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Inaudible Bow Changes & Figure-Eight Bowing...

Desert Rat

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To the point, repectively:

"How do you do it?", and,

"What is it?"

In a thread from a couple of months back, the merits of striving for an imperceptible change in bowing direction were being discussed. However, very little concrete information was given about HOW this is done.

Lydia gave some solid pointers an how to practice it, but can anyone give a detailed step-by-step description of the motions involved?

I've been able to get pretty close to an inaudible change, but I have to do it very slowly, quietly, and with grotesquely exaggerated wrist movement.

Also, "figure-eight bowing" was mentioned in that thread; what does that term mean?

Any help will be greatly appreciated.


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i guess it means when you need to play D,A,E,A,D,A,E,A,D....

or G,D,A,D,G,D,A,D,G

the fig-8 bowing is thus applied.

it means simply think of drawing a 8 character when playing the above strings and it will be much easier for you.

It think one movement in Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor requires this bowing technique

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Galamian describes the figure-8 motion in his book. It's basically his approach to doing more-or-less inaudible bow changes. However, it causes a slight taper in the sound at the frog and the tip.

The trick to an inaudible bow change is to cushion the motion with the fingers of your right hand; it takes practice and careful muscular control, because you also need to avoid things like an abrupt change in arm weight upon the strings.

Simon Fischer describes an interesting exercise for this in his book "Basics". I've found the exercise to be completely unhelpful, but that might just be me. smile.gif

(I am not sure what mippi is talking about.)

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A truly inaudible bow change is impossible--Dorthy Delay stated once. As long as you have no accent or space on the bow change, and pay attention to sustaining the musical line, the audience will perceive this as being inaudible.

Keep your hand loose and most importantly listen to find what works! We are not computers and no one can tell you the exact equation.

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I believe I originated that thread.

Catherine S: http://fingerboard.maestronet.com/ubb/Foru...TML/003484.html

I've read up on Flesch, Galamian, Gerle, Fischer, etc. I agree with D_A that doing it is substantially different from reading about it. I also happen to agree with Lydia Leong that Fischer's exercise is a real mystery to me so far. I've found Gerle's description to be most crisp and succint. A lot of folks can do this (inaudible bow change) at the tip of bow, but at frog it takes much more finesse.

Figure 8 bowing can be done either in the horizontal or vertical plane. Essentially that's the path (a figure 8) that would be traced if someone attached a small light source (say an LED) to the back of your hand as you bowed.

RBviolinist: Being mathematically inclined, I'm as interested as anyone else in proving existence (or non-existence) of a solution (inaudible bow change) _before_ I go on a wild goose chase. Can you cite where Delay may have stated "A truly inaudible bow change is impossible?"



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O.K., I'll describe what I'm doing and you can tell me if I'm on the right track. Remember, I'm greatly exaggerating my movements in order to isolate the trouble spots. Let's start on the downbow:

1) As I near the bottom of the downbow (tip of bow near strings), my wrist flattens out so that the back of my hand is in line with my forearm.

2) When there's only about an inch of travel left before "hitting bottom", the downward motion of my arm slows and my fingers begin to extend to complete the last bit of downward travel.

3) Just before my fingers are completely extended, I begin to roll my hand inward and arch my wrist. This way, my forearm is already beginning the upbow a split-second before the fingers have completed the downbow. I find that, as the upbow begins, my pinky wants to be straight and my index finger wants to curl around the stick a bit more.

It seems that TIMING is EVERYTHING.

The upbow change is basically the same concept: Lead with the wrist, finish with the fingers, lead with the wrist. Only here, instead of the fingers extending to complete the stroke, I find that the index finger tends to "point" so that the hand can roll outward, and the three remaining fingers can "throw" the bow upward as the wrist begins its downward travel. (By "point", I mean that I extend my index finger so that the finger only touches the stick at the knuckle.)

A cleaner sound here seems MUCH more difficult than on the downbow. I suspect it's because of the need to manage the weight of the bow cantilevered way out there while trying to accomplish a light touch.

Does any of this make sense? Or, am I simply stating an obvious skill that everone else learned in the third grade?

Have mercy. I never tried to play a violin before February.


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Desert Rat--

Those are very nice bow change motions you describe. A couple of comments: you want to make sure your fingers (and particularly your right thumb) are very relaxed; you may wish to experiment with letting your little finger leave the frog as you move from the middle of the bow to the point; and you must make sure that you aren't tightening or hunching your shoulder as you approach the frog -- the right shoulder must stay as relaxed as possible in all bow motions.

And take comfort from this: even world-class violinists have to pay constant attention to bow changes at the frog. It never becomes entirely automatic.

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Hypothetically (I would say "theoretically" but to me "theory" means a mental concept with more verification than I have for this), a perfectly seamless bow change would occur if you could change the bow within the fraction of a centisecond or millisecond that a vibration of the string occurs so that just as the string changed the direction of its motion you changed the bow to push (or pull) it in that new direction. (The bow hair pulls the string in the direction of the bow's motion and the string releases and recovers in the opposite direction every time the vibrational wave in the string interacts with the bow -unless you are pressing so hard with the bow that it only releases when the restoring force in the string equals and the exceeds the friction from the bow hair - if you are bowing this hard you will never have a stroke that is perceived to be seamless - even when you are not changing bows.)

Of course one cannot consistently split milliseconds or centiseconds in a manner to make a perfectly seamless bow change. What you can do is minimize the amount of time that the bow is stationary and minimize the change in force ("pressure") of the hair on the string.

So the rules individuals have for how they manage their hands and arms to do this are perfectly valid and are aimed at achieving these two complementary objectives. One thing you can do is to mark your bowing so that such a change occurs at the tip whenever possible (and that is always possible if only one contiguous change needs to be seamless). I notice that when Kennedy makes a "seamless" change at the tip he "pulls the bow off line" a little (i.e., it pulls it a little crooked at the bow change), this will subdue the tone a trace, and perhaps help cover the sound of the direction change (unless it's just that his arms are too short).


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Thanks for your replies. Please keep 'em coming.

Huang, I've seen you advocate a "flared" elbow before, but I have to admit that I find that term rather cryptic. Specifically, what do you mean?

My bow hold is as you describe, but I will decline the invitation to dispose of my Kun. While I don't have a proportionally long neck, I'm 6'1", and when looking straight ahead, the top of my shoulder is four inches below my chin; I don't think that neck strain and a blinding headache would help my bow changes.


[This message has been edited by Desert Rat (edited 10-21-2000).]

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Sounds as if your neck is too long for you to be restless. I'd personally look at higher model chinrests first, but I'm shorter than you and thus do not know your body as well as you do.

The whole point of raising the elbow is to allow the bow to move from tip to frog perpendicular to the strings using the flat of the hair.

Trying to torque the bow with the pinky to get a smooth bow change at the frog is extremely difficult when your wrist is bent upwards due to a too-low elbow.

Similarly, trying to effect a smooth tip change when your elbow is overly dropped will throw off the angle of your bowing from the perpendicular.

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Desert Rat: Your description is pretty much on the ball (with possible exception of exaggerated wrist). Gerle compares the bow change to walking or a swimmer's crawl stroke.

Gerle conveys very clearly what he means in the first sentence of the chapter:

"A seamless, unnoticeable bow change, like a singer's breath control, is essential for an uninterrupted, beatiful singing tone, giving the impression of an unlimited bow-supply and an unending bow."

He goes on to mention that to achieve this, the bow must be in constant motion, even at reduced speed.

Gerle also mentions thet the fingers are passive springs, last to complete the bow change. The smooth motion is initiated by the arm.

I also agree with HKV's last statement about having the elbow raised. When done correctly this should give the impression of "gravity" acting on the bow rather than using our (smaller) muscles to dig into the strings

Hope this helps.


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