I need help with Bartok

February 27, 2005 at 12:49 AM · I need help! I don't know how to play the harmonics in the 3rd movement of Bartoks "Roumanian Folk Dances". My teacher is not sure either. I can play the other movements, but not the doublestops where 1 note is a harmonic . Can anyone help?

Replies (50)

February 27, 2005 at 11:51 PM · Greetings,

I posted a response to this and some people e mailed me with comments so i didn`t imagine it. I wonder where it went?;)

The prune thickens,


February 28, 2005 at 01:05 AM · Theresa, play d-minor harmonic scale using the only first finger (if this Romanian Dance is in d-minor. Don't remember... but use same key in which the piece is written). Also, play a lot same scale in octaves and form a perfect intonation. There was a thread before about harmonics... don't remember who wrote it in response about importance of right amount of bow's preasure and about 'stretching' slight higher 4th finger (because it touches the string from the left side of finger's pad). Find this topic in the archive.

Good luck!

February 28, 2005 at 01:32 AM · I didn't see Buri's comment, but if it was deleted, perhaps he touched the same nerve I'm about to.

I really hate to seem rude or presumptuous, but I have to wonder about someone who accepts money to teach the violin to someone advanced enough to play the Bartok Rumanian Folk Dances, but doesn't know how to play artificial harmonics. You really may need to consider changing teachers.

I'm sorry if this is intrusive. Good luck.

February 28, 2005 at 02:11 AM · Um, I'm reading *double stop* with artificial harmonic. Does the double stop part make a difference folks?

February 28, 2005 at 02:29 AM · No. I think Theresa is just confused about artificial harmonic notation-- they're not double stops.

February 28, 2005 at 02:42 AM · Oh, I don't have the music so I couldn't tell. In that case I, too, am astonished that a teacher wouldn't know that. I'm not there yet myself, but it's pretty clear cut. It's one of those magical things, like open string vibrato.

February 28, 2005 at 04:04 AM · BTW, Inge, you can make real open string vibrate, if you will place any finger to the heighbour string and vibrate it while playing an open string.

February 28, 2005 at 05:10 AM · Sorry, I just found my mistake in my first responce. So instead of 'harmonic minor scale' read 'double-harmonic minor scale' (with augmented 4th and 7th steps). Actually, it is not necessary to play a whole scale. Six first notes would be enough.

February 28, 2005 at 06:12 AM · Thanks, Rita, that's what I was getting at. That's what I meant by the MAGIC of open string vibrato. A person's mouth absolutely flies open when they first are presented with this because it really seems like magic, and when you understand the physics behind it, you realize that the real world does have some very special properties.

February 28, 2005 at 03:04 PM · Interesting. Can I assume that if one were to vibrate on the note one octave above the open string, the vibrato would be stronger?

Oh, and....I played the RFD without my teacher's help or endorsement, and the way the harmonics were done seemed kind of obvious to me at the time. I'm trying to understand why this teacher would present the work to a student if he/she didn't know how to play it.

February 28, 2005 at 03:20 PM · get a different teacher.

February 28, 2005 at 09:15 PM · Please please please practice scales in fourths, Auer said this was incredibly beneificial for the violinist, and I wholeheartedly agree. Then...yell at your teacher, She/he should know what to do.

February 28, 2005 at 10:27 PM · Theresa:

Buri did give you instructions before it disappeared - I saw the post. And since no one else has really explained it to you, here goes:

You press down on the bottom note (the solid one) the same as you always play your notes with your first finger. Then you use your fourth finger very lightly on the top of the string to play the top note - the open diamond (or however it is written in your part). It is not a double stop, it is an ARTIFICIAL HARMONIC and that is how they are written: bottom note played solid, top note played light just like a harmonic normally is.

To make it work, you need to practice only the bottom note first because every note is a shift since they are all first finger. Then after you can do that well, pretend it is all octaves and practice it in octaves (double stops). Then after you can do that well, play the artificial harmonics. Usually it helps to do the harmonic to make your fourth finger almost flat (not arched like usual) and touching the string on the pad of the finger, not the finger tip.

To make the harmonic sound like a real whistle, you need to use a lot of bow speed and play closer to the bridge. Don't worry about playing soft at first - play it like it is written forte. As you can get it good, then experiment with different sounding points so you can use a medium firm bow on the string but get a softer sound. The piano part has the "mood" so you just need to make a clear whistle and good phrasing.

I agree that you need to think about teachers. No teacher should assign a piece that they don't know how to do. But had I said that first, everyone would have jumped down my throat. Hmmmm....


February 28, 2005 at 11:09 PM · Greetings,

it`s a well known beauty spot,



February 28, 2005 at 11:14 PM · ROFL!!!

February 28, 2005 at 11:18 PM · All seriousness aside....I absolutley love the Roumanian Folk Dances, so when I was a kid, I made a transcription for two violins that I thought turned out pretty well. Still have it, too. I will scan it and put it up someplace if anybody wants to try it. (It's better with piano though.)

February 28, 2005 at 11:29 PM · Oooh I'll take it :) Been lookin for some cool duets to play around with with some friends.

February 28, 2005 at 11:34 PM · I would like to add one thing to what Lisa said (and Lisa, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). I've seen it demonstrated though I'm not there myself yet. Your mind in the beginning is balancing out three sets of pressures: the heavier pressure of the note you are playing that Lisa talks about, the ultra-light pressure of the harmonic that the other finger supplies, and then the strong tone from your bow. It's like rubbing your tummy and patting your head. You might feel like bowing lightly and gingerly while trying for the light harmonic touch, and then when you try to get your bow going properly, your light finger becomes heavy and there goes the harmonic, or the bottom finger wants to lighten like the top one and there goes the note. So as I understand it, in the beginning it takes a bit of time to get the three things coordinated and separated. But then that's what the violin is all about: coordination, separation, yet working things into a blended whole.

February 28, 2005 at 11:38 PM · OK Alex-- Give me a day or two, it's twelve pages! The script is a bit childish, I was only about 11 when I made it. I will post the link here when it's ready. For some reason, I did not write-out the harmonics, only the fingered notes on the bottom.

February 28, 2005 at 11:45 PM · Thanks a bunch Scott, I'm looking forward to it :).

One little tidbit that I can add about the harmonics..: Bowing-wise, it helps to use a lot of it, but not too much that its really inconvenient. My rule of thumb is to use a brush stroke with as much bow as possible so as not to turn it into detache.


February 28, 2005 at 11:59 PM · A brush stroke would imply going off the string which I would not recommend. I would do it in the upper half (maybe a little more) between a legato and lance stroke (there should be an accent over that e but I don't know how to do that).

Inge, I agree with everything you said except the harmonic part. I don't try to make my finger light but actually let it rest very relaxed on the string - I just don't press down, but it is as if my finger is "napping" on the string - there is a lot of weight in my finger. ;-)

So actually, my bow kind of feels the same way - relaxed but just resting on the string, not actually pressing down. That way you can made a full sound, but not a loud one, and with a lot of speed it can sound really airy. If the bow rests on the string then it can be stopped at the end of each stroke without cutting off the sound - the string will still resonate, but the bow will make an articulation. (Actually, that is a very advanced detache stroke which needs a lot of control over the four tone factors to sound really good.)


March 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM · Greetings,

just out of interest. Does anyone get really mentally programmatic when playing these pieces.

I find my mind slips into the following grooves:

Mov 1. Creating a panoramic East European lanscape (scenery and culture)

Mov2 Move into the first movement panorama and home in on a bustling market place.

Mov 3. No separation between spirit world and reality. pain, death and loss always intertwined with earth pleasure. Missing ones lover in a far away war of no particular purpose.

Mov4. The death anticipated in the last movemnt is realized and a young woman cries as she views a lonely future ultimately as an old crone in a black shroud shuffling through the market. The other crones join in as the lament gets louder.

Mov5 Season change and young celebrate harvest with naive optimism about the future.

Mov6 Army/death returns and joins the dance. Modifying previous movemnt into the realms of the insane. There is only madness.

Don`t know where i got it from. Oblique references to Garfield cartoons might prove just a s enlightening,



March 1, 2005 at 12:23 AM · Brilliant, Buri. I see nothing but color when I hear this piece, but your themes are at least as good as those of Sheherazade >G<. One star for you.

March 1, 2005 at 12:26 AM · Greetings,

actually I would prefer to see colors!;)



March 1, 2005 at 12:32 AM · Buri, I like your views too. Actually, I see colors only. Lisa, great points. Scott, I'm looking forward to see your arrangement. All you get my stars.

March 1, 2005 at 01:25 AM · I like the metaphor of napping fingers, Lisa. I guess that "light" finger might imply lifting it off the string. I think mine naps. I only do the simple harmonic and the other day I was wondering why I was hearing the harmonic when my finger could not have been on the string but there it was. Fast asleep out there, I suppose. Boy, what a neat image!

March 1, 2005 at 03:06 AM · Yes, Inge:

I try to teach to avoid lifting off the violin as much as possible - with the fingers and the bow. The more dead weight involved in the hands and fingers (and of course, arms, etc.), the more efficient the response and the better the sound.

Buri, clearly you did not take folk dancing in elementary school!! lol


March 1, 2005 at 03:10 AM · Greeitngs,

if it ain`t an advanced school I ain`t interested,


Buri the hopping prune

March 1, 2005 at 03:15 AM · LOL

All folk dancing ain't Appalachian hon.


March 1, 2005 at 03:16 AM · Greetings,

I can strip the willow with the best of `em,



PS a bit of Devonshire Tanglefoot helps first though...

March 1, 2005 at 06:58 AM ·

March 1, 2005 at 05:06 AM · >All folk dancing ain't Appalachian<

For many years I was lighting designer and stage manager for The Radost Folk Ensemble in Seattle. (Eastern European dancing and music.) Lighting cues came at certain movements and time points. For example, Lights 20 /DC twirl, count 3 measures of 7/4, 10 measures of 11/4. I think I lost track a long time ago....

March 1, 2005 at 03:59 PM · Here's the transription. My caveats, again: It's messy because I was only eleven when I did it with my fountain pen. The poor second vioinist gets a workout on double and triple-stops. I strongly advise thet you NUMBER the SHEETS as they come off the printer-- the original pages were oversize and so the page numbers have been cut off. Total download is 1.44 MBs (guaranteed virus-free). Copy and paste the link into your browser, download, and unzip.


March 1, 2005 at 04:52 PM · Thanks to all those who gave me helpful advice!! I'm glad I have until mid June to learn the piece :) !

P.s. It is hard to find a teacher in Milwaukee that is reasonable,will fit my schedule with thiers, and hey- it is Milwaukee, a bad place for musicians that aren't hacks.

March 1, 2005 at 05:09 PM · Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony is a fantastic violinist!! I'm sure there are others in the section that are also good. But if you want to play at your best, I'd give Frank a call and do what you can to adjust to his schedule.



March 2, 2005 at 03:47 AM · Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has had a pretty respectable music program in its own right (apart from Madison, I mean) for a long time now, hasn't it?

March 2, 2005 at 04:55 AM · Scott, it was great. I looked through all your score and wanted to play it, (especially 2nd violin part) but it was too late. It sounded in my head, it was true Bartok. You saved all Bartok's rhythms and chromatic modes what related to Romanian folk music, such as chromatic Ionian with raised 4th and lowered 7th steps and chromatic Lydian with raised 2nd step. You were already professional at your eleven. Thank you.

March 2, 2005 at 04:09 PM · Why thank you, Rita, that's very kind of you. I really did little except to copy the parts from the piano version (insanely good version by Lili Krause on records) and tranpose certain bass notes up when necessary. The very spare original orchestration lent itself perfectly to violin; it's Bartok's fault really. I would never presume to change his music. Oh, BTW, sorry about all the dumb fingerings in the 2nd violin part; my musical partner in crime in those days put them in.

March 3, 2005 at 05:46 PM · Frank Almond gives lessons? I didn't even know that! Yes UWM does have a good music program since they are now partners with the Milwaukee Conservatory. Problem- I can't afford it!

March 3, 2005 at 06:58 PM · He might! I don't know for sure but it is worth a phone call. Usually a player supplements orchestra income with lessons, unless he's a concertmaster of another orchestra in another city also. But there have to be some really decent player/teachers in that Symphony with varying charges for lessons.


March 10, 2005 at 05:05 PM · Everything is working great!!! Thanks again to everyones helpful advice! That is a really cool technique that I will even use in my own music,and with my band once I get better at it. I always thought harmonics were cool. Now I know another way to play more. I wonder if that technique would work on the guitar too...

March 10, 2005 at 06:22 PM · You can do harmonics on the guitar on open strings, but I don't know if the frets wouldn't get in the way for this kind of harmonic.

March 10, 2005 at 07:54 PM · To hop back to the topic of Frank Almond, I don't know if this is still current, but according to the listing of former DeLay students in Teaching Genius, he taught at Texas Christian University. Kind of a long commute. Anyway, that at least means he used to teach.

September 20, 2016 at 07:58 PM · Its a long time since this thread was used, but I hope someone can help. My text of the third movement of the Bartok has mordants in a number of bars. If you use your fourth finger for the harmonic, how can to do the mordant please ?

Chris Greenhill, Beccles, Suffolk, England

September 20, 2016 at 08:05 PM · You've got to slide both 1 and 4 together (quickly up and back) in order to get the effect of the mordant!

September 20, 2016 at 08:29 PM · Heifetz would finger it. LOL

September 20, 2016 at 09:03 PM · Pretty sure even Heifetz would slide as that gives the proper effect. :-)

September 20, 2016 at 10:56 PM · I help students prepare for that quick slide by having them practice vibrating the long notes in the harmonic passage in the Monti Czardas (by sliding back and forth very quickly and lightly). :)

September 21, 2016 at 03:21 AM · Would Heifetz have played Bartok at all?

September 21, 2016 at 04:17 AM · I'm still stuck on a teacher not knowing how to play or teach the false harmonics. Pro tip: if you don't know how to play the piece your student is working on, it's time to pass your student along to another teacher.

Hopefully the OP's teacher has learned how to play the third Rumanian dance sometime in the past eleven years.

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