slow bow

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Leco reis, Jul 3, 2005.

  1. Leco reis

    Leco reis

    Sep 2, 2004
    Astoria, NY
    Man those slow bow exercises hurt!!!!!
    I used to do them, stoped and now I am back to it.
    It's like meditation.
    How many clicks you guys do a bow if the metronome is set to 35 bpm?
    I think should be like 18 clicks right?
  2. Leco reis

    Leco reis

    Sep 2, 2004
    Astoria, NY
    yes patience and the fact that you can really see your bow form and is tough to keep together in that speed .
    Sometimes is hard for me to get my mind in only one task.
    I was talking about open string
    just to concentrade in the right hand (if that is your bow hand)
    I am not sure if 60 bpm is considered slow bow, in a sence of what the slow bow exercise is supposed to teach you.
    But I see your point
  3. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I don't use a metronome when working on long tones. I prefer to concentrate on relaxation and sound quality which in my experience go hand in hand. The bowspeed will gradually reduce until it reaches its limit for the day. I haven't found it beneficial to go so slow that the sound becomes undesireable.
  4. Noam Elron

    Noam Elron

    Apr 14, 2005
    Haifa, Israel
    Here's a challenge:

    Some time ago I started doing slow double-stops.
    I can only do about half the number of beats that I can do with a single stop (some sort of law of conservation, I guess). It has greatly improved my balance between the two notes, when bowing a double stop in "real life" - balance as in relative volumes.
  5. Yes, it's been good for me to do the slow double stop exercise also. I don't time the bows, I just keep drawing it long enough for the sound to be good in tone and in tune. This is a good left hand exercise as well!
  6. This may seem controversial, but lately (as a teacher) I've been questioning the relative merits of long tones with my beginning students. I'm not saying that it is an exercise that should be ignored completely, but I'm not sure if it's as valuable in the beginning as perhaps it is a little later.

    Sure, it is important to develop the ability to draw a nice even tone with good physical alignment, but a good set of 3-4 second open strings in front of the mirror can accomplish this quite effectively in the beginning stages of learning.

    What I believe to be far more important for students (and indeed, all of us) is to develop the ability to VARY our bow speeds. What is the easiest way to achieve a diminuendo? : slow the bow down. Vice versa for a crescendo. Playing a variety of dynamics on a continuum is the fastest road to playing musically right from the beginning. Let's face it, playing a really long, completely even tone is just about the easiest way to play UNMUSICALLY.

    I do believe practicing long tones has it merits and should be done by everyone at some point, I just feel that developing a wide range of changing bow speeds is much more valuable to encouraging musical results right from the beginning. I'm far more interested in getting a student to be able to play a super fast bow stroke on an open d string that slows down to a gentle and imperceptable ending. That has infinitely more musical applications than a 30 or 40 second death crawl stroke.
  7. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York

    While I do hear what you're saying, I must admit that I, and many others, I am sure, wish that I had done more slow bows in my earlier years. It would have improved my right hand technique exponentially in the years to follow. A few things struck me about what you said.

    While speeding up the bow is indeed the "easiest way" to achieve a crescendo, it is not always the best way. If you teach a student that this is how to achieve a crescendo then you may very well be pointing that student to a dull, airy tone.

    Secondly, I don't think that the exercise is about direct musical application, although that does occasionally come about. I think it is more about being able to increase control of the bow, especially at lower speeds. I'm sure we agree that it is much easier to play a fast bow than it is to play a slow bow with a solid, even tone.

  8. I don't think that speeding up the bow necessarily yeilds an 'airy' tone. I can be playing quite close to the bridge with a penetrating sound, then speed up the bow a little. It will still get louder.

    I also disagree that airy=dull. Often a fast, "airy" bow stroke can, a) be very musically exciting and b) help with developing longer musical lines by putting more of a heirerarchy of beats in place (since bow speed will be much faster at the beginning of the stroke than the middle and end).

    No matter how slowly or quickly you are drawing the bow in general, bow speed is certainly the most readily available means for altering the volume. Proximity to the bridge is harder to alter on the fly but works wonders for volume change as a general rule.

    I tend to teach my students that proximity to the bridge is like the 'coarse' adjustment for volume - the sort of general control. If they need a sudden change in volume, altering the bow speed is the most handy device at any distance from the bridge.

    So, in the spirit of discussion, I'd like to hear what other ways people use for playing louder or softer. Let's share - I'm open to new ideas. :)

    Sure, bow weight/pressure is always a factor. I will certainly back off on weight if I'm trying to play really quietly. However, I always strongly avoid excess pressure (i.e. pressing down harder to achieve more sound). This has very diminishing returns. Any time you try to make vibrating object louder by holding it down you very quickly get in the way.

    So, for me, the best ways to control volume are bow speed and proximity to the bridge - tied in the #1 position. Bow pressure is a distant #3 for me (assuming a good amount of relaxed arm weight to start with).

    I know this slightly off topic, but I'd still like to hear what other people have learned on the subject.
  9. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    To have some smartass fun I myself have learned that using the bow in as many different ways as possible does wonders for one's right hand technique

    Seriously though I don't know what formula works best with respect to student slow bow introduction. My own teacher started me on slow bow work and sensitivity to dynamics from the very first lesson and I'm still glad he did...but who knows really the student/teacher dynamics for every person vary and make blanket judgments difficult

    My best current offer is that if the student and teacher have a strong, open and honest relationship at all stages of the learning process then these sorts of difficulties work themselves out naturally
  10. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York

    I definately agree regarding things like flautando stroke and its place in orchestral playing. My comments were more regarding beginning students always using such a stroke when more volume is required. However, your second post deinately cleared things up and I think we're on the same page regarding bow speed.

    I still think that the exercise is a valuable one though. I, personally, use a particularly short bow (Bazin), so it is absolutely an indesposable exercise for me. I think that, while it is definately not the holy grail of legato bow exercises, it still has a valuable place in daily practice.
  11. Speaking of which...I've been meaning to start a dedicated "Legato" thread, so, off I go...
  12. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    I would love to hear some input on perfect legato playing. When I was studying with Todd Seeber I remember him playing a legato that sounded exactly like it was one continuous stroke. Definately worth discussion.
  13. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    Just out of curiosity, are you talking french pattern bow, and do you use the 'italian' french bow grip?
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Whenever possible, only change your bow direction when you go to a new note...don't do it in the middle of holding one note down.

    Sometimes I think about lifting the bow off the string while doing the bow change rather than just leaving the bow on the string while changing. This way, the string still vibrates a little. It's not something I've consciously done just a thought as I type this.

    Yeah legato is cool isn't it so much one can do with dynamic expression
  15. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    At a masterclass given by Duncan McTier, he showed (with german bow) a bowing technique he called 'paddling' which created a continuous sound. I haven't been able to recreate it on french bow, but at the bow changes he alters the angle of the bowstroke to what looked like 45 degrees (ABOVE straight) and increases bow speed, simultaneously changing the contact point by 'pulling 'it higher, then when starting the 'next stroke', he does the exact same thing except mirrored (bow angle is 45 degrees BELOW straight). I almost got it a few times, and it doe sfeel like you're paddling throgh water because of the resistance of the string.

    For the momne tI'm happy not having the ability to create a continuous sound, just changing bowstroke 'musically' (hiding it in the logic of the music).
  16. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    That reminds me of Bradetich's "dip the tip" trick...for a smooooooth bow change...

  17. Okay...this is really hard to talk about without seeing or hearing any of this in practice, but....

    When you say he changes the angle of the bow 45 degrees, I assume you mean as viewed from head on i.e. 45 degrees from the longwise direction of the string?

    If so, and if you check some of what I said on my 'Legato Bow' thread, I really have my doubts if this is truly what is creating the legato effect. I'm not saying McTier is not actually making a fairly legato sound (he's a much better player than I am), I just suspect this isn't actually how he's doing it.

    Unless I'm missing a major point of physics, drawing the bow along the length of the string (from fingerboard to bridge, or vice versa) creates virtually no usable sound. (try it yourself - draw your bow only up and down along the length of the string and listen to what you get) In other words, the side to side motion is what makes all of the usable sound.

    In the vector analysis of it, the X (side to side) component creates the sound. The Y (up and down) component makes no sound. Therefore the maximum sound is produced by drawing the bow precisely side to side. ANY introduction of a Y component will do nothing but take away from the volume.

    So drawing the bow at say a 45 degree angle will still contain part of the X direction but will contain an equal amount of energy in the Y direction, which makes no usable sound. In other words, it's a complete waste of energy (in fact, it will even add noise to your sound).

    For those of you who are really physics minded, to extend this further, as you draw the bow, the more you angle the bow (increasing the Y component) the more the X component is slowed down. So if you were to start the bow stroke completely perpendicular to the string and by the end of the stroke had angled the bow completely vertical (to wind up completely along the line of the string), you would have effectively slowed the X component down to a stop by the end of the stroke.

    Since the Y component doesn't do much for your sound, you could achieve exactly the same effect (with less 'noise') simply by drawing the bow in a completely perpendicular manner and slowing down to stop.

    So anyway, I just don't see what cranking your arm up 45 degrees can honestly do for you from a physics standpoint.

    If my thinking is flawed, I would love for somebody to explain to me what I'm missing. I'm just trying to find the most efficient way to make a smooth bow change, so I welcome any other ideas. :)
  18. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I probably shouldn't butt in, but I read the post about Mr. McTier differently than Rob did. I understood the poster to be talking about "45 degrees" in terms of the flatness of the bow during the stroke -- IOW, tilted "up" on a downbow, and down on an upbow. I haven't looked at the Fred Zimmerman bowing book much (or in a long time) but I have a hazy recollection that he talked about something like that too, though not as extreme.

    In just fiddling around with some legato solos, I've found that angling the bow up and down that way can help smooth a difficult bow change.
  19. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yeah Zimmerman's talking about tilting the angle of the bow so that less hair is in contact with the upper strings.

    I've never seen a violinist orient the bow so that all the hair is flat on the string so there may be some value to that sort of technique for your average bassist...but my own teacher never demanded it of me.

    Maybe my memory isn't right either but I want to remember that Zimmerman was really just sharing it to get a good clean core sound from a bow stroke and not specifically endorsing that trick for smooth bow changes. But hey whatever gets one from A to B smoothly right?
  20. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    If the McTier trick is intended to work somewhat the way Bradetich's "dip the tip" trick's supposed to work in downbow-to-upbow-change, then it would be as though McTier is trying to cover both ends of the bow with a similar maneuver if I understand it all right.

    I don't really know from heavy experience, but I'd speculate that dipping the tip is a deceptive trick to get the hand to relax off the bow to some degree and prevent the player from pressing down excessively on the string while making the change (keeping the string from stopping completely and making the bow change much more audible).

    Bradetich pays tribute both to flash and common sense this way...and killing two birds with one stone has been the catch phrase for "efficiency" for as long as I can remember LOL

    But I would also like to know what's really going on with the McTier trick myself don't let my joking around slow anything down