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Bowing Question
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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 7, 2017 - 11:05 am
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Hi all - I've been playing for a month now and have a question about bowing. I have lots of music around my house and have pretty much been trying anything that is in the key of C, G or F (I'll add other keys later - just trying to solidify those note positions first). Some pieces I'm just sight reading for fun, and some I'm really working on to try to improve how I'm playing it. Of course this music has no marking for bowing, so I'm wondering if there are general rules to follow. I've looked but don't see any videos from FM on this topic. If I've missed them, feel free to point me in the right direction. 

Thanks for any thoughts on this topic!

Cyndie violin-student

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BillyG
Far North-west Scotland
February 7, 2017 - 1:21 pm
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That's interesting.....

When you pick "beginner's pieces" - hmmmm - I guess they generally expect each note to be a bow-direction-change

Then (and I don't really follow this method myself - it's what I've read ) you will be introduced to legato and slurring ( OK, they may be *slightly different* techniques - but on fiddle, to me they're the same )

As a learner (but with a lot of previous exposure to, and an overall understanding of music in general, including sheet) - I simply "experimented" with my bowing techniques until I developed mechanisms that simply "felt good" - for instance - on some REALLY simple tunes that you don't even need sheet for and that everyone knows - oh - like"You are my Sunshine", "How much is that Doggie in the Window", "Twinkle" and so on - you can start just by playing the notes down-bow-up-bow forever....  And that gets BORING !!!!!

I found it really useful to start throwing in 2 1/8th notes for a quarter, then triplets, and even hoe-down type "short-short-LONG" on what was originally a 1/4 note

Which makes the piece, even the simple stuff, quite "interesting" to listen to ! LOL

This of course was just my own approach as a self-learner, and I would never advocate or advise it as a developmental technique to anyone - but it worked for me!  It's just one of the paths.....

Oh - I should add - Pierre has some marked-up sheet with bowing indications (largely in the"beginners sheet music" tab) which may give you some indications...  check here - http://fiddlerman.com/studies-.....dlerman/     But - they ARE for beginners and are a "guide" ( and an excellent one at that ) to how you might want to play it - i.e. - once you "get it" take it and make it your own - that;s what fiddle is all about !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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damfino
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February 7, 2017 - 1:52 pm
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Are you going through a book at all? I went through the 1st Essential Elements book in the very beginning, I can't remember what order it taught different bowings, but a book along those lines might be some help to you 🙂 You don't have to follow it in order, my teacher skipped me around, and totally skipped the boring bits, haha.

After that I got into Irish fiddling, and started working on various fiddle slur patterns.

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cashierjim
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February 7, 2017 - 11:53 pm
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Hi CyndieZ!

I'm guessing that you play another instrument (or instruments), but are just starting to learn violin, like myself.  So since we already know how to read music, bowing is the main violin-specific skill that remains a mystery.  I'll give you my thoughts on the subject, and hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong...

Generally, start with a down bow on the down beat and alternate bowing for every new note.  If there is a single-note pickup before the start of a measure, use an up bow.  If you're playing in 3/4 time with a note every beat, use a down-up-up pattern.

Other considerations are that a down bow has a natural decrescendo, and an up bow has a natural crescendo, due to the change in weight as you go from the frog to the tip.  Using a down bow on the down beat as I suggested previously results in an emphasis or accent on the down beat.

I've been working out what I think are the correct bowings, and writing everything down on the music.  But I'm starting to think that violinists just start to develop the correct instincts and go with what feels right.  I'm an experienced pianist, and I don't expect the fingering to be written with every note.  Somewhere along the line I just developed a feel for what is easiest and works best for the musical phrase.  Hopefully I'll get to that stage on the violin too.

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Charles
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February 9, 2017 - 1:51 pm
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I'll pass on what my teacher has told me, and a few things I've figured out. From what I can tell, there are no bowing principles that apply to every song in every style. There's a certain amount of individual choice by each player. Kind of like when to breath for singing or a wind instrument. Sometimes there's really obvious places to do it, sometimes it's what works best for you and your capabilities.

Don't take the "rule" part of these too seriously, by the way. It's just a way to separate the talking points, not a "do this or else" type thing.

 

Rule 1: Always start on a down bow. My teacher said that this is about the only hard rule in all of violin playing. It mainly matters when you have an orchestra - they like to see all the bows moving in unison.  In anything orchestra-like, you may have a conductor wanting you to use certain bowings specifically so things will look they way they want. If you're playing by yourself (or the only violin in a group) you don't need to worry about that. Music written for violin will generally assume you're starting on a downbow.  Music written for other instruments, you have to figure it out for yourself.

Rule 2: Use more bow.  This is (by far) the most often repeated mantra my teacher says. (Well, it was until I finally got the idea. 🙂 ) You don't want to try to use the entire bow to play a note that's say 1/24th of a second long (a sixteenth note at 90 BPM), but you DO want to use as much bow as practical for each note, unless you're trying for a special effect of some kind.  The more bow you use, the better your tone will be.

Rule 3: You can slur faster than you can bow.  If you have several notes on the same string, and you need to play them fast, you probably want to slur them rather than change bow direction for each one.  (It depends on the style you're trying to play in, though - see rule 4).

Exercise to improve independence of right and left hand:  Play a long slow note, using the entire bow, on one string, and finger something else on another string (anything that is on one string will do. I used "Ode to Joy".) Hear the song that you're fingering in your head, but do NOT change bow direction or speed. (Change direction when you get to either end of the bow, of course.)  Warning: This exercise will seriously mess with your head at first.

Rule 4:  Changing direction makes each note more distinct, more independent of the ones around it.  Imagine. talking. like. this. to. punctuate. your. idea, versus talking in a smooth, flowing phrase.  At least in violin playing, both styles are legitimate, although certain songs and certain styles tend to accentuate one over the other.

Rule 5: When to change direction in your bowing has a lot more to do with what's coming up than what you're playing now. Especially if you're following rule 2 (use more bow), you're sooner or later going to run out of bow. You want to be near one end or the other if you're going to be playing a long note in the near future, and you don't want to start that long note heading towards the end of the bow you're almost at.

Rule 6: Two notes of the same length don't have to be played with the same amount of bow. Say you're in the middle of the bow, and want to be near the frog for that double whole note coming up in another measure or two. You can change direction for each note in those preceding measures,  playing short down bows for one note, and a longer upbow for the next. After two or three changes like that, you'll be near the frog, and then all you have to worry about is that you play the really long note on a downbow. Using more bow tends to make the note louder, which can be compensated for by using more or less pressure, but I've found it's not usually that noticeable. Moving up/down the bow that way AND compensating so that the dynamics are perfect is more of an advanced technique than I'm up to at this point.

Rule 7:  Don't worry about rules 3-6 unless you're having a problem. Practicing them is a good idea to build the skill, but outside that, don't bother with them if you don't need them. There are WAY to many things to worry about in playing a violin to be adding extra ones unnecessarily. 🙂

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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 13, 2017 - 9:57 am
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damfino said
Are you going through a book at all? I went through the 1st Essential Elements book in the very beginning, I can't remember what order it taught different bowings, but a book along those lines might be some help to you 🙂 You don't have to follow it in order, my teacher skipped me around, and totally skipped the boring bits, haha.

 

LOL - I like skipping the boring parts! 

I am not currently using a book - I already read music and so much of the beginning method books focus on learning to read the notes and then associate them with where they are located that I didn't think it would be helpful. But I'll look into it - might be helpful from a technique perspective!

Thanks!

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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 13, 2017 - 10:06 am
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cashierjim said
Hi CyndieZ!

I'm guessing that you play another instrument (or instruments), but are just starting to learn violin, like myself.  So since we already know how to read music, bowing is the main violin-specific skill that remains a mystery.  I'll give you my thoughts on the subject, and hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong...

Hopefully I'll get to that stage on the violin too.  

Good guess - yes I play guitar and piano as well as sing. So we are "in the same boat"! LOL. The bowing is a challenge for sure......but apparently also the key to the mystery of beautiful music. I am at a stage where my technique is not equal to how I "hear" the music in my head! Have to be patient with myself and allow the technique to develop. Thanks for sharing what you've discovered!

Cyndie violin-student

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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 13, 2017 - 10:12 am
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Charles said
I'll pass on what my teacher has told me, and a few things I've figured out. From what I can tell, there are no bowing principles that apply to every song in every style. There's a certain amount of individual choice by each player. Kind of like when to breath for singing or a wind instrument. Sometimes there's really obvious places to do it, sometimes it's what works best for you and your capabilities.

Don't take the "rule" part of these too seriously, by the way. It's just a way to separate the talking points, not a "do this or else" type thing.

Rule 3: You can slur faster than you can bow.  If you have several notes on the same string, and you need to play them fast, you probably want to slur them rather than change bow direction for each one.  (It depends on the style you're trying to play in, though - see rule 4).

Exercise to improve independence of right and left hand:  Play a long slow note, using the entire bow, on one string, and finger something else on another string (anything that is on one string will do. I used "Ode to Joy".) Hear the song that you're fingering in your head, but do NOT change bow direction or speed. (Change direction when you get to either end of the bow, of course.)  Warning: This exercise will seriously mess with your head at first.

  

Wow - thank you so much! This is a lot to absorb, but really helpful guidelines. Think I'll print it and keep it at hand as I practice! That little exercise in Rule 3 does sound like it could blow your mind! I'll let you know how it goes! hahaha

Cyndiesemiquaver-1214

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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 13, 2017 - 10:18 am
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BillyG said

Oh - I should add - Pierre has some marked-up sheet with bowing indications (largely in the"beginners sheet music" tab) which may give you some indications...  check here - http://fiddlerman.com/studies-.....dlerman/     But - they ARE for beginners and are a "guide" ( and an excellent one at that ) to how you might want to play it - i.e. - once you "get it" take it and make it your own - that;s what fiddle is all about !  

Thanks BillyG - I can always count on you to chime in with helpful ideas and encouragement!

I had come across those beginner pieces, and actually moved away from them temporarily. I found myself relying too much on the fingering and string markings in them and wasn't learning to associate the notes the way I wanted to. Now that the notes are pretty solidly in my head, I'll probably go back to them. 

Cyndie semiquaver-1214

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 13, 2017 - 8:30 pm
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General rules. Great question.

Good to use a down bow on the beginning of a measure and when emphasis is wanted on the down beat.

Better with down bows on accents. Better with up bows for crescendo's.

The end of a piece and diminuendos are often better on a down bow.

3/4 measures are often played down up, up.

Often you can sing a phrase and get a good idea of how you should bow it.

These are just random ideas that popped into my brain.... There are many more, I'm sure.

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

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CyndieZ
Maryland
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February 16, 2017 - 2:19 pm
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Fiddlerman said
General rules. Great question.

3/4 measures are often played down up, up.
  

Thanks Fiddlerman - that answers the question that I was going to ask about 3/4 time!

Cyndie semiquaver-1214

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coolpinkone
California, the place of my heart
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February 16, 2017 - 4:20 pm
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@Fiddlerman Thank you Good tips.

Good posts here everyone.  Thanks.

I know even in the first book in the Essential series, there is already notations on up and down bowing and I believe as a beginner tune, I recall Can-Can being one with up/down bowing.

I alway try to follow the written bowing (If I am able).. I did NOT pay attention in the first few years very much.  Now I go back to some of the beginning tunes and follow the sheet and play with bowing notation and some of the other >>>>>> and <<<<< notations.  It all seems to sink in now.

I love it.

🙂

Cheers Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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