Smooth and fast legato string crossings

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Les Fret, Oct 10, 2016.

  1. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Do you have some tips to get your legato string crossing more smooth? It still sounds some unrhythmical when I do fast legato string crossings. Like for example GD, GD (two notes legato alternating on the G and D string no matter what notes), or GDG, DGD (three notes legato), or GDGD, GDGD (four notes legato) etc.
  2. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Here are 2 exercises to help isolate, and focus on, string crossings.
    Regarding #1 & 2 / #3 & 4 - the only difference is that they begin with either a Downbow or Upbow. (I should have written #3 & 4 first, as they are somewhat easier. Sorry.)
    Play Slowly at first, Molto Legato, Mezzo Forte, strive for consistent "weight" into (and across) the strings - there is a tendency to want to "gently" ease into the next string. Resist the temptation to lighten up during the moment when you leave the old string and arrive at the new string.
    Stay on one exercise for an extended time - it becomes like chanting or meditation after a while. (Screw the neighbors/family members!) Listen for each string change and decide if it was Great/Good/Crappy.
    You can fabricate your own small exercises of different groupings and patterns as well.
    This doesn't take into account possible shifting or fingering issues, but is only meant to isolate the bow side's (RH?) mechanics.
    gerry grable and Les Fret like this.
  3. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Thanks Don. Great post! I have plenty of exercises though. Any suggestions or tips for bow hold/placement on the string/ frog or tip suggestions etc. to make it more tight and stable rhythmically? or arm/wrist movement....

    and then more specifically on the fast repeated movements between two adjacent strings, like D and G. Not the 4 string 'arpeggiated' crossings. Just to give a short example so you get the idea: the repeated passage DE F# GF#G (bowing in three with G as open string). The repeated string crossings sound somewhat less tight rhythmically when I play it.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
    Don Kasper likes this.
  4. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sorry Les,
    That's about all I can offer without seeing and hearing the passage.
    I play German bow (only) and I know that bow hold/bow placement and smooth, relaxed arm/wrist/finger movement is the starting point for playing fast and precise. The faster the passage, the smaller the movement(s). IMO.
    Maybe some others will have useful comments or approaches.
    Thanks and good luck.
    Les Fret likes this.
  5. Finaks


    Jun 22, 2015
    When playing fast passages, try to imagine that the "string" you're playing on is actually situated in between the strings.
    Then just dip the weight of the bow according to the passage between for example D and G strings. Metronome is always a solid practice companion.

    I find that it is most important to remember to center your weight to the abdomen and hold your posture solid - then everything you do at the bow side of things is just small increments, controlling the contact point of the natural weight you already are placing on the strings.
  6. Off the top of my head here are a few more ideas -

    (1) Bow close to the strings you are moving to
    (2) Technique can involve wrist and finger movements as well as arm raising/lowering in very fluid movements
    (2) Stay within the "comfort zone" of the hair length - not the 3" at the frog end where bow weight works against you and the upper 1/3 where the arm rises and falls greater distances to change strings
    (3) Be aware of the bow speeds/lengths, weights and contact points needed for different string thicknesses
    (4) The same goes for notes in different positions as well as strings
    (5) String brands play a big part in the response to arco bowing
    (6) Also the response characteristics of your bass
    (7) There is an inbuilt delay in string response - tone grows during the first 10 vibrations according to Knut Guettler (now deceased sadly)
    (8) The Prelude to Bach's 1st Cello Suite is a good workout

    I like watching Alberto Bocini playing Bottesini's Carnival of Venice on Youtube for a masterful demonstration of bowing. Lesser mortals like me do the best we can!!
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes just before the middle of bow a bit towards the frog side seems to work best for fast string crossing. Thanks for all the tips!
    I have been dusting of my Zimmerman A contemporary concept of bowing book again lately. A lot of good stuff in there. Problem is not so much the 'normal' string crossings but legato string crossings. They tend to get less rhythmic and harder to play than the non legato string crossings. Especially when a sudden fast repeated crossing between two strings appears. Like in the short examples I gave in post #1 and #3.
  8. Perhaps look to other fingerings such as playing the notes on one string by pivoting (in your case) if avoiding the crossing only needs a tweak. Life can also get more complicated if you mix shifts and slurs with separate notes. Sometimes it is not the bow use that is the problem but the LH speed, crispness and dexterity that blurs the sound. I often separate the notes from the bowings and practice them as hook stroke, reverse hook stroke (short notes first) then straight before reintroducing the bowing. Or I invent simpler passages like the one giving me difficulty to work on the technique required. I try and choose bow lengths that are in balance with the LH difficulty. This generally means shorter rather than longer bow strokes to stay in the comfort zone.

    The 12 Studies by Lee (IMC) give good legato slurred practice without being too difficult.

    Cheers, DP
  9. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Thanks for the suggestion. There was a sample page on the internet somewhere and I am playing through the first two etudes right now. It's 'funny' to see how they changed the original cello bowing from 1 bar cello bowing to half bar bowing for bass. I like to practice both ways. Also I will try to practice it at cello pitch an octave higher for extra challenge. I tend to do that with all pieces I play.
  10. Anton Avis

    Anton Avis

    Dec 13, 2016
    If possible i'd just do it on one string. If you are going from G to F# or F then i'd no doubt do it in second position. If it would involve challenging shifting then i wouldn't do that. Instead try to slur it (if you can get away with it) If you can't slur it then i would say just keep your bow on the string and be careful with the angle to ensure a nice tonality. Hope i helped!