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Does anybody understand the smooth bow change?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (3 votes) 
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Composer
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February 4, 2013 - 12:34 am
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Apparently the instructors do not because they can't agree on how to do it.

1. Lighten bow pressure a tiny bit, as well as speed in the final half centimetre of bow.

2. Just lighten bow pressure by any means

3. Just reduce speed by any means

4. Active movement of the hand/fingers to reduce speed and lighten pressure

5. Desynchronization process (figure eight): "just before the end of the up-bow stroke, start a slightly downward motion with the upper arm and turn it gradually into the down-bow path, while the hand is still finishing its up-bow motion and is straightening gently from its slightly bent position

 

#5 is the only that makes sense because how the heck do you adjust pressure and/or speed in such a small length (half centimetre) of bow in #1,2, and 3?  In #4 you can't control the speed by active movement of the fingers...you always end up accelerating instead of slowing down.

Lack of smooth bow change ruins everything including vibrato.  The bow always *feels* like it comes to a complete stop (yes I realize a continuous tone is physically impossible) screwing up rhythmic flow.  The bow always changes speed going into or coming out of a bow change which screws up tone production. 

I don't know why this is neglected.  It feels like the entire essence of playing the violin is missing without it.

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Ferret
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February 4, 2013 - 1:03 am
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As a learner of only 11 months I feel unqualified to answer this question. So I will violin-1267

When 'I' am lucky enough to get it right it seems to come from a relaxed bow arm and mind. When a practice session starts I am all over the place in regard to bowing and intonation. But after I relax a bit things do improve.

Worrying about a smooth bow change will only hamper its achievement. What is needed is 'heaps' of practice and an attempt to get the piece you are playing to sound as good as you can in 'all' aspects of paying.

Then, honestly, what would 'I' know? I am really just a learner dunno

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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peanut_gallery
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February 4, 2013 - 1:45 am
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I'll second what Ferret said. Once I get my brain to shift into music/playing mode, which can take about a half hour sometimes, things just start to work.

You have so much to focus on while playing the violin that for me when I focus on just one or two things, they don't tend to get much better. But throw on some headphones piping in the tune I'm working on and things just come together for me. There is a clear difference in my audio recordings when I do that and my instructor has pointed out that I am a really good copier.

 

But with only 10 months of learning, you can just ignore all I have said.

A hoopy frood always knows where his towel is!

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Fiddlerman
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February 4, 2013 - 7:27 pm
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Composer, are you really asking or just saying that noone can define this?

If you don't lighten the pressure at the last possible second of changing direction you will get an accent.

Reducing the speed is a given because one cannot change directions without the bow slowing stopping restarting in the opposite direction, though it's nothing that one actually needs to think about.

Allowing your fingers to be flexible (as with the hair of a paintbrush when painting) will help you change more smoothly. No one can change the direction of a bow in a way that it will not heard unless they are playing in a very big room with a lot of reverb or through a sound system using sound effects.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Composer
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February 4, 2013 - 8:18 pm
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Well, others say you have to remove *all* the pressure and others say its all nonsense.  So, again, its not me making this stuff up.  Most people think the key is *actively* slowing down the bow in the last tiny bit of bow.  I can't figure out how this is even possible in practice.  This is open source material I am quoting so I think its okay to include it here:

 

violinmasterclass: "at the frog, lower your elbow before the bow change and lift all the bow pressure with your little finger"

 

Clayton Haslop: "Over the years have heard plenty of poppy-cock where it comes to the dos and don’ts of bow changes. Let me just give you a couple of examples.

One, lightening the pressure of the bow on the string just before you make a change will make for a smoother bow change.

It is true that your bow change will be smoother. What is also true, however, is that you will have a dip in your sound that accompanies the release of pressure. That dip can lead to what I call ‘unsightly bulges’ in your tone, not a pretty effect.

Oh yea, and compounding the problem is the tendency of most players who do this to Slow the bow speed at the critical moment, making the ‘unsightly bulge’ effect’ even more pronounced.

Number two, increasing the bow speed just before the change will make for a smoother change. Again, there is some truth to this, in a perfect world. Increasing the bow speed distributes the pressure on the string over a greater surface area. There will therefore be less of a chance for the string to become ‘trapped’ at the moment of change.

Again, there is a problem here. Many players that do this reflexively Increase the pressure on the string as they speed up the bow. Now you have a reverse ‘bulge.’

Three, actively using the wrist and fingers to ‘cover’ the bow change will make for a smoother change. WRONG.

You have a bow in motion exerting a given pressure on the string. As I have said before, it matters not one twit whether your wrist, fingers, forearm, upper arm, or LEFT arm effect a reversal of direction. All that matters to the tone is bow speed combined with pressure combined with bow placement relative to the bridge.

Ah, that’s a new one. Where the bow is placed relative to the bridge, for a given bow speed and pressure, will effect the smoothness of the change.

So this is what you do. First of all, make it simple. You’ve heard me say THAT before.

As Joey Silverstein once said to me, ‘play up bow until you play down bow.’

I do suggest you use the mass of your whole arm to change direction – this was Milstein’s notion. Just be aware that the bow movement is purely horizontal, in and out of the change.

Once you have the feel of that, do some experimenting. It needn’t take but a few minutes. Try different bow speeds for a given pressure. Once you have a smooth change try moving the bow further or closer to the bridge to see what effect placement has on the result."

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Composer
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February 4, 2013 - 8:24 pm
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"So this is what you do"

I don't know what Haslop is even suggesting as a remedy in regards to the bows distance from the bridge. Anybody?

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kanegs
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February 4, 2013 - 8:40 pm
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Composer,

Are you talking about:

  • sustaining a single note longer that what is possible with a single stroke of the bow?

or

  • transitioning multiple notes/slurs/phrases (which are meant to be separate  as smoothly as possible?

I remember playing for some conductors (public middle/high school) who were more concerned that we all bowed in unison than whether or not we played the right notes (I can't really blame them, I know some of my fellow student violinists never practiced).

The more people playing the same part, the smother the transition becomes as it is spread over multiple players.

I think my private instructor was just happy when I played legato at all, that she didn't dare critique it to help me refine it. I honestly don't remember it being broken down into a discrete physical process.

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Fiddlerman
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February 4, 2013 - 10:37 pm
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I agree with most of the suggestions but IMO, one can over analyze the problem. What will help you more than anything else is to develop good finger flexibility. This flexibility will enable you to release the pressure more naturally.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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StoneDog
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February 4, 2013 - 11:00 pm
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Yeah. > let the fingers do the dance. To know the steps is essential > to do the dance >> Well that is just plain SWEET.

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cdennyb
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February 5, 2013 - 1:45 am
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well Composer, since any of the aforementioned processes actually call for touching the bow and violin and practicing...a lot...

chances are quite high you will never achieve any of the results, desireable or otherwise.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news buddy.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Fiddlerman
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February 5, 2013 - 6:28 am
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Just because Composer doesn't post media of himself playing here doesn't mean that he doesn't play or practice. My guess is that he is frustrated with certain aspects of perfecting the art of playing. We all know it's not easy. I'm so happy with all the positive members we have here but I think we can deal with a few negative ones.

 

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cdennyb
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February 6, 2013 - 1:39 am
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Fiddlerman said Just because Composer doesn't post media of himself playing here doesn't mean that he doesn't play or practice. My guess is that he is frustrated with certain aspects of perfecting the art of playing. We all know it's not easy. I'm so happy with all the positive members we have here but I think we can deal with a few negative ones.

 

 

You can analyze things to death, talk yourself out of everything in life and basically stand still. His past performance and posts is indicative of his future performance. although I agree with what you say FM, I can't help but have a sour taste in my mouth from all his negativity and over analyzing for no productive reason.

Playing the violin is easy, making it sound perfect is a lifetime endeavor at chasing perfection and therein lies the catch... don't analyze it to much without actually playing. I believe he was the one that told us in a previous post just recently that he was going to post his progress and many of us were looking forward to a fellow beginner progressing as all of us have in the past year or so.

My comment was NOT negative although his resulting lack of participation and lack of playing would certainly be construed as a negative action after asking so many intricate and detailed questions borderline requiring a BS or Masters Degree in Physics, Acoustic Sciences, and Music Theory background.

I'm not alone when I say, I tire of his comments questioning a certain specific detail of violin play that challenges even your ability to answer when he has yet to play "twinkle twinkle" (or other piece).

Just my humble opinion with no negative implications but simply my personal long term observations on the subject.

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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Picklefish
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February 6, 2013 - 4:29 am
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I like to think he's really talented and good and he is just messin with us for his amusement. (Which would be so classic and hilarious imo)

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Tyberius
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February 6, 2013 - 6:38 pm
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I post to a lot of forums technical or otherwise (and have worked/traveled to many countries). Usually the negative people that are consistently negative, harsh, spiteful and angry are not playing a game. They are usually that way in life and it's seeping out in there writing. Life is too short to be stuck and angry on something that meaningless in the big picture. Maybe you should find another means to spend your fleeting life's free time if you are that narrow and incessantly argumentative or vengeful in your replies and misguided belief.

They are usually cowards and find this type of venue a way to be an anonymous bully with no repercussions. In real life and face to face, they'd be and are a nobody. Indistinguishable from the masses and fearful of being shown the door and rapidly shown the way out, so to speak.

"I find your lack of Fiddle, disturbing" - Darth Vader

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DanielB
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February 6, 2013 - 7:27 pm
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I have generally thought of Composer as someone who sometimes will get frustrated with some aspect of the instrument, as happens with all of us sometimes.  He has a more technical approach to his study and practice of it than most, so his posts tend to be more on the technical side.

We're all different.  Live and let live.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlestix
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February 6, 2013 - 11:01 pm
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I wasn't going to say anything about this thread. Think about it though, if a person know's they are getting under your skin, they'll continue to scratch a larger hole, which is exactly what is happening here.

 

 

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Fiddlerman
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February 6, 2013 - 11:32 pm
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"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cdennyb
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February 7, 2013 - 1:59 am
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Wow, FM, very good video. I really liked the background.

 

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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DanielB
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February 7, 2013 - 4:39 am
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Great instructional vid!  And Pierre is getting this sales pitch stuff down!  I was actually just wondering what kind of violin that was when he mentioned it.  LOL

Now, hopefully, that vid is just what Composer wanted to know, and also interesting enough to all of the rest of us that this can get back to being friendly discussion where everyone tries to think the best of each other.

Personally, I can definitely say that I found the vid interesting and it gives some more points to work on in my practice.

thumbs-up

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlestix
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February 7, 2013 - 6:19 am
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Nice vid, Pierre. You need some paint on those walls though.  rofl

I'm not quite sure, but I'm thinking Composer may be talking about full length bow stroke's (which you didn't demonstrate) and changing bow stroke's / direction's while fingering note's.

My interpretation of a smooth bow stroke is letting your elbow, wrist and finger's flow smoothly (as you demo'd) while playing note's. I mean the bow direction change's at the precise millisecond your finger's either press down on the string or lift off the string and your bow direction change's at that ms.

Just my thought's.facepalm

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