Spiccato/Sautille and Kayser Etude 24

Edited: June 29, 2018, 12:07 AM · One of the pieces I am playing for my upcoming audition is Kayser's etude no. 24. I can play it very quickly with detache strokes and I've seen many videos online of students playing the etude with detache and not the bowing indicated in the book. I've been struggling with my spiccato bowing and my teacher seems to have a difficult time helping me learn it. I've spent a lot of time online viewing tutorial videos and I've spent quite a bit of time myself experimenting with my violin and bow trying to get a good sound.

First of all, recognizing that spiccato and sautille are not the same thing, which bowing do you think is appropriate for this etude? For the fast tempo I'm leaning toward playing with a sautille stroke.

Second, I'd appreciate any and all advice concerning both strokes.

As far as I can tell the major difference between the two is the active vs "passive" nature of the strokes. According to violin master class the sautille is closer to a tremolo stroke but toward the middle of the bow where the bow will start to bounce on it's own. The spiccato however seems to be more "active" in the sense that each stroke is deliberate for each note and the bow is "thrown" against the string one by one rather than the seemingly constant motion of the sautille. My teacher seems to insist on the lower third of the bow being used for the spiccato, but at faster tempos I consistently gravitate toward the middle of the bow or the tone becomes too choppy and loses it's rhythm.

Another question I have regarding the bows is the thumb as index finger for the spiccato and the pinky for the sautille. I've read some players lift the pinky for the sautille, would you recommend this or keep it down. As for the spiccato people seem to have different opinions on whether or not to increase or decrease the pressure on the thumb and index figure when doing this stroke, what do you suggest?

Thank you.

Replies (5)

June 27, 2018, 11:35 PM · Mid-bow sautille really won't work for octaves because it's a bit too "pecky" to effectively grab both strings (and also, the rebound that the strings give when playing 2 strings at once is less than only one string, so you can't use the natural springiness of the bow as effectively anyways).

For this reason, you could play sautille in this application closer to the balance point of the bow, or even a bit under the balance point (towards the frog) by an inch or two. But to do this well, it's important to focus on "throwing" your bow hand back and forth by keeping the wrist very relaxed and using elbow actuation.

In fast, mid-bow sautille, we primarily use wrist and finger motion to get the bow going. But with the balance point or frog sautille, it will involve a lot more elbow motion because each sautille stroke will be longer in length than they would be at the middle of the bow. Thus, you should also expect that it will sound more legato, with more time actually spent ON the string during each stroke, even though the bow will still be leaving the string.

Try practicing this style of sautille by playing 16th notes at the balance point (or slightly below it) on the string (detache) BUT doing so with a "limp wrist" or a "lazy wrist" and then taking note of how the bow naturally leaves the string on its own.


Edited: June 28, 2018, 2:05 PM · Playing off the string is a big subject. I'd contribute the following random observations.

1) Perhaps the most valuable sautille is a very horizontal stroke where the bow hair grabs and creates the articulation, the "click" without the bow actually leaving the string. Master that, and then it is a lot easier to move on to string crossings. A high bouncing sautille is very hard to control so not so useful in passagework. Work on the least bounce you can get and still get the sautille effect in your sound.

2) Best to learn this without a special grip, because passagework will usually not give you time to change grips for different strokes. If you have a good grip and relaxed fingers, you can do it without changing grip.

3) The key sub-skill to the skill of playing off the string is strong, flexible fingers and the softest possible grip. Look up exercises for finger strength/flexibility -- there are lots of ways to do it including with a pencil.

4) Colle is a really useful bow stroke in its own right, but a good precursor to sautille/staccato because you are controlling the bow with the lightest possible touch and using your fingers in the stroke.

5) If you can learn sautille in a few weeks for an audition, you're better than me. It took me years and it will be years more before I can play off the string with mixed bowings and lots of string crossings (i.e. Beethoven)

6) Examine whether sautille is really what you're aiming for with the music or whether you are doing it to show off. In fact at the highest levels of violin playing today, detache is cool again and excessively percussive off the string playing in, say, Mozart or Beethoven or Haydn is frowned upon.

Sautille projects brilliance but in a lot of music you don't want brilliance, that's not what the music is about. Playing Mozart passagework with a warm, effortless detache -- it's hard to beat that in my opinion.

June 29, 2018, 12:07 AM · Thank you both for the advice. I think the biggest issue I am having is that my right hand is far to stiff and I need to work on developing flexibility in my wrist for these strokes. Also I should note I accidentally wrote Kreutzer in the title originally, but the etude I am studying is Kayser 24 not Kreutzer, what bow stroke do you think is appropriate to play for that piece?

This seems to be a good performance of it, what would you call this bowing ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9OYqQGSN9U

June 29, 2018, 2:54 AM · You may find this of help, or not.
Spiccato
1. Performed in the middle to lower part of the bow.
2. The hand is in down bow position.(Down Bow Position: (suppination) fingers curved, balancing the weight of the tip of the bow with the little finger.)
3. On the down bow the bow is dropped onto the string, on the up bow the bow is lifted.
4. Initially the student should swing his arm in a big, arc-like motion, rather like a pendulum. Start with big arcs and gradually make the arc smaller and smaller, which will increase the speed of the spicatto.
5. The action of the fingers is neither passive, nor too active. To demonstrate that the fingers merely respond to the bow’s encounter with the string:
1. Tell the student to hold the bow vertically in the air. Then tell him to gently bump the center bout of the violin against the bow. If the fingers are flexible and passive, the bow will rebound and fall back to the violin, and the fingers will remain passive.
2. Then instruct the student to bump the e string against the bow,
recreating the same feeling.
6. To demonstrate the active finger motion (Dounis exercise):
1. Hold a pencil in your hand in bowing position
2. Push the pencil down with the first, then the 4th finger. Do not move the forearm.
3. Do the same with the bow in the hand (holding it at the balance point if you wish).
4. Then drop the bow on the G string, down bow. On the rebound lift the bow upward: the tip of the bow drops. On the up bow, peck the bow on the E string . On the rebound lift the bow upward: the tip of the bow
goes up. Use large figure eight motions to begin with, gradually decrease the motion.
5. Do the same as #4, but stay on the G string.
7. To demonstrate the amount of finger activity and to achieve a feeling of control, tell the student to practice spicatto on the side of the violin (on the center bout).
8. If the student's wrist is too rigid, or to achieve the feeling of a "weightless" bow, tell the student to "cradle" the bow at the balance point, without the thumb. Then add the thumb and attempt the spicatto. The student should then move back to the normal playing position, recreating the same feeling in his hand. The bow exerts more weight against the little finger when held at the frog.
Sautille´ (very fast spiccato)
1. Performed a few inches above the balance point of the bow.
2. The fingers are in down bow position. The hands is at right angles to the bow. 3. Use an up and down wrist motion. The motion is the same as tapping, or knocking on a door. There should be no arm movement, except for changing string levels.
4. The student should practice the tapping motion with his hands on a table, without the bow, and then with the bow.
5. Hold the bow firmly.
6. The bow remains on the string, but the stick bounces. If the bow stroke is done correctly the tip of the bow will move up and down.
7. Beware of lifting the elbow, this will put you into up bow position.
8. The principle of this bowing may initially be taught with the hand in up bow position. (Up Bow Position: (pronation)The position the fingers take if you move the bow hold to the very tip of the bow: much weight on the first and second finger, fingers almost straight.)If done properly, the tip of the bow will not go up and down, but will remain on one plane. This bowing is called the eraser stroke.
June 30, 2018, 3:31 PM · Spiccato vs. Sautille ? Perhaps I am not advanced enough to appreciate the distinctions. One word is Italian, the other French. For me there is a gradual transition between the high, slow, loud, arm bounce, and the fast, light, mostly finger bounce. The amount of horizontal motion also varies. The bow wants to bounce; The string and the bow act like springs, and gravity does most of the work. Some players have trouble because their bow hold is too firm or locked. Others have trouble preventing it from bouncing. Go outside an dribble a basketball; High, slow, mostly with the arm, Then gradually get lower, faster, and let the fingers take over.

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