Sautille and Suzuki book 4

Edited: June 14, 2019, 2:20 AM · So we have reached Perpetual motion, which has sautille in it. At least is supposed to be played with sautille. And sautille is hard and in fact our teacher said that it is completely ok to play it without sautille, which I completely agree my daughter being only 6.

Perpetual motion used to be in book 5, so why an earth has it been moved to book 4? What it the point as I would bet that only a few kids can play sautille at the time they reach the piece. I just dont understand the teaching logic here. Maybe there are some here who could shread some light in this matter?

In my mind moving to Bach double after Vivaldi would be a very logical technical move but this perpetual motion just does not seem to fit here. But there must be some reason I just dont understand.

Also if anyone have practise ideas for the sautille, I would gladly hear them :) Sautille seems much more difficult thatn a good vibrato and it took a year for my girl to develop a good vibrato.

Sure I myself can produce some kind of sautille with my big hands and long fingers and big heavy full size bow, but doing it with a 1/8 violin with small fingers looks quite hard.

Replies (13)

June 14, 2019, 2:14 AM · Every kid I've taught has learned Sautille by the end of the Seitz concertos. I don't see it as being that difficult of a technique, based on how quickly kids have learned it (in my experience). I would characterize it as 5x-10x easier to learn than a decent vibrato.

However, I've never had someone as young as 6 reach that level. My guess is that it's a heck of a lot harder to do sautille with such a small bow.

I don't think the Suzuki method is probably expecting anyone at that level to be still using such a small bow. Every method has it strengths and weaknesses, so this is one of those.

I find sautille comes from accepting a "sloppy" bouncing that we gradually turn into something more refined. If we're starting by trying to do a perfect sautille initiated by only the tiniest movements, it can be impossible to get any momentum. It's hard for me to explain via typing exactly how I get students to do it (especially because in person, I'll change the method if it's not working easily), but here's a shortened, general idea of what I do:

1) Without bow in hand, flop the right hand limply around, using only elbow actuation. The hand/wrist should simply be a victim of the elbow's motion, rather than actively involved. There shouldn't be any shoulder actuation. This should be wild flopping, without any semblance of control.

2) With violin held so that the strings are *level* (scroll higher than normal), hold bow in hand, grabbing as loosely as possible, and do the same motion as step #1. IMPORTANT: the bow needs to be right around the balance point. Keep in mind, at this point we're not trying to really do anything except flop the hand around while stilling managing to hold onto the bow. We're *not* trying to make a good sound or even attempt a correct sautille at this point. The violin scroll remaining *up* is vital here, so that the bow doesn't wander far out over the fingerboard (which would lead to tension in the right hand when we tried to pull it back).

3) Now, let pinky and ring finger lift off of bow, and do the same motion as #2, except smaller movements. Not too small though; we still want some flopping around. At this point, the bow should definitely be bouncing, although probably not controlled. If it's not bouncing, you may try moving the bow's contact point closer to the frog. Go 1/2" closer and see if it starts bouncing. Then another 1/2". Repeat until you find the bouncing point.

4) Use motion #3 to get the motion going via the elbow, and then try to keep the motion going by actuating the wrist at some point. So in essence, we're using the elbow to "kickstart" the wrist into realizing what it has to do, and then we'll cut out the middleman and just do the motion with the wrist. However, we shouldn't try to *not* move the elbow. There will still be some elbow movement when we're relaxed, even if the elbow isn't the dominant factor anymore. Trying to lock the elbow from moving will cause tension and that won't work in this instance.

5) Try doing sautille with only the wrist, and without kickstarting it with the elbow. Start the bow at the bouncing point, on the string, and move the wrist *up and down*, not side to side! However, this should be done with the back of the hand tilted towards the violin a bit (which will be easier if the pinky and ring finger are lifted off the bow).

6) From this point, it's important to realize that slower sautille must be done closer to the frog, and faster sautille must occur more towards the tip (although rarely much past the middle.... sort of depends on the bow though). So to practice different speeds of sautille, the first thing we think about is "where am I playing this in the bow?" If, at a given speed, the bow still isn't bouncing, move the contact point closer to the frog. On the other hand, if the bouncing is too wild, it probably needs to be moved towards the tip. With either direction, though, don't adjust more than 1/2" at a time. Over time we will naturally memorize which sautille speed corresponds with which contact point.

As a special note, since your kid is only 6 and using a tiny bow, my guess is that putting some weight on the *tip* of the bow would be helpful. Maybe a dime or a penny taped on the very end.

June 14, 2019, 10:02 AM · Given that in Japan, it wasn't unusual for kids to reach book 4 by age 6, it's probably not considered unrealistic.

The trick to sautille is that it practically happens by itself. You practice in detache and when it gets fast enough, it will come off the string. It's also possible to play the Bohm spiccato at a slower tempo.

My impression is that Suzuki has moved the teaching of more advanced bowing techniques earlier, with the revised editions. Off-the-string strokes are needed by kids playing in youth orchestras. I imagine they also serve a forcing-function purpose -- if your bow hold is screwed up, you won't be able to do these strokes, so it enforces a place of correction.

Edited: June 14, 2019, 10:15 AM · One of the highlights of the Suzuki program is that many of the pieces in book 1 can be used as studies. So my recommendation is to go with your teacher's suggestion that "The Bomb" (Bohm Perpetuo Mobile) be learned for the notes and not the bowing technique -- at this point. Meanwhile, go back to the Perpetual Motion in Book 1 and use that as a study to approach sautille gradually. The advantage is that your child will not have to think about the left hand at all. Eventually, the bow will lift off by itself and your child will discover on her own how to make (allow) that to happen. Unless, as was suggested, the equipment is holding her back, she will probably learn this just by messing around. That's what little kids do. At the age of 6, this is not something to agonize over.
June 14, 2019, 11:24 AM · Erik, would you be opposed to posting a link to a video of your method? I'm quite curious, and a visual learner. It's hard for me to visualize each step without actually seeing it.

That being said, I wonder if I already can do sautille, but never learned the name of it. Does it come naturally as a player develops, or is it a skill that is intentionally taught?

June 14, 2019, 1:00 PM · I would not expect any student in Book 4 to have a well-developed sautille or spiccato. Almost every single child I have heard play the Bohm PM has played it at least somewhat on the string. Google some kids (or Suzuki teachers) on YouTube and you will see this is the norm. That's not to say that you shouldn't be working on the eventual bowstroke and then incorporating it back in. But I would learn it slowly on the string first.
June 14, 2019, 1:16 PM · The importance of the bow's qualities cannot be over emphasized!

20 years ago I had a young adult student who was returning to violin playing after some time off. She was completely frustrated trying to sautille. She appeared to be doing everything corretly. You would thing her bow, which had a decent name: "W. Siefert" (a workshop bow from the Lothar Siefert shop) would be no problem at all - but it was impossible. I handed her a "Glasser Comosite" bow (a pre CF but post fiberglass $100 product of the Glasser company) and immediately she produced a lovely sautille. That bow handled really well, but unfortunately did not produce a good tone.

June 14, 2019, 1:51 PM · I suspect that many book 4 students don't play the Bohm fast enough to get a sautille, as opposed to a brush stroke.
June 14, 2019, 3:07 PM · I would be surprised if that was the case, Lydia, since the songs that precede it require significant speed in some parts, unless the students are just allowed to pass them way under-tempo? The bohm is fast but most of the speed is in the right arm, which I think makes it much easier.

On the other hand, maybe what you consider to still be in the realm of "brush strokes" I would be considering sautille.

Kristen, I have been requested to make videos so many times that I've lost count! But I'm way too lazy for that, especially when people like Professor V do it better.

My videos wouldn't be nearly as informative unless I was able to record me actually getting a student to do the technique (a sort of "case study" video series). But that would require a consenting student and a lot of extra time, and that's getting into complicated territory. Maybe I'll do it after my shoulder rest is fully designed and on the market.

Sort of on topic once again: I think at least attempting sautille is important because it's the first time we learn to "throw and catch" the bow, which yields an understanding of suppleness and articulation that usually hasn't been learned up to that point. Sautille can't be "forced" with tension like some other bow techniques. This carries over into the quality of *all* bowing, from martele to legato, and is also very important when we need to "throw" the bow to cover ground quickly without unintentional accents.

Another thought for the OP: have you examined the bow grip? If sautille isn't even remotely happening it's often because the grip is too tight, or the fingers of the bow hand are spaced too far apart (especially common in young kids, I've found). Try letting all of the fingers touch each other and see if that helps.

June 15, 2019, 6:51 AM · Thanks Erik and everybody else again, I very much value your discussion :)

Yesterday and today we started practise with just trying to loosen the right hand before playing the piece. (Eriks first and second exercises) It is hard to get the right wrist completely loose and still play a string, but the sound of the piece itself was better after this excercise so maybe it just takes some time (she has been playing for a week now).

After all there was bound to come something harder at some point and this just is it. We have sailed book 4 quite easily so far in 5 months and I was just thinking that when are we going to reach a point when there is a harder wall to cross.

Yes, we’ll just do the exercise and play the piece without sautille. After all, one doesnt have to develop sautille at this point if it doesnt come naturally.

Her bow hold is not wide at all, it tends to go more like a russian bowhold, which we are trying to change to a more franco -belgian, but she does have short fingers and a short pinky. But I actually do think at this point that she wont be able to do real sautille with this bow and violin. But she should be able to loosen wrist and do a relaxed stroke which borders on sautille if we just practise and wait.

Lydia, thats a good explanation why they have brought this to book 4, it may well be a better arrangement for a 8-10 year old to learn this at this point whereas it may not be the best of ideas for a 6 year old. Probably that is why our teacher said, it is ok not to be able to do it at this point.

June 15, 2019, 9:05 AM · Erik, I consider a sautille to be what happens when the bow moves fast enough that it simply comes off the string. It's the stroke for, say, the Schumann Scherzo or the 3rd movement of Wieniawski 2.

June 15, 2019, 12:14 PM · Perhaps you should consider getting her a better bow (carbon fiber?). Since you appear to live in Europe, the pedagogical question might be better served if you posted it on the European Suzuki website (European books are different from the books in the USA). Has your teacher taken Suzuki training for Book 4? It seems odd that your teacher isn't insisting on teaching sautille when it is introduced, since so much of Suzuki is structured to introduce techniques that are then built upon in pieces that follow.
June 15, 2019, 12:28 PM · Here is often how I start teaching Sautille to my students:

Find the right part of the bow while doing this (experiment, but near the bounce part)

1) Start by playing repeated open 16th notes on open D or A string at quarter = 120 with a good loose bow grip, small relaxed stroke and good amount of weight in the string (not super light!)

2) now do the same speed but alternate DADADADADA etc.. I.e. play on two alternating strings, with the lower one first. While doing this, only move the wrist for the string crossing (I hold their elbow/arm in place if need be). Again at 120. This teaches the wrist flip or rotation that Eric mentioned.

3) Now aim for the exact same wrist motion as in No. 2 but go back to playin only on one string (back to No. 1 but with different technique).

Repeat 1-3 with different amount of weigh, looseness of grip, amount of hair (more hair gives more bounce), contact point and location to find what you are looking for.

I find more weight is often better than less (like dribbling a basketball, there has to be some commitment). I hope this makes sense in written out form. Sometimes it's perfectly fine to stay on the string and pick up the sautille later in her studies when other fish have been fried. I'm still teaching it to college students :)

June 15, 2019, 2:51 PM · Yeah, in your situation I would probably add sautille to the "things to try every day" list while continuing to progress through the songs. By this, I mean experiment with open-string sautille for just a few minute every day as part of warmups or as a random diversion in the middle of practice. This will allow it to develop at its own pace, organically, while not getting in the way of the student progressing in other ways. Much like how vibrato keeps developing independently of everything else, and we wouldn't stop our other studies to only do vibrato. Or how up-bow staccato isn't learned in one week, but over many months or years.

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

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Warchal Metronome

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop