right arm magic
I am here to ask a very poor question. Maybe I will be able to refine the question in the coming days, but as of now, it's not a very good one!
I've seen a lot of progress in various aspects of my playing over the last year, but I have the impression that my bow arm is still holding me back quite a bit, especially in terms of being able to play as expressively as I would like. For example, when I try to produce a singing, sound-spinning legato, I invariably choke the sound with inappropriate pressure or what have you. Or it sounds sloppy, somehow.
I don't know how to work to improve this! Perhaps no one can diagnose this without seeing my bow arm at work (and I can post a video, if that would help), but I am hoping that suggestions will flow and magic will happen...
Thank you all!
At some point you will need a toolkit from your teacher. Elbow height, distance from bridge, speed, pressure, angles, etc.
I agree with both of Stephen's points. Sometimes it's also about your left hand. If you're struggling with left hand issues with a piece, it can affect the ease, freedom, and relaxation that you feel in your right shoulder and upper arm, such that your bowing will tighten up and your tone will become pinched or muted or muffled. To test whether that's the case, you just have to give yourself permission to make mistakes with your left hand while you focus more bandwidth on right-arm relaxation and general tone production.
Anita doing "son filé" every day for a few minutes, but probably you already do that? Also playing detache etudes with full (and I mean full) bows is quite a workout to do regularly, in a tempo as fast as you can make it still sound clean (though it will be very loud, wear earplugs). Third suggestion, daily collé exercises. Although these three suggestions I make seem to have nothing to do with the legato problem you describe, it is simply the more you control your bow in different ways, you also control it in other ways, strange as that may sound. Wish you succes.
Anita I forgot to add but you are aware of the fundamental tone production exercises in Simon Fischer Basics aren't you, you must be but just to make sure.
A few tips to add to the above advice..
In addition to the excellent advice already given, I'd also add that a correct bow hold is essential for good tone. So I'd consider either asking your teacher to verify your hold, or if you don't have a teacher, then look at Simon Fischer's The Violin Lesson or Ivan Galamian's Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching.
Open strings. Lots of them, lots of tempos for a extended period of time daily. This is what I did with my first teacher to correct my grip and posture and everything about playing my instrument has been made easier from this very Intensive open string work.
Poor right-hand setup is one of the most common problems: Straight, locked thumb or pinkie. Poor placement of pinkie (most people assume it should go on top of the stick when it really shouldn't). Hard to tell without seeing you.
All smashing thoughts and suggestions, thank you! Now I have a lot of material to start with instead of feeling a bit stuck!!
Open-string practice. Concentrate on the tactile feeling of the string beneath the bow. Think about spinning the string beneath the bow (my current teacher likes to use a lumberjack log-rolling -- look up log-rolling contests on YouTube -- as the analogy). If you're going to spin something, using a lot of pressure actually stops its ability to rotate freely. Make sure that you catch the string at the start of a stroke to get that articulation and a little bit of momentum for starting the sound of the note, which helps give a little pop to projection without needing to focus on making sure the sound is loud, per se.
"choke the sound,--getting stuck,--inappropriate pressure"-- You might be relying too much on weight/leverage/pressure instead of bow speed. Antidote, which I sometimes use as a bowing warm-up: Do slow scales on the lower 3 strings, upper half only, holding the bow with only the thumb and second finger (!). This prevents you from adding any weight at all, and the only way to control the angle and point of contact is with the position, motion, of the right elbow. After you can do that, add the first finger, but do Not add any weight. Then all four fingers on the stick, full bow, again with zero added weight. You will discover that you can get a quality mp--mf tone with bow speed alone. Then, for a louder, focused, more expressive tone carefully add weight or leverage.
Some specific responses:
There are already many excellent suggestions here, but I wanted to add just a few more thoughts:
Anita - I am working through similar issues as you, and am exploring some things that are not mentioned here. If you want to discuss off-v.com, send me an email. (Email should be in my profile.)
Pamela you are making us very curious!
I will send you a message, Pamela! :) thank you (unless you are wanting to say things here)
I found Simon Fischer's DVD on tone production very helpful for the sort of thing. Nothing beats actually watching a master teacher methodically show you exactly how to control all the variables.
A ball of cotton wool in the ear will filter some of the scratchy sounds, to hear what others hear.
Thank you, Susanna, for the encouragement and for the resources! They look like they will be quite helpful!
Take a piece you like that is beautiful and lyrical but not technically challenging. Even if you are not a trained singer, sing the piece with the expression you want, and then play it on the violin exactly the way that you sang it. Just assume that you will be able to do this. Keep in mind that of course technique is necessary, but in the end it is not your right arm that can make a beautiful sound, it is your ear (i.e., complete focus when listening to and creating the sound you want) and your musical imagination.
Anita, I see that both of your hands have stabilized somewhat since your video of a few months ago -- that's great!
I agree the mechanics don't look quite right - are you pronating enough? or too much? When you're in the lower half you seem to be mostly using the shoulder and very little forearm or wrist - you might try going through the bowing section of Flesch urstudien and see if isolating the various parts of the bow arm in that manner help.
Anita why so little bow? And why so slow? The two may be related. To gain looseness and confidence I believe it is important to practice fast bow speed and also playing at sufficiently high tempo. Seeing your video I would certainly dare to repeat my suggestion made above to work on suitable Kreutzer etudes with full bows at good tempo.
continued - The video looks mostly good to me. If the bow hair is too close to the bridge it automatically forces you play louder, to avoid the ponticello sound. Start closer to the fingerboard with a lighter touch, then pull it towards the bridge when you Want to be louder.
It's been so incredibly helpful to read your questions and feedback and suggestions! Thank you again!
first half is LH exercises, second half is scales to be played with specific parts of the bow arm.
"contact point"-- is not a silly question. The point of contact, where the hair meets the string, is variable, and is one of the three factors in quality sound production. Violin bowing is difficult to master because we need to balance 3 independent variables, while we can't see what we are doing, and usually thinking about the left hand. That point is closer to the fingerboard on the G string, closer to the bridge on the E string. Closer to the bridge when playing loud, closer to the fingerboard when playing soft. There is a zone system, spots # 1--5 that I have never bothered to learn. I have a demonstration that I show to beginners that I call the "creaky door". On the open G start at the frog, right at the end of the fingerboard, play loud, and the sound will be an awful crack. Then gradually pull the bow towards the bridge and at some point the sound clears. So- the best spot is right next to the worst spot. A similar demonstration of playing wrong would be to try to play soft near the bridge - you get the glassy ponticello sound. I had a stand partner who would play loud on the E string with the bow near the fingerboard. He was constantly breaking E strings..
Yes, that full-bow martele is quite a hard skill. In my head it is the "iajitsu" skill -- the Japanese art of the sword-draw, which has to be done with perfect control and blinding speed. Down is very much easier than up, usually.
Anita why the focus on martele?
Is there a good way to practice it? I mean, going slowly kind of doesn't help...but doing it fast, it seems like either you can or you can't...I don't know how one would work on getting better at it.
Hi,there,I have found that using a metronome is quite good for helping even out bow speed.For example you could set the metronome to a 'medium speed' and do a full bow to say,3 clicks of the metronome.There are many variations of this exercise,as you may find.
Martele and bow speed are two independent concepts, aren't they? Playing a detache etude with whole bows is one of the ways to develop command of your bow. Using whole bows at a not too slow tempo is quite a workout, but the etude is still detache (meaning that the notes should sound well connected) the opposite of martele.
Anita, something you wrote: "either you can or you can't", come on, you know better than that, you know that things need practice!
Ahh...ok. That makes sense.
looks OK to me Anita. the faster you go make sure to wear earplugs as this gets really loud. A classic one for this type of work is Kreutzer 30 but also 2 and 6 of course. by the way this is just one exercise, others are collé, son filé, and the many suggestions given by others.
? Full-bow Martele' ? -that might not be a good exercise for someone struggling with a too heavy bowing style. I also did some of that as a student, but I have Never used it in real music. What is very useful is the upper-half martele'. A less violent version, a "soft martele" (is there a french word for this?) becomes the standard tapered detache stroke for baroque and classical style.