connecting notes through bow changes

September 26, 2017, 11:47 AM · I play viola, so I realize that right-hand technique isn't quite the same as for violinists. Still, I would be interested in hearing if anyone else has had this problem, and how they went about fixing it:

I am currently studying a very slow, lyrical piece. I record my lessons, and listening back recently I noticed that although in my head I was connecting notes through bow changes, in reality there were some noticeable holes in the melodic line, particularly at the transition from up-bow to down-bow. It's also much more noticeable on an ascending line (putting fingers down rather than picking them up). My teacher also pointed out to me that I let my vibrato die away at the heel and bring it back only after I change the bow direction. When I compare my sound on the recording to my teacher's, it's pretty obvious that I am not playing the way I think I am.

Obviously I have a problem at the heel :-) I think if I can fix the continuous-sound problem at the bow change, the vibrato thing might take care of itself. I already do a lot of slow open-string practice, but maybe adding actual notes would help? Are there any drills or exercises specifically for this problem?

Replies (9)

September 26, 2017, 11:54 AM · Make sure that your bow hold is flexible and that your bow hold changes just before the bow change.
September 26, 2017, 12:01 PM · What shape are you moving your hand in at the direction change?

If you start/stop your vibrato, you will get the undesired "moo-ing" effect. :P

September 26, 2017, 12:56 PM · An inaudiable bow change at the heel is probably one of the most difficult things to do. One way to improve it is to practice doing the bowchange only using your fingers. Use only a few inches of bow right at the heel. Curl your fingers on the upbow and straighten them on the downbow. Do this very slowly making sure your speed of bow doesn't increase anywhere. You will get a lot more control after practicing that a while.
Also helpful is to practice scales not changing the finger and bow at the same time. Change the bow on the same note to concentrate on the bow and change the finger in the middle of the bow to concentrate on smooth finger change and a continuing vibrato.
September 26, 2017, 2:08 PM · Hey Vivien welcome to, it is always great to have professional violinists active on this forum, not that you are the only one, far from that, but anyway, welcome and thanks for your interesting contributions on this forum!
September 26, 2017, 4:38 PM · Gene Wie:

"What shape are you moving your hand in at the direction change?"

I'm not sure I understand the question. I'm sort of trying to shift my right hand's weight to the pinky side (instead of the index finger), if that makes any sense.

"If you start/stop your vibrato, you will get the undesired "moo-ing" effect. :P"

It's a viola; I thought that moo-ing was a given :-)

September 26, 2017, 4:40 PM · Vivien, thanks for those suggestions. I will definitely give them a try.
Edited: September 26, 2017, 4:48 PM · I learned that the fingers are involved significantly in the bow direction change at the heel, in the manner that Vivien described. I also was taught that "carrying your bow" into the change will facilitate this movement. Probably even more important for viola where the bow is heavier.

As for the vibrato, I think that there is a great tendency/temptation to back away from vibrato at any moment where things are a little delicate and you are worried about ruining it by slightly shaking your whole instrument. Not sure how to solve that, except to make the delicate thing more secure.

September 26, 2017, 10:42 PM · Jean:
Thanks for the warm welcome! Very interesting topics here.
October 18, 2017, 12:13 AM · The reality is that when the bow changes direction it must stop for a very short time. There will be a very short gap in the sound or a very slight noise. We cover this gap as best we can with flexible fingers and wrist acting like shock absorbers, and not stopping the vibrato, too difficult to describe in prose. Hint; at the tip, don't release the leverage when switching directions; power through the change. In a hall, the reverb time will cover the change, and the white noise does not carry very far. jq

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