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Bow efficiency vs. Bow flow

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Goatbleat, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. Goatbleat


    Mar 18, 2009
    San Francisco
    As I work on basic string crossing exercises should I be aiming for minimal change in the plane of the bow, or for smooth, flowing change in the plane of the bow? For example, say I'm playing the following, with no slurs, on open strings: D A D A D A… Which of the following should I be striving for?

    A: Move from one string to another in one quick move, just as I change direction, always staying as close as possible to a double stop? So the hand traces out a thin trapezoid.


    B: Change the plane of the bow gradually. So after hitting the A, I keep going a little further than necessary to the E side of the A string, then gradually come back around so that the bow hits the D string just as I change direction. So the hand traces out something like an elipse.

    Or should I practice both ways?

    I'm a beginner. I've had one lesson on the use of the bow and will have another in a few weeks. In the meantime, I would appreciate your opinions.

    And this is my first post, so let me say thanks in general to everyone for all the great stuff you’ve put here in the TalkBass forums.

  2. thedbassist


    Sep 10, 2006
    You should have a relaxed, smooth string change where your bow doesn't do any unnecessary movement and there is the smallest distance possible between the strings which you are changing-remember to not get so close where you start playing two strings at once.

    Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't have an increase in bow speed just because you're changing strings which you would bow on. If you do decide to increase the speed, it should be intentional. An example where you would need to increase bow speed is where you would go from the e string to the g string since the g string requires a faster bow speed since it is a thinner string.

    One more thing, if you're a frenchie(french bow) pick up a copy of the art of the bow by Francois Rabbath. It's extremely valuable and will help you tremendously with the right work.
  3. JupiterAdept


    Aug 5, 2005
    I'm pretty curious about what everybody has to say about this, being somewhat of a beginner myself.

    I'd say A is the better one, but the bow change shouldn't be jerky. Start the motion in your arm/shoulder, before actually moving the bow, and sort of work your way down, your fingers being the last stop.
    B would be reaally inefficient at higher speeds, and the bow would probably start bouncing all over the place. If it sounds pretty with long notes it might not be a terrible idea to learn both ways, but I don't think you should. Especially if you're just starting out.

    Make sure you're able to perform a nice bow change before you add string crossing.

    I'm a teacherless loser, though, so by all means, don't trust me! Wait for someone knowledgeable.

    Thedbassist, I think you might've misread the question. You seem to be talking about slurring. I could be wrong, though.
    If I misread, ignore this entire post xD.
  4. A if you're going back and forth between two strings, something more like B if you're heading for another string.

    The key principle is minimum movement... in other words, do nothing unnecessary, go only so far as you need to. Same thing applies to the left hand too. At seriously high speed, you should be able to cross strings using only a little bit of finger motion and almost nothing perceptible from the rest of your arm.
  5. bassboy70


    Mar 21, 2009
    In my opinion, the ultimate answer is also both depending on speed. For example, in the the Dragonetti bass concerto opening (A) would be the correct answer while in Beethovens 5th symphony before the trio where we have the C minor arpeggio, we would use example B. B would be for moving across to another string or two to stay while A is moving back and fourth between strings. The key in A is finger flexibility and the key is B is the plane of the elbow(also finger flexibility) for the right hand. Once Jon Clayton showed me an excercise that involved following the arch of the bridge with the bow while crossing from the E to the G string with no gaps in the sound. Ultimately you must practicing both ways and know when to apply each way. In B the elbow must prepare for the next string so the motion is smooth. It is same as preparing with the left hand.
  6. Goatbleat


    Mar 18, 2009
    San Francisco
    Thanks for the replies. Yes, I am a Frenchie, so I'll look into the Rabbath DVD. Interesting that you brought up that "arch of the bridge" exercise, bassboy70, as there are some exercises like that in the back of Vance's Vade Mecum-- slur (EADG) slur (GDAE)-- that I had a similar question about. I was wondering if, at slow speeds, they should be done with one smooth arcing movement, or with a little extra movement, perhaps just of the fingers, just before each string change. I suppose a smooth arc makes more sense if the point is to learn the shape of the bridge.
  7. bassboy70


    Mar 21, 2009
    yes it should be smooth while combining the elbow and fingers. When talking about playing on a certain string, we say we are on a certain plane of the string. Each string has a plane. Example, when playing on the D string, the elbow is a at a certain spot. When we move to the G string, the elbow raises therefore resulting in another plane. Therefore the goal is to be able to move the plain of the elbow smoothly and also use the finger flexabilty following the arch of the bridge to the next string with absolutely no gap in sound.

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