First of all I would like to apologise for my bad english.I've been reading many of your posts for the past couple of weeks and I find this website very helpful. So this will be my first post: please be gentle =)
Anyway, my questions are about what to do with the wrist to keep the bow hair flat on the strings. Because I tend to overbend it, if you will, when I'm playing on the frog and it hurts. Not only my wrist but also my shoulder.
Once again, sorry for my english. And thanks in advance for all your answers.
A thoughtful and well-informed post (as usual). However, if I may offer a gentle suggestion: try to correct some of the typos in your post; they can be torture for a non-native English speaker to read.
Concerning the roulet or roulé bowing; Galamian never mentioned this excercise to me or any other Galamian student that I know of when I was with him from 1966-74. I think it is mentioned in the book about his principles of violin playing which was actually written by Elizabeth Green. Galamian's teacher Lucien Capet advocated this excercise, but I could never figure out the point of it. Galamian did advocate using flat hair at the tip of the bow, which I later discovered was a huge mistake for my violin playing. In order to do this I had to collapse my wrist, which meant I just lost pressure at the tip of the bow. Also adding flat hair means the timbre of the sound changes at the tip. You will notice in the pictures of bow arm in Galamian's book the person posing has long arms, just like Galamian.
A critical element of bow tilt is the position of the pinkie. If you put the pinkie on the top of the bow the hair will tend to be flat, but if it is placed on the next facet toward you the bow will naturally tilt away.
In her videos on Violin Virtuosity, Valerie Gardner discusses the wood being tilted away from the player while the bow hair remains flat as an essential feature of getting a thicker, richer sound. It stands to reason that if you have fewer hairs touching the bow there will be less sound than with more hair. When the wood is tilted away it can give the impression that the hairs are also tilted but that may not in fact be the case. One can still play with flat hair and hold the bow with the little finger resting at the octagonal groove near the top of the bow but not on the top. In fact, if you keep the wood tilted as you hand the student the bow they can quite easily learn to feel the little finger resting in this place. Using flat hair with the wood of the bow directly above the hair will not produce as vibrant a sound. The wood needs to be tilted. I think most people though do tilt the hair when starting at the frog, at least on the E string, because otherwise the thumb would tend to hit the bridge.
Your last point is interesting Jeewon. Would you say that a bow that does not have some lateral stiffness when letting the wood point away from the face is to be avoided in preference to a bow that keeps its firmness when you tilt the wood away? I can see that if there is weakness in the stick that one might have to keep the wood over the hair but for a generally thicker sound I would think there is the danger of too much vertical pressure and the potential to create a duller sound.
When I experimented with your mention of making accents and doing spiccato in the middle of the bow, I did find that I ended up with the wood above the hair and not tilted though in the end of the accented stroke the wood was tilted away from the hair. Regarding using less hair or more hair, I found that just imagining a softer or more ethereal color change I wanted elicited a response in my arm that caused the bow hair to tilt and not be flat. In general, I found that using the back muscles to propel the arm, and with it, changes in bow speed, the flexibility to alter more or less hair on the bow seemed to happen without thinking about the role of the thumb although the thumb may very well have been moving unimpeded in this process. I certainly did not notice that attention in noticing the larger muscles' roles caused any stiffness or tightness in the thumb.
You may recall that one of the members here on violinist.com, who had studied with Erick Friedman, was adamant about flat hair being used and advocated by Jascha Heifetz though the videos I saw of Heifetz seemed to indicate to the contrary the use of Heifetz varying the use of flat and tilted hair. It seemed especially noticable in soft, delicate passages for quite wonderful color changes in the sound.
There is one other thought regarding the tilt of the hair. If done carefully so as not to create an accent, one can flatten the hair by thinking of the fingers, like a magnet, pulling the bow into the hand as one approaches the frog. This can create a very gluey, in-to-the string sound, without any harshness at the bow change near the frog. It is necessary though to have the right height to the arm for the given string one is on, otherwise the balance is not optimum and one should feel that the back muscles (near the shoulder blade) are supporting the arm in the bow change. I would even say that this movement is part of the supination process one engages in on the up bow.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses!
I will definitely take every single of your tips into consideration they'll surely be helpful. But
after reading all of them I tried to follow some of your advices and guess what: when I'm playing my finger position on the bow remains the same. There's no change. I only noticed it now. That's why it hurts. There's no flexibility and no adjustment of the fingers when I'm moving the bow. I lock my wrist and sometimes the whole arm. I also noticed that I press too hard with the thumb to compensate...
You guys helped so much! Thank you.
And Jeewon thank you for the comment about my english. Oh and about the pain: I don't feel when I'm playing so much as afterwards.
There's a paper about effects of tilting here: http://www.speech.kth.se/prod/publications/files/961.pdf measured with a PC-controlled bowing machine.
You're welcome Diana,
"It's simply not realistic in my opinion to play on tilted hair in a concert hall and expect to be heard. I have to give Galamian credit for understanding that as well. That is probably part of the reason why so many of his students have careers. If a violinist uses tilted hairs in Carnegie Hall, the tone will sound thin in the back of the hall."
Nate, you're correct, but only for a very small percentage of players. Most people do NOT have to fill a concert hall with sound and don't make their living this way. And many great players I've seen don't rely on brute-force volume but articulation to project.
For most other realistic performance situations--in a symphony or in chamber music--playing on flat hair will prevent the string player from being able to achieve all of the various shades of spicatto, and especially the softer and nuanced strokes required to play classical literature.
with all due respect I really do disagree that all great players filling concert halls use da flat bow hair. Oistrakh did not use a flat bow hair all the time and neither did Grumiaux. For a very clear example inspite of the camera take a look at the doumentary on Ida Haendal Part six on you tbe which begins with La Folia.There is a greta player clealry using tight hair and a tilted stick.
It seems to me that the "fill the hall with sound till their ears bleed" philosophy is an American one. I've seen many well-known soloists that play extremely loudly and aggressively--personally I don't enjoy such playing. My own advice for those who bought tickets at the back of the hall: next time spring for better tickets!
How about them Red Sox?
I'm a Braves fan, Buri. Too bad they haven't done well in the past few years.
I am kind of puzzled why this thread kept getting responses. Buri pretty much nailed the solution in his first response.
Also, I have to agree with Ronald Mutchnik in his first response. There are a few Valerie Gardner students at my school, so I have a pretty good idea what you are talking about.
Colorado Rockies!!!! Yeeeeeoooow!
Not the greatest but still cool to me.
Don't move your wrist, just move your fingers to angle it outward more. If you have an inclination to turn the bow inward so more hair is facing you, it will feel like you're putting it out too much. Get someone to tell you when it is in the place you want it and just remember that position and make it a habit.
I present my own approach to this issue in my "fundamentals of holding the violin and bow", in the "writings" section of my website. http://rkviolin.com
Great website, Raphael!
The Helholtz motion of the bowed string will be strongly influenced by the amount of hair that actually engages it in applying force: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/Bows.html . You can sense this from the website demonstration. Since an instrument's response to string-vibration frequencies is not linear or uniform, spreading the range of generated overtones for any note increases the chance of hitting one of the real peaks of the instrument's response. Vibrato is also used to spread the range of generated pitches and thus overtone frequencies, which is why it enhances projection.
Therefore using "flat hair" or "skinny hair" and varying the sounding point and the force of the hair into the string are among the tools a player has to vary the overtone spectrum to change tone color and enhance sound "projection."
Knowing these things and understanding them intellectually or even mathematically is "well and good," but no substitute for making them instinctive to one's playing, and that only comes about from intelligent practice. - and listening to one's self.
For me, I use a middle chin rest and the shoulder pad allows for my wrist to be in a nice comfortable spot. I guess it's all about what kind of sound you want and what your physical limitations are. The general rule is that you use flat hair because it's a necessity for solo playing. Especially when you want to apply more pressure, it's easier with the wood directly above the hair than with a tilted bow (less pressure and less sound).
You're paying about $100 for a rehair, you might as wear and tear every single strand of hair possible.
You can avoid the limitations of sound by purchasing a louder instrument with strings that project. However, it doesn't change the fact that flat hair will give any instrument (thin sounding or loud) it's fullest capabilities.
You can also compare the flat hair and titled bow to painting. It's like you have a larger brush or a small brush. Sometimes the small brush would be useful for passages that require a long bow and less sound.
Ricky- that`s what I like about the violin- apparently good guidelines are as often true as not!. There are simply too many greta violnists, including Oistrakh, Ida Haendel, Bron, Grumiuax who simply did not use a flat bow hair most of the time. Given the exraordianry tension of hisbow hair I seriously doubt if Kreisler used a flat hair but I have`t seen a video.Clayton Haslop said in one of hismost recent blogs that he doesn`t, to bring things up to date. Other players have found it most effective to have the hair angled and weight fed in upn that abgle. Some players have found that on specific instruments a falt hair actually chokes the sound. ersonally I err very much on the flat hair sidebut one has to be able to do it all , irrespective of whether oyu are a soloist, chamber music player or beginner. Blanket statements about one way or another simply dn`t hold up to the simplest visual check. I wonder what your opinion is of the links I posted which show other than what you are arguing?
BTW In general I wish tyhe distinction between chamber music sound and soloist didn`t continue to be so cocneptually wide. Arnold Steinhardt complains about this in `IOndivisible By Four,` and think he was making a crucial point. After all, if a quartet plays in Carnegie Hall the by the reasoning applied above the violins will be inaudabvle which tehcnically means one is attending a duet concert. (One of whom is a viola player.....)
I can't understand what this thread is all about. Firstly, surely it all comes down to what Buri said near the beginning, that you start with the musical idea and sound you want, and everything else follows from there. That always seems to be the right way round.
Secondly - though perhaps I haven't read the thread carefully enough without just scanning through it - some of the discussion seems to be on an either-or, tilt or not-tilt basis. Yet surely sometimes the bow is tilted not at all, sometimes a bit, sometimes more, sometimes a lot - depending on what and where in the bow you are playing, and at what dynamic.
Playing in the lower half of the bow it is often better, when attacking from the air, to meet the string with a tilted hair to avoid scratch. Lots of strokes in the lower half work better with a tilted bow.
It is very convenient that for many players there is a slight arching of the wrist when playing in the lower part of the bow which naturally turns the hair on to the side as a matter of course. It is more a case of sometimes deciding to play with flatter hair in the lower parts of the bow - because unless you think about it, you will play tilted - rather than the other way round.
Spiccato needs the bow tilted. Sautillé needs a flatter hair. So does ricochet.
It further depends on what position you are playing in. The higher the position, the shorter the string. The shorter the string, the wider the bow-hair is in proportion to the string-length. Playing an open string, the width of the bow-hair is naturally a small amount. But playing, say, at the top of the E or G strings, so that the strings are very short, if you play with flat hair it is the equivalent of bowing on an open string with bow hair about three inches wide.
Naturally this interferes with the pure vibration of the string, leading to that mushy, breathy sound you often hear high up there (which is usually blamed on the violin, the strings, the bow-hair, or the rosin). This sound is lessened if you tilt the bow more when playing in high positions, until in the highest positions you play on the side of the hair.
Again, of course it is not a black-or-white issue. Sometimes the situation might call for full hair in a high position. But whatever, there is no disputing the maths.
Perhaps nobody intended to imply that it was either one thing or the other, so perhaps the question should be about whether to have flat or tilted hair to play a specific stroke. Simple experiment provides the answer: you just need to try slightly higher in the bow, slightly lower; slightly more tilted, slightly less tilted; slightly more/less bow; a little nearer-to/further-from the bridge; a little faster/slower; heavier/lighter - have I forgotten something? - ok, a little more parallel to the bridge; the joints of the fingers and hand slightly more/less giving - until the stroke in question 'works'.
Welcome to the site. Jump right in; the water's fine (if sometimes a little turbulent).
Thank you all for the replies. They were very helpful indeed.
Oh and thank you David :)
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December 2, 2009 at 11:21 PM ·
I suspect your problem is a slight misunderstanding. You can change the amount of hair with the wrist, but it is better to think of the reverse. The wrist may change just a litlt ein repsonse to the ampount of hair. How you actually use more or less hair is to with -flexible finger- not the wrist. You should be able to roate the bow between the fingers to select the required amount of bow hair . You could practice long bow stroks while roatatint the bow using only the fingers. Turn the stick away from you and towards you (supposedly incorrect in real playing) forwards and backward sfive of six times a storke. Build up the number of times slowly if you find it difficult. This exercise is called the Roulet. It is a little out of fashion now but Galamian used to prescribe it.
As for the amount of hair used, that depends to some extent on differnet schools of violin playing. But on the whole it is better to be un dogmatic about it and decide on the basis of the kind of sound you wnat at a given moment. I have used both extremely tight hair (bow very tilted) style and most of the hair most of the time. Hair is slcaker/. I perosnally prefer the latter.