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What is this bowing technique?


GMM22
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I mean bowing very hard and in essence driving the hair into the stick so that the hair is pinched between the stick and the strings, often with loose hair tension, which makes it easier to do. Right or wrong, I see some players (including some professionals) do this, and I wish to know more about it.

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I assume you are referring to just having the hair loose, so that the stick may occasionally touch the strings? Many players adjust the tension of their hair depending on what they are playing. I tend to play with my hair a little looser than many do, and my stick will occasionally rub. If you're playing well, it shouldn't really be a problem. The stick of my poor Silvestre does show a little wear, but most bows I see do. As far as I'm aware, there is no special name for this technique. When your hair is looser, the bow will "stick" to the strings a bit more. This is good when you're looking for a smoother sound. But if you're playing fast spiccato or ricochete, it's not going to work with your hair loose. So, for instance, if you're playing the Mendelssohn concerto, you'll pay for your loose hair when you get to the end of the cadenza. In general, I don't think that hair tension is something that really gets discussed much in lessons. At least it never was with me. It's just something you develop on your own. It's important to have your bow and violin set up in a way that you play comfortably and with confidence. More important, however, is that you do not make a habit of adjusting something (like hair tension) to compensate for a shortcoming in your own technique (like bow control problems). If you practice (correctly!) everything with the same medium tension on your hair, you will ultimately learn to control your bow well enough in any playing situation.

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You seem to be describing a bow that is bottoming out. Although a very soft flexible bow can make it easier to draw a smooth legato, I don't care for that kind of bow. Unless the hair is overly tightened, a soft bow tends to bottom out, particularly if any pressure is applied. I feel that a stiffer bow, not a club but having a stronger spring to it is more versatile. Bows are a matter of player's taste and the fiddle they're used with so your mileage may vary.

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GMM

Players set up the tension of the bow empirically for the best sound.

The metal hardware in the adjusting system acts as a filter for different frequencies depending on the tension.

Try to put a tight rubber sleeve over the turning button without changing the tension and see what happens to the sound.

So I guess the players you noticed where playing on bows that don't allow for a lot of tension before losing the optimal sound.

Gabriel

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Ok, that makes more sense. For me, I think one of the most common problems I see in upper-level beginners (that's what I'll call them, but I"m mostly talking about middle-school aged students) is playing with too much tension on the hair. I think alot of teachers never mention anything about it to them. But it's very difficult to play with high tension on the hair when you haven't yet developed the control to keep your bow from bouncing uncontrollably.

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GMM22,

I think what you have observed is unintentional on the player's part.

It could be due to undertightening the bow or trying to create a sound that he/she is just not hearing because of too loud accompaniment, room accoustics, or hearing problems. Nerves might contribute as might having selected the wrong bow for the music.

Every bowstick has an optimum rehairing requirement. If too little hair or too much hair has been used, the bow will bave to be tightened a different amount - but even then it will not be quite right. One requirement is the total tension on the stick, another one is the actual tension on each hair that touches the strings. If there is too little hair, the bow will have to be tightened more to get the same amount of p-laying camber and the same hair standoff distance - but the tension in each individual hair will have been raised even more by doing this.

When hairs break the remaining ones have to take up the "slack." At some point the stick may even warp or bend sideways because of uneven tension. But even before that the optimum hair amount may have been lost - and the bow should have been rehaired rather than used again.

When I play in orchestra concerts I sometimes change my bow at intermeission because of the different requirements of the following music. What can I do if the two contrasting compositions are scheduled in the same half of the concert but use the same bow, whatever its weaknesses for one of the pieces?

Another factor that can intrude in performance has to do with room humidity. If the concert hall is more humid than the bow was in its case or backstage, the hair will stretch during the early part of a performance - if there is no chance to adjust it during a rest or if the performer fails to notice, the hair can bottom out during playing.

Andy

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This would most certainly be unintentional as there is nothign positive to be gained by it.

The sound suffers because the bow stick will interfere with the string vibration. The bow hair life span will also be greatly reduced.

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I don't claim to be an expert, but I think it is just preference of

the player.  My primary bow is an Albert Nurnberger that

weighs 58 grams and is stiff.  That's what I like.  I

don't like the hair tensioned very tight, so at my optimum tension,

the hair is relatively close to the stick (and sometimes touches

during playing).  On the other hand, A softer bow does not do

this just because the stick is not as stiff.  IMHO, it doesn't

matter whether the hair touches the stick or not if it plays

and sounds the way I like it.

Gary

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