#13550 Reply

Dianne Adkins

Bluerose, thank you so much! So artfully played! So expressive and heartfelt. What is music without a piece of us given with it? Ah, lovely!

So, as a teacher, I always try to find something to add that will make good playing, great. Now that you have gifted us with an acoustic version of this performance, my suggestion would be to stay on the acoustic for developing tone. Your bow elbow is still high, but it is below the hand, so WELL DONE! Let me comment on the use of the bow, then.

There are three things to consider when making best use of the bow for tone production. Maybe starting on open A, just practice open strings until you understand the three ‘elements’ of beautiful tone and what you need to work on. The three elements are:

Weight – Too heavy and you get crunchy sound, too light and you get airy sound
Speed – Too slow and you get crunchy sound, to fast and you get bounces in your bow
Contact Point – From frog to tip the place where the bow touches the string should remain the same. We often look at the string between the bridge and fingerboard (both NO GO zones) and think ‘Where ever I play there, is ok’. But the fact is, you only get to play in a ‘zone’ the width of your actual bow hair. So look at your bow hair, place the bow on the string just in front of the bridge, then begin the down bow –watching the bow– and don’t let the bow wander closer to the fingerboard during the bow stroke.

You also have to consider bow angle. The bow, in relationship to the string, should form a perfect ‘plus’ (+) sign angle at all times, where ever your bow is sitting on the string. If the angle becomes an ‘X’, the tone suffers. I think you need more weight into the string and attention to bow angle. Usually each player has one or two tiny adjustments to make in order to significantly improve the quality of their sound.

Here’s a beginning exercise: Standing in front of a mirror, place the violin in playing position. Hold the left hand on the shoulder of the violin and turn the violin so that the scroll is parallel to the mirror. Now turn your nose to look directly into the mirror. In this position, you can watch the bow and maintain a ‘plus’ (+) sign shape while playing open strings.

Put your bow on the A string and draw the bow downward, while watching yourself in the mirror. Did the bow keep a nice ‘plus’ sign from frog to tip? Now go UP bow and watch the bow angle. Notice where the very bottom of the bow is at the end of a DOWN bow. Don’t pull back. Push OUT. Stop and hold that position. Think of the screw on the bottom of the bow as an arrow with a target. Follow an imaginary line from the frog screw all the way down until it touches something in the room. THAT is your target. Now, play DOWN and UP keeping the target in mind. Do this for all strings. Each string will require a new target. Maintain the ‘plus’ sign bow angle. Once you have watched your motion in a mirror, put your head back on the violin and try the exercise without looking at the mirror. Instead, look at the bow on the string and control the ‘contact point’ during the bow strokes so that it stays in place at all times.

A quick suggestion for getting weight into the string, draw the bow hand fingers rounder and closer, push up with the thumb. This is a little squeezing action that will make the bow weightier all the way to the tip.

Good luck and happy practicing!
Check out Michael’s Top Five Violin Bow Picks from Superior Violins!