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John Boulware.com » Blog Archive » Advanced Bowing Tips and Tricks

Advanced Bowing Tips and Tricks


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Hello everyone, and welcome to the final article in the Bowing Technique Series (for now). This article will deal with:

  • Consistency of Tone and Volume
  • Exploiting the highlights of your bowing style
  • Maximizing control of the instrument

So let’s jump right in!

Angles

Do you ever wonder how some people get that wonderful, even tone out of the instrument when they’re playing at half the volume that you are? It has to do in part with the angles of the bow’s position. A perpendicular angle will give you much more volume, tone, and control than any other angle.

The first angle to think about is the way the bow is moving across the strings. Just like a car driving across asphalt, it is going to get more grip if you keep it going straight. If your car starts to slide to it’s side, you are not going to have as much control or traction with it. Similarly, if the bow is not going straight, if it is sliding across the strings at a strange angle like Figure 1, then you will not have as much control as you would if it were going straight like Figure 2.

 

 

Figure 1

 

 

Figure 2

One way to think about this is to say that the bow is moving perpendicular to the angle that the strings go across the bridge. I prefer another idea though; I like to say that the bow is moving parallel to the bridge itself. When you play, try to keep in mind that you will get more traction, and therefore better tone and volume if the bow is going parallel to the bridge.

If you are having trouble with this aspect, try to remember to move the bow with your elbow, NOT your shoulder. Moving your arm from the shoulder will result in the bow turning as you go from tip to frog and back. If you concentrate on bending at the elbow, you will have less to worry about. Also remember to keep a light, relaxed, and flexible wrist. If your wrist is stiff, it doesn’t matter how much your elbow is bending, you will still be working against yourself. The wrist isn’t the only thing to keep relaxed though. Your entire hand needs to be relaxed so that your fingers can move around on the bow and give you some freedom or “wiggle room”.

 

Another angle to keep in mind is the “tilt” of the bow. A lot of fiddlers tend to lean the bow forward (away from the bridge) as shown in Figure 3. While this is not the end of the world, it is not quite as good as it could be. Instead try to keep the bow straight up and down in relation to the strings (Figure 4). This emphasizes the force that is being put on the strings by the weight of your arm as discussed in Bowing: Volume and Tone Pointers. This in turn minimizes the amount of work that you have to do, and allows you to stretch the limits of your current bowing style.

Figure 3

 

Figure 4

This is hard for a LOT of people, so if you don’t get it right at first, don’t feel bad. There are STILL times that I have problems with this. (Sometimes you just have off days.) If you can’t seem to get it, try wrapping your fingers further around the bow. This will rock the bow back toward you a little more and will prevent you from having to turn your hand backward.

The same thing goes for the opposite problem. If you are leaning the bow back toward you, you can try not wrapping your fingers around it so much.

This is all I have for this time. If anyone can think of something else that would be good to add, or if you have trouble with any of this, please feel free to email me.

john@johnboulware.com

 

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