Rules Of Bowing

August 17, 2019, 12:52 PM · I know this is a very basic question, but I need help with it anyway. First, most of my training has been rather informal with a guy who is more of a fiddler. Now I am taking lessons from a Classically trained teacher and we began in Suzuki Book 2. So far, there seems to be a rule that, unless there is a V above the first note of a measure, each measure begins with a down bow. But I am working, on my own, with some Violin/Piano Hymn arrangements in the book “Worship The King.” On some of the songs, it seems that the only way to follow that rule, it would require a lot of hook bows. So what are the rules about knowing if every measure must begin with a hook now? Does a song in 3/4 time follow the down bow on every first note of the measure rule?

Replies (17)

August 17, 2019, 12:57 PM · From my understanding, and what my teacher has said, "the rule of down bow" applies only when the beat is strong
Edited: August 17, 2019, 6:38 PM · In your case, with playing
hymns, it is more important that your playing expresses the feeling of the music. You can arrange the bowing that you think achieves that. In Suzuki, bowings are generally marked, but can be altered or experimented with to express the musical intention you wish. There is not actual rule, unless your teacher or an etude wants you to practice a certain way.
Edited: August 17, 2019, 3:14 PM · There are no absolute rules on the down & up of bowing, only the general principle already mentioned that the strong notes get the down bow, so the first beat of the measure gets a down bow more often than up. In 3/4 time (like a waltz) with straight quarter notes you have the choice of down-up-up, or, down-up-down, then up-down-up in the next measure. You are allowed to design your own bowings, only a few composers knew enough to indicate bowings (Stravinsky, Bartok...) Historical note, I read somewhere that our bowing symbols are abbreviations from the French words noble (strong) and Vile (weak).
August 17, 2019, 3:59 PM · Joel's right.
The best description I've heard is that people spend three years at college learning to make no difference between a down bow and an up bow - and the rest of their career arguing about it!
Basically, I love doing bowings. It's a logical exercise.
Some notes HAVE to be an a down bow, or an up bow. Put that in and work back to the start of the passage.
Also think how you'd sing it.
August 17, 2019, 4:46 PM · You are way overthinking this. :-)

Do whatever works for you on the hymns.

Edited: August 19, 2019, 1:30 PM · Laziness and old age have led me to this in bowing practice:

However I may have started bowing a piece upon first sight reading it, I eventually work it out "backwards." That is, if need be I play crescendos upbow and decrescendos downbow and up to that part of the music I bow appropriately to get to those bowings.

In orchestra, when I have bowed my parts that way I find the rest of the section eventually adopts them whether or not I'm sitting first chair for that set. It just makes sense!

It is my understanding that future virtuosos are trained to bow things the sensible way and then train to bow them in the opposite way. Never having had any such illusions about my future, I never bothered with that.

Edited: August 17, 2019, 7:25 PM · When asked about his thoughts on bowing, Stephane Grappelli replied,
"The bow must go up an down."
Up and down, back and forth, maybe not a lot of options.
Edited: August 18, 2019, 12:20 AM · continued,-- and a trick I learned from a Scottish fiddler. After you have worked out your personal bowings for a solo piece, do at least one practice session doing the whole thing in reverse bowings. Three good things can happen: You might discover something that works better. You learn that if you your bowing directions get switched in a performance, you will survive, you will be OK until the next rest. A backwards, non-traditional bowing frequently sounds better, because you are working harder.
August 18, 2019, 9:01 AM · Don't you need to follow rules when you are training.? Isn't that how you acquire the skills to break them.? Instead of just doing hook strokes all the time, try some retake bowings..?
August 18, 2019, 1:27 PM · Henry has got a point. Some times downbows will need an accent for whatever reason and its easier to do that at the frog than at the point so retakes may be necessary
Edited: August 19, 2019, 1:03 PM · Re: Rules of Bowing ~

To ~ Randall Runion

When first beginning the Violin, many prescribe strict & restrictive (later on) 'Rules of Bowing' which are good willed but has anyone thought about The Music and The Story which in this instance, are Hymns praising God?

No Rules exist when expressing one's inner spiritual feelings excepting soft brushing bowing & if you are a moderate beginner, Sing your Hymns aloud to observe where you take pauses for breath's which are usually where the words stop & then go forward. The use of a Down or Up (V) bow is being
over thought at this point & can tie your natural feelings up in your thoughts ~

As a veteran Concert Artist, I sense something here that a profoundly wise teacher (the quiet author of the original El Sistema approach) once said: "Don't Think Too Much!" How about a paraphrase like 'Let Bow & Let God' guide your bowing in Hymns .. Extricate your thinking from any 'Rules of Bowing' (and I studied privately with The World's Greatest Violinist Bow Master, Nathan Milstein, a long time) to bow freely in Praise of Him . . .

Easy as you Bow ~

Elisabeth Matesky

August 24, 2019, 4:53 AM · Very long printed slurs are for phrasing, not bowing!
August 27, 2019, 1:44 AM · But you might find the occasional slur works better than an up up before some strong beats, especially in slow navigational hymns. Like with fiddling, you don't want do the same bowing in every bar, though.
Edited: August 27, 2019, 10:08 AM · There may be no "rules", but there certainly are best practices, which seems to be more related to where you want to be on your bow and how you will get there. Playing at the tip, the frog, or the bouncey middle points are required for specific techniques and/or dynamics. Up or Down bows decisions are made to get you where you need to be to apply the desired technique/dynamic. Whereas a down bow on the down beat is a defacto default bowing, it is not a hard and fast rule by any mean, other factors dictate which direction you should bow at any given time.
August 27, 2019, 10:54 PM · If you listen to Oistrakh or Heifetz, well, good luck determining whether they're playing upbow or downbow! You make it work according to your own scheme. If you have a teacher you can get some advice. Otherwise I suggest don't take any prisoners and just try to sound good.
August 27, 2019, 11:48 PM · When I used the term “hook bowing,” I think I may have used the wrong term. What I meant was “bow circle” where you play a down bow, lift the bow off the strings, reposition the bow and then play another down bow. Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. You guys are so kind to help out an old guy who is trying to learn to play late in life.
August 28, 2019, 4:18 AM · Hi Randall,

What you're describing is what I'd term a 'retake' - which is a good technique to develop, but isn't appropriate for all these circumstances. It inherently causes a break in the sound while you do it which is great when you want to articulate, and no use at all if you are trying to keep everything smooth and legato.

For Suzuki Book 2 I'd mainly suggest you just go down up down up down ... unless something else is marked. The only 'convention' is that you start a piece on a down unless otherwise marked

For simple music in 3/4 I'd normally either bow it out (down up down up...) or if it's a waltz or something else with a pronounced beat, then do down up-up down up-up.

But your objective at this stage of learning should be to make a clear, consistent, smooth sound regardless of whether you are going up or down :)

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