…continuing our discussion about playing musically and how bow distribution assists our violin playing, the first article is here, and the second is here:
Next in the hierarchy of playing musically is control over the character or the “tone color” you want to achieve….and that’s not always a big complicated thing….when playing a Baroque piece, simply use a generic “Baroque” color. (light bow strokes with nice decay at the end of each stroke, primarily in the upper half of the bow) When playing a Mozart piece, simply use a “classical” color. (light bow strokes, often bounced, more in the middle of the bow than the tip)
Beyond those generic defaults, ALWAYS be on the look-out for “SPECIAL” moments in each piece of music where you do something unique with bow distribution, tone color, vibrato speed, or dynamics.
Learn to describe the character, mood, or color you want to convey in special moments of each piece of music.
Happy, sad, introspective, noble, jovial, dignified, warm, cold, ANY words you can use to describe the wanted effect will help you to achieve it.
Then, experiment with bow distribution as pertains to your desired effect. Keep in mind it’s not always desirable to use a whole bow. It’s sometimes preferable to stay in the upper half of the bow, if you want a more of a brisk, sweeping character, or a more transparent, ethereal tone color. Sometimes, it’s obviously best to stay at the FROG, like for short, pecky colle’ strokes.
Decide what part of the bow best conveys what you are trying to express. Making this choice improves with practice, experience, learning from others, playing in orchestras, and asking questions of your teachers or other violin friends.
So keep asking the questions, but remember that it is a TOTALITY OF EXPERIENCE that eventually gives you the answers, and over time, the instinct for bow distribution.
But bow distribution alone is not enough when trying to express various moods and characters on violin. We must learn to utilize the “primary colors” on violin which give us infinite shades of expression. Those colors are bow weight, bow speed, and bow placement. And that is the topic of the next post in this series.
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Lora, I love this article. Even at my beginner stages, how I feel (how bright or dull my “colors” are at that particular moment), whether strong or weak, which mood I’m operating in, the kinds of thoughts I’ve been thinking, even if I am in poetry mode…or not, ….all this affects how that violin sounds! (When I keep sounding so bad, I just walk away from the practice for day or a break, a nap, something different or some fresh air.) Always with the hope that it will be better the next time.
As I said, I love this article. It leaves room for creativity and endless possibilities, especially with spontaneous improvization. Technique and rules are extremely important for me especially at this early stage of my learning, but I see and hear that it doesn’t stay there!
It sounds like you have the right approach! We have to allow ourselves a creative outlet and turn discipline off once in awhile. At the same time, it is so important to buckle down and improve our technique and obey “the rules”.
Keep up the great work!
Remember, tone is like a rising tide. It improves slowly as the rest of your technique improves. You could say it’s the boat that floats on the ocean of your technique!
Keep it up!
I have sent a few e-mails to the e-mail address you provided. Each of these e-mails was bounced. I wish to purchase some training videos (vibrato) but did not know if you prefer snail-nailing a check or e-mailing a credit card.
There is no reason for your email to bounce!
Please try again at email@example.com.
I will wait for your message. So sorry about that hassle!
Thank you so much for the bow intonation info. I learned a little more.
Sorry you got a totally messed up copy to your inbox, Dennsell!
I”m glad you clicked and got to the valuable article!
I asked a pro level violinist about tone color a while back. He played a bit to demo but did not explain anything. After reading the intro here I already know this will help
It’s not a short answer, Mike….maybe that’s why he didn’t go into it. It’s also hard to explain.
But it has to to with bow distribution, and also with the magical combination of bow weight, bow speed, and sounding point!