Waltz Bowing. Rules?

October 13, 2019, 8:43 PM · I just got a whole book of waltzes. They are the simple melody. No embellishments. They are quarter notes, dotted quarter and and eighth, and eighth notes. They are no markings. So, are their any rules about bowing? If so, what are the rules. And by “rules” I am including “best practices.” Thanks

Replies (16)

October 14, 2019, 12:22 PM · The starting point would be; down-bow on beat one, up-bow on beat three. Everything else will depend on the context, and where you put the slurs. Another thing to watch for; some waltz melodies will retain the rhythm of the older Landler or danced Minuet, 3/2 against 3/4. Emphasize that subtle syncopation.
October 15, 2019, 10:09 AM · Is it actually difficult for an experienced player to make an upbow sound the same as a downbow in terms of attack, tone and dynamics?

I understand that some bowing techniques, like a legato staccato, may be easier with one bow direction rather than another.

But is this a real concern for straightforward detache or legato bowing with crescendo/diminuendo or simple articulations like hammered strokes?

Edited: October 15, 2019, 1:22 PM · continued,-- watch a youtube clip of any Vienna Phil. New Years' day concert.
Yes, an experienced, skilled player can do accents at the tip, down-bow crescendos, up-bow diminuendo, even do a whole piece with reverse-direction bowing. In general, the choices of down & up bows is a mix of technical convenience, performance tradition, sound, style, even visual impact.
Edited: October 16, 2019, 8:24 AM · Randall. I’m taking a guess that you have The Waltz Book by Bill Matthiessen - great book, I play from it everyday. It’s written for all instruments so violin specific slurs are not included in the score. But as you have hinted at, saw bowing is not the best way to play waltzes. You need to emphasize the first beat in each measure but don’t overdo that unless you are playing for dancers and beginners at that.

I suggest picking out a waltz that you are NOT familiar with already (Midnight on the Water for example) and find a few versions on YouTube: listen to them and where to slur for artistic needs will become apparent. Another resource is the web site the www.session.org and search under tunes and you will find alternative versions of many of the tunes, some with more embellishments. The Irish waltzes are another great place to get the feel of waltzes,

October 16, 2019, 8:28 AM · Too bad there's no Galamian edition.
October 16, 2019, 8:31 AM · Can’t edit my post above. The web site is www.thesession.org
October 16, 2019, 1:40 PM · A friend who was in Ireland was playing for dances, and the locals wanted to teach him the dances first. He protested and said that he didn't want to dance, just play. They told him that he would understand the tunes better and how they should be played once he learned the dances. He found it enlightening.

If you don't waltz well, you should consider doing so. Once you waltz well, your right hand will follow.

October 17, 2019, 8:21 AM · duane lasley wrote: "They told him that he would understand the tunes better and how they should be played once he learned the dances."

As a long time ballroom dancer, I cannot emphasize enough how important this is for people who want to play dance music for social gatherings.

October 17, 2019, 10:57 AM · In my experience, i agree too.
October 17, 2019, 1:02 PM · All, -Thanks for bringing up the topic of working with dancers. Dancers can be very fussy about tempo. Their choreography will only work within a narrow range of tempo. But, they can have even more differences of opinions than musicians. For the Waltz; the Viennese waltz is fast, the Peruvian waltz is even faster, the American waltz at traditional dances will be slow. When I did a bunch of the Bach unaccompanied dance movements from the Suites I spent some time looking at you-tube clips of period-correct dance clubs in Europe, to get a clue on proper tempos. It was not helpful. They are worse than musicians. There were big differences in tempo and choreography according to the century and country, even differences between clubs doing the same dance culture.
Edited: October 17, 2019, 2:05 PM · There are some Irish set dancers who regrettably enjoy treating the dances, particularly reels and the like, as athletic speed events, and are aided and abetted in this by certain bands, which as a consequence build up a following (literally) of like-minded dancers. I've seen this sort of thing in action - but as a spectator, not as a musician or dancer.

For the record, I don't act, sing, or dance, but I play the violin a little - as The Man didn't (quite) say.

October 17, 2019, 3:20 PM · Generally, when playing rhythm I bow it down, up, up. This works for most waltzes, where the emphasis is on the first beat of a measure. Other dances using triple rhythm have different requirements, though; in the mazurka our orchestra is currently playing, the bowing for us violas is rest, up, DOWN.
October 17, 2019, 5:41 PM · I should also point out a basic difference between professional dance and social dance.

Professionals can fit most dances to fit a wide range of music by halving, doubling or tripling the played tempo in their heads.

Many social dancers need the distinctive beat pattern traditionally associated with a dance, as well as a consistent tempo. Even a singer who phrases the words of the song off the beats for artistic purposes can drive social dancers crazy.

October 18, 2019, 4:55 PM · Wow, guys, things got really busy for me right after I posted, all good, but I am just getting back to the thread. I really, really do appreciate all the replies and they have all been very helpful. First, James Stevens, you guessed correctly. The book I have is Vol1 of the Bill Matthiessen Waltz Collection. It has some great songs that I would like to learn to play.

For everyone, I had my violin lesson today and had a chance to ask my teacher about waltzes. She is an AWESOME classical player, but she also teaches fiddle tunes to students who ask for that. I asked her to teach me the Suzuki Method and we have just begun Beethoven’s Minuet In G #11 of Book II. She suggested that classical waltzes should be played with a down bow to begin each measure and mentioned the down up up pattern. She said that classical waltzes depend heavily on that pattern. But for fiddle waltzes, she suggested identifying phrases and making sure that each new phrase begins with a down bow. She said “flow” was very important in fiddle waltzes. We are in Southern Appalachia and fiddle music is an important part of our heritage. To narrow that down a little more, we are next door to the little Southern town of Clemson. GO TIGERS!

Edited: October 23, 2019, 7:07 AM · Not sure what's in said book, but some scandinavian waltzes have odd beat distribution(one fiddler called them 'naughty beats' in the middle out the bar), so definitely look (lots!)at YouTube for them or you to dances with experienced musicians if they're included.

If there murzurkas, the rhythm is completely different - the dance moves around the second beat for the dancers, so find a dancer to teach you the step cause the flow off music isn't at all waltzlike despite the shared time signature. (Sorry I can't explain - I can do the rhythms in context with experienced dance bands, but not my own)

October 24, 2019, 5:30 AM · And then to complicate the matter of "waltzes" there are waltzes written in 5/4, such as by Tchaikovsky (for the classical world) but also in some other regions as folk waltzes. :)

To add to the great comments already made about watching dancers (with their widely varied tempos) I'd suggest that you let the music speak for itself. I've got that same book you've got and when I play out of it I find that some waltzes practically play themselves when I get the right tempo while if I choose the wrong tempo (too fast or too slow) they don't sound good.

Unless you're actually going to play them for people to dance to, worry more about the musical flow.

And as an additional thought about the bowing, sometimes you need to start a measure on an up bow in order to have a stronger down bow in the proper place for rhythmic stress. One example is that some of the phrases may begin with an anticipation on beat 3 which is tied through beat 1 or beat 1 and 2 of the following measure. In that case you may wish to start that tied note on a down bow.

There's a lot to think about, and as with all generalizations (including this one) they're only guidelines -- there are no absolutes in music other than that the music should be heard.

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