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Heavy bow pressure?? Clumsy bow arm


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I've been following this discussion with great interest -- indeed, it's a topic that every violin teacher is concerned with. We're really talking about the basic approach to bowing and to tone production.

I like rufviol's comments a lot:


Learing to bow on open strings, with the right pressure is such a basic but boring and difficult exercise for most, that usually not much work is done there. Just bow open strings, try to regulate volume by bow speed/pressure until you find a good clean sound that you're happy with - this will be the basis of 'your sound'. It is not that hard, but needs a lot of work before you can, at will, play loud, play soft and be happy with your good clean tone.

The only thing I would quibble with is that it need not be a boring and difficult exercise. I often have my students, even the advanced ones, start out with some open strings to re-establish a good basic tone quality. Just a minute or two at the beginning of the lesson or practice session will get your tone going -- freshly. And then sometimes in a difficult passage I'll have the student, or myself for that matter, play just the bowing pattern on open strings, in the same tempo, volume, bowing style, etc, that will then apply to the passage in question. Then when the tone is established you plug it back in to the music.

The one thing I find missing in the discussion of holding the bow, and of tone production is the primordial basic fact that IN VIOLIN PLAYING THE WEIGHT OF THE BOW RESTS ON THE STRING. Gravity should always be working on your behalf -- and you should never hold the bow so tightly as to negate that factor. This is most obvious in spiccato bowings, but even in detache, and legato, and martele bowings, we should always hold the bow loosely enough so that the weight of the bow is working on our behalf, and we become hypersensitive to the weight of the bow -- and to when we need to add to it, with additional weight or pressure, or subtract from it.

I usually have my students (I don't teach beginners. I have students who have played a couple of years and others who are very advanced) I have them all start by resting the bow on the string, holding it very loosely and playing on the open strings just with the weight of the bow on the string, but not adding anything to that. It may take a few minutes to get comfortable playing that way, but I can usually help them through it. Then we gradually add a little more weight to the bow and see what happens to the tone. We see how the tone gradually becomes richer, and the bow stroke becomes more controlled. then if we keep adding weight we will inhibit the free vibrations and squash the tone. In this way the students start to become sensitive to the weight of the bow. We will refer back to this exercise many times using different kinds of bowings, usually relating to the current repertoire.

Well, good luck to you Nickia. Please let us know how you are progressing.

Best wishes.


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Hi Roy! Long time no see, aye?

I had a teacher one summer 9 years ago just for the brief period that my usual teacher took a break. His teaching technique was very different than my teacher's but I learned some lessons from him I've never forgotten. As you say about gravity and the bow, that was the first thing he drilled into my head. He had only been in the US for a brief period (from Poland) and had very broken English which made for interesting lessons in and of itself. He was trying to explain the gravity/bow idea to me, but we weren't understanding each other too well. He finally said this: "At the end of your work day, you come home very, very tired. You go to your sofa and "PLOP" down." Then he made me relax my bow arm and with the bow in my hand, took my hand, held it above the strings and let go of my hand, dropping it so that my bow fell gently onto the strings. At that instant I got it and learned how to use gravity to its best advantage when bowing. After that, he'd start all my lessons with the "plop on the sofa" exercise and spent a great deal of time showing me how little effort it takes to hold a bow properly if you don't fight it. That was my reference to the "hold it like its an egg" comment.

In reference to taking advantage of gravity, I had another violinist teach me why we should play with the scroll raised. Part of the string orchestra I play in was working up a group performance of the Bach Double. I was one of the first violin soloists and we rehearsed at her studio. She had us play several passages with vibrato and had the scroll parallel to the floor. The we did the same passage with the scroll raised upward. Just the tiniest lift of the scroll caused the vibrato to immediately to happen with less effort because the finger/hand more easily falls forward. That one stuck with me too.

Moral of the story: gravity is our friend boys and girls! Though some of us begin to re-think that notion after 50!

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Originally posted by:
I don't believe that

"practice makes perfect." I believe that " 'perfect' practice makes

perfect;" and 'imperfect practice' will accomplish little.

I've heard some say 'Practice makes permanent'! So indeed, it all

depends on what you are practicing.

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Glad to see you here.

I think PLOPPING is is great way to start letting gravity work for you. I think you can then expand your concept further. I like to do a fast detache bow stroke (almost a tremolo) on an open string, starting at the tip and working your way very slowly to the frog and back again. See how the bow stroke changes -- starting with a light smooth stroke, getting gradually louder and heavier. Then at some point the bow starts to spring a little giving you a very attractive sautille stroke -- which sounds like a spiccato to the uninitiated, although the bow never leaves the string. Then as you move the bow even nearer to the frog the stroke gets heavy and clumsy and finally deteriorates into an ugly noise. You can do this exercise on each string in turn since each string responds differently. Then you can do it once more adding some additional weight to the bow and see what happens.

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