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Back to Vol.3 No.27 December 1937

Musical News And Dance Band Vol.3 No.27 December 1937 0015

Musical News And Dance Band Vol.3 No.27 December 1937 0015

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& DANCE BAND, December, D37

Bowing Technique

FROM years of constant contact with violinists of all types, old and young beginners and advanced players, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the right hand is often sadly neglected. Thus, when your Technical Editor approached me with the idea of writing something that would be of interest to those readers who play the violin, I didn’t experience much difficulty in deciding upon which subject to

write. Furthermore, my decision was backed by the fact that I've heard on several occasions that excellent jazz fiddler, Joe Venuti, and it can safely be said that to a great extent, the secret of his success with rhythmic playing lies in his right hand work.

The majority of violinists begin their studies with easy exercises for the left hand, and at least half their attention is directed towards bowing. After a year or so the left

hand begins to develop a little technique, and the bowing hand gradually gets left in the lurch. This is a very serious state of affairs. In string playing there are some tricky bowings which often tie even advanced players in knots, and this can only be attributed to the fact that such bowings were not practised early enough, when the wrist and hand were supple.

If you’ll examine the following exercises very carefully, together




with the text, 1 think you’ll find them extremely beneficial.

Exercise i is easy enough with ordinary detached bowing, and by

EX. I.


observing the motions of the right hand itself you will notice that there’s a small circular movement, away from the body, .whereas in Exercise 2 the circular movement is towards the body.


These circular movements are simple enough when continuous and rotary, but become _ more difficult when the motion is disturbed, as in Exercise 3.


Such disturbances become more noticeable and more complicated when slurred notes are introduced, and should be practised very slowly at first, gradually gaining speed as your proficiency improves. See Exercise 4.


There is no end to the difficulties in bowing, and various seemingly simple-looking exercises often trip up good players. Exercise 5 demonstrates my meaning very clearly. Look easy, don’t they? Just try ’em.

Once again, these simple exercises must be practised slowly at first, and as they become easier so will you derive the full benefit. They must be mastered by the use of wrist movement, the forearm acting as a pendulum.

Continue by practising near the point of the bow with fairly long strokes, about a quarter of the bow in length, and later, try in the middle and at the heel or frog end of the bow.

Only perfect synchronisation of bow and left hand will ensure clear, bright playing. Sluggishness in bowing will immediately blurr any passage.

A very important point regarding slow legato playing, which must be understood and mastered in the early stages, is the position of the bow in relation to the bridge. The higher one climbs up the fingerboard, the shorter becomes the length of string between the finger and the bridge, and in order to prevent any break in tone, the bow must move over the strings nearer and nearer the bridge.

The reason for this is obvious. The shorter the string the more vibrating it requires. Therefore, more exertion is required from the bow, which in turn means more pressure on the bow by the player.

Well, if you try using pressure with the bow half-way up the fingerboard, there is no resistance in the


& DANCE BAND, December, 1937

string, and all you’ll obtain is a not-too-pleasant squeak!

Not long ago I had the opportunity of hearing a world-famous violinist. He was using a very high bridge, in order to get some resistance from the strings, and bowing a long way distant from the bridge. The result? A feeble tone and a disappointed audience.

This brings me to another point.

I have now given up using gut strings entirely. I use steel wire, plated with steel. The G string being the exception, for it is made of steel but plated with silver.

Naturally they are much thinner than gut strings, thus speaking more quietly, and are not so liable to go out of tune. Another deciding factor is the bridge—it need not be so high, thus making the strings in the higher positions easier to clear. Dr. Thomastic, of Vienna, is the inventor and maker and I can thoroughly recommend you to them.

In conclusion, a word about your instrument itself. Many a good violin has been discarded on the grounds of possessing no tone, or being awkward to handle. Very often this is due to the neck being unwieldy or the bridge being unsuitable. If it is any consolation to you—it has sometimes taken me as much as seven years, and literally hundreds of bridges, before being satisfied with a fiddle! A word of warning, however. When you find an instrument that seems good straight away, don’t start playing about with new bridges to obtain a suitable curve. Have the fingerboard, neck, or tail-piece altered. Anything, rather than a new bridge —that bridge is probably just the right one, and you may never find another like it!