First few millimeters of bowing

March 22, 2012 at 08:38 PM · Does anything beyond the first few millimeters of bowing matter for a beginner? If you can't produce a beautiful tone within the first couple of mm surely it ain't gonna happen? Should we just bow a couple of mm till we get that sound?

Replies (37)

March 22, 2012 at 10:24 PM · I started playing 19 days ago. From my limited experience on the violin I can only give you one bit of advice. Your not going to learn it unless you use it. I spend 90% of my practice time in front of a mirror keeping the bow slowly traveling straight, in one spot from frog to tip. All the way up and down. Open strings or one fingered note at a time. All four strings. The more I do this the easier it's getting. The better I'm sounding. Practice with the entire bow. My instructor wants me to play using the center. So wile I'm there that's all I'll use. When I'm at home I use the whole bow.

March 23, 2012 at 01:21 AM · I'm assuming the British mm is vastly different than the US mm.

March 23, 2012 at 04:41 AM · the British (actually European) mm is a device intended to help us deal with the Greece/and everybody else but they won`t admit it crisis. It`s value lies in the fact that politicians and usurers can assure us via the media that we are mms away from a breakthrough when in fact what this means is there isn`t a cat in hell`s chance of closing the vast gap between the warring factions.

Always glad to help,

Burp

March 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Scott: what is the US mm? Last time I looked you use the British Inch. Oh, unless you are talking about gun bore that is... :p

March 23, 2012 at 11:51 AM · @Buri

Lol!

@Other

1" = 2.54cm, 1cm = 10mm, do the conversion, I'm lost with you're way of measuring thing.

March 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM · In my Suzuki training, we learned to teach a small bow stroke of a couple inches at the middle of the bow, with the hair held firmly against the string. Tune by tune lengthen the bow stroke by an inch or two. Sue

March 23, 2012 at 01:02 PM · One mm is always one mm, no matter where you live.

Try using the whole bow. Sometimes the bow is not a great one, then it really is hard to use the first few cm at the frog of the bow. Ask your teacher to check it, but I guess that is not it.

If you try to use the whole bow you will be able to do it after a day or two. I actually started doing this only a few weeks ago and now I am happy because I start to understand how, let's say, Hilary Hahn manages to never run out of bow :)

Besides that, John is right; you need to run the bow very parallel to the bridge. A "saber movement" (I do not know the proper vocabulary but you get it) has to be avoided/resolved at all costs!

March 24, 2012 at 04:28 AM · Sorry, I was being a little facetious. What I meant was that one doesn't, apart from specialized techniques like collé, use the bow by millimeters. A quarter, a third or a half the bow is one thing, but playing a few millimeters would seem not to offer much in the acquisition of technique or tone.

March 24, 2012 at 06:04 AM · Should we just bow a couple of mm till we get that sound?

NO. If you were learning to ride a bike at a very slow speed it would take forever to get the balance. Not too slow and not too fast, and lift the bow off the strings at tip and frog once and a while if you find yourself crunching the sound.

March 24, 2012 at 06:23 AM · Thanks for your considered response Charles. I suppose I'm thinking attack transients here. They are what characterizes an instrument and it's all over in the first millisecond. If you can't get that right why carry on? Don't sprinters practice getting out of the starting blocks?

'When young sprinters get older and graduate to more competitive levels of racing, one technique that is taught is the use of starting blocks. These blocks improve your acceleration by creating an angled plane that allows you to propel your body forward at a much faster rate than you could standing on flat ground. Using starting blocks can take long hours of practice to get the physics of the start and release down, maximizing your propulsion and timing to get out of the blocks quickly and powerfully. How well you can do this can determine whether you win or lose a race.'

March 24, 2012 at 07:02 AM · Your analogy doesn't really work for normal bowing. It could be used to understand martele'.

March 24, 2012 at 07:46 AM · I'm talking attack transients. How else can they be practiced?

March 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Yes, the attack must be clean. But even sprinters are concerned with the whole length of the sprint. How can you perfect a clean start if you have to stop again in just millimeters? Focus not on length, but instead on sound, and music, and singing.

March 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM · It's not just that the attack needs to be clean it is the tone (as in attack transients).

March 24, 2012 at 12:06 PM · IF you are talking about the click, or the scrunch (some might call it scratch) at the explosive start of a note, then you have to dig into the string and release a millisecond after the note starts. This works as martele bowing as well.

Listen to Heifetz and others playing fast detatched semi-quavers (16th notes to you lot!) and you can hear a bite on every note.

"Transient" means fleeting, passing very quickly, and is something recording engineers try and avoid as it sends the recorded signal into the red. So unexpected ones are over recorded and lead to distortion. If you want to upset a recording engineer go close to the mic and explode a few transients - they will soon turn the gain down. Great fun on a live broadcast.

Cellists have the best world as they can place the bow at the heel at an acute angle and really dig in. This is possibe due to much thicker strings. Sounds very scrunchy close too - but great in the audience.

March 24, 2012 at 05:53 PM · @Pirisino "I'm lost with you're way of measuring thing"

At least we know where to put our apostrophes over here in the Land of the Freaks and the Home of the Depraved.

March 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM · I've found Stoeving in Mastery of the Bow describes exactly what I'm doing (and thanks to Peter Charles as well):

'Push or rather project the hand forward by an act of the will (as though detaching it from the rest of the arm) as far as it will go without consciously helping with the forearm and without appreciably altering the grip of the hand, i.e., the position of the fingers on the stick except for a slight yielding and bending (rounding) of the finger joints, enough to assist the hand in this short up bow motion which with untrained wrist need not exceed half an inch in the beginning.'

He calls it the first step and says it's initially done on open strings. The hand relaxes back to its initial position:Exercise Notated

March 24, 2012 at 09:43 PM · I know what the problem is, I don't know what " attack transients" means and how it applies to bowing. Is this a common term used by pianist? Yet, I understand slew rate. If you ever had an Opera singer in your studio you get a real lesson in adjusting compression to work with preamps with slow slew rates. I had her 6 feet from the mic and I still had to run the track 3 times through the compressor to slow it down.

March 24, 2012 at 10:01 PM · "I'm talking attack transients"

It's already happening here in OR:

By Buffy Pollock

for the Mail Tribune

CENTRAL POINT — Thursday evening, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that essentially will prohibit panhandling on city roadways.

Less than a day later, every intersection and off-ramp leading into town was inhabited by transients and stranded travelers with their dogs, duffel bags and cardboard signs.

A woman and man with a dog sat just beyond the southbound Interstate 5 entrance into town while another man on the northbound off-ramp displayed a sign requesting help with gas money to "get home."

The new law, specifically prohibiting "transfer of property" between motorists and pedestrians on city roadways, takes effect 30 days from Thursday.

March 24, 2012 at 11:03 PM · "It's not just that the attack needs to be clean it is the tone ", bud, are you suggesting that the only thing that matters to the tone, is what comes in the first few mm of playing - because that is ludicrous. to borrow your analogy again, just becasue a sprinter gets off the blocks cleanly, doesn't mean the run will continue in the smoothest most efficient style.

I think you were asking if it was worth it for beginners to concentrate on getting the first mm of the bow stroke under control, that if they couldn't get that then there was no point continuing. I dunno what teacher your using, but that would not teach a person to bow. In the early days, there is a lot to learn about the leverage of the bow and how the hand changes is balance to accomodate the movement of the bow from one to the other end.

Its all important, but the most crucial lesson is how to use the bow to make music, and that is not going to happen in a few mm.

Stop over intellectualising, get back to the practise room.

March 25, 2012 at 12:39 AM · you may find help in the book

'The Methodical Notes.Method and Technique of First Violin Lessons'It is some what expensive

but available on Amazon.

good luck

March 25, 2012 at 12:40 AM · you may find help in the book

'The Methodical Notes.Method and Technique of First Violin Lessons'It is some what expensive

but available on Amazon.

good luck

March 25, 2012 at 06:35 AM · 'are you suggesting that the only thing that matters to the tone, is what comes in the first few mm of playing - because that is ludicrous.'

I'm saying it's the most important not necessarily the only thing. If it's not right you won't sound like a violin because most of what we call the-sound-of-the-violin happens in the first milliseconds.

March 25, 2012 at 09:38 AM · 'you may find help in the book

'The Methodical Notes.Method and Technique of First Violin Lessons'[by Mikhail Lobko] It is some what expensive

but available on Amazon.'

At $99 up from the original $8 I think I'll give it a miss unless you've got an $8 copy to sell?

I already have your Concept and Study for the Violinist. An interesting read. Your approach, using gravity, is similar to Stoeving but you don't seem aware it requires a hand stroke.

March 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM · sorry, not convinced.

March 25, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Attack transients does't really apply in violin bowing, unleess you are talking about the Martele' stroke. The Martele stroke has an accent at the beginning of the note. I guess you can say that every note played on the piano can have an attack transient( a sharp spike in volume at the beginning of the note). In playing the violin using normal bowing the the sound is even, lagato,detache or tenuto (even pressure)- no spike in volume in the change.

March 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM · In experiments, and I've heard them myself, it is very difficult to tell an oboe from a flute from a clarinet from a violin if you cut off the first few milliseconds (the attack transients).

The other argument would be that it's very easy to sustain a good tone once you've grasped it but far harder to get that tone on the hoof.

March 25, 2012 at 12:23 PM · I think I would have to agree with Sharelle, you're over analyzing this a bit. But Thanks , I learned a lot about attack transients, the poor Hobo's.

March 25, 2012 at 06:26 PM · I'd love to hear some of this Kreisler fellow - would you post a link?

March 25, 2012 at 08:33 PM · A specific link to illustrate your point is what I meant.

March 25, 2012 at 10:24 PM · Greetings,

well I can`t really follow the terminology either, but the subject raised is important in two areas.

First there is the question of what kind of quality do you want the note to have the moment it starts sounding. This can be widely varied, as JC notes, depending on whether you start on or off the string, angtle of attack, initial did and so on.

Many beginners a8and more advanced players) don`t pay attention to this aspect of playing with the reuslt that everything sound `ligh` mushuy and unfocused.

A very useful exercises is to practice pushing and pulling the string from side to side with the grip of the bow hair without moving the bow even one mm, be it European, American or sent from heaven. Having done this draw a bow stroke the required length. The amount of attack should be just right to make a crisp ringing sound.

As far as working in mm on bowing I think this is a dangerous and misleading appraoch that encourages minimalist, tense, stingy bowing from day one. Undertsand the principles of bowing and learn to use the whol bow as early as possible (as advoctaed by Auer). If one wishes to break the unit length being practice down into quarters and then back up into halfs then wbs to micromanage keeping the bow straight that kind of work may be useful too.

I rerally think you would be bowled over by Simon Fischers DVD on Tone Production. Thatwould, in my opinion, clarify what you are lookinbg for and how to get there.

Cheers,

Buri the tramp.

March 26, 2012 at 07:37 AM · yeah, what he said.

March 26, 2012 at 07:50 AM · 'A very useful exercises is to practice pushing and pulling the string from side to side with the grip of the bow hair without moving the bow even one mm, be it European, American or sent from heaven.'

I like that idea Stephen. I'll give it a go.

March 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM · "This can be widely varied, depending on whether you start on or off the string, angtle of attack, initial did and so on.

Many beginners a8and more advanced players) don`t pay attention to this aspect of playing with the reuslt that everything sound `ligh` mushuy and unfocused."

I agree with this statement, Buri, but I would add that sometimes we should be able to do the extreme mushy feathery sound as well, but only in small doses where effective. Sorry if this is obvious! I'm all for attack in lots of instances!

But bowing has amost become a lost art in the way that the great masters used the bow.

March 26, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Hi Peter,

actually Ididn't necessarily mean attack. More That the bow does not engage with the string and set it in motion. Players may,for example release the tension on the bow too much before changing to an up bow at the point. The crucial thing is generally finding the correct contact point for what one is trying to achieve,

Buri (on an iPad ??)

March 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Buri - thanks - I think we are as one on this!!

March 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM · Jim Dorans calls this single slip twixt hair and string the "scrud" and it is indeed what gives the essence of the sound.

Buri's pre-scrud awareness technique is essential for learning how the string works before the beginning of the note (the "consonants" of articulation), but it also gives feedback for how the string/bow connection is working throughout the the bow stroke (the "vowels" of the notes).

It teaches you how much weight the string can take at different contact points, and what speed you have to use for different weights to get your scrud.

gc

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