6

Well, I've been playing the violin for more than six years and, of course, I enjoy it immensely. I fancy myself rather good at it, but today I had the idea to record myself playing. I'm super glad I did, because it revealed a lot of problems that I could work on in the particular piece, but it did shake me a little because I noticed problems with my technique that I didn't know I had!

Specifically with bowing. I feel like I tend to be a little aggressive with my playing. I really(!) love the music I play, so I sway around a little and really feel the bow. But I'm starting to wonder if maybe that's working against me. When I hear myself play on a recording, the thing that jumps out at me at first is that my bowing sounds very harsh. Jerky, irritating, and amateurish. This is something I never would have noticed if I hadn't started recording myself, so it's probably a blessing in disguise!

(Of course, there was the ever present problem of accidental string-crosses, but that's something I'm already aware of and working on.)

The jerky bowing concerns me more, because it really effects the tone and overall feel of the piece whereas accidental string crosses or the occasional scratch can be dismissed as one-time occurrences that will decrease with practice. I feel like if I just "practice" to "get rid of" the jerky bowing, I won't actually be making any progress since I don't know what to change. I'd basically be practicing the wrong way to do it.

On a different note, I strongly suggest recording yourself, because it sure reveals stuff that you otherwise wouldn't notice! Thank you for your valuable time, opinions and experience.

  • 7
    Long-tones. All the time. Extremely slowly. Always. Meditate on your open strings with long tones until they are perfect and serene and the bow only does what you want only when you want it. Long tones. Only when you can play your long tones in this way can you have control over all of the music you play. – jjmusicnotes Mar 22 '16 at 1:47
  • @jjmusicnotes So long as in pulling the bow long while playing music, or should I play exercises or even just open strings to practice the idea? – General Nuisance Mar 22 '16 at 2:54
  • 5
    I mean long as in you sit with your violin, bow, chair, and an empty room and play an open string, focusing all of your attention on bow speed, position, angle, and tension until it is as smooth as glass and doesn't do anything you don't want it to. Then, you move on to the next string. Do this every day until you don't need to. Then, keep doing it. – jjmusicnotes Mar 22 '16 at 4:19
  • 1
    What has your teacher suggested? (You absolutely need a teacher) – Carl Witthoft Mar 22 '16 at 11:21
  • @jjmusicnotes I would love to upvote your comments as an answer. – Todd Wilcox Mar 22 '16 at 13:13
6

If you really want to work on your bowing, do it without involving the left hand. If you are fingering notes, part of your mind will always be thinking about the left hand. By eliminating it, you can learn to handle your bow hand better, and it carries over once you add the left hand back in.

  • The single most useful thing will be to practice long tones. When you start practicing, warm up by playing a full bow as slowly as you can on each open string. Since you've been playing for several years, start by working towards about 30-45 seconds per bow, with a consistent tone through the whole sound. For a beginner, 10-15 seconds is a good goal. Your mental focus should be on a clean, even sound.
  • Another long bow exercise is to practice bowing with speed. Again, this is on open strings, and as with the first exercise, you should be focused on a smooth, even sound. First, bow slowly, taking 8 moderate beats to pull the entire bow across a string. Go up in 8 beats, then down in 8 beats. Next, do the same in 4 beats, again up in 4, down in 4. Then do it in 2 beats. Finally, do it in 1 beat. Repeat on all strings.

With the first two exercises, you can also practice them on two strings at once. Aim to get an even sound out of both strings

  • Finally, try practicing songs without using your left hand. Follow along with the appropriate bowing, just do it on the open strings rather than with notes. This really brings out the flaws in your bowing because there's nothing else interesting to listen to. This is actually useful for clean string crossings as well.

Spend 5-15 minutes per day on just the open strings, no left hand work at all. Set a timer so you don't short it. More is useful, but since it can be boring, you're best bet is to stick with a small amount you can keep up with long term, rather than more time that you'll just give up on after a couple weeks.

5

Long-tones. All the time. Extremely slowly. Always. Meditate on your open strings with long tones until they are perfect and serene and the bow only does what you want only when you want it. Long tones. Only when you can play your long tones in this way can you have control over all of the music you play.

When I say "long", I mean "long" as in you sit with your violin, bow, chair, and an empty room and play an open string, focusing all of your attention on bow speed, position, angle, and tension until it is as smooth as glass and doesn't do anything you don't want it to. Then, you move on to the next string. Do this every day until you don't need to. Then, keep doing it

2

Jerky bowing comes down to a lot of things. One thing is that the balance of the bow is strikingly different at the tip and the nut. At the tip, you put pressure on the bow with your index finger with the thumb as pivot, middle and ring finger stabilizing the bow and the pinky on the screw giving a countercontrol for the pivot. All fingers are curved, no joint is straight: any straight joint is mechanically dead, joining two bones and resulting in 4 times the rotational inertia compared to the sum of the individual inertias.

Similarly, the whole hand is supple, the wrist is supple, elbow and shoulder are supple. Try bowing only with the wrist, only with the elbow, only with the shoulder. Take note where they are most effective. While you want to use all of them at all the time, their relative engagement changes from tip to nut.

At the nut, it's not as much the index finger pivoting around the thumb but the weight of the bow that's bearing down on the strings. Your pinky and ring finger provide some counterbalance. Try using the entire length of the bow up to the very end of the hair without changing sound. This will require continuous smooth changes of what your hand and arm and wrist are doing.

Try feeling the vibrations of the strings picked up by the bow in your underarm, even your shoulder. Try feeling with your mind all the way from bow through hand, elbow, shoulder. The bow is a part of your arm and you need to control and feel what you are doing, like you would need to do when eating with chopsticks blindfolded.

0

I agree that you need to practice the bow alone. With slow tempo also and whole notes. I specify the tempo because playing any note should never be done for the sake of muscular fitness alone, from the beginning you need to coordinate with a real objective. A whole note and play different tempo speeds. And when you learn a song for practice you have to interact with the composition in a mental and emotional level to achieve a more profound expressiveness in your interpretation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.