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Bow Bias

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by ADissen, Mar 18, 2009.


  1. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    Hey everybody,

    So with my studies with my instructor, we've been having me experience the French side of the bow world. After around two weeks I'm making progress, but of course I know my bow arm will be something I work on for the rest of my career. I've heard of orchestra's being French or German and when it come to auditions, the auditionee has to please the likes of the principle whether they have the same bow hold or not. All is well if the sound right on. But, what about when it comes to a college environment? College is all about the learning and who you are studying with. I've read on the PBDB about how the student can get a real positive experience from studying with someone who has a different bow hold and thats all well and good. But when it comes down to auditioning for colleges that are very "prestigious" among the bass community, how would the professors view a student that doesn't use their bow hold?

    For example, a German Bow and a French bow were competing for one spot at BU or Curtis. How would Mr. Robinson Mr. Meyer or Mr. Barker view the German Bow user? Would it be based on musicality? or would the German be viewed as less able to be taught all the professors have to offer? Or would the Professors view the German as a chance for a student to experience the other side of the bowing field and have them ultimately choose what is best for them?

    Thanks for any insight,
    Andrew
     
  2. Andrew Chilcote

    Andrew Chilcote

    Mar 20, 2007


    ur asking students what college professors would think?
     
  3. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    Nope. Asking if anybody has any insight. Because I know that many students actually converse with their teachers and maybe it came up. Or maybe Mr. Barker, Mr. Meyer and Mr. Barker will all get on TBDB and search their names and find this legitimate thread and decide to voice their opinions. But I'd put my money on situation number one if I had any.
     
  4. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    The Principal Bass of the Minnesota Orchestra is a German bow player and he studied at Curtis with Hal.
     
  5. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    hey, good to know. Thanks Calvin.
     
  6. There was an article about this in Double Bassist magazine in November 2006 which I happen to have! Here are quotes from some professors regarding which they prefer. Unfortunately they do not address your question directly:

    Tim Cobb: "I grew up in a French bow household - my father is a French bow player. We often listened to Gary Karr's first album, and even as a child I wondered whether his German bow hold was responsible for his amazing 'into the string' sound. I had no experience with the German grip, so it struck me as highly exotic. To date I have not studied the German grip, but I have numerous German bow colleagues who are first-rate artists. I admire those players who are capable with both - Thomas Martin, for example - that is really impressive."

    Paul Ellison: "I started learning with a German/Czech bow from my teacher in Chicago - a very traditional beginning. At college I learned cello and started experimenting with the French hold and switching the German bow to overhand. I started studying with Francois Rabbath at the age of 40 when I saw the opportunity to study with the master of the French bow. I took my time moving between the styles and didn't get stressed about what I couldn't do. I did whatever gave the best result rather than forcing the issue."

    Tom Martin: "I started with the German bow - my first teacher's teacher was a student of Simandl. Then I studied with Oscar Zimmerman, who came from the Torello school using the French bow. Oscar told me: 'You're not loud enough on the lower strings; you should switch to the French bow.' I bought a French bow and then had to find out what to do with it. Roger Scott really sorted out my bowing technique... I found the transition very difficult. bowing is about arm motion and leverage - you've got to use simple levers. With the French bow you've got your thumb, first finger and fourth finger forming a triangle - that's the system that runs it. The German bow has different levers: it's much more difficult to move upwards, you only have your little finger controlling that action, and that's the bad news. On the plus side, your arm and four fingers push downwards onto the string."

    There are also quotes in here from Silvio Dall Torre, David Heyes, Jorma Katrama, Dan Styffe, Gary Karr, Miloslav Jelinek, and a bit more from Tim Cobb, Tom Martin, and Paul Ellison.
     
  7. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    Thanks for taking the time to type all of that up, its a very interesting read. I've read around here that Mr. Cobb is very strict when it comes to what is students use. Now, I wonder if that person was a little misguided?
     
  8. I play French bow and I think this is the case with most of his students. However, I think it's probably safe to say that he'd be willing to teach anyone he thinks has potential on the instrument regardless of what bow he or she plays.
     
  9. emilio g

    emilio g

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    I have a buddy who was a French player that stood up until his junior year of college, who then switched to german and started sitting down.

    Fast forward to the present and he's in grad school, studying with Tim Cobb, who very politely persuaded (not demanded) him to switch back to standing up and playing French bow.

    He got into school because he played well on German grip and Tim wanted him to switch because he can teach him much more about French bow than German...and my friend doesn't mind because he's studying with one of the best French players in the world.

    And once he's out of grad school he'll be able to teach both bows, which is a valuable asset.
     
  10. When I got the chance to sit down for coffee with Ed Barker(what an experience!) we talked about a lot of things, including the fact that there are four or five teachers at BU and usually half are German bow player and half French. He said that while he has less German students he wouldn't shy away from a student, because of their bow grip. He said that occasionally if he has a German student that needs some fine tuning for there bow grip or technique he will send them to Todd Seeber for a lesson. Similarly if Todd had a French student he might send them to Ed.

    I think that most top tier bass schools have teachers that are willing to teach both. Julliard has Cobb and Levinson. BU has Ed Barker and Todd Seeber among other great teachers. I think the reason some schools get reputations for being "French Only" or "German only" is that some times the players of the opposite grip feel some sort of stigma about auditioning at these schools. I imagine there are certain schools, perhaps IU or Michigan, where they might encourage you to switch grips or at least try the other one. I don't think any school would turn a talented student down on the basis of their grip.

    Actually I thought of a story my trumpet playing friend told me. (this was at the National Trumpet Competition, he took first place in the high school division) Apparently he was talking to the trumpet professor from BU who said that he should consider buying a different brand of trumpet. Apparently the brand my friend plays is not known for blending well in a section. The professor told him a story about a trumpet player who auditioned at Julliard, he was admitted on the condition that he switched to a Bach trumpet. Kind of odd, but I understand where its coming from.
     
  11. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Banned

    Apr 6, 2007
    No problem. I know that German Bow players are more than welcome at Curtis considering that they've produced some pretty top notch players that ONLY played German Bow. Hal is probably the nicest guy in the world, and he's not going to try and "convert" someone who already has so much going well for them. I suggest you stick with which ever bow feels most comfortable for you. The only places nowadays where one bow is only "taught" or accepted seems to be Austria. You'll be fine, don't worry.

    Before I was in University I spent several months traveling Europe. I studied in Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic. I had a hard time finding a teacher in Austria that would even teach me, considering that they knew I played the French bow. Being in North America has some advantages in that "bow battles" seem to be kept to a minimum.
     
  12. jonster

    jonster

    Nov 12, 2008
    People have always told me that French is easier, but I've never been able to get the hang of it. For me, it's German all the way!

    Jon Liebman
    www.JonLiebman.com
     
  13. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    Thanks to everyone for the posts. They all really helped. Tonight I'm taking a trip up to Shank's Strings to try out bows. It'll surely help being able to try out top of the line french and german bows. I'm pretty sure I'll walk out with a Metropolitan French bow. That way I'll be able to make my decision based on two pretty acceptable bows (Shicker German and the Gage Met.) From there I'll keep studying both with Paul Johnson at Peabody (who is really great if anyone is still deciding on schools, he studied German with Levinson and French with Robinson. And Mr. Robinson is coming to Peabody next year to be part of the faculty part time. End side note.) Then I'll decide on what bow I want to lay the big bucks down on. Thanks again.
     
  14. I think that the Gage Metropolitan bow is great. Hope you like it!
     
  15. MDEbass

    MDEbass

    Dec 15, 2008
    Houston
    To those of you who studied/are studying bass in college, what is the likeliness of a teacher being able to play both German and French fluently and teach either? I know of some, such as Paul Ellison at Rice and David Allen Moore of LA Phil, who's at USC now. I'm a German bow player, but I would still be open to changing bows if it meant playing with a great teacher who only does French. Also, how likely is it that your teacher would make (or should i say persuade) you to change bows? Thanks
     
  16. basshog

    basshog

    Nov 29, 2008
    Dude, the thread is dead.
     
  17. MDEbass

    MDEbass

    Dec 15, 2008
    Houston
    Well I just had a question regarding this topic that wasn't covered, so I figured rather than start up a new thread, just revive this one....
     
  18. basshog

    basshog

    Nov 29, 2008
    Just jabbin. Likeliness of teachers playing both fluently: slim. Rob Kassinger is the CSO is also playing both these days.
     
  19. ADissen

    ADissen

    Oct 5, 2008
    Baltimore MD
    Paul Johnson at Peabody also is able in both German and French bows.
     
  20. MDEbass

    MDEbass

    Dec 15, 2008
    Houston
    Thanks. Kassinger is at DePaul, right?
     

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