Violin Bowing- A List of Terms

With so many different types of bowing out there, one can be easily confused by the variety- and the disagreement upon terms and definitions. In an attempt to provide accurate information for my students, I have compiled an expository list of bowing styles and examples, aggregated from several sources and professionals.

Some of these definitions may seem as though they’re impossibly close- and you would be correct in your confusion, because they are less mutually exclusive than I would like. They are helpful, however, because in each explanation and video demonstration, the heart of the bowing technique is shown. Even if the examples differ slightly from what I have shown in class, my students benefit from the context of a rich variety of experience, and I love being able to provide this wealth of knowledge to my students.

There are a few different basic categories for bowing, and they involve the length of the bow on the string, the separation of notes through use of the bow, and whether the approach and finishing of the note by the bow is on or off the string.

I. On-the-String Bow Strokes

The first category of bowing styles, which are the first strokes we teach beginning students, are referred to as detaché, legato, or staccato.

detaché– separate, broad bow strokes, but not staccato (or short)

finger detaché– a detaché resulting from only using the fingers of the right hand

accented grande detaché– a fast-moving bow, accented detaché, and can  be done in one of two methods: without any “bite” (biting or gruff beginning of the note), or with a bite sound at the beginning of the note.

legato– smooth stroke without any spacing between changes of bow

marcato– sharp stroke… literally, well-marked

martele– detached and strongly accented bow stroke: “hammered”; see also martellato

martellato– hammer-style bowing, detached stroke, usually upper half of bow

staccato– a short note, which can be produced with several kinds of bow strokes, but indicates a note with required space between its ending and the beginning of the next note

tremolo– moving the bow with great rapidity, repeating the same note with rapid up and down bows stemming from the wrist

The first category also includes the basic introduction of playing multiple notes under one bow stroke, the slur.

slur– two or more different notes played under a single bow stroke, either up or down, with no articulation in between notes apart from the left hand changing pitch and/or the bow moving to a different string.

hooked bow– two or more notes under a slur, with each note’s beginning resulting from a stopped bow stroke. The bow continues in the same direction, but the notes are not part of the same impulse of bow movement. The sounding of the string may or may not be completely stopped by this pause of the bow.

louré (portato)– separating and swelling at the beginning of each note in a series of notes taken in a slur; this differs from up-bow and down-bow staccato in that each note’s re-articulation is gently emphasized while continuing the bow in the same direction. This also differs from hooked bow, as the bow stroke does not completely stop, nor does the sounding of the string become stifled from the bow motion interruption.

detaché porté– like a louré with heavy swelling on marked notes, but without the continuation of bow in the same direction (Brahms Sonata Opus 100) (see louré, just below)

detaché lancé– like a louré with no slurs, and the increased speed of a martelé (Bach Partita No. 2 Chaconne (measure 169))

piqué– a collé bowing starting from the string (see collé bowing, under “off-the-string bow strokes”), with fingers providing all of the movement. This results in a very terse note, with a sharp beginning and ending. Usually this is utilized when performing “backwards” articulation, starting with an upbow, in an uneven rhythm

II. Off-the-string bow strokes:

All of these bow strokes involve a form of staccato, as they place different amounts of space between notes and articulate them differently than when the bow is made to move in a strictly horizontal plane. The

A. one note per bow stroke

spiccato– controlled bouncing or springing bow

simple brushed spiccato– rather large, heavy, and slow strokes near the frog with no hand or finger movement

tapping stroke– light tapping motion, rotating back and forth along the horizontal axis of the right arm on each down and up bow stroke, using primarily the elbow and shoulder

bouncing ball– like slap stroke, but a more forceful, aggressive spiccato with the bounce of ricochet, the motion of the hand and arm the same as bouncing a ball.

sautillé– very fast spiccato, done usually with the hand, like a finger detache, with the hair hardly leaving the string while the wood bounces. It’s a relatively light and sensitive, slightly bouncing stroke (Saint-Saens, Rondo Capriccioso, last allegro; Dont- Opus 35; No. 2) (on YouTube, Professor V presents 2 alternative methods for sautille: Method 2, Method 3)

slap stroke– down or up bow, with a start from extreme off the string to on the string action, without a resulting bounce. This must be done either at the frog or the tip, and not anywhere in between.

saltato (saltando)– thrown staccato in the upper half of the bow, thrown down onto the string

collé– “pinched” bowing at the frog done with fingers only, starting from above the string, touching, and then lifting; often assigned by teachers to help students cultivate finger flexibility while still balancing the weight of the bow (here’s a great exercise to practice!)

B. Multiple notes per bow stroke

(or bow strokes repeatedly moving in the same direction while off the string)

upbow stacatto– stick down, third finger moving the bow at the first finger pivot point, resulting in a clockwise motion of the hand

flying spicatto– like regular spiccato in that the bow bounces, but the bow is drawn along the strings as it’s bounced in the same direction while playing many fast notes for a virtuostic effect. Neither the hair nor the stick actually leave the string, but are held for a series of hard, fast strokes while pressure is maintained to produce a staccato sound. (also called jeté lént)

standing spiccato– same as flying spiccato, except the bow repeatedly hits the string in the same place of the bow. This is done by the hand and fingers making little clockwise circles

jeté: a bouncing bow stroke involving two to six ricochets in a row, where the bow is thrown and allowed to bounce at a naturally decaying frequency

ricochet (saltato/ saltando)– a bouncing bow stroke in which the bow is dropped or thrown on the string and allowed to rebound and bounce again, several times, either in the same direction or toward a different bow direction. This bow stroke is sometimes considered less controlled than jeté.

– starts on the frog from an up bow, moving with the fingers and arm, finishing in the air- but on a sustained pitch, without bounce

jeté vité– same as the jete lent in that there is no real bouncing, but starts from the air and finishes in the air
son file- sustained tone

 

III. Multiple-String and Special Effect Bowings

whipped stroke (fouette)– an up bow, forcibly thrown onto the string as a special effect (Mendelssohn Concerto, Mvt 1 & 3)

saccadé– the sudden and forceful pressing down onto one string so hard the bow comes into contact with two strings at once

bariolage– the quick alternation between a static note and changing notes forming a melody above or below the static note, with repeated string crossing

sul ponticello– bowing near the bridge, resulting in a glassy or nasal tone

sul G– playing solely on the G string, with left hand adjusting position to produce all notes

chanterelle– notes or passage exclusively on the E string

sul tasto (flautando)– playing lightly over the fingerboard, resulting in a soft, whispery, hazy sound

flageolets– harmonics, produced with a light, quick stroke of the left hand while bowing. This bowing must have good contact with the string in order to produce the correct tone.

col legno– bow stick used to hit the strings

inversed position– instead of the bow hairs played closest to the bridge, the stick is rotated to be closest to the bridge. This technique eases the playing of several-note chords, and can give a fuller sound while relaxing the right hand

pizzicato– it wouldn’t be a proper discourse on the performance of the violin without this being mentioned, so I mention it to draw attention to the several ways in which it can be performed: with the finger at a 90-degree angle from the string, resulting in a marked pluck, with a 90-degree angle plucked more forcibly as to make the string slap onto the fingerboard, and with the finger at a 45-degree angle from the string, allowing the flesh of the finger to principally contact the string, making the note much more nuanced. Another consideration is whether or not to anchor the thumb underneath the fingerboard, or whether to pluck with the index finger with the bow still held by the right hand, or to put the bow on the stand. These issues can only be resolved by a thorough study of the printed music!

left- hand pizzicato– the action of plucking a string with one of the fingers of the left hand, usually either the index or 4th finger.

 

If you have a bowing technique to add, please contact me- I would enjoy hearing from you! I understand your definition of a particular technique may vary from what’s listed here, and while I will accept amendments to what is posted, I believe this list to be a solid and accurate starting point for a violinist or violist looking for good definition and example of a specific technique. Please be respectful and constructive in your comments, as this blog is maintained as a positive, safe place to help other string players.

 

Sources:

Violin Terms: Sheila’s Corner

Violin Online- Violin Basics- Violin Bow Strokes

YouTube: ProfessorV Channel

YouTube: Barnes & Mullins UK Channel

The Violin Site: Bow Arm Violin Exercises

Ivan Galamian: Basics and Methods of Violin Playing

Violinist.com: Laurie Niles’ Blog

Calvin Seib Bowing Techniques

Art & Music Studies: Advanced Bowings

www.violinlab.com

YouTube: Red Desert Violin Channel

Clive, Owen. Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900. 2004, Oxford University Press.

Kjelland, James. Ochestral Bowing: Style and Function. 2003, Alfred Music Publishing.

Stowell, Robin. The Early Violin and Viola, a Practical Guide. 2001, Cambridge University Press.

Kling, H. Prof. H. Kling’s Modern Orchestration and Instrumentation. 1905, C. Fisher.

 

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Protected: Kaw Valley Orchestra Project, Year 2: Online Class

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Protected: Kaw Valley Orchestra, Year 1: 09.30.13

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New: Online Practice Logs!

We have added a new feature to the website: online practice forms!

 

I know, you may be groaning, but just think:

-Have you ever wondered how much you REALLY practice in a week?

-Is there a particular skill you’d like to learn, but you’re not sure how to get started?

-Do you find practice boring, and would rather be doing something else?

The new practice log will help you with ALL these issues, and MORE:

Practice log example 1

Just select which days you practiced, and the total minutes you practiced for the WHOLE week- pretty simple! Then you’ll answer a few questions about what you enjoyed about practicing this week, what was difficult for you, etc.

Practice log example 2

The questions following will help you review your practicing behaviors: is there something that, even after practicing, you’re having trouble understanding? Do you need help with an alternative practice method? A few students will simply play the songs they like for several weeks without practicing any of the “hard stuff”, without even realizing it’s happening. This form will help you AND me form a plan for what, when, how, and why you’re practicing.

Finally, this practice sheet has a small question at the bottom, and if you answer it correctly, it will submit your form automatically (if you’ve answered all the questions which are required, as indicated by an asterisk (*) next to the question.

Check it out for yourself HERE:

Online Practice log button

 

For students enrolled in the Kaw Valley Orchestra Project, please enter your log HERE:

Online Practice log button KVOP

 

I look forward to seeing your responses, and happy practicing!

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Advanced Bowings Lessons- a Review

Have you noticed how there seem to be an infinite number of ways your bow can interact with the string? Your bow and how it’s used comprises the majority of your tone and technique, and properly exercising each method in practice should hold just as much value as making sure you’ve got the notes and rhythms learned.

The good folks over at www.theviolinsite.com have some SUPERB content about more advanced aspects of playing, with content geared toward less experienced students coming soon. While not all of my students are at this stage of advancement yet, it’s never too early to learn what’s ahead!

Their articles include videos of proper form, written explanations of bowing, and include .jpgs of music exercises for practice- and they even indicate whether or not a metronome should be used. If you’re a student of mine in middle school or high school, let me just advise you to look these over, just in case. 😉

1. Detaché bowing

2. Collé bowing

3. Martelé bowing

4. Staccato bowing (under a single stroke)

5. Sautillé bowing

6. Ricochét bowing

7. Bowing for playing chords

Let me offer a hearty “Thanks!” to those wonderful teachers who have put such effort forth in providing rich content free for use, and encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to learn!

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Come Join Us- Through October 7th!

While we attempted to hand out flyers in the Perry & Lecompton schools earlier than now, there was some mis-communication… and the flyers were handed out AFTER our first meeting!

Don’t be concerned: if you would like to come to hear about the orchestra, we would LOVE to have you! Our meetings are on Mondays at 5pm. I will be accepting new students through the first Monday in October. Hopefully this will be sufficient time to consult with your student (or make your own decision!) and find a suitable instrument.

If you’re not a student in Perry/ Lecompton, this offer extends to you, too! We accept students of any age, from age 7 and up.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me here. I am happy to answer any questions.

 

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Kaw Valley Orchestra Project first session

We had our first session of the Kaw Valley Orchestra Project last night, and we had a great time! The students from last year were ready for something new, and we started talking about improvisation (one of my favorite subjects!). Our new group of students for this year is more diverse in age than last year, but I am SO looking forward to having the class- we will be able to do and learn more because of it.

 

If you didn’t get to join us last night, though, and are still wanting to see what orchestra’s all about, it’s not too late! We would love to have you join us next Monday at 5 pm at the Williamstown Assembly of God in Perry, KS. We hope to see you then!

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Practicing Positions Other Than I and III (yikes!)

This summer, I had my students set goals. Each student has given me verbal confirmation of a skill or piece of music he or she would like to master before the school year starts- and we work on this skill with specificity, even though we may not meet as regularly as during the school year.  To me, this is just fine- summer tends to be not the best time for daily practice, because of vacations and other summer activities, and it’s also a good time to get a different perspective on your instrument. I know first-hand what burnout feels like, and summer’s the optimum time to take a break from school-year obligations- you know, like playing tests and auditions and chair placement and the-concert-is-two-weeks-away-and-I-don’t-know-my-part types of issues. 🙂

 

I have a few students this summer who’ve chosen to work on one of the more weak spots in the violin and viola pedagogy: position work in II and IV. Strikes fear in the heart, right? Ha!

 

Seriously, though, as a teacher it warms my heart to hear this expression of a desire to make personal progress here. Many students see these positions like many see broccoli: somewhat distasteful, sometimes mandated, but mostly an annoyance one can skirt around and mostly ignore. But, as I voiced to a student this week who has a penchant for superheroes, this is simply untrue:

 

Positions unfamiliar to you quickly grow from annoying hindrances to evil super-villains in a matter of seconds. What’s going to happen if you’re asked to sight-read something which has a critical passage unplayable in anything but II position? What about that harmonic on the A string which is preceded and followed by arpeggios in IV position? If the idea makes you sweat, take note: you have found your nemesis. It’s time to do some hard practice.

 

If this were the superhero movie, we’ve now entered the part where, after some deep self-reflection, our hero starts hardcore training, preparing his body mentally and physically for the great battle we all know is coming in 25-30 minutes. In my head I’m hearing “Eye of the Tiger”. I blame this on attending a High School where, as tigers were the mascot, this song echoed frequently down the halls during passing period. Anyway…. Here are some tips on how you can start some hardcore training in II and IV position:

1. Familiarize yourself.

Become comfortable with playing melodies in that position. Familiarize yourself with what II position feels like when the first finger starts in the “low” position (a half-step away from the first finger in I position), and then in the “high” position (a half-step higher than previously mentioned). Then try IV position, starting on the C or G string.  Play some easy tunes which are familiar to you, and you can easily play by ear. Happy birthday. The Farmer in the Dell. Twinkle. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Eye of the Tiger….. Feel free to get silly here.

2. Commit to a regimen.

There are MANY different method books covering this topic, and most likely there will be many you hate. Pick one you hate the least. (I say this in jest. Kind of…) I would also recommend finding a method a bit more simple than etudes, at this particular step: find a method which will start your fingers walking through the position, and then progressively works the position’s different hand frames (or half-step and whole step variations). For several of my students, the Essential Elements books were used daily during school orchestra (and to those teachers I give hearty thanks!), so they eagerly accepted the curriculum of Sevcik. I was a little puzzled by their eagerness, but I’m hard-pressed to find a more exhaustive resource on the diligent, regimented practice of any given skill. I’m forever grateful for the material Sevcik left to the orchestral world. If you don’t love his practice regimens, though, the E.E. books are some of my favorites. If you have another suggestion as to curriculum here, please- let me know! I’d love to hear what you’ve used and enjoyed.

3. Find opportunity to use it in context.

Now, go find an etude- or an older, familiar concerto, with some second position. If it’s a piece you played a few years ago and managed to scrape by ignoring the II or IV position, revisit it. Highlight (figuratively or physically!) those areas where the position work is noted, and learn it in the position. As you’re learning, though, take mental notes as to the WHY for the change in position: what makes II or IV position advantageous? Is it easier to shift in and out of this position as compared to another? Does the fingering make the string crossing easier- or does it make a phrase playable on just one string? If you know your enemy’s motives, you begin to understand the enemy… and use the knowledge to your advantage. No, I’m not advocating eliminating II or IV position from every piece of music- your goal is to learn it so well you can thumb your nose at it as you flawlessly execute it as you sight-read a piece in orchestra your first (or second) day back.

 

Here the metaphor reaches its conclusion: if you’ve done the woodshed work, the position will no longer be the thing that renders you powerless when you stumble upon it in a piece this next year. The final battle is when you turn the page and see the marking “IV” over a particularly high passage, and without a second thought you fly through the fingering, impressing stand partner and orchestra director alike. Okay, maybe they didn’t hear you, but chances are you may be one of the few who can sight-read that section.

And that, my friend, makes all that hard work well worthwhile. 🙂

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Summer Playing Goals

As summer approaches, you’re probably thrilled with the prospect of long stretches of free time- you’re finally done with school! But if you’ll remember back to last summer, you will probably begrudgingly agree: summer usually means the school schedule is replaced with an even more busy schedule, filled with all sorts of events and family get-togethers and such.

Here’s the real question, though: how do you deal with playing over the summer? Some take private lessons over the summer, and with my students I ALWAYS advise this, even if there have to be long gaps for vacations and conflicting events. The reason I do is for a singular reason: entropy.

Entropy:
  1. Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

If you don’t practice over the summer, gradually the skills you’ve gained over the course of the school year dissolve into a pile of mush. And let me tell you… SUMMER is the BEST time to be developing your skills and keeping up practicing. If you want to start the next school year being able to sight-read that new music with the best of ’em, here are some tips for creating a summer goal:

1. Pick a goal.

It can be scale- related, learning a new skill that’s been hard to practice over the school year (vibrato, anyone? Spiccato bowing?)

2. Choose attainable mini- goals over the course of the summer.

Give yourself some guideposts! Don’t just set  a goal and forget about it,  but tell yourself each month (or week, or 2-week section) you’ll have a specific goal to reach in the process of reaching the ultimate goal before the start of the next school year.

3. Develop a plan for attaining the goal.

Set practice times, whether hours per week or otherwise. Give yourself a mini-reward for meeting a guidepost, like a new mute or going out for ice cream. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something that works well to actually motivate you to DO IT. If your weakness is peanut M&Ms, then don’t let yourself have any until you meet your hourly goal for the week. Or the day. 🙂

4. Meet with a teacher (or friend!) who can help you with pedagogy.

Have someone available who can check up on you, just to make sure you’re moving along and ensure your goal is progressing. If your goal has anything to do with vibrato or position work or right-hand skills, have the person check to make sure it functions correctly. Remember- a habit is much harder to break than to form, so be sure whatever habit you’re forming is in the correct method.

 

If there’s any way I can help you with these goals, this summer, please don’t hesitate to ask. I love to have students check in with me, even if it’s a question here and there. During the summer I have lesson slots open up occasionally, due to vacations or other conflicts, so if you’re wanting to have a lesson here and there to have a “goal update” lesson, give me a shout!
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The Freedom Within Music

I recently found a post on my site was linked on what I would consider to be an extremist website. I don’t know what religion they hold, but I do know this: my thoughts about the music of Mali needing to be protected as a fundamental human right were dragged through the mud in an attempt to further advance an agenda.

I feel sorry for these extremists, who refuse to engage with others on a level of respect or kindness or humanity:

Your life must be a sad one.

For those of you who continue to create music in regions plagued by this type of oppression, thank you for all you do- your courage to uphold music as a worthy endeavor encourages me tremendously. Your defiance of bigotry and the desecration of human rights makes me even more thankful for how blessed I am to be able to not only create music but to teach students how to engage in the conversation.

 

May your efforts not go unnoticed. We pray for your safety and welfare as you continue to fight for your right for creative expression.

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