Hooked up-bow staccato

May 28, 2021, 8:35 AM · Hello!

I'm an adult beginner, at it for a little over a year so far, half of which self-taught (mainly due to covid).
I seem to have hit a bit of a wall towards the latter end of Suzuki book 2. My teacher has introduced spiccato in the 16th note passages of the Gavotte by Mignon which has been a struggle, but there are a good amount of online resources available.
Now we are on the Beethoven Minuet and Trio. For the hooked up-bow staccato in the trio, she wants me to use off-the-string mini brush strokes. I can only seem to barely control it at the bottom 1/3 of the bow which is more difficult with the string crossings. Every video I see on up-bow staccato focuses more on the flying up-bow staccato which is far above my level.
Are there any good online resources or tips on how to work on/improve this technique?

Thank you!

Replies (5)

Edited: May 28, 2021, 9:19 AM · Ask your teacher to demonstrate using YOUR BOW.

It is possible that your bow is the problem. I had an adult student 20 years ago who could not play a decent staccato or sautille stroke. We switched bows and Voila - she was doing great. And her bow was a decent modern German bow (W. Seifert) that sells now for around $600.

*** Actually, the bow that worked for her was a cheap $100 Glasser Composite (a technology that had just reached the market).

(Sometimes you never know, I have a W. Seifert viola bow that is great off-string!)

Edited: May 28, 2021, 10:38 AM · The stroke you want for this piece can be done nicely at about 1/3 of the way along the bow. If it's hard there, move closer to the frog a couple of inches and work your way back out gradually. You shouldn't be doing this stroke right under your right hand.

I have a general suggestion about these kinds of bowing techniques. First of all, have your teacher demonstrate them and watch very closely. Then, try to envision the "profile" or "contour" of the stroke. How far from the string does it start (usually not as far as beginners try). What is the duration of contact as measured in bow centimeters? How much does your bow "sink" into the string?

Then try to play it as you envisioned it, and see which parts of your theoretical model were accurate, and which weren't. If you're normal, your initial model will be terrible. But that's how you learn what really works on the violin -- close, systematic experimentation.

Then consider which parts of your overall physique are involved and to what extent, and concentrate on how it feels. Here is a nice YouTube of Perlman playing this piece (link below) and you can see how much activity there is in the fingers of his bow hand. Any player with a professional technique can sit in one spot on his bow and do an infinite number of those strokes without ever consuming any bow and without moving his elbow at all. Another good player to watch for this technique is Oistrakh -- he makes it looks so effortless that you'll cry. But that's what you're shooting for, always: Less tension and more facility in everything you do on the violin.

Perlman's Minuet:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOin9N7SYyA

Joy Lee on off-the-string strokes (esp. colle):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHiXx9EpdYU

Edited: May 28, 2021, 12:44 PM · I'm vaguely curious why your teacher has waited this long to introduce spiccato. (Other than, I suppose, the fact that you might have done the earlier repertoire where you'd have learned this stroke, as self-taught.)

In my son's Suzuki program, off-the-string strokes are taught starting with Minuet 1, with both Happy Farmer and Gossec Gavotte played with the eighth notes as off-the-string brush strokes. Kids play the sixteenth-note Twinkle Variation as a brush stroke spiccato to prepare, and then do Perpetual Motion that way.

Anyway, on the topic of the four-note up-bow staccato: Did you do the book 2 Long Long Ago variation with its two-note staccato? Was that a problem? What about doing four notes rather than two is challenging, if two was fine?

May 28, 2021, 1:31 PM · Not all teachers / students do the LLA variation off-the-string.
May 28, 2021, 3:26 PM · Thank you for all the good advise! My assumption would be my poor technique and stiff right wrist and fingers over the bow.
I started with the teacher around Minuet 1/2 (having done some essential elements) but it had been solely on the string staccato and no spiccato. Same with LLA though now that I go back to the pieces, all of them feel more natural with off the string strokes.
My problem with the 4 strokes might just the control while crossing strings back and forth.
Thank you all again!


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