You can read the first part of this “bow distribution” article chain here.
So, you have started developing your instinct for making spontaneous bow distribution choices using the note values of a piece to guide you. The next step in developing your “violinistic instinct” is to use bow distribution to shape phrases.
First you have to learn how to spot a phrase
This is another topic for discussion, but here’s a rule of thumb: Phrases tend to be 8 bars long. Sometimes they are shorter or longer, but if you start searching for a phrase ending every 8 bars, you will find it near there. Sometimes, a piece is organized into miniature “half-phrases” which are 4 bars long…so you could also look every 4 bars and see what is happening.
Think of a phrase as a “sentence”. The melody should make a full, meaningful statement, like a sentence that ends with a period, versus a sentence that doesn’t come to a
See? You instinctively knew my sentence wasn’t finished!!! It’s the same with music, and you’ll develop an instinct for musical syntax as well!
Ask yourself: where does the music “breathe”? Those are phrase endings.
And do not stress out about being right or wrong…..even if you count the wrong number of bars for your phrase, if you shape it nicely, it’s still going to be awesome….and you will continue to learn and refine this skill.
Listening to recordings and private teachers can also help tremdendously.
Next, Learn to Shape the Phrase
Once you learn how to spot a phrase or a musical statement, then you start developing your instinct to SHAPE it through the use of bow distribution. Bow distribution allows us extra bow when we want to move the phrase energy higher, and less bow when we want to bring a phrase to a resting point.
Some common phrase shapes are:
1) “The A-Frame”: Starting soft, getting loud in the middle, then ending soft.
2) “The Bow-Tie”: Starting loud, getting soft in the middle, then ending loud.
3) “Crescendo”: Starting soft and getting progressively louder throughout the phrase
4) “Decrescendo”: Staring loud and getting progressively softer throughout the phrase
Three “rules of thumb” for musical phrasing:
1) Obey the dynamics and other markings provided by the publisher or composer
2) When the notes get higher, try getting louder or more energetic, when the notes go lower, try getting softer or less energetic.
3) For extra dramatic effect, try doing JUST the opposite of number 2. (softer as you go higher, louder as you go lower)
After you have the phrases sketched out, play around with bow distribution to shape and execute the phrases the way you envision them. Remember, you want to learn to make spontaneous choices, spur of the moment adjustments, and quick recovery if you choose wrong.
The next article relating to bow distribution will be here