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I'm stuck =/

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Skabasskid, May 14, 2011.

  1. Skabasskid


    Mar 6, 2011
    I've noticed lately that in the last year, my left hand technique has been improved exponentially, and I'm doing a little better with my right hand, but i feel that my bow hand is holding me back. What are some tips for working right hand technique? I don't care how boring or tedious it is, I will do whatever it takes. =]
  2. What are your issues? Is tone your main concern or are you having difficulty getting bowing patterns down?
  3. There are many technical exercises available divised to improve dexterity and technique with the bow. How long have you been playing arco? What sort of methods have you used in the past? Have you used the Zimmerman bowing technique book? Perhaps if you could share a little more about your specific concerns, we could give you specific advice.
  4. Skabasskid


    Mar 6, 2011
    I've been playing arco for a little under a year, now. Currently studying out of the Storch-Hrabe, Petrachhi, and Rabbath (for their respective uses). The Storch-Hrabe has a lot of string crossings that have been helping me practice, but not particularly teaching how to fix problems. I have not had a chance to use Zimmerman, but does it come recommended?

    I'm mostly just having trouble with everything bow-related. Some sound issues up top (which i know is because I need to put the bow closer to the bridge, but it's still happening =/) and string crossings getting dirty (partially because i just switched to a five-string, so spacing is different)

    Edit: Also using the Simandl. =D
  5. The methods you describe are good ones and quite commonly used. There are many variables with producing good results from the bow. It would be beneficial if I could see your technique in action but I will take some shots in the dark here and hope to hit something for you:

    First, make sure the bow remains in good contact with the strings as you draw the bow. Practice half notes on open strings and don't lift the bow to release; just stop the bow. Focus your arm weight into the string.

    All too often when crossing strings, the bow begins to loose contact. Practice cross-string slurs and keep the focus as the bow moves from one string to another. Be sure to initiate the articulation from the shoulder and not the forarm or wrist. A good warm-up would be to simply lift your right arm so that it is straight and at right angles to your body and just let it come down under its own weight and hit your side. I worked with this in university with my teacher and it really helped establish that sense of focus that is needed for good tone.

    Other considerations would be the equipment that you use. Ideally your bass should be set-up for arco. Some strings are designed specifically for this and others for jazz. I use Bel Canto strings and really love the response I get with the bow from these. I suppose I should have asked about your choice in bow as well. Do you use German or French? Either way, a good bow is essential in classical performance as well as the type of rosin you use. If the equipment is not set-up correctly or just not adequate enough, getting good results could be nearly impossible.

    If your not currently studying with a teacher, it would probably be within your best interests to do so. Having a qualified person there to observe and correct could take care of a lot of issues in a shorter period of time. I may have an old beat-up copy of the Zimmerman around in my studio. If I can dig it out, consider it yours.

    This is only bowing in a nutshell. I certainly hope it helps. Feel free to PM me if you would like to discuss anything in greater detail.
  6. Skabasskid


    Mar 6, 2011
    My setup is:

    A Shen SB200 7/8 Size Willow Five-String with a Spiracore low C and all other strings are pirastro permanent orchestra strings.
    My bow is a gollihur brazilwood, german grip.

    I do study with a teacher, Dr. Phillip W. Serna from Valpo, aaaaand if you do find that book, I would love to take it off of your hands. Thank you very much! =D
  7. Sounds like you have a decent rig and teacher...just be patient and keep at it. The results you are looking for just take some time. I will take a look for the Zimmerman for you.
  8. Skabasskid


    Mar 6, 2011
    As my percussion instructor would say,

    Xièxiè zhǔxí xiānshēng

    Thank you, sir!
  9. I liken building technique to building a pyramid of knowledge upside down. The very basics of bowing are the upside down tip of the pyramid that will carry the whole structure. They must be very strong or the whole lot might keep crashing. So, back to basics for a review with your teacher? This would not take long.

    Bow hold
    Bow tension
    Rosin - brand and how much
    Contact point theory
    Angle of hair to string
    Arm weight vs pressure on strings
    Bow arm movement theory (roles played, from shoulder to fingertips)
    Note starts and stops all over the playing length of the hair and in either direction
    The idea of "release" (cf "lift") to keep sounds (eg detache) musical as the bow stops
    Bow arm movement practice (in front of mirror)
    Long slow bows to examine building resonance between the bow and string (a huge projected sound for minimum effort)
    In legato, passing that resonance from note to note without any release at stroke ends
    Understanding the effect of each of the main bowing variables (bow speed/length, bow weight and contact point) either by themselves or in various combinations
    Control of crescendo and diminuendo (six simple crescendo/diminuendo exercises)

    The above does not consider note speeds yet. The "comfort zone" of the bow is roughly from about 4" from the frog to the middle with the magic place being the balance point on the bow stick. Closer to the frog is harder to control and further out from the middle quickly loses power. As speed of notes increases when bowing "on the string" practice gradually shrinking the length of bow proportionately and contracting towards the balance point (or another designated place). Conversely lengthen out the bow strokes as speed slows down. Practice this contraction/expansion with relaxed arm and steady bow weight, and no release at each end. If you judge length versus speed correctly the bow hair will grip ("catch") note starts evenly in each direction and produce a musical sound. Too much bow length will "scrub" (slither) and too little bow will "crunch" (choke the string movement). Your fastest notes might use less than an inch of bow. This "catch" or "bite" should be felt in each direction when string crossing too. The bow rocks from string to string easily if you are at the balance point.
    Looking down at the way the bow and strings move is very important.

    There is also timing and coordination between hands to take into account, either as you play up and down strings or across strings. Then there are the different sorts of bow strokes and the increasing complexity of combining shifting, string crossings, bowings, dynamics and speed to add to the mix. And the upside - down pyramid just grows and grows!!

    All bow technique is built on a basic understanding of how the strings are to be moved by the bow. Your eyes as well as your ears are important judges of success.

    I should finally say that I am a French bow(er) but the same fundamentals apply!

    Best wishes

  10. Great post. Very comprehensive.

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