So like most beginners I've gotten into the habit of only using the top part of the bow. Which as you may imagine makes whole notes interesting to play. So I was wondering if any of you violin wizards had any advice on using the entire bow.
Side note: I just got the Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow in today and absolutely love it. My teacher said she noticed quiet a difference in the sound between my old bow and the new one. I love how light it is. (Plus the price is nice too).
Try practice with different parts of your bow: bottom half, middle, top half, whole bow. If you have a bunch of 8th notes, you may only need to use part of your bow. Plan your bowing (start your bowing at a spot - near frog, near tip, or in the middle, so when you come to the whole note you will have enough bow for it), so you have enough bow for your whole notes, dotted whole notes, sustained whole notes, etc.
@Dom - welcome to the forum !
Hardly a "wizard" here, still very much a beginner - but - I have found the following techniques quite useful - especially since I have an "unusual" bow hold (damaged pinkie).
To get used to using the whole bow ( and of course to get used to altering bow pressure as I get closer to the frog ), I started by just performing open string bowing, using the entire bow length, in both directions. I "doubled up" this exercise by trying to bow as "gently/slowly" as possible, whilst still drawing a steady, unchanging tone from the instrument. I started by trying to make the end-to-end bow movement last for 10 seconds.... It's an exercise I still do from time to time, and now I quite easily have a "constant" bow stroke which can last fully 20 seconds. When I try for 30 seconds full bow stroke, I rarely manage it faultlessly - the bowing is now SO slow for me, my fine muscle control sometimes falters, and I get the occasional "scratchy sound" or the bow hair sometimes fails to "bite". I now vary the exercise by playing as many unbroken 2-octave scales as possible during each bow stroke - but to be honest - when I started this, doing anything with the left hand was almost impossible - my full concentration was required in the bow control (direction and varying the pressure). I feel it is now becoming an automatic, or sub-conscious activity.
That, just as a relatively un-informed beginner is what I did ( and still do ) to feel completely at home with the bow across its full length. I also found the exercise helped develop the flexibility required in the right-hand wrist (well, it was always flexible, but it helped develop the "muscle memory" needed to maintain a correct bowing angle - I initially had a horrible habit of swinging my elbow without compensating at the wrist - and of course the bow would wander over the strings in all sorts of odd directions ! Oh - and on THAT topic - I found an exercise which as a beginner was also really useful - put down the violin, make an open circle with the thumb and index finger of the left hand, hold your left hand in line with where the bow would travel, and, holding the bow upside down (yes) so the stick rests on the base of the circle you've created, start "bowing" ( and do avoid running the bow hair across your skin ! ) I no longer do this, but, it was an initial help which let me see, and understand what corrections I needed to make on the right hand during full-stroke bowing....
That's just my "findings" on the topic - I am sure you'll get different, and better suggestions from other, more expert than I, members here ! And good luck with the journey !
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
I took a course in teaching beginning violin not too long ago, and I was rather surprised that the instructor and other instructors (including some who write books on violin teaching or actual method books) recommended having beginners (adult as well as children) start with using just the tip half of the bow for at least the first few months.
I did ask about it, since every well meaning critic in every violin forum is always telling beginners "use the whole bow!". (I definitely heard it enough) But I was taught that using the top half of the bow at first builds the bow hand strength faster, so long as you are making the student play good strong notes. The top half of the bow requires more "weight" to be given to the bow than the middle or near the frog, and it is the harder part of the bow to "steer", so it can help for developing bow hand strength and straight tracking.
So apparently it can actually have some merit in some developmental stages to intentionally be using the top half of the bow. It has limitations that become evident to the student as they need to play longer notes, and then using more of the bow will tend to come automatically.
Another thing I found interesting in that course was that especially with very new beginners, they recommended having them play the very simple early pieces and exercises with strictly the martele bow stroke. (Fiddlerman has an excellent video tutorial on that stroke so I won't go into details on how to do it) That stroke has a rather strong "attack", and while it will tend to make the early pieces sound a bit "jerky" at first with beginners, they felt it helps for getting the beginner to play strong definite notes like a small child speaking slowly and clearly rather than being allowed to "mumble" when talking. The logic was to learn to do strong, clear, deliberate notes first and at least somewhat perfect that before trying to make the sound smoother or more pleasant.
It isn't how I started when I was self-teaching myself the violin, I started with trying to play as quiet as I could and trying for "smooth" right away. But I found it an interesting point of view with a certain logic to it, so I figured I would mention it in this topic as "food for thought".
Maybe there can be some advantages to a beginner using the top half of the bow at first, if it is for reasons of working on clarity, precision and tone before working on making it sound "pretty".
"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
@DanielB I was in that class.
I agree with what you said. It was different than a lot of the forum or online tips that I learned when I was beginning.
I was a little shocked at how the Martele bow stroke was administered to the youngsters.. but I could see it useful. (I suppose with my wayward bowing, I can appreciate the muscle memory and bowing strength that comes from that teaching.
Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato
When your playing the up bow just keep it going. I know that I too have a problem with not using the entire length of the bow sometimes. Especially when it starts to sound choppy. Just make the habit of moving your wrist closer and closer to the bridge and once you hit the frog on the string you perform a satisfactory detaché cutback on the down bow and vibrato it out.
That is quite a common mistake for beginners. Now I am a very honest person and I can tell you that my teacher was very good.. I was a horrible student but I had the fortune to meet a fantastic teacher. I highly suspect that it is due to the pressure that you are putting. Mastering the bow pressure is absolutely vital for you future. If you put too much pressure it will not sound properly and people who do not use pressure enough have this tendency of using only a small part of the bow... you neet to review your power and pressure... Good luck... I believe that you will be a great violinist.