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Tips on how to best practice this please?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    I am thinking I can:
    Zimmerman-ise it (as suggested previously I think) - that it practice it like the old A E exercise;
    Alter the notes (dotted rhythm, eg a semiquaver followed by a quaver, etc.);
    Practice it slowly and progress to speed

    Conductor wants it played in 1. As the only DB player, against a whole orchestra, I am pushing it, so to speak...

    The right, French bowing hand is the hard thing to get going..

    Thanks everyone

    Attached Files:

  2. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    I would practice your string crossings just on the E and G strings (so that you're crossing three strings instead of just one or two). This will sound super messy at first, but if you can get this somewhat clean it will become much easier when you switch to only crossing one or two strings.
  3. Reverse the bowing to up bow on the lower note and stay at or just inside the balance point of the bow. Keep the bow as flat as possible on the strings and trust the strings to support the bow as you roll across backwards and forwards. You almost crush the the bow across the three strings. Explore the minimum bow length to articulate notes clearly. Look for a balance between the efforts required of both hands. Don't think of speed as some sort of barrier that you must smash against. Perhaps think of it as the front wheel of your bicycle that just turns faster and faster as you shorten the bow strokes.

    Reversing the bowing works to keep the hair down on the strings in each direction. Compare this to how awkward it feels to play the usual down-up that throws the bow away from the strings as you cross.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    Co. and csrund like this.
  4. That's the way I'd recommend approaching it, too. Anytime you have rapid, repeated interval patterns from low string to high, I'd reverse the bowing this way—like the excerpt here from Mozart Sym. 40, mvt. 1, starting at m. 193. Those notes become very easy to pop out when you start with an up-bow:

    Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 11.58.41 AM.
  5. More Cinderella Suite! Are you playing the whole first suite?

    I disagree with reversing the bowing. The important notes here are the bass notes that are on the beats. If you reverse the bowing it's likely to sound like the off beats are the important notes. They're not that important. I feel the same way with the Mozart example above. It might feel easier but it doesn't make sense musically. If you have to sacrifice some clarity on the top notes in the Prokofiev that's not a big deal. Lay down that driving beat. Especially if you're the only bass. The shape of the line comes from the bottom notes.

    Try playing along with recordings. If the recordings are faster than you are comfortable playing it get an app like the Amazing Slower Downer to help you work it up. Understanding what is important to the musical character helps makes things easier for me.

    Don't stress out about those top notes too much.
    the_Ryan likes this.
  6. May I disagree with you, Cory? Bowing closer to the ferrule than the balance point gives as much power to the up bow as the down and it is equally possible to stress the bottom notes. The overall advantage is being able to control the string crossing at such speed by almost gluing the hair down onto the strings. Because you bow inside the balance point means that the extra weight of stick and hair outside it are actually helping to lever the bow across the three strings quickly.

    Another possibility is that the hands are more balanced by both crossing strings in the same direction.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  7. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Mr Potts is right again, in my opinion. The character of the bowstroke comes from the change in bow weight as you get nearer the frog, so if you stay near the frog the difference is much smaller. And the best way to be able to lay down that beat is to be able to play the quavers evenly and tidily, which is easier with the bowing reversed
    csrund likes this.
  8. You certainly may : )

    The big thing for me is musical tendencies. Starting the lower string on an up bow is more comfortable if I'm trying to play every note exactly the same. The reality of the situation is that the strong beats are the most important part of this gesture and most people will tend to play down bows a little heavier. If you want to start this up bow you have to be very conscious of bringing out that line. Also as a principal player that does the bowings for a whole section I'm thinking about what my colleagues are going to naturally do and what will help make my musical intentions apparent. Since Andy is the only bass player in the group he doesn't have to consider that part of it much if at all.

    Another consideration is the accents. If the conductor is wanting you to bring out those accents more being able to use more bow on those notes is nice. If you are starting up bow you're not going to have that option.

    My musical intentions dictate what my technique needs to be. That being said everybody's technique varies and you need to figure out what works best for you with what you want to accomplish musically. Try it both ways and figure out what works for you. Trying different ways of playing passages can show different possibilities. When you figure out the way that you want to do a passage the other ways that you've tried can inform the end result.
    the_Ryan likes this.
  9. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Most conductors and concertmasters these days tend to think similarly: I don't know of many orchestras in North America to still do reverse bowings with string crossings in Mozart 39 or 40 or other similar passages.
    wathaet likes this.
  10. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    It's likely that for most amateur players there are some conflicts that need to be resolved here, and different bass sections will come up with different answers. For the folks who struggle with the technique of these passages, the musical intention is all well and good, but the ability to play the notes in time, in tune and tidily may well be more important. For the folks who don't struggle so much, they probably have the control to get the desired effect from reverse bowing, and can make a choice as a section. I don't think there's necessarily a right and wrong here, but in my section I'd opt for the tidiest result and aim to put in the accents for them...
  11. Cory, up to a certain speed (or a threshold if you like) I would totally agree with you but beyond that speed your logic begins to weaken. My suggested order of priorities for Andy would be to play all the notes powerfully, in tune and in time so that his contribution is heard and appreciated. With his growing experience in ensemble playing he will pick up more and more on shaping his part musically with style.

    Right now his problem is speed. Whether his bow starts up, down or sideways the best chance for clear articulation is with the hair at or just inside the balance point so that resistance to crossing from the bow is minimal or at least controllable. Also there the right arm system moves through the smallest arc. The problem then becomes which part of the system is used to cross three strings quickly with definite strokes on each note. The most cumbersome movement is from the shoulder. The lower arm, wrist and fingers increase in speed and dexterity towards the bow hold. A combination of elbow twitch for sideways movement plus forearm rotation and wrist rise/fall will move the bow fastest through the small arc. Timing and coordination are aimed at the bow being stationary when it starts each note on the string in both directions. This is where the stroke lengths are chosen to control the clarity of articulation and rythm.
  12. I believe we'll have to agree to disagree about speed being a factor ; )

    We all have to find what works for us and figure out what our priorities are with relation to what piece we're playing, what ensemble we're playing, what are abilities are, and what our equipment can do.

    One thing that I might add to your description of the movement is getting the back involved. For me most bow movements, even very fast movements, originate from the back, especially the lower back and even the hips. While the arm is helping get the bow in place the back can help with getting the weight into the string to articulate the notes. It's a difficult thing to describe well on here but I don't think it's counter to what has been suggested just another layer to add.

    Happy practicing!
  13. Cory, what say we do gentle battle in the next thread,"How do you produce short fast bow strokes?"
    Cory Palmer likes this.
  14. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    See my other post, trying to grasp how to diminish muscle tension when playing fast passages...
  15. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Thanks everyone for the contributions, much appreciated, will try the different approaches suggested.
  16. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Same here, never seen it in a pro situation. It is also a different sound. Yes, it is a simpler move, but my advice is to camp out on the last pages of strokin for some time.
  17. Well, I feel OLD now. I just stumbled across a Contrabass Conversations recording where Andy Anderson talks about being "shamed" by his colleagues into playing the descending thirds in Mozart 40 starting down bow. :laugh:

    He also noted, however, that it took hours of practice to ingrain the physical movement. I can't for the life of me understand why players would want to make a passage more physically challenging; seems to me we should be able to shape it musically just as effectively with the reverse bowing. It's only an accompaniment, after all. Why make it more difficult than it needs to be?

    And there you have it—I'm officially a cranky old man now! :laugh: Do I get a framed certificate?
    Neil Pye likes this.
  18. OK, across two strings, perhaps> Across three (eg repeated octaves) "you take the high road and I'll take the low road and..........!! Up-down keeps the hair closer to the strings, Down-up throws it off. I'm joining your society, csrund
    csrund and Neil Pye like this.
  19. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    I learned it reversed in school - good strategy for auditions, but you have to have chops beyond this as a professional.
    You also don't have time to mess around and negotiate bowings with your principal, or as principal negotiate with the other principals/conductor. Many conductors show up with their own parts, Welser Möst just did it last month, as did Nelsons, Honeck, Eschenback and Manze last times I worked with them. You want to be that guy who walks up to Möst to lecture him on how unplayable it is this way, when he just came from Chicago, Vienna, Berlin, Cleveland or whatever and they just laid it down no questions asked.
    gnypp45 and csrund like this.
  20. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Now, it is always good to have a strategy that works now even if not perfect while working on the other as a long term solution. Like I said, visiting the two sections of Strokin 15-20 minutes daily is the best way to go

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