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Bowing in 3/4, 6/8 time

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011

    I know this may be rather simple but I am still a little unsure and it trips me up when I play..

    Let's assume a straight waltz, in 3/4, 3 quarter notes per bar. Would these be bowed (unless otherwise marked) down, up, down? Then if same bar is repeated, first quarter note falls on the weaker up beat? So should the first beat be bowed down, up, up ? Is the trick that the sound should be the same if down or up hence the bowing motion is a moot point? (Again, unless specifically noted). What happens when you have a quarter note, followed by 2 sixteen notes pattern (in 3/4 time), is the suggested bowing down up up?

    Thank you
  2. The word is Context. A text book might say that the first note of each bar should receive a small stress. This is OK if the line that you are playing is an accompaniment for a melody. Then again you might be playing a phrase where stressing each first beat is not right. If you are playing a Strauss Waltz the first beat is very important. The Viennese have a unique way of slightly delaying the 2nd and 3rd beats that adds a lilt to the accompaniment and might well be down - up - up.

    Your second example would probably work well with alternating strokes. IMO the best way to control what is happening is to use shorter bow strokes in the "comfort zone" for accompanying and loud passages with accents, between the end of the lapping (not too close to the frog) and the middle. Softer passages with legato bows can use longer strokes. Each case requires some thought about context. Also listen to what other instruments are playing for clues.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
    the_Ryan, s van order and Les Fret like this.
  3. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    You can also try down up up. Lots of times you want the first beat to be a down stroke. At least I want it. Depending on the tempo. With faster eight followed by two sixteenth notes pattern you can alternate or you even might try down down up. Not sure if there are rules for it. Just do what sounds the best to you.
  4. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Thanks both - consulted Mr Simandl, who reflects what you all wrote (I think!) - see file.

    Attached Files:

  5. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes he is playing down bows on almost all strong note beats. Seems logical but there are other ways as well.
  6. In your Simandl example to stress the first note of every bar is the most important for phrasing IMO. With that bowing I worry that you shorten this note to recover the bow quickly for the 16ths. My alternative is to play the 16ths as they come and do two ups on the following 8ths. Another alternative is to shorten and delay the 16ths a little, which will alter and lighten up the character of the music (make it more flippant?)

    As part of your arsenal of bowing tricks the beauty of quick retakes and two-ups or two-downs is that you can control where you are on the hair. From this comes the physical balance of your arm movements as well as control over the strings, dynamics and phrasing.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
    Les Fret likes this.
  7. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    With all due respect, I have to ask this question. I'm not being facetious.
    How much are the bowing rules and protocols influenced by simple visual esthetics? To make the string sections move in unison rather than seemingly flailing haphazardly.
  8. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    "How much are the bowing rules and protocols influenced by simple visual esthetics?"

    In my experience, there is zero concern for visual esthetics. It's all about the music-accents in the right place, the shape of the phrase, etc.
    the_Ryan likes this.
  9. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Absolutely! The fact that they all look like they are doing the same is because they are, but it is to make the music sound better, not to look good. The aesthetic is a by-product...
  10. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Well, in my limited experience, it's a little of both. There might be multiple ways to bow a passage musically, but the section does want to be together to match musically and visually. The music definitely comes first, but the visual is not altogether disregarded.
  11. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    In any section, the principal will have the final say on bowing, taking into account the conductor's wishes, and usually with some co-operation with the principal cello. In an amateur/community orchestra, there are normally some compromises taking into account what the players can manage neatly. Sometimes the ideal bowing doesn't produce the result we want because of technical limitations. If you don't know how to bow a passage, ask your principal. If you're on your own, look to the cellos for help and follow the patterns they establish.
    Andy Mopley likes this.

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