Spiccato and sautille

February 21, 2008 at 07:06 AM · Sometimes I see some confusion between both and would like to get it cleared up. Also in some music sheets I see notes that have dots on the top while others have arrow-head signs. What should be the technique?

Replies (76)

February 21, 2008 at 07:07 AM · I think of a sautille as sounding like a very fast spicatto, but the bow doesn't actually leave the string.

February 21, 2008 at 04:29 PM · As Scott wrote correctly, when we play sautille, the bow doesn't leave string, but on spiccato we do should play it off string. When you see these dots above notes and don't know how to play them, feel the tempo you need to perform it. Usually spiccato is slower than sautille. Unless some conductor in orchestra wants you to play the very fast fragment off string (like c# minor epizode from William Tell Overture).

February 21, 2008 at 05:40 PM · Rick,

The meaning of dots above notes depends on only one thing: context. How to play them depends on style, tempo, and taste. There's no hard and fast rule. The same with dashes above notes. Sometimes they mean more connected, and sometimes more articulated. The dots and dashes in baroque and classical music is almost always added by editors.


February 21, 2008 at 08:31 PM · If your sautille doesn't leave the string then I think you've got some problems to address.

February 21, 2008 at 09:36 PM · I was taught that sautille is just a very rapid detache stroke. There's debate as to whether is does or does not come off the string.

February 21, 2008 at 10:35 PM · If you're playing a fast stroke at the instability point of your bow, it's going to be jumping (like the work "sautille") suggests.

I've never seen a good violinist do this stroke without the bow leaving the string.

I think weaker players with coordination problems will keep it on the string which lacks as much articulation and character. I've seen this many times.

February 21, 2008 at 10:45 PM · ok,,,quiz time for rick:)

which is which in this one...


February 21, 2008 at 10:47 PM · Greetings,

it is a well established aspect of violin playign and teahcing that sautille is where the hair does not leave the string. All the literature on this subject including older stuff by Applebaum and the modern works of Fischer et al state this quite clealry. In spite of Pieters aggressive tone he is incorrect.

A very good explanation can be found in Applebaum`s book the Art and technique of violin playing. He states , as do es just abotu everyone else, that the origin of sautille is detache , and spiccato comes from a small martele stroke.

Tziganov also explains the strokes this way and talks in detail about how Spicatto is a controlled stroke dependent on finger action. So does Hubermanin his rare inertviews whcih can be foudn on the net.

Personally I learnt these defintions from Peter Cropper (fantastic violnist and elader of Lindsay Quartet), Yfrah NIeman and Szeryng.



February 22, 2008 at 08:43 AM · I have never seen Sautille not leave the string. The only time that happens (and it quite simply is not Sautille), is when a player cannot control the speed and weight of the stick and coordinate it with their left hand. So, they do a sort of rapid sawing detache which completely lacks the mildly percussive character and articulation of sautille. I go to many Cleveland Orchestra (and Montreal Symphony Orchestra) concerts, and you will always see their bows bouncing in sautille passages. It is also true of every soloist I've ever seen.

I guess there really is a debate about the bow jumping. Maybe the definition is different in Japan.

"Sautille", derivative of the french verb "to jump". Jumping implies leaving the ground, if only for a split second.


There's a clip from the website of noted pedagogue Kurt Sassmannshaus. He makes the bouncing part of Sautille quite clear. I suppose he's mistaken.

You make a sautille by playing a fast detache in a part of the bow that is less stable. The fast motion combined with the instability point in the bow makes a bounce, therefore it leaves the string. That's how it's been explained to me, and what I've observed.

Please Buri, correct me where I'm wrong.

February 22, 2008 at 10:33 AM · As I guessed, there is a controversy. My teacher taught me that by speeding up spiccato we have sautille. Now another question: is tremolo the same as sautille? I've been practicing on the open strings at a speed of 200/240 p/m 4 strokes per beat.

Al Ku: I would say sautille mostly, but by 20sec. spiccato.

February 22, 2008 at 08:59 AM · I'm under the impression that sautille depends on the natural resilience of the bow for the bounce, whereas spiccato is a result of actual lifting and dropping by the player.

As for the hair not leaving the string...I guess that really depends on the strength of desired articulation? After all, it really isn't as simple as being on or off the string, but rather the degree to which the stick of the bow flexes under the influence of the player's right appendage.

February 22, 2008 at 09:31 AM · It's either sautille or it isn't, like being pregnant or not. It either jumps or it doesn't. Anything else is just some type of detache.

February 22, 2008 at 12:58 PM · I thought I'd consult a book I have called "Le Violon" to see if there were any definitions given for spiccato and sautillé. The book was written in 1987 by Alberto Conforti, original in Italian with a preface by Salvadore Accardo.

There's a glossary at the back with these definitions (my translation into English):

"Sautillé: rapid bowing obtained in making the bow bounce lightly on the string with much suppleness and precision; sautillé is performed in a reduced portion of the middle of the bow".

"Spiccato: a bowing close to sautillé but employed in less rapid passages, which permits lifting the bow between each note; It is performed with a small portion of the middle of the bow."

There's a page at the back with different extracts to illustrate various bowings. For spiccato it is the 8th notes beginning of 3rd movt. Mendelssohn (9 bars into the molto vivace), and for sautillé the book sticks to the Italian equivalent term saltellato and gives an extract from the Tchaikovsky VC 1st movt. passage poco piu mosso marked p 24 notes continuous to the bar/measure.

On the point of translating the French verb "sautiller" into English, Bescherelle gives sauter = to jump, and sautiller = to hop. Ditto for a large Collins Eng/Fr dictionary i have. The Collins gives a definition of the adjective "sautillant" in the musical sense as bouncy, bouncing.

February 22, 2008 at 03:13 PM · Just doing a blog on this subject — will be up shortly.

February 22, 2008 at 03:41 PM · Pieter,

Once again, I'm afraid that your getting into a semantic discussion. About sautille, yes, the bow does jump or bounce. However, the bow does not really leave the string. To do this stroke you have to find the place on the bow where it will bounce naturally (every bow is different, but it usually is somewhere near the middle of the bow or a little higher than the middle). The sautille is done with the wrist and fingers. The movement is somewhat like erasing a mistake with a pencil.

When done correctly, the bow will bounce by itself even though you are keeping the bow on string. You will see a definite bounce and hear a definite articulation.

Spiccato is a slower stroke and usually done in the middle or lower in the bow towards the frog. Here, you do lift the bow off the string.


As far as your question goes,

It depends on the music you are playing, probably I would say tempo will have something to do with whether you use spiccato or sautille. Character of the music will also play a part in your decision.

February 22, 2008 at 03:39 PM · "It's either sautille or it isn't, like being pregnant or not. It either jumps or it doesn't. Anything else is just some type of detache."

A a pretty rigid stance. To me, whether or not the sautille actually gets off the string really depends on the tempo and the dynamic. The faster the notes, the closer to the string one can play. Pieces like the Wieniawsky Caprice in a minor, which has lots of string crossing, demands a sautille which stays on the string--at least for me.

February 22, 2008 at 06:41 PM · I don't really see how your bow could "hop" or "jump" while remaining totally on the string. There has to be a "landing", and that entails the weight on the stick comming down and a small lift.

Scott, I've never seen that caprice performed on the string. Perlman performs this a lot and his bow is bouncing, quite obviously. I've also seen him teach this piece. I guess you could play it on the string but it wouldn't sound the same. You'd also not be in the best part of the bow.

February 22, 2008 at 06:58 PM · I think that while we're using some of the same terminology here, we might not all be in agreement on the location of the stroke on the bow.

The *stick* of the bow can rebound without the bow *hair* ever actually leaving the string, given that this stroke is accomplished closer to the balance point of the bow (middle to lower half).

Now, if we're executing it higher up on the stick (middle to upper half) it's going to work differently, and that point I'd have to agree, the physical manner which the bow responds to input up there will require it to leave the strings to achieve the articulation, all other attributes being equal (bow quality!?).

I think what might help is for those of us with a/v recording capabilities on our computers (ala iMac's with the iSight camera) is to record (close in) and post our versions of what we think these bow strokes are. Then we can look at images frame-by-frame and get a better idea for what's actually happening during that brief span of time when our bows flex from tensed to normal and back again during the stroke.

February 22, 2008 at 07:00 PM · Pieter,

What matters is not whether there is actually any space between the bow and string, but what the sound is. Frankly, I'm not sure the difference is visible. I was experimenting this morning and looking at my bow--it was even hard for me to tell if the bow was leaving the string with a very fast sautille. But it didn't matter because the articulation I was getting worked for me. So you can go by either/or definitions but I go by the sound and what works.


February 22, 2008 at 07:16 PM · Yes exactly, Im talking about the character and articulation, and this simply comes from a bouncing stick, even if it's not visible. In fact it would be a bit harder to see in many cases, but you certainly hear if it's right.

February 22, 2008 at 07:22 PM · I agree with Pieter. I don't believe any of the great violinists have a "sautille switch" and suddenly say to themselves, "I'm going to play sautille here". If you're hair is on the string for the stroke it is detache if it is off, the stroke is spiccato. I don't see any use in adding unnecessary terminology to violin technique in order to sound smart :)

February 22, 2008 at 07:24 PM · Finally...

thank you

February 22, 2008 at 07:59 PM · Nate,

Do I understand you to say that we don't need the word sautille? That it doesn't describe anything not already covered by detache or spicatto? That's hard to believe.

And Pieter, mazeltov! Whatever makes you think you've won yet another round. After all, that's what counts in these forums, n'est pas? Have a cookie.

February 22, 2008 at 08:25 PM · uhh yea scott.

I was just happy that he agreed with me.

February 22, 2008 at 09:18 PM · "Do I understand you to say that we don't need the word sautille?"

I didn't say we do not need to use the word, it is just that spiccato and sautille have the exact same definition...Take your pick.

February 23, 2008 at 01:41 AM · What about the tremolo? Is it sautille?

February 23, 2008 at 02:55 AM · Depends on what sort of tremolo you are talking about...also depends on who is playing :-p

Mazas example

Beriot example

February 23, 2008 at 06:55 AM · Rick the tremolo bow stroke is on the string and played at the tip (it's definitely not a bouncy sautille or spiccato).

February 23, 2008 at 07:09 AM · But they don't have the same definition...at the simplest level, they describe two distinctly different sounding articulations (regardless of how individual players execute them).

February 23, 2008 at 05:34 PM · Gene, if you look in any French or Italian dictionary for the two words, you will find that the two words have practically the same definition. Some pedagogues believe spiccato is a slower bouncy stroke (i.e. 2nd to last page of 1st movement from Tchaikovsky Concerto) and that sautille is a faster spiccato (i.e. last page of Introduction and RC or Schumann Scherzo). There's certainly a difference between the two examples --- the faster stroke requires less rebound however it does still bounce. I just call it spiccato, most of my teachers over the years have just called any of these off the string strokes spiccato.

February 23, 2008 at 05:48 PM · yea I have to admit, no one ever says sautille. None of my teachers ever say anything but spicatto or ricochet, and even then they'll just be like "throw the bow" or "bounce". No one ever gets technical with the terminology, which is why I should have known better to even get into that discussion with people here.

February 23, 2008 at 06:13 PM · hmmm... Should every note of a thrown spiccato be controlled by the fingers?

February 23, 2008 at 07:38 PM · Sautille is done using a shoulder rest, spiccato is done without using one. Prunes are to be eaten in either instance. Case closed.

Sorry I couldn't resist given the fury of previous debates on this site.

Seriously though, perhaps the following will provide food for thought.

Referring to Galamian's book,

"Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching" he writes on page 77 describing sautille:

"This is another jumping bowing, which is distinguished from the spiccato by the fact that there is no 'individual' lifting and dropping of the bow for each note. The task of jumping is left principally to the resiliency of the stick"

Further along, he elucidates:

"To practice the sautille, start with a small and fairly fast detache near the middle of the bow, then turn the stick perpendicular above the hair so that all of the hair contacts the string. Hold the bow lightly and center the action in the fingers which perform a combination of the vertical and horizontal finger motions in an 'oblique' direction about half way between these two movements. To this is added a similar combination of vertical and horizontal actions in the hand which follows passively. For the sautille, the forearm is slightly more pronated than for the spiccato, and the balance point of the hand rests entirely on the index finger, with the second and third fingers only slightly touching the bow. the fourth finger, which is very active in spiccato in balancing the bow, has no function at all in the sautille and has to remain completely passive without any pressure on the stick."

Applebaum, in his book, The Art and Science of String Performance" defines sautille as "a springing stroke derived from the SMALL DETACHE, played around the middle of the bow" and suggests practicing it as follows "play a smooth detache around the middle of the bow on a single note with only the hand and fingers. This may also be introduced on a double-stop on two open strings. There will be a passive action of the lower arm, but a concentration on the activity of the hand itself. Gradually allow the small detache to be played faster and faster. if the hand is relaxed enough, the bow will rebound of its own momentum."

In addressing the issue of balance of the right hand and where the weight of the hand is placed doing sautille, Applebaum writes:

"You may be able to get a fine bounce by allowing the center of balance or weight to be on the first finger. The lower part of the finger, between the base knuckle and the middle joint should be at right angles to the bow stick. Some pupils manage to get a better bounce by applying more weight of the hand to the little finger. For many players, it is advisable that the tip of the first finger relax its hold on the stick."

Finally, when asked to describe a sautille glissando (like the kind used in the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso on the high E descending chromatically before the upward scale leading to the return of the main rondo theme) he writes:

" In the sautille glissando the bow springs off the string exactly as it would in the regular sautille."

February 23, 2008 at 09:54 PM · Galamian obviously borrowed these descriptions from 'The Art of Playing the Violin' by Carl Flesch.

February 24, 2008 at 06:13 PM · For what it is worth, this is the way I teach spiccato and sautille


1. Performed in the middle to lower part of the bow.

2. The hand is in down bow position.suppination) fingers curved, balancing the weight of the tip of the bow with the little finger.

3. On the down bow the bow is dropped onto the string, on the up bow the bow is lifted.

4. Initially the student should swing his arm in a big, arc-like motion, rather like a pendulum. Start with big arcs and gradually make the arc smaller and smaller, which will increase the speed of the spicatto.

5. The action of the fingers is neither passive, nor too active. To demonstrate that the fingers merely respond to the bow’s encounter with the string:

1. Tell the student to hold the bow vertically in the air. Then tell him to gently bump the center bout of the violin against the bow. If the fingers are flexible and passive, the bow will rebound and fall back to the violin, and the fingers will remain passive.

2. Then instruct the student to bump the e string against the bow, recreating the same feeling.

6. To demonstrate the active finger motion (Dounis exercise):

1. Hold a pencil in your hand in bowing position

2. Push the pencil down with the first, then the 4th finger. Do not move the forearm.

3. Do the same with the bow in the hand (holding it at the balance point if you wish).

4. Then drop the bow on the G string, down bow. On the rebound lift the bow upward: the tip of the bow drops. On the up bow, peck the bow on the E string . On the rebound lift the bow upward: the tip of the bow goes up. Use large figure eight motions to begin with, gradually decrease the motion.

5. Do the same as #4, but stay on the G string.

7. To demonstrate the amount of finger activity and to achieve a feeling of control, tell the student to practice spicatto on the side of the violin (on the center bout).

8. If the student's wrist is too rigid, or to achieve the feeling of a "weightless" bow, tell the student to "cradle" the bow at the balance point, without the thumb. Then add the thumb and attempt the spicatto. The student should then move back to the normal playing position, recreating the same feeling in his hand. The bow exerts more weight against the little finger when held at the frog.

Sautillé (very fast spiccato)

1. Performed a few inches above the balance point of the bow.

2. The fingers are in down bow position. The hands is at right angles to the bow.

3. Use an up and down wrist motion. The motion is the same as tapping, or knocking on a door. There should be no arm movement, except for changing string levels.

4. The student should practice the tapping motion with his hands on a table, without the bow, and then with the bow.

5. Hold the bow firmly.

6. The bow remains on the string, but the stick bounces. If the bow stroke is done correctly the tip of the bow will move up and down.

7. Beware of lifting the elbow, this will put you into up bow position.

8. The principle of this bowing may initially be taught with the hand in up bow position. If done properly, the tip of the bow will not go up and down, but will remain on one plane. This bowing is called the eraser stroke.

February 24, 2008 at 06:09 PM · I think Gene was the first to mention what I consider the key point. That is whether the hair leaves the string. With both of these strokes the stick is "springing" or bouncing up and down. When the bounce of the stick becomes pronounced enough, and IF the player allows it, the stick will rebound far enough to lift the hair out of contact with the string. As the hair leaves the string I hear a change in the character of the sound. To me, that has always been the dividing line between sautille and spicatto.

February 25, 2008 at 03:18 PM · This is for those who advocate that sautille is a faster spiccato: from what approximate speed in the metronome one turns into another?

February 25, 2008 at 08:02 PM · Per your conditions Rick, I think that would be the speed at which bouncing of each individual stroke controlled by the player is no longer possible, but is then left to the natural resilience of the bow itself.

Since all bows respond differently, I'm not sure I could place an average metronome marking out with recording the data of a huge survey of many bows and many players (or some combination of those variables).

February 25, 2008 at 08:38 PM · To Nate and Pieter,

While it is true that Perlman and other players are able to perform hideously fast string crossings with a stroke that bounces, and may not even think about the different definitions of their strokes, the very concept that a sautille is different than a spiccatto is very useful pedagogical concept.

Recently I coached a college student who wasn't qble to play the fast notes in Ziegunerweisen fast enough, and it was because her concept was wrong: she simply thought she had to take her standard bounce and do it faster. It was when I showed her that it was a different way of thinking altogether that she got it. The hand motion itself is different: instead of a U shape at a slow bounce, the hand describes an almost vertical motion for a sautille.

Lyman Bodman in his "Essays on Violin Pedagogy" echos Galamian and Paul Rolland when he advises that the first step is a "condensed fast short detache almost scratching the string, but with the bow moving slightly on a vertical oblique to the plane of the string..."

Pieter, I didn't find your statement of what the Cleveland Orchestra members do to be convincing (and I grew up sitting in those same student rush seats as you do and remember when Steven Geber had his hair, and when Dan Majeske's was jet black). For one thing, what repertoire were they playing? The stroke at the bottom of the first page of Don Juan will be more off the string than one used in the Bartered Bride. The opening 16th notes in Schubert's 5th Symphony demand a very soft on-the-string stroke that just almost bounces but not quite. Perhaps someday you'll get in, and you can say "we in the Cleveland Orchestra..."

February 26, 2008 at 07:24 AM · I didn't really understand when you described the U shape Scott, are you referring to the arc the bow makes?

The way to do a good spiccato/sautille/saltando (or whatever you want to call it) in my opinion is by thinking of your downbow as the initial bounce and your upbow as the rebound. It is no different from dribbling a basketball. I do not think it is physically possible for the bow stick to bounce during a quick down up stroke while not letting the hair leave the string.

February 26, 2008 at 07:55 AM · Scott,

My apartment is less than a 5 minute walk from Severance, I daresay I've been often enough to have seen quite the array of repertoire.

I just have to agree with Nate. Even if you can't see it, the hair is bouncing. I'm not going to debate that anymore, because it seems as if there are people who totally disagree and then Nate and I who hold our own opinions. Those won't change so I'll just take my leave now. In the end, you have to do whatever works, and if you can make your bow hop without the hair leaving the string, then you're certainly a better violinist than I.

February 26, 2008 at 10:26 PM · Greetings,

I regret I have felt unable to participate in an otehr wise wonderful debate because of the highly offensive response to my original post. To those players still interested in another reputable source for my original statement about sautille I quote Simon Fischer `Practice` page 97

``The chief differenc ebetween spicatto and sautille is taht in spicatto you are in control of each stroke, whereas in sautille it is more that you let the bow spring. Another difference is that whereas in slow spicatto the bow hair leaves the string, in faster spicatto and sautille the wood of the bpow bounces but the hair stays on the string.`

He reiterates this pont on the next two pages.

Yfrah Nieman emphasized this point to me agreat deal and it maybe that this is where he learnt this and perhaps it is not so widely accepted in the schools revolving around Galamian and DeLay but it is worth remembering that Mr Fische rwas a studnet of Ms DeLay too.



February 26, 2008 at 10:53 PM · then why do so many of Galamian and DeLay's students play sautille with the hair leaving the string?

Could you maybe show us an example of sautille or "fast spicatto" without the hair leaving the string, or better yet, an example of your own? I am just having trouble seeing how it is possible.

February 26, 2008 at 11:12 PM · Hey Pieter,

How about a counter example from you? No counter flames please, it's just a suggestion...


February 27, 2008 at 12:26 AM · howard,

I've had clips on this website for ages. I'm sure by now everyone or most people have heard them. I've always been very up front about the level of my playing. I took them down recently because they no longer represent my current standard of playing. Both demonstrated sautille or "fast spicatto". I find it interesting that both Nate and myself, who have consistently been agreement with each other over basic technical principles, have been faced with many people saying we're wrong, none of whom have provided any proof that they understand or can execute the concepts being discussed. Now, as wrong as Nate and I seem to be on these topics, we are at least brave enough to put what we can do out there for people to hear, and received a good measure of positive feedback from our peers.

Now all I'm asking is if Stephen Brivati could provide us with something, whether it is him or not, to demonstrate what he means. It could be a youtube clip. So far, all the dozens that I've looked through over the last few months when I got into watching great violinists play in these youtube clips, have no showed me this type of bow stroke which from the sounds of it, defies the laws of physics.

February 27, 2008 at 12:48 AM · I agree with Pieter. The demonstration Pieter posted from violinmasterclass.com clearly shows the hair leaving the string in the sautille video. I'll go back to my basketball analogy again, the sautille would be more like a small quick (basketball) dribble with a result of a greater frequency of bounces and rebounds in a shorter time frame. Similarly the Sautille-spiccato happens when the notes are closer together at a faster tempo requiring the bounce and rebound to be a lot smaller.

Here is a good example of the sautille-spiccato in a performance of Nathan Milstein playing the Novacek Perpetuum Mobile: http://youtube.com/watch?v=DbWM3SEVnaE

February 27, 2008 at 01:35 AM · Look at Heifetz playing Intro and Rondo Capriccioso, or anything else with off the string playing, like 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky.

February 27, 2008 at 02:05 AM · Poor examples.

February 27, 2008 at 02:11 AM · What would you consider good examples? If you cannot find one on youtube, please, give us one of your own. I can definately stand to learn from this.

February 27, 2008 at 03:24 AM · I think Nate's is a fantastic example, thanks for finding it.

February 27, 2008 at 03:30 AM · http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVSgx7gKc_k

Heifetz playing Mozart Rondo.

February 27, 2008 at 06:21 AM · Pieter,

I thought you stated you were leaving this question. Yet you continue. I already gave a good example in the opening of Schubert's 5th Symphony. In fact, just this evening at rehearsal I was discussing the issue with Jonathan Carney, the concertmaster of Baltimore, and he agreed that there are many situations where the wood bounces--but NOT the hair. He was a Galamian student. So you can look at all the videos you want to back in your Murray Hill hovel, and you can use a nice high bounce on every piece. But try it in an orchestra when you shouldn't and you won't last long. But then again, you probably assume you're going to be a soloist and won't have to stoop to orchestral or pedagogical thinking.

February 27, 2008 at 06:44 AM · Calm down there Scott. I'm sorry my apartment in little italy isn't up to your incredible standards. I'm sure your salary as the top violinist in the Rogue Valley Symphony affords you an impressive spread, and I certainly aspire to have such an incredible career. All I asked for was a video of this bow stroke. Let me check out Schubert 5th, and I will see if I can see what you're getting at.

February 27, 2008 at 08:25 AM · May I ask: Are some of you thinking of sautille as analogous to sitting on a couch or mattress and creating a springing motion up and down without the seat of your pants actually lifting off the couch into the air? If so, what would you call the bow stroke that is analogous to actually lifting off the couch or mattress that moves/rebounds as quickly as sautille?

Would anyone be able to/ consider making a close-up video that could be adjusted to slow motion so that one can see if the hair in fact does leave the string even in the lightest, narrowest sautille movement?

A question for Oliver Steiner who heard my performance of the Scherzo from Faure's First Violin Sonata- what bow stroke would you call that?

February 27, 2008 at 08:49 AM · I didn't want to enter the fray, but here goes...

If you ask me, spiccato and sautille are two strokes on a continuum. Where you switch from one to another is a question of speed, more than anything. I switch naturally from a more 'controlled' spiccato to a sautille (where I no longer make much - if any - effort to create a 'U' shape to the stroke) playing 16th notes around mm 144, give or take. I don't really care if my bow hair actually physically leaves the string, as long as the stroke sounds right.

Ronald, I would say the stroke in the scherzo movement of the Faure is a spiccato stroke.

February 27, 2008 at 06:04 PM · Pieter,

My fabulous salary affords me a luxurious spread with mountain views. You must come and visit. But not this time of year--it's a chilly 60 degrees.


February 27, 2008 at 06:19 PM · Hello everyone. I'm new member here, but i've read the issue discussed here about difference between spiccato and sautille. I think the answer lies on the bow it self. Spiccato mainly used when we play music from the time of Mozart, and sautille will be played mostly at the time after him. So as we could observe, the bow at Mozart time is lighter in its weight rather than our modern bow, which found its shape at the early of 19th century. Our modern bows are made of heavier wood. So at Mozart time, when the player wanted to perform bouncing effect on their bow off the string, they have to give more pressure on the bow, because it's light. This will result in spiccato. While after that time, the weight of the bow increased significantly, so it help the player bounce the bow with smaller effort than in spiccato. This will result in sautille. I think we could conclude that sautille is a kind of spiccato without too much effort. Of course, because it's a kind of spiccato, the bow will bounce, and the hair will be off the string also. But because the wooden stick is heavy, it doesn't take high bounce to do it. About why some players cannot achieve hair-off jumping when they play sautille, it clearly depends on the weight of the bow. The sautille character of the bow is unique, different bow will result in different sautille effect. Heavier bow will produce clear sautille bounce and vice versa. I suggest also the role of rosin in sautille bouncing. The stickier the rosin, the higher the bounce, because when the bow moves across the string, and the rosin tends to stick the hair on the string, making a constraint to it, while at the same time we force the bow to move, the bow will react to "jumping off the string".

February 27, 2008 at 09:34 PM · I did an experiment today before one of my elementary classes with the sautille. I held the violin so that I was looking right at the top of the D string and I did the sautille stroke that I was taught years ago. The hair did not leave the string, but the bow did bounce up and down, much like the description Buri gave. I looked at it from different angles in different lights and it was the same thing each time (and, if I must admit, it was a great sounding sautille...). I'm convinced that Buri's definition is correct, at least in my case.

February 28, 2008 at 04:47 AM · Ack, Pieter. I wasn't trying to imply anything about your playing by asking for an example from you. Maybe you have a guilty conscience... Anyway, I frame no hypotheses about this subject...although, like the poster above, I did sautille the way I was trained and saw the wood going up and down but with the hair staying on the string. I'm sure that it can be and is done completely off the string too, so I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about. More later since I'm writing from a phone with an impossibly smalll keybaord. Again, no offense intended for asking for an example.

February 28, 2008 at 04:33 PM · Hi Djuned-Ageng,

Welcome! It's nice to have you here. I'm afraid, though, I need to clear up a few misconceptions in your post.

First: "Spiccato mainly used when we play music from the time of Mozart, and sautille will be played mostly at the time after him."

This is not the case. Spiccato strokes are used in music from all periods: in baroque pieces through to contemporary compositions. You're partially right in saying that we don't see much sautille until later, but it certainly isn't the primary off-the-string stroke in music after 1800.

The other misconception is that a heavier bow bounces more easily/higher than a lighter bow. How a bow reacts depends on many things: the stiffness/flexibility of the stick, how it's balanced, the cambre, etc. etc.. I think it's easy to understand this when you try to guess comparative weights of bows while holding them in your hand - not easy at all.

February 28, 2008 at 06:51 PM · wow, this argument turned rather childish, but i must agree with pieter....

it's impossible for the bow not to leave the string if it "jumps," period.

both spiccato and sautille are both bouncing bow strokes, the speed is what dilineates them....in spiccato, every bow stroke is controlled by the player's arm motion, in sautille, it is a rapid stroke that almost becomes a mechanical motion when the arm is working properly

the bow has to leave the string, end of discussion.

February 28, 2008 at 08:59 PM · As mentioned previously I found two translation sources that gave sautiller = hops. Today I came across "Le Petit Larousse, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique" (entirely in French)so I thought I'd check to see what they had to say about the matter. The definition given was; "Avancer par petit sauts, comme les oiseaux", in other words, going forwards in little jumps, like birds. I guess this means that some have been saying that there are birds that jump clean into the air while others think that there are birds that drag their feet.

February 28, 2008 at 09:48 PM · I'm sorry, I'm not blind, and I know how to play a sautille stroke and the bow did NOT leave the string. Now, perhaps you do your sautille different from me, but the stroke I use stays on the string. end of discussion

February 28, 2008 at 10:15 PM · nevermind...

just do what works.

February 28, 2008 at 10:27 PM · Pieter,

I'd like to clarify asomething. When I said "poor examples" for Tchaikovsky and the Mozart Rondo, I was agreeing with you: my bow would leave the string as well.

However, I'd like to make another point as well. I'm going to assume that you, as a student at CIM, are elite. That is, you can do things that 90% of the rest of the violin students in the country cannot do. The problem is that the vast majority of violins students have flaws, either in control, set up, or simple talent. The quandary that I am in as a teacher, and one you will find yourself in as well later on in life, is "how do I get this student to solve this problem?"

I'll go back to the Wieniawsky A-minor Caprice, using myself as an example. I have a good spicatto, but if I had to perfom this in public, it's unlikely I could take the bow off the string successfully, at least in the opening (I'd have better success in other passages towards the end). So what do I do? I play a sautille, leave it on the string, and still get the speed and articulation. The same with many fast passages in the Vivaldi 4 Seasons: too fast to either bounce or play detache, so the on-the-string sautille provides articulation without the player getting behind everyone else.

While you're also right that most Galamian or Delay students can play everything off the string, the fact is that they can do things most people can't. A good example is the ricochet bowing in Paganini 5. I'll bet a few on this forum can do it, but I can't, so I'll resort to something else. Your point of view as a talented and technically capable student may be "how did Heifetz do it? Can I do it that way" is different than mine: "Many people in my orchestra can't do this bowing. What else will work?" or "this student can't do it--what's the next option?" Your viewpoint is idealistic, mine is pragmatic for my situation.

I'd suggest that thinking of a sautille as being on the string may well work for many people who have had no success attempting to always get air.

Just one more point: I don't think whether or not the bow leaves the string depends on tempo alone. It has has also to do with character. The Schubert 5th excerpt is an example of 16th notes that are really not very fast, but will sound good with the bow on the string, especially in a dry hall. In a less-than-great orchestra, asking people to actually let it bounce off the string may, as it would in my orchestra, be asking for trouble.


February 29, 2008 at 01:00 AM · If you did sautille on a violin with a viola bow, it couldn't leave the string ...

... and if you did it with a violin bow on a viola, it would have to.

Chacun a son archet!

February 29, 2008 at 03:20 AM · Jim... a number of violinists have used viola bows, like Shlomo Mintz who has one of the most insanely virutosic bow arms of any violinist. In fact, there aren't many violinists who can rival his off the string techniques, and he certainly has done all that with a viola bow.

There's also a few violists who use Voirin and other lighter cello bows.

A few people have said that it depends on your bow... that really isn't true. Any bow, even the worst ones, bounce. In fact, you can probably make a cheap $20 fiberglass bow bounce easier than a good pernambuco one. You learn how to play with your bow. Yes there are different balance points and characteristics, but it has absolutely nothing to do with your equipment. That's like saying "my violin can't do double harmonics".

I don't think that this would make me or anyone elite. Anyone can do it if they work on it. It exposes a problem in coordination, and it's an important problem to solve because it's a fundamental issue, not something like having no stacatto which is apparently just having bad luck.

February 29, 2008 at 05:57 AM · Pieter, I didn't know that about Mintz using a viola bow! How interesting...

So I think that one of the folks in the "Sautille on the string "camp should just go ahead and post a closeup video of their sautille. That would settle it and should be pretty easy to do.

Pieter, you should post yourself playing your sautille too as the most vocal member of the other camp.

Otherwise you should all shut up.

February 29, 2008 at 05:57 AM · Of course I mean that respectfully...

February 29, 2008 at 06:35 AM · howard like I said... there have been clips of my "sautille" on violinist.com for about a year, and only very recently were they taken down. The burden of proof is not on me in that regard. Also, we've posted many video examples, and thus far no one has shown anything which proves otherwise. I didn't ask specifically for someone's own personal playing, just anything in fact.

February 29, 2008 at 07:04 AM · This video should erase all doubt that it stays on the string:


February 29, 2008 at 01:17 PM · The stick bounces, giving the appearance of the bow leaving the string, but the hair stays in contact.

February 29, 2008 at 06:21 PM · Did I hear him whisper , "Luke, I am your father's bow arm?"

February 29, 2008 at 06:47 PM · Thanks, Buri.

I always appreciate your concise and accurate assessments. I will re-read Fisher's just to refresh my memory of these strokes.

March 1, 2008 at 12:54 PM · To pacify the debate let me quote Lucien Capet

-Sautillé à la corde=small rapid détaché with a little bow length that doesn't leave the string

-Sautillé rebondissant(bouncing)=lift the bow between each note

-Spiccato=sautillé mordant(biting) similar to martelé :the bow is on the string to prepare the note and leaves the string after the note

So everybody was right.. what is wrong is the term "sautillé" that means "little jump,leap,skip" even so the bow may remain to the string

March 1, 2008 at 01:17 PM · Hi,

My, my, my how words can get confusing... My own two cents?

Both strokes end up being OFF, but the origin of the start is different. In a sautillé, the bow starts on the string. It bounces at the point of instability, with the bow doing the work rather than the player. In a spiccato, it is more like Buri said of a controlled stroke. Here the bow is lifted by the player, rather than by it's natural bounce. It can start from on or off the string.

In a sautillé, one sees a different plane in the bow arm than in a spiccato. The elbow is lower and the plane is flatter, the distance from the string being very, very small - varies from bow to bow.

With a spiccato, one has to suspend the elbow/arm above the string. The bow is brought down to the string by a combination of the arm, fingers and wrist making a pendular motion (a kind of half-moon shape). The stroke still has to be horinzontal in motion (not too vertical) or like Szeryng said, it would sound percussive.

Hope this helps...


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