I've been writing a piece for winds and marimba, and I was looking to see if there was a proper way to notate this technique. I haven't seen an answer on music forums, but have heard many pieces use this. The bars are to be bowed across the corner with a fiberglass bass bow, and my current method is to use string up+down bowings. How, if there is a better way, should this be written?

  • 2
    interesting question. You are probably on the right track using standard upbow and downbow markings. I would also add the word "Arco" at the top of the passage, indicating that it is played bowed. Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 4:06

2 Answers 2


It's fine and standard just to write arco or some equivalent in another language (just writing "bowed" is also fine). See this page for more stuff on marimba techniques.

I don't know that up/down markings would be necessary--would it make any difference to the sound produced? If not, don't include them; that would be unnecessary and only confuse the player, while making the music more cluttered.

  • CHEESE is correct. Elaine Gould recommends verbal written instructions and to not use up-bow down-bow markings, as they make no difference. Kurt Stone concurs also. My recommendation you purchase books like this still stands: you will refer to them time and time again as you develop as a composer.
    – user14641
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 21:07

It's time for you to purchase a good book on notation. You will not regret it. The Kurt Stone Music Notation in the 20th Century is a classic, although I also like the Elaine Gould Behind Bars: the Definitive Guide to Music Notation very much.

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    Do either of these sources discuss bowed marimba notation? Can you share with us what they say?
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 11:35

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