Problem With the Bow

March 25, 2004 at 06:11 AM · Hello all,

I'm a 15 year old, been playing the violin for 2 years and a half, currently in suzuki 5. my intonation is alright, I focus on intonation when doing scales, studies,etc. But I'm bad with the bow altogether. I can't play into-the-string most of the time, I have unsmooth string crossings and bow changes, I try to save but still run out bow. also dynamics, when playing softly I lose the intensity.

My sound is forced and doesn't have a "root".

Any suggestions would be wonderful!

thank you

Replies (16)

March 25, 2004 at 06:28 AM · The first thing that comes to mind is tension. That is assuming your basic bowing technique is correct. I'd suggest you use the kind of 'awareness' exercises one finds in the Inner Game of Music, just observing, without judging, what happens when you draw a bow. Observe in the mirror too, in case your bow isn't parallel. Check whether your in the right sounding point for the note you're playing, with the right bow speed and amount of arm weight (or 'pressure') for that sounding point.

So just play some slow bows and really feeling what's going on in your arm, shoulder and whole body. Shoulder tension is a very common cause of uneven bowing.

Try this and, if you like, get back to us in your next post - tell us your observations.

March 25, 2004 at 10:57 AM · Greetings,

you have posed a rather big question. Galamian pointed out that the bow arm is a system of springs and if one part of the unit is not working there is a knock on effect and one gets into real difficulties. So, you need soft and flexible fingers that hold the bow with a kind of glue sensation, a relaxed writs, a freely moving elbow joint and don"t raisethe right shoulder. There areall manner of exericses to work on any one of these areas.

But itis also important to understand the mechanics of bowing rather than just shooting at things in the dark. So, consider the fingertips on the bow. Then try practicing quarter notes in the upper half using only the 2nd and 3rd fingers on the stick. These are the holding fingers. then there are the balance fingers 1 and four so practice with just them on the stick.

for the wrist practice string crossing with slurred bowings everyday.

As you move down the bow it is necessary to inject weight into the stick through the first finger by what is called pronation. this is where the forearm rotates in as though you were turnign a key in a lock. This has to be a smooth coordinated movement so practice ten second bow strokes while focusing on this point every day. And the reverse of course.

To develop a better sound in the upper hald it pays to work on martele everyday.

Finally, for string crssing you need to know where the string levels are so practicve etudes where youchange string every noto. Make verysmooth circular movemnts and anticpate the new string by moving the bow towards it even when playing the new note,

Finally, finally, bow change smoothness is ultimately a quesiton ofnot speeding up either just before or afterthe stroke. Dont try and solve this by fiddling around with the fingers or wrist, just pay attention to the speed.

Finally, if you are hooking your writs too much much in the upper half you will have a loss of tone and control. This is a common fault,



March 25, 2004 at 08:28 PM · i've been working on that for ten years...

March 25, 2004 at 10:51 PM · Buri, what do you mean by "hooking the wrist in the upper half"?

Lucy, I like the way you articulated your question, and the way you also said that "[your] sound is forced, doesn't have a root." For a 15-yr old, it sounds like you have a great understanding of where you need to grow--and that's half the problem solved already.

Aside from Owen's despairing remark(haha)--there is good advice already here. I would add that, when your bowhold feels more comfortable and flexible, that before trying an etude for string crossings, you should practice string crossings on open strings very slowly (for clarity) in all parts of the bow, in various combinations of separates and slurs, because the weight/balance feels different in different parts of the bow. And/or pick up a bowing book like Sevcik Op. 3 (40 variations). If you're in Suzuki 5 this should be okay--again, as long as the bowhold is flexible. But not everybody has the curiosity (or more blandly, the patience) for this kind of practice.

As Galamian via Buri said (two great teachers), if one part of the bow arm is not flexible (as in tension, as Susan said), it will sour the rest of the experience. Your fingers really should feel like springs.

Happy relaxed practicing,


March 26, 2004 at 12:34 AM · Greetings,

Kismet , more often than not Ss are told that the wrist has a certain amount of natural give and as we get near the point the wrist is going to be loweredand the hand therfore said to be in a raised psotion. This is true, basically, but it often leads to an exaggeration of the low wrist which has the function of diconnecting the bow arm from the bow, as it were. the net result is a kind of desparate pressing in order to achive any sound at all at the point. this hooked wrist is an extremely widespread problem and is a major cause of tonal weakness, even in advanced players. -Give- in the wrist should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Indeed, there is an aspect of bow technique for producing greater depth of tone on the more expressive notes in a phrase by actaully keeping the wrist in its `slightly` high position and the hand suspended from it.



March 26, 2004 at 02:02 AM · gotcha

March 26, 2004 at 02:49 AM · As far as those etudes go, try Kreutzer 4 (hope I've got this right - it's in C and begins with a minim/half note) for martele and 8 for frequent string-crossing.

March 26, 2004 at 03:17 AM · Greetings,

its in C in triplets but it not four. Maybe 5... oooh my brain.

But, I can`t help feeling it might be alittle early for Kreutzer. Not always, but I think it is importnat to cover Kayser, Wolfhart, Dont and perhaps the sevcik school of bowing first. My feeling is thta the origin of the problem is a lack of very basic bowing exercises and etudes , carefully supervised by the teacher,



March 26, 2004 at 12:14 PM · Try some other bows as well. A poorly balanced bow won't support development of a refined technique.

March 26, 2004 at 04:58 PM · seriously though, kreutzer 2, if you do all of hte bowings provided can be very helpful, for me coles providing a lot of insight of just how the arm works at hte frog, that helped a lot too. finally i did a lot of exercises like rode 8 doing maybe 3 or six to a bow at hte frog. Also i've done tartinis "art of hte bow" every day for severall years, and that has helped tremendously.

March 27, 2004 at 12:59 AM · I'm having a similar problem and this discussion has been very helpful.

Thank you!

March 27, 2004 at 02:38 AM · Greetings,

Owen the scallywag is, of course, the Darth Vader of the violin world. He has his students playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto while they are still in the womb.

However, masterpieces such as the Tartini are too complex for resolving this kind of problem, and Rode is -difficult- so I would like to recommend something more practical that is -pre- Kreutzer.

I think you could help yourself a lot by practicing the arch-fiend Sevicks Opus 2 no 3 bowing book The exercises start at no 29 I believe.

The reasoning is that there is no bothersome left hand, the bow divisions are clear, you only work on two strings at a time so attention can be paid to nice smooth crossing, and well considered mm markings are given. If you worked on this for about 20 minutes a day I think your bowing would miraculously improve, with or without prunes,



March 28, 2004 at 08:20 PM · sorry you're probabely right buri, i didnt read the initial post very carefully it seems, however just hte first measure of rode 8 is pretty darn easy, so i stand by that,

March 29, 2004 at 12:06 AM · Greetings,

Owen, i like this minimalist approach. One could pick individual notes at random and after a year or so the Rode /Paginin Caprices would be finished,

Keep plugging the Tartini though. It is a very important work,



March 29, 2004 at 07:01 PM · ah, the tartini, i can play all of the variations except 45, and its starting to irritate me

March 30, 2004 at 11:55 PM · Hello all,

thank you so much for your suggestions. I had a lesson yesterday, and my teacher gave me lots of bowings to do.

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