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I've begun to be conscious of an odd effect that happens with stringed instruments as the player changes from one note to another note. Fairly often (it seems to me) the bow changes direction just before or just after the fingering changes. For a moment you hear the next note too early while the bow is still on the old bow stroke, or else the second bow stroke starts while the fingers are still on the old note. A similar thing can happen with wind players - the fingering changes to the new note just before or just after the tongue does its -T-, not quite at the same time. You sometimes hear it even from well-known soloists. Here's Lingling in a not very serious mood with the humorous violinists TwoSetViolin - I think he does it at 8:22 and at 8:36 on

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I've hunted for this effect on the internet by searching for words such as "synchronizing" "fingering" "bowing" "tonguing" but can't find any comments on it. Is it known by some other name? Is the cause not poor synchronization but something different? Or perhaps it is not regarded as a fault??

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    The same thing happens with some guitarists. When changing chord, they play a strum on all the open strings. Usually it's self-taught guitarists. In some keys it doesn't sound too bad, but others!! – Tim Sep 2 at 14:02
  • A violist I used to play with mastered the trick of fingering four notes while bowing five. Sounded pretty crazy. – Scott Wallace Sep 4 at 14:41
  • Hi Scott Wallace, how can anyone bow 5 notes when the viola only has 4 strings? – Stephen F Oct 1 at 0:27
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Cellist dropping in here.
There are all sorts of mechanisms we have to use to ensure that the bow doesn't continue to play a note after it's over, doesn't start a note until it's time to start, and of course make a nice clean transition between notes.
When reversing direction on a single string the main concern is avoiding a "skritch" which is generally due to a difference in pressure right around the reversal of direction.
When going from one string to another, the bow must change speed as it builds up the new string's amplitude from zero to the desired sound level. This gets even more complicated depending on whether you want a "pop" attack or a dolce note.

If you listen very carefully to a decent recording, you can just make out a very short crescendo at the start of many notes. The better the player (and depending on the intended mood of the performance), the less noticeable, because they can get the string up to amplitude quickly without losing proper bow contact - i.e. avoiding the 'skritch' .

Similarly, when we have to shift a long way up one string during a slurred passage, we have TopSecret(TM) ways of hiding the left-hand transition via release of bow pressure.

  • Thanks, Carl, those are interesting insights. – Stephen F Oct 1 at 0:26

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