Bowing problem

February 14, 2021, 1:57 PM · How would you control a violin (or cello) bow in a zero-gravity environment such as a space station, and what could we learn from this?

Replies (13)

February 14, 2021, 2:29 PM · Greetings,
I would listen very carefully to the sound I am producing using my ‘final front ear.’
Edited: February 14, 2021, 3:25 PM · I wouldn’t do anything different except perhaps make a greater effort to play closer to the string (in fact that’s not a bad idea for playing on Earth) Maybe a few weeks playing would helpful. I imagine I would have trouble with movement (not sure if the force of the bow would move me move more in space than the earth; I imagine it would).
February 14, 2021, 3:52 PM · I would expect to lose the spiccatto; It needs gravity to bounce.
February 14, 2021, 4:43 PM · Without any doubt, rotational sections were invented in starships (2001.. Interstellar...) for the purpose of playing violins !
Edited: February 14, 2021, 5:28 PM · My first thought is to try holding it a little further up the stick so the force of my arm would apply more evenly to the entire length of the stick. I would probably also have to try finding a way to push up a little on the violin neck to "meet" the bow.

For cello, I would just have to push the bow in a little more than I already do since cello already needs a bit of that - at least the way I play it.

Either way, We are talking of compensating for only "ounces of force," 2 for the violin and 3 tops for the cello.

February 14, 2021, 5:57 PM · It seems like bowing would in general be much more difficult and that ricochet would be pretty much impossible, but maybe I haven't fully thought it through.
Edited: February 14, 2021, 6:34 PM · And flying staccato might be harder. Anybody ready for a trip to the space station to try out? (not me, I get motion sickness. As my mother used to say, I'll stay here and watch).
February 15, 2021, 12:56 AM · Rosin, and more specifically rosin dust floating around the cabin, might be more of a problem in space.
February 15, 2021, 4:23 AM · To try all this, we could suspend both violin and bow from the ceiling on elastics, at the right height to just walk in an play.

Yes flying staccato would really fly!

February 15, 2021, 4:25 AM · "In space no-one can hear you practise the violin."
February 15, 2021, 9:06 AM · Andy Victor hinted at the answer: Just channel your inner cellist.
Edited: February 17, 2021, 1:26 PM · Playing the violin in zero gravity raises problems beyond that of controlling the bow. The more I think about it the more interesting things become.

The biggest problem in playing the violin in a zero or low gravity environment (a Lunar base, perhaps?) is to prevent the violin and its player from parting company during playing. A shoulder rest rests on the shoulder or upper chest under the force of gravity and is not otherwise secured. Under zero gravity it would tend to float away and the player would have to hold it firmly with his left hand and apply pressure with the chin on the chinrest, which is undesirable for well-known reasons. Doubtless, a shoulder rest manufacturer could design a shoulder rest that would provide a secure fixing job – but at a price that would surely be irrelevant if NASA or the like were behind the funding.

However, the Baroque violinist Enrico Onofri already uses what for me is the ultimate device for safely securing violin to violinist, a device that is simple, safe, inexpensive, and moreover elegant. See him using it here in a Vivaldi concerto, in particular, the last few seconds of the video when he removes it as he takes the applause:

Another problem with a violin in a zero-gravity environment is getting it to the space station or wherever in one playable piece, given that during take-off and other manoeuvres in space the wooden instrument would be subjected to high-G forces well beyond anything it would experience in normal usage and travel on Earth. Perhaps a problem for violin case makers to muse over. My solution is to use a CF violin (“bullet proof”, as David Duarte said today in the “Wooden bow on composite carbon violin” thread), fitted with steel strings and geared pegs. It's anyone's guess how standard pegging and synthetic strings would behave on the journey to and in a space station.

Andrew Hsieh mentioned the real problem of rosin dust. Presumably, there would be an air extraction and filtering system associated with any enclosed space in which the violin is played. This raises another question – how really dust-free is dust-free rosin?

February 18, 2021, 10:38 AM · I believe bowing would not be your main concern. The way we hold the violin relies on gravity, the whole setup and the technique are designed to keep the violin from falling down. With no gravity it is just as likely to float up though. You d've to reposition your left hand to prevent the neck sliding out upward. Your chin on the chinrest combined with gravity keeps your violin from sliding down your shoulder but not if gravity is all of a sudden AWOL. There are problems to solve before you even take up the bow.

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