How do you regulate bow speed to express nuance?

October 19, 2004 at 05:38 AM · Greetings,

to what extent do you agree/disagree with the following? Do you work consciously at this? Were you taught this way? Are their other options? Is it the voice of a dinosaur, prohphet or prune?

`Dynamic nuances should be obtained by different pressures of the fingers on the stick and not by irregular divisions of the bow.`

Capet-Superior Bowing Technique

Replies (9)

October 19, 2004 at 06:35 AM · Have to disagree there. The enormous variety of violin nuance and color is made possible through several factors individually, such as bow/hand pressure, bow speed, bow placement between bridge and fingerboard, bow tilt and bow division. In the left hand, fingerings, the use or non-use of vibrato, the speed of the vibrato used, the amplitude of the vibrato used, and the fingertip vs. fingerpad placement can also all affect the color created, though not dynamics as such. However, pressure and speed which could otherwise result in a scratchy sound can be "oiled" with the right amount of vibrato, so I suppose one could say that left hand elements can impact the possibilities available to the right hand. When one factors in the variations possible with mix-'n-match strategies of all the abovementioned elements, one can see that reducing nuance considerations to only pressure is oversimplification at its worst.

October 19, 2004 at 06:58 AM · Greetings,

thanks Emil. My feeling was that this is something one might begin with. I am trying to find out how far one can go with Capet given that he seemed to be pursuing a somewhat different road. Two obvious conflict with a lot of todays great players are a) the insistence of the bow being parallel to the bridge as absolutley fundamental and b) the use of horizonatl interaction between forefinger and little finger in the upper half to produce sound. I am still scratching my head....

Incidentally, there is one passage from Auer`s book that has been bugging me for years. What is your take on his idea that tone production comes from the wrist?



October 19, 2004 at 12:29 PM · Hi Buri,

I don't follow Mr. Capet's rule. Galamian's book contains a paragraph about how bow speed, pressure and their compound effect influence tone production. A strict rule like Capet's is probably wrong unless for a very limited musical repertoire.

My teacher encourages me to use bow speed and pressure - sometimes just the one, sometimes just the other, sometimes both, depending on the musical goal. If, e.g. bow speed is increased just to get more overtones, of course it is necessary to conciously take out weight in order to avoid an unintended crescendo.

I agree with Emil that there's a lot more to bow technique than can be fitted into one sentence.

Bye, Juergen

October 19, 2004 at 12:34 PM · I have to agree. This past summer I studied with the Muir String Quartet and their first violinist, Peter Zazofsky, who by the way was a Galamian student who in turn studied with Capet, kept reminding me that subtle nuances and phrases should be prepared by the thumb and middle finger in the right hand. He kept repeating "It's right here.." as he points to his thumb and middle finger. Capet taught the ideals of the French-Belgian school which emphasizes the so-called "ring" - the thumb and middle finger work in synergy forming a ring around the bow, which was passed down through the likes of Galamian and Jascha Brodsky.

I agree with Emil in that one wants a large arsenal of techinques to produce variety, but I think what Capet was trying to achieve was focusing on the most basic concept of bow technique. When one embraces the bow technique, other shades of color through other means can be employed.

October 19, 2004 at 12:49 PM · First we have to decide exactly what aspects of the sound are being referred to by "Dynamic nuances"

A nuance is usually something subtle, a bit of extra sound on one note or maybe in the middle of a longer note.

Working with bow speed will certainly give broader dynamic control. but for the local nuance, I tend to agree with Capet.


October 19, 2004 at 08:50 PM · the approach was a lot different back then, also he played on gut strings which do react differently to an extent. i definetely agree about the bow being parallel, most high level players understand this and alter the angle depending on whatever they're trying to do. delay made her students do the "j-stroke" i know.

October 19, 2004 at 10:04 PM · Buri, to answer your question about "have we lost it" directly, I'd say, not where I am. I regard the calculus of bow pressure and speed to be one of the most important among the many elements of sound production listed by others, and my teacher emphasizes it heavily. I wonder which of her teachers that emphasis came from, if any? They include Ribeiro and Zeitlin.

October 19, 2004 at 10:54 PM · if im interpreting ur "j stroke" correctly, then i was always told to do a "C stroke" more like a C with a long middle

October 19, 2004 at 11:40 PM · Greetings,

thanks for your comments everyone. I am really trying to get to the bottom of whetehr or not this is just one heuristic or Capet really believed this was one of the fundamental rules of bowing technique. It just doesn`t make sense to me at the moment. For instance, the moment you have an agogic accent the bow speed is going to change somewhere. Or, assuming a passage reuqires a number of notes to be stressed or de stressed the constant bow speed plus pressure change also requires a change in sound point so he is going to have to break his other basic maxim of parallelism. I think there is some connection with the use of gut strings, as Owen pointed out, but also it occured to me that for all his soloistic ability Capet was `a chamber music player` and I find that requires a much greater uniformity of bow speed bt default. Still, I hope people more familiar with Capet than me can put forward more ideas. I s till think his book is fascinating,



This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine