Bow Technique in Mendelssohn's Ruy Blas overture

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by hsu912174, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. hsu912174


    Apr 24, 2009
    I recently performed Mendelssohn's Ruy Blas overture with my school orchestra. While most things in there didn't post much of a trouble, there are these fast arpeggios in the coda section that would span all four strings, like the attached photo.
    How am I supposed to approach this figures so I can make it clean and precise?
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Don't play the G open. That reduces it to a 3 string passage.

    As a generality, if you need to choose between making a passage difficult for the left hand or the bow, choose the left hand. I think I learned that from Greg Dugan in Indianapolis. Worked well for me.
  3. As jallenbass suggested, this should be a three string passage. Try the fingering below, barring the 2nd finger for the first two bars.

    You can work the bowing separately, with a metronome, by playing the open strings without any left hand. Pay close attention to how far you move between string changes, and see what you can do to keep everything compact. Even at a slow tempo while working, try to use as little bow as possible and keep the hair in constant contact with the strings. This stroke is entirely in the string with strong articulation.

    Attached Files:

  4. Paul got there just before me, even as I was writing the following!!

    Even as a 3 string passage you must sort out which fingering system suits you best. Assuming that you bar from G to C and set fingers 1 & 2 for G to B then to play the last note in each group do you (!) move your thumb each time (2) anchor your thumb and pivot your fingers, or (3) open your hand out and play 1-2-3-4 style, even 1/2 pivoting and 1/2 stretching.

    Another consideration when approaching this passage is where to bow and how much bow to use. This is important for timing and coordination between hands. I would suggest (1) not near the end of the fingerboard (2) near or at the balance point of the bow, and (3)using only enough bow to balance the effort of the left hand and produce a clear musical sound. This last might mean only using a few inches of bow length. Another factor can be bow tension - too stiff or too slack. Keep the bow hair on the strings.

    Whatever you choose to do start practicing slowly in order to accurately encrypt the brain. Speed will then come more easily later. Don't think of speed as being a barrier that you must burst through. See it as a free-spinning bicycle wheel that simply spins faster with no extra tension in your body movements. The bow length should shrink as speed increases.

  5. If the tempo is lightning fast, I would definitely come toward the fingerboard. The strings are closer together the further up you come, meaning the string crossings take less movement, and the strings will respond to less weight. You lose a little clarity, but if you need it fast this is the way to go.
  6. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings
    In my extremely limited experience, I'll add that playing that G closed is likely to result in a better tonal balance throughout the phrase.
  7. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    In addition to closing the top G, I'd play this Do-wn, Up, Up so you can keep the sweet spot of the bow in the same place each time you go back to the E-string.
  8. At tempo, that won't work unless you just slur everything. This recording puts it around half=112, but I could imagine it being as high as 126. Sounds like the excerpt in question comes around 7:35. Take it as it comes.

  9. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    That is a very challenging passage. To play it in that speed and still have a very clear sound on those low notes and string crossings is quite hard. Great exercise though!

    would you play this more at the frog or in the middle of the bow?
  10. Les Fret, I said "at or near the balance point". This is where the weight of the bow is halved (about 1/3 of its length away from the frog end of the stick) if you hold the stick between your thumb and forefinger. It is the magic place to do fast string crossings because the bow is "in neutral". Closer to the frog the bow weight between hair contact point and the tip works against you. Closer to the point and the increasing distance your arm must travel to change strings works against you. In the above passage you still also have to experiment with all the other variables (bow speed and length, bow weight, angle of hair and contact point, etc) as you listen for the result you want
  11. Fez1


    Jan 8, 2012
    Roger Scott never told his students how to do anything. These sorts of questions make you soft and weak.
    "There's an eight-letter word that starts with a P, go do it." -RS
  12. Fez 1, I find it hard to believe that Roger Scott would have told a beginner to intermediate-level student to figure this out for themselves. And he did not teach this level. Students coming to Curtis would have been more advanced technically?

    In another current thread Don Higdon said "but practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. The more you practice without the watchful eye of a teacher, the greater the risk of making a wrong technique permanent".

    Would you agree that we can all learn something from the questions and answers in these Talkbass forums without considering ourselves soft and weak?

    Cheers, DP
  13. hsu912174


    Apr 24, 2009
    When I started playing bass, I had two lessons and then my teacher got kicked in the chest by a horse and was gone for the rest of the school year, and I had to figure most of the stuff by myself, by experimenting or observing the pros play, and I would have gone a lot farther if I had learned to ask questions earlier. Sure, I can turn on my accelerating metronome to start with quarter=60 to gradually work up to quarter=220, but there would be a bottleneck somewhere and the result would be a beautifully faked passage instead of a genuinely played one.
    Thanks everyone for responding, and I urge that other one person to not undervalue the approach by asking question.
  14. Fez1


    Jan 8, 2012
    I would not. I suppose that we will have to agree to disagree. Cheers
  15. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Still wondering what that 8 letter word is (?). One never get worse by asking questions. Don't understand your remark.
  16. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
  17. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    ok, yes that's it....could have thought of that. Still don't agree with that remark. Never hurts to ask questions
  18. I'm thinking of a five letter word, starts with T.
  19. hsu912174


    Apr 24, 2009
    It appears you are the lucky one who has access to world-class instructors and the intuition to overcome every technical challenge, and would never have to resort to such humiliating measures as asking.

    And the rest of us just aren't that lucky.
  20. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC