without trying to press and grip with the fingers requires that weight be received into the hand from the arm which is supported by the muscles in the back and shoulders. This natural weight falls into the hand which in turn is received by the fingers resting on the bow. This will, in effect, cause the fingers to bend much the way a toddler crawls on all fours and their body weight falls into their arms into their hands.This natural weight is the same weight someone experiences when they lift the arm of a sleeping person. It will fall right back down with nothing preventing it from falling. A conscious, awakened individual can voluntary choose to lift and hold their arm in space or allow the weight to fall and it is this ability to allow the weight to fall to the extent needed without crushing the tone that is the foundation of a rich tone. The fingers and thumb are at the receiving end of this movement. Further, the right amount of weight allows one to pull and push the string right and left to get the string to vibrate to its maximum instead of being vertically pounced upon."

November 29, 2007 at 06:55 PM · Thanks Al--I don't shrug, but it's because like you said, I use a mirror.

Oliver, Mr. Ron Mutchnik, I thought of a couple exercises based on your remarks during my etudes. I can feed the weight, but it's more of a case of 'when I have to' for forte? I want to be more aware of it, and I think you've given me the images to be able to do that now. Thanks.

Last night I was working on the right hand imagery from the thread you quoted from I think Ron, and sort of like a baby discovering balance, felt the connection mentioned. I want it to become more mature. When I got my thumb consistent as per Sue Belcher's remarks, and Buri's image of 'firmly' relaxed bow hand, I started becoming 'real' aware of the role of arm weight.

Previously, I had just attempted a light balancing of the bow in my hand without a lot of focus on anything but staying light. Well, the truth appears to be a little more complex than that, supple having a certain 'potential energy' factor present. Anyway, back to the weight.

What I found was that if the weight is not there, the crisp martele isn't there; and, a raggedy Andy bow hold commanding colle for the martele irregardless if I can feed some weight on just general forte, leaves something to be desired.

So the question comes in the spirit of getting weight as a consistent part of the right arm, and sort of better playing more from that center generally. When I'm just doing detache passages I think I'm saying, it is more of just a horizontal thing and I'm losing the power the arm could be supplying--an efficency thing. But I can get lots of bow.

So,... feeding weight into the hand....

November 29, 2007 at 09:05 PM · Oliver and Ron, those are tow very helpful responses. I remember some time ago a discussion about how the left hand action should be more consciously lifting off the string rather than pressing down, and I commented that its hard (maybe for adults in particular) because hand FUNCTION in other activities is around flexion - we don't use our hands functionally with the fingers extended.

And I see now, the arms are another case in point. Our whole lives we have learned to use our arms for reach, but that action is one of placement TO an object, where really what we're having to learn with the violin is REMOVAL FROM the object.

Anyway, that's my excuse for having to so consciously attend to the micro movements involved in playing.

Such a wonderful intellectual exercise. :sigh:

November 29, 2007 at 09:18 PM · Concert violinist Adam Han-Gorsky told me recently he demonstrates ff bowing to his students with their violin and bow while just holding the bow by the screw. You DRAW out the sound, not squash it.

November 29, 2007 at 11:56 PM · That's a good image Ray, but actually part of my problem. I've been drawing too lightly. There is also the side of the image of shaping the note while not crushing it?

But, but, but--ya gotta keep that correct drawing image you suggested. I can keep a note balanced at the tip and frog using what you are saying, but I need a little more weight--a really find detail probably.

November 30, 2007 at 04:11 AM · Greetings,

Albert, one of the simplest and most powerful exercises for this issuer is the click release exercise. Oner simply adds weight without the bow moving until it pings. Get that ping occurng at 1 secnd intervals without the bow moving, but in all parts of the bow and on all sound points. and you will have mastered the bow!!!!!! I rate this as one of the best bow exercise sof all time.

Cheers,

Buri

November 30, 2007 at 05:50 AM · Buri, this exercise has been on my wall for nearly a year if not more--and I'm just not getting it. Even when I push the hair all the way to the stick, I hear no click. (hmm--almost a limerick)

I can hear a faint click, when I release, but only when I cheat. Help!

Also, I'm finding focusing on a firmer (not scrunched) right hand with thumb nail engaging the frog-leather seems to be adding more than feeding the weight. However, I'm also feeling the weight feeding. I practiced this weight feeding when I was doing my bow pressure exercises.

I actually found some of my sound production issues in the lack of focus on the bow-hold. But I still want to get that click exercise. It's all about shaping a note beyond the cleanness introduced by a better shaped bow hand.

November 30, 2007 at 06:12 AM · If I'm correct, the bow does actually move, but only one ping's worth, which is hardly measurable. I think that's what Buri meant, or at least that's how I practice and teach it.

November 30, 2007 at 06:24 AM · Then am I not doing this with colle exercises?

November 30, 2007 at 07:43 AM · DUHHHHHHHHH!

I was approaching it from weight, rather than lack thereof (Emily, Buri).

Click, click, a limerick,

sometimes I trend a little slow.

But, prunes, prunes, a pertty tune,

will will some day leave this bow.

I found a new toy.

Oreos to Oliver. You can always tell the wife they were a gift.

November 30, 2007 at 02:51 PM · Ray Randall wrote: "Concert violinist Adam Han-Gorsky told me recently he demonstrates ff bowing to his students with their violin and bow while just holding the bow by the screw. You DRAW out the sound, not squash it."

Albert Justice wrote: "That's a good image Ray, but actually part of my problem. I've been drawing too lightly."

This brings up a very important topic. One can do lots of playing with only the weight of the bow, and no arm weight added. Albert: If you think you are using too light a weight on the string when you try the Han-Gorsky exercise, try this...

1. Slow down the bow speed.

2. Raise the bow hand toward the ceiling as you approach the tip of the bow...As if there are ball bearings in a hollow bow shaft, and you want them to roll into the string.

You may be surprised to find that the bow weight alone was not too light after all.

I'm not claiming that I do all my playing with bow weight alone. Rather, I'm saying that when I use bow weight alone, adjusting the speed and contact point to get the tone I want, the results are often more pleasing to me. I'm also saying (in my previous post above) that when I want more than the weight of the bow alone, I relax arm weight into the string. Squeezing, or pressing by contracting muscles, is not an option in my opinion.

Summary: Bow weight alone: Use as often as possible. Bow weight + some arm weight: OK. Squeezing or pressing: Never.

November 30, 2007 at 04:46 PM · I'll certainly work on this tonight Oliver--thank you. Last night, I was working on focusing on letting my arm sink into the hand into the string as I did these four notes per bow, bow-pressure exercises.

I 'feel you' concerning bow weight only. And your summary is very helpful. But more than feel it, that's basically how I play. The big emphasis here for me though I haven't clearly said it, is to get good martele, with colle leading;, as well as more sonorous forte in a shaped phrase spirit.

I think your summary though, gives me better insight. Thanks.

p.s. Specifically: "I'm saying that when I use bow weight alone, adjusting the speed and contact point to get the tone I want, the results are often more pleasing to me."

November 30, 2007 at 07:03 PM · Hi,

I may get blasted for this, but here is my own two cents...

Yes, you draw out the sound. For me, there are items to consider. These seem work well with my students. So here goes...

1- I have said it before, that the bow is moved by the forearm with the hand helping to balance it on the string. That is important.

2- I use and teach the FB style of bowing. In that, I find that bow hold helps. Especially the "ring" formed by the middle finger and thumb.

3- To help one relax a bow hold, remembering that the bow is held by the string and that thumb pressure against the bow should not be too high usually helps.

4- For transfering weight, most of my students find great help in feeling that the two middle fingers contact the stick at the first joint. This seems to spread the weight across the hand and avoids over-pressing with the index.

5- Keeping the right elbow on an even plane from frog to tip seems to help in keeping the sound equal.

6- Feeling the weight transfer from pinky to index from frog to tip also helps, as does avoiding lifting the wrist too high at the frog.

All that said, these are just some strategies and orientations that seem to work well in getting my students to learn this. We use a whole pedigree of bow learning based on Kreutzer (mostly 2, 5 and 8) to work through this.

Hope this helps...

Cheers and best of luck!

November 30, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Thanks Christian--I'll print these for my wall.

p.s. the ring formed--I use that too. I'm anxious to explore the thumb pressure, and even elbow.

December 1, 2007 at 03:56 AM · Before recapping theres here to print for my wall, I just wanted to note that

a-somewhere between a more stable bow hand, with Sue's comments, and the later comment about the thumb not pressing too hard, and 1st joints in place--and the bow itself feeding the weight as well as a level forearm came a very stable bow.

b-that when I lifted the bow for the ball-bearings to roll onto the string near the tip--my curvature in bows somehow improved; and, when I keep my forearm level as above, just a wonderful control ensued.

I'm repeating these here to help me ingrain this. Now, back to work. I'm anxious to see how this translates into my bow pressure exercises in a few, given that I worked with letting the weight relax into the string last night per Oliver's et. al.'s remarks.

December 1, 2007 at 04:38 AM · Greetings,

Albert/Emily, one feeds weight into the bow and the faintest suggestion of pull but not movement. The ping is the string reaching release pressure and then reengaing.

Persever,

Buri

December 1, 2007 at 05:27 AM · BURI NOSPELL BRIVATI! Do you write complex Haiku fer a liv'n'r something! ;).

I Started getting it tonight---uh, after more than a year! I find some similarities to my colle exercises; and, was thankful nonetheless. I'm adding it to my elements list now.

And I do these colles going from frog to tip, to middle on alternating strings each time. I'm really looking forward to adding the click regime to my arsenal.

December 1, 2007 at 06:51 AM · Mr. Oliver Steiner kindly added the image of relaxing the forearm>>into>>feeding the weight, maintaining the 'draw'.

whilst,

Mr. Mutchnik expanded on a system-view of relaxing into the string, while maintaining 'good' draw control, including best string vibrations.

in the meantime,

Buri humiliated me completely for not having learned the click exercise for over a year; while Emily came in with a save, nonetheless, leaving me embarrassed. It's Buri's fault of course ;).

Mr. Steiner in the meantime sensed some issues and added the important images below:

Han-Gorsky exercise, try this...

1. Slow down the bow speed.

2. Raise the bow hand toward the ceiling as you approach the tip of the bow...As if there are ball bearings in a hollow bow shaft, and you want them to roll into the string.

You may be surprised to find that the bow weight alone was not too light after all.

Summary: Bow weight alone: Use as often as possible. Bow weight + some arm weight: OK. Squeezing or pressing: Never.

and soon after, and after getting a little excited over the effects of raising the schtick, at the tip,

Mr. Christian Vachon, really brought all this together beautifully, with details I was able to implement immediately:

1- I have said it before, that the bow is moved by the forearm with the hand helping to balance it on the string. That is important.

2- I use and teach the FB style of bowing. In that, I find that bow hold helps. Especially the "ring" formed by the middle finger and thumb.

3- To help one relax a bow hold, remembering that the bow is held by the string and that thumb pressure against the bow should not be too high usually helps.

4- For transfering weight, most of my students find great help in feeling that the two middle fingers contact the stick at the first joint. This seems to spread the weight across the hand and avoids over-pressing with the index.

5- Keeping the right elbow on an even plane from frog to tip seems to help in keeping the sound equal.

6- Feeling the weight transfer from pinky to index from frog to tip also helps, as does avoiding lifting the wrist too high at the frog.

All I can say beyond thanks, is wow! I do these summaries to help me ingrain things.

December 1, 2007 at 07:18 AM · Yeah, Buri, that's what I meant.

December 1, 2007 at 07:25 AM · I know!

December 1, 2007 at 07:47 AM · I'm really looking forward to working with this Buri--thank you.

December 1, 2007 at 10:58 PM · Maybe what you're looking for is (counterclockwise) torque coming from the forearm rotation and being transferred through the first finger? Is this what everyone means whey they say weight? The bow should be naturally resting on the string but I don't think you should be physically pushing down with your arm or you won't get any tone...pressing the pinky down (it should be bent) will do the opposite of adding torque for softness.

December 2, 2007 at 01:33 AM · I believe that the counter-clockwise rotation of the forearm as the bow proceeds toward the tip is a very right idea. I view it not as a source of weight or pressure, but as a way of directing the weight into the string via the index finger. For me the source of weight (if more than the bow's weight alone is needed) is the whole arm falling from the shoulder (maybe even the back, to some degree). I want to do no squeezing with the bow hand fingers and thumb. I often allow my small finger to come off the stick as I approach the tip, so I may have a greater range of forearm counter-clockwise rotation as I go toward the tip on a downbow.

December 2, 2007 at 02:04 AM · Oliver, you previously wrote of lifting the right hand toward the ceiling to make the imaginary ball bearings flow down the shaft of the bow onto the strings. Do you advocate lifting the hand in addition to the forearm rotation, or is the rotation sufficient.

Thanks in advance for your helpful insights,

ab

December 2, 2007 at 02:33 AM · I practiced just a little with the torque and can feel what is being said, but it took a couple minutes. I will combine the torque with the raising the hand more as my night proceeds.

But I just wanted to note that like the curvature of the bow in general bowing (scooping a note), that I also found the raising of the hand not a perceptible thing -- a very subtle thing..

One of the clearest things coming from all this is that I'm 'really' feeling the bow's weight doing the work, and 'really' feeling the result of lifting the hand slightly as I approach the tip.

The difference is that I was trying to feed weight at the tip, (and incorrectly by the way) instead of continuing letting the bow do the work. This is important to me

December 2, 2007 at 09:04 PM · Anthony Barletta wrote: "you previously wrote of lifting the right hand toward the ceiling to make the imaginary ball bearings flow down the shaft of the bow onto the strings. Do you advocate lifting the hand in addition to the forearm rotation, or is the rotation sufficient?"

Generally, I do both the forearm rotation and the lifting right hand toward ceiling, as the tip is approached on a downbow. Together they coordinate to make an easy and graceful gesture. Of course, if the right hand were lifted too high, the bow hair would sound the next lower pitch string...on the G string there is a greater range of movement along this path, to roll those imaginary ball bearings down the shaft of the bow.

This lifting of the frog end of the bow on a downbow is also the movement that Ysaye taught for going from a high pitched string to a lower pitched string (whether upbow or downbow). Going from low pitched string to high pitched is done with a gradual lowering of the hand. Ysaye taught that the bow should move in paths of curves, not straight lines. He advocated that this be done both in the case where the new string is on the same stroke as the old string (legato) and also in the case where the two strings are on separate bows. This means that if I play open D, then open A, on a downbow slur, I'll lower the hand, rather than raise it, to make a graceful transfer of weight from D string to A string. The gracefulness has much to do with my lowering the hand gradually, beginning with the very first inch of open D!

December 2, 2007 at 10:29 PM · A simple exercise which can give the feel for transfer of weight onto the stick:

Start at the frog with all fingers on the bow and little finger curved to support the weight of the bow. After 1/4 bow remove the little finger, at the middle remove the ring finger, at 3/4 remove the middle finger. On the up bow replace the middle finger after 1/4 bow, replace the ring finger in the middle, replace the little finger in the last 1/4.

Do this several times, then keep the fingers on the bow and try to replicate the feeling of change of balance.

December 3, 2007 at 12:23 AM · That's real cool Bruce. I'm working on:

a-releasing f1 as I draw across chords.

b-tweaking f1's release height for light landings at the tip for vibratos and trill accentuation.

Your suggestion is right on time you see. Thanks.

One of the more profound and lasting things that has come from all this, actually has been keeping a stable bow hold, though sinking the forearm and controlling it's torque in weight as a byproduct has been really cool also.

I must have overstated the question some, because, I can add weight even if it was a little sloppy--so that's cleaned up really nicely now.

Now: repetition repetition repetition.

December 3, 2007 at 12:51 AM · I assume by f1 you mean the index finger. If you wish to release it on chords, say a d minor chord like the beginning of Bach Chaconne, play an open A string on up bow, keep your arm level on the A string level and let the bow fall to the D/G string level, then play the chord down bow. This is the key to voicing notes in solo Bach, making sure the natural arm level is on the notes you wish to bring out. For landing on the string from the air with precision and good articulation, refer to the Dounis book The Staccato, op. 21.

December 3, 2007 at 01:18 AM · Thanks to Mr. Steiner for clarifying the use of both forearm rotation and raising of the hand at the tip end of the downbow. Thanks also to Mr. Berg for his tips. And to Mr. Justice for prompting this very useful discussion (it appears we are in similar boats, so to speak).

December 3, 2007 at 02:04 AM · Thanks Bruce--yes index finger--though I'm far from ready for "Chaconne". I'll nonetheless practice the up/down bow combinations for my skill pack.

I learned the landings and releases months ago from VMC and for whatever reason just started using them consistently. And I discovered the height of the f1 release for the landing on my own, resulting in a really juicy juicy well shaped note.

My whole right arm has improved because of this discussion, right behind all the work I was doing on articulation--I'm going to be a busy busy person as a result. Thanks again everyone.

December 3, 2007 at 04:36 AM · gliding the bow into a chord seems to work in all cases.

December 3, 2007 at 04:58 AM · Albert,

Gliding seems to be a good word to describe how to play 3 or 4 note chords in Bach.

December 3, 2007 at 05:53 AM · Yes Bruce--I owe you for another little light. Thank you! Was referring to your comment earlier.

December 3, 2007 at 07:08 AM · What a night. I was real pleased with what I did. I integrated probably 90% of the thread into my entire practice.

...slowed my legato exercises down, revisiting string crossings with torque and raised hand in place.

...had just real good luck applying the forearm torque and raised hand on the tip versions of my etudes.

...didn't get to do the adjacent finger raising exercises, but will tomorrow night.

...slowed my martele exercises down to consider using clean weight-steady hand-colle intros.

...did real good keeping my stick angled through all this.

...everything I did tonight grabbed these concepts well. I was overwhelmed with all this at once, but it hasn't been bad at all.

...my new raw weight feeding is still coming on-line, but it's happening. The objective is to maintain the draw, while feeding the weight.

...I'm still mastering the click exercise, but I did do my colle exercises in every region, every sounding point. I was already doing it randomly across the bow.

So, I need to stay here for a couple weeks. Besides needing to let these sink in, I have to get back to my articulation festival.

...other miscellaneous things involving chords, slowing down at the heel....

December 4, 2007 at 03:11 AM · "This lifting of the frog end of the bow on a downbow is also the movement that Ysaye taught for going from a high pitched string to a lower pitched string (whether upbow or downbow). Going from low pitched string to high pitched is done with a gradual lowering of the hand. Ysaye taught that the bow should move in paths of curves, not straight lines. He advocated that this be done both in the case where the new string is on the same stroke as the old string (legato) and also in the case where the two strings are on separate bows. This means that if I play open D, then open A, on a downbow slur, I'll lower the hand, rather than raise it, to make a graceful transfer of weight from D string to A string. The gracefulness has much to do with my lowering the hand gradually, beginning with the very first inch of open D!

Having discovered this in the notes from the thread having somehow missed it, this and taking fingers off the bow successively is my nightly new focus.

I've never encountered the details of curvature in bowing this nice.

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