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Learning French Bowing

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Steve Freides, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I've been playing upright bass since last Fall and doing very well, I think. I'm up to sixth position in Simandl. (As I've posted before, I'm a lifelong musician, including guitar and electric bass, and I've taken to upright pretty quickly. I'm practicing 99% arco and 100% Simandl because I'm already pretty handy at pizz.)

    I would like to learn to bow French as well as German. I tried French at first for maybe a week, then had my first lesson wherein my teacher listened to me play both ways (I had purchased one of each kind of bow) and we both decided that German just worked better for me.

    In particular, I find the muscles in my right thumb get tired very quickly when I bow French, and I also find it impossible to really "dig in" and get a good forte/fortissimo when I bow French.

    Any general guidance appreciated, including "just stick with it and you'll get used to it."

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Find a teacher. You can do too much damage by practicing that technique incorrectly.
    You're probably close enough to someone (New Jersey Symphony or even someone in NYC.)
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Bruce is very correct. If you just stick with what you are doing all you'll get used to is having bad habits. A teacher who knows how to play with a light grip and can play loud without "digging in" (I hate that term) is who you want. Look for someone who studied with John Schaeffer.
  4. kurtsnyder


    Oct 31, 2006
    He does have a teacher; he said so in his post.

    I was in your same position except for the fact that I tried French bow for about 3 months. The muscles in my hand and especially my thumb, just wouldn't stop hurting. My teacher said I was holding the bow properly and everything. So, I tried a German bow and almost instantly knew that German was my type of bow! My teacher said that the anatomy of some people's hands work better for French and others for German.

    Well, I picked up a French about a year later and messed with it for about a month. I was still having the same problems. Needless to say, I'm playing with a German. You may have to do the same...

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