Flying staccato - also called stiff arm staccato?

October 8, 2010 at 06:51 PM ·

I think I can do everything now exept flying staccato. Ive looked it up but I havent found much detailed explanation about how to do it. It looks like you are moving the bow in a long stroke with the elbow and making little alternating strokes with the wrist at the same time? Is that with a rotating wrist movement? Rotating is the motion you use to turn a key in a lock. It sounds cool and a little different than sautille so I want to figure it out.

Replies (28)

October 9, 2010 at 10:32 PM ·

The video is that of Bill Wolcott playing Hora Staccato

October 9, 2010 at 10:34 PM ·

October 12, 2010 at 09:01 PM ·

Looks like I was right. It helps to look up Hora staccato. That is tricky to coordinate. Might be cool though - that wrist movement is the way you pick guitar fast. Or the elbow sometimes. For 2 different tones.

October 12, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

The was a very famous violinist who never did flying staccato and was apparently a little concerned that he didn't - but could not bring himself to tense up enough to do it. I was told that by a pupil of his, and I can understand it and I do believe it to have been true.

So I wouldn't worry about it - you don't really need it. (I expect lots of people will now disagree about needing it!)

October 13, 2010 at 01:33 AM ·


I agree with Peter.  The actuall genuine `stiff arm staccato` is mor eof an innate talent than anything else.   There are alternatives which often sound better .  if you don@t have a natural `stiff arm stacctao@ (Like Heifetz did) then it is veyr easy to wreck a bow arm by practicing something whem you don`t really know what you are doing.  Developing a good detache is more challenging - actually a lifetimes work....



October 14, 2010 at 12:30 AM ·

I just would like to precise that from what I have learned, flying staccato is not at all the supposed stiff arm staccato that we use in Hora staccato, in the thirds of the last movement of the Sibelius or other similar passages in violin litterature.

It is more likely a very long ricochet, not a short one of 4 notes like the one used in La Ronde des lutins, Paganini first Capriccio or the third movement of Paganini first. You have a fine example of this in the first variation of Nel Cor Più Non me Sento of Paganini, descending scales on the four strings or ascending ones. Also in the descendent chromatic scales of the Faust Fantaisie by Wieniawski, quite impressive,from the very top notes on the E string to the lowest on G. Very few violinist succeed in doing a perfectly audible bow stroke all bouncing flying staccato. Kogan was an expert in that particular matter and few other virtuosos... It is done with a down bow ricochet from the middle to the tip of the bow, with and ever lasting bouncing stimulation.

In one single stroke, it is possible to do more than 30 notes. You can do it also with an up-bow bowing,with a shorter  and  very effective sequence (Last variation of God Save the King by Paganini,up-bow descending scales in between the 4 note ricochet sequences). There are also some passages of this kind in the Waxman Carmen Fantaisy...

October 14, 2010 at 12:48 AM ·

If you have the opportunity to carefully watch that video (movie) of Heifetz playing Hora Staccato you will see that his bow hold changes to affect the downbow staccato and removes his 2nd and 3rd fingers from the stick and holds it with index finger and pinky. One can imagine that he is applying a very rapid, periodic, torque motion about his thumb with those fingers (or not).

Just a thought.


October 14, 2010 at 02:36 PM ·

I would like to add that Massart and Marsick Wieniawski and few others of the French and Belgian school were the ones who gave the appellation of "Flying" staccato which is Staccato Volant in French... Staccato strictly sensu, ( like Hora Staccato),  you do not leave the string and the arm is a little stiff,but not the right wrist... Flying staccato is a bouncing bow technique as I explained it above. Capprcio number five of Paganini,with the original Bowing,is also another Manner to perform flying staccato.

October 14, 2010 at 07:24 PM ·

Please see here for some additional information.  (just in case the above link doesn't work)

October 14, 2010 at 09:10 PM ·

VJ: the post is interesting because there is a uge difference in between flying staccato and staccato per se...It is two different things and I believe there is some confusion here. Nobody seems to have notice yet. The question is clear: it speaks about flying staccato ( bouncing the bow) but confuses the appropriate technique with the plain or main staccato, down or up bow,which does not imply bouncing,but stiffening the arm ect. ect.

Refer to my prior comments...

October 15, 2010 at 03:40 AM ·


Marc, over the years i have met a number of players who -did- call the stiff arm staccato flying staccato. Inded that wa sthe wya I was taught.  You are quite right to point out the problem.  The type you are talking about is in the air, as opposed to digigng into the stirng so it is completley illogical.  That is why I changed over to your deifnition many years ago.  Thse teachers who did/do call the stiff arm `flying staccato` tend to call the bounced version `flying spiccato.`

Not helpful at all.




November 1, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

Hey, you should look for Alexander Markov staccato!!!!!!! I learned to do it watching him, I wasn´t able to do it before that. He says staccato is a very personal stroke, it depends of how you feel more comfortable. Check this out and look for the video of him playing paganini´s caprices.


November 3, 2010 at 04:33 AM ·

 I looked at the Alexander Markov video. I've been looking at it performances all day. That guys pizzicato is to be respected, *salutes*. lol, seriously everything he does is astounding, but that plucking. wow. 

After looking through his videos, i realized, no one should be fighting or fretting with stiff arm this, or loose arm that. If what you want is the sound, then you should modify your technique until it makes the sound that you want. You don't have to worry about losing your "standard" staccato, your standard staccato is just another sound that you can make, you have to work on familiarity with both and any number of other varieties that you want to do.

November 3, 2010 at 12:36 PM ·

Will someone realize that flying staccato has nothing to do with stiff arm staccato ???????????????? Please read my comments above. I am so surprised about that confusion...LOL

November 3, 2010 at 07:13 PM ·

@Raul, Marc, Buri et al

Please feel free to comment on what I've written. Not trying to muddy the waters here...but, I have tried to break down the techniques in Alexander Markov's video:

This staccato , as he mentions, (Paganini Caprice #24), appears to be similar to Saint-Saens' I&RC bounced stroke at the beginning.

This descending scale run appears to be a staccato similar to this, this, and  this (Saint-Saens I&RC). Or is it martele-style or "standard" as Kheenan put it? Also, here.

Spiccato/Sautille - Paganini - Moto Perpetuo

Left-hand Pizzicato - Paganini Caprice #24

Ricochet - Paganini Caprice #1. Also, here.

November 4, 2010 at 12:00 AM ·

The staccato was first define in the Franco- Belgian school as followed:

It is called in french "Staccato à la corde" ( staccato on the string) and it is done down bow or up-bow without rebounds, firmly on the string, using small  successive pression from the index on the bow, with a free wrist, the bow never leaving the string... ex. Hora Staccato Dinicu-Heifetz

The staccato volant ( flying staccato) , the bouncing is free and done in a kind of jeté of the bow: ex: original bowing of Paganini caprice 5- Mendelsohn last mouvement the long stroke in piqué and up -bow all the way...ex: Paganini first variation of the 24th capriccio, up-bow piqué

Ricochet: the operation of the bow is done with the natural bouncing: ex: La Ronde des lutins-First Caprice of Paganini in E major-

Sautillé: a very fast motion of the middle of the bow, so fast like the one used in Moto Perpetuo or Perpetuela of Paganini

Spiccato: done in the first third portion of the bow, like in the G major sonata of Mozart, very gracious movement...last movement of the third sonata by Brahms...beginning

Mr. Markov does not use the right not forget that all of this was clearly and at first defined by the franco- belgium school, and today, there is a lot of confusion about the exact terminology.

Mr. Markov is all mixed up with terms...his first demonstration is flying staccato ( A major scale downward and first variation of Paganini caprice 24.... then, when he speaks about spiccato and plays the beginning of Moto perpetuo by Paganini, it is sautillé, not spiccato... and I did not go any further...useless

This is very infortunate, but these inexactitudes are becoming now quite common.

November 9, 2010 at 06:33 PM ·

Those are interesting posts. Im not sure it is important - if sautille sounds staccato - and ricochet... maybe flying staccato is not important? Ive been gone for a month - dont overdose on alcohol!! Alcohol might be worse than heroin? I got addicted to alcohol. I am working on a documentary about alcohol - the positive effects on the human brain ( stimulant, frees the mind, ... ) , and the negative - dehydration, depletes vitamines...


Kinda like Ludwig Van Beethoveen? I was very surprised - I took out my violin after a month of not playing - and played Paganini's 5th caprice almost perfectly. WOW. Alcohol is bad - n'kay? You should never take alcohol - n'kay? Just because Beethoveen, Mozart, Paganini, ... drank alcohol does not mean you should too - n'kay?

November 9, 2010 at 07:55 PM ·

Flying staccato is the last thing you should worry about. Get everything else right first and then you can spend an hour learning how to do it.

November 9, 2010 at 08:05 PM ·

I think Marc Villeneuve is correct in his description of the various bowings.

The "on the string" sort is nomally called up bow staccato or down bow staccato and the bow never leaves the string.



November 9, 2010 at 11:06 PM ·

Peter: the confusion comes from wrong translation in various languages... We must not forget that all the basic principles were first explained by the franco-belgian scholl and in the Art of playing the violin written in 1831 by Rode, Baillot and Kreutzer...

It just seems that no one cares anymore... exactitude and true comprehension is usually the key to success...

And Buri: I appreciate your comment and if I would have to start learning violin all over again, I would choose you as my teacher, because many things you have said here are so true and logical...

November 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM · Another name for the lying staccato in one bow or stiff arm staccato is 'Wieniawski' stroke. It was named after Wieniawski who was very good on this stroke and used it in many of his pieces and caprices.

November 29, 2011 at 02:28 AM · I think this pretty much sums up how to do it.

December 10, 2011 at 09:59 AM · Hi,

From my personal experience, it's called stiff arm cause when you start doing it, you tense up a lot or it might look very tense. I believe it is something you are born with not something you can practice? Just like I watched Heifetz played it and then I realized I could do it too. My teacher who is a much better player still cannot do it. There are a great number of great violinists who can't do it so yea... don't believe it's a big deal, as long as you can play well. but I think it's true one should not practice too much of such bowing because it damages your bow arm. I only practice my left fingers to be able to keep up with my flying spiccato. Otherwise, I rarely use it.

March 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM · If you perform the flying stacatto in a large concert hall, you can hardly hear the result because its volume level is so low. Most of the flying stacatto examples are recorded with a microphone quite close to the violinist.

Flying stacatto is good in a recording studio but entirely ineffective for a large concert venue.

March 10, 2012 at 09:08 PM · Theodore - that is not my experience.

March 12, 2012 at 04:19 AM · Marc,

Actually, there are different shadings of the up-bow staccato. It really depends on the specific work in question, how you are trying to play it (more or less articulated), and the tempo at which you want to play it. For example, the strokes in Paganini 10 and 15 could at first be judged to be the same. However, I can personally play #15 faster--I can't do the same stroke for 10 because the left hand is much more difficult. So it becomes a different stroke.

One of the problems of this stroke is that it is often accompanied by passages of left-hand difficulty. I know it would be cool to be able to do the stroke, but my question is whether your left-hand technique (knowledge of the entire fingerboard and shifting technique) are equal to the task. I'm not assuming, mind you, just asking if this is the case.

March 13, 2012 at 08:49 AM · Hello Andrew,

I personally found this video of professor Klaus Lieb really helpful:

The video is in german, but if you watch carefully you can learn a lot. I tell you, please do not overdo tis kind of bow stroke, it could be really dangerous for your bow arm. I would suggest 5 - max 10 min a day but not every day. If you feel tense, just stop and do something else, it will come with the time. Mr Lieb has recorded a whole DVD for bow arm, which you can find here:"

hope it helps! Ciao

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