Eliminate seesaw bowing motion??

Edited: September 15, 2018, 7:56 PM · When I play a fast phrase with many string crossings, the times the bow is not crossing strings (but rather playing a few notes consecutively on one string) the bow will seesaw, causing accidental hitting of neighbor strings. I have a flatter, fiddle type bridge which makes such mistakes more likely.

I recognize that the reason is because my arm is either recovering from a string crossing and slow to stop the momentum, or my arm is anticipating the next string crossing since there are so many in this passage. How can I train my arm to somehow instantly lock into one plane of bow movement right after a string crossing, and retain this planar motion all the way up until the next string crossing, and eliminate the sloppy seesaw bowing?

The passage is m. 75-82 from #13 of Fiorillo's Thirty-Six Studies or Caprices

Thank you!

Replies (6)

Edited: September 15, 2018, 9:51 PM · There is a trick that often helps in these situations: Play the passage without the left hand. Just play the bowings and string crossings on the open strings without bothering with the fingers of the left hand at all. It sounds weird and it feels weird and takes some getting used to. Start slowly and speed up to tempo as you see fit. This method often cleans up passages like this quite quickly. I learned this from a chamber music coach. None of my violin teachers mentioned it to me. You can learn a lot from chamber music coaches and also from conductors.

Another thing: Make sure you don't use too much bow.

Edited: September 15, 2018, 9:58 PM · Hi Albrecht, thank you! I unfortunately have actually tried that already, and have spent quite a bit of time practicing it that way with little payoff. Maybe I just need to keep practicing that way? I guess a few hours isn't enough to change years' worth of sloppy bowing habits so it would make sense.
September 16, 2018, 12:05 AM · My experience has been that to keep doing the same thing does not produce results in a reasonable time frame. You'll need advice from someone else I am afraid.

One thought I had comes from your analysis of the situation: "because my arm is either recovering from a string crossing and slow to stop the momentum". That might be because you are using more energy than necessary. Try to make every movement as small as possible.

You don't mention a teacher. Are you studying Fiorillo on your own? A teacher would be preferable to someone on this forum: The teacher can watch you and will have a better chance at a correct diagnosis.

Interestingly I remember this etude because of the octaves with which I had as much (or more) trouble as you with the string crossings. I don't remember stumbling over this and similar passages (it has been almost 50 years though to be honest). Everyone has their own problems it seems.

September 16, 2018, 12:16 AM · The angular difference between adjacent strings is really quite small. When things are fast, or when you change strings for only one note, the elbow doesn't have to move. You make the string change with wrist and finger motion.
Edited: September 16, 2018, 12:00 PM · Taking a closer look at that spot in Fiorillo #13. That is an example of "against the grain" or contrary motion string change; down-bow on the upper string, up-bow on the lower string. It is a more awkward, complex motion then the reverse pattern. My solution to that common problem is to place the bow slightly lower than the balance point, so that you feel some weight trying to pull the bow to the lower string. Then have the elbow stable at the level of the upper string, raise the hand to play the lower string note. OR: Have the elbow at the level of the lower string and drop the hand to catch the upper string. Whatever works for you. An easier fiddle tune that does that is "Ragtime Annie" Hope that made sense~jq
September 16, 2018, 12:54 PM · Joel, that does make sense, thank you so much for your help!!


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