Tagged: Bowing techniques
July 11, 2016 at 7:28 pm #16541
There is graceful flexibility in every stroke of the bow. The bow moves across the string by bending your fingers, wrist, arm, and shoulders in a related set of motions. This cooperation of the various parts of your arm allows a smooth and straight bowing motion. Let’s try it!
Place the bow on the A string of the fiddle, somewhere in the middle of the stick. The ribbon of hair should be placed squarely onto the string. It shouldn’t lean toward or away from you, as this will result in undue pressure being placed on one side of the bow, straining the hairs.
Your arm should be on the same plane as the stick of the bow. Make sure your right shoulder is relaxed and not crunched up against your innocent right ear. Your wrist should be a nice flat surface leading from your hand to your arm.
The elbow, wrist, and bow should all rest on the same plane—here on the A string.
The elbow controls the movement from string to string. With your bow sitting on the A string, lift up your elbow. Don’t bend the nice flat surface of your wrist—keep it nice and even with your arm. This will allow your arm to move as a cohesive unit. The bow will lower onto the string to the left of the one you were sitting on—so now it should be on the D. If you keep lifting the elbow, the bow will end up sitting on G. (Conversely, start down on the G string. Drop your elbow and arm, and watch the bow move onto the D, then the A, and finally, the E string.) Now, try going back and forth from the G to the E; doing it smoothly is what enables you to jump from one string to another as you play—in other words, crossing strings.
The same bow arm plane, angled to reach the G string.
The Long and Short of It
There are some good terms to know when talking about bow technique.
An up-bow is when the frog moves toward the fiddle, the tip heading toward the ceiling. (Sit down if the tip’s going to make contact!)
A down-bow is when the frog is moving away from the fiddle. When you’re playing a down-bow on the E string, the frog will move down toward the floor!
A long bow is one that uses much of the length of the bow as you play.
A short bow is one that uses only a small part of the length of the bow.
The bow should remain parallel to the bridge and the edge of the fingerboard.
Here’s how you keep your bow nice and straight. As you bow, it should stay parallel to the bridge and the edge of the fingerboard. It also should be somewhere equidistant between the two. The wrist, not the elbow, will lead this movement. It should bend first.
Try making a note while experimenting with this concept—just play an open string or two. The A string is a great place to start—not too high, not too low. Start with a down-bow, somewhere in the center of the stick. As the bow moves, the elbow should bend. As you reach the tip of the bow, the wrist and fingers should extend.
Try an up-bow next, starting from the tip. Bend the wrist and fingers, then the elbow, and finally the shoulder as you approach the frog. Don’t bow from the shoulder first, as it’s the least efficient—and incorrect.
Proper position of the wrist at the end of an up-bow.
The result of this is that when you are at the frog, your wrist should be bent toward you. When your bow is at the tip, your wrist is bent away from you. In the middle of the bow, the wrist is pretty much straight and on an even plane with your arm.
Work in the middle of the bow, executing some small bow movements back and forth on the strings. Try short up- and down-bows. Is your sound a bit “crunchy”? If you are hearing screeches and grunts from the bow, you’re probably pressing down too hard. Keep experimenting until you hear a few nice notes coming from the fiddle.