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Crossing Strings

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I've been working on the Romberg sonata off and on between other stuff for a while, and in the first movement there are these fun triplet figures all over it.

    In some of those triplet lines I can take them as they come and cross the strings like this: up-bow on the G string followed by a down-bow on the D string. However, doing a down-bow on the G string followed by an up-bow on the D string is so much easier.

    I suppose I could simply hook the bow and execute the line the easy way (that's what I'm going to do, actually). But the Zimmerman bowing book hammers on this sort of bowing issue with zest, and I was just wondering if anyone out there had any insight to offer on this...anything beyond, "Zimmerman is simply offering bassists the opportunity to take their bowings as the conductor demands and still pull the line off, by gosh."
  2. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    One-man threads just don't merit much enthusiasm or bumping efforts, but the Romberg Sonata is a fun tune with a number of opportunities to show off useful bass tricks.

    I've been working on my spiccato a lot and getting my feet wet on the ricochet as I do my scales. Taking the triplets as they come with the bouncing bow, doing an up-bow on the G string followed by a down-bow on the D string works a lot easier for me and comes out much cleaner, but I'm not anywhere up to doing this at tempo yet.

    In doing these bowstrokes, I almost want to say that I can hear what the hero bassists are doing on the recordings a little more clearly - like I'm hearing Rabbath and Karr almost always playing the quick articulated lines with some kind of off-the-string bowing maneuver. And in almost wanting to say this, it drives me to ask if off-the-string bowings are the norm when one wants to keep the articulation standards high with the bow.

    Anyone like to comment?
  3. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    Johnny L-

    I will take a stab at this. I am teaching this piece to a student right now and I know exactly the passage you are talking about...

    Those string crossings are tricky, however I think you are over analyzing them to a degree. You should be able to play them as it comes. Do not worry about the "off the string" part of it. If you can play the passage on the string slowly, when you start to take it up to tempo the bow will come "off the string" a little.

    In general, people try too hard to "bounce" the bow. This is a big misconception in most circumstances. IMHO, I think it is about controlling the bounce of the bow. If I could play the passage for you, you could hear the difference. Just make sure the note has a distinct attack, and let the bow do it's thing. (no matter how slow you are going)

    A good exercise for this passage and string crossings in general, is to play the passage as the notes fall on the open strings, for example- G-D-A-A-D-G, etc... Don't finger the notes, just get the crossings clean on the open strings. You can slightly mute the open strings with your left hand. Start slowly and work up to tempo. You can also do these drills in different combinations. G, A, D, E or A, E, D, G, or etc... you get the picture. You can also start them up bow instead of down bow. This reverses the "normal" down-up bow patterns and forces you to think outside the box. Isolation is the key to the bow hand. Also you should feel these exercises in your wrist and fingers and you should be more conscious of bow levels for each string.

    Hope this helps,
  4. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks very much Brian for the advice and isolation exercises. Yeah, it is the attack that I'm focused on - wanting the triplets to speak clearly and confidently, like the Amazon recording of the cellist playing that sonata.

    My teacher talks about a jumping bow stroke similar to what I think you're describing...I want to remember it as spiccando...where the bow comes off the string on its own without much fuss on my part, unlike the spiccato stroke where I give the bow a little push on occasion to restore the bounce's energy. I can't do that spiccando the way I want yet, as I sometimes end up watching the bow jump around with little string-grabbing. The only thing I've done so far has been to work on giving the stroke less bow as I speed up, rather than simply caking up the string with unneccessary rosin.

    Maybe I'm looking at spiccato and spiccando in the wrong way, but that's how I understand those strokes so far without complicating them with dynamics and accents.

    I'm not smart enough to go through all this analysis at the same time I'm playing, so have no fear that I'm letting all this thinking get in the way. All this posting, question asking, and info sharing is way after the fact.
  5. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Maybe not smart enough, but hard-headed enough...maybe...

    I found some bowing solutions by applying Vance-inspired fingerings to bypassing the hooked-bow solution to get around those awkward bowings, instead using both open G and open D for those lines.

    For clarity at faster tempos man, it's just too attractive an option to down-bow the G string and up-bow the D string right now.

    I'll make it up later by investing more shed-time with the Zimmerman bowing book.

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