Up and down bow staccato

September 8, 2021, 8:55 AM · I was informed at one point by a Heifetz pupil that Jascha Heifetz asked Eugene Fodor to demonstrate this difficult bowstroke because he (Heiftz) was not so good at it (especially down bow) and wanted to figure out how Fodor did it.

Opinions? And do you have a method of teaching it?

Replies (18)

September 8, 2021, 9:28 AM · My upbow staccato is adequate at best; my downbow staccato is nonexistent. I have made it through 36 years (and counting) of a reasonably successful professional career without ever needing to use either stroke even once.

September 8, 2021, 9:42 AM · Mary Ellen, you're in great company based on the OP!
September 8, 2021, 9:59 AM · Contrary to the "stiff arm" stroke described by Heifetz in The Way They Play, I manage (on viola) a smooth forearm stroke plus a wrist vibrato, up and down bows. Not as fast or as neat as Heifetz though!
September 8, 2021, 10:18 AM · All I can humbly offer is that, for me, there are some similarities with vibrato, in that you do a movement that is faster than you can really consciously control, it has a "nervous" or "subconscious" aspect to it. But that does not even qualify as an answer to Bruce's question, my apologies.
Edited: September 8, 2021, 10:40 AM · I was doing the Schubert allegro vivace with up-bow staccato, but my teacher said don't bother unless you need it for bow distribution. I was surprised and not quite 100% convinced.
Here's Heifetz showing us how to do it both ways.
I won't even bore you with Perlman's anecdote, as everyone knows it by now.
September 8, 2021, 11:17 AM · I had a staccato when I was young, but I've lost it as I've gotten older. In some staccato passages, I just do what two of my heroes, Nathan Milstein and Aaron Rosand, do. Play spiccato instead.
September 8, 2021, 11:23 AM · Alexander, I did the same in the third movement of the Sibelius when I performed it 30 years ago, on the suggestion of the concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony with whom I was getting coaching at the time.
Edited: September 8, 2021, 6:59 PM · Gordon,
The probvlem with that video is that one cannot see what he is doing with his right hand and every time he does the down-bow staccato it switches to overhead view where the only thing you can see is him "tipping off" the bow.

So I recommend this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRUPV2M9pMk

Where you can clearly to see his right hand and how he switches his bow hold when he plays the down-bow staccato. I first saw this movie 20 years ago but just found it on youtube today.

About 20 years ago Lydia and I visited a violinist/violist/cellist teacher in the south-bay and played some chamber music. He had a very nice Maline bow and demonstrated great up and down-bow staccato. By the way, he was also able to demonstrate it on a $100 Glasser composite bow I had brought along. He told us that he had sought a technique for the down-bow staccato for a long time and his method finally came to him in a dream. It sure worked. It might have been he who told us where he saw Heifetz change his bow hold to do that. (I believe his story because I solved a take-home math problem in college in a dream, the day before it was due.) Anyhow, now you have access to that video and all it shows starting at minute 23:00.

September 9, 2021, 12:39 AM · My last faculty recital was cancelled because of the virus. I had programmed the Dinicu Hora Staccato. The only way I can do the down-bow staccato is to hold the bow upside-down. For the up-bow staccato take the 3rd and 4th fingers off the stick and stay in the upper half. I call the "stutter" effect, a ratcheting effect. Or like the "motor-boat" glottal stop.
Edited: September 9, 2021, 6:27 AM · My link to Heifetz was for entertainment rather than instruction, which was the point of the OP, so Andrew's link is excellent. (there's at least one other of Heifetz playing it, unless it's an excerpt from Andrew's link). I suspect we all find our own way of holding the bow for downbow staccato, but it's nice to see confirmation that it's the right thing to do.

If your teacher is dictatorial about how you hold the bow, a good corrective is to watch Perlman for how often his RH pinky is sticking up in the air.

September 9, 2021, 6:55 AM · come on Gordon you know what that teacher will then reply!
Edited: September 9, 2021, 7:51 AM · Heifetz was also filmed playing Hora Staccato in the 1939 Hollywood movie "They Shall Have Music," the first theater movie I ever saw. I still remember turning to my father and asking "Is that a real man?"

The Hora Staccato is the final music selection on the VHS film "Orient Express" with the musical ensemble I SALONISTA, which proves it can be played without up- and down-bow staccato!

September 9, 2021, 4:22 PM · My conclusion: If something is too hard even for Heifetz I won't begin to try it.

Seriously, I was taught up bow staccato (like everybody else I suppose) and I am middling at it. Given that Mary Ellen is right and staccato is not required for 99+% of the orchestra repertoire (and one might add 99+% of the chamber music repertoire) one wonders why every composer of studies has included one (or more) for staccato (down bow usually); I remember 2 by Mazas; the second is really pretty and I even play it once in a while as best I can.

The situation for ricochet is quite similar.

September 9, 2021, 4:31 PM · You mean upbow usually?
There's a Kreutzer for upbow. My teacher says just reverse the bowing if you want it downbow, but it's a difficult etude.
September 9, 2021, 4:48 PM · If Nate Robinson ever sees this thread he might be able to offer some insights... He has a clip on YouTube demonstrating some excellent downbow staccato. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df04_9IorZs&ab_channel=NathanielRobinson
Edited: September 9, 2021, 4:49 PM · Albrecht - The answer to your question is that the Kreutzer 4 upbow staccato is not the same stroke that appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and is being talked about above. This off the string, percussive noise would have been completely alien to the violinist at the end of the 18th and turn of the 19th Century when these methods were being compiled. Baillot describes the stroke in question as a ringing and sonorous stroke. All violinists in this period were still in the shadow of Tartini who famously wrote 'Per ben suonare bisogna be cantare'. The modern upbow staccato does not sing, so would have been no interest to the likes of Kreutzer, Rode Baillot etc. To be specific, Kreutzer 4 would have been intended to be much more on the string and with a ringing sonority.
Edited: September 9, 2021, 5:52 PM · When I was a small child my teacher demonstrated upbow staccato to me and I thought it was nifty so I went home and worked it out for myself and I got really good at it. Alas ... that was then, when I had more brain cells.

Downbow staccato doesn't seem to be as immediately useful, although my guess is that facility with all these things is somehow an advantage.

September 9, 2021, 6:05 PM · Greetings
as James and others have pointed out, the stiff arm staccato is a different stroke from the elegant juxtaposition of small martele strokes required in the Kreutzer. Any one can, and perhaps should, master the latter, but the former is really something you either have or you don’t.

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