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Down bow and spiccato?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Betsy, Jan 12, 2005.

  1. Betsy


    Dec 30, 2004
    I've played Jazz (pizz) and am working now on arco, which I love and definitely improves my pizz. I have a question about down bow markings: if there's a down bow marking over the first quarter note in a measure, but no marking on the other notes, does this mean that you use spiccato (and I hope that I'm using the correct term; I mean where you lift the bow between notes and repeat the down bow for each stroke, as opposed to continuing the down bow). I'm sorry if this isn't clear. It's very hard to explain, but the difference in tone and experience is huge.

    Just wondering how to read the marking correctly. (When I use what I'm calling spiccato, I get a very strong and vibrant sound - something I've never experienced with the bass. It's incredible.)

    Sorry to post such a novice question, but I really want to learn to read correctly. Thanks very much.
  2. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    My understanding is that spiccato is most often called for when there's a dot above the note. If a group of notes have both the dots above and are slurred, then one bounces the bow while moving in the same direction...forgot the name for that. The downbow sign alone is only indicating to do a normal downbow...and to keep doing opposite bows for the notes after it (unless their slurred).

    But it's not even as easy as that. My best advice is for you to pick up a Simandl book that Sankey edited to get advice on how to interpret the bowing notations if you don't have a teacher to advise you.
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    As mentioned, spiccato is noted with a dot over each note. It was explained to me as strings terminology similar to the more general term "staccato" used with woodwinds, brass and other instruments. The notes are played separated and with a solid, energetic attack. To do this with a bow, you lift it and it lands with a slight bounce.

    Spiccato can be played on both the down bow and upbow, and again, as mentioned, if the notes are marked with a dot over and with a tie, the notes are played on the same style but the bow doesn't change directions. You can do this with a slight lift or on faster passages, you may get away with just a stop. (Although I find it fairly difficult to get a good sound with only a stop. Your bow better have a really good bite) The stop won't give you a true spiccato sound.

    A lift should not be confused with a retake, which is lifting the bow and returning to the frog or tip. A retake is generally marked with a comma. The trick here is to recover the bow without breaking the pulse of the music. I struggle with it continuously.

    In general, a bow marking simply gives you a starting place. If unmarked, it is implied that you start on the downbow. If the notes are not tied, you simply change bow direction on each note without lifting the bow until a lift or retake is noted.

    It's important that you follow the markings. Often the arrangement provides the markings so you don't end up in a bad place on the bow at some point in the piece.

    Eventually, you learn to mark the unmarked pieces yourself or you may actually decide to change the suggested markings if they don't work well for you.