Upbow and downbow staccato

November 10, 2022, 3:40 AM · Hey all! I was curious as to how others did upbow and downbow staccato.

Personally, I do the on-the-string type by locking my arm, squeezing my fingers together and forcing the bow to start and stop. This is the easiest way for me but only works from the tip-middle of the bow. For downbow I do the same and it only works middle-tip of the bow too.

How do you do staccato? How can I learn to do the off string upbow staccato?

Replies (16)

Edited: November 10, 2022, 3:58 AM · I do a smooth(ish) forearm stroke, hand rolled to the left (pronation?) with a wrist vibrato. A series of collé strokes.
It works on both down and up bows.
For the off-string up-bow version, slightly less pronation.
Edited: November 10, 2022, 4:38 AM · How do I do them? Slowly!

But in theory it's smooth forearm, flicking wrist.
Double action pervades: - bass drum footpedals, uke strumming.

Locking anything is bad technique except for very brief moments (e.g. rapid ff chords on a piano). You won't get through many bars of Hora Staccato with a locked forearm.

Edited: November 10, 2022, 6:23 AM · Like Adrian, I do a smooth forearm stroke with hand pronated. I don't know if I'd call it a series of collé strokes, though, because my fingers stay relaxed throughout and the action is more wrist than fingers. (I've only just figured out how to do a controlled collé stroke in the last few weeks, but I've never had any difficulty with up-bow staccato in any part of the bow.) I don't force the bow to stop and start, I just sort of let friction drag it to a stop. To play off the string, my arm is slightly higher but still moves smoothly, and there's a little bit of rotation in my wrist. It works down-bow as well, though it's a bit more difficult for me because it requires more cushioning with the fingers.
Edited: November 10, 2022, 7:54 AM · locking, squeezing, and forcing are not words to use for bowing- try the opposites and practice a lot. think of a quick motion like getting something icky off your hand or when you feel a bug on the back of your hand
Edited: November 10, 2022, 10:32 AM · But then Heifetz said that for him staccato was a stiff arm stroke....
(The Way They Play, vol 1)

But then he did a lot of things better than me!

November 10, 2022, 11:00 AM · Well if Heifetz did play it stiffly, it's no good if you can't immediately relax your arm again for the next bar.
November 11, 2022, 1:08 AM · Hello there! I am able to immediately relax my arm. Back when I used to practice every day I could segue the stiff-as-a-rock on the string staccato into the very relaxed tensionless off the string staccato. But that was 3 years ago...
November 11, 2022, 1:10 AM · Also, while I agree that bowing should always be smooth and without tension, upbow and downbow staccato belong to the category of techniques where there's no right or wrong, as long as you can do it. Heifetz's and Ehnes' staccato techniques are two great examples
Edited: November 11, 2022, 2:09 AM · Well, if there's no right or wrong, why ask how we do it? ;-)

As to the Heifetz "quote" - one should be careful not to equate his "stiff" with their "stiff". The OP's description sounds a lot stiffer than Heifetz might have been.

November 11, 2022, 3:00 AM · Simply to see how other people do it, and the possibility of “stealing” your secrets ;))))
November 11, 2022, 10:07 AM · The only way I can do the down-bow version of that staccato is to hold the bow upside down! For the easier up-bow bow staccato, upper half only, I take the third and fourth fingers off of the stick. I call it the "stutter" bowing, a constant stop and go, where the friction of the rosin works for you. Sometimes it feels like trying to go up and down-bow at the same time. The quality of the equipment probably matters a lot. I have never owned a high level ($$) bow.
November 11, 2022, 10:29 AM · I don’t.

Number of times either stroke is required in the orchestral literature: zero.

When I performed Sibelius concerto (a very long time ago), I took the advice of Emanuel Borok and played the third movement runs with separate bows.

November 11, 2022, 11:42 AM · In the Mendelssohn E-flat Octet Op. 20 (Peters Edition) there are passages that are marked as staccato underneath long slurs. This marking would tend to suggest upbow staccato. My teacher advised me to ignore that and play normal, separately-bowed staccato.
November 11, 2022, 1:30 PM · For that spot in the Mendelssohn Octet; one conductor had us do it all up-bow, not on the string but thrown, bounced in place. That produces a very short, dry sound, without being choked.
November 11, 2022, 4:43 PM · If you carefully study the few Heifetz videos of his "Hora Staccato" performances you may be able to spot the way he completely changes his bow hold when he plays downbow staccato.

Perhaps it will help some violinists develop this stroke.
I know of at least one it did help.
It did not help me!

Edited: November 11, 2022, 5:37 PM · My issue with upbow staccato is I can never play it very loudly. Also, in a given day, I can only do it quickly for a minute or two, and then those tiny muscles get tired and it slows way down. I suppose if I practiced it more, that might change.

As for execution, I can explain it as such:

1) Apply constant, relaxed arm weight into the string, but with a higher elbow than normal.

2) Begin a very slow moving upbow motion, without losing that constant pressure/friction. What will happen is the wrist will bend, but the bow won't move.

3) As this motion continues, the wrist will get to a point where it can't bend anymore. At that point, I "pop" the wrist up to bring it into the position I started in.

4) Repeat these steps like 5 times per second.

I think the big "trick" for me was to realize that the most important part was doing a continuous upbow.

For downbow stacatto:

1) I bring my right arm back so that my bow is NOT parallel to the bridge.

2) I Apply constant, relaxed weight/friction into the string.

3) I begin a slow moving downbow.

4) With my middle two fingers, I press inwards about 5x per second.

Note that with downbow staccato, the wrist isn't involved at all, unlike upbow staccato.

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