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Confusing Terms Of Violin Technique


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Hi all,

My former teachers ( a few) never bothered to use these terms. They showed me how, after that

I was on my own (long time ago).

Here I recalled by reading confusing words of recent books, I figure

"Slow spiccato" = "Saltando"

"Fast Spiccato" = "Sautille"

"Legato" is an music expression word, not a violin technique word.

""Detache" is not detached at all. Smooth long bow. Bow does not leave the string.

"Slur" also does not break. How does it differnt from "legato" ?

Martele, is like slow staccato (stop every time after a note, little dots on the notes)

As I said, my former teachers, they never bothered to explain these terms. They read music. The

music determines what technique I ought to use. They listened me playing but not looked at my hands.

Only I made a wrong sound, they woke up. Not bad being a violin teacher.

(just kidding)

Please correct me, other may be benfitted too. Thank you.

PS. My former teachers were good teachers I should not leave an impression other than that.

They were retired profeesor, soloist, good violin performer. They took in me and others as students to supplement their incomes or retired from job due to disability of unfortunate illness.

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Here is my understanding of some of the terms. "Slur" means (for string players) playing more than one note on the same bow. "Detache" as I understand it is one note per bow. The concept of "legato" is that each note is played on a separate bow but there is no silence between the notes when you shift bow direction. Hope this helps.

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Yuen, nice try but most are misses

You wrote:

-Slow spiccato" = "Saltando"

-"Fast Spiccato" = "Sautille"


Spiccato is a bowing technique where you let he natural bounce of the bow make the bow leave the strings between the notes. It is always one note per bow.

Saltando is the same thing as sautille. The difference is that the former is Italian and the latter French.

Like spiccato it uses the natural bounce of the bow, but it NEVER leaves the string. Never. Don't ever liten to those who says that it does, because it doesn't.

Spiccato and sautille somewhat overlaps eachother in tempo, but spiccato is generally slower. It is easy to play whole notes in spicato but it is hard to play faster than 16ths in 120bpm while sauttilet can be played as fast as you like but is hard to play slower than 8'ths in 60bpm.

You wrote:

"Legato" is an music expression word, not a violin technique word.

""Detache" is not detached at all. Smooth long bow. Bow does not leave the string.

"Slur" also does not break. How does it differnt from "legato" ?


The legato part is correct.

Detache is detached in that sence that you change bow. you interrupt the bow direction.

Slur is the technichal term when you join several notes. You play them legato. The difference between legato and slur is that slur is what you do techniqually and legato is the caracter of the passage.

You wrote:

Martele, is like slow staccato (stop every time after a note, little dots on the notes)


Staccato is like legato a manner of how it should sound. It is basically not a technique.

You can play a staccato passage with richochet, balzato, spiccato or whatever. Staccato is the Sound that you want.

Martele (or martellato, the same thing) is not a sound but a technique. It is achieved by a special way of starting the note. Martele means "hammered" and you start the bow with a strong accent.

Always when you read music you must try to see what the composer tells you, is it a Sound or is it a Technique. They do overlap at times but not always.

Ask if there are some points that I didn't make myself clear!

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fiomattias, you wrote: Saltando is the same thing as sautille. The difference is that the former is Italian and the latter French.

Saltando is NOT the same thing as sautille! Yes, one word is Italian, and one is French, but in bowing they refer to different things. Saltando is equivalent to ricochet, and is written with multiple notes under a slur, with staccato "dots." It may be multiple down bows followed by a "rebound" up bow (like the Lone Ranger theme, or the Bazzini) or it may be an arpeggiation, like the arpeggios before the return of the theme in the first mvt of Mendelssohn concerto, or like the first Paganini Caprice. The arm must be very relaxed, and the bow actually does leave the string. "Jete" ("thrown") would be the French equivalent of saltando, although occasionally I've seen it used to indicate bounced (spiccato.) Part of the problem with all of this is that composers who aren't string players will sometimes misuse the terms!

You wrote: Detache is detached in that sense that you change bow. you interrupt the bow direction.

Agreed. I think it means "detached" in the sense of "not slurred." Both detache and slurred are legato bowings, but detache is not as legato as slurred!

Overall I agree with you. Think of it this way: legato and staccato are broad musical terms, used by every instrument. The others are string terms - different ways of achieving legato and staccato. There will be "subsets" of staccato, depending on which string technique - martele, spiccato, etc. - you use to achieve it.

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As long as we're all having fun here, I will continue the debate with the words of our teacher, Dounis:

THE ENTIRE TECHNIQUE OF BOWING IS BASED ON THE SIMPLE AND THE ACCENTUATED DETACHE. When the bow is pushed or drawn without accenting the change of bow, it is called simple detache. It becomes accentuated detache when every stroke is vigorously accented at the start.

The detache is at the same time the simplest and the most important bowing, and the basis of the whole bow technique. The detache may be executed with the whole, half, quarter, eighth, or sixteenth of the bow. A rapid movement with the eighth or sixteenth of the bow results in the SPRINGING BOW (SAUTILLE), WHICH THOUGH IT APPARENTLY LEAVES THE STRING, ALWAYS TOUCHES IT.

The martele is similar to the accentuated detache; the only difference is that the bow is stopped between each stroke. Through this bowing the accentuation can be developed to the highest degree. The martele should be practised in all parts of the bow as the detache. If the bow leaves the string during the pause between the strokes, the martele becomes SPICCATO. The parts between the nut and the middle of the bow are the best to use for playing spiccato.

The thrown bow is nothing but a SPICCATO WITH ALL THE NOTES PLAYED WITH CONSECUTIVE DOWN OR UP BOW STROKES. It is a sort of perpetual repetition of the bow, and is done with the upper half of the bow. The flying staccato is similar to the thrown bow with the difference that the bow, instead of remaining on the same place, is moving from the point to the middle.

The fundamental pinciple of the thrown staccato is the natural rebounding of the bow--a richochet. This rebounding should be free and spontaneous.

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in the order that you listed them:

spiccato- off-the-string. in performance practice, the hair leaves the string.

sautille- off-the-string in sound...BUT in performance practice, the hair usually stays ON the string while the stick jumps.

another difference between the two is that spiccato is more measured/controlled with the player doing a lot of the active work...in sautille it's the bow that does a lot of the active work. technically the two don't actually refer to a speed...in other words you can have a slower sautille and a faster spiccato.

generally however, sautille is often seen as a fast spiccato (where the hair stays on the string).

saltando- off-the-string in one bow direction. in violin literature, it's often referenced to the ricochet arpeggios...bouncing the bow in one direction across the strings....like at the end of the mendelssohn 1st movement.

legato is a slur. this can either be a literal slur...or a figurative one where separate bows sound slurred.

detache- separate bows.

yes, legato can literally mean a slur. so when someone points to a group of four notes and asks you to play them "two legato two detache"...well then you slur the first two and separate the next two.

martele is a hammered stroke. there's a sharp accent articulation at the beginning of each note...and a slight pause at the end of each note.

edit: detache can have all types of different articulations. from smooth and connected (traditional detache)...to swells (portato detache/detache porte)...to accented detache.

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Good thread and good responses. I am waiting for a clean video presentation online with a complete choice of separate videos demonstrating each bowing technique by example.

Something like this would be a good reference. I have yet to see it done fully covering all of the techniques in one location.

Mr. Red? I forget his name, (one of the primary contributors to the closing down of the soapbox.) could have handled this task quite well.

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Totally irrelevent to this discussion, but many musicians often use the words portato and portamento as if they are interchangable. They are NOT.

Portato is multiple notes played in a single bow with slight separation between them.

Portamento is a glissando. Many people use the word portamento when they really mean portato. This drives me &%*#'n crazy!

I've heard world famous conductors and some of the most successful string teachers misuse the word portamento over the years.

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All interesting stuff.

Being thoroughly rubbish with any kind of terminology, I avoid the official terms a great deal. Sometimes I mention the "real" word for a bowing technique, mostly I talk in normal language and highlight the essential difference between a basic idea and the exact thing I am searching for.

One of my pet hates is when students separate notes presented in a plain slur. I notice a lot of great players who also make up their own interpretation of a slur. Obviously there are times when taste or convention/tradition might overide a written direction, but these are not that common. Also, the same goes for rhythms too - so often I hear grossly exagerated rubato within a group of notes (say 4 or 8 16th notes (semiquavers to us!)). The type of music should determine the extent to which one can mould the notes. less in baroque (accounting for deliberate 1st notes or bach-style "I like this longer")

I use separate as the basic term for all individualy bowed notes. In Baroque we might refine this into a more staccato feel or in classical into a more "light" feel. Many a glance has been passed at a pupil making up their own bowing or expression away from the written! Saltando...don't use. Spiccato...do use.

Portato...don't use. Portamento....do use. Legato can be a word to use in lessons except I don't use it in a literal sense (as Yuen points out), when you ask a Pianist to produce legato they know instantly what to do (to join) and this often works as an instant antidote to overly-separated detache. Martele, oh yes....my pupils know what this means!


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