When reading a sheet music there is some specific bow technique that need to be used on some passages, but I wonder when I will need to switch to my regular bow stroke. For example like in "La fille aux cheveux de lin", there is a violin bow technique "Sul Tasto". It was written above the note like "sul D", "sul A", "sul G". Does it imply that you only use Sul Tasto bow on that note or something else?enter image description here

  • Please post an image of the sheet music, so we can see the context. Aug 29, 2020 at 10:51
  • @LarsPeterSchultz i want to know about the general rule and not only about sul Tasto that's why I don't add the photo
    – user635988
    Aug 29, 2020 at 11:05
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    How different this must sound in G from Gb, the original key. Much less squashy. Less veiled. More primary colours. Bars 10-11 would be tricky in Gb though. Maybe the violin should be tuned down a semi! Aug 29, 2020 at 17:41
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    Thanks for posting the image. I just wanted to see where the music said "sul tasto" since I got the impression from your question that you did'nt know when to stop playing that way. The sheet music might give a hint like if a forte appears. But I can now see that sul tasto doesn't appear in that particular pierce. Anyway that piece was originally written for piano solo thus your edition with violin is some other person's suggestion. Often the term "ordinario" or "ord." appears in order to indicate that the sul tasto doesn't apply anymore. Aug 30, 2020 at 8:26
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    @LarsPeterSchultz thanks hahah. I saw a video on YouTube using Sul Tasto that's why I thought like that. This is my first time using Sul Tasto bow stroke too hahaha
    – user635988
    Aug 30, 2020 at 9:33

1 Answer 1


The first thing to note is that "Sul Tasto" means something entirely different from "sul D", "sul A", "sul G", etc.

"Sul Tasto" means "over the fingerboard" and contrasts with "Sul Ponticello" - over the bridge. Playing sul tasto produces a softer, sweeter, more flute like sound.

Normally if you play near the bridge you use a slower bow speed and more weight if you want to produce a good sound. "Sul Ponticello" is an instruction to play near the bridge but with less weight and more speed to produce more of a whistling, eerie kind of sound which normally you would try and avoid.

"sul D", "sul A", "sul G", etc. are instructions to play on a specific string. In the case of "sul D" on the D string. Again the intention is to produce one kind of sound and avoid another.

It could just be to avoid an open string or a string change which would introduce a change in tone which would last for just a few notes. Or it could be to give a passage of 2 or 3 bars a particular mood. There is no "end of sul note" marker. You have to use your judgement. If you are not sure in a particular case you can either ask a more experienced musician or search out YouTube videos to see what the experts are doing. Even so don't expect uniformity in all cases. There can variations in musical taste and expression and even physiognomy. Somebody with a really long 4th finger might play a passage with different fingering to somebody with a really short 4th finger, for instance.

  • I watched a YouTube video talk about how to use "sul Tasto" bow on this piece and then I get the sheet music and see "sul D" above the note, that's why I confused about it hahah
    – user635988
    Aug 29, 2020 at 14:18
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    Normally "ordinario" (or more often "ord.") is used to show the end of any special technique, just as "arco" tells you to stop plucking. "Sul G" (or whichever string) is often followed by a horizontal line under the affected notes. Without this line it's up to the musician to guess when to return to normal, which may not be obvious from the notes themselves. Using a horizontal line is usually enough to deter them from exercising their taste and discretion, I've found! Aug 29, 2020 at 17:34
  • @OldBrixtonian just to be clear, after the bar end I could play on other string right?
    – user635988
    Aug 30, 2020 at 4:33
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    I don't think so. The arranger seems to want all the bars in your sample to be played on the lower strings, preferring D to A and, later, A to E. In other words, you are to avoid the brighter strings whenever possible. Only in bar 6 might you change to the A-string. He could possibly have made this clearer, but warmth and mellowness are certainly what he's after. By the way, the 'p' in bar 7 should surely be under the second note, not the first. Aug 30, 2020 at 9:28
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    @LarsPeterSchultz There isn't a specific marking to end, say, a 'Sul G' is there? I use a horizontal line - Sul G________ - to show short passages, but the page would look cluttered if you kept the line going for more than a few bars. There's no musical term to return to normal that I know of. "Ordinario" and "Ord. aren't used for Sul's. You could write corde a piacere I suppose, but I've never seen it. Or "Sul G sin' al" at the start of the section. But until what?! Aug 30, 2020 at 10:23

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